Cuckoo Way: Chesterfield Canal, Day 2

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Could I get up this morning after a gruelling 26-mile canal walk? Well, with the help of plasters (three) over blisters on my left foot and a bandage over another foot (the blister was too big for a plaster), it was possible to gingerly climb down the stairs to the breakfast room of our b&b.

It was a bank holiday so, even though Worksop isn’t generally seen as a holiday destination, there were quite a few guests having breakfast at Acorn Lodge. 

After our filling cereal and full English breakfast, we got ready, paid up and headed back to the canal. Acorn Lodge was a good stopping off point for a rest but it was time to move on.

Simon got a text from his dad saying if we wanted a lift back this morning to give him a ring. Tempting (that’s how tired I was) but no, we would continue. 17 miles today, Simon said.

My trusty pole came in handy!

Our walk started off sometime between 9.30 and 10am, later than yesterday.

En route to the canal we came across a fascinating church/former priory, I would have liked to have explored but my legs were determined to conserve as much energy as possible. Simon looked in and took this photo of a very unusual yew door.

Another treat was in store before we left Worksop. We expected the canal to be in a much more urban setting than previous. What was not expected was the sight of a kingfisher (my second sighting in a fortnight!) It was standing on a ledge on top of the canal, before swooping in and grabbing a fish breakfast.

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After this great start, we moved onwards. Only once did we nearly get lost when thankfully a resident gardening noticed us ambling along and pointed us in the right direction, over the bridge and across the canal.

An elderly man on an old-fashioned bike told us ‘not too long to get there’, of course, he told us this before he heard where we were going.

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We passed Shireoaks Marina, where many boats were moored, stopping off at the village for painkillers for my feet. The marina was actually built on the site of the colliery basin, used to load boats until 1947. It is surprising how many scenic places have an industrial past.

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We reached Turnerwood, a pleasant little hamlet which looked like it might have a cafe…. But no time for a cup of tea, alas.

Past Turnerwood and we arrive at an engineering fan or canal lover’s dream – the land of double and triple locks. It is also a very scenic, wooded section, on the other side of the tow path is Old Spring Wood and Hawks Wood. 

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The Thorpe flight of locks includes two treble and two double staircases within its 15 locks.

Along with the Turnerwood flight (seven locks), the canal passes through 22 locks in just over a mile. The canal also flows over ‘a three arched aqueduct above the River Ryton which passes from Yorkshire to Nottinghamshire’ (The Chesterfield Canal Guidebook, Chesterfield Canal Trust).

We passed by the site of the wharf where the stone for the Houses of Parliament was loaded. Yes, did you know that the stone used for the famous political arena was transported from Chesterfield Canal all the way to London (via the Trent, Humber, North Sea and Thames)?

While we walked, we decided that, depending on how we would feel after another couple of miles, we might take Simon’s parents up on their offer of a lift back – but not until we reached Norwood Tunnel at the very least.

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Time was ticking on, and although normally we could walk three miles in an hour, possibly more, at this rate we were slowly ambling along at two miles an hour. We might end up getting to the end of the canal in Chesterfield at midnight at this rate!

At Kiveton Park, we carried on to the portal of Norwood Tunnel, where the canal seemingly ends. From here, via Kiveton Waters (the site of the old Kiveton Colliery) we continued above the Norwood Tunnel, going under the M1 at one point. The tunnel was once the equal longest tunnel in England, 12 feet high and 9 feet 3 inches wide. Because of mining subsidence, one part collapsed in the 1800s and closed in 1907.

A couple of stretches of the canal reappears, at one point partly overgrown with plantation. And then it disappears – and we realised that the fenced-in gardens were actually built on the line of the canal.

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From Killamarsh it is possible to walk to the end of the canal – but with a four mile or so non-canal detour. (The Canal Trust is working on restoration).

Earlier we had made the decision to go back once we reached Killamarsh so, at 4pm and 12 miles on, we got a lift back from The Crown pub in Killamarsh.

I didn’t feel as disappointed as I thought I would. Yes, we cut our walk short by about eight miles but we did walk about 12 miles today and 26 yesterday so 38 altogether. Much of the trek was achieved. We also hiked along the most attractive section. Had we continued, we would have trudged another four miles just to get back to the canal at Staveley Town Basin – and then another four or so miles from there to Chesterfield. As Simon said, we walked the full length of the existing canal from West Stockwith to Killamarsh.

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We saw many sights, some of the wildlife I forgot to mention earlier included the migrant chiff chaff, house martin, swallow and goldfinches. We also heard a chaffinch and reed warbler.

It took four days for my legs to get back to normal but I felt happy with my achievement – my first marathon really! And I felt impressed with myself for walking 38 miles in two days.

Here’s to the next challenge…

Facts of the Day

1. Work on the Chesterfield Canal started in 1771 and was completed in 1777.

2. The main trade was coal but stone, iron, corn, timber, lime and lead were also carried.

3. The final commercial cargo was carried in 1956. The canal could have closed if it hadn’t have been for campaigning by the Retford and Worksop Boat Club.

Thanks to their members,  Chesterfield Canal Trust and other volunteers and campaigners, we were able to walk along this beautiful part of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. 

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Cuckoo Way: Chesterfield Canal Day 1

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The start of our Cuckoo Way walk at West Stockwith

Day One

9am. We started off at West Stockwith, where the picturesque canal basin connects with the River Trent. It was once a boat building centre where the Chesterfield Canal narrow boats – nicknamed cuckoos – were built.

I had a sense of high optimism about today’s journey, yes, it would be about 20 miles (actually it was 26!) but it was on the flat. No hills, no mountains. I could walk for ages on the flat, yes?

Hmm, let’s see.

We passed boats and dog walkers and attractive housing overlooking the canal. Our first locks – upper and lower –  were at Misterton. Both bridges and locks had numbers which, when I got tired, I counted to keep my morale up. There were also milestones too but some seemed to be absent.

The time we embarked on our journey coincided with Duckling Season. We came across many mallards, one had 10 youngsters close by while another sadly only had one. I told myself the others were hiding.

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We passed a former brickyard and wharfs, quiet farmland, Gringley-on-the-Hill – probably the only hill we saw on our walk, and Drakeholes tunnel, pictured below, (unfortunately the nearby 1700s pub, The White Swan, closed some time ago, despite its ideal location. Hopefully it will reopen one day). We also passed an ornamental bridge – with an age-worn face on either side – at Wiseton estate.

Clayworth was our first rest stop, it appeared to be a haven for moored boats on either side. Sitting at an outside bench, our cheese sandwiches and water tasted good.

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Alas, time ticked on. It was after noon and we were behind schedule – the plan was to stop off at Retford for lunch but at this rate it would be 2pm.

Keep striding ahead, don’t think too much of the time, as long as we get to Worksop before it dark…

My previous ‘dilly-dallying’ became more purposeful, although I kept feeling as if I had a blister on my foot. Our scenery was delightfully quiet and rural and we passed a quirky-named lock called Whitsunday Pie Lock. A strange and slightly eerie sight from across the water greeted us – of what seemed like tombstones dotted around…

We spoke of Eddie Izzard, a British celebrity, he ran 26 marathons in 26 days!! (How is that even possible?!) Well, if he can do that, I can surely walk 26 miles along a canal in one day…

… And 20 miles the next day.

Retford was supposed to be our half way point but it turned out it was actually two-thirds of the way. This cheered me up at the time but little did I know how weary my legs would feel after leaving this stop. That, although we had walked 15 miles to reach this point, the next 10 miles would feel even more of an endurance.

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For time and tiredness reasons, we opted to just get a drink in the nearest pub or cafe to the canal rather than venture into town. This turned out to be The Packet Inn (the inn was named after the passenger boats arriving on market days). The landlord of this down-to-earth pub was surprised to be asked for a cup of tea and two lemonades.

‘A cup of tea?!’

‘Lemonade?!’

But he served those drinks and very reasonably priced they were too. It was just what was needed. The lemonade was heavenly.

Back on track, we checked my feet, no apparent blisters could be seen.

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We saw swathes of hawthorn, a few swan nests along the way and a highlight was a kestrel swooping down into a nearby field for his/her dinner.

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The terrain varied, I had concerns that this would be a unvaried walk, one that may possibly bore Simon but we were spoilt with different scenery, woodland, farmland, industrial…

Our next main village was Ranby, it must only have been about five or so miles on from Retford but my legs said differently. My feet, once again, insisted they were covered in blisters.

I was tempted to enter a village pub and order a taxi straight to the B&B. But there was no village pub within easy reach of the canal even though we could see the A1.

We carried on.

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At Osberton, we walked past several fields with horses, an equestrian centre or some kind.

We reached another bridge. I had been counting the numbers of bridges, locks and milestones but had long stopped. I was merely focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.

But this bridge was different. An elderly man, out for a walk with his dog,  was looking over it. We hadn’t come across many fellow travellers in the last few miles.

Simon raced ahead to ask this gentleman a very important question, ‘how far is it to Worksop?’

‘A mile and a half’, he replied. It was music to my ears.

True, it felt longer as we trudged on into an ever-increasing urban environment. Even when I saw the big b&q store or warehouse (never, did I think I would be happy to see such ugly industrial and retail buildings!) Worksop did not seem much nearer.

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Eventually we reached the right bridge, it took us to a main road, on which was a restaurant Simon had mentioned as being ‘not too far from the guesthouse’. I think it took us 20 minutes from the canal to the accommodation.

We finally arrived at 7.30pm. Such a relief to lie down on a bed! We ordered a pizza takeaway, my legs were now officially on strike. Oh, and the blisters – all four of them – had developed on my feet.

The pizza tasted stodgy. The garlic bread had no flavour, no garlic. Baywatch will never win an Oscar, but to lie down eating and watching TV was simply blissful.

The only question is: would I be able to walk tomorrow?

Coming on Saturday: Cuckoo Way – Day Two

 

The Cuckoo Way

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One evening in January, while having an evening meal in a pleasant pub along Lancaster Canal, Simon and I discussed having a semi-long distance canal walking adventure.

Canal walking sounded good to me, a challenge with no hills could be relatively easy in comparison to some of our more difficult hill-walking hikes.

So I thought…

Lancaster Canal, in Lancashire, turned out to be 57 miles in length. Chesterfield Canal, Nottinghamshire, was a ‘mere’ 46 miles in comparison.

Maybe a slightly easier walk then. I liked the idea of an ‘easier’ challenge!

A three-day hike, I said.

Two days at most, Simon replied.

Err, okay, right.

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So, at the start of May, Simon and I embarked on a 46-mile walk along the Chesterfield Canal.

In two days.

I had done some walking (mostly six-mile or less with a few intermittent longer treks of 9 or 8 miles) and two Zumba classes in the last two months.

But was it really enough for a 46-mile trek (in two days!)?

But it would be flat so, I mean, it must be quite easy, right?

We will see…

This walk, from West Stockwith to Chesterfield (or vice versa), is one of wildlife, history, beautiful scenery, geography and industry. It’s called The Cuckoo Way because that was what the old horse-drawn boats were called. No-one knows for certain why.

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A map of the canal (from Chesterfield Canal Visitor Guide 2019)

It starts in the River Rother, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, and ends at West Stockwith, Nottinghamshire. Or vice versa, which was the way we did it.

Simon got a cheap Ordnance Survey map early March and the B&B in Worksop was booked on March 19.

On Saturday, May 4, we would get a lift to the start of the walk from Simon’s parents and our adventure would begin….

Coming soon: Cuckoo Way – Day One

https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2019/07/10/cuckoo-way-chesterfield-canal-day-1/

https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2019/07/13/cuckoo-way-chesterfield-canal-day-2/

Fitness Challenge 2019: April/May

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April 

Goals

1. Aim to walk 100 to 125 miles

2. Do something active every day for 5 minutes

3. Set aside 15 minutes 3 days a week for yoga

4. Buy trainers for exercise class

5. Go to at least 4 exercise classes

So far each month I have set myself targets but there was no concrete goal until Simon and I planned to do the Cuckoo Way, along the Chesterfield Canal, in May (46 miles in two days) and my friend Caroline and I opted to walk the Preston Guild Wheel at the start of June (21 miles in 2 days, a little easier!)

Would this make me more motivated?

I walked a total of 103.7 miles this month, beating my lower target of 100 miles – the first time I have done it this year!

Walking to work and during lunchtimes (3 miles in total), walking the family  dogs, walking to the leisure centre and counting Zumba steps, walking into the city centre, a Wicklow Mountain walk in Ireland, a walk to my local Woodland Trust Wood, Mason’s Wood, pictured below (3 to 4 miles), walk to my local shop (1 mile)… Most of these were short but they were more frequent than before. And I think my planned Chesterfield Canal walk spurred me on to do more.

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The doing something active for 5 minutes was successful. Either walking to work, walking the dogs, walking up and down stairs 10 or 20 times… For the most part, I did something.

The yoga, once again, was on and off. There were mornings when I did the Tree and Sun Salutation but I confess there were many more when I didn’t do anything.

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Despite having the time (it was only 15 minutes), I kept putting it off until it was completely forgotten.

Well, I did buy trainers for exercise classes so that was one thing done. Not the best pair but they will do for now.

I went to Zumba at my local leisure centre twice. It was the first time I’ve been back to Zumba after a long break of about 6 months. When I first went it was incredibly popular as it was the ‘big craze’ but now I don’t need to book first thing to get a place. In fact, the second time a friend and I just turned up and there were plenty of places available.

It’s essentially a dance class but without any complicated techniques. The instructor shows the dance moves and you just follow. If you get it wrong – and I often do! – it doesn’t matter! It’s just fun.

Pleasantly, I found that having my pedometer while doing Zumba meant my steps increased a great deal.

Notable Walks

Wicklow Mountains

I visited Ireland for a few days in April and we went on a trip to the beautiful Wicklow Mountains on the Saturday. Leaving the car in the car park, we made the silly mistake of not taking any water with us. I didn’t realise how long we would be walking for. There were four of us and the pace was much faster than I was used to. The decision not to take water was a poor one for me and I felt dehydrated, tired and weak once we started going uphill.

It is times like this that makes me realise how far I still have to go with my journey to become fitter.

103.7 miles

May

Goals 

1. Aim to walk 100 to 125 miles.

2. Complete the Cuckoo Way along the Chesterfield Canal.

I started May with only two targets, wanting to focus on the canal walk.

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I have written a separate post about the canal walk (not published yet), which took place Saturday, May 4 and Sunday, May 5. Suffice to say, it is the hardest canal walk I have ever done. We started at West Stockwith in Nottinghamshire and ended at Killamarsh, Derbyshire. 26 miles on the first day (!) and 12 miles on the second. Beautiful scenery and fascinating history but it did feel hard on my feet and legs, despite being on the flat. My legs were still sore three days later!

The next Notable Walk was BowFell, a Wainwright Fell in the Lake District. Again, there will be a separate post about this. Although I have been up BowFell once before, about seven years ago (how time flies!), it didn’t strike me as an incredibly difficult climb. But the walk on Saturday, May 25, was hard. We forgot the proper map so only had a less detailed one and I had difficulty with the steepness of the steps up the hill. And then, on the way down, the weather took a turn for the worst and we got lost.

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Normally I can laugh at these memorable walks in retrospect but after the Wicklow Mountains hike and this one, I now had doubts about my fitness ability. What is the point of going up a mountain if it feels too strenuous? And yet, it was something I wanted to keep doing for the scenery, the sense of achievement, the feeling of exploring somewhere new…

So I did something I never thought I would ever do again.

I joined a gym. (Just to be clear, that picture below is not me!)

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It is situated 10 minutes away from my work and 15 minutes away from my house.

And that’s walking distance.

There was no getting away from the place.

It tried to tempt me with vouchers in my workplace – ‘try me for free’.  And when I did the maths, it worked out at £5 a week. Okay, there was no swimming pool but there were various fitness classes included and the location was spot on. 

So I took my voucher, tried it one Saturday and joined.

There is also a selection of fitness classes here so I am hopeful I won’t lose motivation.

And because of the location, it is always there to remind me of my aim to get fit. There is no ‘out of sight, out of mind’ here!

And yes, I beat my 100 mile target this month!

May: 100.2 miles

Muker and the highest pub in Britain (528m/1732ft)

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Tan Hill Inn

During our weekend stay in the lovely market town of Richmond, Yorkshire, we embarked on a long trek from the quaint village of Muker to the highest pub in Britain. Alas, I was driving later so I couldn’t have a wine (although on such a walk like this, I tend to have a thirst for water rather than alcohol!)

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Muker is situated in Swaledale, in the Yorkshire Dales. All Creatures Great and Small vet James Herriot called it, “the most beautiful part of England”.

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The first part of our journey out of the little village is particularly memorable. We stuck to a flagstone path through hay meadows, bordered by dry stone walls, and squeezing past ‘squeeze stiles’. Along the way, bypassing the old-fashioned laithes (cowhouses). The meadows are still managed in a traditional way, which is wonderful for biodiversity. From what I read in my Country Walking magazine, these upland meadows are rare and there are only 1,000 hectares in the North of England.

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Alas, as it was February, we missed out on the vibrancy and colour which it appears to have when the wildflowers are blooming. So, note to self, come back in spring.

The next leg of the journey is by the River Swale. We were lucky to spot Oystercatchers and two dippers and Kisdon Force – the waterfall – is a gorgeous sight.

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We reached a signpost advertising tea and cake, tempting but we had a job to do so we had to decline our invite to Keld and its tasty delicacies … Interestingly, the sign shows we walked some of the Pennine Way and The Swale Trail (not a walk I’m familiar with) crosses here too.

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The river stroll turned into a more swampy moorland trail.

We would look at the map. “Not too far now,” Simon would say in a bid to boost morale. We started to believe we would see the beautiful sight of the pub – like an oasis – at the bottom of every incline.

I ventured, “I hope the pub isn’t too busy and we will find somewhere to sit.”

And then another thought struck us both.

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What if the pub was closed and we would have to eat our cold cheese sandwiches out in the cold?

The pub eventually made its appearance, just when I started to wonder if it had closed down and was demolished or that it was an old wife’s tale told to gullible hikers.

But look, there on the horizon, was the inn. The Tan Hill Inn. A lovely sight. Somewhere to sit, a nice cup of tea, a snack…

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It was busy (it appears popular with bikers) with a long queue but we found a seat, and enjoyed a hot drink and much-anticipated snack.

I would have been quite happy to stay there for a good while longer but it was time to head back.

I realised that the landscape wasn’t as natural as first assumed. All around are the signs of lead mining, spoil heaps from shafts underground.

These days the pub is frequented by bikers, tourists and hikers. Back in the day, it would have been miners who were regulars.

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Later on, I fell in the mud. This tends to happen a lot on my walks!

There are a number of derelict farm buildings. Later I read about Hartland, which is supposedly haunted, and Crackpot Hall, a farmhouse and mine office. I wish I had read about these two features beforehand as now I try to recollect which empty structure was which. This was another curious sight… An old bridge but with possible outbuildings behind?

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Other curiosities included a rusting tractor skeleton and this unusual tree within a tree…

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All in all, we walked about 17 miles in total that day. It was time to go back to the cottage for a warm shower and a pizza takeaway.

Facts of the Day

1. Tan Hill Inn dates back to the 1600s and is Britain’s highest pub at 1,732 feet (528m) above sea level. 

2. During the 1700s, it was used by miners. The last mine on Tan Hill closed in 1929. The pub used to be surrounded by miners’ cottages. These were demolished. 

3. On December 31, 2009, New Year revellers were snowed in and were unable to leave the pub for three days!

Fitness Challenge 2019: February/March

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February

1. Aim to walk 100 miles

2. Do something active every day

3. Set aside 15 minutes 5 days a week for yoga

4. Start planning at least one long-distance hike this year

5. Buy trainers for exercise classes

Since the start of 2019, I’ve set myself monthly goals to get fit. So in February, I set out the above goals. Did I succeed? Umm, no. I didn’t get the trainers, I kept procrastinating about planning the hike, I forgot about the yoga. Even the simple ‘do something active every day’ was sometimes forgotten about. What I have learnt though is that when I get distracted in my life – for good and bad reasons – the fitness regime gets forgotten about and left to one side.

On the positive side, although I did not reach 100 miles (coat-on, I’m sure I would have exceeded it had I counted every step I did), I reached 88 miles, nearly 100 and better than January’s 74 miles.

Notable Walks

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Pictured: A scene from the Muker walk

River Swale walk, Richmond (6 miles or thereabouts)

Muker to Tan Hill Inn and back (17 miles on my pedometer!)

Walk to Brockholes Nature Reserve (11 miles)

Walk into Preston city centre (8 miles)

88 miles. Running total: 162 miles (I’m also aiming to walk 1,000 miles by the end of 2019).

March

I had the same goals as last month but it gets worse instead of better! (Now you see why I didn’t update this post earlier!) I walked a grand total of 58.1 miles, just over half of my target. Nowhere near good enough.

58.1 miles. Running total: 220.1 miles

Notable walks:

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Pictured: A view from the Sherwood Forest woodland walk

Sherwood Forest woodland walk (7.4 miles)

Ainsdale Sand Dunes (6-7 miles or thereabouts)

The one goal I did achieve in March was to plan at least one long-distance hike this year.

So in May, Simon and I are planning to walk the entire Cuckoo Way/Chesterfield Canal – 46 miles – in two days! The 240-year-old canal traverses Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire.

In June, my friend Caroline and I are planning to walk Preston’s Guild Wheel. It will be 21 miles in 2 days and encircles the city of Preston.

Perhaps the Guild Wheel should have come first on the fitness schedule?! ☺️

So, as you can see, now I really do have to get a reasonable level of fitness.

So for April, I have the similar targets to before but as there is a goal I have made it harder. Will the proposed weekend hikes focus my mind? Let’s see…

1. Aim to walk 100 to 125 miles

2. Do something active every day for 5 minutes

3. Set aside 15 minutes 3 days a week for yoga (I’ve tried to make this more achievable by aiming for 3 rather than 5 days)

4. Buy trainers for exercise class 

5. Go to at least 4 exercise classes in April

 

 

Fitness Challenge 2019: January round-up

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So for my new year’s resolution to get fit (the same resolution I’ve had for the last 10 years!), I decided to break it down into monthly chunks, each month would have at least one challenge.

January was Red January and is an initiative organised by mental health charity Mind. Red originally stood for Run Every Day but I prefer Random Exercise Every Day, a phrase I spotted on the internet!

My second challenge for this month was to reach 100 miles by walking. This is to contribute to my overall 1,000 mile target by the end of the year.

Challenge 1: Walking 100 Miles

By the end of January, I had walked 74 miles, not what I aimed for but still more than what I would usually do in the month of January. This was what I would call coat-on walking. Coat-on for me means every mile is counted outside, via a pedometer. However, as it’s January, it’s cold and dark and I was aware of how easy it was for me to find an excuse not to go on a proper country ramble.

But I still:

Frequently walked to work and back (1 mile. I sometimes drive as it’s on my way to other places I go to after work).

Frequently went for a walk at lunchtime (2 miles)

Walked the family dogs (Various, 1 mile to 5 miles)

On two days out with friends/Simon, we ambled around the cities of Lancaster/Chester (about 3/4miles)

One canal walk with Dad (2 miles)

One walk into city centre and back (7 miles)

Nothing spectacular but it all adds up.

Challenge 2: Red January

This challenge was primarily for me to get into the habit of becoming more active. I included any additional walking in this but there were days because of snow, a headache, a stomachache or perceived time restraints when it wasn’t as easy to venture out. So I lifted two dumbells and did 100 arm curls on those ‘lazier’ days. It won’t get me fit or strong but it still keeps me thinking along the lines of ‘doing something every day’ and only takes a couple of minutes.

Red January aims to help people’s mental health as well as physical health and raise awareness of the charity Mind (https://www.mind.org.uk/)

(Exercise is believed to be good for mental wellbeing).

So overall, a mixed month. I don’t feel particularly pleased but I don’t think I’ve let myself down too badly. It is only the first month after all!

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February

So my next set of challenges for February is:

1. Aim to walk 100 miles again. I failed this month but maybe I might do better in February?

2. Continue to do something active everyday – even squats or arm curls if nothing else.

3. Aim to set aside 15 minutes five days a week for yoga.

4. Start planning at least one long-distance hike this year.

5. Buy trainers for exercise classes.

I will see if February is a more successful month! 🙂

 

 

Fitness challenge 2019: The beginning

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So is 2019 the year when, finally, I get fit and healthy? Every year I aim to be this magical fit woman, filled with energy, but the efforts of becoming this person is just too much for lazy me. Sure, I can trek up mountains but walking up those steep hills is tiring indeed. How wonderful to feel I could run up them instead of panting and puffing, in some discomfort, as I do presently.

Last year I set myself a fundraising swimming challenge (eight miles in four months) with proceeds going towards Butterfly Conservation and The Donkey Sanctuary. This was from February to May. I decided I still liked swimming but not that particular pool (it was too busy). I also walked 10,000 steps a day for a fortnight for The Big Issue Foundation, a homeless charity, in March.

And so when it came to Scafell Pike in April, it felt easier than I expected.

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So challenges help me to keep motivated and so I have devised new ones for 2019, to be spaced out over the year so I always have something to aim for.

1. I signed up for RED January. It is a challenge, created by mental health charity Mind, to help people support their mental wellbeing through exercise. It’s also about raising awareness of mental health issues. R. E. D actually stands for Run Every Day, but thankfully this is not essential (I’m not keen on running!) It’s more about getting active every day in some way. I’m aiming to walk more, at lunchtimes or to work.

For information on Mind and R. E. D January, visit http://www.mind.org.uk and https://redtogether.co.uk

2. I’m also aiming to walk 100 miles in the month of January. Originally it was 150 miles, which would be great but I’m not sure I will be able to achieve it in such a dark, cold month.

3. I signed up for Country Walking magazine’s 1,000 miles in a year challenge. I did this, one month late, last year and just scraped through. http://www.walk1000miles.co.uk

4. To walk the 21-mile Preston Guild Wheel in one or two days. Perhaps in April or May?

5. To do one long-distance walk of at least four days. How wonderful to do the Coast to Coast Walk (12 days!) Maybe in September?

And there is always the dream of walking up Ben Nevis. Will it be this year?!

I will write a monthly update on my training programme and how far I have progressed with plans. Surely if this doesn’t motivate me, nothing will! Have you got any fitness goals this year?

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Photo by Suliman Sallehi on Pexels.com

Yoga-hiking

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Loughrigg Tarn

I hadn’t done any yoga for a few years. I sprained my ankle two weeks prior. My fitness levels had dropped alarmingly (and because of said ankle, I couldn’t get back to fitness again) and I was going on my own for an activity weekend with a group of people who I had never met before.

Hmmm, was this Yoga-hiking weekend a good idea?

Originally, I had the idea of walking up Ben Nevis in September this year, this was to mark a ‘special’ birthday, but I did Scafell Pike instead and, through one reason or another, Ben Nevis fell through. But I still wanted a fitness challenge to aim for and I came across Yoga Hikes.

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Thomas De Quincey’s Cottage, overlooking Rydal Water

I enjoy hiking and keep meaning to go back to yoga so this seemed like ideal motivation and the fact I would be staying at Victoria ‘opium poet’ Thomas De Quincey’s 1700s cottage, overlooking Rydal Water, a heavenly place if ever there was one… Yes, I decided, four months beforehand, I would go for it.

The cottage and its location was as old, cosy and idyllic as I hoped for. A main road separated the cottage from the Lake, but otherwise, it was perfectly located, half way between Ambleside and Grasmere.

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My single bedroom was snug, the floor a little creaky but that’s what you would expect from a historic building.

When I first arrived, I had a moment of panic thinking I was the only one arriving on my own, especially as it sounded as if most people had come with others. Would I be seen as ‘Miss No-Mates’ (high school emotions coming to the fore!)?

But this feeling of insecurity was quickly allayed when the guests started arriving.

Four of us were on our own. The others had come with friends, family or a partner. In any case, it didn’t matter, no one was cliquey and the general friendliness meant there was always someone to chat to on walks.

Guests started arriving from 4pm onwards and we enjoyed tea and homemade cake in the sitting room. (This was a healthy balanced yoga break, lots of healthy activities but cake was definitely allowed, and so it should be!)

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Yoga was on at 6pm in the evenings. We had five sessions altogether, two in the mornings at 7.30am (such a healthy start to the day made me feel very good!), one on the evening we arrived and two after our walks. There were breathing techniques and physical yoga, sometimes using props.

Despite my sprained ankle (which was nearly better at this point), the yoga techniques were flexible enough that there was a posture for all abilities. Sun salutation, cat, cow… We could go as far as we could. Yen, the yoga teacher, was sensitive to guests and didn’t push anyone beyond their limits.

All food was vegetarian/vegan. One evening there was a vegetarian buffet of peppers, falafel, pitta bread, hummus and so on. The second meal was stuffed mushroom. We were pleased that dessert was still on the menu on this yoga retreat! Breakfast, which was straight after yoga, was a choice of cereal or porridge, toast, egg, beans. On the Sunday we had the option of an enjoyable veggie burger with our breakfast.

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Our walk on Saturday took us from the cottage to Easedale Tarn via Loughrigg Terrace and Grasmere. We hiked upwards beside a tumbling stream to our breathtaking spot for lunch (which was provided by Yoga Hikes), Easedale Tarn.

Our 10-mile (or so) ramble back took us to the gingerbread shop in Grasmere (established in the 1600s) where we had a 15-minute stop in case anyone wanted to buy the famous gingerbread. Also on the way was poet William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage.

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Loughrigg Tarn

Sunday’s walk took us to Loughrigg Tarn. Another moderate but hilly walk of about 10 miles. This time we went the other direction away from Grasmere. Our picnic break was again at a picturesque area, this time Loughrigg Tarn.

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Thomas De Quincey’s Cottage, overlooking Rydal Water

Our weekend was so packed with walks and yoga that there wasn’t much spare time, but for a couple of hours after Saturday’s walk, we were left to our own devices. I had a rest in my room, reading a book I had brought, but some people took advantage of the hot tub available.

There was a variety of abilities. One lady found the first walk to Easedale Tarn difficult and the next day went on a more gentle stroll to Ambleside with another guest who also opted out because of tiredness.

If anyone found the yoga or walks too difficult, there was the opt-out option and no one would judge you.

By the time came to say our goodbyes, I found that I had really enjoyed the weekend, despite my initial misgivings about going on my own. Now all I have to do is start practising yoga again!

http://www.yogahikes.co.uk

Trek Diary September 2018: Meeting Little Man (865m/2,837ft) … And Skiddaw (931m/3,053ft)

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Me on the summit of Skiddaw. Note the wind-swept hair! Not the most flattering of photos but a reminder of just how blustery it was up there

Here’s an obvious fact – the more exercise you do, the fitter you will feel. But if you stop exercising for a four-month period, that fitness level will drop. And the delight at finding Scafell Pike not quite as hard as first thought because there had been a swim/walk campaign in the three months beforehand… Well, that joy will be non-existent when walking up Skiddaw with no fitness plan in place prior to the walk. Scafell Pike was a hike. Skiddaw – and Little Man, a cruel juxtaposition if ever I saw one – was a trudge.

If you look at the photos of me doing it, I appear to be taking my clothes off (well, my coat and jumper, it got increasingly hot), then at the top putting them back on again! On, off, on, off…

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We set off from Keswick, where we were staying for a weekend. A walk out from town, bypassing the Pencil Museum, took us on a upward path where we met quite a few walkers. Further up, it turned out there was a car park – so we could have got away without this gruelling hill to begin with!

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But that was only a little stroll up a staircase in comparison of what was to come.

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At the car park, there was obviously an event going on. From earlier signs in the town centre, I suspect it was a race for fell runners. A group of people I much admire but could never belong to! Oddly we didn’t encounter any up the hill, but I think their course went a different route. Enticingly, amid the army tents, a tea and cake stall greeted us. But we ignored this most pleasant venue and carried on to our date with Little Man.

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The monument (according to Wainwright) is a memorial to three men of the Howell family, who were shepherds.
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Me on the summit of Little Man

Little Man. Ha! As apt a name as Liverpool’s famous and fabulous ‘Little Boy’ (he’s actually a puppet giant), Little Man is also a giant in these hills. My lack of fitness levels was becoming increasingly apparent to me, why had I stopped swimming once I reached my target? Why was Scafell Pike an easier climb when it was actually higher? Lesson to self: you really do feel the benefits of consistent exercise.

Funnily, although the weather wasn’t terrible at that time, there was hardly a walker to be seen. The greatest majority of people were mountain bikers, speeding up or down the scree.

Ah, yes, the scree. I’ll get back to that later.

The problem with Little Man is there is no consideration for those who wish to visit him. No rest spots of delightful flatness. Just a steep slope uphill. You’d think if you were visiting a Little Man he would offer you a nice rest for weary legs, but no.

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There were a few times when I pondered ‘are we there yet?’, after reaching a cairn. And then another cairn… And another.

Eventually we reached the top of Little Man and the weather was getting tough. Mist and rain and wind. Should we carry on to Skiddaw or go back? We approached a couple who showed us where we were on the map and we trudged on.

Ever the troopers.

The wind and fog got worse. And there were so many fake cairns mimicking the summit – although later, I realised they actually were very helpful as they guided walkers back down the hill. When the top was finally reached, there was no splendid view to be seen, just a grey-white sky.

On the way down, I was nervous of the scree and scattered stones, of which there were many. Especially on the steeper than normal sections. We passed a group of mountain bikers who also made it to the top. How they managed, I’ve no idea. It took me all my time to edge down carefully.

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Skiddaw

 

 

We walked back via Carl Side, another hill, although I was past caring at that point. I wanted warmth and a cup of tea.

And everything went okay until Ouch!!!

(Ironically we weren’t that far from the bottom at this point).

Cue swear words (I don’t generally swear unless I am very p….off, which I was then!) as I fell and landed on my left ankle. To fall on a bottom is embarrassing but fairly painless but an ankle?

It was painful. Thankfully, I was able to stand, delicately picking myself back up. And walk. But not as easily as before.

Thankfully I had my walking poles with me to help and we headed back into Keswick where we enjoyed a much-needed caffeinated drink and a warm shower, and then our evening meal in a local pub.

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It took nearly two weeks for my ankle to heal properly.

Afterwards I turned to my trusty guide Wainwright, expecting him to agree that Skiddaw is a long, tiring, difficult mountain to climb.

Instead he writes in his Northern Fells Pictorial Guide: ‘It has been derided as a route for grandmothers and babies, rather unfairly: the truth is that this is an ascent all members of the family can enjoy. It is not so much a climb as a mountain walk to a grand, airy summit’.

Was Wainwright talking about the same mountain?! ⛰️⛰️⛰️

(To be fair, if it wasn’t for the scree, lack of fitness, blustery weather and sprained ankle, I’d have liked Skiddaw and Little Man more). 🏔️🏔️🏔️

Facts of the Day

1. Skiddaw is the fourth highest peak in the Lake District.

2. Skiddaw Little Man is one mile away from Skiddaw. It is classed as a ‘subsidiary summit of Skiddaw’.

3. Skiddaw is mentioned in the fourth book of John Keats’ poem Endymion.