Christmas, New Year, UK adventures and Magaluf failure.


If any of the stuff you read on this website clicks, then get a piece of paper now and write down 10 adventures (no matter how small, but be as ambitious as you can) you will do in 2017.

In your search for adventure you may find the following groups and resources usefull. It was, after all, Isaac Newton who said “If I have seen farther it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.

You don’t have to learn everything by mistakes and re-inventing the wheel, most people I’ve met on my adventure journey willingly gave their time and assistance.

The Chester and District Walking Group.

The Chester Globetrotters.

The Walking World website.

The Youth Hostel Association.

I’ve got loads of stuff I’m planning in the next few weeks, and the format of the website is going to change slightly as an experiment.

Instead of putting up pictures and words about places I’ve been and things I’ve done, I’m going to write articles about how to plan a trip, what to take and stuff like that (thanks to Matt at work for this suggestion and best wishes with his Trans-Europe and Morocco trips).

Happy New Year from everyone here at near and far, the search for adventure continues…


Well, the last 8 weeks of 2016 were mad busy with holidays and trips and stuff going on at work.

Back down to earth now and a catchup on – quite a lot here, but I’ve tried to let the pictures do the talking and keep my rambling to a minimum (well, verbal rambling that is).

Above are some of the fantastic presents I received for Christmas.

The new Ray Mears book, Out on the Land, a small keg of Budvar lager and 4 mugs which Nikki bought me, with pictures of me in a sort of seven ages of man/four ages of John Sunter format.


For no reason in particular, my old mate Ganders (who’s “proper” name is Andrew Ganley) mentioned a tv show from the 70’s we both remembered called Shoestring.

In it, a former computer programmer has a change of life and becomes a detective for a local radio station (and he’s nicknamed the private ear).

I commented that throughout the series, he was treated with mystique and awe for his super intellectual skills on account of him previously being a computer programmer.

Funny, I’ve worked in various fields of IT for 25 years, and nobody “down the pub” has ever treated me that way 🙁


Well, the first hit of my adventure episodes was a meet up with my old friend Sarah.

I’ve always been grateful to Sarah, who I first met at the Chester Globetrotters. After my first visit there, a few of us went for a drink and she told me about a pretty smart walking group.

That was the CDWG where I’ve done more than 100 walks, I’m on the committee, have made loads of really good friends and I met Nikki there.

I’m known locally as a flash bastard, so we met up in the cafe in Asda in Ellesmere port, near where I work.

She brought here lovely daughter Eva, who was actually born on Christmas eve.


At work the company committed to match any contributions made by employee’s to specific charity’s so I volunteered as charity champion for the Woodland Trust.

Our main income stream was people wearing Christmas pullovers and paying £2 each time they did (hence this billy can I setup in reception with little pictures of jumpers on it).

I raised a respectable £139 which I’m quite pleased with, and I’d like to thank my many colleagues at work for their contribution.


At work on the Friday before Christmas.

Everyone was in a festive mood, and we ordered Pizza for lunch.


Because of the way the days fell, I was able to have 2 Christmas eves.

The first one, on Friday evening, was some “me” time, where I had a buffet of food which Nikki described earlier as a “heart attack in a bag”.

I also had Call of Duty ready to play, all sorts of appalling music that I really like and my train set.

I finished the evening with a medley of my favourite opening scenes from James Bond and Mission Impossible.

All washed down with a nice Rioja.


Next day its Saturday. Up early and scrambled eggs for breakfast.

I wander into town, meet up with Nikki, do some shopping then some nice wine in Corks Out and dinner at Urbano 32.

Back to Nikki’s house and we spend Christmas eve with Fi and Jed and their lovely daughter Amy.


In the morning its Christmas day and we go out for a walk.

Nikki’s sister and sisters husband Vic are staying over so we head for Wepre woods.

I gave them both a present I thought they’d like.

The previous day, I’d bought some para-cord (as though I dont have enough lying around the house) and 2, Fox 40 howler whistles.

I made them up with 2 double fisherman knots, so they had 1 each and could wear them around their necks for emergency’s.

Not expensive gifts, but I hope really useful.


Where did I get the idea ?

As you can see in this picture from my youth (sent to me by Nadiah, thanks Nard) , I got into the habit of wearing a whistle around my neck for emergency’s some years ago.


Back at Nikki’s house everything is getting ready for Christmas dinner (and some silly nonsense about opening presents in the late afternoon rather than first thing in the morning, but Nikki’s house, Nikki’s rules).

Another tradition of Nikki’s parents is to watch the Queens speech. I must confess that I have never previously watched it from begining to end but I was able to do so this time as I set the tv up for them to watch it.

I’d also bought a DVD about Spitfires for Nikki’s dad to watch (he is fascinated by aeroplanes, was in the RAF and used to design them at British Aerospace). He seemed to enjoy it and then we all watched Frozen which I’d heard loads of good things about from Amy.

Years ago, I did several courses in Bushcraft and survival. Lots of people have asked me about this, but pictures done really capture it.

I got a DVD by Jonny Crocket from Survival School, where he demonstrates how to light a fire, put up a hamock and stuff like that.

Everyone seemed to enjoy it and then it was time for dinner.


We sit down, and here you can see my “emergency chair” of Peter Kay fame.

A lovely relaxing evening with ace food including Yorkshire puds and some nice wine.

Off to bed, another Christmas day over.


Not wanting to waste the holidays, we woke on Boxing day, bid our farewells to Lyn and Vic and then headed for Llandegla Forest to do a walk we’d seen on the walking world website.

The sun shining through these trees was spectacular.


Later we stopped by some picnic tables for lunch next to a lake.

Here Nikki poses with the rucksack I bought her as a Christmas gift (it’s an Osprey Talon 33, far and away the best rucksack in its class in my opinion).


The following day we’d planned to meet up with my friend Frank (he’d travelled from Thailand for a surprise visit to see his parents). Due to some train nonsense, we weren’t able to meet up.

We went walking again, and in the evening, met up with my old mate JK off Borneo and Morocco fame 🙂

In this picture, I’m not being ignorant. I have a new camera with an amazing feature. Instead of a timer for group shots, you set the camera up and then run an app on your phone that shows you what the camera can see. When your ready, you press a button on the phone and the camera takes the shot.

Only thing is, you need to remember to look at the camera.


I spent some time before Christmas practising my cooking.

Here, my interpretation of Singapore Noodles.


I bought some of these “mini chip pan’s” that are popular in a lot of pubs now, for serving chips in.


Three programs I was really looking forward to were Dr Who, Jonathan Creek and Sherlock.

I really enjoyed Jonathan Creek. Not the best episode, but a return to form considering some of the rubbish they were putting out about 2 years ago.

I think I’ve completely gone off Dr Who, considering how much I used to enjoy it and I think Sherlock is terrible (John Watson’s wife as some sort of super spy/commando never worked and still didn’t this time).



Another plan before Christmas was to have a bit of a winter break in Magaluf.

I’d booked 2 days off on the Friday and Monday, flights & accommodation booked and I’m raring to go.

So, after rushing around all that week to get things ready (going away, the week before Christmas was never going to be easy) I find myself sitting in my living room waiting to be picked up and taken to the airport.

The time ticks by and I’m starting to get nervous. Then, I’m wondering if were going to make it and finally I get a text saying my friend had woken up with his alarm and then fallen back asleep.

We’d missed our flight and our trip was cancelled. I was fuming.

So I did what I normally do when I’m in a bad mood (which interestingly is the same thing I do when I’m in a good one)…


… I went for a walk.

As I wandered through Dukes Drive in Chester I remembered 2009, the darkest time in my life.

A year of unemployment, each day I did my job search, had a cup of tea and went for a walk here.


Once you leave the path, you can wander for hours in the forest.

I sat down and started to think. There were 4 people who were with me constantly in 2009. Not all of them are around now, but I’ll always be massively grateful for their assistance.

Back then, just having enough money for something to eat and worrying about losing my house were all that occupied my mind so sitting there in the forest, with sound financial support and a day off work really put things into perspective.

My failed airport pickup was one of those 4 poeple. I decided there was plenty to spare in the emotional bank account and no need to go overdrawn.

I decide that in my whole life, considering the number of adventures I’ve been on, it’s only the 2nd time I’ve missed a plane which is good stats. Within an hour, without a word, he’s put all the money lost into my bank.

With 4 days to myself I get loads of stuff done in the house and a chance to really relax at home.



Barmouth is a place I’d heard fantastic things about, and in summer its impossible to find a parking space there, let alone accommodation.

So, it’s winter and I’ve put on a walk in the CDWG program and off we go.

My first sight of the place is this car park, which is a bit of a let down but I keep an open mind.


Another walking world route, we meet Brian at the station, and get the train.


From here, we wander along the coast and then inland back towards Barmouth.

As we reach the bridge back into town, we meet up with Sue who has driven over to meet us.

Sue and Brian were the first 2 friends I made at the walking group, so along with Nikki, it makes for a pretty smart day.


We find a nice tea shop, and have Tea and cakes.


After Sue and Brian leave, Nikki and I go for a long walk along the beach, get some chips from the chippy and then find a nice pub.

From here, we head to Kings hostel where were staying for the night.

A superbly run establishment, and our room is like a cabin in the woods.


Next morning we’re up and drive down the country lane to our next walk (we find out that the path running from the hostel in the other directions goes to Cadre Idris – I make a mental note, that info will be good for next summer).

Arriving at Penmaenpool bridge we set off on the Mawddach trail to Dolgellau as featured in Julia Bradbury’s railway walks series.


After about 90 minutes, we arrived at Dolgellau, have some coffee, see a bit of the town and then walk back to the car and head for home.

Another fab weekend over.



My sixth walking group Christmas do, and this year it was at Grassmere in the lake district.

I selected the first days walk to a place called Sargent Man. For practical purposes I let Brian lead the walk as he’s far and away the best navigator in our group after several years in the army.

Nice to be up in some real mountains and as you can see from the picture above, there was snow on the tops.


We stayed at Grassmere YHA, and in the evening had dinner together in our Christmas jumpers.


The following day we decided to walk to Ambleside along the coffin route (in years gone by, Grassmere had a church, but no graveyard so once the service was complete, a coffin would be carried across the foothills to Ambleside to be buried).

Throughout the weekend, although cold, the weather was perfect.



Final trip of the year, and were back in Ambleside.

It was my 5th weekend in the lakes this year and we drove their straight from work.

Just time to check in, go out for something to eat and then a few drinks around the town.


The hotel we stayed in did a continental breakfast. That would normally be fine, but for a day in the winter mountains, a full English was needed.

From here we headed up to Red Screes.


Although the weather looked fab it was actually really cold and the wind was howling.

So cold in fact, that I struggled to put my gloves on.


Back off the hills, its now New Years eve. We had a dinner reservation later that evening at the Thai Restaurant, Jintana.

We wandered around the shops, and Nikki bought me a smart new Rohan Jumper (a Microgrid Stowaway, for those interested).

We had time for a few drinks in Fino. They have Morreti beer on draft and a dizzying array of red wines. No wonder its our favourite watering whole in the town.

Once again, a spectacular meal at Jintana, then back to Fino where we count down the New Year.


The first walk of the New Year.

We head out across Loughrigg fell towards Elterwater (no specific route, just walking in the general direction following various paths).

At Elterwater, we have a drink in the Britannia pub. Hilarious scenes inside, where 17 people are queuing in 1 line to be served and some lunatic is ordering food, reading aloud from an ipad.

Had our drinks outside, wished everyone happy New Year and then headed off.


While there, we completed an official walk from Pub Walks in the lakes, so I was able to get a member of staff to sign the appropriate page in my book and then I circled the pub in the chapter heading.

I had the same book some years ago, but I’ve bought a new one now and I’m determined to do all the pubs in the book (there are 25 in total, in the 1 year I’ve been doing it, I’ve completed 9 pubs. I’m pretty good with lists 🙂

We carry on to Great Langdale, then circle around and walk back to Ambleside (Italian for dinner at Zeffreli’s this time).


Following day, we check out of our hotel.

Some things been bugging me. I’d been on the Rohan website before the trip and had a look at some of the items in the sale. I’d dismissed a £30 red jumper as I thought the colour was awfull.

When I’d seen one inthe show a few days earlier in the flesh, I really liked it, but they didn’t have one in my size.

They were good enough to find one for me in Keswick, but it would need to be picked up.

So off we drove to Keswick, where unfortunately, it was too early in the morning to go to the Old Keswikien chippy.

Once our purchase complete, we head for Whinlatter forest for the days walking.

There are mountain bike tracks there, but lots of good walking country as well.


Inside the forest, you can see it stretches for miles.

After about 5 hours of walking, we’ve also seen several hills in the distance, which we’ve earmarked for future trips (Keswick was the first place I ever visited in the lake district and after Ambleside its my favourite.

As we drive home, I reflect on 2016 and what a fantastic year its been. I can only hope that 2017 will be half as good.

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