A Weekend In Devon

I’ve been very lucky in recent weeks to have enjoyed trips to Portugal and France, and my instagram is enjoying the beautiful content too. Now, while I love travelling around Europe, I had an equally amazing time a little closer to home on a little jaunt in Devon with Girls Explore.devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

Created by my friend Pippa, and her friend Hannah, Girls Explore is a community of like-minded women who simply enjoy spending time outdoors and want a lovely group of friends to explore with. When Pippa mentioned a weekend of surfing and hiking on the Devonshire coast, I couldn’t say no! What followed was one of the nicest, most enjoyable and relaxing weekends I’ve had in a long time.

Arriving on Friday afternoon, there was no set plan, apart from settling into the bunk house all 26 of us were staying in. St. George’s House is run by Christians but available for all to enjoy. As well as all the varied facilities on site, from volley ball, to table tennis and a full industrial kitchen, our stay with them included a surf lesson the following day.

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

Once I claimed my bunk, it was time to explore the local area with a couple of the ladies, on what I thought would be a little walk, which turned out to be a 15km trail from Georgeham to Puttsborough, around the coast to Baggy Point, into Croyde Bay and back to Georgeham…in flip flops! I’m glad we didn’t turn back however, as Baggy Point nearing sunset is a must see.

 devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

The perils of having beautiful weather is that the surf is also minimal, so we woke up early the next day to catch what swell we could back at Croyde Bay, popular Brit surfer Andrew Cotton. We were split into two groups, beginners and improvers, and had a good hour and a half in the water. Despite the small waves, I caught a few and had a lot of fun.

Later on we hired paddleboards and had a little SUP session in the afternoon sun – absolute bliss.

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

The day ended with a beach stretch session led by yours truly! Possibly the most relaxing class I’ve ever taught, listening to the ocean waves as we breathed into each stretch was so calming. It also highlighted how much time I spend in a studio as I couldn’t stop saying ‘reach up to the ceiling’ despite the blue skies above us!!

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

On Sunday, we hiked the coastal route from Morthoe towards Lee. We intended to hike for 4-5 hours, but as the temperatures were soaring to 27 degrees already by 9.30am we decided to cut it short after 3. We still have plenty of time for stunning views, and a dip in the ocean to cool off half way through.

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

devon, girls explore, weekend, travel,

I headed back to London feeling so calm, happy and more than a little sun kissed. Seeing the beauty that the UK has to offer has resulted in me wanting to explore more of what Britain has to offer. I’m very aware that my first two hiking experiences – The Alps and the Devonshire Coast under glorious blue skies – are probably not quite true of all hikes…but I can’t wait to explore the outdoors a little more in the future!

Where shall I hike next?

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A Trip to the Alps with Decathlon

Swapping my Sweaty Betty leggings and Barrecore grippy socks for hiking boots and shorts is not something I often do. In fact, it’s not something I’d ever done until a couple of weeks ago, when the lovely people at Decathlon invited me and the rest of their blogging community to visit their hiking brand, Quechua, in none other than the French Alps! Jumping at the chance to explore a new sport – exactly what Decathlon’s company ethos encourages – I prepared to hit the mountains.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

After flying into Geneva, Switzerland, and driving across the border to France, we arrived at Sallanches, a small town at the foot of the mountains. We collected our brand new Quechua hiking boots, courtesy of Decathlon, and bedded down, excited for the following day’s adventures.

The Hike

I’m sure I’m supposed to talk about the terrain (we followed good trails), the elevation (1,600m or so) and the nature (there were trees and wildflowers), but all I can remember is the view. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and had views of the stunning Mont Blanc with only a few clouds passing by. A couple of years ago I fell in love with the rugged landscape of Iceland, that may have been over taken by these breathtaking mountain views.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

Aside from the views, we were testing the MH500 Waterproof Mountain Hiking Boots from the Quechua range and I was impressed with the comfort and quality. After a 5 hour hike, I had no blisters and no pain in the balls of my feet. My silly, weak ankles felt completely supported throughout and we even tested how waterproof the boots were by standing in a mountain stream – no wet feet reported, a success!

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

I was also wearing Quechua MH100 shorts and using the NH100 20L backpack. For me, being a total hiking newbie, they worked a treat. The shorts we comfortable, a decent length that I didn’t feel self-conscious (I’m not used to traipsing around with my legs out), and lightweight enough to keep me cool in the glorious sun. The bag I’m super impressed with, for £6.99 it has plenty of room for all the essentials, complete with front clips, which I’ve never really known what people use them for, until out hiking when I realised that the last thing you want is for you bag to be sliding around your shoulders.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

After a 4km hike up to 1,690m, we stopped for a well deserved lunch of french bread (obviously), cheese, ham, avocado, fruit, and a flask of coffee that our genius local guide Thibaut brought along with him. For me, the descent was the hardest part, not a surprise just 5 months after knee surgery. I spent less time gazing at the beautiful scenery, and more time negotiating the tree roots underfoot. Our host from Decathlon, Anthony, kindly lent me a hiking pole, stayed at my pace, and I made it down, albeit a few minutes behind the rest of the crew. Hot, sweaty, happy and very proud of myself.

A Tour of the Mountain Store

Despite my raving about the mountains, the main purpose of our trip to Sallanches was to visit Decathlon’s Mountain Store. Far from just being a shop to pick up your hiking and skiing gear, the Mountain Store is a cafe, restaurant, tourist information spot, ski pass collection point, and local meeting place before ascending into the clouds. Aside from that, behind the scenes, you’ll find a wealth of offices where everything you’d possibly need for negotiating the mountains is created; from idea and concept, to design and prototype creation.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

Each department has a dedicated team who work together like a small start-up company within the larger Decathlon world. The working environment is geared towards group productivity, with large co-working tables and relaxing breakout areas. What impressed me the most was the attention to detail in what they produce, which I think might surprise some people. Each product has a prototype made using industrial equipment right there in the vast mountain store, hidden from customer view. Products are then subject vigorous tests using specialised stress testing equipment, before being given to experts to field test out in the mountains. Any issues can be troubleshot and altered before being sent for mass production. Our main focus was the Decathlon’s Quechua brand of course, but we also got a peek at some of the Wed’Ze winter sport equipment too.

Not completely satisfied with making sport accessible for all, Decathlon and the Mountain Store are also making their way in terms of sustainability. Rain water is collected and processed, the roof is adorned with solar panels and they’re dedicated to giving back to the environment and protecting the beautiful mountains that surround them.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

I had an absolute blast with the Decathlon team, and a marvellous group of bloggers. If you’re not tired of mountain spam on my instagram feed, here are a few more photos to whet your appetite. Big thanks for Decathlon for the invite and their wonderful hospitality.

decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking decathlon, quechua, mountains, the alps, hiking

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