Firstly I’m going to apologise for how long it’s taken me to post this. I wrote it days after we returned and then due to a whirlwind of things happening everything blog related has been temporarily on hold. Everything is settling down a bit now so I thought it was about time I got this update on our adventure up for you all to read!
A few weeks ago we went on a great weekend away in Wales with 2 friends that I used to work with when I lived in Bournemouth. They were actually the first people that I introduced Lee to when we got together and it’s as though Lee has known them for as long as I have.
The weekend was booked through Adventure Britain. They arranged everything from the hotel and breakfast to the activities and even a packed lunch both days. The only thing we had to do was get ourselves there and arrange our evenings.
I was pleasantly surprised by our accommodation. The Bluebell Hotel in Neath had good sized, well decorated rooms that were clean and modern. There was a hospitality tray with a selection of tea, coffee and hot chocolate (all complimentary) and you could even have your mini fridge stocked with a range of soft and alcoholic beverages for a charge. We had a room at the front of the hotel which was a little noisy late at night due to being on the main strip of Neath nightlife but the rooms at the back were peaceful and to be honest with the window closed (and probably due to tiredness from the activities) I had no trouble getting a good night’s sleep. We didn’t eat in the hotel of an evening but breakfast was included in our package so we used the restaurant in the morning. There was plenty of choice for breakfast including a continental or cooked option, or a bit of both if you fancied. The pastries were lovely and came freshly warmed from the kitchen. The cooked breakfast was a little greasy for me on the first day so I opted for something lighter on Sunday morning. The staff at The Bluebell were very friendly and welcoming. One thing to bare in mind is that the car park is tiny with space for only 3 or 4 cars depending on how you park. Is not the end of the world as the station car park is only a few minutes away but you do have to pay to park there.
So after arriving and getting settled on Friday afternoon we were met by our instructor on Saturday morning at 8.30am. We had opted for climbing and abseiling on Saturday and canyoning on Sunday. We were joining another group of 4 and another couple, making the group 10 in total. After brief introductions with James our instructor he did a quick check that we had all the necessary clothes and footwear with us. It turns out most of us didn’t. We were all being a little over optimistic about the weather in Wales (which in my opinion can be forgiven seeing as it’s the end of June!) and so were sent upstairs for extra layers and anything waterproof that we owned.
Back in reception and we were ready to go. The plan was to follow James in convoy to a disused quarry that offered great opportunities for a variety of climbing abilities. We all went to get our cars (ours was in the train station car park) and when we drove to the front of the hotel they were all gone! Mild panic ensued. However after a quick phone call to the office, a detour round the one way system and some directions from James we were back in formation with the other cars and on our way.
When we got to our destination we had a 15 minute walk up the the rocks. The paths were quite steep and uneven and by the time we reached the top we’d all warmed up and wondered why we were wearing so many layers.
James set off to rig up some climbs while Meg, our other instructor, got everyone kitted out with helmets and harnesses. We were given a demonstration and then we were free to start climbing, with one person heading up and three people supporting at the bottom.
I watched a couple of people have a go and then it was my turn. It’s definitely not as easy as some people make it look, and you have to trust both yourself and the people below who have your support rope. It’s hard work mentally and physically. But it’s also great fun and an achievement when you reach the top (I did it!). It’s also a very communal activity even though only one person in each group is climbing at a time. We were all shouting encouragement and help from the ground so everyone gets involved.
I definitely found coming down harder. Here you have to put your trust in the people you’re tied to at the bottom, lean back and walk down. Unfortunately for me, someone (I’m naming no names Tony), stepped away from the wall to have a look as I was leaning back. While I wasn’t going to plummet to the ground it did mean that I suddenly had extra slack in my rope meaning that I slipped backwards and was dangling, bum to the wall legs in the air! Surprisingly I didn’t swear, I was very quiet and a bit scared to move. After a few seconds of hanging around I found the courage to pull myself up and get my feet horizontal to the wall. I got down slowly and quietly and definitely felt relieved to get my feet back on flat ground!
Everyone had the opportunity to climb a few different faces several times, and there was no pressure to do anything you didn’t want to do. I liked this and it made the day fun and relaxed. After my first climb the rain started. At first I thought it was just drizzle but when I saw the water dripping from my helmet and the streams of water running of the rocks I knew it was more than just a brief shower. James had been right about the weather being more extreme at the height we were and I was suddenly glad I’d nipped back up to the hotel room for my thermal layer and a waterproof jacket. If anyone is climbing in Wales I’d definitely recommend investing in a waterproof jacket and maybe some sort of water resistant combat trousers. I wore leggings which were fine but they didn’t stop me getting wet.
After lunch we climbed even higher to do an abseil. James had set up on an almost flat face with just one ledge to navigate right at the start. After my slip earlier in the day I felt much more nervous about the abseiling than I had done previously. However this time it was actually James at the top supporting and you were in control of your own rope, giving yourself as much slack as you wanted meaning you were also in control of your own speed. The initial lean back over the edge is a bit daunting and navigating the ledge took some patience and nerve but once on the flat face it was (ab)sailing all the way! Again encouragement from the group was great and everyone managed to get down. I was so impressed with Lee as he overcame a long standing fear of heights and managed to abseil all the way the the bottom, even getting in a few bounces on the way. A fun day that saw lots of us conquer fears and work as a team to get everyone climbing and abseiling. By 3pm we were heading back to the hotel, this was just the right amount of time as we were all getting cold, wet and tired by this point.
Saturday was fun, but in my opinion Sunday was even better. Canyoning wasn’t something I’d ever done before and I didn’t really know what to expect. Again we were picked up from The Bluebell and followed (no getting lost this time) to Brecon National Park.
We’d been advised that the water would be cold and so had taken note this time and layered up. I was wearing a thermal base layer, rash vest and then the wetsuit that was supplied by Adventure Britain. Others had opted to bring their own wetsuit and double up, although I don’t think you really need to, I was fine in just the one. I would recommend wetsuit gloves though. These aren’t provided but offer a bit of protection for your hands and also keep your fingers warm – they were the only part of me that felt cold, although it was completely bearable.
Once we were all kitted up we were driven by minibus to the start of our course. I really wasn’t at all sure what to expect but was ready to try something new. Our instructor was great. An ex-marine with plenty of character. He managed to offer the right amount of authority and reassurance whilst challenging our limits and introducing us all to a new exhilarating experience.
The first thing we had to do was jump into the water. I can honestly say this is the coldest you will be all day. That first contact with the water feels icy and I can see why everyone said it was an instant hangover cure. Once you’re wet though you soon warm up with the help of your wetsuit. We did a few practice jumps and dives and then we were ready to head off on our adventure.
I’m not going to give you every detail, as part of the fun for me was the unknown. I didn’t know everything that we’d be doing beforehand and I think this added to the excitement of the day. I will say that two of my favourite things were crawling into a waterfall and feeling the water hammer down on the back of my head (we were wearing helmets) and jumping from the rocks.
As I’m getting older I definitely have more fear than I used to. As a kid I would of jumped from a height without a second thought. But faced with a 30ft drop (this was the biggest jump) my nerves certainly kicked in. I stood by the edge wondering if I had the nerve to leap and then I did it, and it was fun, exhilarating and amazing. Plunging into the water felt like a rush. I turned and looked back up at where I’d jumped from and felt proud of myself for just letting go and diving in. I even went back for a second jump.
As someone that has always enjoyed trying new things and a bit of adventure I absolutely loved our weekend in Wales. Adventure Britain were a great company to book with, great value and everything was taken care of. We’re already thinking about what our next adventure should be.
We went as two couples and had a wonderful time. Having experiences like that with my fiancé Lee bring us even closer and help us to make memories I’ll treasure forever. But I would totally recommend Adventure Britain if you’re looking for an active and adventurous hen or stag weekend. It would make the perfect getaway for a larger group. And take a waterproof action camera, I promise you will get some wonderful shots and videos!
We’ve climbed, abseiled and been canyoning, what should we try next? I’m also really keen to hear what other adventures people have been on with their partners or what you’re planning for your hen and stag parties?
Have a great week everyone,