For me, flying to Manchester, England to instruct at the 6th UK Storm Gathering felt a bit like going back in time. I spent the first seven years of my life living in England, and visited after that, but I hadn’t been back in over 20 years. The organizer of the Storm Gathering, Mark Tozer, is also my fiancée, and it was very cool to have him show me around the place where I spent the first part of my life.
We meandered from the airport in Manchester to Anglesey Outdoors, the center for the symposium, detouring through a couple of very cute places; including Conway, a village comprised mostly of a huge castle, and Bangor, a charming university town. We also stopped at the Menai Bridge, and walked across it, while Mark shared stories of his University days (which I won’t repeat here). Once at Anglesey Outdoors, it was good to see some old friends and meet some of the people that Mark has paddled and instructed with on a regular basis.
The event is called the UK Storm Gathering because it is late in the season, so the hope is that the seas will kick up a bit, and paddlers will have the opportunity to challenge themselves in conditions that they might not paddle in otherwise. With gale force winds throughout the entire weekend, the “storm” was certainly in effect.
Throughout the weekend participants challenged themselves, and tired smiles and laughter in the evening showed that the event had been successful. Paddlers were thrilled that they had experienced conditions that they would not normally have gone out in, and I was very impressed with the comptence and judgement of the instructors.
Some of the places that Mark took me for walking or paddling included Bull Bay on the North Coast of Anglesey, Puffin Island on the East Coast of Anglesey, Trearddur Bay near Holyhead, Llyn Padarn near Llanberis and Point Llynas on the North Coast. We also walked out to South Stack and explored Beaumaris Castle. Another thrill for me was going in the shops, which included a traditional sweet shop that sold candy that I remembered from my childhood. After the three-day symposium and a couple more days of exploring, I hopped on a plane to Washington for Greenland Week.
Photos by Mark Tozer, George Maskell and Helen Wilson.