30 films, 3 outdoorsy women, 2 pizzas and 1 bonus entry – The 2018 BMC Women in Adventure Film competition 2018


The results are in…well our opinion anyway! The real results are announced next weekend at the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival, but that’s quite a long way from South Devon (snow or no snow), so we opted for streaming on my TV…

So passed an evening in the fab company of Two Blondes Walking’s Lucy and Fi, with the aim of watching the entire playlist of 30 films in this year’s BMC Women in Adventure Film competition.  The films are all available to watch on the BMC’s Youtube channel – from less than a minute long, to just over ten minutes, around 4 hours of entertainment are there (that’s allowing plenty of time for indoor wee breaks, giggling and conferring about results).  There is something for everyone – arty and poetic, gritty and hard, uplifting and thought-provoking.

In the end we had to have a top four, and joint winners…(this from a complicated two category, six sub-category positive and negative scoring system that will definitely be streamlined for next year…)

Our runners-up;

  • One Scot, One Atlantic – an epic row and some thoughtful moments from Elaine Hopley, on her ocean journey to raise funds for dementia research – a cause close to her heart.
  • The High Way – two girls cycling uphill for miles and miles and miles. At altitude. For days.  A film of true grit, with tears and smiles, and a clear message that it really is about the journey not the destination – as well as giving us (well me anyway) ‘filthy expedition tan’ envy…

Our joint winners – we really could not choose between them;

  • 100% Myself – a story of climbing and its levelling impact for one young person.  Georgia was recently diagnosed as having autism, and the film tells her story, and explains how climbing is her ‘normal’.  Insightful and thoughtful for any viewer, climber or not (almost entirely not in our case!).
  • Spend More Time In The WILD – Abbie (and her hat) have documented all kinds of outdoor goodness, from back-door bimbling to high Alps hikes. Her film is a homage to the multiple benefits of being outdoors, with particular regard for mental health alongside physical – and with so many achievable scenes as part of the final cut, a real inspiration to others to go and do something, however small, outside.

We got all the way through 30 films, with a little assistance from pizza, and some chocolate towards the end (emergency rations are always helpful) – and then the finale! A treat in the form of a (very) short filmette, with some of the best bits of a recent bothy trip in honour of Fi’s birthday.  After several re-runs we managed to stop laughing, and made a plan for our own entry into WAF 2019…watch this space!

Why not have your own screening (popcorn optional) before the results are announced?  We’ll be watching the SHAFF tweets closely next weekend for the official winners – can’t wait to see how close we were…

‘More than a wee?’…outdoors


Going for a wee outdoors has never seemed unusual to me – having spent much of my childhood on beaches and ‘up the woods’, and subsequently on DofE expeditions and hill and mountain trips with friends in the UK and beyond.  I count myself lucky to have had some incredible views whilst doing it – it’s the location that is memorable rather than the bodily function!

Here are three of my favourite ones…

Wee #1 – French Pyrenees, 1991. Day 2 of my Gold DofE Expedition. Very hot weather, and much water consumed to counteract this. My team consisted of 4 boys and myself, so this was very much a solo effort – but the view was stunning!

Wee score 8/10 – great panorama, but too hot and insecty for comfort.

Pyrenees view – not the actual view of Wee 1, but pretty similar. Credit: Google Streetview

Wee #2 – Volcan Maderas, Omotepe Island, Nicaragua, 2003. After a particularly muddy and foggy scramble through dank cloud forest, my expedition team arrived at the rim of the volcano crater. Everyone needed a wee, but there were steep drops, thick forest (too thick for getting into) and other people on the trail. Quickly forming a ‘backs in’ circle of 15 or so of us, we took turns crouching in the middle for a wee whilst everyone looking out sang songs loudly…

Wee score 5/10 – innovative, but mud/fog-wise we could have been on Dartmoor. And there were big bitey ants…

Screenshot 2018-02-10 at 18.13.46

Somewhere in there is a volcanic crater lake. Near enough to the ‘wee in a circle of friends’ spot Credit: Google Maps photos

Wee #3 – Cordillera Apolobamba, Bolivian Andes, 2006. 7 hours into a ‘5 hour drive’ that ended up being 12+ hours (Bolivian time – that’s another story!), we needed a wee. ‘We’ being about 10 girls from my school expedition team, and myself as the only female leader. All the lads and male leaders were back on the wobbly bus within seconds, but we took our time, and I’d like to think we had a more memorable experience as a result. We scrambled off the side of the road, and a short way down a rocky slope. Standing in a horizontal line, facing out a 270 degree Andean panorama, on the count of three it was a co-ordinated release, with laughter and chat to hide the noise of 11 teeny waterfalls!

Wee score 9.5/10 – for the view, the sun, the company and the situation. -0.5 for the chilly wind at 4300m altitude! 

Bolivian Andes view – not the actual spot, but it is my photo! Worth taking time over…

Of course, there’s the slightly larger (sorry) topic of ‘more than a wee’ as my title suggests…

Wee+ #4 – Cordillera Apolobamba, Bolivian Andes 2006. I only have one picture and memory to share in this regard, and that is from the same trip as Wee 3. This picture has been used many times, for obvious reasons – the 4500m early morning view, the cloud inversion, the spontaneous hands up post from the three expedition team members on the shadowed skyline.  But the real reason for the cheery pose is the successful and first time ‘outdoor No.2’ for the person in the centre. I cannot recall why the friends were quite so close by, but clearly we had trained them to support their peers through any new experiences!

Wee+ score 10/10 – for the cloud inversion alone!

Bolivian expedition – morning ablutions…

The phrase ‘more than a wee‘ appears in a information booklet that I have just finished writing – this section explaining the arrangements for toilets and sanitation on DofE expeditions that we run at school.  As part of our training for DofE expeditions we teach how to ‘wild wee’ and more – this training is vital before teams wild camp, but pretty essential even if they are not – when you’ve got to go you’ve got to go! Increasing numbers of the young people I take on expedition seem to have little or no outdoor experience of this most basic human function, and need encouraging to even give it a go rather than hanging on or not drinking enough on purpose.  


Poo kit – Loo roll (portioned up if you’re very organised), baby wipes, hand sanitiser, trowel, nappy bags to wrap it all up. If you’re feeling flush (!) I’d recommend a system of double drybagging – and keep some air in there to avoid squashing the contents! There is lots of advice online about making your own poo-tube for packing it all out, or digging catholes for organic material. Think carefully about how you will dispose of human waste on return to civilisation…

Period Kit – see Two Blondes Walking‘s excellent advice on this…

I am looking forward to joining Lifetrek Adventures in North Wales at Easter, for a 36 hour immersion into ‘Leave No Trace’ principles. I am sure that ‘more than a wee’ will be part of that weekend, but there is so much more to consider alongside just where and how to go to the loo in the wild…

The swim before Christmas…

‘Twas the day before Christmas, when all thro’ South Devon, the swimmers were stirring, around about 7; The chocolate was packed, the flasks filled with care, and mince pies were stacked into large Tupperware;

The non-swimming muggles were warm in their beds, while visions of shopping centres danced in their heads. Kate Ape with her shortie, and Jackie in sparkle – more glamour amongst us than new Princess Markle!

We boarded the ferry, with anticipation, for sea water fun, and mass participation. Along by the Dart our convoy was trailing, There were many boats, but we weren’t here for sailing…The cloud in the sky, and the sea milky blue, the mizzle was mizzlin’ and a SWIM would ensue;

Now, what should appear but a large plastic croc, with a pony tailed owner, in full Santa frock, advance party bimbled on down to the beach, the Ashburton crew were soon within reach.

With faffage and chatting it was off with our socks, and we posed and re-posed, for pics on the rock. Then we entered the water, strongly and bold, (though the wetsuits and rash vests did help with the cold).

“Now! Allan now! Carole, now! Joh and now Ron, “On! Sophie, on! Lynda, on! David and John; “To the edge of the cliff! To the end of the wall!”Now swim away! Swim away! Swim away all!”

As wet kelp that slips by the wild tidal flow, when we meet with some barnacles, over we go; So on to the gully the swimmers they swam – the tinsel was soggy, but still looking glam:

And then in the gully the swim party turned, with thoughts of sweet treats, (in cold water well earned). As they swam round the corner and back to the land, a visitor came to join the merry band:

He was dress’d all in blubber, from his head to his tail, and his fur was all greasy, not sure if ‘he’ was male; His eyes-how they twinkled! His flippers were flippy, his teeth were like razors, his skin was so slippy;

The stump of a fish he held tight in his teeth, and the swell it encircled his head like a wreath. He was chubby and plump, with eyes that were beady, and those of us out were glad we’d been speedy…

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, made it clear t’was to Popham as bait he’d been led. And flipping his tail upside of a wave, a snort and some bubbles were all that he gave. We sprung to our towels, to our hats and our gloves, with hot drinks and chatting, and lots of #swimlove

So we all return home, with socks gently steaming – Happy Christmas to all, of swims be you dreaming…

7 beach bivvy problems… and some VERY sensible outdoory solutions.

Five women, one fire, a drizzly evening and a LOT of crisps. I’m grinning from a 24 hour ago beach bivvy adventure with girl mates. All the best adventures and expeditions have their moments, and this was no exception, but we employed a solution focused approach…

Problem 1 – Bivvy spot not as lovely looking as anticipated or remembered (my responsibility as I proposed it). In fact, is covered in storm debris of muddy wood, strewn plastic bottles and Portuguese Man o’ Wars (potentially deadly not-jellyfish –  fabulous colours, not good for hugging) as far up the shore as grass level (it was very windy this week).

Solution – Arrive in failing light so as to have minimal visual contact with plastic bottles and deadly non-jellyfish. Light fire (see problems 2 and 4) to make surrounding seem darker more quickly. Cover deadly non-jellyfish with rocks (they’re dead anyway) to avoid rolling on them in the night.


Portuguese Man ‘o War – definitely not a jellyfish

Problem 2 – Damp  firewood collected near bivvy spot. There is plenty (it’s been very stormy and so the beach is very flotsam-jetsam-y) but every piece is coated and soaked in brown slimey sea goo (an actual thing) due to the dank mizzle.

Solution – Take a handful of coal and some very dry kindling from home (ensure very experienced fire-making girl mate’s equally adventurous husband has chosen and chopped this kindling with a fine axe). The coal-hot centred fire will dry out the slimiest of drifted pallet wood and be wonderful for hours! In addition it’ll burn so hot that dinner can cook on it, and there will be no semi-burnt bits left in the morning. Not even a pile of ash…complete combustion (that’s fire science btw).


Always Exploring… Bel is victorious in her search for fuel


An excellent, coal centred fire

Problem 3 – Running out of wine a bit early.

Solution – Ensure excellent and long-time outdoorsy friend turning up in the (very) dark, two hours after the advance party. Said friend arrives with more wine, and a cheese course, despite themselves having had to leave their children with a neighbour and borrow a torch from a friend in the nearest civilisation on their way here. Priorities are everything in this situation.

Ace mates (pic credit must be Fi Darby as she’s not in this one!)

Problem 4 – The fire and/or blonde bivvy maidens potentially luring entire shipfuls of sailors onto the rocks. Or more likely attracting the attention of people who own large and exclusive coastal properties nearby (who may or may not be really quite famous), and who did not pay millions of squids to have cackling woman-bivvyers hanging out at the bottom of their very expensive sea-view.

Solution – Make fire in a ring of stones high enough to be a reconstructed Dartmoor hut circle. Choose bivvy spot tucked behind an extra-high rock to reduce line-of-sight to large shipping. Cackle quietly, or make sure bivvy spot is well away from any houses. Cackling loudly is fine if it is very windy (it was).  This was the only dynamic risk assessment we allowed ourselves (enough of that in the day job).


Early stages of fire. Note lack of ships being lured. Entirely down to wall structure.

Problem 5 – Sandhopper in ear, and/or others popcorning against inside of bivvy bag noisily, then hiding in bivvy/sleeping bag until you get home – consequently pinging all over the bedroom when unloading rucksack.

Solutions – earplugs apparently sorts the first two issues as well as guarding against the wave and wind noise.

  • N.B. 1 – from fabulously sensible outdoor girl bivvy mate – waves do not turn off at night. Like those trees that still make a noise falling down, even if no-one is there.
  • N.B. 2 – to self – unpack in the garden in future.

Sandhoppers lurking…

Problem 6 – Sleeping (not doing it). Caused by all manner of things…(see problem 5) plus;

  • Beach incorrectly inclined so slippage down bivvy bag – foot circulation compromised.
  • Forecast cloud clearing to provide starscape deserving of gawpage.
  • Large marine mammals definitely coming up the beach at 3am to nibble toes.

Solution – self-congratulate on each and every wake up (ie. a lot). Because it means there’s been sleep. Even if body and mind say that diddly sleep has gone on.


Happy after a long and deep sleep…or slightly delirious with tiredness?

Problem…Pervading smoky smell of bag/clothes/hair/insert other items here.

Solution – embrace said smell, allowing yourself a knowing and satisfied smile as you stink out the train/bus en route home (tried and tested by outstanding girl bivvy mate). Days later your olfactory memory will be thrown into disarray as you brush past your airing sleeping bag or coat and reactivate Eau d’Bivvy (Yankee Candle will be all over this methinks!).


When you’ve seen this as you open your eyes, it’s ok to be grinning for at least a few hours

And there it is. There were problems, we found solutions. I might read this book before the next one, or maybe we should write our own…

Mi amigas…real outdoor women!

On an internet search for ‘outdoor women’ or ‘adventure women’ it would be easy to be a magpie to the glossy scenery of an Instagram shot with someone in shiny kit, posing during an ‘adventure’. To be a female adventurer might initially appear to involve a certain length of hair, a perfect (Pantone 2171c if you’re asking) shade of blue sky, a particular set of vital physical statistics, and most definitely a chunky beanie hat, probably bobbled. 

There is also a refreshing flush of what some of us might consider to be more realistic public figures in adventure and expeditions (and frankly I’m not too fussed whether they’re female, male or anything else as long as it’s genuine and inspiring). For me these might include people like Ann Daniels, Bruce Parry, and Felicity Aston, and for his committing expeditions (rather than his childrens’ TV) Steve Backshall.  Closer to achievable by ‘normal’ folk might be the gutsy but FUN FUN FUN exploits of Faye Shepherd and Anna McNuff (the latter’s book ‘The Pants of Perspective’ newly inspiring a movement of Adventure Queens – real women, sleeping in fields all over the place!). 

My close adventurey friends suggest an alternative image to the one provided by social media – between us we have everything from long blonde(ish) to short brown curly hair, unshaven legs (just me?) and sometimes other bits, are impressively curvy in all sorts of places, sometimes bespectacled, wearing non-matching clothing, mended, dirty and well worn kit, and are definitely out in all weathers whatever the glamour-scale. We’re all doing our outdoor thing in the name of our own mental and physical health, as part of our jobs or hobbies, and fitting it in with family life and the financial necessity of ‘other’ work, as well as spreading the word to anyone we can that outdoors is where the magic happens…I’ve written this in response to feeling very lucky to have these awesome women around me in my mid-40s. 

The amigas of the title remain nameless here, but I’m sure they (and others) might work out who is who if they read on – and maybe you’ll be thinking about the encouraging and inspiring people that you’re lucky enough to know in person as you read this.

Amigo A – I’ve known for two years – she was the first person to welcome me into our local bunch of sea swimmers, and has been a consistent presence through two summers and winters, swimming whatever the weather. Her catchphrase ‘you never regret a swim’, is often repeated, and never loses impact. She has inadvertently got me (willingly!) out of bed at 5.30am on many occasions in the time we’ve been friends – and I am not an early riser. Each time has been to meet on a street corner, and walk or share a lift to a swim – in the cold April sea for a sunrise breakfast, or to have a remote pool on the moor to ourselves before summer crowds arrive. Her adventurous spirit is infectious, and her disregard for conventional middle-aged behaviour gives huge encouragement for the next decade or two of my own life. She’s also super creative, a self-made artist, and very tech-savvy – we’ve had regular ‘beer mat life planning’ sessions, with plans for adventures, creative businesses and social events. These two years have brought me a life outside teaching, and she has been instrumental in that process – Thankyou!!

Amigo B I met nearly five years ago in a pub after a DofE event. She was a friend of a friend (Amiga C) – we had teaching in common, as well as a love of Dartmoor, the outdoors, and facilitating expeditions for young people in the British hills. There have since been shared laughs in bunkhouses (“It’s the three am side of half past-two!”), night navving, and much twittering. Since last autumn when she came on her first moonlit sea swim, we have got to know each other far more – mostly through the character-building (Type 2 fun) of winter skins swimming, and the consequent chilly changes on a windy sea front. We wild camped on Dartmoor back in February with Amiga D (see below), and there was muchos cackling, tent snacks and lots of talk about ablutions and being real outdoor women (we definitely are). I am in awe of her ability to keep on going when the poo hits the fan, and very glad that as well as outdoors we are now confirmed ‘kitchen table coffee and cake’ friends as well (if you don’t have one of those I suggest you sort that out asap).  

Amiga C is the other half of Amiga B…by that I mean they are two. This half of the pair is equally up for bunkhouse shenanigans, night nav exploits, alongside getting out in the hills with others young and older, for all the right reasons. She owns some impressively matchy outdoor clothing, and works very very hard with young people outdoors in various ways. 

Amiga D became a Faceplant friend just over a year ago, via the Devon Wild Swimming network. We finally met in early October 2016 (real faces!) at the WAEXPO after a flurry of messaging and trying to work out which of a few hundred outdoory women in a room the other one of us was. Since then we have done moonlit swims and wild camps, and an evening of expeditiony cud-chewing is in the planning. Her energy seems boundless – enthusiasm for outdoorsness, adventure and fun alongside genuine interest in others and what makes them tick makes for a magnetic combination in her personality.

Amiga E...a best buddy for the last 15 years…a free-spirited, low-impact living, creative soul, who is truly at her best outdoors and in particular with her own two young boys – fires on the beach, and moonlit camps on chilly autumn nights amongst the myriad things that they will thank her for when they’re older. Most recently she, Amiga B and I swam the Dart10k (not together but as it turned out only a few minutes apart), and on one chilly evening training swim discussed our impending ‘poo window’ and the need for its fine tuning for the day of the event. I’ve never had ‘poo window’ friends before, but am very very glad I do now. 

And Amiga F – slightly younger yes, outdoorsy in her work and play – often to be found in a boat of some kind, but equally at home in walking  boots and mucking about in a high moorland hostelry. She’s currently planning a mischevious outdoor shop trip for our first descent on her new living location…

Tomorrow I will be at WAEXPO 2017 with BCD and E – we’ll almost certainly be raising the average age a little, having a good cackle and a chat, as well reminding ourselves that being over 40-something and doing this adventure stuff has huge impact on our own lives as well as those of others around us.

Thankyou Amigas!

Tingleskin – and other new words for outdoor swimmers…

Tingleskin‘ came out of my head as I wrote a tweet a few weeks ago, about a particularly refreshing dawn sea swim. Over the past few weeks a few more descriptive words have played around in moments of swimmy relaxation. Enjoy, and do let me know your additions to the glossary…

Mingledip – a sort of less swimmy swim, where a few people bob up and down and have a chat, swapping chat buddies as the time (may only be 5 minutes) goes on.

Bimbleswim – a different sort of less swimmy swim, involving more bobbing and more chat, maybe just with two people.

Two people bimbleswimming. Well maybe mingledipping as I was there too…

Icymersion – the feeling of icy yet hot needles being prickled all over you as you take your first strokes in the winter sea. Interestingly the same prickly sting can be achieved by salt water swimming within 12 hours of shaving your legs…(a swimmy friend warned me, and I chose to ignore it, to my cost!).

Tingleskin – as a result of icymersion (specifically in salt water), and a brisk wind , tingleskin can be felt up to 10 hours after swimming. Some like it, some do not – the former often delay showering for a day in order to maximise the feeling (oh, just me?!).

Frozeytoes – Blue ones. Hours later. Sometimes white…and always hurty.

Left toes taking longer to come back, despite warm floor. Excuse the sandy toenail.

Sandycrack – ‘crevice is a positively filthy word’ said Captain Melchett, and he was correct. Only sand is generally not filthy, just scratchy…

Soggytogs – the normal state of up to three lots of swim kit at a time in my house – either just washed, and drying properly, or hastily rinsed of salt and hung up in a vain attempt to be dryish before another swim later. Clammy cossie anyone?

Shiversnacks – cake, chocolate, biscuits, anything shary, sugary and squarey. (That’s basically a food poem right there!).

Porridge in a flask – not squarey, or sharey, but very warming…

Cheekyswigs – a couple of our local shoalers are often armed with small flasks of brandyesque concotions to add to flasked coffee. How civilised. (And slightly naughty at 10am on a Saturday morning).

If two swimmers get into the sea and no photos are taken, did the swim still happen?

We may have met by a tunnel…

We may have walked onto the beach…

We may have chatted, and got changed slowly…

We may have remarked on a lack of motivation…

We may have walked into the waves, wincing…

We may have said “just a quick dip”… 

We may have done several head-up-breaststroke ‘lengths’ of the beach (well, part of it!)…

We may have stayed in a few minutes too long because it was actually rather wonderful… 

We may have warmed up a bit, with hot blackcurrant, and sea glass hunting…

We may have warmed up some more, with a hot pasty and a cup of tea… 

But there are no photos, so it may not have happened at all… 

Amazing Day Project

In November 2016 the band Coldplay asked fans to film 20 seconds of their day. The best clips picked up from the hashtag  #Coldplayamazingday on social media were to be compiled into a film, with the soundtrack of their song Amazing Day.

You can read the full details of the project here, and watch the resulting film on their Facebook page here.

As much as the word ‘amazing’ may be overused, the film is a fine antidote to our daily world news – the people on the clips are doing fun, smiley things, things that we’d all like to believe could be our own daily events. Behind the stagefront of a Facebook feed, an Instagram or Twitter profile it is easy to be convinced that this is the case for other people – when of course most of us are living completely normal lives where the average day involves nothing amazing (unless you get in the sea, which is nearly always awesome, never mind amazing!).

Watching the film a second time I realised how few indoor scenes there were. Nearly every clip or shot was outside – beaches, clifftop views, cityscapes, mountains, aerial views, waterfalls, forests, playgrounds, rivers, sports fields, geysers and waves -they’re all there and more. Given the chance, people choose these settings as their own ‘amazing’ places. 

And yes, they’re the staged (or unstaged!), submitted choices from an audience of thousands, whittled down to the ones that fill 3 minutes. But that such a large proportion of the scenes are outdoors is surely indicative of our underlying need for contact with the real world, real air, real land and sea-scapes?
2017 is a year for increasing the proportion of my life I spend outside. If that can be a resolution then I may have made one… 

My top 10 types of sea

All the same sea, but behaving very differently…and there’ll be many others, I know! 

In at number 10…deceptively warm looking yet very icey November sea… (Devon, UK)
Sneaking in at 9 – the ‘too exciting for a swim’ sea (same beach as above); (Devon,UK)
8. Dropping from the top 5 – sparkly mirrored wavelety sea (from the inside); (Devon, UK)

New release at 7 – moody Poldarkian sea…(Cornwall, UK)
Sliding down from the top spot – now at number 6 – poetically sunlit 6am silhouettes sea; (Devon, UK)
Smashing into the top 5 – ‘seaweed where you don’t expect it’ sea…(Devon, UK)
No movement at 4 – lit by crepuscular rays, the grey but reflective sea; (Devon, UK)
Another non-mover at 3 – the ‘where exactly IS the horizon?’  sea…(Kent, UK)

At 2, an ever popular re-release, the ‘U.K. disguised as the Maldives’ sea; (Devon, UK)
And, straight to the top spot – it’s number 1 for the ‘water and sand – nature’s art’ sea…(Devon, UK). 

That’s all pop pickers!