Sunday, 5 March 2017

Family Adventure Day: Take 1

Who better to share adventures with than your family? Growing up as one of seven children there was never a shortage of adventure buddies. We were lucky with the places we lived, and the places our extended family lived - there was never a shortage of places to have 'adventures'.

Now, as a semi-responsible adult and with a family of my own I have the priviledge of introducing the next generation to the concept of adventure. What better place to start than where many of my own childhood adventures were based: Mid-Wales. This naturally raises the question of what 'adventure' really is, but I think I'll leave addressing that question for another time.

Anyway, as a birthday treat to myself back in early March, Emily (my wife) and I woke the children (Megan 4 and Jack 1) early, loaded them into our all-terrain family adventure wagon, Rhino (a Suzuki Grand Vitara) and headed west for the heartlands of Wales. 

To say the weather was perfect would be stretching the truth, but the excitement factor was high, the snack bag full, the traffic light and the views getting better by the mile. Our plans were simple: 1) visit an area of forest which hosted many a family outing plus an annual easter egg hunt when I was a lad; 2) next on to the Ystwyth River where I basically learned to swim and where if I was feeling brave I'd go for a dip, then 3) onto the beach at Aberystwyth for fish and chips on the beach while we watched the sun set. 

We arrived at the forest where the adventure was to start - while I had been many a time to walk there was adventure which had been denied me; a 'green lane' which snakes for miles across the Welsh mountains following the route of an ancient road. Indeed as a green lane it is still legally a road and public right of way and I had wanted to drive it since well before I ever had a driving licence - the realities of adult life had prevented me for a long time from acquiring a vehicle capable of tackling the route. But a change in work circumstances had finally allowed me to justify buying a 4x4 and so my wait to attempt to tackle this route (although only a small part of it on this occasion) in something more substantial than a pair of wellies was about to come to an end. In Megan's parlance we were going to 'drive the bumpy road!'

Unfortunately we were turned round sooner than hoped by a puddle (more like a small lake really) which pushed the limits of what I was comfortable to drive without a snorkel and a back up vehicle. Sadly there was clear evidence that many people had come to the same conclusion about the puddle and forged their own path instead, carving up the surrounding land and making a mess alongside the legal right of way - something I was not willing to do. With a slightly heavy heart we turned around and headed back down. But I will be back, when the water levels are lower and with back up to make the whole trip. Rhino might just be getting a snorkel too!

On to the Ystwyth River valley, one of my favourite places in the UK. It will always hold a special place in my heart. We paddled and threw stones, had a picnic on the pebbles and watched Dippers fly up and down the river for an hour or so. I wimped out just short of a proper dip - wading knee deep was enough on this occasion. It was still pretty chilly!

The weather had been pretty changeable up to this point ranging from dull, damp and chilly through to beautiful sunshine, although never really warm. As we were leaving the Yswyth to head to its mouth (the literal translation of Aber-yswyth is 'mouth of the river Ystwyth') the rain set in with greater determination and the weather was against us when we arrived at the coast earlier than planned. Megan and I took some time to throw stones, watch the waves, and take some pictures on the beach while Emily and Jack napped in the car, then with the weather getting ever less friendly we changed our plans and started heading for home via a scenic route North up the coast. We got our fish and chips, but there wasn't really a sunset to watch!

Regardless we had a great day - we were outside in the fresh air, surrounded by nature; we were spending quality time together as a family. My own little ones were learning the concept of 'going on an adventure' and this won't be the last family adventure day. In fact we are heading back to Wales, although North Wales this time, in the next few weeks.

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