Thursday, 11 July 2019

Brewers Loop - third trimester - on our last legs...

Well we only flipping did it! We spent 18 days hauling a beer cask 138 miles all around the county. We met some truly amazing people along the way & were blown away by the kindness & generosity of folks.

On the last legs we truly were on our last legs - my fault really as the whole concept of "rest days" completely eluded me.  Thankfully our many lovely walking companions consistently revived our flagging spirits.

So who were the heoroes & heroines who helped drag our weary carcasses over the finish line?

From Workington to Whitehaven my big sis Ruth & bruv-in-law Ken (and lunatic dog Maya) journeyed with us, chatting about growing up as city kids & how we learned about nature despite being miles from the nearest cow...

It was also the only time on the entire hike that we got lost - in the middle of a trading estate...

The following day the fabulous folks from the equally fabulous Ennerdale Brewery spent the day with us walking from Whitehaven to St Bees.  They then whisked us away to their brewery and forced us to eat the finest steak pie I have ever wolfed down. Fine beer, fine food & great company.

From St Bees we were on our own (after enjoying an ice cream with our lovely friend Kate!) and it was a long old slog down to Seascale. Sellafield dominated the landscape - and our conversation - as we tried piece together what we knew about the site before meeting with one of their media team who filled in the colossal gaps in our knowledge.

We knew the Seascale to Ravenglass stretch was going to be a little bit different/wacky/ nuts because we were walking with the effervescent Sally from Sally's Cottages.  There was a LOT of laughter and the miles raced by as she donned a spot of war paint to take on the world.  It also turns out she knows just about everyone in the Eskdale Valley... 

From Fisherground to Seathwaite (the Duddon one!) it was just me, him, and the rain.  As we trudged through the mizzle and midges I thought I was hallucinating when I spied a cake cupboard, thankfully I wasn't and we timed it perfectly as it had just been stocked up with muffins fresh from the oven. Rarrr!

All of a sudden we were looking at our final day! We headed off alone but soon bumped into a local hiking group who were all keen to donate to our Mountain Rescue cause.

The last few miles to the Prince of Wales (Foxfield) flew by and it was wonderful to see Diane Hannah from The Herdy Co waiting for us with a nice cold beer & a giant Herdy.

She very kimdly offered us a lift home so we shamelessy took advantage of her generosity, rounded up some old friends, and took a short detour to our starting point 18 days earlier.

It's been an amazing journey.  We have learned a lot and made loads of new friends along the way, and we have so many wonderful stories & experiences to share in our book (out spring 2020). 

In the meantime Steve is already cooking up new adventures & has his sights set on Scafell Pike. I'm not ruling it out, I just need some sleep first...

Please don't forget that in amongst all the beer, fun and shennanigans  we're raising funds for Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue - you can see more & donate here: 

Thank you!

(I'll do a proper thank you to all our supportes over the weekend. Right now I can barely keep my eyes open...)

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Brewers Loop - second trimester

I really can't believe that we're 12 days in already! We began planning in early January and here we are, well over half way through.

Today we arrived on the west coast so the only way to go now is south. And a little bit east.  So what have we learned since my last post?

First up we realised that it *is* possible to get a beer cask (and trolly) to the top of Helvellyn. With the help of a friend. (Thanks Jeanette!)

Secondly we discovered that Alex from Keswick Boot Company is the best hiking buddy EVER. Not only does he sell fabulous boots which have given us zero blisters, he also arrives at the start of the walk with hot bacon sarnies. Arise, sir Alex!

Next up we discovered that a B&B landlord isn't just for breakfast; if you're really nice to him he'll help you lug a beer cask all the way up to Blencathra Field Studies Centre. (Thanks Paul from Sunnyside Guesthouse in Keswick.)

We also discovered that you can strap said beer cask to the back of a Terrain Hopper & haul it all the way up to Skiddaw House Youth Hostel. Cheers Debs! (Check out Debbie North from Access TOG).

The following day it became apparent that hauling camera gear around a mountain while making Life of a Mountain films, gives you super human strength. Well, it worked for Terry Abraham!

Later that day we learned that tapiers are adorable - and seem to have a taste for beer... (Thanks to Lakes Wildlife Park!)

On day 11 we discovered exactly what it takes to become a member of Mountain Rescue  thanks to Stephen Crowsley from the Penrith team. We also learned more than we needed to know about Tiger Leeches... Thank goodness we had a date with Jennings later in the afternoon.

I also learned that the good folks at The New Bookshop are wonderfully supportive of local authors.

This morning, at Wordsworth's House in Cockermouth we learned all about Wordsworth & how hard it is to move around in Georgian clothing. (It's *really* hard!)

Then this afternoon we found out what a Hefeweisen is and just how good it tastes. Cheers Tractor Shed!

And that's it! Down to our final 6 days. We have a LOT of fab stuff lined up so please keep following.  And also, don't forget we're raising funds for Lake District Search & Mountain Rescue - you can read more & donate here:

Friday, 28 June 2019

Brewers Loop - the first trimester...

Yes, I know that a trimester is technically 3 months, but it feels like we've been going for a really long time...

As well as hiking with it we have already taken the cask on a horse & cart, steam train, canoe and bike and today we swam with it along Rydal Water.  So what have we learned so far?

1. The cask is heavy. 10kg may not sound a lot but try dragging it up a fell.

2. It's a cask. Not a keg and definitely NOT a barrel. (Plus, if it was a barrel we'd probably be going over Niagara Falls in it...)

3. Everyone assumes it's full. It's not because a) that would make it even heavier and b) the beer would go off, and we don't want that on our conscience.

4. It floats. To be fair, Unsworths Brewery (who loaned us the cask) always told us it would, but now we have proven it.

5.  It's blooming hard canoeing into a headwind. Our trip up Windermere with Distant Horizons was properly challenging.

6.  It doesn't roll around much. We thought we'd have to strap it down on the cycling day with Grizedale Mountain Bikes, but it was very well behaved.

7. We have bonded with it & it has a name. In fact it has several. It's been given a new name every day to match the person or the adventure. Today it was Suzanna Caskshank in honour of our swimming guide. Who knows what it will be tomorrow.

8.  Windermere YHA is NOT in Windermere. It's in Troutbeck & they need to change the name.

9.  It may be made of alluminium but it's magnetic & attracts a lot of attention wherever we are.

10. People are very generous. Lots of folks we've met on the fells have given us generous donations in our collecting pots. If you want to support our Mountain Rescue appeal you can find out more right here.

Thank you. 😀

Monday, 17 June 2019

Cumbria - More than just fells...

This week The Guardian ran a lovely article, much shared across social media, all about exploring the Cumbrian coast by train and how there's more to the county than the Lake District.  Well, I'm not knocking them, I'm just glad they finally noticed... 😉

We've been banging on for ages about the fact that the Lake District only accounts for 1/3 of the county and that there is so much else to explore.  This week we teamed up with those lovely folks at Vantage Motor Group - Toyota Morecambe Dealership who gave us a brand spanking new Toyota Rav 4 to play with so we could get out there and really have some fun - on the two days we had to play we decided to explore an amazing beach and a wonderful forest full of hidden surprises.

Day 1 Silecroft Beach

Easily one of my favourite beaches in the county - I  mean, just look at it, it's gorgeous!

View through the rear window of the Rav 4
Silecroft has SO much going for it - miles of golden sand (at low tide), a great little beach cafe serving top notch ice creams, toilets, and plenty of free parking.  Just a short walk away in the village centre is The Miners Arms, a traditional English village pub and if you fancy stretching your legs then beautiful Black Combe is right next door with a clear and easy to follow route leading up from the village.

Plenty of parking

We parked up, full of plans for adventures but I'll be brutally honest, we were both absolutely exhausted at the end of one of the most insane weeks of our lives - it wasn't just the royal visit, it was all the things we had to move around to fit it in, plus all the arrangements, recce walks and nervous energy burned up along the way.  So we decided to test out some of the other capabilities of the Rav4 - we'd popped a duvet and pillows in the back to mock up creating a bed as we thought it would make for a few fun photos.  The problem was that after we set up the bed to take the photos we both climbed in and fell fast asleep for an hour or so!  (Yes, it must be my age - I'm 52 tomorrow!!)

On the plus side, we're happy to report that should you choose to use your Rav 4 for a spot of camping, it will be absolutely perfect.  We even found a way to open the tailgate without leaving the car (so *that's* what selfie sticks are for!)

Given that it was such a beautiful sunny day, we really didn't want to go home so we nipped into nearby Millom to pick up a picnic and settled in to enjoy the sunset.

Plenty of room for a picnic

Perfect sunset
 Day 2 - Grizedale Forest

Feeling somewhat ashamed that we'd been loaned a proper "action and adventure" car and all we'd done thus far was take a kip in the back of it, we decided to up the ante on day 2 and headed for Grizedale Forest.  The guys at Vantage had fitted a bike rack to the top of the car for us so Steve popped the bikes into place and off we went (I would say that you need to be pretty tall or have a stool/ steps around to help with that part.)

 Despite the fact that we'd brought my bike with us, I honestly couldn't face a ride so while Steve jumped on his bike and zoomed off, I took a nice gentle 3 mile walk up to the visitors centre.  We both managed to spot plenty of the fabulous art scattered around the forest on our travels.


Of course as well as all the art, Grizedale forest is well known for its adventure activities and we saw plenty of those too.

So I'm happy to report that (for once!) The Guardian is correct - there *is* a lot more to Cumbria than the lakes, so it was a very good job we had a "go anywhere" vehicle allowing us explore it all.

The Rav 4

So, what was the car like?  Well we have an older Rav 4 so the driving experience wasn't massively different - although the car was an awful lot cleaner than ours (sorry Vantage - but there's always something more fun to do than cleaning the car!) .  There were oodles of safety features that left us feeling reassuringly safe and we were definitely comfortable - I especially liked the two setting heat warmers as I have a dodgy back and find them a godsend even in summer.  And I know this is a tiny thing, but I was very taken by the lovely blue stitching around the interior - it all felt very luxurious.

We were both impressed with how surprisingly nippy it was and the fact that you really couldn't tell when it switched from electric to 'regular engine'.  I think we also demonstrated that there is plenty of room in the back for sleeping (and storage!) and the rack space on top means you have everything you need for a perfect adventure weekend away.

Our car was loaned to us by Vantage Motor Group- Toyota Morecambe Dealership and I'm sure they'd be delighted to book you in for a test drive (or a test snooze!) any time you fancy.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Our First Guided Walk

Full image credit Owen Humphreys@OwenHumphreys1
If you’ve followed this blog for a while then you’ll know that we’ve been toying with the idea of offering guided walks in Cumbria.  To be honest we’ve been so busy that we haven’t really had time to do much about it, so it was a bit of a surprise when we received a phone call one day to say that a lovely young couple from London wanted us to guide them on a short walk around the Lake District. I remember it well; it was May Bank holiday Monday (the second one) and we were indulging in that most British of Bank Holiday pastimes, painting and decorating. 

(UPDATE: We've since launched our guided walks and you can learn more HERE)

I’m a messy painter and was covered head to toe in a fetching shade of ‘Rustic Sage’ which, despite what it says on the tin, looks more like ‘Chip Shop Mushy Pea’, but I digress.  Stephen Trotter, Chief Exec of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, was busy telling me that Kensington Palace had asked for us by name, as representatives of Cumbria Wildlife Trust,  to guide the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on a short walk around Cumbria.  It had never crossed my mind that we’d have to address our first ever customers as “Your Royal Highness”, but that’s what I love about life; you really do never know what’s about to come around the corner.
Full image credit Kensington Palace

We were sworn to secrecy – although the majority of the day was publicised well in advance this walk to was to be a low key and relaxed affair, plus the remote location really wasn’t geared up for thousands of visitors to descend en masse, so we didn’t tell a soul.  I’m not good with secrets; if you’ve ever watched Big Bang Theory, I’m a little like Sheldon when it comes to keeping things a secret and during the final few days avoided replying to my friends or posting things on social media for fear that something would slip out.

Full image credit Kensington Palace
As we made plans with the palace I was keen to reassure them that I’d recently attended my outdoor first aid course and, should the need arise, would be able to whittle up a splint, create a sling from a fleecy jumper and apply sphagnum moss to any and all wounds.  At this point they may have been questioning my guiding abilities. 

Ullswater (Steve Pipe)
The run up to the day passed in a rather surreal haze and before we knew it we were lining up on a farm track ready to meet the Duke and Duchess.  Of course we were nervous, we were about to spend 30 minutes as alone as mere mortals get with two of the most recognisable people on the planet.  From the moment they stepped out of the car it was clear we had nothing at all to worry about; they were both every bit as friendly and down to earth as they appear on TV and within a few minutes I found myself chatting to the Duke of Cambridge as we led them up the first section of the walk.

Full image credit Kensington Palace
Well, when I say I was chatting, what I mean is that I was doing my level best not to hyperventilate while trying to say something of interest about the landscape.  In an effort to make the most of the short amount of time we had available we’d opted for a short but very sharp climb to our first viewpoint; a brilliant plan in many respects but it ruled out coherent sentences on my part for a minute or two.
Patterdale (Steve Pipe)
From there it was another short but more gentle climb to an incredibly picturesque bench, thankfully with plenty of pauses along the way to admire the view.  The Duke and Duchess were incredibly knowledgeable and clearly very fond of the landscape but they also showed a keen interest and asked plenty of questions and I was very glad that we had David Harpley with us – David is the Conservation Manager for Cumbria Wildlife Trust and he was able to tell them about the fantastic work that the trust do to maintain, preserve and improve the landscape.

Full image credit Owen Humphreys @OwenHumphreys1
I’m not going to spill the beans on exactly where the bench is – if you know the area then you know the bench – I’ve never been involved in a Royal visit before and I wouldn’t want to encourage hundreds of people to descend on a small, remote, area to follow in Royal footsteps. I’m also not going to go into detail about what we discussed; there were some lovely moments and some comments which really made me smile.

Full image credit Kensington Palace
That said, they were both absolutely lovely – very natural and very ‘real’, with no airs and graces.  It was especially lovely to see them with the group of children from a local school who we met half way around our route.  Both the Duke and the Duchess got down to their level to chat about nature and wildlife and they readily joined in the short session delivered by Jamie Normington, Education Officer for CumbriaWildlife Trust.

Full image credit Kensington Palace
All too soon the walk was over and we were back to their waiting cars.  Just time for a few gifts – we gave them a bag containing three of our books (Gin, Cake and Rucksacks, Cumbria in Photographs and The Old Ways of Cumbria), together with a bottle of locally made Shed 1 Gin and a personally carved Twigpen (by The Twigpen People) for them and their children, plus a beautiful card by Sam Martin Art. Jamie gave them a copy of The Lost Words (click here to see how he’s raising money to provide 200 schools in Cumbria with a copy of the book) and David gave them a family membership to Cumbria Wildlife Trust . (If you want to download the free wildlife walks we wrote for Cumbria Wildlife Trust then you can find them all here.)

After a final round of goodbyes they were whisked away, ending their day visiting Cumbria, and we were left with many happy memories of the afternoon.  Of course we’re being realistic about our future plans for guided walks and we know that not everyone we guide will be a future heir to the throne.  With that in mind I want to make it quite clear that you do not have to be a Duke or a Duchess to engage our guiding services, other royal titles will also be considered...

The Bench (Steve Pipe)
(And I don’t think I put my foot in it on the walk, but I’ve not ruled out “Life inside the Tower of London” as the title for my next blog!)

PS As we're HUGE supporters of Cumbrian businesses here are a few of the other folks involved in the day.  Mine & Steve's boots came from the lovely folks at Keswick Boot Company, my bright orange scarf was from the Herdy Co (who do a LOT to support the local farming community) and my necklace (which sadly didn't make it into any photos) was from Go Your Own Way .