Friday, 20 January 2017

Cumbria: True of False?

View from Friars Crag
Time for something a little different - a fun quiz all about Cumbria.  I don't have the fancy software to set one up with whistles and bells so we'll have to do it the old fashioned way.  Below are 20 statements about Cumbria, all you have to do is identify which 10 are true and which ten are false.  At the bottom is a link to another page on the blog where you can check your answers.  Oh - and I should perhaps warn you, it's not entirely serious...or is it?

1.  Friar's Crag is named as it was the site of a popular Victorian chippy.

2.  They used to race horses on the top of Racecourse Hill - that's how it got its name.

3.  Someone once tried to blow up Long Meg with dynamite but was stopped by angry villagers who said a storm that blew up at the same time was a sign she was displeased.

4.  Coniston is an ancient measure of weight.  One Coniston = 2 x Ulverstons or 5 Wigtons

5.  Haggs Wood near Arnside is named after giant flying worms that were said to live there.

6.  Surprise View is so called because it marks the spot where William Wordsworth jumped out from behind a tree and surprised Dorothy.

7.  Maryport is a Cumbrian coastal town just to the north of Mungoport and Midgeport

8.  Fairfield gets its name from the giant Ferris Wheel and Helter Skelter which once marked the summit.

9.  Grange-over-Sands got its name from an angry vicar who was fed up of his post going to Grange in Borrowdale.

10. Tebay marks the site of an ancient tea market.

11.  Parting Stone near Grizedale Tarn is named to commemorate the spot where Wordsworth said goodbye to his brother.

12. The pub in Kentmere village was once so rowdy it changed British law.

13.  Levens is the site of the first bakery in Britain to add yeast to its bread.

14. Tarmac was invented in a quiet valley just outside Arnside.

15.  Kendal is twinned with the US town of Barbidal

16.  The street plan of New York is based on Whitehaven.

17. The trouser press was invented in Kirkby Stephen.

18.  The monks of Furness Abbey were world class smugglers.

19.  Hardknott Pass takes its name from the adjacent Roman Fort.  They placed a gate across the road which was secured two ropes joined in a complex knot.

20.  There was once a plan to drill into Shap Granite as a source of geothermal energy.

How do you think you did then?  Check here for the answers.  And if you enjoyed it then it's worth getting a copy of our book, it's chock full of fascinating, true, facts about Cumbria.

View from Arnside Knott

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Do more of less

I have a number of friends, and family members, who suffer with depression.  During my twenties I also suffered very badly from depression and spent five years taking assorted concoctions of pills and attending counselling sessions all of which, thankfully, helped me enormously and, although I've had my moments, I've not looked back.

Thing is, I think it's much harder dealing with depression these days than it was well over twenty years ago when I went through it (yes, I am that old!).  Why?  Because back then I only had to worry about getting myself better and I was only really aware of the goings on within my fairly small group of friends.  These days, thanks to social media, you are bombarded on a daily basis with photos and updates of everyone's perfect life - how can your miserable life possibly live up to those expectations?
Leighton Moss- my sanity restorer
The truth is though, no-one's life is really that perfect - trust me on that.  I know because part of my job requires me to coach and train other people so I know that we are all riddled with the same insecurities.  I also know because I am riddled with the same doubts and insecurities.  I am also aware that my photos and blogs can often give the impression that we have this perfect new life, which I'm a bit annoyed at myself about because I swore back here that I'd never do that.

I am a passionate believer that reconnecting with the outdoors - even if it's just a daily walk around the park - will help with feelings of depression and desperation.  And it's not just me that thinks that - have a read of this piece of research from Stanford University.

Some may wonder how could our "amazingly perfect" new life could be anything other than idyllic in every way.  After all, isn't it the sort of thing thousands of people dream of doing?  Well, simply to demonstrate that life up here isn't just about cakes and amazing views, here are some of our realities (and I am NOT sharing these for any other reason than to demonstrate the difference between social media life and real life)
  1. I work freelance to support us and there are days when I feel so overwhelmed by that responsibility, I feel like my head might explode.  Much as I made light of my accidents last year (here and here) the truth is it meant I lost over 2 months worth of work and even managed to have a negative income month when I had to refund a client for 2 days work I'd missed due to the accident.
  2. When we first moved up here I was working full time, using all my holiday days to build my freelance work and working in the evenings to try and break into the world of writing.  Despite all this we were utterly potless.  One month I recall that around the 18th of the month I had £2 to get me through to payday on the 28th.  I didn't have a bean anywhere else.  The next day an envelope got passed around for a colleague's leaving present - someone I really liked - and I had to wait until no-one was looking so I could slip just 50p in.  I  have never told them and I still feel really bad about not being able to give more.
  3. We can't have kids.  To be fair we knew that before we moved up here, but it's not something you get over in a heartbeat.  Luckily we have each other and a fairly pragmatic view on life.  We have our health and there are far worse things we could have been hit with - but it takes a bit of getting used to.  One thing we decided to do was to try and live the sort of life folks are always saying they'd live "if it wasn't for the kids" - but there are still plenty of times when it smacks you in the face.

The list goes on - we bicker and fight like most married couples but it's not something I post pictures of on social media.  Nor do I post pictures of the things I mentioned above.  Why?  Because a) you're unlikely to be in the mood to take a photo to capture those moments ("You're infertile - say cheese!") and b) they wouldn't be popular anyway, but by only posting pics of the good stuff we all continue to give the impression that life is perfect when it so very rarely is.

If your mental health is sound then it may not bother you that much, but if you're suffering from any sort of depression it can become overwhelming.

I don't have a magic cure for depression - I really wish I did.  I remember when I was going through it the thing that scared me and liberated me the most was finally coming to the realisation that I was responsible for me.  No-one else could fix me - they could help - but ultimately only I was responsible for me, I had to control all the nasty little voices in my head telling me I was rubbish.  How scary is that?

Anyway, in an effort to help, here are my top tips for reconnecting with nature to help with depression:
  • Do more of less.  Spend more time doing fewer things and less time racing from one thing to another trying to keep up with what you think everyone else is doing.
  • Go for a walk.  Sounds too simple but that's maybe why it's so often overlooked.  Even if it's just to a local park.  Walk slowly - look at the plants, the trees, the birds.  Who cares if you don't know what they're called - you don't have to know that to enjoy them.
  • Grow stuff - if you have a garden, get out in it and grow some fruit of veg - we're new to this and it is SO rewarding.  Some stuff dies, some stuff grows in miniature, but it's a fabulous way to get out there.  If you don't have a garden, get an allotment or grow stuff indoors - herbs, tomatoes, peppers etc. all grow brilliantly on windowsills.
  • Read a good book -  my favourite "outdoors" reads of 2016 were: The Fish Ladder by Katharine Norbury, The Outrun by Amy Liptrot, H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald and Common Ground by Rob Cowen - all of which took my mind outdoors when I was stuck on a train or in a dingy hotel room.
And finally, back to what I said at the start - don't compare the realities of your life to the social media versions of everyone else's life.  Get out there, feel better and have fun.  :-)

(If you don't mind a spot of swearing do take a look at this excellent blog by a good friend of mine who writes about the day to day realities of dealing with depression and anxiety)

Monday, 2 January 2017

Freeview -v- Pay Per View

Forgive me for kicking off the year with a rant, but it's a small one and I'm pretty sure many of you
Windermere - Pay Per View
will share my pain...  Our Christmas and New Years celebrations took us across the country to visit family and, as is our wont, we gave the family the slip a couple of times and went off in search of a walk.  As Steve isn't currently in the market for long hikes and as my wheelchair bound mum was with us on a few occasions, I realised how much parking charges disproportionately affect the less mobile.

Pretty much all of the parking spots that were near to a view had a charge attached to them - the highest we saw was £4 per hour.  We had to dig deep into our local knowledge to locate free car parks near to a nice, flat, walk.  When there's just the two of us in full health we'd happily park some distance from the start point, or take a different route, to avoid parking fees but when one of you is in a wheelchair and another on crutches, that isn't an option - even a blue badge doesn't help as many councils no longer offer free parking in disabled bays.
Dorney Common - surprisingly Freeview

We found this to be particularly true in the South East, although Cumbria can be just as bad.  My rant isn't just for the less able, it's also for the less affluent.  We're not desperately short of cash these days, but if you fancy visiting a few places for a few short walks you can quickly find yourself spending well in excess of £10 per day just on parking - in the midst of an obesity crisis, how is that helping people get outdoors more?  

I honestly don't know what the answer is, but I know part of it should be to stop charging for parking in disabled bays.  I understand that councils need to generate more income in the face of huge cuts but a) charging the disabled isn't the answer and b) lots of the car parks we saw were privately owned anyway.  Or maybe councils could waive fees for one day per month to give everyone the chance to get outdoors and enjoy views from places like Virginia Water, Windermere and Grange-over-Sands (just 3 of the places we've visited over the hols).

For my part I'm going to fly in the face of (some) public opinion and talk about where we park for free when I'm writing blogs (I've genuinely had folks ranting at me for talking about "secret" free parking) - but for now, here are a few more of our festive views - most of which are Freeview because I'm mean that way...  Happy New Year!

Burnham Beeches - Pay Per View

Coniston Water - Freeview

Chapel of St Mary Magdalene - Freeview

Lancaster Canal - Freeview

View from Gummer's How - Freeview

Walk to the shops - Chalfont St Peter - Freeview

Chalfont Common - Freeview