There've been plenty of days when I've amazed myself at how easily I've let the time pass by without actually doing anything. Days when I've spent hours scrolling through my phone, watching Netflix or getting sucked down a Wikipedia rabbit hole that starts with me searching for 'The films of Meryl Streep' and ends with me looking at a list of Notable Residents of Corby.
There've also been days when I've amazed myself when I realise just how much stuff I can do when I just, well, bother.
And those are the days I end up remembering, even years down the line.
At Outdoors Magic, we recently published an article which listed some 'big days out' enjoyed by a number of adventurous people throughout the country, and it had me wondering what I'd get up to if I set myself a similar task – and where I'd go for it.
6am and my colleague Mike and I were off on our way out of the city with the smell of coffee filling the car; with boots, trail shoes, packs, helmets and more all strewn over the backseat; and a plan that had yet to be decided upon.
"You can run for hours on end up here, enjoying the incredible views in every direction..."
By the time we'd reached the Severn Bridge, we'd just about managed to come up with an outline for our day: we'd to the eastern end of the Brecon Beacons. More specifically we'd go to the Black Mountains as we figured the spectacularly varied landscape would match up well with our intended day of varied activities.
Our hope was to fit in a hike, trail run, swim and, if we could get hold of something with wheels, a bit of mountain biking. So once we arrived in the village of Talgarth, we loaded up our bags with all the necessary ingredients.
First up was a hike up to the top of a mountain that surely must rank, alongside Poopout Hill (California) and Chicken Breast Bluff (Wisconsin), as one of the world's most amusingly-named peaks: Lord Hereford's Knob. Its Welsh name is far nicer: Twmpa (toom-pa).
Streets turned into fields, fields turned into common and common turned into mountain moorland. It's a sharp, lung-busting climb, but you're rewarded with a trail runner's playground once you're on the top. The summit is part of a huge saddle that has a series of flat-topped ridges running southwards from it, one of which stretches for miles and miles to the other end of the range barely altering in height, so you can charge around for hours on end up here; enjoying the incredible views in every direction – if the weather is kind – and the twisting (and often very muddy) trails trodden into the peat. We tightened up the straps on our packs and picked up the pace, choosing to make our way off the mountain via what I'd say is the best ridge of the lot – the very aptly nicknamed 'Dragon's Back'.
A river or lake swim was one of the activities we wanted to tick off for our challenge, and after the distance we'd run, a dip into some fresh, cool water certainly seemed an attractive prospect. In search of a good spot, we followed a vein of water down the hill and into a wooded valley. Inside we found waterfalls and a pool that was deep enough to plunge into.
Once we were back in Talgarth we'd had such an action-packed day already that I didn't even feel remotely guilty about eating eat a whole pack of 12 Welsh cakes. It didn't even take long to finish it. Then we needed to think about what we were doing next.
The great thing about the Black Mountains – the area being such a hive of outdoor activity – is that you can get away with an oversight like planning to go mountain biking without having any mountain bikes or knowledge of where to find them. Fortunately, Google informed us that just down the road there was a shop in Talybont-on-Usk, a village well placed for some off-road riding.
We spent the next few hours exploring the section of the Taff Trail that runs along the length of Talybont reservoir as well as the tracks that weave through the dense forestry on a steep sided hill. Once we'd climbed high enough we were given some great views of Pen y Fan, the highest mountain in these parts.
A quick pint of local ale in the Star Inn and then we were back on the road home, both feeling satisfied by the sheer amount of fun stuff that we had managed to cram into just a single day.
Now, as I write this weeks after the trip, I remember that day in the Black Mountains well, but ask me what I did on the days either side of it and I can't recall a single thing. I bet they involved Netflix though.
The Aeon Range
By Lowe Alpine
We both used Lowe Alpine's Aeon for this trip – a pack designed to help you take on all kinds of high tempo activities. You'll find the Lowe Alpine Aeon in a multitude of designs and capacities for men and women. Choose the colour, the type of top closure you want (zipped or lid sealed?) and between sizes ranging from 16 litres to 33. For more info, head to lowealpine.com