Microadventure #12; new year resolution
3rd January 2016
A new year’s day swim is a well established custom in this country. Like cheese rolling or fell running there is something particularly masochistic and British about our traditional customs and taking the plunge in a chilly lake or river at the coldest time of year is no exception. Still, it had been a very mild winter so far so the water shouldn’t be too cold, I told myself. However, on waking up on new year’s day I noticed a frost on the ground and wondered why I had chosen to do this. A band of fellow swimmers from the night before transformed into a team of supportive towel holders and bag carriers, but with 2015 already over I had no choice but to commit to the challenge to complete my Year of Microadventures.
With friends and family we headed for a swim spot on the moors near Todmorden. On the way we passed through Hebden Bridge, where piles of sandbags, ruined carpets and furniture outside the houses told the heartbreaking story of last week’s floods. On one of the main streets, which was only just recovering from devasting floods 3 years ago, all the shops were gutted and deserted, save for a steaming cafe full of cyclists, where on the window was the hand-painted declaration, ‘We live in a great town’. As it says on the town’s exit signs ‘That was SO Hebden Bridge’.
Dirty water full of debris was still hurtling down the river Calder so it was a wise decision to head up the moor top to Gaddings Dam, a disused reservoir on Langfield Common. With views of Stoodley Pike and the Calder Valley, it’s a stunning spot, if a little open to the elements for swimming. But we were not the first there that morning. On our arrival a hardy looking swimmer was just getting out. I joked with him that he probably goes in every day. “No, only about 5 time a week” he responded. The brave fellow is a member of the local mountain rescue team who had spent Christmas rescuing flood victims from their houses. He swims in all weathers, sometimes breaking the ice to get in, but advised today was a relatively tropical 8 degrees.
Feeling like there is no time like the present (and wanting to get it over with) I peeled off my layers and stuck on a swimming cap, then waded in until it was deep enough. Turning to face my spectators I dipped and swam back to shore. Yes it was cold, but honestly not that cold, (although I didn’t hang about for a second lap!). The coldest bit was getting out when an icy wind whipped around my bare flesh causing goosebumps and the sort of skin colour that usually goes with sunburn. Fortunately I had a brilliant back up team in Lou, Gav and Simon on hand with towels, hats and hot chocolate. Cath was serving up delicious freshly cooked pancakes from her gas stove and before I knew it I was dressed, warm and toasting a completed Year of Microadventures.
Looking back on 12 small adventures, what had I learnt:
- Setting myself the challenge and blogging about it on a monthly basis was enough incentive to make it happen. I am hopeless at new year’s resolutions but that’s because they are uninspiring, (eat more healthily, exercise more etc). Making a positive commitment to do something challenging and fun was motivation enough to stay the course.
- The size and scale of the adventure was unimportant. On his Year of Microadventure webpage Alistair Humphreys suggest 12 overnight adventures, but only 4 of mine were. Work and family commitments meant I often only had a few hours, but I discovered the joy of squeezing in a bit of adventure into the tightest space.
- I did things I would not have done otherwise. Seeing the dawn, or navigating to a mid point or sleeping in a field did not take me far from home but they pushed me out of my normal routes and routines and helped me see the world and myself in a different light.
- Adventures with groups of friends were great, adventures with my children or one other friend were great and adventures on my own were also great. The point was doing what you could, with who you could, when you could.
- The best microadventures did not need a great deal of planning. Spontaneity and motivation were the best combination. Two of the most exciting, the walk to the horizon and the walk around the edge of town, were thought up on the spot. Two of the bigger adventures, the 4 day canoe trip and the young people’s camp felt a bit like cheating as they took a lot of planning and I was probably going to do them anyway.
- Some of the recommended Microadventures were beyond my means, especially with children in tow, but I am pleased that they wanted to get involved and we were able to think up new ones of our own. The day without electicity and the walk to the food bank were not intended to be educational, but we were able to see a little of how other people live and all gained a lot from that.
- I am really proud I did it all. I shared some good times with dear friends and family and have a full photo album to prove it. Life can be very same-y and focused on the business of work and homelife, but we can have a little bit of adventure even in the busiest life – and feel all the more alive for it!