Wednesday, 30 September 2015

LOVE Morecambe Bay

On Sunday 4th October 2015 Lancashire and Morecambe Bay took centre stage on Countryfile (BBC 1 6:15pm) - you may even have caught a brief glimpse of me if you were quick!

I'm just a teeny part of a big piece about the fantastic Morecambe Bay Cycleway which we whizzed around back in June - well I say whizzed, we plodded mainly and ate a lot of cake, but I digress...  Morecambe Bay is the most fantastic place for wildlife, skies, recreation, walks, hikes, relaxing, kite surfing, cycling etc. etc. etc. but it will only stay that way if we all look after it properly and helping us to do just that are the lovely folks at LOVEmyBEACH.

A lot of what they have to say and do isn't sexy as it revolves around toilets, sewage and litter, but what they do do (sorry, toilet humour.. :-) ) is help spread the message about the things we can ALL do to help protect our beaches and waterways wherever we live.  So, against a backdrop of pictures of lovely Morecambe Bay and surrounding waterways, here are the top 10 things we can do to help:

1.  Think before you flush - the 3 Ps only should be going down the loo - Pee, Poo and Paper.  Everything else needs to be binned and disposed of separately ESPECIALLY cotton buds.  Thousands of them get through our sewage system each year and end up on the beaches injuring wildlife.  (I've been banging on about that one since 2010!)

2. No oils or fats etc. to go down the sink as they can cause blockages and leakages allowing all sorts of nasty stuff to seep into our groundwater and rivers.  As a general guide, if you don't fancy swimming in it, don't put it down the sink.

3.  Make sure all your plumbing and drainage is connected properly.  You may be super green and environmentally friendly, but if the folks who put in your drainage were muppets your grey water (washing up etc.) could be heading straight for your nearest river.

4.  Bag and bin your dog poo.  Don't leave it lurking on beaches or flick it into a nearby river and definitely don't bag it and hang it on the nearest tree like a stinky Christmas decoration.

5.  If you have a septic tank make sure it's properly serviced and checked for leaks etc. to ensure there is no nastiness oozing out while you're not looking.

6.  Get a water butt for the garden to collect rainwater.  Not only does this help when watering the garden it also reduces the amount of surface run off heading into the sewers.

7.  Put your litter in a bin or take it home with you.  Honestly - do we really still need to be telling people that?  I'm gob smacked by the number of folks who think it's fine to picnic on the beach then leave it all there when they're done.  If you can carry it there, you can carry it back.  Litter has a huge affect on local wildlife and notso local wildlife - if you leave in on the beach and the tide gets it, it could end up anywhere.

8.  Go to a beach clean - you'll learn loads, make new friends and burn off TONS of calories. Better than the gym any day!  Check out the LOVEmyBEACH events page to find one near you.

9.  Go talk to your boss.  There's a whole page of things that businesses could be doing to support the project and protect the local environment and customers LOVE that stuff so earn yourself some brownie points by bringing it up at your next team meeting.

10.  Spread the word - share this post, share the LOVEmyBEACH web page, follow them on Twitterstalk them on FB - share their posts and tell your friends.  None of us has to change the world but if we all do our own little bit we can help keep the waters around us shiny clean and floater free.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Let's go round again.

We've been to Kielder 3 times; each time we've done a lap of the lake on our bikes and each time it's been different.  Mainly because the first time we both had grotty bikes, the second time my gears failed and this time we both had new(ish) bikes. Each time though the weather has been perfect - beginning to think it never rains here...

This time we also managed a trip up to the observatory for a crystal clear night of stargazing. Got up close and personal with the moon and also saw Uranus, Neptune and a distant binary star system - if you're heading this way it's certainly worth a visit.

Today's lap of the lake was largely uneventful apart from my persistent ranting about Tower Knowe wanting to chargd £6.95 for a jacket spud with beans. I'm all for supporting local shops etc. but £6.95 for something that costs around 70p to make? Clearly I'm getting old and grumpy before my time.

That aside the weather was perfect and the views magnificent - just hope I'm not too worn out as we're planning to stay up till 3am watching the lunar eclipse. If anyone wants me tomorrow morning I'm likely to be in bed...

Saturday, 19 September 2015

No Country for Old Boots

It won 4 Oscars and was raved about by all and sundry but so far as I'm concerned, No Country for Old Men is 2 hours and 2 minutes of my life that I'll never get back.  Shame really, I usually like Tommy Lee Jones.  The thing is I'm about to do one of those review thingumys again and wanted to point out that whatever I might have to say about a product, I can only ever give you my opinion of it, you may choose to disagree and that's fair enough,the world would be a boring place if we all liked the same things (and damned near unbearable if we all liked No Country for Old Men, but I digress...)

If you've read the blog before you'll know how much I loved my old boots and I thought they were doing fine - it wasn't until Steve got some new boots (having killed his old ones walking 214 Wainwrights in 214 days) that I looked more closely at mine and realised that though the tops were fine, the soles were damned near smooth and as the Lake District really is "No Country for Old Boots" (you see what I did there?) I figured it was time to nab me a new pair too.

Enter GriSport - tucked away near the Dolomites in Italy and manufacturing boots in a factory where 70% of the power comes from solar energy.  (Not so easy to do in Cumbria for some reason...)  They sent me a lovely pair of their Everest boots to play with and see what I thought.

Anyway, I figured that as I've been learning Italian for a few years now I'd make the review useful by translating some common English/ Northern phrases into Italian for you as I go - you know, in case you ever decide to visit the factory or anything...

1.  I say, I'm absolutely parched, do you know of somewhere I can wet my whistle?  "Dico, ho grande sete, sai da qualche parte dove posso bagnare il mio fischietto?

Never mind the hiking part, let's tackle the important stuff - do the boots look cool enough to be seen in the pub with.  Yes they do - if there's one thing you can trust the Italians to do it's design something that looks good.  Mind you, that beer looks good too and that was made in Ulverston...

2.  I'm so hungry I could eat a scabby horse. "Ho fame cosi grande che mangerei un cavallo crostoso."  

Not only are the boots good enough to be seen in the pub with, they'd also pass muster in most pub restaurants - so long as they weren't too muddy obviously.  Not found a pub serving scabby horses yet - will look for it on next year's Master Chef.

3.  Do you sell Compeed?  I've got blisters the size of conkers.   "Avete Compeed?  Ho i vesciche come i ipposcastani"

I've given these boots a good workout.  I've done 8 miles up and around Whitbarrow Scar, 5 miles around Hampsfell and another 9 up and over Black Combe and I can honestly promise you that you won't be needing that phrase.  They were proper comfy from the off and my feet were almost as fresh when I took the boots off as they were when I put them on.  The smell wasn't as fresh mind...

4.  In these shoes?  I don't think so! "Nel queste scarpe?  Non penso cosi!"

OK, not so much a phrase as a fabulous Kirsty MacColl song - but a perfect way to point out that the boots come with easy to follow care instructions.  They didn't specifically say no paddling in them, but I'm guessing the salt water wouldn't do them much good.

5.  If I don't sit down soon, I'll fall down.  "Si mi non siedo presto, mi cadró"

I'm pleased to report that although these are high boots (well up over the ankle) they are light (1205g) so if you need to put your feet up to enjoy a well earned rest they won't be too heavy

6.  That'll put a spring in your step. "Quello metterà una balzo in il tuo passo"

Again, light, flexible and bouncable.  Plenty of spring for jumping on and off rocks repetitively so the shot you had planned can be caught on a camera phone.

7.  She took off up Whitbarrow Scar like a rat up a drainpipe.  "Ha decollato su Whitbarrow Scar come un ratto su un tubo di drenaggio."  (And if you're thinking the Italians are using the same words as us for things like rat, it's probably the other way around.  Blame the Romans.)

The day I got them I strapped them onto my feet and took off - no breaking in, no gentle walks to the shops, no nothing - straight on and straight up.  No problems at all.  At least not for me.  Steve was cursing a bit 'cos he didn't have nice new shiny boots to play with.

8.  He was in such a hurry that he met himself coming back.  "Era in tanta fretta che ha incontrato lui stesso tornare indietro"  (This was *really* horrible to try and translate!)

Because they are light and comfy you can whiz around all over the place and have a lot of fun taking silly photos.

9.  Striding Edge?  It was a walk in the park!  "Striding Edge?  É stato una camminare nel parco."

Though I've not  taken these boots up striding edge yet, I can confirm that they are proper hiking boots for proper hikes on proper big mountains.  The high sides keep my ankles cosy and firm and the fabulous grippy soles stop me slipping over quite as much as I used to.  And there was me thinking it was the gin when I could have blamed my old boots all along.

10.  Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs!  "Allora, andró alla piede del nostri scalini!"

Stairs, hillsides, stiles, whatever - the boots bounded through it all.  I'm trying to think of a downside to tell you about to keep the review balanced and the only 2 things I can come up with are that a half size might be nice as I could feel my toes catching the ends on the descent from Black Combe - though not badly so - and the fold in the leather catches the little toe on my left foot a bit, but that's only because I dislocated it last year and its still a bit grumpy.

I plan to wear the boots throughout the winter and post an update in around 6 months to let you know how they are once they've worn in a bit.  Best get my Italian phrasebook out and start brushing up on my grammar ready.

Friday, 11 September 2015

There will never be another today.

Today I'm commuting to Leyland for work. The destination may not be picturesque but the journey is gorgeous - miles of stunning Lancashire countryside streaming past the train windows.

At the table seat in front of me are 4 people clearly not happy with their lot. So far they've collectively ranted for over an hour about their boss and their employer, at times becoming quite personal, and not once did any of them glance out of the window.

What drives me in life?  The knowledge that this is it, this is today, I don't get the chance to do it again tomorrow. How do any of us know this isn't our last today? Rant and rage if you need to but take a breath, look out of the window and take a moment to appreciate today before it turns into just another yesterday.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Lunch with an Old Friend

I got this tweet a couple of weeks ago and it really made me smile.

Since the beginning of  May my feet have barely touched the ground - first there was work which took me all over Lancashire and London, then we took off for 5 weeks in Scotland and before we'd even got all the washing dry I was off again, this time for a week working near Portsmouth.  I knew I still lived in Cumbria, I just hadn't seen a lot of the place.

Well, things have begun to calm down a little so today we took a sneak day off and headed for the fells.  I know it's weird but there's something about going for a hike during the week which makes me feel like I'm playing hooky from school.  Not that I ever did play hooky, like to go off with Jackie Jasiewicz to see Duran Duran at the NEC when they were filming a video because I won free tickets from the newspaper which I never told my mum about, no, nothing like that at all...I'm just saying that it feels how I imagine playing hooky might feel...

Anyway, having been away for a while I thought it was time to go and see an Old Friend for lunch, so we headed up to Walna Scar car park for one of our favourite hikes - Buck Pike, Dow Crag, Swirl Howe and down via Levers Water.

The view from the car park had me chomping at the bit and the bright sunshine had me realising that I'd probably not bought enough fluids, but I figured we just about be OK.  (we were)  As we sat on the top of Dow Crag admiring the views of the Old Man we noticed how busy it was, even mid week, so many people playing hooky...

As we munched away Steve got the distinct feeling we were being watched - he was right!

I can never decide if it's better being on top of Dow Crag looking down, or below it looking up at the fantastic ridge line.

And back down via Levers water with the early autumn sunshine beginning to fade just a little bit.  What can I say?  It's great to be home.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

5 Fabulous Autumn Walks in Cumbria

Dontcha just hate it when you're following a guided walk and the blurb tells you "this is a riot of colour and wild flowers in the summer months" when you're there in October?  Drives me mad anyway, so I've decided to try something I've not done before on the blog - at the start of each season I shall post 5 fantastic places to visit in Cumbria that tie in perfectly with the season.  (Of course there are far more than 5 places you could be visiting each season, these are just my favourites.)

I don't have any sort of licence to reproduce OS Maps so I'll just direct you to the starting point and you can take the rest from there.

1.  The Langdale Valley.

There are a number of fabulous family walks along the Langdale Valley and the best part is that they start an end at a rather lovely pub.  Park up in the National Trust car park next to the Sticklebarn and head off on a lovely looped walk along the valley floor.  The route is broad and easy to follow with only about 20 metres of road walking in total.

The woodlands and bracken create a riot of autumnal colours and you can enjoy a big bowl of homemade soup in the pub when you're done.

2. Grange and Hampsfell

This is a great one to do on an autumn afternoon.  There a number of free (or very cheap) local walking guides in the Tourist Information Centre so if you want something more detailed nip in there and grab one of those.  Take a route up through Eggerslack Woods and on to the Hospice at the top.  From there the panoramic views stretch from Skiddaw in the north to Blackpool Tower in the south.  Tread carefully as you wander the woods and you might just spot a deer.

Head back down into the village, nip into the chippy for a freshly cooked fish supper (wrapped in newspaper!) and take it down to the prom.  There you will find plenty of benches where you can sit and watch the migrating birds coming and going along the estuary as the sun goes down.  It's worth checking the tide times too - if you can time the whole lot to coincide with on of our high tides you could even try a paddle.

3.  Red Screes

If you wake up and it looks like a dull, grotty, foggy old day, leap into the car with a hot flask of coffee and a bag of sarnies and take off for Red Screes - one of the very best places to see an inversion.  

Wind your way up Kirkstone Pass and park in the car park opposite the Kirkstone Pass Inn (handy for a good meal afterwards).  From there take the signposted footpath at the far end of the car park and follow it all the way up onto the summit (it's very clear the whole way up with stone steps for much of the way, but still be sure to go properly clothed and equipped).  By now you should have popped out of the top of the inversion and can enjoy a day of brilliant sunshine and magnificent views.

4.  Burns Beck Moss

This is one that most people never see - it's a tiny little tucked away Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserve around 5 miles east of Kendal (just south of Killington Reservoir if you're trying to find it on a map or you could just click here,)  There's a very short waymarked route around the site which won't take you long at all, but in the autumn it's good old mish mash of coloured grasses and golden waterlillies and I can pretty much guarantee you'll have the whole place to yourselves. Unless we're there...

5. Wansfell

I absolutely love Wansfell in the autumn - there's just something about the colours there that makes the place special.  Plus the route from Town End is such a clear, broad track that you can enjoy the sunset from High Skelghyll (a most perfect picnic spot too) and still make it safely back to the car (assuming you've taken a torch).  There are also an assortment of routes leading directly out of Ambleside to the summit - which means they also lead directly back into Ambleside and the many pubs and restaurants there should you require some post hike sustenance.  Not that I'm obsessed with food and drink or anything...