Firstly, may I wish you all a very Happy New Year ! I hope you’ve had a relaxing break over Christmas; a chance to look back over the year just gone and recharge the batteries. If, like me, you love to make plans then you’ll also be using this time to think about new year resolutions, bucket lists yet to complete and new hobbies yet to be learned.
My 2015 goals were all about quality rather than quantity and – by and large – I achieved them. I cycled from 1000 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats with my nephew and raised £2,800 for the Maggie’s Centres in the process. I also volunteered with the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme and undertook training towards the end of the year to become an outdoor expedition leader. Finally, I branched out a little to write for other websites, including my Cool Camping guides to hiring a camper van.
I enjoyed all of this immensely. It got me active, seeing the great outdoors and learning new skills. But it was also very time-consuming – particularly the intensive cycle training and then the LEJOG journey itself – and so my outdoors activities and blog took a bit of a back seat in the second half of the year as family life and work took up more of my time.
This year I’m planning to spread out my activities more evenly over the course of the year. As ever, I have far more ideas of things I want to do and accomplish that I have time for (retirement can’t come quick enough !) and so I’ve necessarily had to be somewhat selective in coming up with some challenges that will motivate me to do new things. In fact, it’s probably more of a consolidation year than anything else: following through to complete challenges I’ve already started and simply spending more time doing the things I really enjoy.
It’s not quite as long a list as my 14 for 2014 challenges but leaves lots of scope for impromptu escapades in among the set-piece plans.
First, I want to become qualified as a Mountain Leader and continue to volunteer to help with Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. It took longer than anticipated to find a suitable training course last year and given that I now need to gain some wider walking experience in other parts of the UK, I’m now planning to do the ML Assessment in September. This will enable me to be fully qualified in time for 2017. But in the meantime, I’ll be volunteering again to help out with the Bronze DofE outdoor expeditions with groups of 14-15 year olds.
Second, I’d like to complete climbing all 3000-foot mountains in England, Wales and Scotland. This neatly gives me the wider experience I need for the ML Award and in practical terms, means that I’m planning a long weekend to climb the Welsh 3000s in May and also finding time to shoot up Skiddaw, the last of the Lakeland 3000s I haven’t been up yet.
It’s not all about walking and camping, though. I’m keen to get out on my bike some more and in particular, to go on some good day and multi-day cycle rides. A couple of ideas I have right now are to cycle the C2C route from Whitehaven to Sunderland (well, having cycled north to south it seems kind of logical to go west to east next) and to cycle the Five Ferries route around the Firth of Clyde.
I really enjoyed going on a kayak-camping expedition in 2014 to Moidart and would like to do something similar again this year, possibly to Moidart again or further round towards Arisaig. (My inflatable sprung a leak after the last trip which I think I’ve fixed, but this one is clearly dependent on the equipment being up to the job !).
Finally, I got a great book for Christmas all about making Wild Cocktails. This doesn’t necessarily involve having a wild time while drinking cocktails (although I’m sure the two often do coincide) but is more to do with making cocktails infused with plants and flowers that are either grown in the garden or foraged from hedgerows and woodlands. I’m not quite sure what to expect – this could be roaring success or a monumental failure – but I dare say we’ll have lots of fun in the process.
So those are my five set-piece challenges for 2016: becoming a qualified Mountain Leader, ticking off all the 3000-footers in mainland Britain, doing some more cycle touring and kayak/camping, and sipping wild cocktails.
In addition, I also hope to fit in some others interests including using my camper van to get out into the outdoors, wild camping under the stars, skiing and going out hunting for meteor showers and the northern lights – and a host of other activities besides.
And, as luck would have it, 2015 ended with a final showing of the aurora just 15 minutes before midnight – plus, I didn’t even have to go outside to see it.
Let’s hope that 2016 is just as fruitful for me as well as all of you. What plans have you made ? What do you think of my own ?