Newsletter January 2021

It felt almost like spring at times in the second part of January with slight warmth in the sunlight, snowdrops pushing through and I’m itching to push some new events out and to get going, as most of us are. I am waiting to see how the current C-19 uncertainty and current restrictions unfold and I am hopeful that activities in the outdoors will start to open up again by late spring this year. Just to say that if you have booked on anything and in the event that we can’t go ahead, you’ll always have the choice of a full refund OR a rescheduled date. We’re all in this together I know, but thank you so much for sticking with us.

MORE ON TREES! We’ve planted over 70 trees now. Not going anywhere in recent months has given me time to work on the land and to work all day outside when it’s been fine. Getting out frequently, I’ve noticed the very small things by being in the same place on a day-to-day basis and ‘up close and personal’ with the weather and the land. In mid-January we spent all day coppicing very old hazel trees; hazel is one wood that benefits from being cut and the more it’s cut, the more it shoots up and grows. Our old trees were much in need of regeneration and while out working I was amazed to see fat green female buds on the hazel branches and to be listening to loud birdsong. Here we are, it’s all turning gently, gradually and almost imperceptibly and the natural world is stirring again.

WOMEN BEGINNING MOUNTAIN BIKING: On the May 15/16 Women Beginning Mountain Biking weekend, we are SO LUCKY to have Kate Rawles to come and ride along with us and give us a talk at the end of our day one ride on Saturday 15th May. She tells me she’s no mountain biker and is keen to learn along with us but … READ ON!

I first met Kate at The Women’s Adventure Expo in Bristol a couple of years ago where I listened to her fascinating talk on cycling 8,288 miles across South America on a self-built bamboo bicycle. For Kate, the pedalling was just part of challenge, “The idea of building my own bike out of bamboo just seemed to fit: it’s low-impact, and I loved the idea of doing a biodiversity ride combining environmental activism and adventure on a ‘home-grown’ bike that used to be a plant.” 2017/18 saw her ride Woody, her bamboo bike, from Colombia to Cape Horn while sleeping in a tent. One of her big inspirations is North American writer Bill Plotkin. “He argues that if you can find the intersection between something you really love doing, and something that the world actually needs, that sweet spot in the middle is where you’ll be your happiest and also your most effective.” Kate cares passionately about the devastating impact humans are having on the planet, so the inspiration was to try and bring those two things together. “I wanted to focus on biodiversity loss because the avalanche of species extinction we’re currently witnessing, the beginning of what’s being called the sixth great extinction, is a very big issue.” Listening to her talk about the spraying of bananas – amongst other things – was a real eye-opener.
If you’re local to the Abergavenny area and want to come and hear Kate talk at 6pm on May 15th (but aren’t doing the Beginners Mountain Biking weekend), drop me an email and I’ll see if we can squeeze you in for the talk.

YOGA: We’ve all taken to online classes during lockdown and yoga has stretched me in directions that I need to go.
Jack Maitland and his partner Kirsten Steffensen have set up The Sports Ashram delivering one-hour yoga classes of varying types aimed at active people.  Jack and Kirsten set up The Sports Ashram and have developed their own style of yoga merging Jack’s extensive triathlon experience with Kirsten’s yoga knowledge and physiotherapy background. They are passionate about bringing yoga to all sportspeople.
Anyone can book onto an online class and it’s £5 an hour. There’s real value in the opening of physical, mental and spiritual dimensions and in getting to know our bodies better.
For those closer to home here in Abergavenny and over-40, Emma Pugh offers wonderful face-to-face yoga classes and (at the moment) online tuition – again, very highly recommended.

Later this year Element will be teaming up with Jack and Kirsten to offer a developmental weekend of fell running and yoga for women runners. I’m really excited about this (in bold because I really am). Jack himself a former top-class international athlete in fell running, orienteering and triathlon went on to become head coach of the Leeds Triathlon centre and has been instrumental in some of the most successful Olympic performances ever at the London and Rio games. We will be exploring in a focused way the really positive role yoga can take in an athlete’s physical and mental health as well as the opportunity to run and train together, discuss and to take stock. There’ll be more specific detail and a date coming on this in next month’s newsletter.

There have been some glory days this winter with snow on the tops, cloud inversions, red kites soaring and the day falling to pink sunsets. I’ve enjoyed heading up Hatterrall Hill repeatedly – sometimes right at the end of the day as darkness falls and sometimes very early before first light.
Getting dressed to head outside in winter takes forever that I’ve designated it a workout in its own right. I always say that ‘the equipment doesn’t make the athlete’ but many of you know of my enthusiasm for waterproof socks. I now have a new enthusiasm for lightweight over-trousers, especially when I’m moving more slowly through the winter hills. I was taken with Simon Barnes’ eulogy for waterproof trousers in his book Rewild Yourself: “These are the trousers that will change your life. They will make fundamental alterations to your attitude to the world. They are the nearest you will ever get to a superpower.”

Here’s to spring and to getting out of our waterproof trousers and waterproof socks, to daylight and warmth and to new buds opening.

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