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Forest of Andy

Last week was quite a boring affair, although I did move two steps closer to being able to independently work on my equipment.

The weekend, however, was a different affair. Warning: The following introduces new people to the dramatis personae. They are all members of the Tawe Trekkers except Helen, who is with a different group. On Friday I was picked up by Doug, who organised the trip to the Forest of Dean, and, after picking up one hitchhiker and the other passengers, Rob and Graeme, we went to the Forest of Dean.

We went to the hostel at St Breivels, which was in a 13th century castle used by King John. We stayed in the old Chaplain's Room. We then went down to the pub and had dinner. It was a pleasant evening and we were made to feel very welcome by all and sundry.

We made it back to the hostel by the 11:30PM closing time and were all asleep at some time later.

Sat'dee morning I woke up quite early and eventually got up and tried to creep across the room quietly so that I could go and have a shower. And endeavour which was thwarted by the floor boards creeping quite significantly. I don't think I work anyone up though. Breakfast was nice - I had croissants.

Then off we went. While this was only my first walk with the Tawe Trekkers, it seems to me that walking in the UK is significantly different here to in Australia. In Australia, a walk tends to be that you go to bush, probably national park, and you walk through a natural setting. A two or more day walk probably involves carrying tents and camping overnight. Here, it seems that it is the done thing to sleep in hostels and, even walking through a forest you still find yourself passing through villages along the way.

This may have something to do with their being far more nature in Australia...

Anyway, Saturday's walk was an 8 mile adventure along part of Offa's Dyke as we criss-crossed back and forth between England and Wales. Through the walk, we passed through villages, forest and fields. There were some really beautiful views, which I'd share with you except Bec forgot her camera.

On the way back from the walk, we stopped into the pub for a quick pint before heading back to the hostel - where we were shut out until 5PM. The others were a little low on enthusiasm, but Doug, Graeme and I went for a 4 mile return walk to Bigsweir. We never quite made it there. About 2km from our intended destination, we saw a sign pointing to an art centre and went for an explore. It was a place which had residential art courses and was closed, but they said we could get a coffee down the road.

We went to the place she had said, and it was a hotel. We were a little on the muddy side, and were hestitant about going in, but one of the guests chirpily suggested that would be fine. The service was really good - almost like Ned Flanders was running the place - and I had a caramel shortbread which was incredibly creamy.

After finishing our afternoon tea, we headed back, noticing the place was run by a Christian Guild by Methodists. We got back to the hostel just after 5PM, and everyone relaxed for a couple of hours before heading off to the pub for tea.

Stupidly, we hadn't booked, and so had to wait for some space to be freed before they could accommodate us, and we had to split into two groups. I ate with Doug, Rob, Andy and Graeme, while Bec ate with the others.

Andy had suggested that he'd like to live somewhere quirky, like the castle. As these discussions tend to we moved on to discussing about him become a billionaire and owning the forest and renaming it to Forest of Andy. The discussion then followed the usual path of such discussions (at least when I'm involved).

It was a really enjoyable evening and the food - I had a slow cooked lamb shoulder - was fantastic. Even though the other table was seated and ordered first, we got our food first, and had just about finished by the time the others got their meals. I sent a message with one of the guys to Rebecca, telling her, "the lamb was really yummy, and if you like you can come and have some salad." Fortunately, she'd also ordered lamb, so I am alive and still able to type this.

We then headed back to the hostel, and I was playing cards with Andy and Graeme. Over cards and after, we were discussing various things such as religion, politics, sport, Welsh nationalism. You know, the usual. And before I knew it, it was 20 past 1.

This morning after breakfast we went down to Tintern Abbey and went for another 8 mile walk through the Devil's Pulpit. Again, a lovely walk through the country side with some really nice views. The Devil's Pulpit was really cool, with a Yew Tree seeming to grow out of rock.

On the way back, we had lunch at a pub - it was a really nice meal - before heading back to Tintern Abbey and heading off. All up, a really nice weekend. Good company, fresh air, a nice walk, I got to see some nice bits of Wales (and England) and generally had a good time, although my leg muscles are a little on the sore side.

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