Scary Sports Special

"It's okay mate...It's only ghyll scrambling. Don't lose your hair over it..."

Halloween is all about scaring yourself. Or if you’re under 12, getting sweets aka ‘candy’ from unsuspecting neighbours normally ignored or avoided.

But as an adult, why not take the opportunity of Halloween bravado to do a new, scary, outdoor activity.

Here are the top scary activities that get a ‘I couldn’t’ or an ‘I daren’t’ reaction- with reasons why you should do them!

Pot holing

'The Cheese Grater' hole turns legs to mozzarella...

Pot holing is simply the method of getting into the cave, but when you’re there, a beautiful world of tunnels, caverns, ancient stalagmites, rocks and fossils await you.

The nature and definition of potholing is the method of entering caves via ropes and ladders with full climbing equipment in order to explore the cavern.

Why it’s scary:

  • You may need to lie down and wriggle between walls of the cavern.
  • Falling rocks and rising water as well as incoming water from above can all create a trap in the cavern
  • You can be underground for hours at a time

Why it’s worth it

  • Beautiful peaceful serenity with fossils, stalactites and stalagmites and clear water
  • With a guide you can build into those big caves and you can go down and resurface depending on how confident you are
  • ‘ Surprise claustrophobia’ down in the caves is rare. “In 18 years? I’ve seen it once.” Says Ian Rennie of Go Caving.  “It really is very rare. And the idea is that we are getting people not to be scared, but to enjoy caving. Cavers themselves don’t spend a whole day on their bellies crawling through caves generally, and these sorts of routes again can be avoided. It’s the same with weight. Caving is fine whether you’re 6 foot 8, 16 stone, a rugby player or as slim as a model! We can get you in the appropriate cave as long as you’re relatively fit and healthy and above 8 years old.”

Bungee Jumping

Red bull- an ad slogan with a lot to answer for.

Why it’s scary:

  • You have to face to height of the bungee jump (Around 160-400ft in the UK) and get up there- via a cage.
  • You have to jump- will the cord hold your weight? Will your lunch leap out? What if you chicken out?
  • You’ve heard stories that your eyes can pop out- will yours?

Why it’s worth it:

  • “A bungee jump is just one of those ‘do before you die things.’ Says James Field of UK Bungee. You will be checked over and over and your ropes are one set length. We weigh you before, and fit you with a specifically measured thickness of the rope, so there’s no risk of you falling too far. All our instructors have practical exams and are trained to fully check you, so one will check the ankles, another the harness and the ankles, the next the waist, ankles and harness, and so on, so you are 100% checked.”
  • What about the popping eyes and ejecting lunch? “It’s not a complete myth. I’ve seen in 12 years about 2 people’s eyes bulge out in his manner, and that’s people with weak retinas. As for lunch, just east as you would for any other activity, like running.”
  • And chickening out? “You sadly won’t get your money back…But by that point hopefully you will be ready to jump!”
  • And what about the actual jump? “We take you up in a cage. Your instructor will be with you. Then they will open the gate, stand you on the ledge and count you down, 3, 2, 1 – Bungee. And then you jump. You just need to look at the scenery and then trust the instructor. After that we catch you, unclip you and it’s all over!” Catch our jump here

White Water Rafting

It's amazing what some comedy shark fins can do for a team's speed...

Why it’s scary:

  • The boat could capsize at any time!
  • Getting into a rapid on an inflatable? Are you mad?
  • What if I drift off into the rapids, never to be seen again?

Why it’s worth it:

  • Capsizing in the river on the rapids and rough waters of the UK is inevitable, which in some ways is less scary. A guide will be on hand to tell you how to get back into the boat, and fully trained, they can rescue you in a jiffy.
  • Because the rafts are so big, you can sit with 5 close friends on the raft, so you needn’t be too scared. (At least visibly…)
  • Each person is given a paddle to propel the raft over the water and you also get all the floatation gear you need to stay above the water, so you shouldn’t be in a shallow grave before the day is out so long as you can swim.
  • The UK locations will be fast and furious, but depending on your level of skills, interest and fear, you won’t be taken on the equivalent of Niagra falls for the first time and you are more likely to be on areas of the River Tay, Scotland’s largest river, or The Tryweryn Dam released River in North Wales.

Ghyll Scrambling

Dave's sneezes were always causing havoc near unsteady rocks..

Why it’s scary

  • Gorge scrambling, ghyll scrambling and canyoning e.g. jumping into rivers and becks at a high-adrenaline pace, traversing a river upstream, scrambling over waterfalls or jumping into pools of water as well as a bit of climbing and abseiling too. Doesn’t sound like something for a newbie!
  • Getting wet and grubby. Ghyll scrambling means that you are hitting the river uphill and going to stay relatively dry. It usually involves a steep incline and you will be doing a lot of climbing. Gorge scrambling means that you will be going uphill and you are going to get wet. Canyoning you will be going at a downhill angle and you are going to get wet.
  • Sometimes there are private hydro-flow systems that you could run the risk of interfering with – is it safe?


Why it’s worth it:

  • “When guided it’s not unsafe “says Dan Robinson, head of Real-Adventure in Cumbria “Go with somebody who knows what they are doing. If you go off jumping into pools on your own you will probably need rescuing.” Somebody who is aware of access points. Can avoid those private hydro-flow systems.
  • “Getting wet, the climbing and the scrambling and the jumps into pools is great fun.  Everybody is doing something all in there together. Going up or down – it is a lot of fun.”
  • This is a unique sport that integrates both rock and water in a variety of locations across the UK, including the Lake District, Wales, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Devon. The biggest gorge is the Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, for those seeking a real challenge.

So there you go. Some of the real nail biters debunked. Laugh in the face of that Ghyll. Stare down that pothole and master the bungee.

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?

Advertisements

GO Activities’ Bungee!

A bungee jump, as you may know is a ‘bucket list activity’- something people really want to do but don’t have the money, time or resources to book.

The scenic lake side jump in Tamworth

Or so I thought.

Because as soon as we had one booked with UK bungee for a 160ft crane jump over a lake, to be precise, we couldn’t find many of the people who would do it.

“Don’t envy you mate” or “watch your eyeballs don’t bulge!” or “don’t wear light coloured trousers- haha!” came out a few times. (That last one was my Dad. Charmer.)

There were also plenty of people saying that they would wait until they were in NZ/Australia/Dubai to do a jump. Not now though. Oh no.  Undeterred we wanted to get a slice of the action and UK Bungee where happy to oblige us.

 

The 160ft crane!

Our budding volunteer was Tom Keep, 26, a software developer who has been known on occasion to say ‘I’d love to do that’ on sight of the towering bungee crane. So, presented with a voucher to noises of ‘Well… I actually meant in New Zealand…” – the countdown began.

On the day it was a case of small meals according to James Field, operational manager of UK Bungee.

“Just eat as if you are doing any other sporting event.” An all day brunch it was. Still, what with the weighing, the harness checks and others safety measures, there was plenty of digesting time, best spent watching other leapers!

 

Our brave volunteer is all smiles!

I exclaimed to the UK bungee staff that everyone seemed very keen to do it.

“Oh you just missed one girl who kept leaning out, but then back again. She did it 12 times and then tried to grab back onto the cage as she fell.” Did she catch it? “No!”

In our time waiting, with Tom’s weight in kg scrawled on his hand (weight conscious women beware!) and his legs shackled in the ankle harness we saw more jumpers, including another woman who decided to ‘grab on’. Oh dear. With a bashed head and a mild headache she needed a little attendance- and then it was Tom’s turn! ‘No clinging on!’ I shouted!

Hopping into the cage he was quickly propelled 160ft by the crane driver who has a very unusual job!

As I watched Tom disappear I could only wait for the gate to open. So- over to Tom on how the bungee itself was!

 

 

“You’re quite happy really. You hop in to the cage and that’s fine, and you head up – no problems. Then I was chatting to the guy about where we lived and then suddenly the crane had stopped. He said ‘right, we’re going to have a quick, easy jump, no messing about. I’m going to say 3, 2 , 1 bungee and then off you go, Right?’ And then they opened the gate and I was stood on the ledge. That’s when you look around. You can see how high it really is.”

Where you scared?

“Yeah, definitely. Pretty high on the fear scale!”

And then you jumped?

“Yeah. Think a little swear word popped out. And that was it! I just spread my arms and just did it. It takes some bullying of yourself to leap off!  It felt exhilarating. Really amazing. There isn’t any of the kick back either so that is great, just feels like a gentle bouncing even though it looks painful!”

The leap of faith!

Would you do it again?

“Definitely, 300ft next time!”

And what about as part of a couple?

“I don’t want someone screaming in my ear! No thanks!”

(A couple did strap in together- see below!)

 

 

 

 

A couple strap together for a tandem leap!

So there we have a it. A bungee jump – terrifying, exhilarating, and all over in about 3 seconds.

Are you game?

What would you choose?

A backwards leap?

A forwards fall?

Lovers leap?

Or a solo dive?

Let us know!

You can watch Tom’s jump here!

 

 

Interview With Al Humphries

Think adventure involves a passport, re mortgaging or explaining over the sound of their laughter to your boss just precisely why you need 6 months off to ‘find yourself’ in India?

Sounds like you need a microadventure instead.

Al Humphries first came to our attention after he gave a talk about his cycling tour. By tour- we mean around the world. Which took 4 years.

Al finds a friend who can keep up with his adventures

So obviously, we knew he wasn’t sane. But then he took 2011 as the year of the microadventure and decided to walk the M25.

“The basic rule was we had to walk where we could hear it. It took us through towns. Some beautiful places, some less beautiful ones!” Explains Al. “It took a week and we slept as we went. It was to make a point really, the M25 is a bit of a symbol of everything that’s wrong with modern life, so to find adventure and beauty in it was proof that you can do a microadventure anywhere.”

So what is the aim of microadventure? And what is acceptable as an ‘adventure’?

“I didn’t want to write a list of microadventures and have people copying what I did, adventure is personal. So mine might be a bit more flexible, but it could be anything. Sleeping in the wild instead of going home after work. Just having a bit of adventure in your life and not putting it back for another time- living for now. On my blog I’ve suggested river swimming, bivvying, camping out, entering a race, biking or just getting a  map and starting to walk. ”

So what is your background? Or how did you get into this?

After graduating from university I decided that I wanted to have a job out of no job, that is going on expeditions, talking at schools and lecturing, blogging. Social community is such a huge love of mine and the blog keeps me really happy and of course I manage to get about travelling and adventuring. I also write books on all my adventures which you can buy here.

Putting the M25 on the map..

What is your ‘specialist subject’ or passion? Obviously you were on a bike for a long time when you went around the world…

I was pretty much done with cycling after that! I’m a jack of all trades. I love pack rafting which is basically a dinghy for grown ups, you can just inflate in up and it’s a tough thing – I took one of those and crossed Iceland, the Marathon de Sables…I’ve done all sorts really but as I say this year was dedicated to staying in the UK with an aim of 12 microadventures.

Have you done them all?

I have done 10. I was saving the others to be done in a really grizzly, cold British Winter.

You’re either brave or mad.

I’m actually a bit of a wimp. I wouldn’t do  bungee jump for instance.

We saw this you wrote about yourself on your blog. 

“To my immodest glee a newspaper in Cape Town had labelled me an ‘intrepid young British adventurer.’ But on that first night at sea I was brought brutally back down to size as I hung over the side of the boat retching my guts out. Lasagne (“how on earth did I manage to fit so much inside myself?” I marvelled) reappeared with gusto, my eyes streamed and the damnable prospect of three weeks of this awfulness added to my misery. In my cycling clothes and shoes I was soaking wet and cold. Pride comes before a hurl.”

You must just have the skill of endurance rather than sea legs or the adrenaline bug! What sort of gear do you have with you at all times as an ‘intrepid young British adventurer’?

A thermarest. I think I’m getting a bit too old to have a bad night’s sleep!

Where do you live, and do you get out locally?

Well I live in Kent In Graves End so there’s not much adventure on my doorstep – but that’s where I practise what I preach, I get in the car or onto the train, and just get out for a weekend or an evening in the wild for an adventure to refresh my spirits.

What sort of feedback have you been getting?

I’ve been getting great feedback, from people who say that they didn’t think they would have time to go away. These are people who read outdoor blogs, but the gear but don’t think they can get away. It’s been really encouraging – people have been saying that they are buying Bivvy bags and that they are actually using them so that’s good.

Are you sponsored by anyone?

No not at all- although with all these bivvy bag sales maybe I should be!

Have you been on a microadventure? What’s local to you that you need to see?

You can read all about the Year of the Microadventure and get inspired by seeing Al’s blogs at http://www.alastairhumphreys.com

Interview With Matthew Dickinson

Matthew Dickinson, 26 is a former British orienteer and avid fell runner hailing from Sheffield, now living in the beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand –right next to the Southern Alps. A former member of the GO Outdoors web team, GO Activities were privileged enough to witness Matthew’s racing first hand- as well as his appetite for carbs and his constantly in motion feet and weekends of constant activity! A great advocate for GO Actvities and a previous runner for Great Britain, we grabbed him in his down time to talk about fell running and why being active is so great for the mind!

Hi Matt. Thanks for talking to us- can you describe what sort of things (in racing) that you’ve done?

Back in the UK I was member of Derwent Valley Orienteers and Dark Peak Fell Running Club.  While in Sheffield I ran for Great Britain in the Junior World Orienteering Championships and spent a lot of time in Sweden training and competing with an Orienteering and Ski Club in Västerås, just north of Stockholm.

I was ranked British number 1 Orienteer in 2005 and enjoyed success in many of the classic Fell Races in the Peak District from then until 2010 when I made the move to the other side of the world.

Now in New Zealand I’ve entered many trail, fell and orienteering races and am just gearing up to run the Kepler Challenge; a 60km mountain trail race deep in Fiordland in the South of New Zealand.

Why do you enjoy off road running so much?

I love racing in the fells and on the trails.  It’s so unattached to anything you do in the cities and towns, it’s basically like being free.  Nothing is better than racing through a deep peat bog, with the sun shining on your back, being chased down by a hungry pack of runners… where else can you get that kind of action?

With the Peak District merely minutes from Sheffield, it was the ideal place to go for an evening, a weekend, even a lunchtime run.  That and the whole host of climbs, walks and other outdoor activities – it pretty much is one of the best places to be in the UK, while having the city right next door for the other side of life (the working, shopping and eating part!)

When did you start?

I started orienteering when I was ‘knee high to a grasshopper’, probably about the age of 3 and got hooked instantly.  I only started fell running when I got into University in Sheffield, but already had 15 years of orienteering behind me with plenty of navigation skills under my belt.

What are your achievements?

My greatest achievements have been in orienteering, and my greatest achievement was back in 2005 as just a junior.  I was totally the underdog, actually probably the outsider to do anything in the selection races that season.  However, on the last selection race weekend I went for it.  Totally in the zone I managed to get 2 podium positions and bag a place to the Junior World Championships in 2005 where I represented Great Britain for the first time.  It was totally amazing, such a great feeling to have run for your country.

GO Activities offers a way to book days or weeks away learning things like orienteering, bushcraft skills, to ghyll scrambling, pot holing, trekking, or even bungee jumping- what other activities do you enjoy?

I really enjoy getting out on my mountain bike, and skiing is a lot of fun as well. Duathlons, kayaking, climbing- I really do anything that challenges me and gets me outside.

Where do you enjoy running?

Currently I’m living in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Here they’ve got volcanoes, mountains, rivers and trails that go on for miles and miles… it’s just to hard to resist.  Back in the Peak District, my usual jaunts were around the Burbage Valley, Stanage Edge, Win Hill and along the Mam Tor Ridge towards Kinder Peak.

What do you wear? Especially shoes?

Shoes are vital for any running, my favourites are Inov-8 X-Talon 212’s for racing as they are the only shoes that give amazing grip but have a minimal midsole which give you a heightened sense of what the ground is doing beneath you!  For training I like to run in Adidas Kanadias, they are well cushioned for trails and have some top notch grip too.

As for clothing, if it’s turning cold, I usually throw on a Helly Hansen Stripe Crew -really good at wicking sweat from the skin and warm enough for icy winds.  If it starts to rain, I usually throw on a lightweight waterproof like The North Face Diad Jacket or Haglofs Oz Pullover.  Shorts are simply the cheapest I can find, usually with an inner short (as its way more comfortable that way!)

Any advice for beginners?

The best way to get into it is to do it.  Find a local race and go for it – everyone in the fell running community is friendly and happy to help.  Get dirty and have a great time.

How do you start out without hurting yourself?

If you’re training for a race, don’t just jump into doing lots of distance on the fell or trails – even if you’re used to running on the roads, the fells are uneven and tough on ankles.  Slowly creep up the distance once you’ve got used to running off road, and buy some shoes with some good grip so you don’t slip too often!  Nothing worse than a face full of mud!

Is it harder than road running?

It’s totally different from road running, not necessarily harder.  It’ll use a lot of muscles you didn’t think you had to keep balanced on uneven surfaces.  But remember to stretch after the race to ensure you don’t stiffen up…  There’s also a lot more climbing involved in fell races and orienteering races than road races, be prepared to climb up mountains, hills and even cross rivers if you have to!

What are your favourite fell running routes in the UK?’ ‘

For Fell Running: Stanage Struggle is a classic Peak District Fell Race, usually held in September.
For Orienteering: The Jan Kjellstrom Festival, or Scottish 6 Days are the biggest and use the best areas that the UK can offer.

Do you recommend joining a running club?

To start with, I’d go along to a local event.  Try it and if you like it, join.  I can be cheaper for future events and there are some really friendly people around that you can join for runs near you!

Have you ever tried fell running? What were your thoughts? Comment below!

To find a local fell race in the peaks, try here

 You can read more about the Scottish 6 days here

Interview With Ben Fogle

An admission that you are interviewing Ben Fogle should come with a caution, especially if you work in the GO Activities headquarters.

Ben Fogle flusters the office.

Women started suggesting questions about marriage.

“He already has a wife.”

“Is he a mormon?”

“No.”

“But could he be?”

“I refuse to answer that.”

Men, meanwhile wanted to know where he got the literal balls to go naked in the sea, to fly all over the world doing all these fantastic adventures and to still have Kate Humble’s personal number in his mobile…

Back from California on a very stop gap trip home, I managed to grab Ben for a quick chat  after Daybreak and before his next flight before he headed off to the Checz Republic to fly a fighter jet, to ask him all about his life, how he got into the outdoors as a child, and what GO Activities adventures he could see himself doing.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Whereabouts are you now and what have you been up to? 

Not a problem. I’ve just got back from California where I have been recently for a film on a ‘Year of Adventure’ taking some massive challenges on which has been really great fun. Climbing the tallest trees, a 24 hour mountain bike race, diving between tectonic plates in Iceland, solo skydiving, paragliding.. It’s been brilliant.  I’ve also been diving with crocodiles in Botswana which has been great.

Sounds amazing! So you have been all over the world with your job since Castaway back in 2000. Kaiteur Falls, Kilimanjaro in Uganda, Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Sahara the Arctic Circle the Andes, Chile to name but a few places.  What are you favourite place in the UK?

I am a huge fan of the National Parks so I love the lakes, the peaks, the Dales, Brecon Beacons, although we are a real coastal family so we love North Devon, and South Cornwall too.

You are a President of the campaign for National parks. We recently did a blog on Mosaic and how the National Parks seem inaccessible if you haven’t been brought up with them. Did you grow up going to the National Parks and why did you get involved with this campaign in particular?

They asked me to take the president role and it is something I am extremely proud of and I feel really passionate about. Mosaic is so important because it is an important campaign for anyone who loves the national parks. We have to encourage people to visit and enjoy them so that they are preserved and maintained, so it is brilliant that Mosaic is encouraging access.

Did you visit the National Parks often as a child and where you always ‘outdoorsy’?

In my book the Accidental Adventurer I go right back to my early childhood and in truth, I wasn’t really keen on the outdoors to start with, at least camping. I remember taking a trip with my Dad Bruce with my best friend Toby when I was 13 and we went to Algonquin Park in East Canada, which is a national park about the size of Wales, and we canoed through it, which was when it came to life for me and I loved it!

We are all aware of the problems with childhood obesity and the importance of being active, what are your thoughts on it?

I think that a sense of adventure is so important in children and the best way to do this is within the schools with field trips. I remember going to field trips to Dorset and seeing the costal landscapes as a child, camping and it really brought the outdoors to life for me.

I think that our government focuses far to much on academic achievements and if I was a politician I would be trying to really get children active, which is the route I carved a career out of.  Health and Safety is also something that gets in the way, but when times are harder economically, it really is a great time to get children involved in these activities.

People might also have seen you rowing 3000 miles, doing the Marathon De Sables the London Marathon and the Royal Parks Half marathon or having icicles dangle off your nose during your Arctic trip with James Cracknell.  What challenges have been your hardest, either physically or mentally?

I’m not a natural climber, so when I was up Casetlon Rock in Utah with a 500m sheer pinnacle drop, that was a little challenging. As well as that, the Moab 24 hour race was also about endurance and was hard going, physically.

Is there anything you veto or won’t do?

I love most things, ocean diving, sailing, swimming, kayaking, cycling, hiking, skiing- but things like a base jump or even a bungee I wouldn’t do. They aren’t really my thing I’m afraid!

GO Activities offers things like kayaking, the aforementioned bungee, trike trips, falconry days, ghyll scrambling, caving days- and these are great for stag dos. We wondered what your stag do was like before you married Marina a few years back?

I never had one! I know, that does sound quite sad doesn’t it? We joke that I have a raincheck on it. It was 5 years ago but I was filming right up to before the wedding- part of the sad life of a traveller! Maybe one day..

Well feel free to book through GO Activities.  We promise to avoid the bungee ropes! What about your children? Are they growing up with a sense of adventure?

Well my boy is, he seems confident and happy outdoors, but then he’s young enough that he’s happy in a city or the country! My daughter is a little too young to be active and get a sense of it yet but we are naturally an active family, we get out the park everyday and we are always out walking. I don’t want to be a pushy parent though so I will let them draw their own conclusions on it…

So what’s next on the agenda for you now?

Well after this I’m off to the Czech Republic to fly a fighter jet, which should be good, and then in the future I will be giving talks on my new book. Soon you can see my new show Diving with Crocodiles which was filmed in the Northern Territory of Botswana and was very scary, these are big 10m long beasts!

And what about your ambassador work with the WWE and Tusk?

Yes I have some projects in the pipeline with them, and also some more stuff with the BBC, but it’s all a bit secret for now I’m afraid!

And finally – what’s your number one must have piece of gear to take with you as an adventurer?

Definitely my Leatherman, the multi tool, which always comes in handy.

You can buy Ben’s book, The Accidental Adventurer via Benfogle.com today.

Elaine


Alternative Holiday Ideas

Want to see the mountains of the Cairngorms, Grasmere and Inverness but don’t want to stick to the tried and tested spots? If you’re not after the same old areas, or if you prefer to take in the beauty of the mountains with a proper comfy bed and hot continental breakfast before you tackle it , then why not consider a cottage or a hotel with a difference?

A view from Rothay Garden (see below)

In keeping with our ‘Anti Glamping Movement’ these aren’t brand name, big corporate hotels that strip away the heart of the outdoors. These are family run, quaint, old or just wonderful cottages or hotels based in charming towns or National Parks so you can confidently enjoy being in acres of woodland whilst you eat your dinner- literally having your cake and eating it.

So before you check into a lifeless name brand hotel on the nearest motorway, why not choose a unique country cottage closer to the big name mountains with something different to see? Here’s our pick with help from our friends at LateRooms.com

Read more of this post

What Is….Potholing?

Potholing and spelunking. Depending on your frame of mind either sounds rude, or totally baffling. Not the sort of thing beginners could do, you might think. But actually, potholing, also known as spelunking, is the method of caving, which means simply, exploring caves with the right equipment.

Pot holing is simply the method of getting into the cave, but when you’re there, a beautiful world of tunnels, caverns, anciet stalagmites, rocks and fossils await you. With caves in Yorkshire, Wales, Derbyshire and beyond, caving is very accessible if you live in the UK, and you can give it a go, even if you’ve never been lower than the London Underground.

Popular in America under the name spelunking, and here in the UK as potholing, generally the nature and definition of potholing is the method of entering caves via ropes and ladders with full climbing equipment in order to explore the cavern.

Ropes are knotted and rigged and used to delve into the cave, and often, you may need to lie down and wriggle between walls of the cavern. Falling rocks and rising water as well as incoming water from above can all create a trap in the cavern, so safety is essential for potholing, it needs to be your number one priority.

“The thing is, caving is the general term for what we offer- and although that includes potholing we do say as a beginner, to come along first and get exploring and get some training. We offer half and full days and we always say get a half day because there is so much to see. Potholing is something that is usually undertaken by people with some experience” explains Ian Rennie from Go Cave.

“Some of these caves will be 120m deep and we use SRT methods, abseiling and using climbing ropes to get down. The key is – with training, anyone can go potholing. We can go for 3-4 hours, half a day, a whole day, or if you’re experienced we can even get you doing your leader awards as well. ”

Often, the heart of the pothole isn’t accessible on your first descent into a cavern or a mine, so you need to travel deeper into the cave. In these circumstances, squeezing through the tiniest tunnels, you do need to have good upper and lower strength to drag both yourself along. It is also key to relax your breathing through the tighter spots so you don’t push out your ribcage and extend your girth unintentionally! It is these tight spots that people often panic about or worry over when they think of caving.

I asked Ian how often he sees ‘surprise claustrophobia’ down in the caves.

“In 18 years? Once. It really is very rare. And the idea is that we are getting people to enjoy themselves down there, not to be scared, so they enjoy caving. Cavers themselves don’t spend a whole day on their bellies crawling through caves generally, and these sorts of routes again can be avoided. It’s the same with weight. Caving is fine whether you’re 6 foot 8, 16 stone, a rugby player or as slim as a model! We can get you in the appropriate cave as long as you’re relatively fit and healthy and above 8 years old- before that the suits don’t tend to fit!”

Once you have navigated the pitches and drops there are beautiful internal caverns to sit in, hung with stalactites and stalagmites, prehistoric untouched fossils, mud, and clear water to observe.

“Because you’re being guided with us you can hear about geology of the area, local knowledge and you will get the best route. The thing I love is every single day is different with caving. The caves are graded but the water level could make a grade 1 cave a 3 overnight. Caves are really wonderful.

I asked Ian why caving in the UK is unique.

“Whereas abroad you might have these massive vertical pitches whether you spend days underneath, in The UK we can do a lot of different routes in a smaller area and smaller time frame, so you can come for days at a time and keep taking in new pitches, new routes. The UK routes are really quite intense.”

And what about being kitted out? Do people need to buy climbing shoes?

“We get people all kitted out in the whole gear- wellies, fleece underlayers, jackets, trousers- the lot! We don’t want you to have to buy anything or have lesser gear than anyone else, never mind the instructor- so we supply the lot. All we would say is grab yourselves some thermals, it can be cold in the caves, and then you can put our layers on top. ”

Have you discovered caving? Tell us your stories!

Dressing For The Outdoors

Water beads off the Pumori - great for the British climate...

If you’ve got a week booked away for fun and adventure in the outdoors, whether that’s a week away in the Lakes on the water canoeing, kayaking and cliff jumping or if you’re on terra firma in Snowdon, climbing, bouldering, clay pigeon shooting and 4 x 4 driving, you need to be dressed right.

The North Ridge FireFly ready for action!

If you’re new to the outdoors, you don’t want to spend too much either, so here are the key rules to stay comfortable, warm and dry in the outdoors. I’ve even dressed myself for a day out kayaking so you can see how it all looks on. Even though this is a ‘feminine’ outfit (plenty of purple!) the basic rules still apply for men.

  • Layers are your friend. Lots of cheap, slim layers are much better than one thick, expensive coat or jumper. Rather than a big down jacket that will leave you sweating when you start moving, we say you should pick a baselayer t-shirt (these are made to mop up sweat, leave no stains or marks, and to keep dry, unlike cotton!) You can then wear a fleece midlayer for warmth, and then a waterproof jacket, or if the sun’s shining on you, just wear a windproof softshell jacket.
  • The key players in outdoor wear for waterproof, windproof and breathability are GORE-Tex, eVent and Dewpoint. They all work in slightly different ways to manage moisture (sweat) and to bring it to the outside of the jacket. We recommend these for waterproof protection that won’t leave you sweaty. A cheaper waterproof jacket might keep the rain off, but you will get really hot and bothered in it because it isn’t breathable (e.g. able to remove sweat) like a more expensive jacket can. The jacket i’m in is a North Ridge Pumori Jacket which is waterproof, windproof, breathable, with zips aplenty. It looks great with jeans too. The men’s version, The Kalias is also available.

The North Ridge Pumori Jacket gets an outing- despite lack of rain!

  • Good footwear is key! Get some good walking boots for those hills, willies for muddy activities like archery or clay  pigeon shooting, and cheap but cheerful lowland approach shoes for general use or for that bungee jump! Socks are also little thanked but often appreciated bits of kit, so get some thick ones or waterproof socks for your rucksack in case you’re walking or climbing.
  • Waterproof overtrousers are great for saving your trousers and you can wear them over other trousers when you go kayaking, paintballing, canoeing or monster trucking!  You can get a pair of walking trousers, leggings or thermal underwear or even shorts for use under these.
  • A nice pair of gloves and a hat are great for heights when you feel the wind more and are so cheap they are well worth buying.
http://www.youtube.com/user/gooutdoorstv#p/u/20/w7A0-sOX_A8 – Click here to see a GO Outdoors video on layering for even more information on what to buy before you go, go,  ‘GO Activities‘.

Before I got them dirty!

Olympics Accommodation

Have you got your Olympic 2012 tickets? Did you feverishly apply for everything that went on offer, from racing, javelin and the 400 metre races and then spend the rest of the month sweating when your credit card took that little too long to go through at the tills? Hey, at least you’re part of history. Watching the torch, seeing the events, navigating London, great stuff.

But has the shine faded? Maybe you spent a lunch hour looking at hotel prices for the Olympics. Perhaps you thought there was an error. Everywhere.  All those extra zeros. Surely not…Oh yes. Apparently you can put a price on history, and if you want to check in at a central London hotel for the 2012 Olympics, that’ll be your monthly salary, please.

Luckily, Camping Ninja have had a brainwave. Camping at the games. Working with local schools and rugby clubs, Camping Ninja have secured local pitches for the Olympics that you can book now for just £10 a person and £5 a child. Credit crunchingly good, where’s the catch?

I spoke to Geoff Vaughan from Camping Ninja about how it will all work.

“Hotels in London for the Olympics are very expensive. Camping is a great alternative, and Camping Ninja are offering fixed price pitches at places that can be reached by public or private transport. You can park on site, use the catering, the showers, and then get to and from London for free, with the tickets offering free inner London travel.

At £10 per adult and £5 per child, you could stay in London for the Olympics for £30, and travel in for free. You can get a cheap tent, just pitch up, and that’s it. It’s better for families than sofa surfing, and you can all be together if you’re going as a couple or as friends, and if you don’t even have Olympics tickets, you can get into the spirit on site! ”

How do the clubs benefit?

“That’s a great question. These clubs are part of local communities and this is a great way to bring back the money that’s invested in the capital to the outskirts. They can really take advantage of having people on site, and we hope that it will spread a bit of good feeling and buzz about the Olympics further afield, whilst also bring money back to these clubs. Whether you’re a club, school or someone with tickets to the Olympics, this is win-win. It also frees you up to get out of the city, and especially for international visitors, there’s the chance to explore more than the capital- to see the little villages and towns as well!”

So no catch, except you should get in there quick. The camping Ninja Camping at the games scheme is bookable now, so make like a speed sprinter and get to the camping at the games site to secure your cheap Olympic accommodation now.

Let us know if you’re signed up for the Olympics- and where you’re planning to stay!

Elaine

Interview With National Trust

Nearly everyone will have had a trip to a National Trust house or garden when they grew up. But do you still go? Chances are, with recent news that they have reached 4 million members, you have been, or you at least know a member.

With over 300 historic houses, 250,000 hectares of land and 700 miles of coastline to tend to, the National  Trust are now planning on making this membership grow even more, with

more than 90 million people visiting the National Trust each year – 17 million to houses and gardens and around 75 million to coast and countryside, there is definitely a scope for more.

I spoke to Stephen Field at the National Trust about the news and how it has reached this epic number.

Sheffield Park, East Sussex by Geoff Caddick

Hi Stephen. Congratulations on making a 4 millionth member! What do you think is the reason for the steady increase?

We put it down to a few things really, firstly the tough climate with the recession means people are looking to do less expensive things and are keen to spend time with their families. We offer ‘simple pleasures’ really. The other thing is that we understand value for money and we offer good value for your membership fee, you only need to come a few times for it to be worth it. And the third would be that perhaps people are more aware of what we offer, that it’s not just stately homes, (although we get 17 million visits per year to them) and that we have areas all over the UK, with plenty of weird and wonderful places, beaches, gardens…coast sides.

 

Just who is making up this membership, is it young, old, families?

There is the stereotypical image of the pensioner, and they are indeed an important and valued part of our membership, but we also have a large amount of families as part of our membership, at least 55%. We are also hoping that this will grow with our future plans which are basically to ‘bring places to life’- so to avoid the idea of staid trips where things are roped off and where you can’t touch anything, we want to get people involved, whatever is appropriate for the place really, so things like apple pressing to make cider… There are plenty of options.

What about volunteers?  Are you still looking for help?

Always! Especially green volunteers for our outdoor areas. We have around 60,000 volunteers and they are crucial in what we do. The more volunteers, the more land we can open up to the public so it’s really important.  We are flexible too, so after an initial interview you could find yourself working as a costumed guide, a gardener, in recruitment, so it’s a great way if you can’t find work to keep your hand in as well in these harder times of the economic downturn.

What are your plans for the future?

We definitely want to expand our outdoor spaces with care so that they are even more accessible, and I can’t tell you much, but we are planning a scheme that will help people reconnect with nature, so promoting the outdoors and beauty spots in a special way…But I can’t tell you more than that, you just have to wait!