June 25th - my family and I visited Skomer Island and had an amazing day with some great photography oportunities.....
Located less than a mile off the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast, Skomer is truly a wonderful place to visit. Between April and July, Skomer is well known for its puffins, but there is so much more to this National Nature Reserve - including Manx shearwaters, dolphins, seals, razorbills. Shades of pink are added as the weather warms and swathes of red campion cloak the landscape.
Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin kindly send me a bottle of their excellent Arkh-Angell Storm Strength (57% ABV) Orkney Gin recently to enjoy on my travels so I chose the summer solstice for this.
What better place to review this navy strength gin than at Llyn y Fan Fach (altitude approx. 500m) from where a folklore legend is connected with the lake, known as the "Lady of the Lake" - Llyn y Fan Fach - Wikipedia
For this trip onto the Black Mountain in Carmartnenshire, South Wales, I was joined by two Mountain Leaders: Helen Menhinick and Heather Maling, and our objective was to picnic by the lake before heading off to a much more remote part of the mountain to test a new mountain tent. Helen and I regularly work in this mountainous area teaching navigation and mountain skills and further details can be seen on her website brynwalking.co.uk
Sat by the lake with Helen and Heather for cocktails and tapas style food was a memorable experience on the longest day and this Arkh-Angell Gin is highly recommended. We took advice from Orkney Distilling who produce the gin and their website www.orkneydistilling.com had suggested a couple of ways to enjoy the gin.
This private course for 360-Expeditions was held at Bryn Heulog, Newtown on June 11th/12th.
It was a pleasure to have Rolfe Oostra attend the course on a brief flying visit from his home in the Pyrenees as he needed to renew his First Aid certification before flying off to Pakistan for three climbing trips.
Full details of the course can be viewed at https://recfirstaid.net and Rescue Emergency Care was established in 1986 to provide specialist outdoor First Aid Training. To enquire about this course, please contact Helen Menhinick of Menhinick Outdoors Limited - firstname.lastname@example.org or Alan Ward - email@example.com. The course tutor is Alan Ward - International Mountain Leader.
1. Alan is by far the best First Aid instructor I have met. His style of delivery, mixed with relevant anecdote and thorough knowledge of every topic taught was exceptional. I will recommend this course to all my colleagues.
2. It was a pleasure to see you again mate and you are a maestro at what you do! Great course! Thanks again!
3. The greatest strength of this course is the well experienced Training Provider with lots of anecdotal experience to bring the training to life which was really interactive and engaging.
4. Enjoyed the scenarios to put theory into practice.
5. The in-depth knowledge and experience of the instructor.
Congratulations to the 8 participants who completed the course to a very high standard.
Thanks to Helen Menhinick of Menhinick Outdoors Limited for observing and assisting as she beings her pathway to becoming a REC Trainer.
The course was held at Brecon Scout Hut and there are 2 CPD points approved by Mountain Training For this course.
The course is administered and certificated by the original REC (established in 1986) organisation.
The next REC L5 course is on June 15th/16th at Brecon Scout Hut - the full syllabus can be viewed on the Rescue Emergency Care website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and bookings made via email@example.com as Menhinick Outdoors Limited kindly provide the administration for these courses.
PLease scroll down to view the syllabus for this course.
FEEDBACK - the greatest strengths of this course are:
1. Practical experience of the instructor + training equipment used.
2. Alan's knowledge + experience.
3. Open discussions + feedback after each item.
4. Instructor experience and knowledge + Working with other people in similar roles + sharing of experiences and discussions.
5. Alan's vast expedition knowledge made the training interesting as practical examples enhanced learning.
6. Good content + real life experiences strengthened delivery.
7. Very personable information at a good pace + GSOH + lots of relevant scenarios which were real life scenarios.
8. Great balance of theory and practical + trainer experiences invaluable.
FEEDBACK - Improvemennts to the course could include:
2. Less time on L2 topics but this was beneficial as a recap.
3. More hands on.
4. More comprehensive coverage of theory that is later assessed.
TRAVEL & EXPEDITION FIRST AID (16 HR): A two day course (16 hours). The travel and expedition first aid course is designed to introduce a systematic way of advanced first aid for managing casualties. Topic learning and practicals intermixed with scenarios of real situations. The course includes:
First aid training with the REC scheme is easy and fun. The course is progressive by building on each session, introducing new scenarios to test all techniques for:
Congratulations to the four outdoor professionals who completed the course during the week and also gained 2 CPD points! The feedback received was very positive:
1. "As an overseas expedition leader, I had often heard about this course in the context of the British Safety Standards for adventure travel. I had previously attended a number of Alan's courses and these had always been delivered at a high standard, and this course was no exception. Both days were well structured and expertly delivered, including real case studies and scenarios to enhance learning. All very relevant and essential if you are involved in the outdoor sector, and especially if you run your own business. Particularly liked the personal anecdotes from Alans extensive experience. Highly recommended".
Matt Brown - International Mountain Leader
2. "I've been on many of Alan's courses over the years and they are always interesting, informative and supported with personal experiences that bring reality to the subject. And always plenty of biscuits. Great course Alan"
Mark Demmery - Mountain Leader
3. "Thanks again for the course - lots of food for thought came out of it!"
Tom Robertson - Mountain Leader
4. "This course delivered by Alan Ward was great at making you think of everything required in planning a trip anywhere from day trip, field trip to adventure travel. The course was brought to life through Alan’s personal experiences."
Ceri Morgan - Hill & Moorland Leader
The Royal Geographical Society (RGS) Off-Site Safety Management course (OSSM) was designed in response to concerns about safety in off-site activities. It addresses the content of legislation in this area and provides an opportunity for attendees to explore the application of the legislation in practical situations. The OSSM course will be appropriate for those working in a range of different situations where they are responsible for taking children/young people/adults out of their everyday environments (e.g. on geography or environmental field trips, on sporting away events, on organised activities). It aims to equip attendees with the ability to apply knowledge, understanding and problem solving skills in a range of contexts.
The scheme is designed for adults working with both young people and adults where they will be required to plan, manage and evaluate off-site safety policies, procedures and activities. It will be particularly appropriate for teachers, lecturers, trainers and youth workers who are seeking to develop their knowledge and skills in off-site safety management. It is also relevant to those who work in organisations seeking compliance with the new British Standard, BS 8848: the specification for the provision of visits, fieldwork, expeditions, and adventurous activities, outside the United Kingdom.
March 1st to 4th: Mountain Skills
March 9th: Travel ideas for 2022 - an illustrated presentation for trekking in Morocco, Iceland and Nepal this year.
March 9th/10th: RGS certificated Off Site Safety Management qualifying for Mountain Training CPD points
March 23rd/24th: REC Level 5 Advanced First Aid for Travel and Expeditions (this course is full but dates for another course are about to be confirmed)
March 25th: NNAS Tutor Award
Please use the Contact Form above for enquiries thank you.
March 9th at Brecon Scout Hut (7.30pm) but bookings are required by email to firstname.lastname@example.org please as space is limited.
Topics covered will be Mt Toubkal in the High Atlas mountains of Morocco, the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland and Everest Base Camp. 2022 departures are:
This 5 night break to Reykjavik was booked through BA Holidays with a 4WD booked for three days with Europcar. The BA Holidays package included Club World flights, airport transfers in Reykjavik and accommodation with breakfast at the Canopy Hilton Reykjavik. Due to the early flight departure time from LHR T5 we stayed the night of February 9th at the Hilton Garden Inn - we parked with Purple Parking and checked in for our flights before taking the free Paddington Express over to T2/T3 and our hotel.
The 0515 Paddington Express took us over to T5 where all we had to do was pass through security and go up to the BA lounge for breakfast before the flight. The A320 was slightly late taking off but after 2hrs 45mins we landed at Keflavik International Airport after descending over snow covered terrain.
Not having flown since March 2020 when I returned from Indonesia I was quite apprehensive about this trip with all the Covid-19 administrative requirements. Our flight permits were issued by Nuffield after our Lateral Flow Tests at Cardiff Airport cleared us to fly. Staff at the BA check in counter asked us if our paperwork was in order but didn't ask to see it. Even on arrival at Keflavik, the entry process was simple enough and didn't take too long. I was very relieved.......
Our transfer to the hotel took about an hour and we were soon checked in to Room 405 which was quite spacious and pleasantly furnished.
We spent the afternoon at leisure, visiting the Hallgrímskirkja Church which stands guard over the city and provides excellent views from the tower (ISK 1000), the Sun Voyager which is a striking steel sculpture by Jón Gunnar Árnason, made to resemble a Viking ship but is in fact a dream boat and an ode to the sun and the old Reykjavic Harbour. We returned to the hotel through the fascinating central area of the city.
Dinner was at the Italia Restaurant on Laugavegur, very close to our hotel, where the food was average and not a restaurant I'd return to.
The Canopy Hilton Reykjavik provided excellent breakfasts which set us up for a day in the sub zero temperatures which we experienced every day. We were due to collect our rental vehicle at midday so decided to walk the 5km there to explore the suburbs on the way. We started by walking along the Sculpture & Shore Walk, passing the Sun Voyager and the new Höfði lighthouse (opposite Höfði House - the mayor's reception hall) which guides all the ships coming into the main commercial harbour to the east. Beyond the lighthouse, we headed inland and followed Laugarasvegur and Holtavegur down to the light industrial area to Europcar.
We'd booked a Kia Sportage AWD, similar to the car I have here but with AWD due to the very wintery weather conditions prevailing. A Suzuki Across Hybrid was allocated to us and this was a nice vehicle to drive. The handover briefing was very thorough and came with a Europcar 'Move in Iceland' safe driving brochure. Staff checked road conditions for our proposed 'Golden Circle Tour' the following day.
We were able to explore more of Reykjavik with the car and explored more of the old Reykjavic Harbour area. My previous visits to Iceland were in 2009 and 2010 when I saw two ancient (1948) whale catcher vessels in very poor condition. Now, in 2022, these vessels have been refurbished and look ready for sea although no harpoon guns are fitted so I'm not sure what their intended use might be - they are illustrated above.
Over in the old Reykjavic Harbour area is the fabulous Grandi Mathöll (Website: https://www.grandimatholl.is/) - a unique street-food hall in the innovative old harbour district of Reykjavik. 8 great food vendors using fresh Icelandic produce to deliver an array of great dishes. We enjoyed lunch here and returned for dinner after our Golden Circle Tour on the Saturday - my plaice and chips (Frystihusid counter) and Yolande's Icelandic lamb (Fjarhusid counter) were two fabulous meals........
After lunch we drove over to the the island of Grótta, a unique natural pearl in the western part of the capital region. It is about 5 hectares and is connected to land in one part where there is unspoiled and unique nature. The shores south of Grótta, Seltjörn, and Bakkavík are suitable for outdoor activities and are rich in life that is worth the visit. The birdlife is very diverse and about 106 species of birds have been seen in Seltjarnarnes. Life in and around Bakkatjörn is interesting to observe and explore. From the beach, you can get out on foot to the island and stay there for about 6 hours. Flood and tidal information can be found in the flood table for the relevant month. There is also information about floods and tides on a sign by Gróttugrandi.
We visited the Reykjavík Maritime Museum (Website: https://borgarsogusafn.is/sjominjasafnid-i-reykjavik) on our way back into the city, quite a small museum but we both found it to be interesting.
Returning in the dark we parked next to the hotel in the Tradarkot multi-story car park on Hverfisgata where there was always space available. On entry a barrier rises after your car has been photographed with no card being issued. On exiting, a machine asks for the number plate and you then click on the image of the car and pay - it was all very simple.
Dinner was at the excellent Hard Rock Cafe (Hard Rock Cafe Reykjavik - Cafes in Reykjavik, Iceland) which was just a short walk away from the hotel. We both enjoyed ribs for the main course followed by a dessert.
We woke to fabulous weather where the skies were blue and no snow falling which was a real bonus for our self-drive Golden Circle Tour which was expected to be 8hrs + to Þingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss.
Our route out of Reykjavik took us to Highway 1 until we reached Highway 36 where we turned east towards the Thingvellir National Park, designated by a special law on the protection of the area, passed by the Alþing on 7th May, 1928. Þingvellir was the site of the Alþing, the annual Parliament of Iceland from the year 930 until the last session held at Þingvellir in 1798. Since 1881, the Parliament has been located within Alþingishúsið in Reykjavík.
I don't think this trip would have been achievable without the vehicle we were in as there were large lengths of snow covered road to contend with even more snow starting to drift across Highway 36 in places.
Geysir, sometimes known as The Great Geysir, is a geyser in southwestern Iceland. It was the first geyser described in a printed source and the first known to modern Europeans. The English word geyser derives from Geysir. The name Geysir itself is derived from the Icelandic verb geysa the verb from Old Norse. Geysir lies in the Haukadalur valley on the slopes of Laugarfjall hill, which is also the home to Strokkur geyser about 50 metres south. We were lucky to see The Great Geysir erupt three times.
Gullfoss, one of Iceland's best-known landmarks can be found tucked away in a canyon. There's nothing delicate about the breathtaking Gullfoss waterfall, so maybe "tucked" isn't the right word. In the summertime, the waterfall produces on average 130 cubic meters of water per second, and has been recorded to produce up to 2000m³/s per second. Early in the 20th century, some entrepreneurs had grand ideas about building a dam by Gullfoss and use its raw power to create electricity. For lovers of British rock, its worth noting that Gullfoss can be seen on the album cover of "Porcupine" by "Echo & the Bunnymen". The frozen Gullfoss was a spectacular site but the temperature must have been about -30C if wind chill was taken in to account. We parked at the Visitor Centre to view the waterfall from the upper viewing point, then drove down to the lower viewpoint for more views and photography. The steps between the two car parks were closed because of snow. The lower path was also snowed over and closed but normally this path allows very close access to the waterfalls.
There are well equipped visitor centres at all these sites with shops and refreshments available. All these sites have free admission but a parking fee was required at Þingvellir.
Our return journey into Reykjavik took us past the Keiro Volcanic Crater - a55m deep explosion crater that harbours a small green lake in the Grímsnes region. The crater is filled with water and steep circular slopes resemble an ancient Amphitheatre. The crater is nearly 3000 years old, often displaying intense colours.
An extremely enjoyable day with challenging driving conditions but well worth the effort. Without our 4WD capability the day could not have been achieved.
Dinner was back at the Grandi Mathöll (Website: https://www.grandimatholl.is/) for Yolande to enjoy the Icelandic lamb again (Fjarhusid counter) whilst I opted for the Jalapeno Chicken Burger (The Gastro Truck) which was excellent.
After dinner we went out to view the Northern Lights at Grótta where, after several hours we were rewarded with sighting in a couple of directions. Photography was challenging but I ended up with several images I was reasonably happy with.
We woke to falling snow and after another enjoyable breakfast set off to explore the Reykjanes Geopark which lies on major plate boundaries along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, part of the 65,000km mid-ocean ridge that encircles the earth like a seam of a baseball.
One of two UNESCO-recognized areas of international geological significance in Iceland, the Reykjanes Geopark is a unique area. Sitting on the doorstep of Reykjavík, the area is full of natural and geological wonders, rugged lava fields, geothermal areas, and active volcanoes. Still, even though virtually all visitors to Iceland drive through the park on their way from the airport to the Capital region, it is frequently overlooked by visitors but not by us.
The most famous of the tourist attractions in the Reykjanes Geopark is the Blue Lagoon. A man-made lagoon, it is one of two blue water pools in Iceland (the other is Mývatn Nature Baths), and contains 9 million litres (2.4 million gallons) of 37-39°C (99-102°F) hot geothermal sea water. The mineral-rich water is actually the discharge water of the nearby Svartsengi power plant.
We drove past the Keflavik International Airport to the Lighthouse Inn for morning coffee before walking over to the lighthouses and museum area. Apparently this spit of land provides excellent Northern Lights viewing under the right weather conditions. The Garður Old Lighthouse now features a cafe which was closed and overshadowed by the much larger and newer lighthouse.
We then followed the snow covered Highways 45 and 425 along the quiet coast road where we say plenty of Icelandic ponies and lava fields before arriving at the small fishing port of Grindavík. This a fishing town on the Southern Peninsula of Iceland not far from the tuya Þorbjörn. It is one of the few towns with a working harbour on this coast. Most of the inhabitants work in the fishing industry. The Blue Lagoon, Grindavík's premiere attraction, is located 5 kilometres from the town centre.
Yolande managed to navigate us to the Café Bryggjan which was located right on the fishing harbour front where several ocean going fishing boats were tied up. I watched another vessel enter harbour and began to unload the daily cod catch - they'd unloaded 50 tons yesterday and sometimes landed one metre long cod. The crew were very chatty and pleased I'd shown an interest.
Café Bryggjan was amazing in my opinion and I opted for the Lobster Soup with Yolande opting for the GF Vegetable Soup. The price included a refill too which we both enjoyed and bread was also available. I had a couple of open sandwiches whilst Yolande chose the Meringue Cake which was delicious too (I was offered a very small taste).
We drove back into Reykjavik to return the car to Europcar in a snowstorm before getting a taxi back to the hotel.
Dinner was at the Maharaja Restaurant (Maharajah – Ekta indverskur matur) on Geirsgata but it was all fairly average so I wouldn't make a return visit. Heavy snow was falling on the walk back to the hotel.
February 14th - Valentine's Day
Our last full day in Reykjavik, for final sightseeing and shopping with heavy snow falling. After a leisurely breakfast we walked into town to browse a few shops and called in to the pleasant Cafe Rosenberg (Café Rósenberg | Visit Reykjavik) for a late morning coffee and cake. We then called into the 1011 store for a light takeaway lunch we ate back in our hotel room.
After lunch we set off along the Sculpture & Shore Walk, to the Sun Voyager, having to dive in to a snowdrift as the pavement snowplough approached without slowing down. Yolande was in the snowdrift up to her knees as the driver went by without so much as a smile.
We left the Sun Voyager to walk up French Street to the Hallgrímskirkja Church and paid our ISK1000 for the tower lift but the viewing level was bitterly cold but did provide excellent views out over Reykjavik.
Frakkastígur (French Street) is one of the most beautiful streets in the city centre. It is situated north of Skólavörðustígur and travels down from Hallgrímskirkja to the sea. At either end of the street are works of art. The statue of Leifur Eiríksson stands at the top of Skólavörðuholt, and The Sun Voyager by Jón Gunnar Árnason stands by the shore on Sæbraut. Jón Gunnar won a competition for outdoor works for the 200th anniversary of the City of Reykjavík in 1986. The artwork was unveiled in 1990.
Frakkastígur takes its name from the French wooden houses that were transported from Austurstræti in 1901 when the street was built. At the bottom of Frakkarstígur, French shipping companies built a hospital in 1902, which is now used by a music school. Between 1830 and 1914, the French fished cod in Icelandic waters. It is estimated that around 4,000 French fishermen lost their lives in Iceland during this period.
Leaving the Hallgrímskirkja Church we walked down Skólavörðustígur to do some shopping before heading back to the hotel.
Dinner was in the hotel at the Geiri Smart Restaurant (Geiri Smart) which was excellent and all of our food choices turned out very well.
Our last excellent breakfast before checking out and waiting for our airport transfer which was late due to an administration error made by BA Holidays. The issue was soon sorted and after an hour we arrived at Keflavik International Airport where check-in and security was efficient and we found ourselves in the Icelandair Lounge which was nothing to shout about.
Boarding was punctual and Yolande's GF Mexican Chicken and Rice was excellent, as was my Sausages and Mash. After a slightly turbulent descent we were on the ground after a flight time of 2hrs 20mins. The immigration hall was deserted so we were soon down in the baggage hall where I think our priority tagged luggage was about the last to appear.
The aircraft was de-iced before we could taxi away from the terminal at Keflavik Internatioal Airport.
Purple Parking had our car ready for us and we were home after about 3hrs.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our hiliday in Reykjavik and would highly recommend it as a destination.
January 26th at MOD Corsham - this course was delivered to 6 Joint Services personnel who are leaving for the Annapurna region of Nepal in March. This was an enjoyable course for me and I've delivered this course several times to MOD groups.
Following on from retirement, more time will be available for hill and mountain walking on a personal basis with friends.