Despite being surrounded by the green patches of the Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District, I spend the most time in North Wales. Snowdonia particularly has an abundance of spectacular roads, so I was thrilled to see that Overland and Motocamp Wales had arranged a Spring event in Dolgellau.
Spring into Action
The premise of the Spring into Action event differed from the usual Overland event in that it was more about activities than presentations. Also it would be set in the Welsh countryside with access not only to the aforementioned roads but also some fantastic on site facilities and only 10 minutes away from the TET.
In addition to the riding, there would be several other activities such as navigation workshops, hiking, foraging, photography workshops and campfire cooking demos. All this is underpinned by some sound entertainment, food and drink.
As usual for a camping trip the bike was fully loaded. I had my camp kitchen, tent and sleeping facilities, comfy chair and provisions for the weekend. It does leave me a little top heavy but no more than if I had a pillion on the back.
It was only just over a couple of hours to Motocamp on familiar roads and I was soon rolling past the entrance sign.
Motocamp is on the site of the old Dolgellau golf course and the green expanse up the hill to where a big top tent had been erected for the bar and stage was the camp ground. It was originally one of the fairways but would now host adventure bikes rather than golf carts.
The lead up to the grassed area was a curved path, slightly steep and while compacted, it was a gravel surface. I was a little concerned not only about how my road-biased tyres would handle it but also about the additional weight. If the weight had been a pillion I could have easily asked them to hop off momentarily.
It was sensibly suggested that someone with a little more offroad experience tackle the approach, so I stood back and watched happy that I would not be the start of the weekend’s entertainment.
I soon had camp set up and offered up my volunteering services, which was stipulated as a requirement for early arrivals. I do have a particular skill set and this was recognised as I ended up helping set up the bar and dispose of the early test pulls of the beer pumps.
A local catering firm was offering food but despite my collection of camp cookware I had yet to use it other than brewing or making porridge. Looking back at the previous cooking workshops I did with Lisa Thomas I was determined to be self-sufficient in this area. I had brought a few chilled items for the weekend and the ambient ingredients I needed for a recipe I’d adapted. Liquid refreshment was not a problem especially when the bar was opened fully in the big top.
My first activity booked was foraging. As a kid, I’d had a basic concept of what you could pick off a bush and stick in your mouth, and the grown-up me has seen plenty of cooking shows where foraging has been featured. I was very aware that beyond the basics there is a potential to get it very wrong. So detached from it all now with clinically packed supermarket offerings that I thought it would be good to experience a hike with a professional Ethnobotanist.
We were shown plants which are safe and plants which are toxic: Dandelion, Lesser Celandines, ribwort plantain, Western Red Cedar, Birch, Brambles, Wild Raspberry, Sheep sorrel, Rosebay willowherb, Pignut, Wood sorrel, Dog violets, Lords & Ladies, Hemlock, Yellow Archangel, Cleavers, Meadowsweet, Hogweed, Japanese Knotweed, ground elder and Hemlock Water Dropwort.
It was good to be shown things that I could try safely but the macabre in me was particularly fascinated by how abundant the Hemlock and Water Dropwort was.
I have never carried a camera on the bike other than GoPros. When I did have space when transitioning from sports bikes to adventure bikes the camera on my smartphone was more than sufficient for my needs. I did however have an array of Nikon cameras and lenses. None of these had actually seen proper action.
With this unfilled desire, the next workshop I booked myself into was photography with Simon Thomas. I’d brought along my Nikon 1 J2 which was a nice size to throw on the bike. When I turned up at the session I realised that the focus of the session was focussed on getting the best out of the smartphone camera.
I’ve had numerous iPhones over the years and my current device is an iPhone 13 Pro Max with multiple lenses and the usual tricks up its sleeve. I’d like to think I know my way around tech but there were a few tips that Simon offered that I had not come across such as the ability to shoot RAW on an iPhone.
We looked at landscape composition, portraits, close-ups and a few tricks with the portrait mode to do long exposure effects. Finally, we ended up editing. I’m already very familiar with editing using the standard tools. My usual go-to process is to tweak the exposure, add a little contrast, adjust shadows and highlights, drop the black point a little then add a touch of vignette. What was suggested is that we have a go with Abobe Lightroom mobile which gives a further set of tools and options.
With the Nikon untouched the session ended. Far from any disappointment it reaffirmed my position that I was happy with just the phone in my pocket for documenting travels. Furthermore, I like that all my photos are geotagged so I know where I was when I took the picture. Invaluable for the writings in this blog.
Are we not entertained?
On the entertainment front, The Overland Event never fails to put on a show. With Saul Jeavons keeping me lubricated with ale, Iain ‘Fish’ Gudgeon was manning the AV with a fine playlist of tunes and then manned the deck when we were entertained with live music from Two Sick Steves, and on special request from Steph Jeavons a performance from Thy Last Drop. The latter had played last year’s summer Overland event and again they went down a storm.
This was very much a breakaway from the format of the normal Overland Event. The presentations had been replaced with activities, and while I opted for activities not of the two-wheeled variety I thoroughly enjoyed myself and will definitely return.