Monday, 16 July 2018

Me Time

This blog is inspired by a very good friend of mine, she will remain nameless but she'll know who she is.  Like many of us she is crazy busy and is definitely the sort of person about whom you could say "she'll do anything for anyone" but, also like many of us, the one person she rarely does anything for is herself.

We've all been there, racing around trying to do a million things at once then wondering why we feel so frazzled.  In an era where long hours and stressed out lives are worn like a badge of honour taking a day out to focus on yourself seems sinful; like somehow you're failing, or not trying hard enough.  "I've had a long day" you say. "Hah! You think *you've* had a long day - wait till you hear about mine!" comes the reply, and so the competition begins.

Well, today I had a "me" day and I don't even feel a little bit guilty, so there! I'm working in Edinburgh in the morning so instead of working all day on projects at home and arriving late this evening, I got an early train and enjoyed a flipping big yomp around the city (not everyone's idea of a fun day, but it was MY day & I loved it!).

I munched my favourite chocolates, made my squash extra strong and instead of reheating the pot of homemade chilli I brought with me I ate it cold, from the tub, whilst sat on Portobello beach - something that definitely would NOT have happened had my lovely husband been with me.

Working hard is fine, but so is taking time out to recharge your batteries. In fact it's essential - and particularly challenging for the self employed where the notion of a regular working week flew out the window some time ago.

In my non-writing life I deliver courses on time management and stress management and it's sad to see how many people are missing out on time with loved ones, or doing things they love, because of being tied to an office (or smartphone!) So, do yourself a favour, over the next 7 days take some time out to focus on you - even if it's just an hour - I promise the world won't end, and it may just do you some good.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

The Five Coolest Walks in Cumbria

As the record temperatures continue I have a confession to make:  I really do NOT get on well with hot weather.  Sunny is fine, but I don't fare well in the heat which makes getting out for a hike in this weather problematic.  I'm fair skinned and burn easily, which also doesn't help, so I have two choices:  stay indoors in a darkened room with all the windows open or find a decent walk which won't fry me to a crisp.  As I get very easily bored the first option doesn't really work for more than a day or so, so plan B it is - and here are my five favourite "keep cool" walks in Cumbria.

PLEASE NOTE:  You know the routine - even on a cool walk ensure you have a decent hat, high SPF cream smothered all over you, long sleeves and plenty of fluids.

Derwent Water

Although it's a good long hike (around 9 miles) to complete a full lap of the lake, it's mostly flat and huge sections of it are in woodland so there are plenty of places to avoid the heat of the sun.  The last time I did it I loaded the rucksack with drinks and snacks and took most of the day over it (hot weather is not the time for speedy hikes!) and I enjoyed plenty of stops along the way.  The other perk to a hike around Derwent Water is that if you decide you've had enough half way around you can jump on the gondola to get back into Keswick.  Perfect!

Armathwaite - River Eden

River Eden

The Eden Valley is one of the most beautiful corners of Cumbria and a stroll along the banks of the Eden is a joy at any time of the year, however during very hot spells it also has the added benefit of being largely shady and that, together with the ever present river, results in a very cool and pleasing hike with plenty of gorgeous views along the way.  (You may recall we recently went headhunting along the River Eden and, if you missed that, it's right here.)

Hampsfell - Grange-over-Sands

Hampsfell Hospice
It may be a hill but the beauty of Hampsfell is that for most of the climb upwards you're walking through the cool woods of Eggerslack.  True, the last section is exposed but by then you've got a cooling breeze and, at the summit, there's the Hospice where you can sit in the shade and catch your breath.  After that there are the dramatic limestone pavements to explore and a long cool descent through either Eggerslack or Charney woods - either way you end up back in the village where there are a plethora of excellent cafes, pubs and pie shops to choose from.

St Bees Cliffs

St Bees Cliffs
What this walk lacks in shade it makes up for with sea breezes, plus it's a great one way walk and those can be hard to come by.  There are regular busses and trains between St Bees and Whitehaven so, whichever one you start from you know there's an easy way back.  One of my favourite walks is to enjoy a nice pub lunch in St Bees before setting off and then arrive into Whitehaven in time for a chippy tea.  Be sure to leave plenty of time for exploring though as there is loads of fascinating history around Whitehaven and a number of excellent museums (including the superb, and much underrated Rum Story)

Duddon Valley

Pretty much every time I write about the Duddon Valley, someone tells me off for "giving away the secret", but it is a spectacular valley and it would be a shame if all of those breathtaking views went to waste!  There are plenty of paths around the valley, most are not too hilly and plenty of them are in the shade.  If you fancy exploring then do the unthinkable - turn left at Torver (where everyone else turns right to get to Coniston), then take the first road on your right (narrow and steep) and follow it until you find the two small car parks.  From the car parks there are paths down through the woods to Appletree Worth and on over to the River Lickle and a beautiful woodland path.

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