Adventurer Felicity Aston’s Favourite Places
I met adventurer Felicity Aston MBE several years ago while writing a feature on female explorers for the The Sunday Telegraph. They were all amazing women but I particularly liked Felicity’s warmth and humour. Honesty too – she admitted she blubbed like a baby when she watched her plane fly away, knowing she was entirely on her own in Antarctica before becoming the first woman to ski solo across the entire Antarctic (we don’t blame you Felicity, we’d do the same!). Here are her favourite places – rather closer to home.
G & D’s Ice Cream Cafes, Oxford
My sister lives in Oxford and she introduced me to the G & D’s Ice Cream Cafes. It’s as if they’ve been tailor made for all my food obsessions as they sell all my favourite things; bagels with hummus and halloumi, ice-cream milkshakes with peanut butter, waffles with obscene combinations of sticky toppings. I have an extremely sweet tooth (which comes in handy when expedition rations are predominantly chocolate and sweets) but luckily long cross-country ski trips are perfect for losing weight, so I can indulge before an expedition knowing that I will return without showing the consequences!
The Thames Path
The Marathon des Sables is an infamous 250km, five-day footrace across the Sahara. I took part with my sister in 2009 (here we are, exhausted at the finish line) and as part of our preparation we entered the Thames Path Ultra, a 50 mile run along the Thames from The Meadows in Reading to the finish in Shepperton. It took place on a cold, wet day in mid-January and we set off in the dark but throughout the run I was blown away by some of the stretches along the river that we passed through. The section around Marlow and Cookham was particularly beautiful and I felt embarrassed that I had never explored the banks of the Thames before. We are blessed in England to have so much on our doorstep.
When I was 23, freshly graduated from university, my first job was with the British Antarctic Survey as a meteorologist. I was stationed on a scientific base on the Antarctic Peninsula (pictured) from Dec 2000 to April 2003. During the two long, dark winters I spent there, the team numbered just 20 and we were completely isolated from the world – and yet it was the most incredible experience. I left for Antarctica that first time from RAF Brize Norton, flying on a military flight to the Falkland Islands from where we set sail on a research ship for the Antarctic, and so now I can’t pass near to Brize Norton without re-living all the nervous excitement and daunted fear I felt back then. If I see a plane I can’t help but be a little envious of all those onboard that are off on their own adventure and a small part of me wishes I could do it all over again.
Land Rover HQ, Gaydon
A few years ago I was delighted to be awarded the annual Land Rover / RGS ‘Go Beyond’ Bursary which will fund my 30,000km, 3 month expedition to the Pole of Cold – the coldest inhabited place in the world in north-east Siberia. Land Rover are providing the expedition vehicle and I recently went to visit their HQ outside Gaydon, which is just over the Oxfordshire border near Banbury.
It was like walking through the back of the wardrobe into a techie paradise – everywhere you looked there was something fascinating to see. The test track was my favourite part; stretches of every conceivable form of road (including one peppered with every type of manhole cover in the world!) and an offroad section with all kinds of imaginative obstacles from cambered granite to waterlogged boulders; it was like the natural world of the whole planet put together in one place. It’s possible to try the test track for yourself on an experience day and even take a tour of some of the engineering facilities.
As a child, every journey was an exciting adventure and I’ve never lost that feeling (I still get a thrill out of motorway service stations!). These days I speak frequently for organisations and events all over the world so airports have become a big part of my life. In between expeditions I spend a lot of time in Iceland (pictured here) because the glaciers are a perfect polar training ground, even in the middle of summer. This means I’ve waited for more planes in Heathrow T1 than anywhere else and now have a pretty rigid routine – splash of perfume from the testers in duty free, Boots the Chemist for any last minute essentials and then a comfortable armchair by the window in The Tin Goose for a tall glass of draught Peroni with a deluxe fish-finger sandwich. Perfect.