Outdoor Events in 2017

There are a lot of large outdoor events scheduled into the 2017 calendar in and around the country. The following is a summary of some of the larger and more polular ones. While dates for many are still not confirmed, you can be sure that small armies of people are beavering away behind the scenes, confirming venues, booking acts, arranging security, hiring marquees, toilets and other on-site facilities, organising routes, the list goes on!


marquee supplied by Richardsons

marquee supplied by Richardsons

25th May – 4th June, the Hay Festival of Literature is already confirmed, and in case you’ve never heard of it, yes it’s in Hay on Wye.
“For 29 years Hay Festival has brought together writers from around the world to debate and share stories at its festival in the staggering beauty of the Welsh Borders.” you can find out plenty more about it here

1st – 15th July, The Gower Festival. A music based event, with acts from around the globe, what makes this event unique is that all the acts play inside churches.
“Opening concert 2017 with the wonderful Wihan Quartet in a “Czech evening” at Newton Church.”

Date TBC – Monmouth Festival. From open air venues, marquees, churches and pubs, the Monmouth Festival aims to provide a huge range of local musical talent.
“The Festival prides itself on being extremely friendly, relaxed and an opportunity for families and all generations of people to come together and enjoy themselves.”main stage

Date TBC Pride Cymru. Most likely to remain in Coopers Field again for 2017, this pride event is, well, all you’d expect from a vibrant Madi Gras held in Wales, with it’s parade and party in the park to follow.
“The organisation meets its charitable aims and objectives via a committed team of volunteers, employees and sponsors who tirelessly raise funds for the organisation to support the main event and the project work.” find out about it here

There are plenty more events, however time is marching on and this list will be completed once more dates venues and acts are available.

A Directory of Local Companies?

There has recently been discussions about adding a directory to the site. This would likely be in the format of some “off the shelf” directory software, although these can be highly customised (so I’m informed) and can therefore take on pretty much whatever appearance and identity we desire.

The likely-hood is that this would be on the format of either town names or industries, or possibly both which lead to categories where local businesses are able to key in their own information, there is also the possibility for these listings to all have their own page where the business can add extended information about products, services, opening hours etc.

If we decide to progress with this project it will take some time to have configured initially and, based on previous experience with websites, to then be further adapted on a semi-regular basis. All this would be in addition to the need to check the details being submitted. We may also be able to allow members of the public to post reviews of companies they have used, however again this would likely need close policing.

We also need to be sure of who would be allowed to submit their details to the directory, clearly only companies based in Wales will be considered, but should it also be restricted to particular industries? If so how will they be categorised?

The reason for this write up at this stage is to glean some feedback from the local business owners and to gain an understanding of what they would like from it.

26/04/13 Update:

It turns out that we already know someone with some experience in this field, a colleagues son is already in the process of establishing a business directory of his own this being in a different geographical region (Wiltshire as opposed to Wales) should not have any conflict of interests if we call on him to help.

We need to keep an eye on this one in initially, because he has made it clear that it’s only in the early stages of development, but it does mean we have someone to consult with, rather than until now it’s been a case of the blind leading the blind!

Mountain Racing in Wales

A Welsh voice choir saw the competitors of the Dragons Back Race set off from Conwy Castle on Monday, they will finish (although undoubtedly not all of them) in the south at the Breacon Beacons in five days time. There were just 91 entries, although they came from 14 different countries including some as far away as Australia. The Dragons Back Race is said to be one of the toughest worldwide, hence the relatively low number of competitors.

race in walesWhen this race was last run back in 92, Helene Whittaker was one of the winners, who is back again this year. The strange thing about this particular race though, is that not only is it almost 200 miles, but also the competitors have around 15.000 metres of ascent too. Combine this with the fact that they only know each days route each morning, so are completely unaware of the terrain on which they will be running, makes for an extremely challenging race both physically and mentally.

The route is pretty demanding so fortunately the weather forecast for this week is looking surprisingly good, which will come as some relief to the participants. I couldn’t imagine trying to run a race like this, let alone if the weather is like it has been in this area for most of the summer this year.

The race also passes through some areas which are unpopulated and have very few tourists, so there is a real feeling of support for the other people in the race, even though they are competing with each other.


Looking After our Wildlife

Despite the cuts to government funding, groups looking after wildlife conservation in the UK seem to be keeping very strong and active. From those going into the countryside clearing up our waterways and helping endangered species, to beekeeping, the number of people involved just seems to keep on increasing, which is very good news.

There are groups dotted all over the UK for pretty much anything you can think of now, from bat protection to woodland care. There are also a whole raft of products available to both commercial organisations and the general public, so if you are interested in conservation you can get involved in your own way.

wild woodlandObviously the general public are not usually going to be interested in the higher end products such as bat detectors and erosion control, unless of course you are lucky enough to live in a river fronted house. For the vast majority of us who live in urban or village environments, there is still a lot we can do and lower end products we can buy. Things like bat boxes, birds nesting boxes and wild animal feed are all relatively cheap to buy and really do help our wildlife, as many of their natural habitats are being destroyed as new roads, houses and business parks are creeping ever further into the green belts. Rats can become an issue, just just for us, but also for other types of wildlife, particularly those smaller than the rats, as they can be eaten, or even for larger animals, their young can be eaten. You can buy a wide range of traps but humane rat traps are also available as can be seen here so you can get rid of them without harming other animals.

There are also many things we can do which are free.  For example keeping a compost heap not only provides you with fresh compost for the garden, but also a place where hedgehogs and toads can hibernate in the winter, also the insects which live in and around a compost heap are a great source of food for a wide range of native birds, and that’s just one small example. Although try not to use the big plastic compost bins, they don’t have the spaces available for hedgehogs to get in or birds to stand on top and eat the insects, a wooden opened top one is far better, and looks much nicer too!

If you are interested in getting involved in an organised conservation project, the wildlife trust is a good place to start or for international campaigns there’s the World Wildlife Fund. Although you don’t have to join an organised project, there are a wide range of conservation products available, , they also have guides to what can be done for specific species and it’s all relevant to the UK.

So if you are interested in looking after the wildlife in and around your local area, or in your garden, get involved with a conservation group, or just do your bit to help, remember that even by encouraging insects, this helps other species too, so even just a pile of old wood at the bottom of the garden can help, as it encourages beetles which the birds feed on.


Beehives in the Fields

Bees in January?

As you would probably imagine, as someone who has a blog about outdoor pursuits, I spend quite a bit of time out in the countryside, walking and cycling, and have done for quite a few years now. Up until about 2 years ago I had never seen a beehive, however in the last 2 years, or particularly last year, I saw loads. They say honeybees are in decline, but looking at the number of hives which are dotted around the countryside, I find that quite hard to believe.

bees flyingI saw some the other day in the corner of a farmers field. I suppose the hives are usually hidden from view in the summer, as there are a few bushes and long grass around them, but at this time of year, they can be seen quite clearly. So never having seen one up close, I rode over to take a look.

They were strange old things, not the straw skeps which you see in books, but polystyrene hives, they were a kind of green colour, but definitely looked like they were made of polystyrene, or some kind or artificial plastic, in fact when I first got over to them I thought it was just a load of old packing crates, I couldn’t get right up close as there was a fence around them, well, I could have but didn’t want to because as I got close I realised that the bees were coming and going from a couple of the weird looking polystyrene hives, (there were a couple of wooden ones too, but there was no activity from those) I’m pretty sure they are honeybees as they were obviously being looked after and I don’t think any other type of bees make honey, so there is no reason for a beekeeper to home or care for them.

The thing I found strange about that is that why would honeybees be flying around in the winter time? They live on the nectar from flowers, and I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but there are definitely no flowers around here in January, surely they know that! It was a fairly warm day, but I would have expected them to have been in hibernation, or whatever bees do for the winter, as they are really just wasting their time flying around, they certainly won’t find any food.

Now, I do know that bees swarm to split their colony and create a new one, but swarming is in the summer, I only know that because a friend had a swarm settle in a tree in his garden when I was a kid, we watched the beekeeper cut the branch off and take them away, great fun as a kid, but it was definitely summer as we were in t-shirts and playing in the garden when his dad spotted them.

Anyway, why are there suddenly so many hives about?  I’d love to know if anyone can tell me why this is. I must have seen about 20-30 hives in January so far, although I suppose to be fair, the scrub is all down and I have been out walking and cycling more than usual, due to the particularly nice weather we’ve been having. Perhaps there are more beekeepers around than there used to be too.

A Cabin in the Woods

I’ve been looking at putting up a log cabin in the woods this year, it seems like a really good idea, I can have a solar panel on the roof (provided there is an area where the sun can get through to power it of course) and/or a small wind turbine. This would give me enough power for a light and a fridge inside, this along with a small gas burner means I could spend time out there occasionally, without the need to keep heading off down the shops etc.

log cabinThere are several styles available, but the type I like most are the traditional looking ones, which appear to be made from proper logs, this painted with a Cuprinol type wood treatment, should mean that it would last a long time too.

I do need to look into the legalities of doing this, as planning may be required, but I suspect that because I’m looking at putting it on private land, and if I keep it under a certain size, I may avoid having to do this, which would make things much easier.

I also really like the idea of having those folding doors which open the whole side of a building up, they could probably be incorporated quite easily as either some kind of patio doors or bifolding doors, I’ve already had a look at some at a local showrooms and these guys have a picture on the front page of the kind of thing I’m after, albeit a bit more grand than I have in mind, but if I have the panoramic doorsones with wooden frames I should be able to make the doors blend in with the whole cabin. I just love the idea of completely opening the cabin up to the outdoors. If I think about the direction of the prevailing winds, I could even have it open when it’s raining.

The great thing about the location I have in mind is that I should be able to sit and watch quite a range of wildlife from here too, there is a Badgers set quite close by and there are foxes around the farm nearby and I dare say a range of deer in the area too.

I’ll update here as I find out a bit more about the implications of it regarding planning permission, how much the cabin will cost, if adding the panoramic doors is a viable option and how much all the little extras will be. Yes if you hadn’t guessed this is very much a price based decision.

SAS Survival Handbook

Learn how to Survive in the UK with the SAS Survival Handbook

First written by John “Lofty” Wiseman an SAS survival expert, over 20 years ago, this is the new updated version. Since this book was first released many copy type books have also been released, however none as authoritative as this and therefore have not come close to this international bestseller.

Lofty served in the SAS for 26 years and was their chief survival instructor, so if you are going to listen to one persons advice about survival techniques, make it his!

The book covers a wide variety of situations and techniques from the most resilient, resourceful and eco-friendly must have kit, to coping mechanisms and how to react, keep calm and manage hostile environments. The aim is not just to teach you how to survive certain situations, but how to cope with any situation.

This book is complemented by another best selling book Food for Free by Richard Mabey, specific to the UK covering all manner of wild foods which are available through the seasons, includes fungus, shellfish and seaweeds.  I have this book and since buying it am quite likely to add a pinch of hairy bittercress or a few dandelion leaves to a salad these days, and that’s just from what grows in my garden.

Boundary Soft Shell Jacket

Layer up with the Boundary Softshell Jacket

If you need a softshell you could do a lot worse than the Boundary. Often part of a superb layering system, you could do a lot worse than than choosing this jacket, it’s stylish, wind-proof and water repellent, so there is no need to stop and get your waterproof out of your rucksack at all if it’s just a light shower.

The Softshell Boundary Jacket has a full length front zip, with adjustable hem, cuffs and neck, so you can really keep the wind at bay. It is available right now in the sale for just £26, which is a 60% discount from it’s original price of £65, so you will probably need to act fast as these will undoubtedly be sold very quickly.

This jacket is available in either cedar green or clove.

Click the product image to buy or check availability of colours and sizes.