Plastic Patrol in Gloucester

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Recently I took part in a Plastic Patrol session in Gloucester Docks. The idea is simple - after a bit of stand up paddleboard tuition, you get to float around the waterways armed with a litter grabber and a bucket.

I joined the final session of the day, and was actually quite surprised to see how (relatively) little rubbish had been collected so far - apparently last year it was much worse. I was not surprised to see the obligatory rusty old bike that someone had fished out.

We paddled around the main basin, then down to just past Sainsbury's. I spent quite a while picking at this patch of water lilies.  It may look clean, but actually there was a lot of very small bits of rubbish caught up in it: polystyrene balls, bottle caps, chewing gum, and loads of corners torn off from opening chocolate bar wrappers. Yuck.

waterlilies
Just out of shot: a dead pigeon

This is everything I collected. It may not look impressive, but it all adds up.  I know about microplastics affecting the oceans etc, but it hadn't really sunk in that not-so-micro-but-still-small rubbish would be so plentiful closer to home.  Think carefully when opening your Mars bars!

me on a paddleboard

This was actually the first time I'd paddled in Gloucester Docks, despite having lived literally metres from the main basin for three years with a kayak stored in my living room!  I have been on the canal further down a few times though (including swimming around in the water doing safety training)

I've paddled boarded once or twice before, albeit several years ago, so it didn't take me long to decide I was going to try standing up rather than kneeling.  Grabbing tiny bits of litter was a bit more difficult from higher up, but it gave me a better view and took the pressure off my knees/quads - which were complaining rather a lot the next day.

Definitely want to do more in future!

Swimathon

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I can't remember where I first read about this year's Swimathon - so probably on Twitter - and I'm fairly sure my criteria for entering were "ooh, it's half price at the moment" and the thought of getting a participation medal for something other than running or cycling.

I don't swim that regularly, but when I do I tend to swim between 1 and 2km.  I chose the 2.5km distance (a nice round 100 lengths!) as it seemed like a sensible and achievable target - bearing in mind that I entered in January, and the event wasn't until the end of April. 

I then promptly forgot to do much in the way of 'training'.  Strava tells me I went swimming 4 times, and I did also make a token effort on holiday by swimming a few laps of the small grotto style pool on most days before heading to the hot tub/sauna/steam rooms...

swimathon medal, cap and my new goggles

I will now take a slight break in my waffley "I went swimming" write-up to tell you about two recent purchases that definitely enhanced the experience:

Prescription goggles

Oh wow these are amazing! I can't believe I've gone 20 years (if not longer... eek!) without being able to see when in the pool. I put off buying some for years on because I'm only an occasional swimmer, and I also wasn't sure how much of my vision they'd actually correct, thanks to astigmatism.

Turns out they're good enough - I wouldn't be able to drive or read a book, but I can clearly see the clock, the other people, and all the plasters and hair and general mank on the bottom of the pool.  Lovely. 

Garmin Vivosport

Towards the end of last year the battery life on my two year old Fitbit charge HR fell off a cliff, and the strap started to show a lot of signs of wear.  After christmas I replaced it with a Garmin Vivosport. Same size/form factor, but with added GPS and fully waterproof.

It's got various activity modes - walking, running, cycling, weights, cardio, 'other'... but no swim mode.  If I was swimming outdoors this wouldn't be a problem as I could use the GPS, but for indoor swimming it's only really useful for keeping track of time.

Originally I'd planned to participate in the official event, at GL1 in Gloucester.  But that clashed with the Outdoor Bloggers weekend, so I changed my entry to a 'mySwimathon' - ie swim my distance wherever I want, within about a two week window.  Very convenient, and I'm grateful that swapping was an option.

I swam at Leisure@Cheltenham, because it's less faff to park and seems to have more sensible opening hours.  I turned up on a Friday morning to find that the pool was in 33m mode, so had to do some quick mental maths to figure out how many lengths I needed to do.  75.75.  No longer such a nice round number - obviously I did round up... continue reading »

Cheltenham Circular, part one

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Having walked a lap of Gloucester last year - the Glevum Way - we decided to do the same for Cheltenham this year - via the Cheltenham Circular Footpath.

The route is marked and named on OS maps, and we'd seen occasional marker signs previously.  There is a guidebook, which was published in 1996 and so no longer 100% accurate!  I bought it anyway, and will attempt to highlight any differences as I write things up - but mostly it seems to be things like styles having been replaced with kissing gates.

The route officially starts either at Cheltenham Racecourse or Pittville Pump Rooms, depending what you read, and is about 25 miles/40km.  I mapped it out on OS maps without the pump rooms detour and that says 38km.

Our first leg took us from Golden valley to the Racecourse (guidebook sections J and K - between 13 and 1 on my OS route), starting from a bus stop on the B4063, next to what used to be the Pheasant Inn.  This is currently a private residence, but it's also been a Thai restaurant relatively recently.  The Stagecoach 94 bus goes past very frequently, so it's easy to get to from Cheltenham or Gloucester.

Cheltenham Circular footpath sign
Waymarked signpost. A bit of a rarity!

The path heads north through fields and past a slightly smelly sewage treatment plant near Fiddler's green. It was here that we spotted the first burnt out car of the day, which is not what any of us were expecting to find in the middle of a field.

What I was expecting to see was more footpath/marker signs!  Good thing we had maps and GPS because it was really not obvious where to go.

At one point our path abruptly vanished into a large and deep wet hole - complete with orange safety barrier but no suggestion of a detour. We carefully picked our way around it, and continued along the very boggy path. I should have taken a photo as then I'd be able to tell you exactly where it is, but was a bit preoccupied with a) not falling in and b) not letting the dogs fall in.

We popped out on the A4019 at Uckington, and walked along the pavement for a bit until we turned into more fields just opposite the fire station.  Busy main roads always tend to be the low point on walks like this, but thankfully it was only for a few hundred metres.

St Mary Magdelene churchyard in Elmstone Hardwicke provided a good spot for a drink and snack stop - and a chance for Jon and Jon to empty water out of their boots. I decided I'd just suffer damp feet rather than having to put wet shoes and socks back on - especially as my Keen Terradora boots are very definitely falling apart where the toe area flexes :(  Waterproof fabric is no use if there are holes in it!

stopping for a drinkcontinue reading »