25 June 2017

Guide to Learning to SUP in Weymouth & Portland

If you follow me on Instagram (@becky_wren) you’ll know I post a lot of pictures of my horses when out in the Dorset countryside, Alfie dog antics, park-running & SUP’ing.

Last autumn I bought a second hand inflatable Fanatic SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard), & now seem to be a bit of a ‘go to’ person in my circle of friends when it comes to SUP questions! Although I’m still very much an amateur, I just love talking about SUPing!

So, I thought I’d share some of my local Dorset knowledge on where to learn to SUP in Weymouth & Portland.

What is SUPing?

SUP or stand up paddle surfing, is exactly what it sounds like. You stand up on a long board, pretty much like a surf board but bigger & more buoyant & use a paddle to push yourself through the water. SUPs come as hardboards or inflatables. Inflatable SUPs are better for beginners & easier to transport. Hardboards are great when you get into competition racing or down-winding.

Where to go SUPing in West Dorset / Weymouth & Portland?

If you’re keen to go ‘SUPing’ but never been out on one before, you can either just hire one & give it a go like I did many years ago or join a class or have a 1-1 – which I’d recommend!

Weymouth Watersports

First of all, it’s really easy to find. As you head out of Weymouth towards Portland, Weymouth Watersports are located at the Ferrybridge Boat Yard & more importantly right beside Billy Winter’s café/bistro, so you can reward yourself with a coffee or pint of cider when you’ve finished. It’s also great if you have friends/family who don’t want to get out on the water, as they can spectate or take photos! There’s also paid parking which is about £1 for an hour.

Richard & the team are super friendly & stock inflatable SUPs, kayaks & wind surfing equipment.

I’ve been to Weymouth Watersports numerous times over the last few years mainly because of the location & easy parking. You can go out for an hour by yourself or join one of their fitness / SUP yoga classes at the weekend. They will also stay open late if you ask them nicely & last year for my birthday I organised a mid-week after work SUP followed by pub grub over at the Cove where you can watch the sunset.

1 hour hire = £12
Fitness class = £10 for an hour
SUP Yoga = £12 or £6 if you have your own board.

Always check with the team on their Facebook page, as the good old British weather can mean that some days it’s a bit too windy to head out.

Adventure 4 All

Alex from Adventure 4 All is one of those people you meet who everyone wants to be mates with. He’s super chilled & makes SUPing fun – which is what it should be all about. He also offers a great range of water based activities from SUPing, kayaking to coasteering.

I first met Alex at the Jurassic Club SUP Christmas SUP last year, where we SUPed from Greenhill, around into Weymouth Harbour, moored up & had a mulled wine / cider in one of the pubs & then SUPed back.

If you’ve been SUPing a few times, I’d recommend joining the Jurassic Club SUP who meet every Wednesday at 6.30pm in a Weymouth/Portland location & head out for about an hour finishing off for a pint in a local pub or if it’s a beautiful sunny evening bring a drink to have on your SUP at sea! There’s no better way to finish an evening after work.

Alternatively, you can join one of the SUP classes on a Sunday or hire a board throughout the summer.

1 hour hire = £10; 2 ½ hours = £20
SUP Flex & Skills & Drills on a Sunday = £10 or £5 if you bring your own board 
Jurassic SUP Club = free if you have your own SUP or £10 to hire & includes wetsuit

Jurassic Coast Activities

Based over at Overcombe Corner by Café Oasis in Preston, makes Jurassic Coast Activities another great location to combine a SUP & coffee on the beach.

This is the place I learnt to SUP with my friend Helen back in 2010. We were both into our water sports - surfing & kayaking, so just got on & hired one board & had a go. I don’t think we really had a clue what to do or even which way round to hold the paddle. Which is why I’d recommend having at least 1 lesson or joining a fitness class to pick up some tips!!

For prices head to the website & give the team a call.

Other Top Tips:

109 Watersports
Callum & Sara at 109 Watersports are really helpful. They stock everything you need for SUPing & also give great advice on where to go SUPing.

Easy Riders
Ready to go exploring outside of the Weymouth/Portland bubble? Join the Easy Rider SUPers over in Poole who go out in the week evenings & weekends. You can take your own board or hire one. I went for a SUP last November in Sandbanks & met another bunch of friendly people.

If you fancy a weekend away with some top tuition check out Lucy McCormick’s SUPFit Facebook page. I was fortunate enough to have some amazing tuition by one of the UK’s top female SUPer's Marie Buchanan last October down at Wimbleball Lake in Exmoor which got me hooked & resulted in me buying my Fanatic board from Lucy.

Photo Credit: SUPFit

Do you like SUPing? Where do you go? Anyone SUPed abroad?

Also, if anyone has any SUPing questions, feel free to drop me a note at becky@countrybumpkinchic.co.uk or on my Country Bumpkin Chic Facebook page.

05 June 2017

12 things I've learnt whilst Animal Sitting!

My folks are currently having a lovely time sunning themselves in Crete. To help them relax even more & not worry about the animals I volunteered to house sit & look after the two horses – Barley & Jonty, & our very excitable Sporting Lucas x Sealyham Terrier Alfie. I might not have lived at home for a decade, but I do help in the evenings & weekend. How hard could it be looking after our own animals?

6 days in & we’re all still alive…. here’s what I’ve learnt so far:

Looking after animals is tiring. 5.40am alarm calls to start the morning routine & Alfie is the equivalent of the Duracell bunny on the go from the moment he wakes until he’s put to bed in his cage.

My mum was right about the cockerel. Crowing at 3.41am on my first morning was a shock to the system. 3.41am!! That’s just obscene.

I appreciate everything my Dad does. The mucking out, feeding the horses, making up hay nets, helping walk the horses up & down the road. & at the age of 66 & still working as a full-time architect, if he could fly, he’d probably be Superman.

Alfie loves attention. There’s no chance of getting any time to yourself with Alfie around. So much so, I’m typing this blog from the bedroom.

Ticks are in abundance this year. & you can’t leave them clung to the animals for fear of Lyme Disease. The O’Tom Tick Twister has been my best friend, once I found the pack instead of using my tweezers!!

Haylage bales are heavy. It took me & my best friend, Rachel, to give the bale a good heave ho into the barn. [Note: small child was not fed to the horses!]

Don’t leave anything you value unattended. Otherwise, they might just get chewed. Amongst a sea of tat from the tack room, Alfie took a liking to my French Connection sunglasses & ¾ of them are still missing in the garden somewhere?!
No need to go to the gym. Every day is a workout from squatting to pick up poo, lifting haynets to running after Alfie is a workout in its self. On the plus side, it means I don’t have to worry about eating an extra cake or biscuit this week.

The horses are well behaved around children. On Saturday, we had a fun morning introducing Evie & Jack to the animals. The horses were impeccable, less said about a very excitable Alfie the better. Jonty was on licking form & a shy Barley was happy to pose for photos.

Running for errands. Trying to fit in an evening run has been tricky, so I tied it in with a short run to the field to hunt for Jonty’s fly mask.
Riding out is even more blissful. Escaping for 45 minutes on Barley or Jonty is not only good exercise but also for the soul. It's great to get a moment of peace & quiet before heading back to the mad house.

Jordan from Hounds & Hooves is fab. Thankfully I’ve had a helping hand during the week turning the horses out in their field & walking Alfie at lunch. Not only is she brilliant with all the animals, but a jolly lovely person too!  

I’m sure by the time my folks return on Wednesday the list will have grown with more tales from the mad house!

Does anyone else have any fun tales from looking after pets?

28 May 2017

Holiday Book Recommendation – Mount by Jilly Cooper

It’s that time of year again when everyone’s jetting off on a plane into the sunshine & usually leave sorting out their beach/pool read a bit lastminute.com

Now let me help you out with that one, by recommending my favourite holiday read for a long time -  Jilly Cooper’s - Mount!

Rupert Campbell-Black is back & he’s still got it. If you don’t know who he is, where have you been?! He was the main character in Jilly’s fictional novel Riders published back in 1985, over 30 years ago. He’s fictions most well-known Lothario. A modern day Spencer Matthews (Made in Chelsea).

Jilly is infamous for her doorstep novels, & a few I’ve picked up in the past (Wicked & Score) I’ve struggled to get into. But, Mount even at 700+ pages is totally unputdownable.

It does help to have a bit of knowledge about the racing industry or a penchant for horses. But don’t let that put you off as its packed full of wit, glamour, sex & unforgettable characters with exquisite names such as Valent, Harmony & Paris, although the stallions Love Rat & Roberto’s Revenge hand’s down win the best names.

Pure unadulterated joy - I thoroughly enjoyed devouring Mount whilst on holiday in Fuerteventura earlier this year & escaping to the Rutshire countryside.

If you have any book recommendations, I’d love to hear them, as I’ll be booking an autumn getaway soon & will be in search of some entertaining reading.

Have you read Mount, what did you think, who was your favourite character?

21 May 2017

How to re-vamp your garden furniture

Why is it that Bank Holidays always seem like the perfect time to take on those DIY jobs around the house & garden? Maybe it’s an inbuilt British mentality or just clever marketing from savvy brands.

On a bit of a whim last August Bank Holiday, because, I had that one extra days holiday, I decided to be one of those DIY geeks, set myself a mini project & make-over my garden furniture. As you do.

My ageing garden bench was looking decidedly lacklustre & in need of some colour to cheer up the corner of the garden.

I had recently acquired a plant potter from a work event painted in Cuprinol Garden Shades forget-me-not which is a lovely cheerful bluey-lilac shade.

I decided this was my happy colour & I wanted to paint my bench. Basically, all I needed was another plant potter to position either side of the bench. It’s all about symmetry, right? Obviously, there are a few other bits & bobs you need before cracking on with a DIY paint job, so, here are my top pieces of kit for painting wooden garden furniture:

Tools for the Job:

1.    Cuprinol Gaden Shades - Forget-Me-Not
Currently priced at £22 each for 2.5 litres or x2 for £30 from B&Q.
2.       Paint Brushes
You can’t go wrong with the No Nonsense set of 5 synthetic paint brushes from Screwfix. They come in 5 sizes, which make them perfect for getting into those nook & crannies.

3.       Garden cane
Set aside a clean garden cane or stick for stirring your paint.

4.       Wooden Planters
The ones I bought from B&Q are currently £20 for the 33 x 33 cm size.
5.       Sandpaper & blocks
Thankfully my Dad always has sandpaper & blocks readily available as a true ‘Weekend Warrior’ DIYer. However, you can buy a roll of sandpaper for £9.99 from Screwfix.

6.       Newspaper & Cardboard
Save old newspapers or cardboard boxes to cover & protect your paving. If you’re anything like me, the paint will get everywhere – especially when you’re trying extra hard to be neat & tidy.

Onto the fun bit… the colouring in!

Painting Wooden  Garden Furniture:

1.       Check the weather
Sounds simple, but before you take on an outdoor painting job, make sure you check the weather & have a few dry days ahead of you so you can give your paint job the chance to dry.

2.       Clean Furniture
Depending on how dirty or dusty your furniture is, it’s best to wash down the wooden furniture with some soapy water or get a brush to remove those pesky cobwebs.

3.       Prep Area
Find yourself a good flat piece of the ground whether its pavement, the lawn or in the garage.  I chose my paving slabs outside the kitchen & covered them with cardboard & horse feed sacks which I’d cut open to get max space coverage. & make sure you wear an old t-shirt & trousers so you don’t get splattered with paint.

4.       Preparing Wood
Depending on the state of the wood, you’ll need to give your wooden furniture a quick sand down. According to my dad, this is so there is a ‘key’ for the paint to take to. Sandpapering is also a good workout for the bingo wings – bonus!

5.       Painting & Patience
Now’s the fun part! Firstly, make yourself a good brew to have while you work.

Before applying your paint, use a stick or clean garden cane to stir your paint, which will make sure you have a lovely consistent colour.

Choose a suitable sized brush & start applying your chosen paint. Don’t be too hasty & load the brush up otherwise it gets globby & paint will go everywhere. For the first coat you’ll need about an hour whilst applying your paint to every nook & cranny of the bench. Painting the plant potter didn’t take as long – more like 10-15 minutes as I was only painting the outside.

Once you’ve applied the first coat of paint, leave your garden furniture to dry for about an hour, enough time for your knees to recover & make another cuppa!

I found the garden bench needed 3 coats of paint as it’s an older wood, whereas the plant potter only needed 2 coats to reach my ideal shade of blue. This is where the patience is needed & a few more cups of tea!

6.       Voila!
I love my re-vamped garden furniture, it really brightens up the corner of my garden. All I need to do now is buy some plants for the planters this Bank Holiday!

What do you think? Do you have any projects coming up over the Bank Holiday? Or if you have any questions about re-vamping your garden furniture – get in touch!

10 May 2017

Shappi Khorsandi - Oh My Country

I know as a female I really shouldn’t say what I’m about to say… but sometimes female comedians are just not that funny. Sorry. They can be a bit hit or miss, mainly because they’re trying too hard. Excluding the genius that was Victoria Wood! I saw Jenny Eclair a few years ago, who based her entire show around the menopause & made crude jokes throughout that a 57 year old just shouldn’t be making. Maybe I just wasn’t her target audience.

When I spotted Shappi Khorsandi  advertised in the Dorchester Arts Centre booklet I let my friend decide between Shappi & Russell Kane who was performing at the Electric Palace in Bridport. We’d seen Russell who was hilarious last year at the Octagon in Yeovil & so the decision was made to pay Shappi a visit at the Corn Exchange in Dorchester & best of all it was only 5 minutes from where we lived.

And Shappi didn’t disappoint. To start with, she was her very own warm up act, with a raw & laid back approach, as if you were in a sitting room having a cup of tea & a good old chin wag. Which instantly made you warm to her ditsy charm. Thankfully, we didn’t sit in the front row, as pretty much everyone got picked on! Surely, that’s the number one rule of attending a comedy show, especially when you can choose where to sit?!

After the interval, ‘professional Shappi’ came back with her show ‘Oh My Country’-  a celebration of living in England for 40 years after moving from Iran as a refuge. It’s pretty disturbing to hear some of the torment she’s been through over the years & even more recently on Twitter. Mainly because she’s a POC – person of colour & wasn't born in England. & cringeworthy to hear some of the stories & things people are still saying in this day & age. The highlight had to be when her 9 year old son Cassius made an appearance on stage. Without giving too much away, he’s definitely a comedian in the making & Shappi's show will most definitely make you feel happy!!

Shappi is currently on tour across the UK – with lots more dates coming up in June & the autumn.

07 May 2017

All Change....

It’s been a good month since I last blogged at the end of March about my sunny surf holiday in Fuerteventura. And it makes me sad to think I started the beginning of the year full of gusto & good intentions to get my blog back up & running & already I've hit a brick wall so early in the year.

April was a strange month & one of change which sent me into tilt. I know through my blog & social media channels anyone looking in would think I’m this happy go lucky girl with an amazing life - horse riding, dog walking, surfing & running. But sometimes I hit that brick wall & think what the f**k am I doing with my life?!

There were a number of emotional changes I was juggling. My secondment in PR & Social ended at the end of March, it was one of the best years in my working life & left me feeling on a high. Obviously there were some lows, but the amazing highs outweighed those & I’m grateful for that opportunity. I then started a new job looking after Change Comms where there was no job description, no clear path on what to do. Which on the one hand is amazing, as it meant I’m ‘the master of my own destiny’, but on the other hand also scared me stepping into the unknown.

I ended a relationship which after 2 years was going nowhere - our goals & beliefs weren’t aligned & there’s no point in just plodding along in opposite directions.

& thirdly we made some changes with Jonty’s education. I took advice from our physio to try out an instructor who would be more suitable & help get us back on track. & so far, just after 2 lessons – she’s been spot on.

I could go into a lot more depth about my work & personal life but that would be a pretty boring post & my blog would turn into a big therapy session. I guess, what I’m getting at, is that it's okay not to be okay, & as long as you recognise your emotions & use that energy in a positive way.

So, I’ve signed up to Tough Mudder with my work colleagues in August & started running again. & not just a little jog, I want to get that competitive edge back &I’m gradually getting my running mojo back through the help of Weymouth parkrun. Both horses are in work, after nine months off Barley is back on the road. At the moment he’s just in walk & trot, but it’s a start & gives me hope of normality again.

Like most bloggers when going through an emotional phase, we turn to Pinterest for inspiration. Here are some of my favourite ‘change’ inspired quotes saved in my Quote's board [for credit] which I take comfort in & hopefully will resonate with some of you. Thanks for reading... & apologies for the downbeat blog post, I feel normal upbeat Country Bumpkin Service will resume shortly. 

26 March 2017

Fuerteventura - Beaches

There’s something quite mesmerising about the sea, I find that it’s not until that beauty is taken away & I’m land locked again that I fully appreciate my time spent by the sea. & that feeling is no different to the hypnotic turquoise sea & white sandy beaches in Fuerteventura.

Fuerteventura is blessed with over 150 beaches & there’s probably even more that don’t make it to the official map as they might be a little harder to get reach.

Here’s some of my favourites captured on my Olympus Pen & trusty Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.

Glass Beach
A 10 minute drive out of Corralejo along the dunes & you're greeted by the most turquoise of seas I've seen for a long time. & there are even little waves which are perfect for beginners like me or Sup'ers.

Flag Beach
A 5 minute drive or 20-30 minute walk from Corralejo & across the dunes you'll discover Flag Beach, a long white sandy beach. & because of its location is usually perfect for kite / wind surfers.

Caleta (Creek) de Maria Diaz
About 20-30 minutes along the north track, half way between Majanicho & El Cotillo you'll discover Caleta de Maria Diaz which is actually a creek & not a beach (playa). A reef based break made for a sunny afternoon catching a few waves on my foam board. 

Isla de Lobos
No trip to Fuerteventura is complete without visiting Lobos, which I bigged up on my blog last year here. I'm not sure if it was the time of year, but the sea just looked so much more turquoise, it almost felt like we were in the Caribbean. 

The line up...
Ripping it up

Playa Jarugo
On our first day exploring Fuerteventura we headed to Tindaya Mountain & followed the rough track down to the sea, & after a bit of exploring discovered Playa Jarugo. There was one lone surfer trying his upmost to catch a wave with not much success. A quiet beach with a few camper vans rocking up for lunch, is definitely worth a visit if you fancy going off the beaten track. 

Playa de Ajuy
A black sandy beach located near Ajuy a remote little fishing village to the west of the island. Its a bit of a trek to get there, but definitely worth visiting for the views & to see the Ajuy sea caves.

Trying to get arty with the Olympus Pen
Inside the Ajuy Caves
Ajuy Caves