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Welsh Weekender 2023

Our Event organiser Mr Mike Barrett has delivered yet another superlative Tuff adventure. The participants this time were as follows; Dom Amey, Mike Barrett, Iris Bennett, Barry & Liane Davids, Andy Gomm, Dan & Ness Green, Clive & Trevor Harvey, Pete Littleboy, Adrian Oliver, Tiff Orton, Mouse Reilly, Jon Roper & Hazel Tuppen. Mike has collated the event report and starts off with his thoughts, then some of the participants reflect on the action-packed weekend:-

“What can I say, the first year was brilliant but this year, 2023 was incredible and I’m still buzzing from it (and knackered from it). Talk about taking yourself to your limits in just one weekend”.  

“From my POV, I’ve always wanted to go Wild Swimming and set about trying to find us a  remote location, I found a few and the group settled on Keepers Lodge, personally I didn’t think it was going to be cold how wrong I was, (For me wild swimming has to be as near to skins as possible). Then it was a drive to the Gorge Walking… this bettered last year’s attempt at an adventure swim in the River Wye and far exceeded my expectations for a thrill seeking event. And then finally, I had secretly arranged for a Rock Climbing session which was outside up a real rock face. Which again far exceeded my expectations. Just listening to everyone chattering at the foot of the mountain (It was, like Majorca! A mountain!) was just brilliant. Bike Park Wales, bluntly fantastic. (Nothing broken 🙂 ). Bring on Orienteering, I had been trying to get us into a Fell running race but our weekend clashed with the Swansea Marathon so I ended up chatting with Great Britain’s Orienteering event  organiser, I begged and pleaded to get us a space however, with it being a big Orienteering weekender we couldn’t officially participate in the full event but, I did manage to get us let loose on the course. So a big shout out to at Pat MacLeod and his team. I didn’t let on the size of the event to the Tuff’s”.

“Funniest moment, Gommy picked up Orienteering like a duck to water, he and Hazel were pointing and orientating the map like experts, as we ran off from checkpoint 5 to 6, I shouted to Gommy, this Orienteering stuff might just be your calling! Before I could finish he was face down in a pile of twigs laughing having tripped arse over…”

“And, on to next years’ Welsh Weekender 2024… probably 2 weeks earlier due to Ironman 70.3 Croatia (watch this space). Bike Park Wales will always be the key event that the weekend is wrapped around”.

The Tuff’s were armed with a kit list that took about a week to prepare, it is the people who attend these events that make it all work so here in their own words are the reports; it’s a bit lengthy but it has to be to relate to all the fun that was had… To the Welsh Weekenders of 2023, there will be others in the future, but this was an exceptional year.

I urge you all to watch this à https://1drv.ms/v/s!ApLkqc8ervzFgu5Dmgo0MXHFe-b-SQ

Thank you to Barry for compiling footage from your drone and Adrian and Dan’s cameras.

Here’s what went on


The first report from Liane

6am on Friday morning, we set off on our first Welsh weekender. What an action packed calendar we had!

Day 1 – wild swimming in keepers pond lake. The rule was to swim in skins (preferably with some swim wear too) but when we arrived and felt how cold it was wetsuits started coming out of various cars. In the end, there was only one person in a full wetsuit (any guesses?) and me in a very short and skimpy one so that doesn’t count. It was  pretty chilli at 11 degrees but we did it. 

Next, off to Gorge Walking. I had no idea what this entailed but basically, we put on wetsuits, jumped into a river, clambered over rocks, sat in a waterfall, then more jumping – great fun had by all. 

Straight on to rock climbing. This was the scariest bit for me as I’m not great with heights but after losing my contact lenses in the river, I couldn’t really see much so this really helped. My group consisted of Clive, Dom , Ness and me and it turns out both Clive and Dom were rock climbers in a previous life and were like mountain goats.

On to the cottage and whilst the women showered and sat with a drink of their choice, the men cooked a delightful meal of pasta, veg and garlic bread. The highlight of the evening was watching Trevor, Andy and Tiff (I think) get cream splattered in their faces whilst playing some sort of Russian Roulette.

Day 2 – after the women cooked an incredible breakfast for all, we set off to the mountain bike park. Sadly, Clive and Trevor left first thing as they had other plans but managed to find a park run nearby on their route home.

I must admit, I was incredibly nervous, not for myself, but knowing that Baz was going to be racing down the mountains one armed which meant one brake only and very likely to fall off (more about that to come). It took a while to get us all kitted out but finally we were on the bus and at the top for our first green run, all of us going down together in convoy. It was brilliant and I think we all stayed upright on this one. Mouse decided to break away from the group and descend at a more sensible pace, whilst the rest of us speed up somewhat. Dom had a minor fall live on camara for us all to watch.  Mouse confessed to falling off 7 times but managed the final descent with no fall so they were delighted with this. After a quick stop for lunch, Baz and I decided to attempt the Beast of Burden which was a hill climb to the top – strangely no one else wanted to accompany us. Basically, we did 4.5km of climbing up a narrow winding trail with all sorts of obstacles to get over. 5 mins in and it happened – Baz went round a tree and as I followed, I watched him descend over the side of the path and crash about 10 ft down, over rocks and into a tree. I raced down expecting the worst but was pleasantly surprised when I saw him stagger up. We tried to untangle him and his bike out of a tree and scrabble up, only for him to fall all the way down again. After a lot of swearing (from Baz not me) and help from a passerby, we were back on our track with just some minor bruising. 48 mins later we made it to the top  and were rewarded with a 4km cycle back to base.

Most of the group went to the pub on route home but Adrian, Mouse, Hazel and I decided to go back and shower and get dinner cooking – lentil dahl and left over pasta. Once we were all back, Baz introduced a small group to a card game called The Mind – if you’ve never played it before, we’d highly recommend it.  Maybe best to learn the rules before having a drink though. Then Guess the Song took over and evolved into a noisy evening of singing.

Day 3 – orienteering. Dom departed after breakfast and the rest of us set off, once again into the unknown. Little did we know we had entered into a 2 day international orienteering competition. Fortunately, the man running the event had realised we were novices and set us off for our own mini competition. We split into 4 groups:

Tuff Tuffing – Andy, Mike, Hazel
Tuff we’re walking – Baz, Mouse, Jon and Dan
Tuff It = Ness, Adrian, Tiff

Which Tuffing Way (aptly named as it happens) – Iris, Pete, Liane

It was a fierce competition and won by Tuff Tuffing in an amazing time of 45 mins. Tuff it and Tuff we’re walking both came in well under an hour and then there was Which Tuffing Way in an incredible 1 hour 40 mins. The main concern from everyone  was not were we safe but were we going to make it back in time for the roast dinner booked for 3.30pm (no was the answer!). So what went wrong? It was a combination of team errors.

We were given 10 numbers to find and at each point was a dibber that you had to press to record you’d found it. Each dibber had its own number so not only did you have to find an orange box but it had to have the correctly numbered dibber in it.

Mistake no 1 was none of us could map read and so we ended up going about 15 mins in the wrong direction – we soon realised that ditching the compass was the way forward ( and asking a few passersby) and we found our first dibber. All was going great until we searched for number 5.

Mistake no 2 – having found a dibber, Iris told me it was the wrong number so we painstakingly searched for another box. On the verge of giving up, Iris announced she’d read the number wrong and it had been the correct dibber after all! This small error added another extra 10 mins to our race.

Mistake no 3 – we were told to keep our maps upside down so that north was at the top. Having taken this advice literally, it was an easy mistake to then get 6 and 9 muddled up (wasn’t it?). Feeling confident of our directions, Iris and I raced ahead to find no 6 but Pete seemed hesitant to follow. Having climbed through a boggy ditch and found “no 6” we bumped into Tuff we’re walking who informed us this was dibber 9 (they only had 1 to go). My little number error probably added an extra 20 mins to our time.

Only then did Pete confess he’d known this all along but knew better than to question 2 women on a mission!

After that, my team temporarily slumped into despair realising we had no chance of winning but we rallied round and decided to find the last 4 dibbers. We made it back to the others, only to find out how unbelievably slow we’d been compared to everyone else. Our slowness also meant the pub had stopped serving food but fortunately all those going for a roast managed to find somewhere else on route so no one starved.

It was a really fun weekend all round and a great opportunity to get to spend time with a group of Tuffs. A special mention to Mike for his amazing organisation skills and without him, this weekend would not have happened; and to Iris for organising and ordering the food and for being “Mum” for the weekend – she even made cheese and ham rolls on her lap in the car whilst Mike drove so that we all had something to eat before gorging.

Hopefully, there will be many more Welsh weekenders in the future.

From Pete Littleboy

Having taken part in this  weekend last year it was soooo good I moved here (Wales) and so there was no way I wasn’t going this year, last time it started on the Friday till Sunday but this year with a few improvements so a wild swim was planned for Friday morning-ish however, I couldn’t make this but, the beauty of this organised weekend is, you can do as much or as little as  you wanted so I met up with the group for the Gorge Walking & Rock Climbing.

Having never done Gorge Walking, I loved it! It was surprisingly tiring as you jump up or  drop in to water or crawl through the river and water falls and so, at the end of our session and, only if you wanted to, was the rock climbing/ abseiling. Having done this before I had 1 go and was more than happy with that as it was getting late and we still had to get to the accommodation and cook which is included in the price which makes it super-efficient. So onto day 2 and my personal favourite mtbing at BPW as it caters for all ages and abilities however, this time I hired the bike as mine was in storage but the fun was more or less the same for everyone and I mean all of us grinning from ear to ear and there was even a song about it.

After a full day it was back to the accommodation for food games and laughter and the odd drink. Day 3 was orienteering and even with a 5min map and compass reading lesson (having never been a scout), I was still none the wiser but hey, how hard could it be???? But I was sooo wrong as it’s a thing and we were among a British championship event and I struggled as did our team! But it was nice running around the Forest of Dean. I bid the others farewell and upon reflection I would do it all again in a heartbeat as it’s an awesome weekend and very well organised and made some beautiful memories.

From Vanessa Green

What an awesome weekend! An early start Friday ready for a fun filled day. First stop keeper’s pond. The views were amazing the wind chill factor was chilly but we all braved a dip. This was swiftly followed by gorge walking. Time to push ourselves out of our comfort zones not for the first time that day.. So much fun jumping in the ice-cold water before floating down stream to the next activity. Loved every minute.. .it was then time to drive off and get changed in the world’s most secure changing rooms (had to be there) before we hit the rock climbing.. Heights are not my thing but I made it to half way before the jelly legs got the better of me and I had to come down.. everyone enjoyed it and had a go..

After all this it was time to head back to the villa for some well-earned food and a couple of cheeky vinos…the boys cooked a very yummy dinner and made enough pasta for the whole of Wales.. 🙂

Saturday was soon here and after a hearty breakfast it was off to Bike Park Wales.. 

What an amazing place.. after doing a couple of runs together we all went about our day hitting as many trails as we could… I even learned my left and right and mastered the berms by the end of the last run.. a couple of tumbles from a few people but no broken bones.. a successful day!

To prevent a queue for the shower a few of us selflessly went to the pub ..:) and Wales is the place to go at just 3.50 a pint!

A fun night was had , name that tune.. was a winner…

Finally, we were at Sunday and we had a morning of orienteering to go.. we all arrived thinking it was a small local event…how wrong were we!

The national orienteering championships..600people over the weekend.. the competition was on!!

4 Tuff teams headed out having had compass and map reading lessons the night before..  the 3.2k route was certainly a lot longer for some..

It was time to then head home.. from an amazing fun filled.. Full on.. adrenaline fuelled weekend..

I’m defo up for next year!!

And from Mouse Reilly

I’m not going to lie I was terrified the night before. What had I let myself into.

Keepers pond was amazing, not too cold (11°) the custardary bottom was interesting but the views were stunning. No stopping though, next up gorge walking. 

Another place with stunning views and scenery. Another place with lots of cold water. Everyone pushing their limits of what they thought was possible for them. 

Quick change and snacks, till our hands were filled up with the harnesses. Onto rock climbing. 

Lots of courage and scrambling up the rock face. Belaying was as hard as climbing, but every role was fun and a great introduction to the sport.

I retired early to read and relax whilst everyone else partied, ate and drunk plenty.

Early morning yoga in the garden, porridge and Ted talks. Then I was ready to join everyone else and attack the bike trails.

 OK , I think they fought back in my case. 7 falls on 2 runs of the “beginner” course. Bumps and bruises but no breaks. Last run, no falls, so take that as a win.

Weather held up most of the day, but waterproofs came in handy at the end. Group split into those going to the pub, and those going back to house. 

Lovely time talking and eating as I forgot lunch, as having too much fun, cycling.

Another quiet night and early morning for me before orienteering.

First signs of how well this was going to go, was when finding the right tent was a challenge for all. 

Tuff we’re walking, took our time and made it round, unfortunately we didn’t hear (listen) to the important piece of information that the points have an individual number corresponding on the map. 

Only got two wrong, more by luck than judgement maybe, but 8 out of 10 is a good first try, and 1hr.50mins for a 5km is a decent time.

Quick pub venue check, drinks and a roast for most. Thanks and fond farewells, then on our way, to home and bed.

And finally from Tiff ‘No Limits’ Orton

Having attended last year, Jon and I knew we’d be back and Mikes planning, as always, didn’t disappoint.

Wild swimming at Keepers Pond to start the Friday morning off in a chilly way lol!

Onto gorge walking (for those who haven’t done this do give it a try). Basically walking up a river, through waterfalls, a bit of scrambling up rocks and various heights of jumping into the river. It was a fab experience which I hadn’t done before.

At the same location (as if we hadn’t done enough already!) we then went rock climbing. I hadn’t done this since my teens so wasn’t sure how I’d fair. 3/4 of the way up on run 1, I was then to make it to the top of run 2 which I was really pleased with. Loved the abseiling down too.

Back to the villa where chef Jon took his rightful place in the cooking of a lovely large pasta dinner (enough to feed the 5000!). Leftovers were enjoyed at Bike Park Wales the next day by Dom.

Saturday started with a full English breakfast to fuel the day at BPW. BPW was freaking awesome, loved it. Much more confident than last year, I managed to progress into the blue runs quickly. We split into smaller groups after lunch and just kept on riding!! Loved it!

After a brief stop at a pub (enough for a couple!) we got home to find Adrian and Liane had basically prepared the whole dinner, a yummy curry and all the trimmings (thanks!) More drinks consumed, games played and so many laughs.

After a slower start on the Sunday, time to pack up all our kit (a kit list for one weekend has never been so long!) and prepared for our orienteering event. We all underestimated the size of the event (some 600 participants from all over the country!). We were allowed to partake in teams as we were novices. Turns out a £5.99 compass from Amazon may not be the best for orienteering! My team was Adrian, Ness and myself. We started off shaky, running round like headless chickens, but when we got the hang of it, turns out we were second tuff team home.

A wonderful weekend away with fabulous people, fabulous food and fabulous adventures. Bring on 2024….

A massive thanks to Mike and Iris for organising, you guys rock! Thanks to all attendees too, love you all x