Sunday, 22 March 2020

Virtually Cumbria

Wow.  It's hard to find the right words just now, but wow seems to cover most things.  It feels odd to be writing this as my blog has always been dedicated to shouting about Cumbria and encouraging folks to visit and discover tucked away corners, but not now.  At this particular moment we need everyone to stay home and stay safe.  The local hospitals and Mountain Rescue do not need to be dealing with Bank Holiday levels of visitors having slips and accidents as well as passing on the virus. 

I'm not about to start ranting - I'm not a ranter (well, apart from when Steve stacks the dishwasher all wrong *again*!) - instead I want to spread a little joy if I can and help everyone enjoy Cumbria virtually. I'm going to start by sharing some of my favourite views and telling you how long they've existed, to reassure you that they will till be there when you're chomping at the bit to return.  And, if nothing else, I always find that a geological timescale helps put 12 weeks of social distancing/ isolation into perspective.

I've also selected 5 locations with webcams so you can enjoy them from home - no need to visit.  Keep us, and everyone else, safe and please stay home.  Thank you.

Skiddaw


Amongst the oldest rocks in the county the Skiddaw Group is around 480 million years old, although obviously they didn't look like this when they were laid down, but they have looked roughly like this since the last ice sheets vanished around 11,000 years ago.

You can find Skiddaw Webcam right here.  Now tell me that's not a magnificent view!

Blencathra


Yeah, I know it's right next to Skiddaw but c'mon, it's awesome!  Easily one of my favourite fells to look at, and Halls Fell Ridge is one of the finest routes in the county, in my very humble opinion.  Rocks wise, it's much the same age as Skiddaw but twice as sexy.  Rarrr!

You can see the Blencathra webcam here.  (Please note - not a lot to see when it's dark...)

Coniston Water


There is SOOOOO much history attached to Coniston Water from Donald Campbell to Ruskin.  Or should that be the other way around?  Either way it's a magnificent lake.  No launches or boats on there at the moment, but you can watch the webcam here and get your Coniston fix whenever you need it!

Ullswater


What a chuffing gorgeous lake!  Fabulous dogleg in the middle and stunning fells all around.  Often gets voted as the best looking lake and the others are properly jealous.  Ullswater Steamers aren't running, but you can still watch their webcam and dream of your next visit.

Osprey Cam


OK, this one isn't quite live yet - but it will be, and when it is you will be hooked, I promise!  Cumbria Wildlife Trust have a live camera on their osprey nest which will kick in as soon as the osprey return from their winter hols in Africa - no pesky border controls for them!  Once Osprey Cam is up and running you can watch them as they lay eggs, hatch, and rear their young.  Entertainment from late March until the end of the summer.  perfect!


ONE LAST THING!

If you're familiar with this blog you'll know this is where I usually advertise our books, but now doesn't seem the right time to push that.  If we sell a book, we have to go to the post office and force a lot of other people to work and come into contact with others.

BUT - I make most of my living from delivering training courses and, of course, that income has now been completely wiped.  Rather than lick my wounds I've come out fighting and have launched a series of OnLive learning courses for just £10 per person per session.  Please take a look at the courses here and, if it's not for you, perhaps tell your friends about it?  I've been delivering training courses for well over 20 years and I promise they're fun as well as informative!




Saturday, 22 February 2020

The Laws of Physics and Hiking

As will become apparent very quickly, I am no expert in the word of physics, but it has occurred to me that hiking bends the laws of physics and no-one seems to have noticed.  For example, on a circular walk the laws of physics will tell us that if we start and end at the same point then there must be an equal amount of uphill and downhill, but hikers know for a FACT that there is always more up than down in any walk.

In hiking we can also prove that two wrongs do, in fact, make a right.  Very boggy ground - wrong.  Temperatures well below freezing with significant wind chill - wrong.  But combine the two and the freezing weather makes the bog solid so we can walk over it - right.  (OK, that one may not be an actual law of physics, but I'm pretty sure it's a law of something!)

I have dug further into the laws of physics and present, below, my findings on what happens when physics meets hiking.  I'm expecting my doctorate in the post from a prestigious university any day now.  (All laws have been taken from this website, so, if you don't like them, it's him you need to tell, not me.)

1.Archimedes Principle
"The principle was discovered in 3rd century B.C. by the Greek mathematician. Archimedes. It states that when a body is partially or totally immersed in a fluid, it experiences an upward thrust equal to the weight of the fluid displaced by it that i.e. its apparent loss of weight is equal to the weight of liquid displaced."

Well Archimedes was clearly not a hiker.  He also lived in Greece which, I'm guessing, is pretty thin on the ground so far as bogs are concerned.  When my foot is 'partly or totally immersed in (boggy) fluid', there is no upward thrust and I experience no weight loss.  In fact my mass increases as my boots are sucked into the mire and said bog cakes itself around my boots.  If Archimedes had ever tried to walk from High Tove to Castleigg after heavy rain he may have had a rethink.

2. Law of conservation of energy
"It states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed but it can be transformed from one form to another. Since energy cannot be created or destroyed, the amount of energy present in the universe is always remain constant."

It looks so near...

Picture the scene.  You park at Stickle Barn and take the Cumbria Way/ Angle Tarn route up to the bottom of Great End.  You eat and drink well all the way along the route and are feeling good, if a little tired.  You wander along the track to the top of Broad Crag with your sights set firmly on Scafell Pike, still feeling nice and perky.  You reach the end of Broad Crag and see the drop down, and the climb back up, to Scafell Pike summit.  All energy instantly drains from your body.  Energy destroyed. My case rests.


3. Newton’s First law of Motion
"A body continues in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a straight line, except in so far as it is compelled by external impressed forces to change that state. It is also called Law of Inertia."


I'm gong to agree with Newton on this one.  When I'm 3/4 of the way through a long hike and pause for a sit down and a gulp of tea and cake, my body is in a 'state of rest' and I am generally quite happy to remain in this state of rest.  The 'external forces' 'compelling me to move' would be a cold wind, Steve nagging that it's getting late, or an overwhelming desire for a wee.

4. Newton’s Third Law of Motion
"To every action there is equal and opposite reaction."


Kielder Water
Wrong.  At least so far as midges are concerned. Surely this law is stating that if I swish my hands around in front of my face and swear very loudly at a gathering swarm of midges (my 'action'), then they should disperse (their 'reaction'), but we all know that this does not happen, in fact it only encourages them.  And don't get me started on their bites!  It is simply not 'equal' for minute specs of airborne evil (aka the midge) to create a series of golf ball sized lumps on my hands and face that leave me crying for my mummy at 3am.  And then there are the clegs - inch long velociraptors with wings - when they sink their minute diamond tipped fangs into your arm the 'equal' reaction would be to feel a pinprick of pain, not the searing-hot-poker-in-the-arm reality.  Send Newton for a stroll around Kielder Water on a warm, muggy, summer evening, wearing nothing more than tshirt & shorts, and then see what he has to say about "equal and opposite reactions".


5. Newton’s Law of cooling
"The rate at which a body cools or loses its heat to its surroundings is proportional to the excess of mean temperature of the body over that of the surroundings, provided this temperature excess is not too large."

Any laws pertaining to temperature are null and void when hiking - the rate at which my body cools when I pause for a swig of tea on a cold winter hike defies any law of physics.  I can go from baking hot to colder than Katie Hopkins heart in under 5 seconds.  Tea also obeys the same rule when released from its flask and poured into a cup - nice and hot when you pour it, but by the time you've rescrewed the top back on to save the rest of your brew and quickly slipped on a glove because you can no longer feel your fingers, then raised the cup to your lips, it's stone cold.


I'm pretty sure experts in the world of physics will be lining up to tear me to shreds and to all of you I say this:  you are welcome to join me on a hike any time and we'll put your laws to the test - infact, bring Archimedes and Newton along and we'll make a day of it.  😁



Please don't leave just yet.  We have written nine books choc full of fun, fab and interesting things with lots of stunning photos. You can buy them all right HERE.  We will be happy to sign them and they make the perfect gift for lovers of Cumbria, or you could just treat yourself.  Go on, you know you're worth it.

Click here to browse our bookshelf.


Sunday, 19 January 2020

Does size really matter?

If you Google '10 Things about Cumbria' you'll find a host of websites clammouring to tell you that we have the highest mountain, the longest (and deepest) lakes and the steepest road in England (I'm not convinced that last one is even accurate!)  

It's true that our towering fells and shimmering lakes are utterly spectacular, and it's also true that you can have some pretty big adventures here, from zipwires to mountain biking, but what often gets missed is that Cumbria is full of small wonders too, things that folks can (and do!) walk right past without noticing.  

This year we have decided to explore nooks, crannies, and paths less travelled - and certainly paths we've never wandered along before.  To kick off our 'Small Year', here are my 10 favourite small things that we've spotted on our walks so far.

1. An enclosed footpath

I love wandering along old enclosed footpaths - you know that 'back in the day' they were probably bustling routes between farms and villages, but today they're just for hikers and wildlife.


 2. The Old Concrete Road

While cyclists and drivers in their thousands stream over the high passes, I'll settle for the old concrete road near Shap.  It's not the biggest, steepest or most dramatic, but I absolutely love a toddle along it.


3.  Frozen bubbles

To be fair, I've shared this picture before - but we only spotted these because we were dawdling (as usual!) and paused to look more closely at a tarn.  I've never seen frozen bubbles before or since and absolutely love this photo.



4.  Bluebell Woods

Rannerdale Bluebells are the stars of the show every year, but there are dozens of stunning bluebell woods all over Cumbria, and none more spectacular than Dorothy Farrer's Spring Woods near Stavely.


5.  Packhorse bridges

Yes, Ashness Bridge is super stunning, but it's alo super busy.  We discovered this absolute gem by complete accident during our Brewers Loop hike last year.  It's not far from Ravenglass, but for full location details you'll have to wait for the book.


6.  The flowers on Grange Prom

We live in Grange-over-Sands and there are flowers in bloom pretty much all year round.  I usually take a detour along the prom on my way to the shops, and I'm never disappointed.


7.  Skylarks

Well, birds in general to be honest, but is there anything lovelier than the background music of a skylark during a gentle summer walk?  And we were SO excited to see one this close!


8.  Moss on a wall

I know you'll think I've lost my marbles with this one, but I love moss on walls - especially when the sun catches it like this.  We were meant to be eating lunch but I just kept staring at the wall...


9.  Wells and water troughs

As well as moss, I also love stumbling on old wells and water troughs, for me they are a great reminder to appreciate the taps in our house.  Imagine having to head off with your bucket every time you wanted a drink, or to do the washing, or anything really.  So many of them are incredibly ornate too, and often have fascinating snippets of history and folklore behind them.


10.  Sharing the experience

Yeah, I know this one is cheesy, but surely one of the finest pleasures is sharing wonderful new discoveries with someone else?  I love that we get to work and play outside together so often - it just makes it so much more fun!



Want more info on Cumbria's tucked away treasures?  Then may I recommend one of our books?   They are crammed full of wonderful nuggets of history as well as Steve's fabulous photos, and I promise I do a happy dance whenever we sell one!  Click the pic to browse our bookshelf!

Click here to browse

Sunday, 29 December 2019

Happy New 527040 Minutes!

Sandscaale & Black Combe
I drive my boss nuts.  But in a good way I think.  At least that's what I keep telling myself.  (To be fair I've been driving Steve nuts for a lot longer than that!).  One of the many reasons I drive the people around me nuts is my odd obsession with time.  I can set the timer in the kitchen when I'm cooking dinner and just *know* when it's about to go off.  Steve thinks that's wierd.

My new boss is starting to get the measure of me too.  Having been full time freelance since November 2012, last October I was in need of more stable employment and was incredibly lucky to land a lovely 3-day-a-week fixed term contract - this was after failing the personality and literacy tests for both Boots and Debenhams...  So what is it in particular that drives my new boss a bit nuts?  Each day I remind him how many days I have left; not in a "I'm counting down the days to freedom" kind of a way, but in a "I'm only here for XX more days, let's not waste any!" way.

Silverdale
I try to live my whole life like that, but it doesn't alway work out the way I'd like.  My dad died fairly suddenly when I was just 18 and it instilled in me a deep appreciation that our time on this earth is finite.  Many people act as if they have an infinite amount of time at their disposal, but the truth is time is the rarest and most valuable thing we have, and this past year I really don't feel as if I've spent my time as wisely as I should have.

True, I have to work to pay the bills (that's the really annoying part!) but I usually get the balance a bit better than I've managed recently.  To be honest, I feel as if I've been running to stand still.  Not even that.  In some ways I've gone backwards and that's really frustrating,

By Royal Appointment
It's also true that we've done some fantastic things this year; we guided William and Kate on a walk around Ullswater, man-handled a beer cask on a 138 mile hike around the county and launched two new books, but there have been so many things this year that we haven't done.  We haven't been away on Delores (our trusty campervan), we haven't been out swimming and kayaking nearly as often as we should and we've hardly managed any hikes for pleasure (as opposed to those required for research for a book).

I've been working away from home far too often meaning lots of long lonely nights in hotels, and then my weekends have been spent playing catch up with my writing - meeting book deadlines etc., all of which have been my poor excuses for not spending enough time with Steve and the rest of our families.

Helvellyn
Ironically I deliver Time Management training courses and one of the points I make at the end is that we spend so much of our life worrying about how to manage our work time, and fit in all our work tasks, but how often do we make enough time for the people and activities that are truly the most important to us?

What's most important to me is Steve, and the time we spend together in the fells, and on other adventures, but we just haven't done that this year, and I've really missed it. I have a whole week off work this week (my boss is no doubt delighted!) and, apart from writing this blog, I promised I wouldn't do any work at all; instead we're spending the week together exploring Cumbria (our rule is that we can't walk anywhere we've walked before!).

2020 is a leap year, so we get a whole extra day to play with.  That means we have 366 days/ 8784 hours/ 527,040 minutes starting at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.  My only resolution this year is to spend my time more wisely so that this time next year I can write an action packed blog full of adventures, instead of one about regret.

I sincerely hope everyone reading this has a wonderful, adventurous 2020, filled with fun, family and happiness!  (And here are a few other pics of things from this year, just to make me feel a bit better about things.)  😀



Scout Scar

Patterdale

Ulverston Canal

Blencathra

Humphrey Head

Langdale Valley









Sunday, 3 November 2019

Mind full or Mindful?

Last week I had to re-enter the corporate world, I'm not looking for sympathy or medals, just stating a fact.  For the past 7 years I've been a fulltime freelancer but, thanks to, ahem, uncertainties in the policital landscape, work in my particular field has dwindled somewhat of late, and we are a very long way from earning a living from our books just yet (although you could click on the link at the end and help us along a bit!).
View from Grange-over-Sands station

The upshot is that I've been lucky enough to find a job in my specialist field (learning & development, thanks for asking 😀), working for a lovely organisation.  The only downside is that they're in Salford.  I have nothing against Salford, it's just really tricky to get to from Grange-over-Sands.  And I mean really tricky.  It takes me just under 3 hours each way, and that's without factoring in the vagaries of Northern Rail!  To give you some idea, it also takes me just over 3 hours to get all the way to London.
Love this building next to Wigan station

The thing that has struck me most about my commute is how unhappy everyone is.  Very few people smile, no-one makes eye contact and kindness is scarce.  Those people that do talk are inevitably complaining about their boss/ co-workers/ workload, but most folks are plugged into laptops or phones, oblivious to the world around them. Some things in partcular caught my attention...

Walking to work

  • On day 1 I changed trains at Lancaster and had 20 minutes to kill (long story).  I sauntered into the waiting room to plug my phone in while I waited - I needed my map at the other end.  I then sat down with my knitting.  Five minutes later two women barelled in, frantically plugged in (between them) three mobile phones and two laptops, then sat, frantically typing what looked like emails, for 10 minutes before their train arrived, whereupon (fabulous word!) they equally frantically stuffed everything back into their bags and raced to the train.  It was 7:20am.  I wondered when their working day was supposed to start.  The day they were getting paid for.  How much have organisations taken advantage of the fact that we can work from anywhere now?  No wonder everyone is so unhappy.
  • On a crammed train a lady got on.  She didn't look well.  Every seat was taken and folks were stuffed into every nook and cranny along the aisles.  She asked very loudly and politely if there was anyone in a priority seat who didn't need it.  No-one moved.  Not one person.  No-one even made eye contact.  I'm aware that not not all disabilities are visible but I refuse to believe that every single person in that carriage had one.  I was right down the far end but still stood up and called her down.  I'm not special, I'm just doing what I was taught as a child; have some decency and respect for others, especially those in need.
  • On every single trip I made this week I'd say that well over 90% of folks were staring at their phone screens, mostly doing work, but a few were playing games.  A handful of people were reading and, on most occasions, I was the only one knitting and gazing out of the window.  When are our brains getting any downtime?  At the office I've already chatted to a couple of folks who say how stressed they are and how they can't switch off.  I'm not surprised - most organisations will take every single second we give them, so we need to set boundaries to save our sanity.  
  • Boarding etiquette is non-existant - it's every man for himself.  If I do pause to allow someone on in front of me, the person behind has tutted, huffed and practically climbed into my rucksack.  I've been pushed and barged an it's only week one.  

Gorgeous autumn colours

These days it's way too easy to have our minds full of things, work, home, family, finances; the list goes on and on, but when are we making time for ourselves?  Even if it's just giving our mind a break on our commute.  How often are we truly mindful - right there, in the moment, as opposed to having our minds full of a million different things?  Your computer doesn't perform as well with lots of tabs open, and neither do you.

So many people are racing through life from dawn to dusk and not really enjoying very much of it at all, then they take it out on others and so the cycle continues.  Misery, it seems, is contagious.
Discovering local landmarks

I refuse to believe it's complicated, we just need to be a bit nicer to ourselves, and each other. If misery is contagious, why not happiness?

My mission is this:  I resolve to smile at people, to be courteous, to stare out of the windows and not to bitch about my co-workers - we are all in this together and none of us are perfect.  There will be times when I fail, I am only human, but if we all tried just a little bit harder the maybe the world wouldn't be quite such a crappy place.

The lights of Morecambe


You know that bit above where I said you could buy our books?  Well you can buy them all right HERE.  You could even read them on your commute! We will be happy to sign them and they make the perfect gift for lovers of Cumbria.  Honest they do.  Also Christmas is coming.  Just saying...


Sunday, 6 October 2019

Pilgrim's Way to Lindisfarne

Recently I was lucky enough to land a small piece of work in Berwick-upon-Tweed, so I made the most of it and headed over early for a spot of exploring.  I really rather like Berwick, here are a few reasons why...




It's a place crammed full of history and amazing views, and there's plenty to keep a history nerd occupied for a while.

Just down the coast from Berwick is Lindisfarne.  We'd visited there a few years ago (actually 9 years ago, where did the time go?!) when we pootled over on Delores; this time I was on my own and instead of driving over, I wanted to walk over, following the Pilgrim's Way.  The weather and tides looked to be perfect and, although I would be alone, I knew I wouldn't be on my own as there were bound to be others taking advantage of the conditions.  I was right.

I scoured the internet for tips but couldn't seem to find all the information I needed about the crosing in one place - how long did it take?  What was the best footwear? etc. so, having done the walk, both ways, I thought I'd share my insights.

1.  Check the tide times.
2. CHECK THE TIDE TIMES - seriously, I cannot stress this enough.  I live on Morecambe Bay so am well awae of the dangers of heading out across tidal marshes.
3. Getting there and parking.  We'd visited before so I know about the huge car park on the mainland right next to the causeway.  This car park is now CLOSED.  No, I do not know why.  It's blocked off with huge concrete blocks.  To be honest, as I'd arrived not knowing this I parked on the roadside - not ideal and space is VERY limited, but I was determined to cross.  A better solution would probably be to take the bus from Berwick.  Bus times etc. are here.
4.  How far is it?  I plotted the route in Viewranger and it came out as 2.79 miles one way, so double that if you're planning to walk back.
5.  Boots or feet?  This is a tricky one.  The going is soft, very soft, with lots of paddling. I found that on the way out I wore my boots for the first, muddier, part because, as I quickly learned, boots grip a LOT better than bare feet.  In the middle, paddling tends to take over for a while, so I took my boots off for the second half. I did the reverse on the way back.


6.  What else will I need?  I found a walking pole incredibly useful.  It really is very slippery out there and I have a rubbish sense of balance anyway, so really needed the pole.
7. What's the walk really like?  It's a great walk, though more challenging than it first appears.  Soft mud is tiring.  It's also (depending on the time of year) cold in the paddling bits.  There's one stretch of hard sand with lots of broken shells, which I tackled in bare feet, but my feet were so cold that I didn't notice the pain so much.  There's also a channel to cross - having watched the folks ahead of me wade through a narrow part that went up to their thighs, I opted for a wider section, which was shallower, and only went in up to my knees.  These channels will, of course, shift with the tides, but it's a useful rule of thumb.

8.  How long will it take?  When I was researching it I read a post from someone who claimed that he and his wife had made the crosing in 35 minutes - that's pretty impressive stuff!  I walked briskly, pausing only to take a few photos, and it took me a shade over an hour to get across.
9.  Is there anywhere to rest?  Not during the walk, no.  There's nowhere to sit and the refuges dotted along the route are there for emergencies only, plus they are tricky to haul yourself up into.  There is a nice bench at the far side though, where you can wolf down some tea and cake before heading back.  Or you could get the bus back, or walk along the causeway, just be aware that there's no pavement and it can get pretty busy.

10.  How to time it.  I figured it would take me about an hour.  I'd also read that it wasn't wise to set out the moment the causeway opens as the channel at the far side can still be quite deep.  I set off an hour before low tide, so was on the island for low tide and walking back just as it turned, and I didn't encounter any problems at all, conditions were identical in both directions.
11. Is it easy to follow the route?  Yes, very easy.  From the mainland, walk along the causeway (watch for the cars, there's not a lot of space and they whiz past!) and over the first bridge, you will easily see the tall poles marking the route all the way across; just stick close to them and you'll be fine.

12.  Is it worth it?  Yes. I was properly muddy and soggy by the end, but it's a great walk with loads of amazing photo opportunities.  Just make sure you CHECK THE TIDE TIMES before you go.  (Sorry, did I already mention that?)  It's really quite something to be out there, in the middle of the walk, with nothing else around you, knowing that you're following in the footsteps of thousands of folks who didn't have GoreTex boots.  The road only opened in 1954, before then, this was the only way over.  Well, this and boats.


If you have any other questions, please just ask - it really was a great walk and I'd be happy to help with any other info if you need it.

Meanwhile - we haven't written any books about Northumberland (yet!) but we have written LOADS of books about Cumbria.  You can buy them all right HERE.  We will be happy to sign them and they make the perfect gift for lovers of Cumbria.  Honest they do.