Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Be careful what you wish for...

I feel that 2020 may be all my fault.  One year ago today I wrote this blog about how 2019 had gotten away from me and how my wish was to spend more time at home in 2020.  Boy, did that wish come true.  After a couple of mini adventures in January, February and March, everything screeched to a rather dramatic halt.  I dug out my old work handbag the other day and found my final train ticket in there, dated 12th March 2020 - for someone who used to rack up intergalactic mileage on the trains every year, this has been quite a change of pace.

The mini adventures

Before lockdown hit work took me to Dublin and Littlehampton

Cliff walk near Bray (Dublin)


As usual, I tagged on some extra time for exploring, which was all very lovely, but still rather at odds with my plan to spend more time at home.

In March, the week before lockdown, we finally got away together in Delores for a week in Clitheroe - it really is a lovely spot and well worth exploring - the sculpture trails alone make it worth the trip.

Sculpture Trail - Clitheroe
Lessons from lockdown

Since March we've barely left Cumbria - we took one trip to Wolverhampton to see my elderly mum during the lockdown reprise over the summer, and a couple of trips to Morecambe for some flat walks after I stuffed my leg in July.  Have I missed all the travelling?  Not one single bit of it.  I have had zero lonely nights in hotels, zero unapetising train picnics, loads more sleep and have spent tons more time with Steve (which I have absolutely loved and I'm hoping he's enjoyed it too! 😁 )

Not that this year has been easy - far from it - we lost our entire income and were firmly in the group that qualified for zero government support - but I'm a stubborn old mule and by working incredibly hard together (another big plus, we have dug deep and worked our collective socks off together this year) we are still here.  As with any tough journey, lessons have been learned along the way, so I thought I'd share the things we've learned during 2020 in case they are of help to anyone else.

  • Focus on "can" not "can't" - I keep banging on about this, but it is absolutely at the heart of everything we do.  There have been an enormous amount of "can'ts" in 2020, but there have been plenty of "cans" too.
  • Ask for help.  Honestly we would not be here if it weren't for each other and the support of family and friends. In April, May and June we had absolutely nothing and I was utterly humbled by the way our friends stepped up to offer help and support, They even sent gin!
  • Learn new things.  We have learned countless new tech platforms this year as we completely reinvented our business.  There were some very long weekends, lots of tears of frustration and several entertaining mishaps - like the time I pressed the wrong button and kicked every single delegate out of a training session mid way through.  Ooops!  We survived though!
  • Set firm boundaries between home and work - if you work from home, that's not always easy, but try changing clothes at the end of the day, going for a 'fake commute walk' before you start and after you finish, hide your work stuff away when you're not using it, and avoid saying "Just this one more email" - it will still be there when you log on tomorrow.
  • Be nice to yourself - we have all had a crap year and we're all feeling pretty fraught just now, so ease up and quit beating yourself up for not living up to your impossibly high standards.  I've always hated the expression 'guilty pleasure' - just take time out to indulge in what you love, whether that's The Times crossword or bingewatching the every episode of Friends.
  • Accept change.  This is a toughie, but things won't magically 'go back to normal' - we've all been changed by this.  One of my favourite quotes on change comes from the "Way of the Peaceful Warrior" by Dan Millman: "The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new."
Of course I've also learned to enjoy flat walks, thanks to my slow healing leg, and have enjoyed watching the seasons change on my many (many!) walks along Grange prom.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us this year by buying books, sending gin and/ or buying us a virtual coffee - we really do appreciate it!  Here's hoping 2021 is a little less eventful - and I hope your new year is a peaceful and happy one.

DON'T FORGET - we still have all our books for sale right here - perfect for a virual escape or for planning your next Cumbrian adventure!

Friday, 27 November 2020

10 Great Gift Ideas for lovers of Cumbria

It's that time of year again!  And this year this blog is more important than ever - so many of our wonderful small business are facing massive challenges due to the continuing COVID restrictions - even if they're allowed to open, so many regions near here are in Tier 3 that few people will be able to travel.

BUT we can still support them by shopping online. Trust me, Jeff Bezos won't be worrying about where his Christmas lunch is coming from, or whether he'll still be in business next year, but plenty of small business right across the country will.

Here's my pick of some of the finest gifts and ideas from around Cumbria:

1. Grassmere Gingerbread

How about an absolutely unique taste of the Lake District delivered right to your door?  Grassmere Gingerbread is legendary and as well as tasting great it always arrives perfectly packed too!

Click here to visit Grasmere Gingerbread

2. Go Your Own Way

The guys at GYOW offer a wonderful range of quirky and interesting hand made gifts - everything is made with love and imagination and each gift will be guaranteed to bring a smile to the face of whoever is lucky enough to receive it.

3. Witchmountain Cards & Gifts

Honestly, how pretty are these?  Kim at Witchmountain has a wonderful array of cards, gifts, prints and soft furnishings availbable.  She also offers gift kits and workshops so you can learn to make your own - the perfect gift for your crafty friends!

4. Shed 1 Gin

Zoe and Andy at Shed 1 gin are great friends of ours, which could make you think I'm biased, but it's not just me that loves their gin.  This year they have won another armful of awards, launched their new gin experiences AND found time to support the local community.  Their shop is brimming over with great gift ideas!

Click here to visit the Shed 1 shop

5.  Jo's Little People

At Jo's Little People you can find the perfect little person for anyone in your life - paramedic, bride and groom and a whole host of others, as well as lots of cute little animals to choose from too.  All personally handmade with oodles of love!

Click here to visit Jo's Little People

6.  Unsworths Brewery

So many of us have missed visiting the pub this year, so how about bringing the pub to you?  Unsworth's Brewery were a HUGE support to us when we were writing the Brewers Loop book (out spring 2021) - a bottle of Last Wolf was definitely a big treat for me at the end of a long day!  They have plenty of beers to choose from and they are all made in the heart of Cartmel village.

Click here to visit Unsworth's Brewery

7.  Sam Read Books

Yes, we all know that there's another big website where you can buy books, but how about supporting a local bookseller, selling local books?  Sam Read is in Grasmere village and has been selling books since 1887 - so they know a thing or two about it and would be delighted to give you some expert advice if you're unsure just what to buy.

8.  The Twig Pen People

The lovely folks at The Twig Pen People are also great friends of ours, but I wanted to tell you how they've 'branched out' (you see what I did there?) and now offer lots more gifts!  Take a look at their shop where you'll find a range of gifts, cards, notebooks and, of course, their infamous twigpens!

9.  Top Trumps Birds of the World

You know how hard I try to learn my birds, and you know how I fail...  In my defence, swans and egrets are both white!  These are the prefect way for me to learn more about my birds and have a laugh at the same time, and who doesn't love a good game of Top Trumps?  There are loads of British birds in there too so there will be no excuses for not knowing your house sparrow from your blue tit AND quoting their wingspan to me next time we meet!

10.  Our books

Yes, we still have all our books for sale, and yes, we'd still be delighted to sign them as a Christmas gift.  We offer free postage on orders over £20 and I can personally guarantee that I'll do a happy dance and skip to the post office with each order.  (Video available upon request!)

Sunday, 18 October 2020

The Surprising Hills of South Lakeland

Lockdown, sensible precautions and a stuffed up leg has meant we've been exploring some very different parts of Cumbria recently.  To be fair, we started out in January with the intention of "not walking anywhere we've walked before" and that was all going rather well, up until mid March...  For a few months we kind of stuck to that theme by exploring all the paths we'd never taken through Eggerslack Woods - just over the road from us - then we gradually explored further afield and were about to hit the big hills again when 'leg-gate' stopped me in my tracks.  Literally.

So, low hills and easy toddles have been the order of the day.  The thing that we've noticed is that each time we pop out on the top of a local hillside is how surprised we are with the views.  I completely understand the draw of the high fells, but there is much joy and beauty to be found in the smaller hills, not to mention a lot more peace and quiet.

The other big plus is that many of the smaller hills have benches - very handy for resting dodgy legs as well as making perfect picnic spots.  And on top of all that, there's a lot of limestone in the South Lakes so, even where benches are scarce, there's still somewhere to sit.

Anyway, enough waffle, here are five of our favourite small, local, hills.

Whitbarrow Scar

Whitbarrow Scar was one of the first hills I climbed in the area.  When we were camped up here and looking for a house we were staying nearby and often tootled up to the summit.  There are several routes to the top and, once you're up there, there's a long undulating ridge of craggy limestone with extenstive views of the fells from the northern end and stunning views of Morecambe Bay from the southern tip.  Plus plenty of perfect picnic spots.  Honestly, we love it so much we were even up there on Christmas Day 2019 and enjoyed a turkey sandwich on the top.  Perfect!

Scout Scar

While we're on the subject of scars, the next one along from Whitbarrow is Scout Scar.  The big plus for us this year has been that Scout Scar requires very little effort for very big views.  The car park is an easy walk from the main ridge and many's the time we've stopped off there on the way home from somewhere else to finish our flask of tea on one of the perfectly positioned benches.  It's also 'juniper central' with dozens of juniper bushes scattered around the limestone scrub.  It's a popular local walk but there are plenty of criss-crossing footpaths and wide open spaces, so plenty of room for everyone. 

Hoad Hill

Certainly the most popular of all the hills in this blog, but it's the only one that has a scale replica of a lighthouse on it, so how can I miss it out?  The thing with The Hoad is that most folks go up and down the same route at the front, which is all well and good as the views are superb, but they miss out on a very lovely, and gentle, descent around the back.  Honestly, it's really easy to spot on an OS map and very easy to follow - it will lead along a lovely enclosed path and past a fabulously detailed infoboard telling you all you need to know about the area.  Not that my life revolves around tea and cake, but around the foot of the pepperpot (as it's known locally) there is plenty of seating so you can put your feet up and enjoy the view.

The Helm

Sorry for the rubbish photo, but the weather was very grey that day.  The views, however, were still stunning!  The Helm is tucked away to the south east of Kendal, just above Oxenholme (look for the station on the map and you'll soon spot The Helm!).  There's limited parking along the tiny road alond the base of the hill and plenty of paths leading up to the summit.  Once up there the panoramic views will definitely take you by surprise - even on a cloudy day there were perfect moody views of the Langdale Pikes, the Howgills, Hutton Roof Crags and Morecambe Bay.  I'd have to mark it down for picnic spots, but with Kendal on your doorstep you'll not be far from tea and cake.

Dixon Heights

Remember the end of lockdown, when everyone went a bit nuts and Cumbria was absolutely rammed with people?  Well, we went off for a full day hike around Dixon Heights (just before I stuffed my leg).  It's just above Lindale and is open access land with plenty of paths as well as lots of opportunities to make your own route.  We spent over 6 hours wandering around in the sunshine, enjoyed a long lazy lunch and generally had a fabulous time and didn't see another soul all day. Call me antisocial but, for me, that was pretty much a perfect day.

We absolutely LOVE exploring hidden away corners and finding out more about them.  There are loads of great stories and ideas for places to visit in our books - please feel free to browse our bookshelves here.  I know they are available elsewhere online, but we are a small local business and would really appreciate your support. Thank you.

Friday, 11 September 2020

How the other half live

North Walney

“Will this do for a lunch spot?”  Amanda pointed towards a nice sandy spot in the middle of the dunes.

“Looks good to me!” Chris smiled and slipped off the tatty old backpack, depositing it onto the sand with a gentle thud.

“Eeewww – sweaty back!”

“I can’t help it, it’s a hot day – oooh that feels nice.” Chris’s t-shirt billowed out as a cool breeze caught it. 

Amanda was already busy unpacking the picnic – sandwiches, tea, cake – she lined them up in the sand between them.  “Where are the crisps?”

“Front pocket”

“Got them!”

They sat together eating lunch and taking in the view.  On a clear sunny day like this North Walney had a hint of the Caribbean about it, with light sandy beaches stretching off into the distance and sparkling blue sea surrounding the dunes. 

An aeroplane passed overhead, descending on its way into the local airport.

Chris squinted into the sky, staring intently at the plane.  “A Gulfstream G500 – nice.  Very nice.”

“You are such a plane nerd!” teased Amanda.

“That,” said Chris “is one of the most exclusive private jets in the world.  The whole of the interior is lined with leather and wood, with made to measure seats – it even has marble floors; and all for just £44 million or so, depending on the finish.”

“Forty four million pounds?”  Amanda watched as it flew by.  “ I think I just saw a face at the window – couldn’t see who it was, must be someone famous.  Imagine having all that money.  You’d never have to worry about paying the mortgage again, or fixing the car.”  She pulled at the sleeve of her t-shirt, studying a fresh hole that had appeared there that morning.

“I’m sure they have their own worries.”

“Yeah, but money wouldn’t be one of them!”  The plane disappeared out of sight behind the dunes and down into the airport.  “What would you do if we had that sort of money?”

“It’s almost impossible to say – I can’t really imagine it.  We could get a swimming pool for a start, although I’m not sure where we’d put it.”

Amanda snorted “Where would we put it?  With that sort of money we could get a whole new house!  I’m thinking two pools, one indoor and one out!”

Chris poured another mug of tea from their blue flask, battered and chipped with the scars of previous adventures. “We could get a bigger flask too! Or push the boat out and get two!”

“Sod the flasks – we could fly to India and buy our own tea plantation!  We’d make sure all the workers were well paid and looked after, of course.”

“Of course” Chris smiled.

“And we could buy a massive woodland somewhere and protect it – but still let people come and visit so they could see the birds.  Maybe we could have a café with the best cakes in the world – I know, we’ll get Mary Berry in to bake them all!”

“I’m not sure she’d agree…”

“Of course she would, she must be bored now she’s not on Bake Off any more.”

“And just how do you plan to get all of this money?  Got a rich relative you’ve not told me about?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  We could buy a lottery ticket on the way home.  I’m feeling lucky!”  Amanda snuggled up next to Chris who draped a protective arm around her shoulder, pulling her in close.

Chris kissed the top of her head and smiled. “I think we’re both pretty lucky as it is. Do you want the last swig of tea?” and handed Amanda the mug.


The plane taxied to a halt.  Princess Margareta uncrossed her elegant legs and slowly stood up; she smoothed down the creases in her white linen skirt and walked over to the mirror in the private bathroom suite.  Peering at her reflection she twisted her head to see if any grey hairs were showing, then stretched the skin around her eyes to hide the few wrinkles which had begun to grow there.

“You look gorgeous.”

She turned to smile at Sarah, stood in the doorway.

“You always say that.”

 “Short red power jacket or comfy green coat?” Sarah held up the two options for Margareta to choose from.

“Let’s go with the red, I need all the help I can get today.”

Sarah hung the green coat on the back of the door and handed over the red jacket.

Taking the jacket with one hand, Margareta brushed a hair from Sarah’s face with the other, allowing it to rest for a moment on her cheek as their eyes met. 

Sarah reached up and covered Margareta’s hand with her own, pressing it closer to her cheek, before removing it from her face and gently kissing her palm.

Margareta sighed. “I am so tired of this.  Why can’t I just be me?  Why can’t we be together like normal people?”

“Because we just can’t.  It is what it is. Can you imagine the headlines?  I could never do that to you or your family.”

“Times were different when we first met, I could understand it back then, but the world has moved on, surely they would accept us now?”  She squeezed Sarah’s hand, still locked tightly in her own.

“The press would have a field day.  ‘Gay Princess Never Loved Late Husband’ –  that’s just what they’re like.  Archie was a good man, we both know that.”

Margareta sighed. “You’re right; I know you are, it just feels so unfair.  Did you see those two women on the beach as we flew over just now?  Cuddled up close, enjoying a picnic in the sunshine and not a care in the world.”  She let go of Sarah’s hand and slipped on the red jacket, scooping her hair out from under the collar and allowing it to tumble around her shoulders. “What I wouldn’t give to be just like them – we could go anywhere and do anything and no one would give a damn.”

“I know, but we still have so much.”

Margareta sighed and gently kissed Sarah’s cheek.  They stood for a moment, foreheads touching, no words needed. Then, turning, she took a deep breath, pulled back her shoulders and made her way to the plane exit.

She paused at the cabin door, looking backwards to Sarah for one last reassuring glance.  Sarah bobbed out her tongue causing Margareta to giggle, before quickly composing herself.  She then fixed her smile and stepped out of the aircraft and into the bright sunshine to greet the officials awaiting her arrival on the tarmac.

If you enjoy short stories based in Cumbria then check out my book - it has 10 shot stories, all set in the county, with photos and a location guide for each chapter.  CLICK HERE to buy yours (Currently only available via Amazon)

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Alone again, naturally

One thing that is becoming more apparent to me as lockdown restrictions ease, is that I'm a bit of a freak.  I mean, I've always known I was a bit weird, but now I feel as if I am decidedly odd, and definitely at odds with most of the rest of the country.

I adored the solitude of lockdown.  I have loved being at home.  I still do - I am not remotely bored with it.

Days gradually became a whirl of Zoom meetings and delivering online courses, punctuated with lovely leisurely lunches of freshly made sarnies and a proper cup of tea.  Every morning and evening I would wander off into nearby Eggerslack woods, following barely trodden paths to enjoy time completely alone, far away from the rest of the world and the ping of my mobile phone.  I saw deer - honest I did - though the varmints always legged it before I could get my camera out.

Then I broke my leg.  Not the worst thing in the world by a long way, but it meant my solitary walks in the woods were off the agenda - way off.

Week one wasn't so bad as I was completely housebound and we're lucky enough to have enough space to escape each other - although still close enough for Steve to hear my pleas for a cup of tea (most of the time!)

Week two onward was when I really began to feel it - the fact that I couldn't escape anywhere alone.  At a time when restrictions were easing and friends were excitedly heading off on holidays, or meeting up with other friends and family, all I wanted was to do was to go for a walk alone.  Completely alone.  Like I did in the woods.

Although I could get around a bit more, I could only tackle flat tarmac and, even then, only for short distances, as I rebuilt the strength in my leg.  The thing is, just about all nice flat walks with a view are incredibly popular.  We found quieter spots, but I craved solitude at a time when everyone else in the world seemed to be craving other people.

Morecambe - perfect place for a flat walk

I tried not to get cranky, but I may, on occasion, have failed.  I read an article about a child who had been desperately sick but "not complained once" - sadly the same would never be said of me.  If there's one thing my broken leg and lack of mobility has taught me, it's that I am going to be a hell of a handful when I'm old and less mobile.  Seriously, I will be a cantankerous old moo and possibly the scourge of any retirement home I end up in.  Remember Waiting for God?  Diana will seem angelic by comparison.

Desperate to push myself to regain some independence and solitude I persuaded Steve that Hoad Hill in Ulverston would be a great idea.  True, there would be people, but if we went late in the day and took the pretty way down we could enjoy some peace.  It worked - and my leg didn't fare too badly.  (It's week 6 - I was expecting to be throwing somersaults by now.)

Lulled into a dangerous sense of "I'm fine now, honest I am" I suggested Black Combe for Bank Holiday Monday.  I love Black Combe.  I mean *really* love it.  Steve tried suggesting it was, perhaps, a little ambitious.  I fixed him with my "Diana stare".  He relented.  Game on!

I struggled in a couple of places on the way up - a few slightly steeper sections that I simply did not have the strength in my leg to pull myself up - but I am nothing if not sheer bloody minded.  We took a long lunch break half way up in the sunshine and eventually made it to the top around 3pm, where I collapsed in the shelter with a flask of hot tea and a handful of painkillers - but I'd made it - and the best part lay ahead!

Solitude at last!
Pretty much everyone who goes up Black Combe returns down the same path.  Not me.  I head off the northern side, dropping down to Butcher's Breast then following the path along the bottom back to Silecroft. Yes, it was far too far and overly ambitious and yes, I was in a huge amount of pain by the end of it.  BUT we only saw one other person between leaving the summit around 3:15pm and limping back to the car just before 8pm.  Solitude.  Utterly blissful solitude.  

Every single ounce of pain was worth spending time alone on a beautiful hillside, on an utterly perfect day.  I totally understand that, for many folks, the exact opposite is true, and it's fantastic to see friends excited about spending time together again but, for now at least, I will relish the opportunity to get back to my precious, solitudinous, walks.  

Whoop Whoop!

Fell Cottage - every time we pass I dream of living here...

Selling books was an absolute lifeline for us through lockdown.  If you want to support us by buying our books, you can find them all right here.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Touching the Gin

A blog inspired by Joe Simpson's book, but with less blood and more gin.

As pretty much all of you will be aware, I am currently off the fells and nursing a broken foot.  I don't even have a god story to go with it - I was spring cleaning and fell downstairs when I was looking for the feather duster.  The best part is, it turns out the feather duster was upstairs all along.  Anyhoo...

Being incapacitated for a couple of weeks and now being mobile but slow and wobbly has given me time to reflect on all the teeny tiny things about hiking that I have been taking for granted but can now no longer do.  I like to think of myself as someone who has always pondered the smaller details, but there's a lot I have missed.

Also, although this is a light and cheery blog, these events have totally driven home to me issues around access to the outdoors that I had not previously considered.  That's a topic I am not even remotely qualified to tackle, but if you're interested in learning more about that then follow Debbie North, she's the accessibility champion for Julia Bradbury's The Outdoor Guide.

Right, back to the list of things I have missed...

1. Carrying things - for the first two weeks I was totally reliant on my crutches and couldn't even carry a cup of tea.  I repurposed my rucksack for a lot of the carrying and using flasks for hot drinks, but a G&T simply does not taste the same out of a flask.

2.  Pulling on a fresh pair of walking socks - who knew socks were so complicated?  I can just about do them on my own now - on the plus side I had to invest in some very snazzy long socks to go under my aircast.  Whaddya think?

3. The comforting feeling of a good pair of walking boots - I *love* my boots but it's going to be a good 6 weeks or so before I can wear them again.  Or at least wear both of them.  I love the safe and secure feeling of lacing them up and knowing I'm good to go!

4.  Walking without pain - a small thing but worth mentioning.  Walking has always been my 'thing' - not just on the fells but everywhere.  I have walked through towns and cities whenever I can - you always learn so much more about a place that way.  Now that every single step is at best uncomfortable (when I walk in the house) and at worst really painful (after 100 yards or so) I truly miss the ease with which I walked everywhere without giving it a second thought.

5. The sound of grass on my boots.  I *love* this sound.  I posted this short video on my FB page a month or so ago but hardly anyone paid it any attention so I assume it's just me.  There's a very specific sound long grass makes when it bounces off my boots and I love it!

(I *always* get my boots from the fab folks at Keswick Boot Company)

6.  Stiles.  Oh how I have bitched and moaned about stiles at the end of a long hike when all I want is a gate, but no more!  I realise a) how lucky I am to be able to hop over a stile and b) how utterly prohibitive they are if you are less mobile.

7.  Going out alone.  This whole 'new normal' has taken a bit of getting used to for me.  In the past my job saw me travelling the length and breadth of the country and now I never need to leave the house for work.  To restore some sanity I had created a 'fake commute' where each morning and evening I would go for a walk to top and tail my working day - it truly was a sanity saver.  Thing is, for now, I am not allowed out on my own.  I voluntarily handed in my crutches at the earliest opportunity so as not to get overly reliant on them and to get my foot moving again as soon as possible (Doc said he was OK with it if I was), but it's still early days and I need a walking pole on one arm and a bloke on the other.  Don't get me wrong, Steve is indeed a wonderful man, but I do miss going out on my own.

8.  The people I meet - during my fake commute I've chatted to plenty of people and really enjoyed getting to know a few 'regulars' that I'd bump into most mornings. Obviously I've no way of letting them know I'm out of action, and I wonder if they have even noticed I've vanished, but I do miss the quick chats and making friends with assorted dogs.

9.  Being invisible - this one was a big shock to me.  I've often heard people say that they feel invisible in wheelchairs but, for me, it has been the exact opposite.  In order to cover a reasonable distance at a reasonable speed, we gratefully accepted the loan of a wheelchair from a lovely friend.  This enabled us to get all the way from Hest Bank to Morecambe Jetty and back over the weekend.  Never have I been so stared at!  We made the journey with a combo of me walking a little then Steve pushing me in the chair.  When I was in the chair I was constantly stared at and was quite taken aback that no-one thought it a particularly rude thing to do.  Mind you, Steve wasn't to be entirely trusted with wheelchair duty...

10.  Chocolate biscuits!  Honestly - you thought lockdown was bad! I'm barely burning any calories at the moment so am on a strict 'no snacks' diet.  Oh how I miss a long day yomping over the fells with a rucksack full of sarnies and chocolate, and coming home to a huge pizza or plate of pasta, knowing that I have burned it all off during the day.  I've replaced my favourite chocolate digestive with raw carrots, which I quite enjoy, but it's not the same.  Thanks to the lovely folks at Shed 1, who sent me this as a get well pressie, I can still enjoy my gin ration in the evenings!  Cheers!

And if gin is your thing - check out our Gin, Cake and Rucksacks book where I explore the gin distilleries of Cumbria with a complete stranger.  I'm amazed we didn't break anything then, to be honest!
Click here to order

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Please help Mountain Rescue

If you follow this blog you will know that I very rarely host a guest piece or include news items, but this is crucial.  Mountain Rescue are buckling under the strain of dealing with calls from ill prepared hikers.  Ranting and raging does nothing to help but education does.

Please have a read of the press release below and share it far and wide - to help Mountain Rescue we need to help people understand the risks they take in the fells and how to be better prepared for them.  

Thank you.

Rescuers Plea for Help 

Cumbria Police and the Lake District’s Mountain Rescue Team’s have seen a tidal wave of avoidable rescues that is putting a real strain on our volunteer team members and is unsustainable. Since last Friday evening we have had 19 callouts in the Lake District with a focus on the Wasdale team with 9 of these incidents. Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team cover Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England and a magnet for walkers and climbers. Many of our walkers and climbers are very experienced and know exactly what they are doing. However, 11 of the callouts were truly avoidable with inexperienced and ill prepared walkers finding themselves in serious, life threatening trouble being either missing or lost. 

The Cumbria weather which was accurately forecasted this weekend has caught out many but Cumbria Police have also commented that many are dialling in ‘999’ calls with as little as 1% battery remaining on their mobile phones. This means that after the initial call their battery dies and the mountain rescue team cannot get back to them which makes finding them a bigger challenge requiring more numbers of the volunteers. Many are relying on smart phone mapping apps which drain batteries and no back up. 

The rescue on Scafell Pike late on Saturday night in forecasted atrocious conditions for a family group of three lasted 12 hours and involved five rescue teams. 

Stay vacation holidays are introducing a new type of visitor to the National Parks and the current quarantine rules has the potential to make the matter worse. North Wales is experiencing a similar problem and we are sure that the same is being felt across many of the UK’s outdoor holiday destinations, great for the economy but a real issue for the volunteer rescue teams. 

What can you personally do as a new or even regular visitor to help our volunteer teams? 

Exercise within your limits and avoid taking risks. Know your level of skill, competence and experience and those of your group. Make sure you have the right equipment for your trip to the hills and valleys noting that many of our callouts are low down in the valley bottoms. Learn how to navigate, take a water proof map and a compass, don’t rely on smart phone technology it can let you down. Take a torch, even on the longest days, you never know when your activity will catch you out or you go to the help of a fallen, cragfast or lost walker. Take a power bank battery charger it will save you a lot of grief plus allow you to take even more of the memory photos. 

Be kind to our volunteers and respectful to our emergency service, our rural communities and to our farmers. 

There is good and essential advice on the website Adventure Smart UK 

So Stay Safe: #BeAdventureSmart make your good day better.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Five things that made me smile in lockdown

Following on from the previous blog where I was possibly a little less perky than usual - at least that's the way I was feeling when I wrote it - I thought I'd follow it up with something rather more chirpy.  As restrictions ease (I was going to add 'at least for now' but let's be optimistic!) many of us are emerging from the experience rather differently to the way we went in.

The headlines may have focused on the folks who seem to have little respect for the landscape but for many of us it's been about learning new skills, making new friends and appreciating the smaller things in life.

Here are 5 things which have really made me smile over the past few months.

1.  Walks in the sunshine

As I type this it is *pouring* down outside but, let's face it, the weather during lockdown has been amazing!  I still haven't ventured more than 5 miles from our home and during the main lockdown I barely went out at all.  But when we did get out we truly appreciated the fresh air, open spaces and wonderful warm sunshine.  The day the photo above was taken we'd been out for 6 hours and only saw 4 other people - 2 near the start and 2 near the end.  Perfect!

2.  Our Saturday nights in the virtual pub with friends

During the first weekend one of our very good friends, who happens to be an events organiser, created a virtual pub.  There have been talks, charades which have to be mimed using stuffed toys and, of course, a pub quiz.  Everyone has been really inventive with their rounds so me & Steve pitched in.  We started by creating really bad drawings of famous events from history (Mo Farrah winning the 5000m at the London Olympics - obviously 😂) and progressed to making models of cartoon characters (Marvin the Martian - how could you not get that one from our superb recreation? 😁).  We laughed as much putting the rounds together as we did watching the looks on everyone's face as they tried to figure out what it was...

3.  Posh Sunday lunch

One of the highlights was definitely being offered the chance to try out Simon Rogan at Home.  We are lucky enough to live within shouting distance of L'enclume but have never had the cash to visit.  I'll be honest (and Steve will cringe when he reads this, but knows what I'm like!) I was worried it would be 'poncy piles of food' and we'd need a bag of oven chips on standby!  I couldn't have been more wrong!  There was TONS of food - so much that we had mains at lunch time and pud for tea,  All the food is freshly made that morning and comes with full and very easy to follow re-heating instructions.  I was delighted as I've always loved how hard Simon Rogan and his team work to support our local community.  The Simon Rogan at Home 3 course dinner is just £30 or the 2 course Sunday Roast with all the trimmings is just £25. The only downside is that, for now, it's only available in South Cumbria (but they will be expanding their delivery areas) - so check it out next time you're here!

4.  A fizz fuelled lockdown birthday

Yes, I'm one of the folks who has had a birthday in lockdown.  Luckily, these days, I'm not much of a party animal so it wasn't much different to other years.  A few years ago we ran off to Scotland in our camper van to celebrate my 50th with only otters for company.  This year we were obviously at home and managed a soggy toddle in the morning before I hit the airwaves in the evening.  I had full permission from the studio boss to start on the bubbly on song 9 (if you're a Eurovision fan, you'll understand the significance, especially as song 9 was an obscure but lovely Eurovision entry from Malta many years ago!), and he also allowed me an extra 30 mins so I could cram in all my very favourite tunes.  I had an absolute blast!  (You can catch my show Wed/ Thur/ Fri 5-7pm and Sat 9am - 12noon right here.)

5.  Spending more time at home, with him.

Pre lockdown my life was a whirlwind of trains, hotel rooms and random offices.  While the financial downside is indeed huge, I have massively enjoyed spending more time at home and larking around with Steve.  I really feel for all those who have been isolated during lockdown.  Three months on and I am not even close to being bored of spending so much time at home.  In fact I really hope that the way we're being forced to reinvent our business will enable me to spend more time at home in future and a lot less time in lonely hotel rooms.  I think the cats are getting fed up of me now, but Steve seems to be coping ok...

Don't forget you can support us in two ways.  You can find all of our books right here - and we are happy to sign them for gifts etc. if you'd like.  You can also support the blog by buying us a 'virtual coffee' right here.  Thank you.