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Escape London, in a pair of speedos…

21 Sep

Escape London recently decided to return to his pond weed roots.  He went swimming.  It’s a commonly known fact that swimming has always been the second best thing a human can possibly do with their clothes off.  Apart from the obvious, swimming sits upon a watery throne as the single most free-spirited pastime us mere mortals can enjoy.  After-all when you’re in water, you FLOAT.  It’s like flying without the horrid inevitability that a face full of earth awaits your fall.  When swimming, WE’RE in control.  Touch the bottom?  It’s our decision…(although having been programmed from a young age to fetch rubber bricks from the depths of a pool, we invariably head straight down within seconds…)

An essential part of our childhood development

Escape London would recommend finding your own patch of wild water to lay claim to and explore.  Sharing a pool with 10,000 screaming, over-excited children, intent on drowning one another soon loses it’s appeal, generally after you’ve ‘accidentally’ elbowed 3 of them in the face.  Admittedly, Escape London feels slightly guilty for his hatred of children in swimming pools, they’re simply unable to repress their absolute delight at the sheer volume of fun surrounding them.  It’s different for adults, over the years the International swimming pool code has slowly woven it’s way into our very existence…we have learned to accept that running on pool side will never be tolerated, bombing is unfathomably frowned upon and petting must only be attempted if both parties are absolutely positive the coast is clear.  Whoever designed that sign is a cruel, but brilliantly effective fun tyrant and has power beyond their own reckoning.  Imagine if our highstreets adopted a similar approach:  ‘Will Patrons kindly refrain from: Pillaging, Pissing, Vomiting, Smashing each other’s face in, Setting fire to other people’s property, Shooting people in the back of the head’ etc posted every 10m down our roads…all our government would then require is a task force of highly trained whistle blowers, dressed in bright uniform and sitting in high chairs, to instil the fear of God into those foolish enough to break the code.  Just a suggestion.

The Internationally recognised rules of swimming-pool engagement

Does going for a swim at your local pool really COUNT as Escaping London?  Escape London will leave it with you to decide.  Obviously it’s preferable to head for the wilderness, swan-diving  from perilous cliffs into crystal clear coastal waters and away from the beady eyes of the fun police.  It’s here that the International Swimming code of conduct is forgotten, left to disintegrate like the skank around a pool filter.  You can run, jump, flip, scream with glee, play fight, pet away like sea rabbits and generally laugh in the face of the fun tyrant and his cronies.  Escape London likes to jump off things whenever the chance arises, water or no water, it’s fun and worth noting that our jumping careers are finite…imagine looking back on our lives, nestled uncomfortably in our wheelchairs, wistfully wishing we’d jumped more often, contemplating wheeling ourselves straight off the edge of our nursing home balcony, attempting a 360 somersault before drowning in the pond below.  Our final moment of conciousness a fuzzy image of the ‘no bombing’ sign before our corpse is feasted upon by ravenous Coy Carp and tadpoles.  Yearning to do this for no other reason than an intrinsic guilt for not having stuck two fingers up at the fun police while we had the chance.  So go wild-swimming, go before the closest we get to a good dive is being dunked in a bath by a burly, slightly perverted  nurse with anchor tattoos.

Keep jumping while you still can!

Escape London is not claiming to be David Walliams, nor is he a Big River Man like Martin Strel (please check this guy out, he’s an absolute hero) http://www.martinstrel.com  …but he simply enjoys the feeling of being in water.  How great is swimming?  It’s difficult to express in words exactly how high the levels of excitement climb.  Imagine the sound of the 10,000 afore-mentioned screaming children, echoing around the cavernous confines of your local pool.  These ensnared bellows, bouncing from window to wall, mixing into a frenzied cacophony of unhinged, red-bull fuelled hysteria, go some way to achieving what plain words cannot.  Swimming is fun in its purest form.

David Walliams is a massive advocate of Wild Swimming...great inspiration

Escape London was confronted with a diving pool the last time he attended a public baths.  As mentioned earlier, the only thing that beats splashing around in water, is splashing into water.  Diving from a great height, with reckless abandon whilst simulataneously attempting to look cool whilst flying through the air is not easy.  Unless you practise.  Escape London dived so many times, that the highly unfashionable short-shorts (handed down from his father around 10 years ago) were stretched down below the knee.  That’s how good diving is… Even Escape London’s trunks were unable to maintain their composure.

Swimming wild, or ‘Free Swimming’ wins hands down though.  There’s something undeniably invigorating about swimming in the wild…It makes you feel alive.  There’s a certain fear that comes with swimming into the ocean, way out of your depth and with no clue as to what lays beneath, it heightens every one of your senses.  There’s the panic, the spasm inducing alarm that comes from brushing against an unknown object when out at sea…it’s a ridiculous level of fear, of helplessness that wont vanish until you’ve smashed 25 of your finest ever front-crawl strokes to reach a perceived saftey.  Yet when relaxation arrives and you find yourself floating gracefully on your back, gazing at the blue sky overhead and looking to the shoreline in the distance, you really do feel amazingly free.  The slowly undulating waves, the uninterrupted sound of nature and a proud tingle in your muscles from the physical exertion are hard to topple.

Swimming = happy

Don’t just take Escape London’s word for it though…There are various websites, societies and associations that cater for every wild swimmer’s desires…Check out a couple here: http://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com , http://www.wildswimming.co.uk .

These guys will help you plan your next wild swim in great detail, from deciding on the right kit, the location, the time of year and recommending hidden gems for you to explore.  This time of year is actually ideal for a spot of wild swimming, the English sea is the warmest it’ll ever be having been heated throughout the Summer and the crowds of school children are back where they belong…leaving us with miles of beaches, coast line, rivers and lakes to ourselves.  So, get the speedos and wesuits on and get out in the wild for a free adventure that’s hard to beat.  And remember, whenever you get the chance…flip the Fun Police the bird..

Escape London, to Hedsor House

13 Sep

Glorious place for a party...

Escape London wants everyone to escape to Hedsor House this coming weekend (17th -18th Sept) and do their bit for charity whilst partaking in a little hedonism.  Hedsor House is hosting it’s annual charity event in aid of Médecins Sans Frontières.  This unique event promises revellers a one-night festival experience within the stunning grounds of Hedsor House.

A crowd of 1000 well known socialites, key influencers from the world of fashion, art and music will gather on the stunning lawns of Hedsor House to be entertained by the likes of world-renowned beatboxer Shlomo, Joe Driscall, Rocketeers and Kaya, all fresh from performing at world famous Glastonbury festival.  Hedsor House itself is famed as one of the UK’s most beautiful venues with recent guests including Mark Ronson, Nicole Kidman and Ricky Gervais.  This historic manor house in Buckinghamshire is pretty much the perfect escape this weekend, what can be more perfect than bouncing your way through an evening of great music, surrounded by beautiful countryside all in the name of a great cause?

Great charity, great cause

Every penny raised by Hedsor 2011 is going directly to Médecins Sans Frontières MSF (Doctors Without Borders), the independent international medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid in more than 60 countries to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters or exclusion from healthcare.  MSF is one of the leading charities combating the crisis in East Africa.  The previous event, Hedsor 2009, raised enough money to immunise 75,000 children from measles, a killing disease in many areas of Africa.   Hedsor 2011 aims to raise even more.  Tickets are running out so you’ll need to book quickly if you’re to experience this utterly unique, extravagant event. www.hedsor2011.com

Mark Shephard, Founding Partner of Hedsor House says:

“Having worked on the ground with Médecins Sans Frontières in Pieri, South Sudan and Kenya, I cannot emphasise enough the importance of their work.  MSF gets to the very heart of the most desperate areas of East Africa where the current struggle with conflict and severe drought has been well documented by the media.  Many believe that they are powerless to help, but events and fundraising initiatives like Hedsor 2011 demonstrate otherwise.”

Marc DuBois, Executive Director of MSF UK said:

“As Mark Shephard, who has worked for MSF out in the field, well knows, MSF people like a good party almost as much as we like saving lives.  We’re very excited about this event, raising both funds and awareness for our work in humanitarian emergencies across the world.”

Party at the house

The event attendees will include a superb guest list of socialites and key influencers from the worlds of fashion, art and music.  Hedsor 2011 has allocated a small number of tickets to be purchased by the general public, please visit http://www.hedsor2011.com.

The event is in association and supported by Hedsor Events, Peroni Nasto Azzuro, Westons Cider, Delhicious Foods, Bordeaux Wine Investments, Class Act, Pussy Natural Energy, Firefly and 4Front Security and who have all most generously provided their products and services for the event.

For further information, please see www.hedsor2011.com

This way to the party...

About Hedsor House

Set in 85 acres of glorious parkland and reached by a 1km wooded driveway, Hedsor House is a magnificent events venue located in Taplow, Buckinghamshire offering first class facilities and service for conferences, meetings, training events, bespoke events, private functions, weddings and filming. From hosting King George III and Queen Victoria in centuries past to hosting Nicole Kidman in The Golden Compass and Mark Ronson’s recent star-studded birthday party, Hedsor House is steeped in history. www.hedsor.com

The event is being organised by the three brothers, Mark, Hamish and Nick Shephard, to whose family Hedsor House belongs.

In all honesty, Hedsor House would make a pretty perfect destination for a retreat from the London slog throughout the year, but that feeling you get when you know you’re doing something good, whilst having an incredible time nicely warms the cockles.  Tickets are limited so please make haste and get yourself booked in for a night of hedonism, with a twist of eccentricity.  Escape London


Escape London: The Snowdon Effect

24 Aug

This is a post delivered in the least conventional of forms, describing adventures in the least conventional of ways and depicting an ascent of Snowdon by the least conventional of groups.

Firstly, I’ll give you the bare essentials:

  • Drive time from London to Snowdonia (Llanberis) takes around 4hr 30min on a good day.
  • Accomodation is varied in Llanberis, we stayed in the famous Pete’s Eats Bunkhouse http://www.petes-eats.co.uk/ It’s uber basic but uber welcoming and offers the biggest mugs of tea with a great breakfast in the morning.
  • Due to weather conditions we were forced to take the Pyg Track to the summit of Snowdon.  This route is fairly achievable for all fitness level with very few hairy moments to speak of.
  • The alternative route (which I completed a few years ago) is the Crib Goch Ridge, this should not be attempted unless you have a good head for heights, a decent level of fitness and are walking with somebody experienced.  Don’t just take my word for it though read http://www.rockclimbingcompany.co.uk/Snowdon_Crib_Goch_Scramble.html for further info.
  • We were up and down the mountain in about 5hr, despite taking a huge detour and climbing in gale force winds.  On a Summer’s day you should be able to knock at least an hour off this time.

Right, back to the story, when I say group, there were 3 of us:

Firstly myself, Dan Layton.  I love the outdoors and always have done.  Give me a chance to escape the city into the hills, down to the coast or up a mountain and I’ll race you along every path until we get there.  I’d take a tent over a Travelodge every time.  A steaming early morning brew, heated over an open fire beneath the stars vs a Mocha Chocca Whatta from Starbucks?  There’s no contest.  So I arrange hiking expeditions as often as life permits.  On this occasion there were a number of reasons behind the trip.  I work in recruitment; it’s intense, fast-paced and at times demoralizing.  I work hard, throwing myself into each and every day and I need these breaks.  I yearned for a release and the chance to feel enriched by good people and wild surrounds.  Another trail steering me towardsSnowdoncame in the unlikely form of a pitiful moustache slowly taking root on my upper lip.  The whiskers clung there perilously, as if not sure they were in the right place.  They gave the impression that the slightest gust of wind would cause a hairy avalanche of pathetic proportions.  The pre-pubescent-like growth was in the name of charity and this trip toNorth Waleswould see me almost double my thus far meager sponsorship.  Part of the deal was that I had to dress in attire ‘befitting a man with a moustache’.  I went with a 1920’s explorer theme.

Then there was William aka ‘Sarg’.

He had deemed walking boots surplus to requirements, instead opting for the slightly less conventional approach of carrier bags, worn over his socks with a pair of trainers.  His blood has a high Irish content, that’s the only way in can possibly justify his thought process.  An amateur racing driver and a massive advocator of whiskey, Sarg was primarily excited by the drinking and driving (not at the same time) elements of the trip.

Last but not least; Jack, who when fully kitted up resembled a Polish train driver (I’d never seen one before either, yet the description fits perfectly).  He had brought a set of Nordic walking poles, a hip flask and very little else.  Suffice to say, his motivations also centered largely around finding places to drink.  Jack was to be sadly disappointed upon discovering that the ‘Pub at the top’ was entirely fictitious. 

We arrived late on the Friday evening having driven through some of the heaviest rain fall we had ever experienced.  Snowdonia no longer had roads, only brown, curdling rivers along which we slowly negotiated our way through the dark.  By the end of our first night in Llanberis the 3 of us had been warned away from the mountain by just about every local in every pub we came across.  Contemplating an attempt at the summit was apparently, ‘ridiculous’.  There were severe weather warnings issued across the region and wide spread flooding was rife, yet we felt it our duty to at least try.  It’s not as if we were attempting Everest, was it?  Friendly landlords looked at us despairingly, as if this were the last time anyone would set eyes on us alive.  They even offered us free bottles of water, trinkets to take with us to the grave, on our departure.  People seem to care more in these parts.  They appear to have a genuine concern for outsiders and share their local knowledge and wisdom openly.  I guess this is an attempt to assist us with avoiding death.  A couple of hours later, around 1am and whilst dancing drunkenly to ‘Firestarter’ on the jukebox of a deserted pub, this made me feel warm inside.

Stood in the car park at the foot of Snowdon the following morning, we groggily cast a vote on whether or not to tackle the Crib Goch Ridge.  Based on the advice from our new friends in the pub, the gale-forced gusts attempting to force rain through our very flesh, and the fact Sarg felt perhaps his trainer/carrier bag combo may not be as sturdy as first thought, the vote was unanimous:  Pyg Trail to the top.  Easy.  It took just over 10min before Sarg and the Polish Train driver had been forced into a concentrated silence by the treacherously slippery conditions and physical exertions that ensued from taking a ‘short cut’ around the first lake we came to.

The lull in conversation was interrupted by a tirade of expletives from Sarg.  The ‘short-cut’ was proving to be a ridiculous idea.  Each of us continuously found our boots wedged in the sodden, muddy grass and the wind was doing its utmost to bludgeon us to the ground in submission.  What should have been a 20min journey around the picturesque lake, turned into a 2hr struggle of epic proportions.  Sarg and his carrier-boots weren’t faring particularly well.  He kept stumbling over the surplus bagging and ended up crawling for long stretches at a time.  Jack was holding himself together marginally better yet sweat poured from his forehead in torrents rivalling the surging river cascading down the mountain.  Yet he could only muster an occasional sigh to reveal is discomfort, words were beyond him, the profanities that Sarg so readily threw into the mountain air were simply out of Jack’s reach.  And it pained him enormously.

We finally made it to the main trail and collapsed for a while to recuperate.  We encountered other walkers for the first time that day.  I’d become used to Sarg and Jack’s eccentric appearance yet they seemed to be creating pure fear in the hikers.  Sarg looked like a rabid homeless man who had been dragged to this spot, on his knees the whole way fromLondon.  Jack wasn’t even able to make eye contact with the poor people, he was still doubled over, either dry-heaving or gasping for breath, it was difficult to tell the difference.  I attempted to deflect attention from the two of them by striking up a conversation.  30seconds later they were making their excuses and beating a hasty retreat.  This was confusing.  I’m usually pretty good at striking up a rapport with new people, it’s a strength of mine. I put it down to my disgraceful friends, until I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the puddle below me, suddenly it all made sense.  It was probably best to get this hike over with as fast as possible before we were arrested or taken into care.

The remainder of the ascent went in much the same fashion, a slow yet deliberate journey interspersed with stunning views and bouts of nature’s fury.  The Polish Train Driver and I even managed to race the final 100m of the ascent.  Sarg joined us there, amongst the mist about 10min later.  There was no happiness in his expression, not even a trace of relief, he wanted off and after slapping the summit stone, he promptly turned 180 degrees and began shuffling his shredded carrier bags back down the path.

After Jack had overcome the shock of there being nowhere to obtain a beer we sat and enjoyed a well earned Rich Tea biscuit.  The cloud broke, allowing us a beautiful, uninterrupted view over Snowdon’s Horseshoe and the surrounding valleys.  This is what we had travelled here for, we both sat in silence, a Polish Train Driver and 1920’s gentleman, united by the tranquil beauty that stretched into the distance before us.  This really would be my dream job.

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