Finished working, not finished at host

We’re in the rather curious position of having finished our actual WWOOFing duties before the end of our stay at our current host. Our hosts have a course to attend somewhere tomorrow so won’t be around and as it was to be our last day with them working anyway they have told us to take the day off!

We’re heading to stay with friends for a few nights and then more friends for a few more nights next week and very much looking forward to a bit of downtime. We’ve been on the road now for four months and last weekend reminded us that we had a side agenda of time off together, enjoying the fact we don’t have high pressure jobs with long hours and that we should be making the most of this period of freedom. Ady and I both feel we have learnt so much already, really cemented what we would like to do next and as such are looking forward to easing off the pressure to fill the odd few empty weeks we have in the diary over the coming months with hosts, thinking it would be far more fun to execise some of the lessons we have learnt in living as cheaply as possible and maybe trying our hands at some hunting, fishing, foraging or other ‘freegan’ type activities.

We’ve had some interesting conversations about how our lives have changed so far and how they are different to how we lived before and also how we have changed and what long lasting impact we imagine this experience will have on us going forward with some very interesting and insightful responses from Dragon and Star. I have got some of that saved in a draft post which I will publish when we’ve all finished adding to it.


Wherever we wander, wherever we roam

There are just so many objectives to this year that I could probably have a blog for each one, why we want to achieve them and whether we manage it. As in so many areas of life the chances are that the objectives and reasons change along the way anyway and some of the early ideas get lost in the mists of time.

But certainly a side objective of the adventure was to see more of our beautiful country. I love the UK; I love the climate, the culture, the history. I love the diverse people, towns and cities and countryside. I love the regional accents and local phrases and customs. I adore the fact that within just a few hundred miles the scenery changes, the weather changes, the wildlife changes. There is no one particular county that I consider home really, I have roots in Sussex, in North Wales, in Manchester and friends scattered all over the UK. One of the things we quite liked the idea of was living in various parts of the country and seeing where best fitted us this year with a view to deciding where to eventually settle.

On our days off at each host we have tried to get a taste of the areas we are in. Not by visiting the local expensive tourist attractions but by spending time hanging out, chatting to locals, visiting free places of interest, going on walks, sometimes using public transport. I want Dragon and Star to have a really good understanding of our country, the geography of it and be able to hear a place name and have memories attached to it if we’ve been there – to have eaten a cream tea in Devon, paddled in the Chalice water in Glastonbury, seen the Menai bridge in the shadow of Snowdon, stood on the platform at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch station, know that there is a sign on the M62 declaring it the highest point of a motorway in the UK, stood on coasts on the south, east, west and north of our island and crossed off every single possible bird, animal and sea creature they could have seen in their spotter books. I hope this little taster of travelling, of broadening horizons and opening their eyes to what an amazing planet we live in gives them a thirst for wandering which leads them far and wide across the globe, fires their curiosity about their world and gives them confidence to ask questions, look for answers, find out all there is to know about people and places.

So this weekend we have been off exploring. Yesterday we walked into Bangor (city made famous by that Fiddlers Dram song from 1980!) for a good old forage round the charity shops. Bangor has no shortage of them, the massive retail park all along the main road in has made sure the actual city centre is full of charity shops and mobile phone stores. It was about 4 miles in, which meant with walking around all day and the walk back again we must have done a good 10 miles, accounting for our aching feet by the time we got back at about 730pm. We also had aching arms as we made a few purchases which we had to carry back. I got a pair of bib and braces work overalls from the army surplus shop, Ady got a rain coat from there too. Dragon got a new pad and some pens having used up all the pads we left home with – he has been creating stories about pirates, illustrations mostly with a few words and this rapidly filled the 3 sketch pads he brought with us. Star found a DS game she’d been after for a while second hand in a game shop and we bought some replacement storage boxes for our clothes cupboard as the stacking crates we had been using had proved not robust enough for the pressure of being hauled in and out of the cupboard every day and crammed with clothes.

Today we drove Willow across the bridge to the Isle of Anglesey. Ady and I had been before, several times in years gone by but I wanted to show Dragon and Star some of the sights. We started by going right to the tip to the island to visit the RSPB reserve of South Stack Cliffs. We had a bracing walk along the cliffs in the very sunny and warm but blustery and windy weather, stopped to chat to a very enthusiastic and informative ranger in the Ellis tower who pointed out various birds and talked to us about the habitat, why it was so diverse and unique and how important it was to preserve it. Then we walked down the winding steps and joined many other people hanging over the egde with binoculars trained on the thousands of sea birds on the cliff faces. There were guillemots, shearwaters, choughs and the occassional puffin – the real prize to spot! After a few minutes gazing I found three (identifiable by their orange legs and colourful beaks) and then had a little crowd gathered around as I tried to describe where they were so everyone could train their binoculars and spot them too. Ady spotted them and the kids and I wandered further down the cliff path and found a great spot where the rocks parted to create a natural seat. Both the kids then managed to see puffins with the binoculars too so that was a real highlight.

We then drove back to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and stood on the train station platform to get the classic photo, before driving to a layby overlooking the Menai Bridge, pulling over to take some photos and make a cup of tea in Willow. Dragon was particularly enchanted with this, even more so when he needed a wee and was able to nip back in the van to use the loo and still have his view of the bridge at the same time! We looked at Snowdon in the background and talked about the height of the summit and discussed how many Star’s tall it is!

We drove over the bridge and back – breathing in as it was very tight for Willow – before driving back over the Britannia bridge again.

So, some landmarks, some natural wonders, some wildlife and some celebrated feats of engineering. A great mix of the stuff that humans do well and the stuff we can take no credit for at all. Dragon and Star will definitely remember this corner of North Wales.


Taking Requests

A few people have mentioned they like seeing pictures on the blog, so always happy to show off the gorgeous Dragon and Star (and chuck in a few of Ady and I for good measure) here are a few from the last couple of weeks. Last week we were thrilled to have a visit from…
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I’ve just walked to the supermarket on my own (for loo roll! My life is *that* glamourous!) and so had about 90 minutes private headspace which I spent mostly realising what a HUGE adventure we are having and what a BIG deal it is.

I also realised that if it was 8 months in the planning and we are 4 months in then it must be around a year since we started embarking on our adventure. Sure enough I have been checking back in my diary and the first mention of the whole idea is a year ago today on 22 June 2010. Which makes this our Crazyversary 🙂

A huge part of this whole endeavour was in the planning – the arranging hosts, plotting a route, finding a campervan, selling stuff to raise money, leaving our jobs, finding tenants for our house, telling family and friends, packing up our lives, working out what to take and what to leave behind.

Another huge part of the adventure will be what happens next – do we return to our ‘normal’ lives? Do we go round again? Do we head to a different country? Do we sell up and try our hand at the dream life so many of our hosts are living? We have some ideas already but as these are ever shifting and altering I’ll leave sharing those for another day. Suffice to say our initial wish lists are forever having things scribbled out and yet more things added to the bottom.

And of course the main part of the Wondering Wanderers is the right here, right now. The actual doing it. The travelling around the country, living with new people every week or two, learning, learning all the time. Learning about self sufficiency, about growing, about harvesting, about preserving and bottling and pickling, about breadmaking, learning about animal rearing, killing and processing, learning about alternative technology, being green, being eco-friendly, permaculture, mend and make do. Learning about living with less, consuming and spending less, having less, needing less, wanting less. Learning about survival, about making do with what we have, about how very priviledged our lives are even when we think we are in challenging places. Learning about ourselves, our relationships with each other and the world around us, learning about what we want out of live, what is important to us, what we really believe in, what we care about enough to sacrifice and compromise and what we truly hold dear enough to hold on to.

We are currently in North Wales at a host who do loads of growing fruit and veg, keep chickens and ducks. We have been sowing and harvesting, collecting eggs, weeding, mowing, doing some beekeeping, preserving and thining and pruning. Dragon and Star are learning alongside us, we are spending the evenings in a static the hosts have as WWOOFers accomodation (although we are still sleeping in Willlow) so are getting to spread out a bit, sit on sofas, enjoy hanging out and just remember what evenings are again.

So Happy Crazyversary to us, thanks to all those following our wanderings and wonderings, we’ll raise a virtual glass to you for walking alongside us as we celebrate a full year since this mad idea first made it into our consciousness and wonder where our wanderings will find us this time next year.


Back on the grid

A very quick update to say we have been totally off grid without electric, mobile phone signal or internet connection for just over two weeks, on a remote hillside in North Wales.

A very interesting experience with loads to report back on when I have time over the next couple of days.

We’re currently having a few days off and are in a campsite at the foot of the Horseshoe Pass in LLangollen which is an area close to our hearts for lots of reasons. Mobile phone and mobile internet signals are good, we have electric hook up and this afternoon my parents are joining us for a few days.

Thank you for all the texts, comments and emails checking we are okay, we are all fine, if slightly reeling from such an extreme and intense couple of weeks, which I look forward to sharing on here very soon.