Yes it’s that time of year again – when you start finding yourself singing tunes from the Muppets Christmas Carol, wanting to live in a nest of blankets, and eating your own weight in mince pies. It might also be the time where you spend days staring blankly at your friends or family wondering what to get them, but fear not! Here’s my guide to the best Christmas gifts for outdoor lovers – perfect for climbers, hikers, adventurers and anyone just a little bit wild.
Every now and then I think about jacking in the day job and heading off to live the life of an itinerant wanderer on horseback; spending my days criss-crossing the wild parts of country. It’s not the most practical dream at the moment, but luckily I was able try out being a vagabond on a smaller scale with Freerein, who have been offering both guided and self-guided rides through their patch of Wales since 1989.
If you’re in search of tiny picturesque villages, miles of rambling over open heathland and more local folklore than you can shake a stick at, then Dartmoor is the place to go. I spent a week swimming in rivers, exploring the wild moors, and generally pretending I was in a gothic horror mystery novel. Spoiler alert: at no point was I eaten by a giant hound.
As anyone who knows me could tell you, I love a bit of Poldark. When I was little most of my family holidays were spent in Cornwall, so seeing the beautiful coastline, beaches and moorland on screen in the recent BBC series gave me a real craving to go back. (Ok I admit it, Aidan Turner’s torso helped too). So south I went to the land of fudge and pasties, where I spent most of my time wandering round the county in search of locations from the series.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you want me to wake up pre-8am, the best tactic is to bribe me with ponies. If you then add another quirky sport into the mix I might even be enthusiastic about it – which explains why I was up at the ungodly hour of 5am a few weeks ago so that my lovely co-adventurer Siân and I could drive over to Hertfordshire for a day of Horseback Archery. (Yes it is a thing. Yes it is awesome.)
If you’ve never been to Pembrokeshire, you are definitely missing out. Tucked away in south-west Wales, it has the same sort of beautiful coastline and picturesque little towns as Cornwall, but minus the bustling crowds and sky-high prices. It also happens to be a great spot for a bit of A&E – which in this context means adventure and exploration. Although you never know once I get involved…
According to Benjamin Disraeli, ‘a canter is a cure for all evils’. Fortunately I’m not plagued by that many evils at the moment, but I was still glad of a chance to blow away the cobwebs when I went beach riding in Pembrokeshire, courtesy of Nolton Stables.