Category Archives: England

Download Festival

I’ve been to plenty of music festivals in my time; Weekenders like Reading, Hevy, Beautiful Days, Buddha Fields and even the tiny Plymouth Festival, plus a load of one-dayers such as Hit the Deck and Slam Dunk, but this was the first time I experienced the biggest specifically Rock and Metal fest in the UK.

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Going with a couple of mates, we drove in each day, staying at an AirBnB nearby rather than paying the same amount for the pleasure of sleeping in a field. While it takes away from the fun festival vibe a bit, as gentlemen of our age it was a lot more comfortable.

IMG_20170610_125558We arrived to join the long queues to get our wristbands on the first day, sadly missing the first band we were hoping to catch. However once in it felt much like the usual festival affair, a fair stages scattered over a couple acres of land, littered with food stands between and the usual mix of hippy or gothic clothing stalls. We were there for the music though, and were quickly watching the bands hit the stages. There was a reasonable distance between each area, but with the RAW wrestling tent in between at least we had something to giggle at as we walked past.

IMG_20170610_190541For me, the smaller Avalanche stage was the best, with a nice variety of heavier metalcore, post-hardcore, pop-punk and new wave emo bands to keep me happy. The main stage obviously hosted the bigger of the bands, with an interesting mix throughout the day, mostly hard rock and straight up metal. The second stage seemed to be more strictly metal bands of various descriptions. It’s always entertaining to find a brutally heavy metal band that are chatty and friendly between songs, the Swedish seem to be pretty good at this, with both In Flames and legendary Opeth cheerfully bantered with the crowd.

IMG_20170610_222439As far as best bands of the weekend a few really stood out. Steel Panther certainly put on the best show visually, with close to a hundred girls on stage to party with them, while their chat between songs was on point. Probably not for everyone, with the crude nature of the jokes, but to raise a laugh from an audience of that size is impressive. Moose Blood put on a great show, as did Basement, a couple of English bands who have revamped the emo/pop-punk/rock scene with a fresh attitude and new approach, a departure from the auto-tune and backing tracks of many scene bands recently. The King Blues put on a good show with a new bunch of musicians, but it was the legendary big bands that really made the biggest impact. Prophets of Rage, System of a Down, Biffy Clyro, A Day To Remember, all smashing their sets on the main stage.

IMG_20170611_181018There were plenty more that were seen, but that missed the mark as far as my tastes went, but what was most interesting was the people there. I’ve always stayed clear of the metal genre, finding it a little trite and contrived to really enjoy, but metalheads, especially those past their teenage years are genuinely very sweet people, there were no fights or issues with anyone, and it was very nice to see everyone there just getting along and enjoying the music. Despite the line-up featuring some pretty un-metal bands, there was no rivalry or animosity between any of the festival goers and the atmosphere was very positive, which I think was helped massively by the pleasant weather.

The line-up each year has always been borderline for my tastes, a few good bands, but not usually enough to make me want to pay the full price to go. However with the Busabout season looming it was the only festival I was likely to get to go to, and I’m glad we decided to go. Overall, not as mind-blowing as some of the other fests (RIP Hevy) but still highly enjoyable overall.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Where am I?

So a little personal update for you all.

I’m currently in London visiting friends and exploring a little more, I will soon be heading up North to Leeds for a week with Pre-Fit, then down to Bath/Bristol to see friends, then another week of fittings. After that, I’ll visit Cardif and Bristol again before I fly off to Tignes in the French Alps with Wasteland. I should be out there for at least three weeks hopefully four, before returning back to the UK.

I’m hoping to relocate more permanently to London, finding somewhere of my own to live and finding some kind of job to keep me in the black. I’m planning to save as much as I can, in order to travel some more soon, so first off I’ll be looking for bar work. But looking a little more long term it’ll be work within the Tourism industry, hopefully for cool independent company, but anywhere with a good attitude towards youth and adventure tourism will work well.

Eventually, I would like to start my own company ideally in South Africa, doing a similar thing to the company I worked for in Australia and New Zealand, however, until I save a lot of money, or find a very generous investor, that’ll be on the back-burner.

For now though, just happy to be able to keep travelling, and get some more snow time in

Benjamin Duff

@Versestravel

Constantine and Treyarnon Bay

Cornwall is full of pretty little beaches and coves, Constantine and Treyarnon offer some nice walks for those not wanting too much.

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IMG_20150206_151951There’s a little place to park around at Constantine, a beach which is popular with surfers throughout the county (on the days when the waves are rolling in the right way of course) and one that avoids the big crowds in summer, mostly due to a total lack of parking. It’s a good sized beach with plenty of sand, although the rocks further out make learning to surf, or venturing out if you’re not too confident a bad idea. In winter the sand is deserted, while the sea has just a couple brave souls risking the chill to find some good swell.

IMG_20150206_153101Heading around the headland to the West you can reach Treyarnon bay, a narrower beach, but one more popular with the tourists. The walk along the headland is not challenging or high, making it suitable for all family members, but it does offer plenty of rocks down at the waters edge for the younger generations to clamber over. Treyarnon offers more in the way of services in the summer, drawing many more tourists in, although at this time of year there isn’t much sign of life. The local YHA offers some good winter deals, and is a great spot to stay in for anyone looking for a cheaper, more sociable option, and it’s proximity to the beach is a definite plus.

IMG_20150206_152505There’s a lot of walks to choose in Cornwall, and you can’t go too wrong with any of them. This short walk is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon in the county getting a taste of that sea air everyone says is so good for you.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Cornwall – Treen to Penberth to Porthcurno ft: The Minack Theatre

A somewhat more challenging walk than the previous excursion is the loop from the hamlet of Treen on the hill between two valleys and the beaches at the bottom of those valleys: Penberth and Porthcurno

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IMG_20150208_120602The walk starts off across typical hilly Cornish countryside down into the valley, then alongside the stream that leads out to the small fishing town of Penberth. A pretty town, where the newer houses have been kept in keeping with the style of the older original buildings. The beach is pretty but somewhat rocky, not good for a swim, but the slipway opens the transition between land a sea, with an old winch still used to pull the fishing boats ashore. There’s still a healthy trade going from this village, with line caught mackerel being the most popular catch, and fetching a good price for it’s ecological benefits along with the prestige of Cornish fishing.
IMG_20150208_124650The walk up the cliffs from here is a bit steep, but is the hardest section of the day, and looking back into the cove offers some lovely views of the uniquely rocky cliffs and the town nestled between them. Along the top of the cliffs the views out to sea are impressive. In places along this route there are areas grazed by dartmoor wild ponies which can be fun to spot. It’s important not to feed these animals as they’ve been introduced to help the environment recover. They are friendly creatures, but try not to pet them, as they are wild and may not be completely safe.

IMG_20150208_121215As you work towards Porthcurno you’ll pass the headland which is home to Logan Rock. The story is that two sailors decided to push this loose rock off the cliff, only to be caught and forced to take it back up. If you climb up to where the rock is sat you can see the holes they made to insert wooden bars to help them lift the stone back into position. The climb up there is not part of the walk, but is a great little detour that doesn’t take too long although the rocky bit can be a challenge to climb up.

IMG_20150208_122942From the headland you can see down into Pedn Vounder, a stunning bay with huge stretches of sand. The way the cliffs and sand banks lie mean that at high-tide the water is still very shallow, turning the deep blue ocean to a gorgeous turquoise to rival the Mediterranean. This beach is usually quite quiet for a couple reasons, the walk to it is fairly steep and tricky, certainly not suitable for young kids and due to the lie of the sand it’s easy to get trapped by an incoming tide. Thanks to this it’s made the beach a bit of an unofficial nudist hotspot. While it’s easy to see down into the bay access is tricky enough to put off most, and the distance between the cliff tops and the beach is enough to prevent any embarrassment. There weren’t any naked people out when I walked past, but given the cold February air, I wasn’t surprised. it also meant my photos were unspoilt by anyone in the bay at all.

IMG_20150208_125134From there it’s a short walk around the next head and down into Porthcurno. Another small town, but one with a lot more significance than most in Cornwall for two reasons. Porthcurno is the beach where the telegraph cables arrived in the UK. The telegraph network allowed messages to be sent trans-continentally within just a few days, rather than the weeks it took previously. The old method was simple mail, sent across on ships, but these cables stretched across the atlantic to improve communication between the colonies and London. There is a Museum a little further up the valley, but by the beach is the hut into which the cables ran, you can still look inside and see the various sources of the communications, some direct, and others via relay stations in friendly nations.

IMG_20150208_140322The second is the world famous Minack Theatre, a spectacular stage and auditorium built into the cliffs, just visible from the beach. With the Atlantic as it’s backdrop, plays held here are impressive affairs, and while there are risks of numb bums and some rather damp shows (weather depending) the show will go on. The season starts in mid-Spring, through into Autumn, to make the most use of the daylight hours. With the brisk air, you’d have to be a very enthusiastic fan to want to sit in the freezing cold of winter with the wind across those cliffs. It’s an amazing place, even just for a visit, and the matinee shows are as popular as the evening as fans enjoy the summer sun.

IMG_20150208_141205The town has a bit more to offer than just the Museum and Theatre, with a few good restaurants, boasting some excellent local fish dishes. It’s a pretty village as well, and a walk through is not unpleasant, however it does get rather busy in summer as the holiday lets and hotels fill up, and even more people come down to check out the sand.

Our walk took us up the cliffs beside the Minack and onto the headland, from where we walked inland and across the flatter land. Farmers fields and backcountry roads led the way back to Treen and home.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Bath, Historical Town

Bath, down in the South-west of England is great town for those looking for a little more history, and the feel of a real English town

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Split into two main areas: the first is Southgate, a relatively newly built commercial zone with the usual suspects of high street stores, fast food and chain restaurants. It doesn’t have much to offer that any other town in the UK doesn’t with the exception of a couple nice little coffee shops and trendy bars, the rest of the town, further North is the real heart of the city. The old streets with charming little stores and cafes mixed in with the huge Abbey and Roman Baths, along with the Georgian architecture make for a very pleasant experience strolling through the area.

IMG_20150202_134029Bath has a lot to offer tourists who visit, from the obvious choices of the Abbey and Baths, to the luxurious Spa and the historical streets it also has several museums including the excellent Holburne Museum and the Jane Austen centre (even though she famously said she didn’t care much for the city herself). It’s worth taking a stroll up to visit the Royal Crescent and the Circus, with it’s impressive buildings (and another little museum) overlooking the park and the city below it’s a fantastic place to check out.

IMG_20150202_135859The Abbey is open all day during the week, but only at selected times at the weekend, but with a small donation you are welcomed in. It’s centre very impressive inside, with an incredibly high ceiling and huge stain-glass windows depicting the usual religious scenes. There statues inside add even more to the sense of grandeur, although the plaques on the wall brought the whole place to a much more real level, honouring those buried below the floors, and bringing a strange sense of community to the building.

The Roman Baths tend to get very busy during the summer, and at weekends, as this is one of the main reasons people come to Bath. If you’re lucky you’ll visit at a quieter time and be able to experience the Baths a little more privately. Although perhaps with hordes of tourists you may get a better sense of what it would have been like when they were first built. Not too expensive and worth a visit if you’re a history fan.

IMG_20150202_140131It’s not these attractions that really make Bath shine though, it’s the original old streets and parks that really shine out. With so much of the UK being diluted it’s wonderful to still find a town that feels so genuine. Of course with it being the South-west you can’t complete a day here without stopping for a Cream Tea, an English tradition. It’s simply English Breakfast Tea (we call it Tea) and a scone with jam and clotted cream. Make sure to put the jam and cream on in the right order, there’s some long running debates on this.

IMG_20150201_134814There’s not much in the way of clubbing here, but there’s plenty of nice old pubs, and more modern bars to keep you warm at night. The student population help keep some of the youthfulness around, although it’s fairly common for them to run of to nearby Bristol for a big night out. If you’re into music or theatre there’s usually something going on as well.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Cornwall – St Agnes

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IMG_20141227_144702St Anges is a hidden little treat of Cornwall. It hides away just 20 minutes from Truro, mostly eclipsed by it’s neighbour Perranporth, which leaves it naturally developed and beautiful and feeling like a true Cornish town, and not a tourist retreat.

As with many of these special little town, the cost of seclusion is not cheap, and house prices are reflected in the cars parked in driveways. But regardless of costs and socio-economic background, the locals are friendly and welcoming, as I found in all the pubs I visited.

IMG_20141227_150133The first time I visited I stopped off at a tiny little beach one bay west of St Agnes. Barely even a cove, this beach is tricky to find and get to, but worth it. It looks out westwards, the way of the setting sun the I was there, and watching it slowly descend as the handful of other people on the beach was a calming and very pleasant experience. Followed by food and drinks at one of the pubs in town. The locals ebbed and flowed in and out of the bar, very few didn’t say hello, and many introduced themselves to investigate who we might be. The barman was a treat, as the only people inside for quite a while he chatted about life hidden in these Cornish valleys and all sorts more.

IMG_20141227_144649The second time I visited with my brother and his young son, so we wandered through the town again, and down to the main beach. A larger, but not big beach, with a few people dotted about. Again, it was a peaceful and welcoming place. Folk said hello as they passed, and the dogs on the beach made it good fun to run around. The chill winter air gave it a rather desolate feel, but inside our jackets we were happy to be there, enjoying another dose of what makes Cornwall so special.

If you’re looking for a jaunt out of Truro, you could do a lot worse than a trip to St Agnes, any time of year.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Update: Pre-Fit Delivery and Wasteland Ski

So you may know that I’m now working with both Pre-Fit Delivery and Wasteland Ski.

PFD is a company that works closely with Wasteland, fitting ski and board boots to the customers before they head out to resort, meaning that on arrival they’ll be able to pick up their boots in seconds rather than waiting ages in the cold and trying to find the right boots after a hellish long bus journey.

I started on Monday in Loughborough and since then have visited Sutton Bonington (near Nottingham) York and am now in Manchester to meet a colleague who will be driving us down to London for the Wasteland Head Rep training day. After that is the Wasteland 20th Anniversary party, which is on a boat on the Thames, followed by an afterparty up in Shoreditch. After a day off in London I’ll be heading all the way up to Glasgow to do the Scottish Unis for a week (Glasgow and Dundee at least) then to Edinburgh to catch up with some family before heading back down to London again for an interview with a promising company (I’m keeping that one a secret for now) And then another day off before I hit Bath for 5 days straight, so we’re expecting some parties and maybe even a bit of chilling there as well. As soon as I finish there, I’ll be flying out to France to work my first week for Wasteland Ski, in Val Thoren, one of my favourite resorts.

So, an exciting period of time for me ahead, and if the last few days are anything to judge by, it’ll be a lot of fun! I’m very happy to working with these people as well, a lot of friendly fun people and easy going too. I hope next year follows the same sort of pattern.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

How to prepare for your Pre-Fit Session

Pre-Fit are here to make it easier for you – but you can help your session even easier, just follow these steps…

Pre-fit

  • Bring your own snow sports socks – Yes we’ve got some you can use, but they start to get a bit smelly after lunch time, save yourself the horror and bring your own. If you don’t have any, we’re selling some at £9!
  • Don’t wear skinny jeans – As good as you look, they’ll make your legs fatter, and the boots tighter than they will be, to get a perfect fit you want only the socks between your skin and the boots.
  • If you have questions, write them down – there’s a thousand things you could ask us, and we’ve heard them all, so we try to answer as many as we can before you ask. But there will always be more, so write all you can think of down before you come down, and we’ll help you out as much as possible.
  • Bring some money! – Everyone loves a new hat
  • Do some research – Your friend who has been skiing in Switzerland since 2 years old may not give you the best advice (you don’t need twin tips unless you’re throwing bangers in the park) If you’re just learning, we’ll let you know the best gear for you. Otherwise, check out our other blogs for what you need and what to expect.
  • Be a bit flexible – If you have lots of questions, make sure you’ve got a bit of free time after your session as sometimes we’ll overrun (usually sharing ski tour stories) So don’t book in 10 minutes before your final exam

Loads of gear to buy

So there we go, how to make your session a bit smoother. We’ll do our best to get the perfect fit for your boats, and we’re looking

PreFit Delivery and Bristol

So just the other day I went off to the glorious Swindon for training with the Pre-Fit Delivery Company.

Bristol GrafittiThese guys provide a genius service fitting ski and snowboard boots before the customers go on holiday, so when they arrive in resort all they need to do is pick up their gear. It saves loads of time messing around in resort trying to get the right boots (which is so important, especially for beginners, and skiers) and means the clients get the perfect size.

BanksyI met some of the team at the Wasteland training weekend, and they’re lovely folks. Seeing them again for this training session was good fun, and the day was well organised so we learnt loads in the short time. The team travels from group to group, mostly doing fitting session with unis but also families and other group travel organisations, doing the fitting sessions. Which means lots of traveling around the country for the team, and some good times partying while away. I only got a few shifts with them, as they had a good response of people wanting to work, but I’ll be off to Glasgow at the end of the month, and hopefully a little stop over in Edinburgh to see some family on the way home.

BristolI stopped in Bristol either side of the day in Swindon, first night I caught up with some family, and second with a friend of mine, which meant a night out in the city. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Bristol, and it didn’t dissappoint. Certainly strong with the uni vibe, and very creative as well. We stayed at the Full Moon Backpackers, which I don’t recommend at all, except for the location, ate at the Pieminister just up the road which I do recommend and ended up in The Big Chill, listening to the Music Unis’ Jazz Funk Soul Society live music night. Lots of good tunes along the jazzy funky theme and lots of hipster students. The atmosphere was very nice, as was the bar and people.

Bristol MuseumIn the morning I had a little time to explore, so we checked out some of the excellent graffiti, the charity shops and in the search of a snow shop found the city Art Gallery and Museum which I could have spent all day in. Unfortunately work was called from three hours away, so I had to head off, missing out on the HMS Britain, the Clifton Suspension Bridge and all of the many churches and cathedrals.

I can’t wait to head back, and I really think it’s worth a trip for anyone who wants to see a nice, but smaller city than London.

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Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

 

Cornwall – Port Isaac and Polzeath

Since I returned from Ireland, and before that as well, I have worked in a Bar in Polzeath, Cornwall. A pretty little village with a great surfing beach, this is one of the slightly less know gems of Cornwalls north coast.

High TidePolzeath grew up as a fishing village, just like all of Cornwalls’ towns, but instead of the deep water harbour, it features a large sandy beach, not so good for the fish, but great for surfing and swimming. It’s because of this beach Polzeath has warped into the town it is now, a bi-polar affair that swaps between the summer rush, with a packed beach and long waits at most of the cafes and restaurants, to the opposite in winter, when the regular locals go into hibernation and the beach is empty but for the few surfers chasing waves up and down the coast.

cliffsWhile this might not sound the best, if you time it well, it’s possible to catch the end of summer period, where the sea and weather are still warm, while the crowds have all gone. The pubs will be able to serve you, and it’s easy to get an ice cream without a half hour wait (if the weather is nice enough that you want one) Guessing the exact week is a tricky one, and there are a couple weeks in the years (one before and one after summer) that the posh uni kids flood in and order huge rounds of made-up drinks for them and their 5 mates.

Port IsaacThe beach is lovely, and depending on the tide, very big, or very small. There’s usually plenty of space for all the families to spread out though. The cliffs are well worth an explore, with some great views and nicely adventurous rocks and climbs for the younger ones, and of course easy cliff paths for the elder.

Port IsaacAlong the coast just a short drive is the rather sweet village of Port Isaac, most famous these days for it’s featuring in the British series Doc Martin. Thankfully, while the village has embraced the commercial aspect of the TV show, it hasn’t blown it out of proportion, and in fact with the exception of a the odd mug in shops and a lot of people taking photos of a fairly innocuous looking house, you wouldn’t know there was anything filmed there at all.

 
LanesIf visiting, make sure you park at the top, there’s a couple places to choose from, but do not try to drive into the village. The tiny roads and incredibly limited parking will leave you stuck, and often with a fresh set of scratches down the side. The walk down is not hard, and well worth it for the clifftop views. The town itself isn’t cheap for food and drink, not crazy, but not cheap, and there are some great spots with views over the harbour. Make sure you take a stroll through some of the winding lanes that thread their way between the main road at the top, and the harbour at the bottom.

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It would be a pleasantly easy day out to drive to both of these stops, allowing for food and tea along the way of course.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel