2016 has been a full year of adventures. I was going to say not mad globe-trotting adventures, but a week trekking in Patagonia and diving in the Maldives may prove that statement very inaccurate. 2016 has seen lots of surprises but one thing that has been my escape and reality check is the outdoors. I have written lots of blogs, but there are still lots of adventures still to share! Other than my two big trips all our adventures have been within the U.K. , exploring the South West, Scotland and a few places in between. Mainly cheap or free days out to wild and remote places with stunning landscapes and wildlife. Even a trip to London for some city street photography resulted in a flower photo session and some ‘prettyness’!
This was cold and icy. The frosts were hard and I was in training for my Patagonia trek. I spent a lot of time wandering around the Mendip Hills trying to get my legs used to steep hills. It wasn’t a very effective plan as our hills is in Somerset are just little bumps compared to the mountains in Patagonia. I had a lovely weekend escape to Huntstile Farm, a small organic farm in the rolling Somerset countryside. Long walks, log fires and amazing food was a brilliant start to the year. My favourite place locally has to be Tealham Moor and an early morning wander out here resulted in a beautiful sunrise over the flooded Somerset Levels. I also had company from a very fluffy and rotund robin!
After months of planning, lots of heartache and a little bit of terror I headed off to Patagonia. This was an amazing experience. 100-miles over the Andes in 5-days with £200000 raised for Meningitis Now by our small team of trekkers. The scenery was stunning. Everything from mountains, glaciers and waterfalls to hidden streams and pretty towns.
Patagonia was an adventure and it took a while to recover emotionally and physically (shingles paid me a visit!!) so for Easter I ran away to Orkney with my boys. We love it up here and have a little cottage that I escape to whenever I can. While we were there the winter storms were tailing off. Yesnaby is a stunning area with sea stacks and raging seas. The cliffs are high, but in stormy conditions the air fills with salt as the waves boil over the top of the cliffs. We explored the island of Hoy, wild and mountainous and the tranquil island of Rousay.
In April we stayed on Orkney, extending our break as the weather was so nice. Exploring the neolithic sites including Skara Brae and the Ring of Brogdar the ancient history of the islands blends into the landscape.
Springtime really had arrived by the time we came back from Orkney. The bluebells were exploding and the evenings were getting longer. After a few days in the bluebell woods with my little camera I am hoping to run a few one-to-one sessions in the bluebells in 2017 for point and shoot and phone cameras. Often overlooked the little cameras can get great results when you know how. I spent lots of time out and about in my usual haunts as well as diving. The sea was warming up and the Lizard and Lands End were a riot of colour. Sea thrift coated the coastline in pink of all shades. After lots of thought I have decided that I am definitely back to diving, a major step after 5 years away.
June was warm and pretty. Half term trips to Farleigh Hungerford Castle and the American Museum in Bath were balanced with a day exploring the beautiful Tarr Steps. A complete contrast but all pretty in their own way. Farleigh Hungerford Castle is ruined and rugged. The American Museum is a formal stately home with rules and regulations but beautiful wild gardens.
July was mad with the end of term, the end of an era with both boys moving schools. We had lots of evening walks on the Mendips looking for Pokemon. All good until you live in area with no signal. My plans of Pokemon hunts while I got some shots all went a bit wrong! Two bored boys and a very frustrated me!
The summer was to be spent at home, no major adventures. We did still manage to fit in a few days in North Cornwall staying in Tintagel, a little bit of siege action at Kenilworth Castle on the way home from Grandad and a long weekend at the Mary Rose. Lots of time was spent on the beach at Burnham-on-Sea. This is located in the Bristol Channel so not the clearest of water (more muddy silt). However the long expanse of beach and glorious sunsets makes up for the murky muddy waves.
Schools went back and I started to explore my freedom of no work. Lots of time spent out and about and a little jaunt back up to Orkney for some home maintenance and wildlife photography. A stormy few days but stunning night skies.
A calm month. Lots of late sunshine and a few days in Pembrokeshire visiting friends. Stackpole Beach, Manorbier Castle and Saundersfoot Beach became favourites for future visits. The sunset over Saundersfoot on our first evening was perfect.
This was my second highlight of 2017. I never thought I would make it to the Maldives. These islands are the stuff of honeymoon dreams and given my widowed status, two boys and no budget I had put them out of my realistic wishes. When a friend suggest a trip for his big 4-0- birthday I jumped at the chance. No romance, no mega expensive resort, just a small guest house in a very normal village. The perfect way to see the country and dive with special friends.
A chilly quiet month. Catching up from the Maldives, preparing for Christmas and hibernating from the chilly weather. The fog has hung around this month and the frosts have been beautiful but harsh.
As 2016 draws to a close I am slowly planning 2017. Orkney is happening and I am hoping we will manage the North Coast 500 around Scotland. I also have the Lighthouse Challenge to keep me occupied. All U.K. lighthouses visited and photographed in a year (or there about’s!!). It will be a full on camera year starting in January with a foggy cold night in the alleys of London and wildlife week in the snowy Cairngorm mountains.