One thing that we can often forget to do in the pursuit of meaningful weekend activities, is properly get to know the area where we live. Of course you live there, so therefore know it fairly well, but have you ever explored it like a tourist would? Sat down with a map of the area and worked out where would be good to visit, and planned out different activities. I know in the past I have been really guilty of saying to Jonny – let’s go for a walk, how about the Lake District/Northumbrian coast/Yorkshire Dales. Don’t get me wrong, these places are insanely beautiful, and very much worth a visit, but so is the countryside here. My good pal Sarah recently came back from a university placement on the Isle of Man, during which time she explored the island extensively, and observed that she never explores her area with anything like the same vigour. Often you do this when you have friends come to stay, in a ‘look where I live’ kind of a way, but do you ever do this when its just you? Since moving to Blackthorn Cottage, this is something that I have become determined to do. We lived in our last area for 5 years, so knew it pretty well in the end – especially because Jonny had grown up there and therefore knew all of the little hidden footpaths and tucked away places. But I was guilty of doing the same walks on repeat, and going to the same bits that I knew well. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, I have been given free-reign to wander where I like by the very kind farmer who owns the land around us. So there is no excuse really. I can wander around Elizabeth Bennet-style until I know every inch of this area!
As many of my friends will attest, I am not very good at following a map. I am often the instigator and therefore navigator on walks, but I’ve never been terribly good at reading a map. Fortunately for me I am married to someone who is extremely good at it, so I can wander along happily when it’s just Jonny and I. However the problems begin when I am in charge…. This isn’t usually a problem when it’s just me, as I don’t mind scrambling over barbed wire fences, crawling through gorse-bushes and jumping over streams. But when I am dragging my pals along with me, they are less than thrilled when I go off-piste. So this is something that I am determined to master! I would like to be one of those people who enjoys looking at a map before setting off on a walk, surveying the route they plan on taking, and then heading off into the unknown – map casually tucked in my back pocket. When I was chatting to my kind farmer neighbour the other week, he mentioned that I should find this spot in his woods where there are hundreds of bluebells later in the spring, so I am determined to find where this is (did I mention I am also not very good at following directions?!) So I have dug the map out of one of our boxes of books, and I am going to find it! Then I am going to take hundreds of pictures of bluebells, and it will be awesome.
Another idea that has been capturing my imagination recently has been micro adventures. For those of you who haven’t heard of this, it is a term coined by explorer Alastair Humphreys to describe small adventures undertaken by regular people, usually over a period of at least one evening (so not just clambering over barbed wire fences for an afternoon!) Designed to encourage people to get outside and out of their comfort zone. He talks extensively about this in his blog and in his excellent looking book (which is currently sitting winking at me in my pile of books to read.) I love the idea that you can be an adventurer in your own neighbourhood, without having to buy six weeks worth of rations, join a gym or undertake high altitude training in one of those funny chambers. Hurrah! He makes some great suggestions for things you can do wherever you are in the world, but I think the thing I would like to do first is spend some time sleeping outdoors under the stars. This has long been something that Jonny has enjoyed, but my fear of spiders running into my mouth and serial killers has always made me hesitant to follow suit… but I am going to do it! As soon as it gets warmer and the chances of me waking up with a fine layer of frost on my face have diminished then I am going to get out there – with Frank for protection of course.