Posted in Charity, Fitness challenges, Walks

Update – Fitness Challenge March 2021: Step into Spring for Marie Curie

Photo by Mnz on Pexels.com

In February I decided to sign up for a 10,000 Step daily challenge in aid of Marie Curie, which cares for terminally ill people. I bought two pedometers (one was a spare and has now been given to my mum) and shared my JustGiving page across social media. It was a way to get fit, get out of the winter lockdown doldrums and raise money for charity. A win-win situation you might say.

March 1 started well with a 30-minute YouTube video – Joanna Soh’s indoor step challenge. Unfortunately the 10,000 steps she labelled it was a little off the mark and it was nearer 3,000. Still, a good start. But a day home working once again took its toll and I didn’t gain many more steps. But I put on my dancing shoes that evening and danced to Soft Cell, the Proclaimers and some more tunes. Finally, eventually, I reached the magic 10,000 steps. Now for bed!

From then on, I formulated a strategy. Walking to the supermarket, meeting a friend for a walk (and discovering beautiful secret areas of my home town), walking my parents’ dogs….

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

There were days when I felt too lazy to go walking so I became a fan of YouTube step instructors. Joanna Soh, Leslie Sansome (Walk at Home) and Rick Buellis became my go-too instructors. Leslie was always cheerful and Rick had a handy stepometer on his videos to help me along.

Whereas normally I would have ventured on longer treks further afield, restrictions meant I was supposed to stay local. So I turned this to my advantage and explored the hidden spots of my home town.

I discovered Preston’s Conway Park – literally 15 minutes walking distance away yet I’d never encountered it before – and rediscovered an ancient shrine, was delighted to hear a new nature reserve/park was being created and enjoyed the delights of various woodlands near me, courtesy of The Woodland Trust.

A Woodland Trust wood

I found that if I went outside for a walk, the steps added up, but leaving steps to the last minute was not a good idea. A lesson I learnt quite early on.

And by the end of it, I walked a total of 330,000 steps and raised Β£120. Now for my next challenge ….

Posted in Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Secrets of Preston: Conway Park

A riverside walk
Conway Park
The entrance – and exit – to Conway Park

Preston is full of surprises. In a previous post, I’ve told of my Highgate Wood mini adventure. A woodland I had walked past many a time and never once got round to venturing in until this year. At least I had heard of that particular beautiful spot but Conway Park was a place I had never even heard of. And when I did hear the name, for some reason I got it into my head that it was an area of open space, maybe a park for children to play, a grassy field with play equipment to one side. And that would be it. Fun for children, respite for parents but not of particular interest for walkers and explorers of secret nature havens and mini beauty spots.

Work being done on The Village Parklands

But one day, meeting up with a friend for a local walk, she told me about a map given to her by someone she knew. On it was our local area and mapped out was a walk. Conway Park was mentioned.

‘It looks like our normal local walk ‘, my friend said. And it did. But we set off anyway, following the map. Everything looked familiar until…

‘I think we go right here,’ Caroline said.

And that was when our usual suburban trek turned into more of a mystery trail. For there at the end of that cul-de-sac of houses was a signpost and, behind it, a park.

Conway Park

The sign said Conway Park. There was a path to the right and one to the left. We turned left and followed the woodland trail past a sports pitch with a pavilion, and then along a river.

A riverside wander

We came across a sign for a new 80-acre nature reserve/public open space, The Village Parklands, being created. I love it when I see natural spaces being protected or created instead of being destroyed.

The Village Parklands

We continued our walk along the river and finally ended up along a narrow wooded path, ending up at a different part of our usual walk! We had wandered past the public footpath many a time, never realising the secret behind it. As a child, I had a thing about secret passageways, and here was one I was discovering as an adult!

A secret passage …
The Friends of Conway Park, formed in 2015, is made up of members who work for the benefit of the park. The park itself is owned by Preston City Council. Currently the Friends has a crowdfunding campaign  (50K by May fundraising campaign) to improve the children's playground, create a dry standing area for watching football, and a new path along the length of the park. The park will eventually join up with the new Village Parkland.
Posted in Crafts

Getting crafty with knitting

A display at Masham Sheep Fair

Over the years, I have often thought about learning a new craft, usually after getting a sense of envy when I see others’ finished projects.

As a child I seemed to be more artistic and crafty than now as an adult. My parents had to put up with an art gallery of my works on the wall (thanks to children’s TV presenter Tony Hart for that idea!) Yet as an adult, my drawing skills are the same as when I was 9 years old. And my craft skills blatantly show off my lack of spatial awareness and coordination!

Once on holiday, there was an origami class. I started well with the paper folding but at some point (fairly early on) I got very confused and the paper just looked a terrible mess rather than the beautiful swan it was supposed to end up as. A willow weaving workshop was more of a success. I ended up with handmade willow bird feeders and coaster, but a small child still put me to shame with her skills and ease at a time when I was puzzling about what the next step in the process was.

Despite these experiences, I still had that yearning to craft, to make, to learn a new skill. Lockdown seemed a good point to start too. I didn’t wish the time away but a project to help pass it until things got back to normal felt a good idea.

I already had a knitting project waiting for me. When I visited Masham a few years ago, there was a sheep fair and I bought two knitting packs, one I gave to my goddaughter (a knitted toy sheep), the other I kept for a rainy day (fingerless gloves). Had the rainy day arrived?

Knitting kits

But when I read the instructions, it seemed double Dutch to me, a foreign language. So after a chat with my mum (an accomplished knitter herself), she gave me a small ball of wool, knitting needles, cast the first row, and showed me how to knit. I had learnt to knit as a child but all I had learnt had vanished from my brain so I needed this refresher and practice.

Up, through, over, under…. Something like that anyway. I lost stitches, holes were formed where they should not have been formed, the piece I was knitting for practice was looking more and more unshaped by the minute. I had to keep asking Mum for advice. My mum talked of purling, casting on and off… She went back to knitting a jumper via a complicated looking pattern which made my original glove project look like it was aimed for primary school children.

I got to the end of the ball. At which point, Mum took back a row of my piece and then cast off. I could have carried on and turned it into a scarf but this was my practising project. It now sits under a water jug in my living room.

My first knitting project

Now to my second project – a scarf. I still don’t know how to cast on or off or how to purl. But the actual act of knitting is becoming more and more natural to me. I may never become a wonderful knitter but it doesn’t matter. I enjoy it and I see what people mean when they say it’s highly relaxing. It makes me think of being mindful and ‘living in the moment’. And now back to the process – up, through, over….

I start my new scarf project
Posted in Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Secrets of Preston: Clough Copse

Clough Copse

I ventured out on another local walk recently, this time to a little patch of broadleaved woodland owned and maintained by The Woodland Trust. It’s called Clough Copse, a 3.95 acre site that is popular with dog walkers and joggers. Located in Fulwood, Preston, it sits amid steep valleys and is surrounded by a large supermarket and housing – yet when I’ve been there it feels as if urban and suburban life is many, many miles away.

According to the Trust, trees include oak, ash, sycamore, holly, beech, elder, hazel and cherry. It was the start of March when I visited so I didn’t notice any flowers but I’ve heard bluebells, dog’s mercury, and red campion can be seen here. The little stream flows towards Savick Brook, which can be seen in Highgate Wood, which I wrote about recently.

These little refuges are fantastic for wildlife, for flora and fauna, but they’re also vital for us humans to reconnect with nature and recharge our batteries.

Clough Copse
Clough Copse
Posted in Pets, Reblog

2015 – year of the pig

A flashback to a previous blog post, written in 2017, when I first thought about adopting animals. At this point, I did not have any guinea pigs or chickens. Now it’s hard to imagine Cosy Cottage without them!

IMG_20170915_221448_BURST006

In 2015, I was all about the chickens. After seeing an article about ex-battery hens looking for homes, I could literally imagine them in my garden. My side garden wasn’t doing anything. It was just there, a spare piece of land filled mostly with stones or random plants, I knew not what they were. So that tiny plot was obviously waiting for my hens, right?

So I joined chicken internet forums, asked questions, made notes of the answers, bought books, became a regular visitor to Fulwood Library (great customer service, thanks Caroline and Chris!) read and researched, perused and contemplated. I saw images of poorly hens and dead roosters, articles on culling and roast chicken recipes, library book chapters on coops and breeds. My relatives told me about rats and smells and noise and neighbours who would report me for annoyances.

I attended jury service and bought a book one lunchtime from Oxfam about ultra-small smallholdings. Somehow during deliberation, among seriously talking about what verdict to reach, there was chat from jurors who knew people who had chickens. So many real people – that is people like me who had normal gardens, not acres – had them pottering about their patios.

For five months, I chatted about chickens.

In March, Simon asked me when I was getting them.

In May, he asked again. Had I got the garden ready for them yet?

Procrastination was in charge though.

I dithered because chickens seemed too ‘alien’ to me, too unusual. It felt like I would be giving farm animals a home rather than pets. I wasn’t a farmer. I shouldn’t have livestock.

And the pictures of poorly hens, queries about rats, criticism about smell… And then there was a case of bird flu not far from me! The last straw!)  πŸ™

So I rehomed Loco and Bugsy (I did not choose those names!) instead. Not hens, but two guinea pigs who are very endearing and cheeky, and were residing in a pet shop’s Adoption Section.

Loco, the black and white guy, thinks with his stomach and is a first class beggar. Bugsy, the punky red head, can be a tad irritable and reclusive (not as much now he knows there’s food around so it’s worth getting out there to see what’s happening!)IMG_20170915_221432_BURST001_COVER.jpg IMG_20170915_221448_BURST003.jpgbut Loco is his best pal and he misses him when he’s not around.

I had guinea pigs as a child. I knew how to look after them. If you put in the time and effort, they’re pretty easy to care for.

2015 – the Year of the Guinea Pig. 🐹

Will there be a Year of the Hen? πŸ”

Posted in Chickens, Pets

‘Weight Watchers’ visits Cosy Cottage

Tim on the scales

A representative from Weight Watchers (aka me) decided it was time for a weight check on the residents of Cosy Cottage. Usually I do this with a glamorous assistant – well, Simon or my dad – but today I thought I would try it myself. Not an easy task when dealing with flighty chickens who mistake the scales for a sauce pan. But I got there.

Tom on the scales

So first the hens – all a healthy weight. How much they weigh varies throughout the year and even during the day. When they moult, if they’re about to lay an egg, illness, the season, even the time of day could have an impact. So as of February 2020, their respective weights were (in grams):

Jemima: 1,000

Mabel: 1,179

Dottie: 902

Ava: 993

The guinea pigs are a simple matter in being weighed. They don’t immediately jump out or scramble out of the scales, which makes it easier to take photos too. Their weight tends to focus on how much they eat versus how much they move. Like humans really. It looked like Tom had lost a little weight and Tim had put some on but over 1,000 is a healthy weight so I was happy.

Tom: 1,343

Tim: 1,303

It’s a job I do periodically rather than regularly but it does give an idea of how healthy the animals are and whether they’ve put weight on or have lost it. The pigs seem quite nonchalant about the process but the chickens hate it. Which unfortunately means that it’s tricky to snatch a photo when they’re quite literally in a flap.

I’m sure they were having a celebration when they saw the back of the Weight Watchers rep leaving the premises while clutching the scales.

Little Ava after being weighed
Posted in Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Secrets of Preston: Highgate Wood

Highgate Wood

For many of us, lockdowns and travel restrictions have made us more aware of our immediate surroundings. Whereas in the past, going for a walk in the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales might be a common enough event for someone living in the north of England, at the moment there are restrictions and with it the fear of possibly being stopped by police for a ‘non-essential journey’.

So it’s been a time to stay local and this is when I realise that a city like Preston has a lot of little natural beauty spots, well hidden from the rest of the world. Today I visited Highgate Wood in the suburbs of Preston. Its entrance is on one of the main roads (Garstang Road) into Preston. Why I have walked past it on various occasions but never thought to pay a visit I do not know. But I’m here now. It’s not a large wood but it’s a very pleasant place to stroll, with Savick Brook flowing in the middle, paths either side and benches dotted around.

The woodland is located in Highgate Park, also the name of an old residence built in 1876 which was once situated here. A group of residents called The Friends of Highgate Wood look after the woodland.

Savick Brook, Highgate Wood
Highgate Wood
The entrance to Highgate Wood
Posted in Charity, Fitness challenges

Fitness Challenge March 2021: Step into Spring for Marie Curie

Photo by Mnz on Pexels.com

I usually try to have at least one fitness challenge a year, as an incentive to get fit, as an adventure (see Chesterfield Canal), as something to look forward to… Of course, last year’s ideas of walking Lancaster Canal and climbing Ben Nevis ended up being pipe dreams. Even when my gym was reopened (for a brief period of a few months), I felt too cautious to return and so my fitness has deteriorated over the last year. But enough is enough. My fitness, my weight, my physical health, my mental wellbeing needs a helping hand and so it was that I came across a newspaper story about the charity Marie Curie looking for people willing to take on the Step into Spring Challenge.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Marie Curie cares for terminally ill people and their loved ones. The charity has nurses, hospices, a support line and a bereavement service. Marie Curie says:

We’re here to support everyone in the UK through all aspects of dying, death and bereavement – and to fight for a society where everyone gets to lead the best life they can, right to the end.

Marie Curie

The challenge asks fundraisers to walk 10,000 steps every day during March. This can be in any way, whether walking up and down the stairs or doing a fitness class via Zoom or going for a local walk. It’s a tad trickier during lockdown as we’re not supposed to venture far for a walk. Oh, and then there’s the fact that I work from home at the moment so I can’t even walk to and from work.

So, interesting… I will let you know how it goes! Saying that, there have been various stories about fundraisers using initiative and resourcefulness to raise cash during lockdown, such as the 100-year-old Captain Tom who walked around his garden.

Here are some ideas:

  • Walk the dog
  • Walk to the shops
  • Stepping while on the phone
  • Stepping while watching TV
  • Enjoying a local nature walk
  • Walk with a friend
  • Dance to some music

If anyone would like to sponsor or feels inspired to take part themselves, the web links are below. Maybe you don’t live in the UK or you have a different charity close to your heart, why not make your own Step Challenge for your favourite charity?

Photo by Sebastian Voortman on Pexels.com

https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/

https://step-into-spring.blackbaud-sites.com/fundraising/clares-step-into-spring-fundraiser-for-marie

https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/get-involved/fundraise/stepintospring

Posted in Environment, Nature

A Medley of Trees

Photo by Alexander Kovalyov on Pexels.com

All my life I have wanted to learn the types of trees, to be able to identify them by their bark, their trunks, their leaves, their buds, their branches… To know their myths, history, ecology and more… I start off every new year with this unofficial resolution to learn my trees in the same way once, many years ago, I learnt my times tables.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But winter never seems a great time to learn once the trees have lost their leaves. Then by spring and summer, this resolution has fallen – like so many – by the wayside. And when it gets to winter again, and I embark on a frosty walk in the local woodland, once more I think “wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tell the difference between that tree and this tree?”

I love these majestic giants but how little do I know them!

So I will use this blog to act as an occasional tree journal to help jog my memory when it comes to learning about trees.