It’s almost time to say goodbye to 2016. What can I say? It’s been a mixed year. Huge political shake ups, continuing civil wars, the Rio Olympics and Paralympics and Planet Earth II.
Personally, there have been sad times and happy times. I’ve had some great adventures and ticked off a couple of long held ambitions. Focusing on the positives, and in no particular order, here are my top 10 of 2016:
1. Running the London marathon
The first three months of 2016 were spent pounding roads and muddy footpaths in preparation for running the London marathon. My once in a lifetime challenge.
The day itself was incredible and by far the most physically demanding thing I’ve done. There were tough parts (the last six miles), amazing parts (spectator support and running over Tower Bridge) and emotional parts (finishing). Would I do it again? No way! But I’m very glad to have completed it.
2. Walking the Yorkshire Three Peaks
We spent a week in the Yorkshire Dales and were blessed with ideal walking weather. Perfect for tackling the Yorkshire Three Peaks – Pen-y-Ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside. Often walked as a day long charity challenge, we chose the easy option and spread them over three separate days.
3. Family backpacking adventures
I’ve cheated here and combined two trips into one. At the start of the year we decided the kids were old enough for backpacking. We bought a couple of lightweight tents and chose a couple of weekend routes close to home.
It wasn’t all plain sailing. I overestimated the mileage we could comfortably walk on our Lambourn Valley Way weekend. And the weather was just a tad too warm on our Thames Path walk. But both weekends were fun, we rewarded ourselves with lovely meals out and made some great memories.
4. Going underground at Zip World Caverns, Blaenau Ffestiniog
My scary but exciting birthday present. Zip lining in caves, crawling through tunnels and scaling the side of the caverns. Are you brave enough to tackle Zip World Caverns?
5. Watching a Midsummer’s Night Dream, Creation Theatre, Oxford
“Quick, follow me. Walk in zigzags and blink your eyes really fast. Get in the van, hurry”. Think of Shakespeare and you don’t generally think of being bundled into a van in a public car park. Or taking part in an audition. Or popping into the printers to pick up wedding invites.
Part immersive performance, part treasure trail around Oxford this was an incredibly imaginative version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from Creation Theatre. It was simply the best production I have ever seen.
6. Descending into Gaping Gill
This was an unplanned, but welcome addition, to our Yorkshire Dales holiday. After spotting an advert in a local cafe we seized the opportunity to descend 100m by winch into Gaping Gill, a large pothole. We had to contend with an early start and a couple of hours queuing but it was worth the wait!
7. Finally finding a bee orchid. And then another. And another.
You know the saying about waiting for buses? Well this year I could have substituted the words ‘bee orchid’. I was so happy to find my first bee orchid at Warburg Nature Reserve, closely followed by several more discoveries. I even found one on a roadside verge whilst out on my lunchtime walk. How could I possibly have missed them in previous years?
8. Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim
I’ve wanted to visit Giant’s Causeway for many years. It has been on my bucket list forever. With expectations so high, thank god it lived up to them!
9. Watching coypu at our campsite in France
Whilst on holiday in Brittany my favourite activity was watching a family of coypu living near our campsite. I’d head down to the river every evening, about half an hour before dusk, and wait patiently for them to appear. I was childishly excited at the first glimpse of the coypu each night, and even more so whenever the young appeared.
10. Starlings and moon rise at Otmoor
Over recent years we’ve made an annual pilgrimage to watch the starling murmuration at RSPB Otmoor. This year, in addition to 40,000 starlings, we were treated to the most amazing moon rise. Two spectacular natural sights in one day!
What are my plans for 2017? We’re keeping things flexible at the moment but I have a very long UK bucket list which I’m hoping to make a dent in. How about you?