It’s been over 6 months since I last posted on Two Wee Adventurers. Alas, we’ve not been off travelling the remotest parts of the planet, battling through extreme environments trying in vain to find a wifi signal. No, we’ve been, like most sensible people, hibernating at home under a blanket in front of the fire (well, I admit that’s not completely true either…) The reality is, family life got in the way and despite plenty of half written blog posts I never seemed to grasp the opportunity to sit down and finish them. So I’m scrapping them all and starting afresh, it being springtime (albeit it’s snowing again while I write this), with a bit of a summary of what we’ve been up to…
Microadventure Challenge 2017
Last year we set ourselves the challenge of a bivvy microadventure on one night for every month of the year. We managed 8 months out of 12, missing June because we were away, September and November because of illness and December because we just didn’t get around to it! We had bivvies in the snow, rain and long daylight hours of the summer. We bivvied in the garden, the neighbour’s garden, at the beach, in the forest, on an Iron Age Hill Fort and at 700m above sea level. We bivvied with friends and by ourselves. And through all of that we somehow managed to avoid being eaten alive by midges! Result!
North Coast 500
Well, there’s not much to report here. I’d planned an epic “just get up and drive off into the sunset with our tent” sort of trip sometime in the early Autumn, but I was ill for much of the month, so although gutted, decided it was best to postpone until this year.
In October, we took a departure from our usual UK based adventures and booked a last minute week-long trip to Montenegro. Montenegro is a small, mountainous country in the Balkans, blessed with both picturesque medieval villages and stunning coastal, mountain and lake scenery. We did a lot of touristy sightseeing but also fitted in a couple of walks off the beaten track and a zipwire across the 1km deep Tara Canyon! For outdoor enthusiasts there are plenty of hiking trails in the mountains, white water rafting down the Tara River in the summer months and skiing in the winter. The compactness of the country means (if you have your own transport) you can be sunbathing on the beach in the morning and having a snowball fight in the mountains in the afternoon.
If you’re interested in the details we flew with Easyjet direct from Manchester to Tivat for a little less than £150 return for the two of us. We based ourselves in a small, basic self-catering apartment on the outskirts, but within walking distance of Kotor, which cost 200 euros for the week. Public transport was easy enough to navigate and we took several bus trips to smaller towns and villages and along the coast. The more mountainous areas and National Parks, especially in the north of the country, were difficult to reach without a car, however, so we signed up for a couple of reasonably priced day tours to Lovcen and Durmitor National Parks. Finn was welcomed all over in Montenegro and on one of the tours, on a boat trip and in many museums he travelled for free (it seemed to be at the discretion of the tour/museum operator). Traditional Montenegrin cuisine is heavily meat/fish/cheese based (although we found one restaurant in Kotor that served vegan pizza as well as a small wholefoods shop) so we mostly bought food in supermarkets or street markets and made up picnics or ate in our apartment.
Winter at our Nature Spot
We tend to move in rhythm with the seasons with our adventures, venturing further afield in the summer and retreating to the hearth fires during the winter months, with plenty of locally based adventures. Our emphasis this year was just to get outside, for as long as we could, whatever the weather, so we spent a lot of time at our nature spot, getting to know our immediate environs more intimately. We would pack a flask of hot chocolate, a woollen blanket and some books or nature study materials and just hang out, in the welcome the presence of the resident heron, cormorant and swans that we saw most days.
When we had time to spare we also took short day walks further afield, mostly within the Scottish Borders, exploring new routes we’d not previously walked as well as more familiar routes in winter conditions.
Our Annual Hadrian’s Wall Hostelling Trip
There’s a brand new, flagship YHA hostel, The Sill, recently opened at Hadrian’s Wall but we love staying at the remote and cosy Ninebanks hostel, former miners’ accommodation based south of the Wall in the north Pennines. There always seems to be snow on the ground when we arrive and this year was no different. We explored the usual Roman forts and more intact parts of Hadrian’s Wall and did some walking from the hostel including what became a rather challenging walk over some exposed and bitterly cold moorland.
One of the members of a home education group that we belong to set up a hillwalking group at the beginning of the year so once a month we’ve been joining together with some other outdoor-loving families, which has made a lovely change to our more usual mother and son adventures. There are members from as far apart as Fife, East Lothian and South Lanarkshire so we’re also looking forward to walking some new routes in different areas. Raising the next generation of hillwalkers!
Walking the Wainwrights
Finn and I have done a lot of walking together, but generally cross country than with a specific hilltop summit in mind. Last autumn I suggested to Finn that he might like to walk some more ‘big’ hills. We talked about Munros but Finn was more inspired by the name ‘Wainwrights’. I think he was particularly enraptured by the popular image of Alfred Wainwright atop a hill, pipe in mouth (for some reason he has a current fascination with pipes and moustaches!). There are 214 Wainwrights, which are fells (hills and mountains if you’re not familiar with Cumbrian dialect) described in Wainwright’s seven volume Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells.
Beginning with an overnight trip at Keswick YHA last November we started with Catbells, Walla Crag and Blaeberry Fell, and in March of this year took a couple more short trips to the Lakes, staying at Grasmere, Keswick, Patterdale and Helvellyn Youth Hotels and walking a further 8 Wainwrights (Helm Crag, Gibson Knott, Calf Crag, High Rigg, Loughrigg Fell, Gowbarrow Fell, Place Fell and Hallin Fell). We’ve concentrated mostly on the low and mid fells at this stage and because on all occasions we’ve been the higher fells have been beset by ice and snow.
We plan to continue ‘bagging’ Wainwrights over the coming years. In some ways it’s easier encouraging little ones to climb a hill, with all the excitement and sense of achievement of reaching a summit, than it is walking on long, monotonous forest tracks, for example. Many of the Lakeland fells are easily accessible, giving little ones time to work up to the larger fells and the compactness of the Lake District means if you’re able to base yourself in the area, you’re never too far from a suitable fell (or a cafe serving hot chocolate!). Over the winter we’ve stayed in several of the YHA youth hostels in the area and as we can be flexible with our dates (and as the YHA have had a few sales over the winter and we’re members), we’ve managed to get a double room for as little as £15 a night. In the summer, when the accommodation pressures are larger and prices higher we’ll go back to camping!
The highlight of the year though surely has to be achieving ‘poster girl’ status in the Summer 2017 Mountain Bothies Association Magazine with a picture of us outside on of the bothies we stayed in on our 5 bothies with a 5 year old challenge.