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!

Cheltenham Circular, part two

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Part two of walking the Cheltenham Circular Footpath - we started where we finished last time at the Racecourse park and ride and walked to Charlton Kings. (Sections A to D in the guidebook)

We went wrong pretty much straight away.  I'm still not sure how it happened, but I set off the wrong way around the Racecourse!  The actual route follows the North side, past the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, but we went East and only realised when we found a marked signpost pointing in a different direction to what we'd expected.  Oops.

Once we got back on track we headed through the churchyard in Prestbury, then along a well kept footpath until we ran into this:

footpath closed

Ah. You will note a lack of information about exactly which bits of path are closed, how long for, or an alternative route.  It later turned out that this information was at the other end of the path, which was not helpful for us!

I can't possibly comment on whether we retraced our steps and found a detour, or just carried on past pushed over/apart fencing with well trampled paths through the grass and nettles.  But put it this way - it was the weekend and there was nobody working on the building site...

Once back on track, we stopped for lunch stop at Harp Hill, then continued through the fields and up a hill where we enjoyed lovely views across Cheltenham, spoilt only by the delightful bit of architecture than is Eagle Tower. Heading back down we eventually reached the main road, but not before another game of "hunt the overgrown stile in the corner of a hedge".  Always a fun one.

views over Cheltenham
Eagle Tower looking, er, lovely in the middle there...

Once we reached the A40 we left the Cheltenham Circular and walked all the way into town. This was 4km of tarmac - not ideal, but we weren't sure what the bus situation was.  There is a Pulhams bus that goes along the A40, but we had no idea of the timetable, or whether dogs were allowed on board.  Once we'd walked to Sixways we could have got the B, but by the time we walked that far we figured we may as well just keep going.

As with last time, we ended up in the Swan for another well earned burger.  Then it was just a case of getting the bus back to the racecourse before heading home.

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 »