So now the blog is back, here’s a quick run down on the good stuff I got up to between the end of May and the end of August. That’s pretty much three months of things, so this is a bumper post!

Working in Winchester: At the end of May and start of June I went back to the UK for work for three weeks for a special project, based in Winchester. I was going back for a holiday anyway, so the trip timing right beforehand worked out quite well. I had weekends and evenings free, so managed to fit in some good socialising while I was over. Highlights included a whole lobster at Loch Fyne with Kim, Tom, Rhiannon and Phil from the canoe club on my birthday and dinner with Southampton Uni friends at Rick Steins fish restaurant. I also went for work at night time to some road works nio the A303 at Popham. I got to wear full high vis and a hard hat – glamorous!

Birthday lobster

Birthday lobster

Rhiannons Hen Party: As I was back in the UK early for work, I got to start my holiday early and made it along to Rhaiannon’s hen party. It was great seeing everyone, especially as I didn’t think I would make it.  We did an aerial yoga session which was really fun! We got to do lots of crazy poses, with lots of hanging upside down and a fair bit of screeching and giggling! (OK that was mainly me!)

Aerial Yoga!

Aerial Yoga!

London: Matt arrived at this point for our actual UK holiday, and we went for a day trip up to the big smoke. We went around the Tower of London like tourists which i’d not done before, went on a Beefeater tour and saw the Crown Jewels. Later on we met my dad and Flick for a trip to the art gallery and a yummy crispy duck in Chinatown, before walking back to the station past Buckingham Palace.

Tower of London

Tower of London

Stourhead: We went for a walk around Stourhead gardens, which were beautiful. I don’t think I’ve been there before, which is surprising becasue its so close to where I grew up The views and landscaping were really nice.

Stourhead Gardens

Stourhead Gardens

Brighton: We went with the Shorts down to Brighton seaside. We played on old school amusements, went on the pier, the big wheel, the Voilks electric railway, went around the lanes, had fish and chips and I even got a cream tea! Happy days.

Amusements in Brighton

Amusements in Brighton

 

Southampton: We met my Uni friends for an epic and very tasty picnic at the park down in Southampton and then went for dinner in the evening. It was lovely catching up with everyone, and pretty scary seeing how all the children had got so much bigger!

Southampton Picnic

Southampton Picnic

Gruffalo: After a night in Bath with my nan, we went around Westonbirt arboretum, and met a Gruffalo hiding in the woods!

Me, dad and the Gruffalo!

Me, dad and the Gruffalo!

Royal Ascot: A bunch of 8 lovely ladies went along to Royal Ascot for ladies day. The weather was glorious. We had another epic picnic, along with plenty of fizzy wine. This is the only kind of alcohol you’re allowed to take in yourself – tragic! It was great fun getting all dressed up and hanging out in the sunshine. I even had a couple of wins, including a fairly good one and ended the day about £65 up! Woo.

Lovely ladies at Ascot

Lovely ladies at Ascot

Leith Hill Geocaching: Around Horsham we went for a geocaching adventure up Leith HIll, and helped Kate find her first one (I think). We also found bacon and maple syrup flavoured popcorn – nice!

Leith Hill Tower

Leith Hill Tower

Porter wedding: The key event in the 2015 visit was of course Phil and Rhainnons wedding. It was a really lovely day, and we were their witnesses. It was great to see them so happy and catch up with a lot of our friends who we hadn’t seen for a long time.

Phil & Rhiannon's Wedding

Phil & Rhiannon’s Wedding

Germany: I spent 5 nights in Germany, visiting my brother and Lucia, and meeting my new niece, Ella for the first time. She is super cute and very well behaved. I didn’t drop her and she wasn’t sick on me, so overall very successful! I took her a play mat which my friend Bex made which we had fun playing on. I found a sausage vending machine (yes!) and mistakenly ordered the normal (not small) size schnitzel one evening, which turned out to be TWO schnitzels!

Owen and I at German Garden Show

Owen and I at German Garden Show

Peak District long weekend: We had an amazing weekend in a giant cottage up in the Peak District. We arranged to get a bunch of people together from Horsham friends, climbers and canoe club. A lot of them didn’t know each other before, but it was a great weekend. We have a common love of board games, so played a LOT of those, as well as doing some geocaching walks with great scenery and having a massive BBQ – the British way, with charcoal. I managed to squeeze in an extra cream tea too.

Peak District Shennanigans

Peak District Shennanigans

Bristol: After the Peak District it was the end of our holiday, so Matt flew back to Australia. I stayed on and spent some time in Bristol with my mum in hospital, and got to stay with the Cornishes. John introduced me to the Navy game Uckers, which I promptly lost my first game of in spectacular style after a rookie error! I did later go on to beat him. We also went on an adventure to fund some Shaun the Sheeps which was exciting, and I bought a Union Jack Gromit souvenir.

Me and Ice Cream Shaun the Sheep

Me and Ice Cream Shaun the Sheep

Blue Mountains Snow: I got back to Australia  in late July, and it was cold! We went up to the Blue Mountains with some new friends to stay in a cottage for the weekend and go climbing. On the Thursday before we left it snowed up there, and there was still snow left when we got there on Friday which was pretty exciting! Unfortunately on Saturday there were a lot of road closures, which meant we couldn’t go climbing, so we went for a nice walk instead. Although chilly it was nice and sunny. In the evening we drank mulled wine, had a nice meal and unexpectedly played a game of Munchkin!

Snowman in July!

Snowman in July!

Fort Dennison: Matt took me on a surprise trip to Fort Dennison, for a tour and then lunch in their fancy restaurant. Fort Dennison is a small island in the middle of the Harbour, which you get to on the ferry. It was used for defense and sending convicts into isolation. We went on a tour around and up the tower, and the views back to the city were amazing.

Fort Dennison View

Fort Dennison View

Top Gear Festival: We had tickets to the Top Gear festival earlier in the year, but it got posponed after the Jeremy Clarkson issues. They re-badged it as ‘Clarkson Hammond and May Live’ and we went along. They did the ‘Cr-Ashes’, a series of car based games with the Top Gear guys against an Australian Team. England ended up losing quite badly, but it was good fun. The three wheeler football at the end was especially entertaining, as they kept flipping over.

Cr-ashes at the 'Top Gear' show

Cr-ashes at the ‘Top Gear’ show

UK again: The next weekend was the one my mum died, so I went back tot he UK unexpectedly to sort things out. It was a very sad and stressful time, but it was also nice to see family again. I went on a nice scoping trip with my brother to Glastonbury, somewhere my mum really liked and where we used to go quite a lot when I was little. It has a good hippy atmosphere and lots of nice shops and cafes. We walked up Glastonbury Tor which i’d not done before, and went back there to scatter mum’s ashes after the funeral. We took my niece Ella to meet my nan, her great-grandmother in Bath which was nice.

Owen, Martin and I at Glastonbury Tor

Owen, Martin and I at Glastonbury Tor

Once I got back at the end of August we went for a climbing trip in the mountains one day, and I even did a climb as well as reading two books! We also  went for pie at the famous Harrys Cafe de Wheels, before seeing the show Les Mis. We watched the move on DVD the week before as I’d not actually seen it. It was a good musical, although didn’t quite make it into my Top 4 (Wicked on Broadway, Lion King, Phantom of the Opera and Avenue Q).

Next time i’ll do a shorter post on September.

Pie Palace

Pie Palace

 

Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge

Building the Sydney Harbour Bridge

If you want to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge it will set you back at least $300. On the other hand, you can go up on of the pylons for $13!

We’ll do the Bridge Climb eventually, probably when we have some visitors who want to do it. But in the mean time, we thought we’d go up the pylon.

Inside there is a lot about the history and building of the bridge, including a lot of facts about it and cool pictures from when it was built. The views at the top are pretty good, and you dont have the fence in the way like you do when you walk over the bridge itself. You also get a good look at the bridge itself from another perspective, and a good view of the people actually climbing it.

Bridge view

Bridge view

Here’s some Sydney Harbour Bridge facts:

  • The bridge took 8 years to build, with 1,400 men. 16 sadly lost their lives. It cost $4.2m.
  • The bridge is the tallest steel arch bridge in the world, measuring 134m from top to the water. Is the second widest long-span bridge in the world. The Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver is wider.
  • The bridge has 52,800 tonnes of steel including the arch and approach. Only 21% of this was from Australia though. The rest was imported from England.
  • The bridge has about 6 million rivets. There were all made in Australia.
  • The bridge can expand and contract with heat by 420mm on the deck and 180mm on the arch.
  • The bridge was meant to be opened (on 19 March 1932) by the NSW Premier with some ornamental gold and opal scissors. But a Captain Francis de Groot from the New Guard parliamentary group beat him to it by riding up on his horse and cutting the ribbon with his sword! He got arrested, they tied it back together and then carried on with the official opening.
  • The bridge used to have a rooftop cattery in the 50’s and 60’s with lots of white cats.
  • You pay between $2.50 and $4 in tolls to drive south over the bridge. Its free to go north.

 

View of the Opera House

View of the Opera House

My Agricola farm

My Agricola farm

Liking: Living in the new flat. There are lots of birds, its very green around, and apart from the trains its pretty peaceful. I’m also enjoying being able to walk to work, which takes about 25 mins. I see a lot of birds, including parrots, kookaburras and even a couple of bush turkeys!

Disliking: I was ill with a horrible virus and off work for a few days. It really knocked me out and I slept for 16 hours one day!

Watching: While I was ill I watched a lot of Wire in the Blood on my iPad. I really like that show. now we have the internet back finally I’m back on the iPlayer, and we’ve started Coast Australia seeing all the places we need to go and visit!

Playing: We bought a new game called Agricola – all creatures big and small. We already have Agricola which is a farming game where you collect animals, grow crops, feed your family, improve your farmhouse all to get points. This version is for two players, and mainly all abut the animals. That was my favourite part of Agricola anyway, so I like the new simple version.

Consuming: I have found a new exciting kind of biscuit through work. Its called a Monte Carlo, and is like a jammy dodger only much better becasue instead of shortcake the biscuits are oaty like a hob nob. And inside as well as chewy jam they have a creamy filling. Tasty! The new oven is much more powerful than the last one. The last one needed you to cook things for at least double the recommended time for them to be anywhere near done. This one, even with it adjusted for the fan its about half. So since moving in we’ve had a few meals on the slightly well done side! We’ve tried out the café down the road which does a yummy brunch.

Buying: In the old place we had two outdoor chairs and a small table. Now we have a giant table on the big balcony, so we bought six more chairs and cushions to go with it. We also bought all the chemicals for the spa so have been learning some chemistry about that, and got an almost free rubber duck thermometer!

Thinking about:  Holidays. We’re doing some planning about holidays at the moment, to see about buying leave for next year. We only get 20 days basic, and have to use 6 at Christmas for the shut downs, which doesn’t leave a lot, especially if we come back to the UK for a visit.

Visiting: In early June we had a Bank Holiday for the Queens’ Birthday – huzzah! We got invited away with our friend Paul and a bunch of his friends, who hired a big house down the south coast near Nowra. In the area there is good sea cliff climbing and awesome beaches. We had a great weekend including cream tea, a visit to kangaroo valley, climbing (of course), BBQ, roast dinner, walk on the beach and a game of sardines in the big house.

Missing: My old job – sad I know. My new job is fine, but I really liked my old one. We also missed some good friends weddings this month which we would have loved to be at. All the bets Mr and Mrs Frame! 🙂

Looking forward to: At the end of June we’re going to the Dubbo Western Plains zoo, way out west. You hire bikes and cycle around as its a big safari park, so I’m looking forward to seeing all the animals. We also have Ellie from the UK visiting for ten days, so we’ve got some exciting plans lined up for that too.

Exciting news – we have a new page on our website!

On our fridge, and in more detail in my head, we have a To Do List. It’s not one of those boring ones about hoovering and chores though, but about all the places to go and things to do while we’re over here in Australia. We’ve added the new page to share it with you and you’re more than welcome to give us ideas too! I’ve also summarised what we have done so far with handy links in case you want to know about something in particular.

You can get to it by clicking the button under the main picture called To Do List (to the right of Home) or by clicking HERE.

Happy Christmas everyone!

We decided we should have a Christmas Special blog post, so have finally finished preparing the adventure video from our New Zealand honeymoon. There will be a more scenic video at some point too.

You can read more about our awesome honeymoon here. This time last year we celebrated our first hot Christmas with the Millis family in Wanaka, including a picnic and spot of kayaking in Lake Wanaka. Also featured in the video are sky-diving, bungee jumping, Queenstown luge, caving, sea kayaking, lake kayaking, canyoning, jet boating, cycling and of course some rock climbing!

Warning: This video contains footage of what may be considered ‘extreme’ activities. Sensitive parents may find some scenes distressing. No Shorts were harmed in the  making of this film. 

Wolgan valley

Wolgan valley

Back in October we went with the Sydney Rockies Climbing Club to the annual(ish) Sheep Roast and climbing trip in the Wolgan Valley.

On Friday night we  headed up from Sydney. The Wolgan is about 3.5-4 hours from Sydney to the north west. You go through the Blue Mountains, then on some more. Eventually you go 35km up a dead end, half gravel road which is pretty adventure like. It used to be all gravel , so we considered ourselves lucky. I was given a Wombat Guarantee for the weekend and I wasn’t disappointed. On the way up we saw 3 from the car, and then I saw another one on the first night during a trip to the loo in the dark. Sadly it was too dark for a photo.Also, they do look slightly less cute and a bit more evil in the dark! We also spotted a lot of wallabies.

The campsite was in a sort of bowl, surrounded by cliffs on most of its side, and a stream along one side which I took a couple of dips in to escape the heat. arriving in the dark and then waking up to the view on Saturday morning was cool.

Saturday we went for some climbing at the Coke Ovens. It used to be a Coke mining and production area, big around the 1950s, but its shut down since. On the walk in you go past the old coke ovens. One two pitch climb and a single pitch one. It was super hot, so we learnt a valuable lesson about making sure we take a lot of water.

Saturday morning the experts prepared the sheep on a full on spit over a fire. The spit also had a whole rump and chicken on it. Some diligent club members stayed behind all day to gradually turn and cook it. When we came back it smelt awesome! The lamb was great and the beef was even better – sooooo tender. On Sunday I stayed around the campsite relaxing and reading my book, while Matt went off on a harder climbing adventure with Paul G.

Overall an excellent weekend. We’ll be sheep roasting again next year!

Fire cooked meat

Fire cooked meat

 

ClimbFit

ClimbFit

We live about a 15 minute walk fro, the ClimbFit climbing wall in St Leonards, so go there fairly often.

Recently they did a ‘lights out’ night. They turned off all the lights and you were only allowed in if you had a head torch. They gave out free glow sticks and of course sold head torches to hapless customers who turned up without them for $50 each!

It was even more busy than usual at the wall, novelty factor I guess. It was a good experience, but for me the novelty was probably slightly outweighed by it being so hot from all the people and so busy there wasn’t much choice of route. By the end when it quietened down a bit it was better, and they cranked up the good tunes so it was like being in some sort of crazy climbing disco!

Maybe one day we’ll do some climbing in the dark outside and get some cool light trail photos.

 

So climbing around Horsham, UK was pretty rubbish. To get to any outdoor rock was over an hours drive and to get to anything decent it was more like 3+ hours.

Sydney is a pretty cool place to be a climber. Basically the whole city is built on hard sandstone, which means that there are loads of crags in and around the city. We have a great bouldering crag 10 mins up the road and good sports crags less than 30 mins from our flat.

Lindfield - Bouldering

Lindfield – Bouldering

Lindfied - Bouldering

Lindfied – Bouldering

If you venture 1.5 hours out of the city you get to the Blue Mountains which has 1000s of climbs (trad, sport and aid) both single and multi-pitch. Many of the climbs really don’t have a long walk in either.

Bunny Buckets Buttress (18) - 8 Pitches Sport

Bunny Buckets Buttress (18) – 8 Pitches Sport

Mt York - Sport

Mt York – Sport

And of course the weather here is much more amenable to climbing – most weekends have great weather and we can get out to explore a new crag. In the UK you can expect the weather to be bad and be lucky to have good climbing weather. Here it is the other way around, you can expect to have good weather and you are unlucky for the weather to be bad.

Pearl Bay - Bouldering

Pearl Bay – Bouldering

Pearl Bay - Bouldering

Pearl Bay – Bouldering

If you travel a bit further, you can experience some other great climbing areas. Recently I spent a week at Frog Buttress in Queensland, which is the best crack climbing crag I have ever been to and has probably the best climb that I have ever done – Infinity (19) beautiful hand jamming all the way up for 45m.

Infinity (19) - Trad

Infinity (19) – Trad

Devil'd Dihethral (20) - Trad

We have been here 6 months now and I have already managed to rack up 156 climbs this year, so lets hope that continues once the boiling hot weather starts. I have found that doing more climbing and not knowing the grading system has allowed me to push my grade a bit so I am now sport climbing 21 – 22 (6c – 6c+) and trad climbing 19 – 20 (E2 – E3) depending on what conversion scale you look at.

Bonnet Bay - Sport

Bonnet Bay – Sport

Elly was scared of climbing here originally because of the evil wildlife potential, but so far has seen no snakes or spiders! Lets hope that continues too!

Come and visit and you can come climbing too! 🙂

Middle Cove

Middle Cove

We have a book called Sydney’s Best Harbour and Coastal Walks. A couple of weekends ago we decided it was time to try one of them out with our friends Deb and Andrew. Slightly biased, Matt picked out a walk around Middle Head. It was a 2 hourish, 5km walk, a 10 min drive from our place – with climbing!

The walk is through a nature reserve and around the banks of the scenic Middle Cove. The sign on the way in mentioned wallabies, goannas and echindas, although we didn’t see any of these unfortunately – just a whole load of noisy cockatoos.

The walk was really scenic, it even had a castle AND a bench shaped like a lizard. By the climbing were some communal BBQs, so well do back again and try those out after a spot of climbing I reckon. Considering it was late July, the height of Australian winter, we ended up walking in just our t-shirts at a toasty 19 degrees – not too bad at all!

We went back about a month later to check out the climbing, do some slack lining and have our first Australian outdoor communal BBQ with some other climbers. The climbing was OK, not great but it was a good day, specially chilling out by the barbie, Aussie style. not bad considering it was the end of winter and we mainly sat around in t-shirts!

BBQ

BBQ

Wentworth Falls

Wentworth Falls

In July we went up to the Blue Mountains for a weekend, nominally dubbed ‘Christmas in July’. Saturday we went climbing at Mount York and then had a pub dinner with a lot of the climbing club in the evening, staying over at the pub. It was a good night, although nothing actually Christmassy occurred!

On the Sunday it was far too cold for more climbing. After a first breakfast in the pub, we headed for a second breakfast in Altitude Cafe in Blackheath. Becoming more Australian by the day, I had a flat white, and Matt went for the bacon and egg roll. From there we went on for a walk around Wentworth Falls.

We did the Charles Darwin walk, which Darwin did himself. It was nice and quiet, along a small river, which then turned into a big river which went over Wentworth Falls. You could walk right over the top of the falls which was very cool, although obviously there was a big safety barrier to stop you falling off. The path went round the big cliffs each side, under some big under hangs and then up to a lookout, all with really cool views.Most of the time the waterfall was actually going upwards because of the wind!

In all the probably walked for about 3 hours. It was well worth the trip, excellent views. From the falls you can do the 8 hour or so National Pass walk down into the valley and around. We might come back to that another time.

Love this sign!

Love this sign!

 

This weekend it was a bit damp and stormy so we decided to go and check out one of the local indoor walls, ClimbFit (http://www.climbfit.com.au/). This was our first experience of climbing indoors in Australia, and there were a few things that they do differently.

Indoor Climbing Wall

Indoor Climbing Wall

As we turned up with all the gear they didn’t check us on belaying or tell us how they wanted us to tie in, although of course we had to sign a disclaimer! Although they were pretty relaxed about checking people’s skills, the set ups had quite a bit more safety built in.

Firstly it appears that instead of tying in here you clip in with 2 screwgates to your belay loop. This is less faff which is good. Secondly, all top rope belays are attached to ground anchors which you attach to with a screwgate. Finally they are attached at the top with pullies which the rope is wound round 1.5 times to add some friction into the system, this makes it almost impossible to drop someone but it can be a bit of a pain! You hardly notice when someone takes a fall, and Elly didn’t get dragged off the floor at all.

A busy rainy day

A busy rainy day

The climbs at this wall were not individually graded but split between easy, moderate, intermediate, hard, very hard denoted by the colours of the holds. This worked pretty well and I has fairly happy to be able to climb a few hards especially as I haven’t climbed for a while. In addition to the usual walls there were some interesting features like a jamming crack, finger crack, chimney and also a range of fun ladders, cargo nets, ropes and even a jacobs ladder. There was also a bouldering wall, rotating wall, training wall and a gym. Elly really wanted a go on the rotating wall but there were always too many kids on it!

Rotating Wall!

Rotating Wall!

Overall it was pretty good especially as it is only 10 mins walk away from where we are hopefully going to live. It was a bit busy but I put that down to the rubbish weather outside.

ClimbFit

ClimbFit