Discover the lessons learnt, locations, recommendations and remedies from our outdoor adventure to help you plan yours.
This week welcomed the summer solstice gifting us all with the longest day of the year and the shortest of nights. Whether you mark the occasion dancing around a fire on a hilltop, weaving flowers in your hair, joining the holistic pilgrims at Stonehenge or simply enjoying a cold beverage on your doorstep, midsummer inspires a gratitude for the outdoors. With the sun shining for its longest hours, it beckons us out into its warm embrace and away from our dwellings. This year, however, I hardly marked the occasion at all. After spending almost the entirety of the previous week on an outdoors adventure, I felt content to give the solstice a smile and get an early night. Our outdoor adventure saw us hiking across the gorgeous countryside of the Cotswolds to the beautiful city of Bath.
Walking and backpacking across the English countryside during a summer heat wave found us craving the Dorset Adventure Park more than ever. Instead of marching through scorching meadows we could have been sliding into the cool, blue waters of one of Dorset Adventure Park lakes. We could have been bouncing across the wibit inflatables before diving into the waters, instead of blowing up inflatable mattresses and pillows. Where little streams had evaporated to a trickle and sweat ran in rivulettes down our faces, necks, heads, arms, hands, chest, backs, legs, and feet we could have been pouring water onto ourselves and hurtling down the massive mudslide to crash into the mud and cool off like happy hippos of the savanna. Next time, we might just hike ourway across the beautiful isle of Purbeck and celebrate by diving into the Dorset Adventure Park!
What To Pack
For hiking the Cotswolds Way we needed travel light as we would be carrying everything on our backs. Many big trails such as the Cotswolds Way and the West Highland Way have a courier service that transports your luggage for you. However, we were little hermit crabs for the week, clambering through the countryside with big packs on our backs. As a novice multi day hiker, I carried a lighter load than my partner who felt more comfortable supporting most of the weight. From an excruciating weekend walking the Saints Way as a practice for the Cotswolds Way, we had learnt my limits in terms of weight and miles. For that walk I made the mistake of packing a book. By the time we had walked over 16 miles and I eventually hobbled into our campsite, I deeply regretted the book that I then had no energy to read. These are the pieces I packed and were worth their weight in gold during the Cotswolds Way:
- A kindle – Having worked in an independent bookshop for many, many years I have always opposed Kindles. However, when forced to travel light, a kindle worked brilliantly. It was light and discreet enough to pack away easily and fantastic to distract from aching legs and the boredom of a tent in the evenings. We couldn’t bring chairs and so you find yourselves going to bed much earlier than normal. I did not have to charge it up at all during the trip. Reading in ‘bed’ was the perfect end to a day adventuring outdoors.
- Aloe vera gel – At first glance this looks like an indulgence but I can not recommend enough packing a bottle of aloe vera gel. Walking in June means exploring all day outside in the heat, sunshine and mercy of any bugs, brambles and branches that meet your path. The remedy to all of these can be found in the cool, refreshing, hydrating, soothing balm that is aloe vera gel. After one long hot day I also developed ‘hikers rash’ on my ankles. Harmless but irritating, this rash would have turned painful, prolonged and potentially immobilising if I hadn’t packed my soothing, cooling aloe vera gel. I got mine from the body shop but any aloe vera gel will do as long as the container is lightweight and it hasn’t been mixed with too many other products.
- A really good sun cream – Seemingly obvious but an absolutely essential bit of kit. By investing in and packing a high quality, high SPF and high UV barrier, you are protecting yourself during long days in the sun. Walking in hot weather is extremely tiring and the practicalities of trying to hike long distances and sleep in a tent with sunburn or even sunstroke would be horrendous and could force you to end your trip. By applying factor 50 every morning and topping up necks and noses throughout the day, we managed not to burn despite walking during a heatwave. I use La Roche-Posay sun cream, as although it is expensive, it is the best quality sun cream I have found.
- Solid shampoo and Conditioner bars: As someone with extremely thick and quite curly hair, it takes a lot of product to get through to every layer of my hair and hydrate and moisturise my more coarse, curly hair. Luckily, I found some decent solid shampoo and conditioner bars from Lush. You could choose not to wash your hair whilst hiking. However, I knew that after long, sweaty days in the sun, my frizzly, woolly head would benefit from a cooling rinse. By cutting the shampoo and conditioner bars up, I lightened the weight and still had what I needed. An added bonus was the famously pungent Lush products meant my hikers backpack smelt like a spa everytime I opened my backpack -bliss! I used the ‘Jason And The Argan Oil’ shampoo bar with the ‘American Cream’ conditioner. These were very good value for money as they travelled well, and I still have plenty left.
What To Wear On Your Feet
Whether you are looking for things to do for days out in Dorset or just the countryside, chances are you will be roaming over various terrains; around castles, up and down hills, beaches, cliffs and woodland trails. All of these require the correct footwear. Despite knowing that you need to ‘break in’ new hiking boots before a hiking trip and trying every trick in the guidebooks to get the correct fitting pair, I still found myself hobbling down a hilltop after twisting my ankle in walking shoes that weren’t right for me. I took a risk knowing that my trusty old boots weren’t designed for this kind of walking and after much hunting, I finally ordered a great new pair. Excellently reviewed, superbly made and not nauseatingly pink – jackpot. Yet, my instinct was that they were a bit too wide for my narrow feet. Out of time to continue searching, I took these new shoes with me. Despite the fact that they ‘should’ fit, they just weren’t right for my feet. I ended up having to buy a brand new pair on day two of our hike. A costly mistake. Luckily, the staff at the outdoors shop, Landmark, in the picturesque town of Broadway were incredibly kind and helpful. Not a bit condescending, they fitted me out in a new pair of boots that fit me perfectly as well as being the type of boot that didn’t need a break-in-period ahead of multi-day hiking. So,I recommend Scarpa Women’s Terra boots. Scarpa are soft, waterproof, cushioned and sturdy!
For walking around the campsites I had a pair of Teva sandals in a jolly retro colouring. The walking boots I had originally bought were also Teva, however, I have since learnt that they have a wide cut. For sandals I got away with it but although an excellent footwear brand, they aren’t great for a narrow foot. These ‘Original Sandals’ by Teva were perfect for the campsites and will be so much fun for a summer spent on the beach, going about the town and even to any festivals. Fun, colourful, cool and comfortable.
These are my top tips for your outdoor adventures this summer. The best advice for what you need for the outdoors this summer? To visit Dorset Adventure Park!