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a walk around Buttermere

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Cumbria is a long way to go for a weekend, especially when you get stuck in traffic jams and roadworks and general Friday evening M6 fun.

We were relatively short on time, and the weather was doing its usual thing for January/the Lakes (ie rain), so took the dog for a walk all the way around Buttermere.

It would have been nice to get up a bit higher, but it would have been rubbish with the cloud and wind.  Anyway, the scenery at lake level isn't bad:

Buttermere

Starting at the National Trust car park, our walk was just under 8km, and took less than two hours - leaving plenty of time (and daylight) for family stuff and a BBQ.

Haldon Forest mountain biking, and a walk on Dartmoor

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It's January, so I've been for the traditional weekend of kayaking on Dartmoor.  But with one slight difference - I took my mountain bike instead of a boat.

"But you love paddling the Dart!".  Yes, I really do.  But river levels were looking like being ridiculously low, and I decided I'd get more enjoyment out of doing something else than scraping down an empty river.  Besides, I've done the Dart low plenty of times before.

Four of us took bikes, and we decided to go to Haldon Forest trail centre.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get too - just off the A38 by Exeter.

There's a green trail, two blues, and a red with small black add-on. We started with the Kiddens trail - the longer of the blues.  After that warm up and a few minutes riding around the skills area, we rode the red Ridge Ride trail.

mountain bike trail at Haldon forest
Near the end of the Ridge Ride trail

I wasn't too keen on the first section, which had quite a steep slope on one side of the narrow singletrack, but none of us fell down the hill so that was a success (did I nearly fall off at one point?  No witnesses, no proof...). We got chatting to some locals at one point, who warned me that the next section was the 'proper downhill' and to look out for a few things. It was a lovely flowy section, but not really that steep.  Perhaps I have been spoiled by riding in the Forest of Dean, which certainly has a lot more ups and downs :)

After a quick lunch stop, plus hand-warming cup of tea and a large slab of flapjack from the on site café, we went for a second lap of the blue.  I was much quicker the second time round - mostly because I now knew what to expect, I think.

Saturday evening involved the usual food, drink and silly games in the pub, though I think everyone was in bed before midnight (probably because we started at about 5pm)

It rained overnight and continued on Sunday morning, which killed off our idea of riding the bikes on actual Dartmoor.  I certainly didn't fancy dragging my bike through bogs with unsuitable clothing on (and I wasn't the one who only had shorts!)

So, walking.  We all definitely had enough waterproofs for that!  I walked on the Sunday last year, and this year's route was quite similar.

We started at Dartmeet, and headed up the East Dart to Laugher Hole.  We approached Bellever Tor from the South, where things were getting quite muddy.  It was also cold and windy and wet and generally a bit grim.  At some point I ended up knee deep in a bog, which was nice.

mud on Bellever Tor
proper Dartmoor mud

Last year's version of the walk featured one set of stepping stones, on the East Dart.  This time... continue reading »

Les Deux Alpes

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Who needs last minute christmas shopping/preparation when you can go skiing instead?

Unfortunately the Alps have been having a bit of a snow drought during the last month, as well as it being early in the season.  We decided to go to Les Deux Alpes as it's high up, has a glacier (you can ski there in summer too) and a good selection of (open!) pistes for those of us who are still learning.

As usual, it was a bit of a last minute booking.  We couldn't find a package deal that suited (a lot were doing different days due to Christmas day being a weekend) so we booked flights (from a sensible airport, yay), bus transfer, and a room in Chalet Ruby.

This was definitely the best chalet experience I've had so far.  Lovely chalet, great people, bedrooms with actual floorspace, very generous portions of good food, log fire, and a hot tub for relaxing after a day on the slopes.  It's located at a quiet end of the town, but without being far away from the lifts, shops and nightlife.  Highly recommended.

view at Les Deux Alpes
Viewpoint near the 'signal' runs.  So pretty

Ah yes, the skiing.  I put myself in ski school again, for 5 of the 6 mornings.  The only snow at resort level was artificial on the nursery slopes, so each day started by getting a lift up and ended with a lift back down.

I'm not sure what happened, but something really clicked and I finally feel like I'm not a complete beginner/liability.  By midweek I was happily skiing red runs without complaining too much about the steepness, although my technique is nowhere near perfect - I need to work on getting my weight forward, not hunching up so much, and the start of my turns do have a habit of still being a bit snowploughy.  But I was much more confident, (relatively) faster and most importantly, really enjoying myself.  Our instructor also started to get us using our poles, which again just seemed to make sense when I actually remembered to do it.

My (early) christmas present from Jon was a pair of disgustingly colourful ski trousers.  And while they happened to be the ones I was first drawn to in the shop purely on looks, they also turned out to be the ones that ticked most of the boxes in terms of features.  Hurrah!  At least one random person on the slopes complimented me on them, hah.  I can't say I fully tested them out as it was mostly sunny and relatively warm, but they kept my legs toasty on the one day where we did have snow and cold winds (my breath was freezing on my Buff when we were sat on chairlifts), but without causing me to overheat the rest of the time.

standing in front of the glacier
Hi, we're posing in front of a glacier

As well as finding the confidence to ski red runs,... continue reading »