The "pink welly" Wye weekend - Peta Jellis
All these years having adventures with the Club, I have not needed wellies until the weekend in the Wye Valley when a "tunnel walk" recommended them! So I purchased some lovely pink wellies with hearts on them - but they had competition from Sheila Casey's new turquoise ones! The wellies were not needed the first day when we went for an adventure walk in the woods. We were led by Alyn from Yeehaa Outdoor Pursuits who taught us survival skills in the Forest of Dean (which I can now usefully add to my raft building skills). Not fit enough to undertake abseiling, Lynn, Barbara and I went for a trip along the river Wye and ate an ice cream in the afternoon sun and enjoyed listening to the tales in the evening of others overcoming their fears and rising to challenges. On Sunday, my wellies were christened during the tunnel walk and provided a useful beacon for others to follow in the dark! I was feeling very smug with nice dry feet whilst others were in wet boots but, undaunted, some then went on a lovely walk along the river Wye after learning how to light a fire to toast marshmallows! At the end of our adventures, Alyn's verdict was that the weekend was "awesome"-and by this he meant all 25 of us who rose to the various challenging activities - not my wellies! Thanks Carol and Alyn for a super weekend: good instructors, good hotel (complete with golf course for those who play), good food and very good company!
The Adventure Walk - Maggie Marshall
Hey Ho, Hey Ho, its adventuring we go!!
With our trusty guide Alyn (eat your heart out Ray Mears) & his giant dog Dougal we munched our way through the forest - pausing at a clump of nettles, we learnt how to pick them without getting stung - grasp leaf firmly between thumb & forefinger and if you then roll the leaf you can safely eat it! Did you know that nettle fibre was used to make clothing, including German uniforms during World War Two?
Moving on, we tasted the tiny Wood Sorrel leaves - a good chew with a tangy taste. Alyn's tips includ - check for bugs before munching & don't eat anything wet if it hasn't been raining!
Alyn had some fascinating tales about wild fungus, including the one which kills after 16 hours - not much good to the Roman nobility who had slaves to taste their food and, given the all clear, they would have snuffed it 16 hours later ( and the slave too).
Survival tips included peeling off Birch bark to use for fire lighting, using the dead wood still attached to trees for the fire, it's drier than the stuff on the ground and use Sphagnum moss to filter water for drinking (it still needs boiling though).
Just as we all thought "this is nice gentle walk after the morning's exertions in the pouring rain" Alyn took us "off piste" down a steeply sloping track, used by logging machinery, to a wooded quarry. He tested our teamwork skills by challenging us to climb a steep embankment to the next quarry. The choice of routes was hard, medium and easy but we all had to complete it, fit or not so fit. We split into 2 groups, the first led by Dennis, Jude, Arthur, Peter & I went for the medium route, Les, Carol, Jane T, Tricia, Anne, Jane & Mike went for the tough route. Dennis's team finished first, the other group was laughing when they reached the top of the cliff. Les, ever the gentleman, was helping the ladies with a push or two from behind! Vegetarian diets have lot to answer for; there was much hot air around!!
Next task was to abseil down to the next quarry - no hard hats or safety harness this time - only a rope tied to a tree with a slip knot enabling us to let each other down using only one hand. A slow process, all went well until Dennis ran out of rope & I let a little too much out - his descent was quicker than expected, but he arrived safely. Alyn then showed us how to do it - abseiling using only the rope & his own strength to fly down - easy when you know how!!
All agreed it was brilliant afternoon enjoyed by us all & ably led by Alyn & his shaggy dog Dougal.
Abseiling - Anne MacGovern
Our first task achieved (finding Steve, our instructor, in a lay-by), we stood fully waterproofed in the pouring rain receiving our initial instructions.
Harnessed and helmeted we scrambled up a slippery slope to top of a 70ft cliff waiting to be convinced by our very able and qualified instructor to jump off said cliff, attached to a piece of string slightly thicker than a pencil !!
"Is that root that it's tied to strong enough?" "Who would like to go first?" Our brave Les shows the way. "Go on you go next. I'll wait a bit." "I'm scared. Can't wait - must go before I lose my nerve."
Well done!! Cheers, applause, a few slips, trembling knees, adrenalin rush. "That was great - I'm going again!"
We are not crazy - just the 50+ doing what we like best.
Seriously it was a great experience. Thanks to Yeehaa (Steve) for his safe hands and encouragement.
Bats, Whistles, Fire and Toasted Marshmallows - Les Carter
Our Final Adventure was a tunnel walk at Lower Lydbrook.
We were told a little of the history of the area before moving on to the tunnel entrance, where we were shown different colours of Obsidian (volcanic glass) which is in abundance in that area. Then it was in to the tunnel, boots were the ideal footwear as the beginning part was flooded. We were told to keep our eyes open for Britain's smallest bat (the Pipistrelle) these could be found in 1s and 2s in the man recesses built into the tunnel walls, a total of 2 dozen were seen and very tiny they are too, about 40 mm long.
On exiting the far end of the tunnel it was time for the survival part of the walk.
It was amazing just how quickly a makeup removal pad could be ignited using a steel fire starter, and by using a pad that had some Vaseline on it this could burn a lot longer giving you plenty of time to get a really good fire going.
How to make a whistle out of a drink can (empty of course).This was the most remarkable thing - cut a strip about 75mm long x 12mm wide and then cut approx 1/3rd off; use the cut-off piece to make a cross and fold the surplus round. Then form a ? shape and, holding the curved piece between finger and thumb, blow through the wrapped around piece. Hey Presto, you have a whistle! We then split into 2 groups with Alyn's partner (Penny) letting the arsonists make fires whilst Alyn watched as the whistle blowers perfected their whistles.
At this point 4 of the party had a pressing commitment (to Survive a round of golf) and left. The remaining members had Toasted Marshmallows before returning to the cars - some back through the tunnel and others via a Wye riverside walk. An extremely interesting walk and talk by Alyn.
Sincere thanks to Carol for organising a great weekend.
"It'll be a bit lively out there" said skipper Nigel as we clambered aboard Sunbeam 111 in Wells Next The Sea harbour.
A BIT LIVELY? For this, read squalls, force 5 (luckily, we did not hear this until it came over the shortwave radio from the coastguards at Great Yarmouth some time later).
We were advised to move to the front of the boat when we passed the lifeboat station (was this so that the coast watch people could count how many people were aboard if we needed rescuing?) as we might get "a bit wet".
A BIT WET? A huge wave of what seemed like tsunami proportions broke over the wheel house and most of us got soaked - what an adventure!
Have you seen the film A Perfect Storm when the fishing boats rise up the big waves and then fall down the other side? That was us - fortunately we were too intent on staying upright whilst trying to catch our supper to notice what was coming our way. 50+ appetites always win out over possible adversity.
"I'VE GOT ONE!" shouted the Chairman (so one member's supper was safe). Convinced that we were now among a shoal of prospective BBQ items, we cast away with great enthusiasm. There was great excitement when our newsletter editor caught the first sea bass of the Wells season - it was SO huge that she needed help to land it.
Unfortunately, the rough conditions meant that the sandy seabed was being churned up too much for the mackerel to see the lures properly but a further 7 of them succumbed to our now finely honed fishing expertise and dinner was safe! Phew!
Eventually, the skipper reluctantly had to turn his back on the squall, which showed no sign of abating, and our merry crew returned to port to an audience of ice-cream licking day trippers on the quay who had no idea of what a memorable 3 hours this soggy, windswept group of 50 plussers had just experienced.
Having re-gained their land legs and after a quick supermarket dash for essential supplies (no-one had been optimistic enough to buy lemons for the fish beforehand) most of the group gathered in Jane and Dennis's caravan awning to recount the afternoon's excitement while Dennis battled heroically outside in the wind with the BBQ cooking the catch (apart from the precious sea bass, which was poaching nicely in the oven in a bath of white wine, thyme and lemon).
This was a "first" for the club and one to remember.
After a well directed journey to Oxford the first task was to find a coffee house! This accomplished, next to meet at the appointed hour. We split into two groups - with a little assistance - why was it so difficult, age I suppose!
Our lady guide introduced us to the city and we set off to circumnavigate the streets. We were told about the development of Oxford as a seat of learning from before King Henry VIII. We saw the pubs associated with the literary talent that came out of Oxford, were shown colleges that the great, good and "media bods" had attended. Then off to the Natural History Museum - what a place and so close to home. Our Grandaughter will love it, especially the casts of Dinosaur foot prints and the skeleton trees, and that was before we went in! The structure was of cast iron with different plants on each pillar, there were polished stone columns from all over the British Isles. Upstairs there were live creepy crawlies in the entomology section, also lots of things you could feel - even a hefty lump of metal from outer space.
The whole tour continued to be interesting with fascinating insights into those associated with the city. On one new building Tweedledum and Tweedledee are carved in a stone frieze.
Then all too soon it was time to make our way to meet the other group. We had time to enjoy a lovely lunch over a glass of wine then off to meet up for our boat trip, which was an adventure on its own.
Thanks to Mary for a wonderful day.
Oxford Trip - (continued)
We went to Oxford on Sunday; forty of us en mass,
Travelled to the centre with a flash of the bus pass,
Before the trek commenced we scattered far and wide,
Around the city centre in a coffee bar to hide,
That's two lattes and two buns but can you make it quick,
For Mary's looking out for us, with map and notes; she's slick.
The coffee's drunk, the buns are ate, before we start the slog,
Just give me five more minutes I really need the bog
We found the place to meet, all ready for the walk
Hello Richard, Sheila, Mary et al; we here just for a talk?
The guides arrived, the knowledge it was oozing,
And soon we even knew where Tolkien did his boozing!
We wandered round the city a really motley bunch,
And pretty soon its one o'clock and so it's time for lunch.
Where shall we go for lunch? My wife said with a sigh,
I know I said let's go in here, and look it's serving Thai.
The meal was cooked and served in style and everything was fine,
But just to make it special we accompanied it with wine.
Now everything looked better, our world was now pristine,
So get your bum in gear she said; you see its two fifteen!
The team was there on Folly Bridge, a seething mass a stewing,
The lock was broke, the plans all dashed, the afternoon a ruin.
Upon the bridge with phone in hand, so cool and fancy free,
Solving all our problems was our young Mar-ree!
The panic wasn't over yet among the lame and wussies,
But Mary waved her phone again and there appeared three busses.
From here to there via country lane we finally reached the cruiser,
But several of our members thought it was a floating boozer.
The Captain said here are the doors but sorry there are no beds,
But over here's the pointy end and over there the heads.
With passage smooth and wine in hand the light was warm and soft,
And it was here upon the Thames that Richard nodded oft,
We watched the birds; the time went by and round the final bend,
I'm sorry folks that's all there is, for now this is the end.
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