Boys, bikes & canals…

It’s been a yearly tradition I’ve accidentally kept with a small well shaped group of guys to travel on canals via foot, scooter or bike. In 2015 we did Liverpool – Leeds canal, 2016 saw us cover Avon & Kennett. So 2017, as all good stories start I’d met a good friend Paul in a local establishment around St Paul’s area to catch up. Beverages were consumed and ideas bounced around the table between Paul, me and his work colleague “Irish Mark”.

Roll on a few weeks and we’re boarding the train on a sunny Friday evening to Bletchley, just outside Milton Keynes, our plan to visit a quick food outlet, grab some beers and head down the canal in the darkness until we reached a secluded spot to bed down for the night…

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Luck was on our side, as with most things wild camping wise doing it in the dark is always a gamble. Our location and was between a river and canal, and our sunrise whilst not breathtaking was as always humbling. The guys with their various states of equipment may not have enjoyed the night, as with March it tends to get cool in the evening; even our water had frozen!

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With planning a trip like this I tend to try and pitch up 5-8 miles from a shop/Cafe to be able to get breakfast the next morning and luckily for us our route along the Grand Union canal is south facing, so our morning pictures had been turned up to a full 10 on the epic scale….

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As the canal opened up from the wild to clear country our view continued to show off & grace us with heart warming views…

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As I took these photos I thought I don’t care if I’m on a canal path 60 miles outside London, I’m so damn lucky to be enjoying these views and sharing them with amazing friends! Our stop at the shop was fruitless in providing suitable caffeine intake, however being guys we struggled on. Now, I’m usually pretty well prepared and on this occasion had brought a spare inner tube, it’s sixty miles on a canal, what could go wrong. WELL, I can tell you two hours in and well ahead of our target time our local farmer decided he would give his thorn bushes a good old trim, this resulted in not one, or even two but six punctures on two of the bikes in a one mile stretch! AARRGGHHH, it turned out I was the designated tire changer/repairer. Not so cool when you’ve no repair kits with you.

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With my bravery and cleverness we managed to stumble on not only a cafe, but a cafe that welcomes cyclists with open arms. We managed to befriend some cyclists of the road persuasion and “borrowed” 8 spare repair patches: WINNING!!

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However, with all good cafes a brew or three and a bit of cake tied in with fixing a bunch of tires and pumping them back up by hand (welcome to the gun show!!) took our 9.30 am time to 1 ish! I took the time to teach the guys some much needed tire fixing & placement skills too!

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After a few hours of burning down the canal path at a steady 22kph we soon started to hit the beverage outlets, the sun came out and a cheeky ploughman’s may have been consumed! Which in this case was just bread and cheese SO GOOD!

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With our lost time we had no choice but to cut the day slightly shorter than planned, our goal of Paddington Basin ended up with being West Drayton and the 105km turned into 70, but with us heading south and into the sun we all caught an early spring suntan!

I love these little journeys, just the simple idea of getting the train out of your city or town to a river or canal and follow it back or set yourself another location to head to where you can return back home, It’s so simple yet rewarding. You get to delve into how other people live, the life on the water.

You’ll always stumble across a lovely pub or cafe, you’ll have history at your finger tips and if you’re lucky, some fantastic views. There’s a place in everyones adventure plans to follow a canal or waterway whether it be the 9 mile regents canal, Liverpool – Leeds 130 mile adventure or even looking further afield in europe at the Rhine Source to Sea trip, all 1200 km of it!

 

 

 

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What the mountains reminded me. 

I recently got back to my roots, of mountain biking and being in the mountains, Snowdonia to be precise. The two places my soul feels at rest is on a bike and in the mountains, I seem to find peace, stillness and to me reminds me that the outdoors is the real world… 


I always get this feeling, each time stronger once back from the hills, I call it mountain sadness. The mountains remind me to stand tall, be robust, trust in myself and go carful, the small processes we do right out here keeps us alive and others out of danger. This led me to thinking I should note down a few points to help you build those skills to get to places like this: 

  • Being forced into learning new skills is what causes accidents. Practise your craft, be efficient at tasks before going to new, wild or exposed places… 
  • Pack once, check twice. There’s no nipping to the shops or grabbing that extra jumper in the wilds. 
  • Trust your gear, you can waste money on cheap equipment, and on expensive equipment too! Read reviews, ask others and where possible try gear out. This stuff can save your life and turn that freezing night into a toasty wild. Igbo out to remember. 
  • Know who your going with, understand their fears, limits and abilities. Individuals in a group without knowing are making team decisions and putting others at risk. 
  • Share your plans, with friends, parents and even leave a note on your car dash. It’s not fair on others to search, worry or wonder! Sharing is caring! 
  • And lastly, always carry that spare jacket, hat, gloves and socks! 

Of course his list is non exhaustive and different things matter to different people, but, don’t be concerned with building skills in camp sites, local woodland or even start with your back garden! It’s getting outside that’s inportant, adventure is about trying something new, learning and growing as a person because of it! 

Stay safe in the mountains, the most important thing you can carry outside is knowledge, make sure you’ve done some learning before you go! 

2016 – The Round-up

2016, oh the memories! Some people say it’s not good to look back to see what’s gone, but taking a glimpse at what’s been helps us see how far we’ve come and what’s changed both for better or worse. So here’s what went down in 2016, let’s see how it shapes 2017 shall we?

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January:

I popped my Richmond Park wild camp cherry on Jan 16th, and boy was it cold!! First sunrise of the year was a pretty incredible one too!


 

February:

Oh this is pretty epic, I spoke at The Telegraph outdoor show. This set the tone for the year!

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Thinking Feb couldn’t get any more exciting we hit up the Alps for a weeks skiing with Crystal ski. I’ve fallen in love with Tignes and cannot wait to return once the snow has gone for some mountain bike action…


 

March:

 

Wow, I forgot about some of this! We went to Snowdonia for Llanberis Film Festival as we helped promote the festival through social media, got hosted by the lovely Jason Rawles and even got out briefly to the mountains too!

The end of March saw Easter come around so we took a few days out to go cycling in Cheshire, and very randomly met two friends from London town in a tiny village 300 miles from home!


April:

We got all grown up, or at least we tried…

 

I then got a little serious and took the boys for a canal adventure. It snowed, rained, we got frozen and Paul went for a swim! Strangely without being under the influence ….. Reading to Bath was an awesome journey, one I’d love to do in the summer!


May:

Well, I attempted to run across the widest part of the UK, Lands End to Lowestoft. Sadly seven days and 200 miles in I pulled my Achilles tendon. I took so many positives from this trip, I totally had my pack weight sorted and took utterly minimal clothing, this journey is going to be finished in 2017.

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Stood at Lands end just before setting off on a 400 mile run, as you do…


June:

The month of cycling, and topping up training for a team we then took on the three peaks in July. Training walks included Seven Sisters and a loop in the Chilterns, Wendover to be exact! With plenty of help from OS maps #GetOutside.


July:

Three peaks weekend took up our time, our full team was three mini buses deep with 18 people, somehow we still managed to bring them over the line in the 24 hours..


HOLLIBOBS!!!

Hold on! Before we flew out I laid down some speaking action at Tales of Adventure in London town.

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End of July, it was time for some feet up rest time! So, yeah of course we went to Corsica for a two week camping/beach holiday!

This was such a well deserved break. Don’t get me wrong we still ran, kayaked and swam everyday, but, it was the lazy days in the heat, sitting at the beach shack with a cool beer watching the day unfold that made the holiday. It really reset ourselves, gave us time out to think and get our head straight as to what really matters to us, I hope you’ll see this come about over the coming months and years… Neither of us wanted to leave this place, I could happily go back to walk the formidable GR20 next time I think though.


 

August:

August, well what a treat! The cycling continued, I’d been hosting Tales of Adventure all year and it was about time we took it outdoors, which was an amazing evening! We got all adulty again for the bank holiday doing the full weekend party at Southwest Four festival.


September:

I tried a wetsuit on, It didn’t fit. Tobias Mews became our personal camping equipment carrier and I presented The National Trust South West Outdoor Festival in Devon, it was amazing, simply awesome!

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We didn’t stay in these tents but it was an incredible valley to spend a weekend in, Thanks so much to The National Trust!


October:

Autumn’s now here and I tend to get move active when it cools down! We got our obligatory exploring the area walk in, met a local artist on route, ran a 10K, did some presenting and even got a ski show in too!  What the photos don’t show is I spent lots of my time in the pool learning to swim, the bulk of my efforts in 2017 will be focused in this direction.

We are supporting Crystal Ski  for the 2017 season, so ended up at the Telegraph Ski & Snowboard show, which was awesome, I’m so excited to be hitting the slopes with them in 2017. We’ve been using their App to manage our payments and keep an update on the conditions on piste too!

I took another step in the presenting & compere world and became the race MC for Cancer Research Tough Ten races, which I utterly loved but is really hard flipping work! Thank goodness it was only a 10K!


November:

You made it this far! Deep breath now just a few more photos and we’re into 2017! I started my speaking series with Ibex Earth and our first guest Kate Rawles who is currently cycling South America on a bamboo bike! Our venue The Library was a sell out – all 120 tickets sold, we’ll be repeating this is 2017 so watch this space!

November felt quiet, planning and gathering ourselves for 2017 was in full swing. We did manage a long walk in Surrey and a days mountain biking in Swinley forest.. Our love of MTB is quickly over spilling as the year came to an end!


DECEMBER!!

Mountain biking and big sky & sunsets were the order of December, I’ve regressed 10 years and now have a MTB, I’m settling into my spiritual off road home again nicely too, the new  Trek is a joy to ride and it’s going to see some adventure this coming year I promise you that!

We managed to get out for a boxing day family walk which was stunning, and then did a 40K off road MTB through the Surrey Hills on New Years Eve before meeting the family on Richmond park to watch the city’s fire works display from a hilltop, this is the third year we’ve done this, it’s a bit of a “thing” now…

 


 

Looking back I thought I’d been really lazy and quiet this year but we’ve really settled into our new home right on the edge of Surrey, we took or first “beach holiday” I turned my hand to speaking and more importantly presenting & compering which is shaping up well for 2017. 2016 very much felt like a year focusing on us and doing what makes us happy; as you can see from the year, that’s being outside, preferably on bikes in the woods!

The end of 2016 saw us team up with Ordnance Survey as #GetOutside champions so 2017 we’ll be doing just that and setting some challenges to inspire you all to #GetOutside to as many places as possible via multiple types of transport all over the UK, and to give you advice, hints & tips to do this safely. After all the best thing you can take on an adventure or journey is your knowledge & skills.

Thanks for checking out the blog, I hope to share my adventures with you in 2017 and I hope you do the same with me. Lastly, I stumbled across this quote at an event a few months ago it was simple but profound, thanks for reading. Here’s to 2017.

” Nothing changes, if nothing changes”

 

 

Tough Ten Ambassador

I’ve teamed up with a handful of other runners to become an ambassadors for the Cancer Research #Tough10 race series. Slowly stepping away from the comfort of the usual road races and challenges, these off-road races will be undulating, muddy and generally mayhem. It’s certainly a step-up from the typical charity event, so yes I am so so excited to be getting out there to these events, talking to people, promoting the race series and hopefully inspiring people along the way!

Sadly cancer affects so many people, for me not first hand but indirectly more than once. My dad’s childhood best friend suffered not once, or twice but three times with cancer, and as a teenager I was old enough to see and feel what was happening but didn’t know exactly what our families were going through. As an adult of 33 to see my aunty of 55 years young be taken from us after a short and savage battle was tough for everyone, the silence, the tears, the uncertainty, that calm anguish that sweeps over us and seems relentless.

So, as part of this race series I’ll be interviewing people in the build up, during the runs and after to get a feel for why they running and the personal stories that have brought them here. I’d love to hear from you whatever your reason, drop me a message in the below, lets chat and on the day tell me more.

The races run from the end of September to end of November 2016 and cover various locations in the UK. As I’m down south in London I’ll be running four of the available races, hopefully putting a little twist on them by wild camping the night before to really get a feel for the area. I’d love for you to join me for any or all of the below races I’m taking part in!

  • Epping Forest 23rd Oct – Sign up
  • Sherwood Pines 6th Nov – Sign up
  • Chilterns 12th Nov – Sign up
  • Box Hill Surrey 19th Nov – Sign up

Note: You’ll be signing up to race, not join me to sleep in a cold bush on the side of a hill! for that drop me a message in the below…

This savage disease touches us all, and to be part of this amazing team helping promote, support and inspire others to raise awareness I’m touched ,thankful and humbled, so a thank you to Cancer Research – let’s make these runs something special for all those recovering, remembering and raising funds. This is a fight we all have to be a part of…

See you soon, Russ.

Failure, and its positives. 

Flicking back through the notes on my phone, I found the below. Written from a train whilst digesting taking an adult desition to stop and not destroy my body.

Un edited, raw as I typed it. No gimmicks we all have low points, but how and where we view them decides what we learn.

It’s only Failure if you choose to see it that way.

A week ago I set off from lands end in search of covering the widest part of the U.K. On foot, all the way to Lowestoft, some 400 plus miles.
I’m now sat on a train picked up from the edge of Wiltshire, not accepting defeat but putting together a list of positives to take from the trip so far.

  • I have now found a way to keep my feet injury free, I say injury I mean be adult enough to manage issues as I feel them and keep them in good condition to crack on each day, and fix them!
  • My postiria chain is balanced and functioning the best it ever has, everything has done its job.
  • As a result of the above I suffered no back pain at all, which is a mind blowing result!
  • My light packing was on point, I don’t need trousers or cumbersome waterproofs.
  • I could have dropped the down jacket though.
  • I have a trusted system with my gear & packing and I shouldn’t deviate from that!
  • I got my fuelling bang on too, food is ever so important!!

England continues to be the most stunning country, I am so proud to call it my home.

Feed back is so so important in life, we should learn to give it and how to digest what we are given… This is for all walk of life, self development comes from learning about yourself….

Russ.

Life lessons from my so far 37 years..

As we get older and a little wiser or I hope we do, plenty becomes clear we see things differently and well I guess we slowly build on life experience.

So I thought after turning 37 it might be fitting to throw a few tips to live your life by, crazy this because I feel my life been a bit of a shit storm, but then things don’t have to go well for us to learn from them. Here goes!

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  • You’ll always want what you haven’t got, desire as it happens is a human emotion.
  • Don’t concern yourself with other peoples nonsense, you’ve your own path, crack on with forging it.
  • Wake up smiling everyday. From experience this can get you through the toughest and darkest times..
  • Randomly check on another human, you’ll see the odd person at work, through your circle of friends and you’ll get that feeling they’re going through shit. Offering a coffee and lending an ear isn’t much to do, but could change someones life.
  • Choose the difficult path early on, building resilience, substance and character, these are powerful tools.
  • Rip off that plaster, metaphorically. You know its going to hurt or be tough, doesn’t mean you cannot do it, just mens you need to start.
  • YOU WILL, have the darkest of times, IT WILL HURT. This hurt is growth, stand tall breath it in, it will pass.
  • Write a diary, we all have a story to tell and that weird event you write down might one day make a talk or be a chapter in a book. I so regret not having a diary….
  • Chasing money will not get you closer to a dream, doing what excites you does.
  • Reducing your financial outgoings makes it easier to make that tough life change, the less you need to earn the easier it is to take a risk..
  • Be brave, take risks, nothing can substitute experience.
  • Always dedicate a portion of your earnings to self development in what interests you, one day you’ll have a wealth of skills to call on that have nothing in common with the work you’ve done, this moment is magical..
  • You’re work is not you! Always have a project our two to work on outside your 9-5.

Friends, family, health & happiness are the most important thing, your wife, daughter or mother will never thank you on your death bed for the late night you worked or the times you just needed to get something done on the weekend.

Time is not a clock, but an hourglass that we cannot turn over or control, give that something a date or a deadline and work backwards..

Last, my favourite quote, I’ll get the guts to have it tattoo’d one day.

“Nothing can resist a will that will stake its existence for its fulfilment”

I hope you find some of these useful, I really appreciate you checking me out.

Russ.