Backpacking isn’t just for exotic foreign places – how to be a Backpacker At Home

I’ve been back in the UK, my home country, for two months now (and yes, it feels like a lifetime since I was eating delicious street food and swimming in volcanic lakes in Central America). I’m back home to work the summer season, save enough money to put some away for when I’m old and grey and the rest to spend on five months travelling again this winter.

That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped exploring though. Aside from a great trip to Ukraine just before starting back at work, I’ve been away every weekend since hopping off the flight from El Salvador.

I’ve even started a summer or England blog, called Travel England with Tor. It may not be as glamorous as Tor goes Travelling Again (can a Welsh hillside compete with climbing a volcano in El Salvador?) but I’m planning to add walking guides, campsite reviews and updates about my summer as I travel around England (and Wales) building boutique campsites at summer music and sporting events.

This weekend just gone was a Bank Holiday weekend in Britain, meaning most people and schools have Monday off work. Perfect for a road trip then! Here’s a little summary of how I always make the most of my weekends and keep the backpacking ethos alive…

Leave work at 5pm – adventure starts here!
Not content with driving straight to my friend’s house an hour away, I decided to detour slightly to track down one of the famous White Horses of Wiltshire. There are eight of these giant horses etched into the chalk hillsides around the county – so far I’ve seen three plus one in Dorset, which is unique as it has a rider.

I had a great two mile walk around the hillside to check out the horse and Lansdowne monument, before continuing on to my friends for a glass of wine and a veggie stir fry.

Always maximise a road trip
The plan was to drive to Snowdonia in North Wales and camp for two nights in order to visit the Centre for Alternative Technology. But of course we couldn’t just drive straight there – that’s not proper backpacking! We turned it into a mini road trip and stopped at the beautiful Elan Valley. The valley is home to a reservoir which pumps water all the way to Birmingham and has lots of walking trails and cycle routes. Here we had a picnic lunch before a five mile walk along the reservoir and a steep climb up and over a sheep strewn mountainside to get back to the car.

Back in the car we took the ‘mountain road’ to Machynlleth, passing high above Lake Clewedog with boats from its sailing club just visible at the furthest end, to eventually find Cefn Crib campsite on the Dyfi river.
Ten minutes later, after pitching Becks’ tent (I’d be sleeping in my cosy little van), we were off again to explore Machynlleth and eventually ended up at the highly recommended Black Lion Inn in Derwenlas village for a delicious meal and a local ale.

A full day out
I love it when you’re travelling and you realise you’ve been out enjoying your day for over ten hours! The Centre for Alternative Technology was started in 1978 as an off grid community on a disused slate mine. Slate mining creates a huge amount of waste slate, up to 30 tonnes, for every tonne of usable slate, dramatically changing landscapes. CAT had to bring in soil and compost to create their first gardens and grow their own vegetables but even today slate is everywhere you look.

We finally left as the doors closed at 5pm, being gently ushered out with another couple of stragglers, full of new knowledge and for me, a determination, to definitely, 100%, someday, for sure, to build my own tiny house! Or at the very least to attend one of CATs four day Build a Tiny House courses.

We finished the day with a ramble around beachside Aberdyfi and a chilly but tasty beach BBQ.

Don’t go straight home
Around us at the camp site on Monday morning everyone was packing up, talking of getting home to have time to relax before work the next day. What? No! Where’s the fun in that? We planned a full day on the way back south, with first stop being Corris Craft centre, where we found Dyfi gin distillery and spent all our pocket money in the Welsh  food and drink shop (Welsh cakes and seaweed rum for me, craft ale and Welsh waffles for Beck).

We spent the afternoon completing a six mile walk in an old slate mining area and had great fun exploring old miners cottages and peering through the windows of a boarded up manor house. Our last stop on the way back was a walk around Builth Wells, deserted on a bank holiday Monday with everywhere firmly shut. We did however find a gaily decorated bull, in support of Breast Cancer Awareness week.

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