Partners in wild running and parenting

Jen and Sim Benson and children

Jen and Sim Benson and children

The South West is a mecca for outdoor sport and adventure. For the first time the South West Out-door Festival (23-25 September) brings them together in one unique place at Heddon Valley –Exmoor’s secret valley.

The festival is being supported by numerous legends of the outdoor world that either hail from the region originally, or have gravitated here because of the wealth of exciting adventure opportunities that exist in the area.

Among them are the runners, writers and family adventurers, Jen and Sim Benson – authors of Wild Running: 150 Great Adventures on the Trails and Fells of Britain.

They are Trail Running magazine’s gear specialists and write a monthly column for Running Fitness magazine.

Sim is a qualified run leader with a wealth of experience in navigation, training, racing and wilderness survival, while Jen is a researcher and distance-runner with more than 50 mara-thons and ultra-marathons under her belt.

Frustrated at spending their days apart and missing their children growing up, Jen and Sim recently moved out of their comfortable house and set off to explore Britain with a bell tent, a wood burner and two kids under the age of four. For 12 months they lived wild, discovering this country’s beautiful places and learning many lessons about family life under canvas.

At the South West Outdoor Festival, Jen and Sim will be leading a guided running session for newcomers to trail running.

Accompanied by their children, they will also be hosting an informal fireside-style Q&A about how they balance their family life with outdoor adventures.

The chat, open to all, will take place in the festival reading area –a quiet spot where festival goers can chill out and leaf through various inspirational outdoorsy titles and even meet some of the authors.

Rob Joules, National Trust General Manager said: ‘We’re delighted that Jen and Sim are joining us for the first South West Outdoor Festival. This is just one of the legends of the outdoor world who are joining us that weekend. Come along for the day camp for the weekend and experience some of the best outdoor adventure experiences in the country. We’ll also be laying on adventure taster sessions to thrilling challenges, as well as time to chill out by the campfire,  there will be something for everyone to enjoy no matter what age or ability.’

Cotswold Outdoor, who are in partnership with the National Trust, will be operating a knowledge centre throughout the weekend, offering a footwear clinic, bike health checks, camping stove demonstrations and rucksack fittings. They will also conduct a range of fascinating experiments, demonstrating the technology behind fabrics used for outdoor clothing and equipment.

Visitors can camp for the whole weekend in a riverside paddock, or just come and explore for a day. The weekend is packed with activities, from intro experiences to organised events for runners and bike riders. You can join group sessions in everything from kayaking and tree climbing to SUP and wild swimming, or enjoy gentler activities such as star gazing, wild food foraging, camp cooking and nature walks around the coast and through the valley.

Festival goers will also have the opportunity to hear inspirational tales of adventure and exploration from well-known personalities, including:

  • TV personality, explorer, marine biologist and great escapologist Monty Halls
  • Former GB rower and current super smiley adventurer Anna McNuff
  • International off-piste athlete Tobias Mews
  • Slow adventurer and rapid raconteur Jasper Winn.

The South West Outdoor Festival runs from September 23 to 25. Tickets and further information here


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