Forest Therapy

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This weekend my cousin and I trekked through Church Woods and Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire, England. We were blessed with endless sunshine, making it the kind of day that we wished our legs wouldn’t tire so that we could keep on exploring.

The start of the walk opened us up to a day of possibilities

The clear blue skies, the ripe green fields and trees in full bloom provided us with all the necessary resources for our minds to be filled with peace and calm.

In full bloom

The most spectacular part of the day, however, was being witness to the floral tapestry made up by the bluebells that covered the forest floor.

Spring in action

The day was completed with a few moments of calm by a serene lake before the final walk back to the car.

Bonus water therapy

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF A FOREST STROLL?

In her book ‘Adventure Revolution’, Belinda Kirk advocates that there are a number of physical and mental health advantages that spending time in a woodland setting can provide. These benefits include a healthier cardiovascular system and reduced stress levels. However, the author points out that the effects are much deeper as the trees and soil are actively helping us.

Kirk points out that studies have shown that trees let out phytoncides which benefit our immune systems to fight communicable disease and tumour development. There’s also evidence to suggest that a certain soil bacteria can bolster us against stress.

Knowing such things gives me a deeper connection with our planet, and makes me want to spend more time in the open.

Nature is the gift that keeps on giving

I hope that you all have a chance to take a hike and embrace the healing properties of nature soon.

Book Review: ‘A Notebook For Living Adventurously’ by Alastair Humphreys

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What This Adventure Journal Book Is About

My Review

This book is based on the questions that British Adventurer Alastair Humphreys asks his guests on his podcast.

At the time of writing, I’m enjoying working my way through each question. I’m finding that it’s a fun way of journalling based around my hiking experiences. Writing in this way helps me to gain a deeper understanding of myself, and to reflect on past achievements and future dreams.

Staying focused on what drives a person is important to making dreams come true, and this book is an encouraging resource for any lover of the outdoors to make those dreams happen. Answering the questions is garunteed to stop procrastination.

I’m looking forward to answering all the questions. I highly recommend this book for any seasoned or newbie lover of the outdoors.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5/5)

Buy Links:

Walking Round In Circles Close To Home

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Exploring the urban landscape

I’m still having to stay close to home as I’m running errands for family members in different households who’ve caught Covid. It’s meant that I’ve had less time to get into the countryside, so I’ve had a new idea as to how I hike for the time being.

The idea is partly inspired by two influences: Alastair Humphreys, who did a hike around the circumference of the M25 in his book ‘Microadventures’; plus, it’s a revamping of the urban hikes I did during the first lockdown.

Recently, I was looking at a map of my hometown, Maidenhead, and worked out I could do circular walks of different lengths. Although these will be mainly urban hikes, it means that I can still be close to family. So far, I’ve created a two mile, four mile and six mile walk.

I did the six mile walk today. The accompanying photos are from that walk.

Spring is beginning to blossom

Then, when I got home, I decided to see how many miles the circumference of Maidenhead would be. I measured that out by using pins and string, and measured out the distance in accordance with the map scale. That totals approximately 11.5 miles. With the almost two miles it takes to get to the edge of town and back that would make a fifteen mile walk, which I’m planning to do sometime before Easter.

Pins and string – there’s the thing!

On these walks, I try to counter the noise of passing traffic and trains by deliberately seeking out the sights and sounds of nature in gardens or small stretches of woodland.

So, whilst these urban hikes won’t fully immerse me in nature, they’ve given me the creativity and stimulation to keep going in preparation for when I get back out into the countryside.

Hope you all have a great week. 😊

Adventure On Your Doorstep

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Living in South East England, I don’t live close to mountains that I’ve come to crave. So, it’s important that I look elsewhere for my adventure fix. I’m lucky to live near the River Thames, and a forty minute train journey from the North Wessex Downs hill range.

But with the demands of everyday life, it sometimes difficult to find the time to go on an adventure day. During the lockdowns, though, I found myself exploring my local area more than ever before. I explored woodlands and pathways that I’d never given much thought to before.

This was all done by simply looking at a map of the outskirts of my hometown. These very local adventures proved to be a lifeline during the pandemic. I was concerned that as life got back to normal that I’d neglect these local places of interest for escapades further afield. But, exploring these areas has become so ingrained in me that I was determined not to let this new hobby go.

Just when I thought that I’d discovered all there was locally, I noticed this new area of green on my map. When I say ‘new area’ what I actually mean is I’d just overlooked it. Less than a mile and a half from my house – and more directly behind a supermarket – is a local nature reserve called Braywick Nature Reserve.

It’s been such a joy to find a new place to unwind, and it’s come with a number of other benefits. The track seems to hold up well after long bouts of rain, so it’ll make an ideal training ground in most weather to prepare for long distance hikes. Hearing the birdsong and the rushing stream is also a quick fix for the enduring sounds of nature that I experience on longer hikes. I can also see how walking here links up to other pathways, so a longer trek can be enjoyed.

So, the next time your short of time or you just fancy doing something nearby home, pull out a local map and see if there’s any new places it could take you too. As well as experiencing a great mini escape, you may find other benefits like I’ve described above.

Hope you all have a great week 😊

Hiking Book Review: ‘Tales From The Big Trails’ by Martyn Howe

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BLURB

‘I am already planning the next adventure. The wanderlust that infected me has no cure.’

It all started in Fishguard in the mid-1970s when, aged fifteen, Martyn Howe and a friend set off on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path armed with big rucksacks, borrowed boots, a Primus stove and a pint of paraffin, and a thirst for adventure. After repeating the route almost thirty years later, Martyn was inspired to walk every National Trail in England and Wales, plus the four Long-Distance Routes (now among the Great Trails) in Scotland. His 3,000-mile journey included treks along the South West Coast Path, the Pennine Way, the Cotswold Way and the West Highland Way. He finally achieved his ambition in 2016 when he arrived in Cromer in Norfolk, only to set a new goal of walking the England and Wales Coast Paths and the Scottish National Trail.

In Tales from the Big Trails, Martyn vividly describes the diverse landscapes, wildlife, culture and heritage he encounters around the British Isles, and the physical and mental health benefits he derives from walking. He also celebrates the people who enrich his travels, including fellow long-distance hikers, tourists discovering Britain’s charm, farmers working the land, and the friendly and eccentric owners of hostels, campsites and B&Bs.

And when he is asked ‘Why do you do it?’, the answer is as simple as placing one foot in front of the other: ‘It makes me happy.’

MY REVIEW

The author writes in such an engaging way about his journeys that its as if you’re walking with him at times. The descriptions of the landscapes and the interactions with the people that he meets really drew me in.

As an avid day hiker looking to become more involved with long distance/multi-day hikes, this book has given me a lot of encouragement to start planning those journeys.

I’m sure this book will be a constant companion to me on my future treks.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Photo Poem: Rivers And Hills

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Rivers and hills, hills and rivers, Make me shake, make me quiver, For the peace of mind they deliver, With their beauty, I’m in a dither

Sometimes it’s high up that I seek, Other times at the water’s edge I take a peek, Give me a day and give me a week, Whether it’s sunny or it’s bleak.

Whatever path you chose to take, Make sure there are slopes or a lake, It’s the perfect way to give yourself a break, Then finish it off with tea and cake!

Looking Back To Inspire Future Adventures

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After a few weeks of pretty decent winter weather, February has hit us with heavy rain in South East England. With Storm Eunice due to hit us on Friday with 40 mph winds, I thought it was time to gain motivation for this year’s hikes and adventures.

So, I’ve been looking back over some old photos to gain inspiration, and I thought it might be worth sharing one adventure here. These photos are from when my mate and I walked up Pen y Fan, the highest point in South Wales, in 2019. It has to be one of my favourite mountains because the hills roll up along the track, meaning there are no real steep drops.

This was perfect for someone like me who has a considerable fear of heights. When we got to the top we were blessed with unspoilt views of rolling hills. The sun was trying to break through a thin fog, making it feel like we were in a mystical dreamscape.

There were plenty of pathways for us to explore the other mountains, but our tummies were rumbling heavily. Reluctantly, we headed back down and satisfied ourselves instead with a big fried breakfast!

Phone Box Reminder: The Importance Of Talking

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Last weekend I was out on a hike, and I saw this lonely looking phone box in a village. It evoked in me the sense that we have to stay connected. Moreover, how it’s important to make the time to chat with one another.

I’m going through my phone contacts and making a list of people that I haven’t spoken to for a while. It’d be good to catch up.

Sometimes life just takes over and people move on – it’s a natural occurence in life. It’s also natural (and important) that we want to reconnect. Going through the names on my phone filled me with memories of times with specific people, and that filled me with joy.

The pandemic may have robbed us of certain things, but one thing that seeing that red phone box reminded me of is the importance of being there for one another, and to listen.

Reaching out to a family member, friend (old or new) or a stranger really can have a positive impact for everybody involved.

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you have a great weekend with the people you love. (And give an old friend a call too).

😃😃😃

‘Cold Snap’ by Codi Schneider – Gifted Book Review

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With big thanks to @lovebookstours and @codi_schneider for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. What a great book it is!

Blurb

Tucked in the cold Colorado mountains lies the remote village of Gray Birch, a place where outsiders are frowned upon. In this village lives a cat named Bijou. But she’s no ordinary house cat; her ancestors were mousers on Viking longships, and their blood runs through her veins. Since her battle skills are hardly needed in this modern age, however, she spends her energies running the Fox Burrow Pet Inn with her human, Spencer, and her assistant, Skunk, a mentally negligible Pomeranian. Together, the happy trio has created a safe haven for their four-legged guests.

But when Eddy Line, a handsome baker from California, comes to the inn—along with his piglet and pit bull puppy—everything changes. Spencer falls for Eddy, Bijou is unhappy with the sudden changes to her clan, and the townspeople are anything but welcoming; in fact, threats are made against Eddy when he buys the town’s historic firehouse in order to open a bakery.

Then a shocking murder/dognapping occurs on the night of the bakery’s grand opening, and Bijou finds herself thrust into a tangled mystery. To solve it, she will have to summon her inner Viking—and fight tooth and claw for her new clan.

My Review

I was super intrigued to read a mystery novel told from the point of view of a cat called Bijou. Her crime-solving powers are aided by her innate Viking abilities, and her animal friends.

This honestly has to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. Codi Schneider is a very talented writer with a mastery of word play. This novel is such fun – I didn’t want to stop reading. The book has a good dose of humour and an engaging plot full of suspense. The cast of characters gives the story depth and diversity.

I really look forward to reading more from the author.

Book Review: Shadow Shinjuku by Ryu Takeshi

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With thanks to @lovebookstours and @ryutakeshi.official (author) for the free copy of ‘Shadow Shinjuku’ in exchange for my honest review.

Blurb

The streets of Tokyo are different at night. There is darkness behind the glitter and the neon lights, and people who prefer to stay in the shadows, to dwell in the underworld – whores, gangsters, the homeless, the lost. People like Sato. He’s part of this world, he always has been, but a feeling of change is lingering in the heavy air of the bustling city. A feeling brought to life by fateful encounters of solitary souls.

Shadow Shinjuku is a dark, yet magical journey into the depths of Tokyo’s nightlife and the depths of the human soul. Ryu Takeshi’s first novel is both a noir crime thriller and urban fantasy. It’s a unique and mesmerizing blend of the imagery of Japanese animation and film, the colors and details of street photography, and the mystical lyricism of soulful music. But above everything, it is a gripping story that doesn’t let go.

My Review

This urban fantasy thriller is set against the nightlife subculture of Tokyo, and the outsiders who call its streets home. It follows Sato, a loner bodyguard in an organised crime gang, who goes through life-changing experiences enhanced by the power of his dreams, the people he meets and magic.

The author uses internal monologue and flashbacks very well to create a story that is quite philosophical, and provides some insight into culture and myth and how they blend into Tokyo today. These elements combine well to help the plot flow, making this an engaging read.

I would recommend this book to anybody interested in Japanese culture, and for those who love manga and anime.