Sunday, 8 April 2018

Weather is a state of mind

View from Porthmadog Harbour
Maybe it's because I don't have kids that I find some of the things kids do so funny.  I recently read a post on Facebook about the things kids have tantrums over and one parent described an occasion when his young son had a meltdown because he didn't want his gloves to be blue.  He'd apparently worn them many times before, without incident, but on this particular day he wanted his green gloves to be blue.  And they weren't.  So he threw a world class tantrum.  Judging by the comments, even those people with kids thought this was amusing, so I wasn't alone in my sniggering.

The thing is I can see the exact same logic, or lack of it, when it comes to ranting, railing and moaning about the weather.  The weather on a given day is not going to change just because we hate it anymore than that kids gloves are going to miraculously change from green to blue.  The weather is what it is so we may as well just get on with it.  Yes, it's been miserable this year but so what?  Stick on your thermals and your waterproof and get out there anyway.

We're just back from a week in Wales and for the five full days we were there the weather was rain, sun, rain, sun, rain - in that order.  No messing around with a bit of grey skies and drizzle - nope, we either had full on sun or full on rain.  I kid you not, these are 5 photos, one from each day:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5 (Steve was pulling that face on purpose!)  😁
Plus, is it just me, or are the folks that moan most about the weather the ones that are least likely to venture outdoors anyway?  So, basically, the problem with the weather for them is that it's a bit wet when they're getting from their car to whichever building they're visiting.

In an effort to buck the "whinging about the weather" trend, here are my five fab reasons to be happy when it's cold and wet.

1.  It's a perfect excuse to visit museums, art galleries and interesting old homes.  Yes, I know they're open when it's sunny too but they're perfect for soggy wet days.  They usually have great cakes too.  Porth y Swnt at Aberdaron on the end of the Llyn Peninsula is utterly fascinating and a brilliant combination of art gallery and museum.  It tells of the history of the region as well as celebrating its wildlife and there is plenty there for kids to do too.

Porth y Swnt at Aberdaron

2.  Because the sound of the rain, either on trees or drumming on the roof of the campervan is so relaxing.  You can buy relaxation albums which contain the sound of rainfall - but why spend your money on that when you can hear it for free?  Plus it makes great patterns on the windows.

3.  Because the beaches, and any other outdoors attractions, are way quieter - in fact you can usually have them all to yourself while everyone else hides away indoors.

Lloyd George's Grave - not a soul around
Miles of empty beach - perfect solitude
4.  Because when it's stormy the sea looks AMAZING!  I couldn't do it justice with my camera phone but the waves crashing onto the rocks were spectacular.  You don't get that in the middle of a heatwave!


5.  Because when you've been out and about getting soggy, cold and wet, there's nothing nice than a hot drink and a slice of well earned cake - or curling up under the duvet with your favourite people.

FAVE cake of the week from The Withes Brew in Pwllheli

You could even use the time to teach yourself some new and highly valuable skills. 

Of course we made the most of the sunshine too - the only thing I wasn't impressed with during the entire week was the £12 per person entry fee for Portmeirion.  We checked their website but couldn't see mention of much other than hotels, accommodation, shops and cafe's so we gave it a miss and had a fabulous adventure on Black Rock Sands instead.

Here's the rest of our trip in a nutshell:

Beach walk near Llanystumdwy

Criccieth Castle

Pwllheli Beach

Quick paddle!

Morfa Nefyn

Morfa Nefyn

Morfa Nefyn - excellent beach walk!




Black Rock Sands

Black Rock Sands

A dirty bike is a happy bike!


For those who are interested we stayed at the Camping and Caravanning Club Site at Llanystumdwy - it's small but perfectly placed for exploring the region.  The bus will pick up and drop off at the campsite gates.  

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Show me the way to glow home...

Lighting the way...
Those fabulous fellows at Fix the Fells have come up with an innovative way to fix the fells AND help keep walkers safer after dark - glow in the dark gravel.  From Sunday April 1st all the paths fixed by their amazing team of volunteers will contain this futuristic new product, and it's hoped that other National Parks will follow suit.

The inspiration behind the idea
They've taken their inspiration from computer games such as Fable where the player's route ahead is illuminated so they never get lost.  Inexperienced hikers getting lost on the fells after dark is a serious issue so it is hoped that this revolutionary approach will help to keep people safer.

The gravel is environmentally friendly and is made by rolling the gravel in a large drum, coating it with iridescent plankton from the seas around the Maldives.  In preliminary tests it was found that the rainfall in Cumbria was sufficient to keep the plankton alive and glowing.  Co-incidentally it is also hoped that the farming of this plankton will provide a much needed boost to the Maldivian economy.

In the future, as night falls across the fells, the paths leading the way to the various summits will glow gently, aiding any walkers still trying to find their way home and also creating a beautiful artwork of interconnecting routes, best viewed from a local pub garden with a pie and pint of local ale.

Happy (and safe!) hiking!

(P.S. Yes, of course this is an April Fool's wind up - but Fix the Fells really do need our money to keep the fells in tip top condition - to learn more about their fantastic work and make a donation PLEASE CLICK HERE.  Thank you 😀)

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Same Old Cumbria

Some people are very sensitive about their age - honestly, I don't see the point because there's absolutely nothing I can do about it.  I'm at that age where bits of me are beginning to go wrong - my first pair of varifocals arrive next week and I'm unable to get up out of a chair without going "oooohhhh".  On a serious note I also think we should appreciate age more instead of constantly whining about it as growing old is a luxury denied to many.

At 50 I would like to think I'm about halfway through my innings as I have big plans to hit 100 and then some, but even that impressive old age is nothing compared to many of the oldest bits of Cumbria,  Seriously, if you think you're old, check out some of these...

The Oldest Humans

Langdale Valley & Pikes
Neolithic man (and woman) left us plenty of clues to their existence in the landscape - places like Castlerigg Stone Circle for example - but the one which fascinates me the most is the Neolithic Axe Factory on the flanks of the Langdale Pikes.  Dating back to around 4000BC the axe heads made here have been found all over the UK and give us a fascinating insight into how ancient man (and woman) traded and moved around the country to places like Lincolnshire, Peterborough and Northern Ireland.  You might think it's tricky facing the challenges of either Northern Rail or the M62 to cross the Pennines these days, but imagine what it was like back then.  There would have been no GoreTex, no fluffy down jackets and definitely no refreshment cart serving a selection of overpriced beverages and snacks.

The Oldest Rocks in Cumbria

Black Combe - doesn't look its age.
At 500 million years old The Skiddaw Group are the oldest rocks in the county - and where do you think one of the best places to see them is? That's right - Black Combe in the far SW of the county. Yes, yes, yes, alright, you can also see them around Skiddaw too - but if you're planning on visiting over a sunny bank holiday, trust me, Black Combe will be quieter.  The rocks started out as fine shales and muds on a deep sea bed and have since been squished, squeezed and baked into slates; if you've ever tried to come down Skiddaw via Carl Side, you'll know exactly the rocks I'm talking about.

The Oldest Road

Eden Valley
One of the earliest thoroughfares would most likely have been along the Eden Valley - a natural wide gap between the Pennines and the Lake District Fells formed thanks to the glaciers.  There's evidence of early stone age man making good use of the route and, of course, there is plenty of evidence of Romans in the area too with an old Roman Road running parallel to the M6 along much of the valley.  The Eden Valley still carries a number of main arterial routes - the West Coast Mainline, the M6, the A6 and the River Eden.  Not that anyone travels along the River Eden but they should because it's gorgeous. Although millions of people visit the Lake District National Park very year, only a tiny fraction of that number ever explore the Eden Valley, which is a real shame as there are plenty of beautiful walks, plus a divine chocolate factory in Orton.  Take a look a the Visit Eden webpage if you need more inspiration.

The Oldest Tree

Borrowdale Valley

The Borrowdale Yews are generally thought of as being the oldest trees in the county and it's likely they are over 800 years old - if you want to get all nerdy about it take a read of this report, full of fascinating facts and references to earlier studies.  I love trees in general and yews in particular - the trunks are usually so intricate and interesting and there is so much folklore associated with them too.  Slightly off topic but still on the subject of trees, if you're after the tallest tree in Cumbria you'll find it on the Wansfell Holme estate - it's a Grand Fir and stands at 57.8m high.  Some chap from the National Trust climbed to the top and, much as I love trees, I'm not sure I'd fancy trying that.

The Oldest Bloke 

Views from Humphrey Head
I'm not sure this really counts as they didn't find all of him, but when scientists excavated Kents Bank Cave (not a million miles from where the photo above was taken) they discovered a leg bone which was carbon dated to over 10,000 years old.  Other items and bones discovered during that excavation can be found at the Dock Museum in Barrow, which is a great place to head for an interesting family day out - there's loads on the industrial history of the region as well as lots of huge models of old boats and plenty of interactive displays and activities.

I promise our books aren't full of the "same old, same old"!  They are packed with fab photos and fun facts and we are happy to ship directly and cut out the Amazon middle man.  Click the pic to find out more & order yours.  😀

Click here to find out more

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Not all walks are uphill

I know that I'm lucky to live in Cumbria and I'm sure that many folks imagine that means that I am out up the fells every chance I get, but the reality is that I have to earn a crust and writing sadly doesn't pay all the bills yet.  This means that I often spend a lot of time travelling the country, staying in strange hotels and waking up in the mornings not entirely sure where I am - so how do I fit walking into a life like that and, more to the point for some folks, why should I?

You don't need me to tell you that walking is good for you but I think that too many people see it as a separate thing - something which needs to be dressed properly for with a water bottle in hand - but it doesn't have to be that way.  I was utterly horrified (strong words but true) to read this report from Public Health England which identified that 41% of adults in England aged between 40-60 fail to walk briskly for 10 minutes each MONTH.  Not week or day but MONTH.

Walking can be something we all slot in to our daily activities, however busy we are.  To give you an idea of what my last two weeks have been like, here are the places I've visited...

My days are crammed with travelling, working and trying to find my hotel so how do I fit in walking?

  • I never take a cab - that's a lie - I think I did, once, about 4 years ago when I left my phone in a training room and had to get back there before they closed.
  • Google Maps is my best friend - it always gets me from A to B.
  • If I do take a tube/ bus/ train or tram, where I can I get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
  • If I'm waiting on a train station (this happens a LOT usually thanks to Northern Rail) I walk around the station rather than sit in the waiting room jabbing at my phone.
View along Grange station

View from platform 14 at Manchester Piccadilly
  • I take the stairs where there's an option or walk up and down escalators at stations.
  • At hotels or client sites I avoid lifts and take the stairs - sometimes, at hotels, the stairs can be very well hidden and I enjoy the challenge of figuring out where they are...
  • I pack everything into my trusty little rucksack so walking and taking the stairs is easier.
And here's a big confession - I don't always feel like doing it.  I deliver training courses and I am on my feet all day so when I get to the station only to find there's yet another 20 minute delay because yet another member of the train crew has gone missing (seriously Northern Rail, what are you doing with them all?) I have to fight the urge to slump disconsolately into a seat in the waiting room and crack on with another level of Candy Crush.  So why do I do it?  I could list below all the health benefits of walking but here are the very personal and specific reasons that I do it:

  • It helps me to unwind
  • It takes me away from crowds of people - I've never been good in crowds
  • I see things I wouldn't normally spot
  • I enjoy a little peace and quiet
  • I get some fresh(ish!) air - definitely fresh on Grange station but notsomuch in central London
  • It gives me ideas and inspiration
  • It takes my mind off the delay
  • It's a little spot of "me time" after a day spent talking to people
I feel so passionately that everyone who can should walk more that I started a campaign called #WalkOneStop - you can find out more about it HERE.  All I want to do is encourage everyone to walk a little bit more whenever and wherever they can.  

Each week there is a new story in the news about obesity, cancer risks and the general non-movement of huge chunks of the population - and yet just a few short walks could really help to turn things around - did you know for example that an 11 coach Virgin Pendolino Train is roughly 250m long?  All you'd need to do is walk the entire length 6 times (avoiding picking up a bag of crisps at the onboard shop as you pass) and that's a mile sorted.  

I know I keep banging on about walking but honestly, #WalkOneStop - it could save your life.  😀

PPS.  Here are some of the fab things I spotted while walking around just in the past 2 weeks...












Manchester - KIDDING - Leeds. 😁