Emergency Services Show and Excel Centre

Emergency Services Show and Excel Centre

Many of the plans the Angels had in place over the last 2 years had to be postponed or cancelled altogether, but now that the pandemic is gradually slowing down, we can start booking those things back into the diary, and gear up our planning of this world record crossing of Antarctica. You may see us training in the gym, pulling tyres or busy with fire station life, but the bits you don’t see are what takes the most amount of energy from us. From running our social media accounts to scouting out new potential sponsors and writing this newsletter, we are eating, sleeping and breathing the Antarctic Fire Angels and we couldn’t be more excited about it.

The last 2 years we feel like we’ve been raring to go, with no place to go! Chomping at the bit but the bit is self isolating due to being in contact with a positive Covid-19 case. But now we sense a bit of freedom; a whiff of progression, and we’re hitting the ground running at the restart!

So we have been beavering away behind the scenes in order to progress with our mission, and the last two weeks have been all hands on deck! Last week all 5 Angels (yes you read that right; all of us!) went to Birmingham for the Emergency Services Show at the NEC Arena. We have been working alongside a rescue technology company called Survitec, and they invited us to join their stand at the exhibition. So we dusted off our gilets, printed some more flyers and set up our own mini stand complete with items from our clothing range, uniquely blend tea and coffee from Explorer Coffees, bespoke Kittags and super cute branded fluffy penguins! George and Nakita went to set up on day 1, and we’re joined by the rest of the team on day 2.

To say we were excited to be out in the physical world, meeting new people and telling them about our expedition is an understatement. We dived headfirst into meeting new people and trying to get our name out there. We learnt pretty quickly there’s no time to be shy when we have a message to spread that we’re all hugely passionate about! 

We met lots of people who had already heard of us, which was a brilliant sign and gave us confidence to continue on this road. We networked like our lives depended on it, and after 3 days came away with some very hopeful contacts. It’s emboldening to know there are so many people out there who want to help and support our journey. 

Sadly we couldn’t stay together forever – George and Nakita did 2 days but then had to head back to work, so the final day saw Alison, Bex and Nikki on a last networking push. Alison even did a talk alongside Ruth Powell of The Firefighters Charity about mental health in the fire service, which was very well received (having an assistant commissioner/legend on the team is always good for audience engagement!) and used her contacts within the fire service to explore possible avenues of sponsorship, while Bex and Nikki became experts in a well versed pitch.

Without a doubt the biggest highlight of our trip to Birmingham though, was all of us finally getting to meet our incredible Team Operations Manager. Elissa is quite simply the best thing that has happened to us in this process; she came to us over a year ago to ask if she could write our blog for us. We were only too happy for her to come on board and since that day her role has expanded so heavily that we now consider her to be our right arm. She has a full time job but helps us with all elements of planning, on a totally voluntary basis in her free time. To this point, only George and Alison had met Elissa in the flesh; so it was a special occasion to say the least that we would all finally get to meet Elissa after many Zoom conversations – we all concluded she was a lot taller than we expected!

To mark this special occasion we went to Miller and Carter and feasted on nachos, Camembert, burgers and steaks till we were fit to burst. We might be on this epic adventure together setting out to achieve extraordinary things, but we’re also just normal women who will jump at the chance to stuff our faces, have a giggle over a few drinks and a silly photo or two! It was truly a special moment all being together, and it made us super excited for what’s to come!

After the Emergency Services Show we all had to go back to work, but joining forces with Survitec was such a success that they invited us to an event they were at the following week too! The DSEI event at the Excel Centre in London is a platform for industry professionals to showcase their products or services. It was a perfect opportunity to build our relationship with Survitec and test some of their products, whilst continuing to seek sponsorship from other interested companies. Nakita, Nikki and Bex were there on the first day (Bex having had a particularly nasty night shift so being propped up with coffee!) and they were only too keen to get stuck into helping Survitec – which happened to involve being taken out for a spin in one of their boats! The girls were donned with life jackets and wizzed around the waters of the Excel Centre, clinging on for dear life and loving every second of it! 

George represented the Angels for the next day of DSEI, and had her own adventure in some of Survitec boats! She also bumped into Tess from Ruddy Nice, who has been super generous with her time and energy through our journey so far, so it was nice to catch up with her! George also continued what the other Angels had started the day before by reaching out to further companies that might be in a position to help us.

We have been told numerous times over the last two years that generating the funds for our expedition and charities is likely to be our biggest task. We know the enormity of what we’re asking from people, but we also know the enormity of the message we want to get out there. We need people to open up about their mental health and we need every female to know that she is capable of more than she thinks. We’re pushing every day to make these things happen, until we get on the ice that is – then we’ll be pulling instead!

Antarctic Fire Angels go Wild Camping!!

Antarctic Fire Angels go Wild Camping!!

By Rebecca Rowe

July brought a heatwave and the Angels first wild camp as a team in the black mountains of Brecon. It may not have been the freezing temperatures of the Antarctic but the weather certainly brought a taste of coping in extreme conditions. The Angels deliberated over packing their burgens and the food they needed for the four days as well as clothing and essential items such as cooking equipment and shelter before meeting up in the mountains for their adventure.

Day 1 saw the LAFAs navigating their way across difficult terrain with their burgens packed to the brim weighing in around 20 – 25kg; they headed to meet George who had made an early start to find a camp for the night. Things seemed to be going well until the London team thought they had spotted George around 10km in who was waving at them. They proceeded to go off the main track down the mountain passing a dead sheep, negotiating barbed wire and climb back up the other side of the valley to get to who we thought was George. After a real scramble across a boggy field they finally got to the camp only to realise the person wasn’t George but a random camper!

It was a testing time for the LAFAs being very hot and now having to climb back down the steep mountain and up the other side again at some points crawling due to the angle. At this point the light was now fading and the LAFAs were starting to formulate plan ‘B’ if they couldn’t get to George in time. As they talked about sleeping on the hill in their bivvy bags there was a sudden cheer of relief as George was spotted stood next to her tent waving at them. She had picked a great camp next to a stream which was welcomed for a good wash in all their glory after a stressful few hours of walking! The camp was set-up for the night and ration packs eaten before turning in for a good sleep in the tents.

The next day started at 7am with wild toilet activity and a fresh bath in the stream before more rations for breakfast and purification of the water for the days hike. Tents were dismantled and bags packed before heading off towards Lord Herefords knob and down towards Hay bluff where the Angels were picking up Alison. The LAFAs and George made good progress and enjoyed magnificent views on their way across the Beacons and up on to the knob. After a few hours they met Alison and continued on their planned route to camp 2 now as a full Angels unit.

During the hike Nakita rolled her ankle setting off a previous injury which saw Nikki and Bex having to carry and drag her burgen as well as their own, using a tarp as makeshift sled for the rest of the days hike. The hike ended up being extremely challenging down a steep narrow mountain path barely fit to cross at some points. The Angels really had to work as a team and lean on their resilience as the hours went by in the stifling heat of the day. The team finally made it to camp 2 before dark, very tired and sore but the waterfalls made up for a challenging day and another refreshing bath before refuelling and bed.

As the sun rose on the waterfall the next morning the Angels started the same routine again, washing, eating, packing up and preparing for their days hike. Thankfully after a good nights rest Nakita’s ankle was good enough to continue and she soldered on with some duck tape and painkillers! They headed back towards Tympa and dropped off Alison as she had to head back for work and then traced their footsteps back along the same path passing by camp one to the reservoir where they decided to settle for the final night. There was a good few hours of the evening left so Nikki took the Angels through a recovery yoga session. It was a tranquil spot and the Angels watched swallows feeding on the water, sheep running across the bridge to find night time shelter and reminisced about the few days camping and what is to come in the Antarctic as the sun set over the water.

The following morning everything was packed up, remaining food eaten and water organised before heading off on the last leg to the carpark. The drive home involved a stop for essential burger and chips which tasted so good after 4 days of rations! Imagine how good these will taste after 3 months in Antarctica!?

Wild camping was a great success for the Angels with many lessons learnt as well as inhibitions as a team dealt with after many a naked bath and wild toilet activity! It was great for the Angels to spend some quality time as a team and overcome difficulties as there will be many in Antarctica. They are all looking forward to the next camp, but maybe minus the detour!

 

AFA Wild Camp Reconnaissance

AFA Wild Camp Reconnaissance

Take your weekends back. Summer is here! Let us do the dirty work so you can enjoy it

Wild camp preparation
– Put it in the bag, take it out of the bag…- Perfecting what and how you pack.

Leave no trace
– With great nature comes great responsibility.

George’s tips on taking your dog wild camping
– Considering your dog’s needs so they enjoy it as much as you. – Farm and wild animals.

 

Wild Camp Preparation

By George Gilbert

 

Embarking on your first wild camp can be exciting as well as a little daunting! Where to go, what to pack, how to pack and what to eat can all make or break your experience! I’m not going to spend time here discussing specific kit; this will be more about the earliest stages – packing, unpacking (a lot!) weighing things…!

You’ll spend a lot of time considering what you need against what you want. Obviously taking what you need is essential like food, tent and what to sleep in, however, you can actually take what you like too but that comes at a heafty cost – you have to carry it all! Now I’m not talking about taking a BBQ (they cause a lot of damage, plus you have to carry out whatever you carry in), full dinner service and tablecloth but for your first experience, be kind to yourself and take a few little luxuries.

I chose to take my dog as my little luxury and that obviously came with a whole lot of extra things to carry. I spent a lot of time packing my Bergen and then un-packing it, trying to figure out in what order I’d need equipment. The weather played a role in this – there was no rain forecast so my waterproofs were low down in the pecking order but I like to snack quite a lot, as does my dog, so they were close to the top of my pack.

Once you’re satisfied with the order of your pack, pick it up! It’ll come as a bit of a surprise as to how hefty it is then, if you’re like me you’ll spend another hour deciding on needs vs wants and then realise that you can’t remove anything and have to accept the weight (around 15kg with food and water). I have to say here, once it’s on your back the weight feels very different and somehow more manageable.

Now you’re all set with the pack and feeling a little confused as to where to go?! I’m based in Wales and unlike Scotland we’re not supposed to set up camp without the permission of the land owner. It’s not always as straight forward as this, finding the owner and then getting a response can be difficult but with that said I would always pull the stops out to seek permission.

Go remote, the Brecon Beacons are beautiful but also very popular and I have to say seeing lots of tents close to footpaths isn’t something that every hill walker wants to see. I went to the Black mountains which have some more remote parts so you can tuck yourself away and mostly out of sight. It’s this reason that I went on a recon to check these areas out first before committing the team to the mountains!

Once you’re all planned, maps and compass in hand and GPS loaded up there’s only one thing left to do –

GET OUT THERE AND ENJOY IT….!!

Quote of the day:

“Prior to setting off – tell a responsible person where you are going, how long you will be and what time you’ll be back and of course, make sure you don’t forget to tell them you’ve arrived home safely too!”

Toby Corwen www.hellonature.se

Leave No Trace

By every responsible lover of the outdoors

 

The Countryside Code for some reason has been overlooked for many years now. I remember in school all those years ago learning all about it and realising how important it was that we leave no trace and do no harm. So why, over the past 18 months have we seen a rise in littering – the biggest culprits being poo bags and nappies.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the presumption that people assume their litter will be picked up by a ranger or local authority grounds people. This IS NOT the case. City parks etc have bins and people to empty them, however, there are many many places we visit that do not have this and so it is expected that people take their litter home. It’s sad and upsetting to see that this just isn’t the case. Whatever the reason for leaving litter though, it has a consequence to wildlife and the impact on the environment as we all know is great. Plastic does not dissolve, some nappies have chemicals in them that neutralize odours, bacteria etc that form a gel, and then ooze out into the environment for wildlife to ingest (they’re after the rich smelling and tasty baby poo!)

So it’s a really simple message –
PLEASE….. LEAVE NO TRACE

www.naturalresources.wales

Taking Your Dog

By Pippa (the dog)

 

Taking your dog to me is my little luxury but it does come with a lot of responsibility. My Pippa is a pet, not a working dog so she is not that hardy and isn’t used to farm or wild animals. She’s also a terrier and so her breed is adept to hunting so taking her with me in an area where there is livestock was not any easy decision. It took a lot of consideration and deliberation.

Firstly there’s the poo, Pip doesn’t actually poo that much (thankfully) but with that said, you must pick up after your dog. Then there’s her needs whilst camping – food, bedding, coats (as I said she’s not hardy) all this adds weight to your pack. Her food and water comes first so measuring how much (especially water) was tricky as I didn’t know if the river would be flowing. I know I can go a while without food and water but would never put her through that uncertainty. I took her own sleeping bag and mat to keep her off the cold floor too – even though she ended up in my sleeping bag at 3.30am anyway! I also knew that she would be on the lead 100% of the time so I made a long leash from paracord to attach to her harness. All this prep made sure she loved it!

Announcement from Beci

Announcement from Beci

We hope you are all staying safe and well during this difficult and challenging year.

Despite having most of their fund raising events and training cancelled this year the team are still making the most of it to ensure they are fit and ready for 2023!

They are also planning lots of of events for next year so make sure you keep up to date on social media and by subscribing to our newsletter.

We have some important news from Beci that we ask you respect and understand. Please read the below statement from Beci, in her own words;

“I have this month made the very difficult decision to step down from the Antarctic Fire Angels expedition.

This was a difficult and emotional decision to make but I know will be the right one for me in the future.

I have the support of the 5 remaining AFAs and my family on this; and that means everything to me.

I will now be taking on a different role in supporting the team where I will continue to lead on school initiatives, ensuring we engage with, and encourage, young people.

The team have given me the new title of ‘Guardian Angel’ so I can be a support for them in the build up to 2023. I will also support their families when they’re out on the ice.

Thank you all for your support this past month.

 Let’s see what comes next.

                                                                Beci x

Life in Lockdown with Nakita

Life in Lockdown with Nakita

Last in the series we have Founder of AFA and Team Leader of the LAFA’s Nakita. Don’t forget to follow her on social media, check out the links below;

“I think the word for the last few weeks has been ‘organisation’”. For Nakita being organised when off duty with everything she is doing so she does not become bored and snack on everything as entertainment! Being accountable for her actions and a better visual of what she wants to achieve to make sure she is still putting in the training to maintain her strength and cardio.

Slowly I feel like I am now too busy! I am trying once again to fit too much into my days. Maybe I am one of those people that work better under pressure? I just want to make the most of my time, even though I am incredibly guilty of an hour or two disappearing watching god knows what on TV! I have actually banned myself from watching boxsets during lockdown as it was far too easy to binge; before you realise, I’ve spent the whole day sat on the sofa! Not good.”

When Nakita went back to work about 4 days off it was always a bit overwhelming for the first few hours. Seeing people, talking to them face to face. Isolation can do funny things to you mentally; but it was something she got used to over time. She’s even back to enjoying my time on her own again like she used to.

“It’s always lovely if I get the chance to see any of the London team, I regularly have Nikki come over to drive the appliance I am in charge of. One day she was over and we had grand plans of doing a great gym circuit together. We had just managed to do some bench press and then the bells went down. We had been mobilised to a specialist incident which required urban search and rescue. After assessing the scene, I devised a plan. As a non-USAR operative, Nikki was brilliant, helping with everything she could! We didn’t get back to the station until around midnight. Was lovely to spend that time together.”

Nikki seems to be the route of all things fitness as she also nominated the whole team to run 5km for the NHS. Nakita had been really getting into her running, and had only recently run done her first 10km in years. So she was excited to get out, see how well she would do. She enjoyed it so much that she started running more and more. One day she even ended up running just over 10 miles which made her extremely proud and happy. As ever there was something to put a stopper in the improvement and Nakita rolled her ankle, breaking scar tissue on ligaments she had previously torn over 8 years ago. 

This was the worst time to get an injury for, not only does she live on her own, but it meant she was also unable to go to work. To see any form of human contact was going to be extremely difficult. In addition to that, keeping fit was a big part of helping maintain her mental fitness too. Although she felt overwhelmed she knew she had to deal with it head-on. Firstly she had to give herself a chance to heal. Secondly staying happy and motivated was going to be key. Setting up a routine, not lying in bed, eating at regular times and actually not spending all day in my pj’s. Even better she could use this time to work on her press-ups! Silver linings and all that.

The team as always helped out and reminded her not to push herself and take her time. It paid off. After a week of rehabilitation Nakita was back to work.

Taking it easy to get back into training and being extremely cautious doing any long rungs but as far was she was concerned she was back out there and that was great.

“I don’t think I have trained so much, so i am grateful for lockdown. It has made me make the most of my time and stop thinking of tomorrow and start making the most of the present.”

Life in Lockdown with Beci

Life in Lockdown with Beci

Beci is next up, she has been balancing, being a mum and exercise over the last few months and none of us envy the home schooling…!

Lockdown has been really heavily focused on ensuring the children keep on top of their schoolwork and that the whole family get exercise. Often Beci would tyre pull while Matt runs and the kids were on their bikes. She also found she needed to ensure she stayed on top of the housework more so than ever; that meant sharing the space much more than usual. For Beci a messy house has a really negatively impact on her mental health.

“We’ve managed some socially distanced bike rides and walks with friends and family which has been amazing for us all. I also LOVED the cake ultra and getting to see the other WAFAs.

I treated myself to a Nordic track trainer that I know will make training at home so much easier… I can even homeschool from it. Multitasking is a MUST!”

AFA training has been a huge motivator to get out and be busy even on the days Beci could happily have stayed in bed. Routine has been key, planning days and prioritising “Beci time” exercising.

“I’m in awe of the other AFAs and I don’t want to fall behind. Norway in January is getting so close and feels much more real now lockdown is easing.”

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