#RideMore 1. First surf of the year, Sker beach 20th May 2016.

Surfing Kenfig

Shockingly I haven’t surfed this year before today!  A cold spring and just a busy life has kept me out of the sea. Back in January several us decided that we should try and surf, ride and snowboard as much as we can this year. Replacing the #Mentro21 challenge where I set out to surf 21 times last year, this year there is no target, just an attempt to #RideMore.

Kenfig NNR

So today I did get in the water at Sker beach, Kenfig, Bridgend. This involves a half hour walk in a wetsuit from Kenfig National Nature Reserve Centre to the beach. So I can’t take any photo at the beach. So you just get these few shots at the reserve centre.

Kenfig Dunes

The weather was cloudy and surf a messy 2 foot on a incoming high tide. The water is warming, but a winter suit, boots and gloves meant the surfing was a hard slog, especially if you are rusty from a winter off. I basically had an hour long kicking from the sea broken up by three good rides. Plenty to build on as I get into my quest to #RideMore. I had better get back out there quick, DimExcuses.

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#SelfieBench, the true guilty party exposed!

#SelfieBench

Whether you think it is facebook fantastic or instagram insanity, Porthcawl having the world’s first #SelfieBench has divided opinion and caught the attention of the world’s press and social media commentators.

Selfie Bench

Let’s start with three disclaimers: Firstly these are my own opinions and do not represent the views of Bridgend County Borough Council in any way. Secondly the DimExcuses blog could never be accused of topical investigative journalism, so don’t expect any shocking revelations here. Read the home page where I admit this is stuff and nonsense from wild west Wales. Thirdly that isn’t my best side in the #SelfieBench selfie above.

Resting those feet.

Now, in defense of the bench. Ten years of working with street furniture makes me look at this bench in a very practical way. Consideration of bench installation is often for the frail or those with mobility issues that see these benches as a much needed rest when walking a community route like this. Often facing the road as waiting places for lifts from relatives. Many benches are orientated like this, and you have probably never noticed them like this old bench in Gowerton. Nowhere near the quality of bench that Porthcawl’s #SelfieBench is.

Nothing to see here, not #SelfieBench

Don’t blame the bench, the true guilty party here is the breath taking South Wales coast, being so beautiful and at the same rugged that orientating anything around it so that it is not facing this inspiring vista is seen as wrong. And this little bench has been seen as wrong and faced ridicule. Yet in my opinion the true criminal is this view below.

Selfie Bench view, Porthcawl

But I am not the only defender of the bench, people in the tourism know in Porthcawl have revealed that this is world leading design, and heralded the World’s first selfie bench, or #SelfieBench in our modern social media world.

Doing #SelfieBench wrong.

The eyes of the press have been on #SelfieBench all day and it has been trending on social media. It even has its own outside broadcast team!

#SelfieBench Media

So without further a do, lets get that perfect #SelfieBench #selfie!

#SelfieBench #Selfie

Definitely better than that first effort.

Facing the wrong way.

So get down Porthcawl seafront and get your #SelfieBench photo with that true criminal the breathtaking Bridgend coast in the background, DimExcuses.

 

Mentro 17. Even an end has a start, Sker Beach 25th September 2015.

Keeper of the Dunes

You can spot a rubbish made for TV movie by it having two names. “Terror at 30,000 feet – Flight 364GY” or “A bridge too far – the Jessica Long story”. I made those two up, but what I wanted to highlight in a long winded way is that every #Mentro21 post has three names. First it’s mentro number showing how many times I have surfed this year for the Mentro 21 project. Coming from the Welsh word mentro (to venture), Mentro 21 is my effort to surf 21 times this year. Secondly it has an apt title, this time “Even an end has a start”, and finally what beach was surfed and when. This time it was Sker Beach, Bridgend.

Heading for Sker Beach

With five surfs to go for this project the end is in sight but things are changing. A calendar season person or an equinox season person, you have to agree we are now into autumn. Air temperatures are dropping (the sea is still warm) and days are shortening.

This end has a start, and it starts here, this is probably be the last time I will be able to surf from Kenfig National Nature Reserve after work. The last time walking barefoot through the dunes to surf in a summer suit. To get the last four surfs in is going to take weekend days and a return to a winter suit and wetsuit boots.

Keeping the Kenfig Dunes

Again, because of the long walk to the beach I can’t give you any photos from the beach but can give you these shots of the Kenfig reserve in the falling autumn sun, as it sets on the Keeper of the Dunes.

Famously modeled on our former Sustainable Development Officer Gemma McLean, I gave the Keeper a surfboard to look more like the Outdoor Pursuit loving Skokholm lass she is based on.

Starting a lot to look like Gemma

So it looks like shorter days, with October and November surfing guaranteed to complete the #Mentro21 challenge. Somethings should be simple, even an end has a start. Coldwater surfing for me, DimExcuses

Mentro 15. Challenges should be challenging. Sker Beach 11th September, 2015.

Under the watchful eye of the Keeper of the Dunes

The start of Autumn was like the end of spring. I found myself making the same cloudy, barefoot, half hour walk in a full wetsuit to Sker Beach as I did last May. My plan to venture out into the surf 21 times this year (#Mentro21 Project) had looked so easily achievable, but three weeks injury and two weeks in Greece meant I was now seven surfs off my goal.

Add to this an unseasonal flat spell, shortening days and reducing temperatures, I look to be facing an uphill struggle. To make a dent in those seven surfs I planned to go to Sker Beach, Kenfig, Bridgend after work today. The little hints that the surf was good were there all day. Spot the surfers in these photos of the Kenfig Reserve who have been heading to the breakers all day.

Spot the Kenfig Surfer

It was the best I have ever seen , and ever surfed at Sker Beach (the furthest section of Kenfig Sands). The Nature Reserve’s own break was looking awesome. Great A-frame peaks and a steady offshore wind. The two foot swell was getting a lot of attention. I counted twenty surfers in the water on my way out. Unusal as often I have had the beach to myself.

So one of seven surfs down, six to go before the end of the year. Cold water surfing it is then, mentro allan, DimExcuses.

Mentro 14, Sker gets Scarey. Kenfig, Bridgend 17th July 2015.

Keeper of the Dunes

What a strange day, today was in this unusual July. The weather didn’t know what it was doing and the surf didn’t know what it was doing. Very unsettled and changeable. With a big swell and some onshore wind it wasn’t going to be nice surf anywhere so I went in at Sker Beach, the far end of Kenfig Sands within Kenfig National Nature Reserve. I wrote about #MyGreenSpace Kenfig Nature Reserve here. This was the fourteenth session in my #Mentro21 surf project.

Kenfig

This was the third Friday evening that I surfed Sker Beach, Kenfig on my own. This time there was not a soul there. Not a good sign as there is usually a couple of other surfers braving the half hour walk to get a wave on this massive uncrowded wild Beach.

Kenfig Nature Reserve Parking

No photos of the Beach again as you have to leave everything at Kenfig National Nature Reserve Centre before making the long sandy walk through the Dunes. On the plus side there is loads of free parking at the Centre and it is easy to find from Junction 37 of the M4.

Signpost to Sker Beach

The large oak Keeper of the Dunes will point you on your way to the Beach.

Kenfig Keeper

The surf was messy, windy and a good three foot. On your own that is big dark and scarey. The surf was as wild and raw as the the scarweather Sker beach is itself. It is a long hard walk to that beach, but if you get there you get a wide wild Bay pretty much to yourself. There might be one or two other surfers there, and one of them might be me, DimExcuses.

Mentro 9, the Keeper of the Bulldog, meets the Keeper of the Dunes. Sker Beach, June 2015.

Keeper of the Dunes meets the Keeper of the Bulldog

This is a quick update on the #Mentro21 project to surf 21 times this year. It has been very much Rhossili dominated recently, so I wanted to mix it up a bit. Occasionally working in Kenfig National Nature Reserve puts me a mere half hour walk (barefoot in a wetsuit) from Sker Beach, the most eastern corner of Kenfig Sands, Bridgend, Wales.

Surf Keepers

It is just around from Rest Bay, isolated by Sker Point and Pink Bay, but receiving the same surf as Rest Bay. The long walk through the Dunes ensuring only a handful of surfers surfng the Beach.

It was a good swell, at least 2 foot, but blown about by the onshore wind, heavy but rideable. There are what I can only call pits of boulders in the sand which makes for tricky walking out but apart from that it is a pretty much a sandy beach.

Keepers Rockingin the Free World

I have no photos of Sker, because I wasn’t going to leave my camera on the Beach when I surfed. But I did get some photos with the keeper of the Dunes, apparently modelled on Gemma McLean, former Bridgend Sustainably Officer. Even if you don’t get to the beach, Kenfig is well worth a visit, one of Bridgend’s finest green spaces, and certainly at the top of #MyGreenSpace favourites. Another day, another Beach, nine down, twelve to go, I better get on it, DimExcuses.

#MyGreenSpace is Yellow Today, Kenfig National Nature Reserve, June 2015.

Kenfig NNR

In Bridgend we are well into the #MyGreenSpace campaign, helping people discover and share the green spaces important to them. So with a sunny day in June I find myself in Bridgend’s jewel in the crown green space, Kenfig National Nature Reserve.

Keeper of the Dunes

It is a massive sand dune reserve, with spectacular lake, salt marsh and expansive beach. Even the lake has a little beach too, “Hey girls, you are on Molly’s Beach, watch out for the bulldog”!

Molly's Beach

But as I was accompanied by the frenzied frenchton Molly, apparently it was about the massive field of buttercups you can find there at the moment.

Buttercup Molly

A very yellow #MyGreenSpace. So why not go to the #MyGreenSpace section of our Natural Neighbourhoods Website to discover and share your favourite Bridgend Green Space, DimExcuses.

Rain doesn’t stop play at Bridgend Bush Waka Festival! Bryngarw Country Park April 2013

Wet puppy, aah bless :)

An unseasonably cold and wet spring saw the launch of Bush Waka, Bridgend’s first bush-craft festival. The event aimed to encourage people to get involved with their environment by exploring the world of bush-craft and traditional wilderness skills. The event was run on a particularly wet Saturday in April, but it was surprising to see how a drop of rain won’t deter families from Bridgend putting on their waterproofs and heading to Bryngarw Country Park to make the most of all the activities, like this tomato seed planting by the Community Foodie project.  Learn more about Community Foodie Here.

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There was a great turn out and Bryngarw Country Park was almost full at lunch time. Even with the rain it was easy to get involved with activities as the stalls were covered and large parachutes were suspended from trees to keep everything dry. Exciting activities included fire-lighting, campfire cooking, shelter building and chainsaw carving.

Parachute Shelter

There was also a falconry display and stalls for local crafts and conservation groups. If you managed to get around all that you could then relax in the central tipi (supplied by Cwm Tawel Yurt Campsite) for some storytelling.

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Swansea Plantasia were on hand for bushtucker trails and animal antics, but with an opportunity to have a giant hissing cockroach crawl on you , for some that was a case of ‘I’m not a celebrity, but get me out of here’!

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It was nice to see so many families doing what DimExcuses is all about, getting out, having fun and enjoying the Welsh countryside, whatever the weather, and sometimes things are more fun in the rain. A great venue, a great event and a great day out, dimexcuses.

When is it on next year?

Second Ride. Darren Fawr Mountain Bike Trails, Garw Valley.

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I was so impressed with my first ride of the new Darren Fawr mountain bike trials, I just had to get back there with bigger tyres, an idea what to expect and my video camera (now helmet mounted.  I also had to bring along a couple of friends,  long time DimExcuses rider Matt Seager and new to the DimExcuses experienced but accomplished rider Matt Bailey.

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It was a lovely sunny Wales day (I am beginning to think is there any other sort of day in the Garw Valley) and warmer than predicted.  I guess I am just lucky.  The car park was full of riders who had come into the area for the day, they must have read my blog.  There was a really friendly atmosphere and the local kids were whizzing about on their bikes in the car park asking lots of questions.

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So we set off up the blue loop which is quite a pleasant climb.  This time I remembered to GPS the route.  You can see the map here.

The black climb was as hard as I remembered and according to the map we climbed to 1300 feet (the carpark is at 600 feet, so only 700 feet of climb)!  This time I got a photo at the top.

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I was determined to get some better video footage than last time, so I had moved away from a chest camera to a helmet mounted one.  The video I took is of the black / blue decent.  It has been more cut than Jessica Ennis’ abs, and is edited down to 5 minutes.  Keep an eye out for small dog that nearly got run over halfway.  Luckily Matt B herded it out of the way.  Music Crystal Method.

It really is a great ride.  It was then back to the car park to dump my heavy rucksack and mount my camera to the handlebars.  A quick chat with the other guys in the car park and it was back off for another 2 laps of the blue loop, or 3 in Matt B’s case (we like is DimExcuses attitude).  Here is my handle bar footage of the blue loop set a bit loudly to Skrillex ‘Weekends’.

All in all a great ride that is a welcome addition to Wales’ MTB Trails.  DimExcuses.

Darren Fawr, Garw Valley Mountain Bike Trails. First Ride Review.

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I was pleased to hear this month that the Garw Valley had completed their new mountain bike trails.  So armed with my new video camera I had to try them out.  Firstly I drove up the Garw Valley from the M4 Junction 36.  Following signs for Bryngarw I drove up to the top of Bryngarw village.  Parc Calon Lan is well signposted, and has a good sized car park next to a small wooden visitor centre.  They were several riders in the car park and a good atmosphere, plus it was a great afternoon for a ride in the rare winter sun.

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The trails are very well designed.  You can find a map here, on the Garw Valley Community Council website.  There are two loops, both 3km, that can be joined to make one big loop 6km.   The format is very similar to Brechfa’s Derwen green / blue trail, but this ride is very different to that. You start of on the blue loop with a moderate climb up gravel single track.  You soon get to the pinnacle of the blue route.  At this point you can take the blue descent completing the blue run, or head up the black climb.  You could do the blue route several times and have fun.

I took the black route, and it is proper black.  I suppose if you ask for black in a famous coal mining valley you will get pitch black, you can’t see your hand in front of your face underground black.  I must admit i had to push in parts.  As this is Dim Excuses I won’t say it was the first ride of the year, my thin tyres were struggling over the stones, I was recovering from a cold and a goat ate my homework.  There is a further option for a halfway shortcut on the black trail.  I continued to the top where there is a sign saying ‘well done you are at the top. Yeee Haa’!

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All the signage is excellent and bilingual, da iawn!   It is then pretty much all downhill single track.  The top has some really challenging rock garden sections.   This is a very technical track.  Several sections got the better of me (sorry about the moment the trail made me swear in the video).  Once down the black descent you seamlessly crossover to the blue descent, which is very flowing and great fun.  If you are coming with the family or inexperienced riders I would just do a few laps of the blue, as I said before the black is challenging.  All in all, a great addition to the South Wales MTB trails, well done Garw Valley, I will definitely be back soon.

So here is the video edit, sorry about the riding, filming and editing.  I will try better next time.  It is a chest mounted camera, I will try helmet mounted next time.  Music in the video is by Crystal Method.