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

Reblog: A Preston Ramble in January 2018

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Harris Museum, Preston

This post was written after a walk to Preston city centre, back in 2018. I mentioned The Harris Museum, which is actually closed for refurbishment at the moment. But at the time I heartily recommended a visit. I had walked past Highgate Wood on various occasions but had never visited – until this year. I wrote a separate post about it. Reading this post reminds me that it’s time to pay another visit to Bruciannis…

A city walk: Six miles

December was a lazy month so it was back to square one in January (actually make that square minus ten as I must have put on weight and become even more unfit and unhealthy during the Christmas season). To start the year off, a friend and I embarked upon a Suburb to City stroll, setting off three miles (approximately) from Preston city centre.

To those who don’t know Preston, it is a former industrial town in the North West of England. It’s not far from Blackpool, Manchester and Liverpool, and the beautiful Lake District is just over an hour’s drive away.

Originally called Priest Town (Priest’s Tun) in Anglo Saxon times, Preston has had a long and fascinating history. I haven’t time to mention it all here except the two key episodes on Preston’s timeline are the English Civil War and the Industrial Revolution/cotton industry. Check out the Harris Museum for a proper glimpse into Preston’s past!

We walked along a busy road on the way into the city centre. The worst thing about this urban ramble is the traffic. On several occasions, one of us would say something and the other person would say, what? And that’s because Garstang Road is one of the main routes and the sound of cars is tremendous. And yet, even on this hectic thoroughfare, there are a few gems…

Amid the large detached houses which line this stretch of tarmac, is a patch of woodland called Highgate Wood. And further along Garstang Road, there is a massive allotment. It takes you into another world, where you feel you have entered into a secret rural haven and although I haven’t ventured into Highgate Wood, I imagine it must be a similar feeling.

Moor Park is a large park. The Preston Moor Common formed part of Henry III’s Royal Forest of Fulwood, which received a royal charter in 1235. Horse races were held between 1736 and 1833, and that was the year Moor Park was officially recognised as a municipal park. According to Preston Guild City’s website, a hundred acres of the common was enclosed and renamed Moor Park. In the 1860s, unemployed cotton workers landscaped the park. And it’s where Preston marathon walker Tom Benson – who held at least six world endurance titles – walked laps (about 314 miles) of Moor Park over five days and nights in 1976. Without stopping.

Talking of famous people, did you know Star Wars’ R2D2 was a Lancastrian? Or rather, Kenny Baker who played him was a resident of Preston?

In the city centre, we had an enjoyable lunch at Wings and Beers, a trendy looking American-style sports bar, down Cannon Street, also home of the quirky Mystery Tea House  (incredibly difficult to find but trust me, it really does exist on that street!)

I don’t love my home city. Money is wasted on silly traffic schemes and ugly carbuncles are lumped onto beautiful Victorian buildings (check out the train station’s new extension). Progress is the buzzword of the powers-that-be but sometimes at the expense of beauty. But it is also a city of hidden gems and fascinating history. If you go, I recommend the Harris Museum (stunning architecture) and Avenham Park, Halewood & Sons Book Shop, Mystery Tea Rooms and the art deco Bruccianis, Winckley Street and Winckley Square. Look for the beauty and quirkiness and, in any town or city, it is there…

Even the Grade II Brutalist 1969 bus station – believed to have once been the second largest bus station in Europe –  has its devoted fans in this city!

On our way home, we walked along Deepdale – home of the famous Preston North End stadium. Sir Tom Finney used to play here and his statue can be seen. When he died, thousands of residents lined the streets to pay their respects as his cortege passed the streets of Preston – and the stadium – before the service at Preston Minster.

Facts of the Day

1. Preston North End (also known as PNE, Lilywhites and The Invincibles) was founded in 1880. A founding member of the Football League.

2. They were unbeaten in the inaugural season and were crowned first league champions. They also won the FA Cup that season.

3. Dick, Kerr’s Ladies FC, founded in Preston, was one of the earliest women’s football teams in England, playing from 1917 to 1965.

For the latest news and features in Preston and surrounding area, read the Lancashire Post (a daily read) and for those of you who live further afield – http://www.lep.co.uk

Posted in Reblog, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures

A Dirty Dancing Weekend in Llandudno – Part 2

This is the second part of my look back at my Llandudno theatre trip, back in 2017. πŸ™‚

Facts of the Day

1. Llandudno Pier (2,295 feet/700m) is the longest in Wales.

2. The pier was opened in 1877.

3. Alice Liddell (the inspiration behind Alice in Wonderland) first holidayed in Llandudno in 1861.

Will They Make It? 

It was a lovely meander up the hill of Great Orme via the quaint heritage tram. We had, it was thought, enough time to fit in this charming journey before our 7.30pm trip to watch Dirty Dancing.

Our brief trip was a reminder we were here for such a short stay and a pity we would have to miss many attractions, such as the intriguing bronze age mine which we passed by.

Here’s what we could have gone to see…

A quick changeover at the half way station (and if you do have the time, do check out the history on the display boards) and we boarded our second tram for the next chapter of Great Orme.

At the summit were scenic views, a visitor centre and wildlife garden. Alas, no time to ponder. A few quick snaps and back on board, along with a much larger, noisier crowd than the one which came up with us.

But Llandudno, we have a problem.

The driver’s voice broke into pleasant thoughts, telling us there was a failure with the emergency brake on the tram below us. It would only take 10 minutes, the driver told us.

Those minutes stretched…

The horn honked. Our hopes raised.

The horn blasted again. Our hopes raised again.

But we weren’t going anywhere.

We speculated on whether we had enough time to leave Great Orme (by tram or by foot), get changed, eat at a restaurant (devouring fish and chips on a seafront bench in our theatre finery was rapidly becoming an option) and find Venue Cymru, our destination for Dirty Dancing?

The horn tooted again and this time we were off. A cheer resounded in the carriage. If wine was available we would have raised a glass. Cheers!

After a tasty fish and chips meal at the restaurant across from the tram station, we quickly dressed and headed down to the Promenade for a scenic walk beside the sea towards Venue Cymru. With the sea, wide prom and beautiful grand buildings, I would rate it as my number one walk to a theatre of all time.

And as for Dirty Dancing? Magnificent. So much energy and passion. How wonderful it would be to dance like that. Or just be able to dance…

Back to Zumba for me!

(Pictures showing various scenes of Llandudno, including a delightful pot of tea for two at the Alice in Wonderland inspired Lemon Tree cafe)

Posted in Reblog, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures

A Dirty Dancing Weekend in Llandudno – Part 1

This is another look back at a fun weekend in Wales, back in 2017. It actually fits in quite nicely with my fourth blog anniversary as this is one of my first posts! πŸ™‚

Facts of the Day

1. The tramway up Great Orme is the only cable-hauled street tramway in the UK.

2. It’s a one-mile journey to the summit of Great Orme (which is a country park and nature reserve).

3. Back in 1901, the tramway was built. In 1902, the first paying passengers travelled on the tram.

We gazed out through the open air ‘window’, a cold breeze chilling our faces and hands. In the distance, behind us, as we climbed steadily up Great Orme,  was the under-rated splendour of Llandudno Bay. We passed pleasurable scenes of hardy sheep grazing, hikers clambering up along the path, pretty little lopsided cottages, a long-defunct bronze age copper mine…

Yet there was a tense feeling in the air as we changed trams at the half way station. A cloud had emerged over the journey…

It started from my friend’s desire to watch Dirty Dancing. The popular musical had already been and gone at theatres closer to us. But it was due to be performed at Llandudno, some three hours away. Too far just for a day at the theatre, but we could always make it a weekend adventure?

Following our Thelma and Louise style Road Trip (perhaps with fewer exploits than our Hollywood duo, unless they too queued for half an hour at a Costa Coffee for a tea and toastie), we arrived at our seaside destination.

Llandudno, nestled between scenic hills and a beautiful sea backdrop, is a town of interesting historical buildings, Alice-related statues (apparently Alice of Wonderland fame used to holiday here), quaint cafes and independent shops galore, and a close proximity to stunning Snowdon.

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Five minutes away from our Victorian hotel, which was the old town hall no less, was a path to Great Orme. And a tram for those who were pressed for time or too weary for the climb. We opted for that as we had an appointment at 7.30pm with Johnny and ‘Baby’. Calculations told us that a 45-minute round-trip, leaving at 4.20pm, gave us plenty of time to get back, get changed, eat at a restaurant near the Venue Cymru and be on time for the show.

So we thought…

To be continued….

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Pictures showing journey up Great Orme

Posted in Reblog, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures

When in St Albans… Do what the Romans do

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Back in 2017, a friend and I enjoyed a trip to the historic and fascinating city of St Albans. Like many of us, I haven’t been away much this past year so thought I’d revisit the places I’ve been to, at least in a virtual way!

For the weekend, my friend and I were ladies of leisure… with a hefty dose of culture, history, luxury and relaxation.

It’s rather apt that the Romans enjoyed their Baths, St Albans is synonymous with that era and we stayed at Sopwell House, a spa hotel on the outskirts of the city.

The hotel obviously wasn’t around in that era (although it’s fun to think of the Romans in their togas mulling around, eating grapes in the spa area), but it still has a fascinating history.

Dating from the 1600s (the earliest reference is 1603 in the deeds as a newly built house), it was later leased and developed in the 1700s by a master mason who worked on St Paul’s Cathedral. Two centuries later, in 1901, Prince Louis of Battenberg leased the country home – his daughter Alice later became mother to Prince Philip.

Fast forward to present day where it is now a hotel.

We travelled by train from Preston, changing at London Euston. One stop on the tube from Euston took us to London St Pancras and our third and final train to St Albans City.

There are two train stations in St Albans. City is a 10 minutes walk from the city centre. St Albans Abbey is situated between our hotel and the city centre, about 15 minutes each way.

We had a pleasant wander into town, stopping for lunch at Gail’s Bakery (lovely soup, very busy) and passing through the bustling street market, and then to our hotel. The route from City station to city centre to residential suburbs to countryside takes about 45 minutes altogether. But to drive or take a taxi will only take 15 minutes or so.

The country road took us to a sweeping driveway and a grand white building. We had arrived. Even as we walked into reception, our senses were captivated by aromatherapy aromas from the spa. A doorman politely greeted us as he held the door open, the ladies at reception were very helpful and attentive, and our first floor room was easy to find.

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And oh the room! What a room. It was a twin room, beds were spacious and comfy and there were the usual TV, wardrobe, bedside tables…

… And a settee, two armchairs and a table with a plate of two slices of marzipan cake, a bowl of strawberries and a bottle of water with two glasses. This was the life for us!

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Overlooking this scene was a window facing a picturesque country scene of fields and a large house.

The bathroom was clean and modern. To remind us we were in a spa hotel was, hanging up in the bathroom, a robe and slippers.

Our dinner that evening was in The Restaurant (no, I haven’t forgotten the title, that’s its name πŸ™‚). When a pianist is playing, you know you’re in a classy venue. We had two waiters, a sommelier (wine) and food waiter. Both were very attentive and we didn’t have to wait too long for food. 🍷

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We had delightful little canapΓ©s and a cheese mousse with a French name I cannot remember. I had a white onion and thyme veloute (a little like a soup). My main course – Gloucester Old Spot pork slow cooked belly, cider jus, mousseline potato and glazed parsnips was delicious. C had pan fried halibut, broccoli puree, tender stem broccoli, nori gnocchi and herb emulsion. To finish off, I chose homemade ice cream while C opted for warm almond and pear tart.

The following morning’s breakfast was one of many choices – cereals, cold meats and salmon, toast, rolls, fruit, cooked breakfast buffet… (I chose melon and a small cooked breakfast while C had a cooked breakfast).

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After breakfast, we ventured out, walking to the city centre, past the intriguing remains of an old nunnery. Sopwell Nunnery is believed to have been where Anne Boleyn secretly got married to Henry VIII.

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The cathedral had a service on so we only saw part of it, namely the 85 metre nave (the longest one in England according to the cathedral website), the nave statues and the medieval wall paintings dating from the 1100s to 1500s. The cathedral dates from 1077 and you can see the Norman influence with the archways. Alas, we missed out seeing the shrine of St Albans.

There was a Christmas Market outside with wooden stalls, fairly small but very seasonal and cosy with festive tunes in the air. On our way back we each drank a mulled wine – the first of the year!

Now let’s head to Verulamium. A trip back in time, even further back than the cathedral. Our route took us past some of St Albans’ olde Tudoresque black and white houses, the pretty village of St Michael’s, complete with former water mill and parish church. The Verulamium museum in the village looked promising but alas, closed on a Sunday – or certainly this particular Sunday. The nearby park and the museum is actually situated on the site of the ancient Roman town of Verulamium – one of the first Romano-British towns to be built and, by AD250, the third largest in the country (London and Cirencester being larger) but we decided to go to the theatre instead.

We crossed a main road, entering the rural estate of Gorhambury. At the ticket booth, it cost Β£2.50 to enter what was an intriguing archaeological site. The path to the theatre – the only example of its kind in Britain – follows the edge of Watling Street, the main road built by the Roman army joining London to Chester. We could see the foundations of the dressing room (AD160), a town house, the base of a pier from an arch, the shops (the Romans enjoyed a bargain too), the stage… With the mind’s eye we could conjure up the sights of the Greek plays and pantomimes (actors dancing and miming rather than Cinderella and Aladdin) and, less charmingly, fights of the gladiators.

Our minds crammed with this new-found knowledge, we ventured back to 21st century luxury and enjoyed a pot of tea and sandwich at the hotel’s comfortable cocktail lounge. By the looks of it, it’s a popular venue for afternoon tea.  I thought the price for a sandwich looked a little expensive (Β£9) but what a sandwich. We chose salmon and cheese and they were on ‘doorstopper’ chunks of bread. And so tasty… And the crisps were not the standard potato crisps but vegetable ones. Crisp, crunchy, red-tinted beetroot varieties. Yum.

Later in the afternoon (after a rest from our massive sandwiches and our culture-packed time-travelling morning), we tried out the spa. Two warm, bubbly Jacuzzis, a hot dry sauna and steamroom and a swim in the pool (Sunday afternoon was a good time for us to come as it was relatively quiet so plenty of space to swim)… Bliss.

It was cocktail time, again in the, now candlelit, cocktail lounge. My Candlemaker was a Sopwell Signature and was ‘in memory of Sopwell Cotton Mills’, with brandy, port, cinnamon stick and caramel. C opted for a strawberry mojito. Both were delightful. By 8pm we were ready to eat in the Brasserie which is the same venue where breakfast was held. Two courses later of, yet again, sumptuous food, we simply had no room for dessert.

Unfortunately, the next morning our weekend as ladies of luxurious leisure came to an end and it was back to work and the real world. It was delightful while it lasted!

So long Sopwell House, St Albans and Verulamium! Until next time!

Visit http://www.sopwellhouse.co.uk for latest prices and deals.

Thanks to Sopwell House for our little taste of luxury, The Roman Theatre of Verulamium by Dr Rosalind Nibley for being so informative and St Albans for being a fascinating city.

I’ll be back – I haven’t explored the cathedral properly so a good reason to come back! πŸ™‚

Facts of the Day – St Alban

1. St Albans is venerated as the first recorded British Christian martyr.

2. It is traditionally believed he gave shelter to a priest fleeing persecution.

3. He was beheaded in the Roman city of Verulamium in the third or fourth century.

Historical information also from St Albans Cathedral and Sopwell House websites

Posted in Reblog

Reblog: SOS! Ducklings in Distress! β€” WALKIN’, WRITIN’, WIT & WHIMSY

Thursday morning was just like any other during this long, hot and rainy Summer of 2021. As I got dressed and ready to leave on my walk, the weatherman was detailing our potentially severe weather and projected inch or so of rain for later that afternoon. The dew point and humidity were both at 75 […]

SOS! Ducklings in Distress! β€” WALKIN’, WRITIN’, WIT & WHIMSY

Linda’s duckling story from her blog, Walkin’, Writin’, Wit & Whimsy, really cheered me, it’s a wonderful animal rescue story but it also highlights the best of humanity and what can be done when people get together to help out. Plus the ducklings are so cute and I love a happy ending (spoiler alert)! πŸ™‚

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Pets, Reblog, Self-sufficiency

Posh ladies

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I was looking back at this 2017 post, one of my first ones. The plants in the above picture are no more. My dream of a plant-filled chicken garden hasn’t come to fruition because plants and hens don’t go well together! Although I have managed to plant a few fruit trees which are still uneaten! Mabel and Little Ava have joined the group but Florence (my favourite but don’t tell the others) sadly passed away last year in 2020. And I do still want to rescue ex-battery hens one day.

I wanted to be a heroine and save three lives from certain death, and a previous hellish existence.

Imagine being locked up in tiny A4-size cages with no natural light, no pecking order companions (not unless you count fellow prisoners crammed next to you), no kindliness, no space, not even to flap your cramped wings. You are, essentially, treated and seen as a machine.

Writing the above, makes me feel a sense of guilt, even now.

You see, I didn’t adopt three ex-battery hens.

Instead, I selected three posh bantams – Jemima (white), Dottie (speckled) and Florence (brown barred).

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I dithered for two years, unable to choose between hybrids, bantams and ex-bats. Hybrids were given short shrift as, although I heard they were perfect for beginners, I deemed them too large for my garden. If I was going to have full-size chickens, I would adopt three or four, maybe five, former battery hens.

My heart would plead for me to sign up for one of the various rehoming programmes that would occur on a regular basis. Charities such as The British Hen Welfare Trust would advertise, and I would be thinking, I’m sure the coop would be ready in a month’s time. Yes, I could sign up today for the rehoming date next month…

But my head would impatiently nudge my heart aside and urge me to look at the facts. Despite my rural smallholding fantasies, I had a small garden in the suburbs. The coop outside area was large enough for two or three full-size hens, just about, but the interior – the bedding quarters, nest boxes, perch – may be a tight squeeze for three.

Although they would probably class it as luxury compared to their previous miserable cell.

Perhaps most importantly, my head sternly reminded me I had zero experience of chickens. What if one was ill or died? It was more likely to happen with girls who had a traumatic beginning in life than youngsters who were born and brought up in the best circumstances. So I went for the ‘easier’ option.

I don’t regret getting the genteel pekin ladies, with their flamboyant bustles, flares and bootees.

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But I have not turned my back on the battery girls. Some time in the future, three or four will find a home at Cosy Cottage.

In the meantime, sponsoring a hen for Β£4 a month is always the next best thing… πŸ”πŸ”πŸ”

Facts of the Day

1. Do you have a home for ex-battery hens? Call the British Hen Welfare Trust on 01884 860084 or visit http://www.bhwt.org.uk for information.

2. JB of boyband JLS fame has three ex-bats on his farm and the 600,000th rescue hen has found a home at Kensington Gardens no less!

3. If you can’t rehome, why not sponsor a hen for Β£4 a month? Email info@bhwt.co.uk for details.

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!

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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 Environment, Environmental issues, Reblog, Thoughts on life and spirituality

Our World: Our Beautiful Planet

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Back in 2017, not long after I started blogging, I wrote this. It felt relevant to me at the time. It feels even more so now. It seems as if we live in an increasingly polarised and divisive world. It’s Them versus Us. Us versus Them. Who ‘they’ are and who ‘we’ are varies, depending on the individual and their world view. But one thing seems true to me, we are heading further and further away from each other. We stay within our echo chambers and put our hands on our ears so we cannot listen to the other side of the debate or other people’s experiences. We revert back to primary school and call each other insults rather than listen. Personally, I don’t think anything will be solved with this attitude. We need to work together on issues of poverty, discrimination, persecution, homelessness, prejudice, violence, conflict etc. We need to look after each other, especially the more vulnerable. We need to be able to co-exist with other species in harmony and respect their natural habitat. We need to care about our planet.

Often at Cosy Cottage, I watch the blue and great tits fluttering over to the bird feeder to nibble fat ball snacks. (Yes, Cosy Cottage also operates as a cafΓ© for my feathered chums).

And while I do, I brood upon the state of the world.

Is it me or do labels divide us?

Who are you? Are you male, female, transgender, intersex, gay, straight, bisexual, black, white, brown, mixed race, Christian, Catholic, CofE, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, Tory, Labour, Lib Democrats, Green, Remainer, Leaver, poor, rich, comfortable, British, English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, American …?

And so on… And so on…

Of course, we are this and that, that and the other. I am some of these descriptions too. Of course I am. They form part of each and everyone’s identity and certainly I am proud of my Celtic heritage.

But what if we focus on these labels to such an extent that other issues are forgotten?

Like the planet. Endangered species. Pollution.

Would things be better if, instead of thinking of ourselves and each other in terms of our gender/race/sexuality/religion (etc etc) identities as our first concern, we look at each other primarily as

1. Humans.

2. Humans who live on a beautiful planet – which we really should start looking after as it is our home!

3. Humans who share our home (planet) with our fellow beings (other species) who have just the same right to live here as we do.

For any religious readers, I do believe that, if there is a God, He would want us to look after the planet given to us … And care for each other, humans and animals.

And for non-religious readers, even without a God, why would we want to mess up the home we all live in? Why arrogantly assume we are the only species which matters? Or leave our planet in a polluted, disease-ridden, barren state for the next generation?

Facts of the Day

1. Elephants face serious threats including illegal killing for ivory and habitat destruction. In 1900, there were 10 million elephants. In 2014, there were only 420,000. (www.bornfree.org.uk)

2. It takes plastic 400 years to degrade in water.

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3. Chemicals such as pesticides, found in polluted water, can contaminate food chains through affected marine life. This can lead to nervous system damage, hormonal problems amongst others. (www.plasticoceans.org)

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Posted in Fitness challenges, Reblog, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Trek Diary: Part 1 Oct/Nov 2017

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Rainbow en route to High Peak, Fairfield Horseshoe, Ambleside, Cumbria

I wrote this post a few months after starting my blog, back in 2017. I haven’t been able to go on any big walking challenges this year because of lockdown, so I’ve been looking back at some of my previous adventures.

May 2020

Like many of us, over the years, I have put on weight. Too many treats, over-reliance on my car and not enough exercise has meant a few pounds have been added here and there. But to be honest, this isn’t about weight. It’s about being happy and healthy. It’s a quest to be fit. Me and fitness have never got on. The minute the pace gets faster, I want off the treadmill. But I’m sick of feeling sluggish, of being out of breath too easily. I want to challenge myself next year. Perhaps a fundraising challenge. Maybe a mountain. Possibly a long-distance trek. Something that will motivate me to finally become fit and healthy. And stay that way. For good. Thus begins my bi-monthly trek diary.

Great Whernside – 650m (out of 704m). Three hours

Sunday,Β OctoberΒ 22 2017

I met Simon at Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales, a pretty little village of stone cottages and picturesque surroundings. Weather was okay to begin with, which was lucky as Storm Brian had been out and about that week. But as we walked along the track towards the hill of Great Whernside, passing a large farmhouse (now a Scout’s centre), the rain began. The drizzle got worse and the stone path gave way to grass – and bog. The higher we got, the boggier the ground became, the wetter my walking boots became (thank goodness they were waterproof), the unsteadier the ground and more blustery the wind. 🌧️

I’m sorry to say we did not make it to the top. Our (roughly) three-hour walk took us to about 650m of Great Whernside’s 710m. But all I kept thinking about was tea and cake! (We had brought water and sandwiches with us but somehow we lost the desire for a cold cheese sandwich on the cold, windy moorland).

We reached the village about 1.30pm and ventured into Bluebell Inn for a delightful pot of tea by the fire, just what we needed after being soaked through to the skin. A trip to Zarina’s cafe for more tea, a sausage buttie (not very healthy, but warming) and a Yorkshire curd tart. When in Yorkshire, eat what the Yorkshire folk eat… My first time eating the delicacy, and very tasty too.

And so my training began. Oh, if only it could be tea and cake all the time! β˜•πŸ°

Walk Facts

1. Great Whernside is 704m (2,310ft) high. We walked roughly three hours from 10.30am to 1.30pm to reach 650m.

2. It is located on the boundary between the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

3. Until 1997, there was no public right of way to the summit of Great Whernside.

FairfieldΒ Horseshoe – Full day (eight hours) 11 miles (roughly) 873m

Saturday, November 4

Today’s challenge was a toughie. A hill walk from Ambleside, where we were staying for the weekend, up Low Pike (1,657ft/508m), High Pike (2,152ft/656m), Dove Crag (2,603ft/792m), Hart Crag (2,698ft/822m) to get to our destination – Fairfield (2,863ft/873m).

And then back down again via Great Rigg (2,513ft/766m), Heron Pike (2,003ft/612m) and Nab Scar (1,493ft/ 455m). I feel exhausted just thinking about it!

We were staying in Ambleside for a weekend and had decided Saturday would be our day for a hill walk. Laden with rucksacks and (for me) hiking poles, we headed away from the town centre. A resident told us we were going the wrong direction and needed to walk towards Sweden Bridge. A quick detour and we were on our way. Up, up, up (so it felt to me)…

Crossing Sweden Bridge took us into fields with Highland Cows, actually my favourite breed of cow with their shaggy red hair, but I always feel a little apprehensive around cows, especially if they have calves. However, these lasses were quite happy to share their fields with hikers.

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Our first hill was Low Pike (1657ft), I would keep stopping and turning to see the panoramic view (a ‘look at the view’ and ‘catch my breath’ stop) of Windermere down below. The higher up, the more expansive the scenery below – Rydal, Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere…

Once we reached Low Pike, S said we were a quarter of the way up. I was surprised, but I should have queried him more on this statistic. A quarter of the way up to Fairfield or a quarter of the way up to High Pike, the next fell? Needless to say the true answer would have disappointed me.

I believe it was around here where there was a short rocky scramble… and my boots got wet in the marsh.

The route to High Pike was along a stone wall, fairly gentle. It was here where it started to drizzle on and off for the rest of the day. And the place where full rainbows were seen. Will we reach the pot of gold that is Fairfield?

I regarded the rainbow as a sign of hope – completing the Fairfield Horseshoe is possible, even for me! 🌈

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We continued to ascend Dove Crag and Hart Crag. Relatively gradual, happily, apart from a scramble section at the top.

At one point, Simon heard a mouse-like sound and I spotted a brisk brown blur from the corner of my eye. Silently, we ventured nearer and observed a tiny shrew scurrying amidst the rocks, before escaping into a hole.

It was hard to know when we actually arrived at Fairfield. The top is very flat, a ‘grassy plateau’ says Wainwright. There are many stone cairns which might be there to help hikers find their way in the mist although Wainwright thought the abundance could actually be a hindrance. Some ramblers were huddled in a stone windbreak shelter when we arrived.

The route down has a clear path. When there is no mist, it is easy to see where one is going.

We were descending Nab Scar when a young couple passed us. The woman was athletic looking, wearing sports clothes rather than rambling gear, and was striding along confidently, clutching a water bottle. The man, lagging behind – so much so I wasn’t sure if they were actually together or not – wore a jumper, jeans and wellies.

When it comes to hill walking, it is a case of walking boots… Β yes. Wellies… no. A big no.

Anyway, the pair passed us. Not long afterwards, the woman came back up and approached us, asking if we had any spare water she could give to her partner. Luckily we did. He was lying on the grass next to the path, looking absolutely exhausted. S poured water into the woman’s 1 litre container. Later, we saw them, the worn-out man sitting next to the path. S gave them the rest of the water (the man had already drank the litre Simon had previously given) and three biscuits from the B&B. They thanked us and assured us they would be fine, and sure enough, we later on saw them descending the last section.

It turned out that, while we set off at 9.30am, their hike began after 12noon – in a bid to finish before it got dark, they had no choice but to rush the Horseshoe.

Passing Rydal Hall and Rydal Mount, we opted for a wander beside the river, pleasant until it became dark, started raining heavily, and we took the wrong turning out of Ambleside. An extra mile I could have done without! Still, an exhilarating if tiring walk and I look forward to my next adventure πŸƒ

Walk Facts

1. On the way to or back from The Fairfield Horseshoe, the hiker goes past Rydal Mount – the home of William Wordsworth.

2. Water is essential for hill walks! And it has a wonderful taste when you’re going uphill!

3. The Fairfield Horseshoe goes up one ridge and down another within a valley. Be careful in the mist.

Sunday, November 5

Stock Ghyll Force, Ambleside – One mile (roughly)

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Legs felt a little fatigued today so we enjoyed a gentle stroll to Stock Ghyll Force waterfall. This is a roughly mile-long woodland walk, 5 minutes from Ambleside. Leaf-strewn (in autumn) paths and steps along a river and woodland takes you upwards towards the waterfall. A very pleasant town walk (although it doesn’t feel urban in the slightest) for tourists and tired-out ramblers!

Walk Facts

1. Stock Ghyll is a tributary of River Rothley.

2. Once there were 12 watermills driven by the power of Stock Ghyll and other streams.

3. Stock Ghyll Force is a 70ft waterfall.

To read about a 2014 Hadrian’s Wall adventure, visit:Β https://mysabbatical2014.wordpress.com/

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Reblog, Self-sufficiency

Down at the allotment

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This is an earlier post I wrote, back in September 2017. I feel like I have learnt a lot about chickens since then!

March 2020

By August 2017, Cosy Cottage’s garden was as chicken-ready as it was ever going to be. Drainage (whether it works or not, we will have to wait and see this winter) set in place; a proper compost heap permanently sited, ready for that delightful manure which would work wonders for the plants; a pond dug, planted (finally) and decorated with cobbles; stone borders transformed into flower beds; the side garden becoming home to a potted floral arena… And of course, the notorious coop taking centre place, proudly standing, no longer an eyesore but a prestigious abode, ready for its lady lodgers.

There was one thing bugging me though.

I didn’t have any practical experience of hens. I didn’t think I was scared of them, but I had never been in close proximity with chickens. What if they pecked? Or drew blood? Attacked me in my bright red dressing gown (apparently they are attracted to the colour red)? What if I, for some bizarre reason, was unable to lift and hold them? Was nervous of them?

This line of thinking was preposterous. I loved my family’s Jack Russells Molly and Teddy, had zero fear of rodents, and was more concerned of accidentally hurting a spider’s leg (although I do hate touching slugs, which I have done by mistake. Sorry slugs).

And yet…

I had tried to enrol on a course but didn’t get very far. I must have read all the chicken books available but what I really wanted was some practical experience… Then a colleague came to the rescue.

J got chickens a year before, six months after he first started working on a coop. In fact, I modelled my coop roughly on his. Except he had a proper plan and I didn’t. Anyway, it took him months to build – which should have warned me that if someone says on a website it takes a ‘weekend’ they are, Β ever so slightly, exaggerating (unless Superman or Wonder Woman is building it).

Eventually, his hard work paid off and he had a fine looking coop – waiting for some inhabitants to fill it. Luckily for J, a fellow allotment-holder had four hens he no longer wanted and, once J had his coop up and running, the ladies moved into their new home.

So it was by good fortune that, when J went away, he asked if I could look after them for a week.

Sure, I said, it would be great experience.

And I would get free eggs!

Sweet Caroline, Lucy Muffin, Britney Starr and Lily Sparkles were a bluebell, marans and a white Sussex. Someone unkindly said they had names like strippers – actually it was J, but don’t blame him, it was his daughters who named them!

(The hens were moulting around the bottom area so calling them strippers wasn’t too far off the mark, wear some more feathers in public, girls please!) πŸ”πŸ”πŸ”

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To say I had a hundred fears (again!) is an understatement. What if they escaped? What if they died (J said to put them in a bin bag and into a bin if this occurred as they weren’t allowed to bury them on the allotment)? A fellow colleague said, how could he say that? How morbid!

But I was glad it was addressed. You know, just in case.

Thank the heavens, it was straightforward. The ladies enjoyed going out into the run when I opened the door (and no one escaped!) And were happy to wander back in when they realised I had lettuce or cabbage, or, a naughty, Β very seldom treat, a slice of bread. Britney and Co were hard working and supplied three eggs each day (one wasn’t pulling their weight, I’m not pointing any fingers, Lucy… Just joking, Lucy!)

No one died or got ill. Thank you very much girls.

The coop was fox-proof, so I didn’t need to visit twice a day. It was merely a case of checking they had enough food and water each day.

Of all my fears, finding a hen dead, the four running free and wild over the allotments…

There were actually three real concerns and none really related to the hens.

J showed me the hens one lunchtime at work. The next time me and my parents visited. But could we find the right allotment? Traipsing through other allotments, attracting vegetable growers’ raised eyebrows and suspicious attention, eventually I spotted the landmark sunflower at the front of the coop. Phew!

Second, the keys which appeared to go on strike when it came to opening the shed door for the hens’ feed and corn. I visualised having to go to the Superpet Warehouse for chicken feed. Thankfully my dad came with me the next time and figured out which key to use first. (There were two keys).

Phew!

My last concern was leaving the keys in a safe but clear place for the next helper. I worried I had placed them somewhere too obvious for thieves or conversely, somewhere too obscure for the hen carer.

But when I went back to work a week on Monday, my fears were relieved. I had done a great job, J said, and yes the next helper had found the keys. Everything and everyone was well.

Phew!

I passed the practical test. Now I could get my own hens. 🐀🐀🐀

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Facts of the Day

1. Hybrids are commercial crossbreeds, developed for the battery egg industry in the 1950s.

2. Hybrids include black rock, white star, bluebelle, calder ranger, warrens, isa browns and hy-lines.

3. Popular pure breeds – which are light or heavy, bantam or full-size – include the Buff Orpington (the Queen Mum’s favourite), Sussex and Rhode Island Red.