I had walked along the stretch of coastline between Lee and Bull Point numerous times, yet from my current vantage point it looked entirely unfamiliar. Rather than exploring the coastline on foot – my default means of venturing along the South West Coast Path – today I was enclosed in a bright red sea kayak looking up at the imposing cliffs and craggy outcrops west of Lee Bay. Opting for this alternative mode of human-powered transport had clearly knocked my sense of place out of kilter.
Brandy, gin, salt, tea and, er… playing cards are some of the illicit goods smuggled into secluded beaches on the North Devon coast by menacing smugglers – or Gentlemen of the Night, as they liked to call themselves – during the late 18th and early 19th century. This wild and rugged coastline is a popular stretch of the South West Coast Path, but unknown to many walkers that admire its dramatic beauty it has a rich history of smuggling and the often-barbaric practice of “wrecking”.
Give me a sunny Sunday in May and I’ll raise you a long bike ride in Exmoor or day hike along the South West Coast Path. But sometimes such default weekend activities can be forced on hold. For me, another frustrating bout of illness has had me under strict doctor’s orders: no cycling and no hiking.
Determined not to wallow in despair and frustration at what activities I could be doing outside, I turned to another hobby that also requires a large dose of the outdoors: gardening. A gentler option than a bike ride or coastal walk, but one that can be equally satisfying to both mind and body.
When I first met Lizzie Carr in February 2016 at a gathering of Ordnance Survey #GetOutside Champions, she chatted to me about her growing love of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) and her plans to SUP from Bristol to London over a week in July; in fact, she was trying to convince myself and Mary-Ann Ochota to join her.
A few months later and her SUP slow adventure has expanded ever so slightly. Starting today Lizzie is aiming to be the first person to travel the whole way across England’s waterways by SUP to highlight the growing problem of plastic pollution.
Only a matter of minutes into my first rockpooling adventure since childhood, I had already netted a 2cm long common prawn. Admittedly, I nearly threw it back along with the large helping of assorted seaweed in my net, but I was delighted.
My elation was short-lived, however. Just as I was about to show off with pride the tiny, semi-transparent crustacean to my fellow rockpoolers, one of them, nine-year-old Ben, thrust his plastic tub under my nose. “Look what I found,” he announced triumphantly. The creature swimming around Ben’s tub was also a common prawn, but this one measured an impressive 11cm. Spectacularly trumped, I surreptitiously tipped my miniscule prawn back into the water and continued on my way.
Forgive me reader, I must confess: I blatantly judged this book by its cover. The eye-catching abstract illustration encouraged my impulsive purchase on a cold, wet afternoon in January. In truth, I had no idea what the book was about, but I figured if it turned out not to be a good read at least it would look pretty on my bookshelf.
But it is a good read; in fact, The Outrun is an excellent read that introduces Amy Liptrot as one of a new breed of nature writers who masterfully fuses the personal and the natural. In essence The Outrun is a lyrical and compelling memoir of recovery from alcoholism and connecting with the natural world, set against a backdrop of the Orkney Islands.
Since launching its Mend Our Mountains campaign in March, the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) have raised £53,960 of their target £100k to help urgent repair projects on some of Britain's iconic peaks. With two weeks left until the campaign closes there's still time to pledge your support for the individual campaigns that focus on key areas in eight of the UK's national parks.
When we decided to spend a night in a stone hut hidden away in a remote wooded valley in North Devon, we hadn’t expected Storm Katie to arrive in the middle of the night. As strong winds whistled around the bothy and heavy rain clattered on the tin roof, I lay tucked up inside my sleeping bag eternally grateful to be safely enclosed by four sturdy walls and a roof, rather than a flimsy sheet of canvas, on my wild night outdoors.
As spring-loving beings we’ve been patiently waiting for the dark blanket of winter to fall away. Despite today's damp and windy start to the Season of Newness we’ve heartily welcomed the first official day of spring. If only we could bottle-up the feeling this season brings – freshness, brightness, optimism, and clarity – and crack it out in the midst of winter when such thoughts can be a bit harder to find.