I’ve been really neglecting my blog of late but I have a reason for that, and that is…
I’ve a new job! I got a full time job at the cardio-respiratory dept at the New Royal, doing general reception/admin work. I’ve been there over two months and still enjoying it!
A few weeks into my new job, we had a week booked at a boathouse on the shores of Loch Tay. The week before the UK had temperatures reaching the early 30°s but during our week in Scotland, it felt more autumnal. In fact the water was warmer than the air temperature!
Loch Tay is the sixth largest loch in Scotland, 15 miles long and 508ft deep. It shelved off pretty quickly from our beach by the boathouse and made for a dark, mysterious swim.
The boathouse we stayed in was called Osprey. A bird that has caught my wonder these past few years. So it was fated that we should holiday there. Here’s some photos of the boathouse and the lovely roe deer that walked silently around the wooded shore.
On our journey north it rained constantly, and the rain didn’t let up during my first swim that evening. It was a splashily, wonderful swim, with mist caressing the mountains and raindrops piercing the water.
Our second day dawned a little drier and after breakfast we headed out in search of a loch or two to swim in. I had planned on doing a few swims that week, but in reality, some of the lochs were difficult to get to. The first one was Loch Kennard which looked nice on Google maps but not with a massive deforestation happening all around. We drove further up the road towards Loch Freuchie but we couldn’t find anywhere to park, so decidedly deterred, we headed back towards the boathouse and ended up doing a circula waterfall walk called the Falls of Acharn which were pleasant enough. If it was good enough for Robert Burns and the Wordsworth’s then it was good enough for David and I.
After lunch we headed to the shores of Loch Tay where I had my second swim. It was a very windy, choppy affair.
Day three was our best day!
We got up for the sunrise, but I wasn’t feeling it for a swim, so I enjoyed the show from the shore.
Later on that morning we drove towards Loch of the Lowes, a small, picturesque nature reserve where ospreys breed. This year their adults had reared two chicks. On arrival we heard a begging chick chirrup for a fish dinner but when we entered the hides, we had to wait over an hour to see an osprey. We were very lucky as we saw both chicks and David managed to get some good photos. Mine I took from the telescopes. I was elated to have seen an osprey or two but we were chilled to the bone from the cold wind blowing over the reserve.
That afternoon, the sun seemed to gain some warmth and we drove a little further down the road to Loch of Clunie. We found some off road parking and I went for another swim. It was the warmest swim of the holiday, at 20° but it was the shallowest! I waded out for what seemed like miles to get some swimmable depths.
That evening after returning back to the boathouse, I enjoyed the best night swim I’ve ever had! The water was still, moths flew overhead, bats circled around me and a male tawny owl hooted from the shore. It was a magical experience. I’m not sure it can be bettered!
Day four dawned gloomily. We took a long drive towards the shores of Loch Rannoch. It needn’t have been as long but I’d planned on swimming from a certain point and when we got there the car park was closed, so we had to find an alternative entrance. I can’t say I enjoyed the swim that much as it was rather choppy, and I was frozen to the bone by the chilling wind.
I had planned on another swim at Loch Faskally but being rather cold I decided I’d had enough and we headed back to the boathouse to enjoy our last remaining evening.
With a glass or two of wine in me, wrapped up in a blanket and listening to relaxing classical music, I sat on the veranda and watched as the gloaming settled. Bats flew over the surface of the lake, clouds parted revealing a bright half moon, and ducks snuffled on the beach below. It was a most relaxing evening.
I would definitely recommend staying at a loch side cabin, whether at Loch Tay or another loch. I may not have had the amount of swims I did as last years holiday to the Trossachs but sharing my moments with wildlife, being ospreys or hooting tawny owls was magical!
David and I have been back home for a week now after having had a wonderful week away to Scotland’s Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. During the holiday, we had some wonderful weather, which makes me think that having to cancel the same holiday last October was a good thing, though at the time it didn’t feel such a positive. Thankfully we managed to book for the same place as was first planned and everything came together perfectly. This is what we got up to on day one of our Scotland 2021 holiday!
Our Monday morning began by finishing packing our suitcases and then loading up the car with all our supplies for the week ahead. We left Artie in the care of my mum and embarked on our four hour plus journey north. We hit the M6 at 10am, passing The Lake District before the long slog through the lowlands of Scotland. We stopped off for lunch at Gretna Green Services which was busy with holidaymakers. Our journey passed Glasgow and Stirling before we drew close to our destination for the next four nights, Callander and the shores of Loch Venachar.
We arrived at East Lodge, Cabin on the Loch at the scheduled 3pm. We let ourselves in and quickly orientated ourselves. The cabin has bi-folding doors which opens to a wonderful north-west view of Loch Venachar, and mountains Ben Venue and Ben Ledi. One of my wishes was to stay at a cabin overlooking water and mountains and finally, now I had.
After resting from the long journey, David and I headed towards the rocky, sandy beach for my first swim of the holiday! I’d packed 12 swim suits for this swim holiday, and Loch Venachar was to be my first swim of many that week!
Loch Venechar not only welcomed David and I holidaying in 2021, but was also visited in 1869 by Queen Victoria and her children. The loch is reported to be the home of an each-uisge or water horse (kelpie). Sometime in the 1800’s, fifteen children were playing near the loch and were enticed by the kelpie into the water to their deaths. There is a wood on the north side of the loch called The Wood of Woe. Sadly during my many swims in Loch Venachar, I did not spy the each-uisge, during sunrise, noon or night.
After my swim, we headed back to the cabin to relax. While I had a shower, David spent time photographing the visiting birds on the feeders before we settled down and had dinner, of M&S pizza and salad and watched the sunset.
An early night beckoned as we had three swim planned the next day!
It’s the time of year for reminiscing and after the year its been, a little dreaming will do us some good.
Last December David and I jetted over the Atlantic from Manchester to New York City. It was our first holiday abroad in over ten years, so we were a little nervous. The anxiety levels weren’t helped when our shuttle taking us to the airport was 40 minutes late and wouldn’t have arrived if David hadn’t complained! Thankfully another taxi driver stepped in and we arrived at Manchester Terminal 1 in time to check-in and get through the stressful security, which in reality wasn’t as bad as expected.
We traveled with Jet2 and the service we received I thought was decent, though being a budget airline there was no in-flight entertainment. The flight reached heights of 37,000 ft and took eight hours, which we whiled away by reading, eating a pre-booked lunch, writing about my observations and watching a Christmas film on my laptop. Looking back the eight hours flew by and before we knew it, we were looking out from the planes window onto a snowscape of Canada and north-east USA below.
The landing on American soil at Newark Airport, New Jersey was bumpy, with relieved passengers giving the pilot a round of applause as we touched down. Our first look of the New York skyline was of the Empire State building from the runway. We disembarked the plane to Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York! Cheesy!
We spent another hour standing in a queue for passport control. I felt that this was the most stressful part of the whole procedure, the last hurdle to US soil. Having taken digital shots of our finger prints and mug shots I finally got a stamp in my passport and we were allowed through. We collected our luggage and went in search of a Jet2 representative who had details of our shuttle to take us to our hotel in Manhattan.
We sat for what felt like an eternity with other holiday makers in the airports lounge awaiting shuttles to take us to our hotels. Finally David’s name was called and we were on our way! Newark Airport is about an hours drive from Manhattan and it took longer than this due to driving through the heavy traffic of New York City’s roads, and watching as every other passenger was dropped off at their flash looking hotels before we arrived at ours. We were the last to be dropped off at our home for the next six nights, The Redbury.
While we were thinking of going to New York we had been looking at staying at The New Yorker but after the collapse of Thomas Cook all hotel and flight prices doubled, so we had to search for another hotel. It was the room colour scheme of The Redbury that I liked and reading about its history, being a woman’s only hotel, that clinched it for me. The hotel has its very own restaurant, Marta which is where we went after check-in.
After stuffing our face with thin crust pizza, David and I donned our winter coats and headed out for our first foray on the streets of Manhattan. We took in the night-time views of the Empire State Building. Walked along a bustling 5th Avenue, watched a light show beamed onto the building of Sacks and Co, before heading towards the Rockefeller Christmas Tree. Our first night in New York was dazzling and we were eager to start on our itinerary the very next day!
After a comfortable night at The Redbury we made an early start come the morning. We walked two hours south towards the One World Observatory at the Freedom Tower, taking a pit stop at Washington Square in Greenwich Village along the way. One World Trade Centre is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere at 1,776ft and we spent a good hour at the Observatory, enjoying 360° views of the city before visiting the Oculus and the 9/11 Memorial.
We found it easy to navigate around Manhattan and before we knew it we were at the terminal to the Staten Island Ferry, so we jumped on that to get free views of the Statue of Liberty.
For me the highlight of the whole vacation was seeing the Brooklyn Bridge. For years I’ve been in awe of the bridge’s history. Of the Roebling family and the tragedies that plagued them and of Emily Roebling’s determination to get the bridge completed even when the strength of the men of the family had failed. It felt like I was in a dream when I saw the mighty suspension towers draw closer as we walked towards them.
Once we’d crossed the East River we meandered around Dumbo (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), and took in views of the Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn Bridge Park. David snapped a photo of the Instagrammable Manhattan Bridge, and we shared another pizza, this time at Ignazio’s. As night fell, we bathed in the lights of the city, before we headed back across the Brooklyn Bridge on our two hour walk to our hotel.
After walking a mammoth 20+ miles the day before, we were tired and sore when the next day dawned bright and crisp. However, we ended up walking just as much but instead of walking south, this time we headed north, taking in sights such as Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building.
Our itinerary for the day was to visit the American Museum of Natural History, famous for being where the Night of the Museum was filmed. We spent a good few hours walking the halls of one of the largest natural history museums in the world.
For lunch we headed even further north passed w110th street towards Tom’s Restaurant, made popular by Jerry Seinfeld’s 1990’s comedy series Seinfeld. It was very busy but we were accommodated and ordered burgers and fries which sated our appetite. It was nice to just sit down for a little while as my feet and back had started to ache from all the miles we’d walked.
For the rest of the afternoon we explored Central Park.
As you can guess we never took the subway but opted to walk everywhere instead. In total we walked over 70+ miles in six days of sightseeing. Everyday we saw something different. A 9 am appointment at Top of the Rock began our next day. Though The Empire State Building is taller than the Rockefeller, the latter has better views of the former and of Central Park. We spent a good hour viewing the iconic 360° views of the city from the Rockefeller.
For the rest of the day we walked along the streets of Manhattan and souvenir shopped. We visited the 1.7 mile former railway line, The High Line, now an elevated park with art work dotted about. A spur of the moment decision saw us taking a pit stop at Max Brenner’s Coffee Bar. I really wanted a warming, restorative coffee and we ended up ordering chocolate desserts as well!
The next morning was our last full day in New York City. It was also the only day that it rained! We walked an hour, dodging the puddles towards museum and air craft carrier, The Intrepid docked at Pier 86 on the Hudson River. David was excited to visit this iconic venue as he wanted to see the space shuttle Enterprise.
After lunch at 5 Napkin Burger, we decided to walk back towards Central Park to see some of the sights we hadn’t seen previously. It was a gloomy, wet day but we managed to see The Met, The Guggenheim and The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir of Central Park before we were soaked through and called it a day.
The shuttle to take us back to Newark Airport was booked for 2 pm the following day. This didn’t leave us much time for sightseeing, so we walked up 5th Avenue, to see the Rockefeller Christmas Tree one last time before relaxing in the hotel’s lounge.
The shuttle thankfully turned up on time, we were the first passengers onboard. The next two hours were a reenactment in reverse of our arrival, picking up other passengers along the way. By the time we arrived at Newark Airport night had fallen. Check-in and security went smoothly. The waiting area wasn’t very large, so we stood around for an hour waiting for the call to board. Everything seemed to go swimmingly but once we had boarded the plane and got comfortable in our seats that was when David noticed a kerfuffle with the luggage. Suitcases were taken out of the hold and then put back. The pilot informed us that there was a discrepancy with the luggage paperwork. Then the suitcases were counted by hand and this added a one hour plus delay.
We left American soil with a strong jet stream behind us, cruising at 41,000 ft at a speed of around 700 miles p/h. With no meal provided for our return journey, David and I ordered runny pot noodles to sate our hunger. Again there was no in-flight entertainment so we watched another Christmas film. The flight duration wasn’t as long as the outbound flight and as we crossed time zones back to UK’s future time, we watched as the rising sun pierced the dark horizon.
We touched down at Manchester Airport after 8.30 am, tired after a stupendous vacation to New York City! I struggled to get through an automated passport control but thankfully after a few tries it recognised my face! Our shuttle to take us home was already waiting our arrival and dropped us punctually outside our home at 10 am, to a whingey Artie who couldn’t believe his eyes on our return. Think he missed us!
I’ve really enjoyed this walk down memory lane and I hope you have too? I’ve loved sharing some of our pictures with you! Our visit to New York City seems just like a dream now. In a time where our liberties have been restricted, reminiscing about past travels will get us through the dark nights of winter. And would we go back to New York? Absolutely! There’s still so much to see and do.
Our last breakfast during this short break to the Lake District, was shared with another couple who had arrived the previous evening. I felt rather sad that we were going home later that day, yet I knew Artie was missing us. Breakfast was a relaxed and leisurely beginning to the day.
On leaving Hermiston, Phil and Helen said goodbye to us with more hugs and handshakes. It was a wrench to leave, they do indeed make you feel like friends.
David and I headed 10 minutes up the road to the visitor centre at Whinlatter Forest. I had planned a three hour walk to the top of Seat How. On arrival the car park was already busy with bikers and families. We donned our walking boots and headed towards the red way-markers.
David and the Gruffalo
Towers of trees
The winding pathway took us past a Gruffalo and through tall trees. The walk wasn’t too strenuous and we got to the top of Seat How earlier than planned. I thought the pathways were better sign posted than our visit to Grizedale last year. We stopped and ate our packed lunch with views of the surrounding fells, Keswick and Derwent Water before us. We watched transfixed as a pair of buzzards drifted elegantly on the breeze.
Seat How Summit
As we made our journey back to the car park, the clouds broke and the sun came out!
Our time at Whinlatter Forest was shorter than I had planned, though we had enjoyed our time spent beneath the trees. The paths towards Lord’s Seat and Grisedale Pike will have to be revisited some other time. After 1pm we decided to make the journey home. I was sad to leave the Lake District but knew I would return again soon. My wild swims beckon!
The news we were greeted on arrival home, was that we had lost one of our finches while away. R.I.P. Fudge, you are still sadly missed.
Artie however was happy to see us and for this past week has been more clingy than normal. He is usually such an independent cat.
Thank you for joining me as I recap my short break to the Lake District. The change of scenery was much needed, and even David said he had a good time! Thank you Phil and Helen for making our stay at Hermiston such a relaxing and pleasant time.
Are you planning a trip/day out to the lake District? Do you know of any sights David and I would enjoy visiting?
Though the weather did not play ball towards the end of the week, I packed as much autumn into the days as I could! This dramatic sunrise was a precursor to what was planned!
Phew, what a week it’s been!
Since our membership for Chester Zoo ran out on the 29th of this month, David and I headed back to say farewell to the red pandas! I snapped the colours of autumn as we took the lazyboat ride in Islands and even some painted dogs got in on the action!
Lazy boat ride
This week the garden was visited by this gorgeous looking robin. Also while walking to get the bus to work, I captured some lovely autumnal sunlight through the trees.
Thursday and Friday was our much awaited short break to the Lake District! For months I have been dreaming and planning two jam packed days! Thursday dawned oppressive and overcast yet we made the most of the day and visited Grizedale Forest.
Friday turned out to be a perfect day! We took in a white dawn at the shores of Derwentwater and later on the sun put in a show bringing all the autumnal colours to life!
In the evening we headed towards Loweswater in the hope of chatching a sunset and ended up playing with more leaves!
There will be subsequent blog posts with more detailed information and pictures re: the lakes holiday coming soon!
Our last day in the lakes was spent around Aira Force and Ullswater!
Rather aptly, I have an autumn birthday, clebrated on the 30th. This year I turned 40! (I still don’t know whether I am happy about that fact or not!) I shared the day with all the people I hold dear in this world, and celebrated by making a video, screaming and splashing about in Derwentwater (as you do)!
Diwali, the Hindu ‘festival of light’, this year was also on the 30th, so I lit a candle or two in honour of the festival.
And finally, the 31st October, renowned throughout the western world as being All Hallows Eve, or Halloween! It is the day when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest.
I celebrated it by dressing up as the devil!
So, that was my Wild October. How did you celebrate yours?
Knowing that David had Thursday off work, I had high hopes that we would have another great outdoors adventure! David was in agreement, however he pinned his hopes on seeing the sunrise hit the mountains around Haweswater Reservoir, Cumbria, (inspired by Thomas Heaton‘s Youtube post.
The Rigg and Haweswater
Unfortunately, the bugbear for me was that we live at least two hours drive from Cumbria and the sunrise on Thursday being at 7.11am, meant that I had to get up at 4am!! I’m a terrible sleeper at the best of times, so I knew this plan would seriously upset my circadian rhythm.
Despite this hiccup, I longed to get out of the house and breathe the free air again! So I agreed. The alarm clock sounded at 4am and I crawled out of bed after a fitful sleep, for breakfast and to get dressed.
By 5am, the car had been packed and so we hit the road.
It took us just over two hours to get to Haweswater Reservoir. We parked up with the first rays of dawn touching the tops of the mountains. We scurried up Swinside Common in the hope of catching the moon above Kidsty Pike, but alas we failed and only had sore calves to show for our climb.
We spent over an hour taking hundreds of pictures in -7° temperatures.
With it being just after 8am, we drove to Derwentwater for a two hour leisurely walk along the banks of the lake, with Blencathra (Saddleback) looking resplendent in the winter sunshine. We took the route to the lake via Kewsick and took the road towards Portinscale then on towards the Adventure Centre. There is free parking but this can get very busy.
Derwentwater is fast becoming my second favourite lake in Cumbria. The lakeside was so tranquil, it healed my soul. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk. I got covered in mud on the return journey but it was worth it as I even had a go of a swing tied to a tree by Hawes End Jetty. The Jetty can be found by taking a path through woodland as you walk towards the Adventure Centre.
There were many ducks and geese quietly drifting on the lake. The woodland walk was graced with the drumming of woodpeckers and the cackle of blue tits. On our journey back to the car David spied a pheasant feather lying on the ground, so I took it as a memento of our lovely day.
Friendly ducks. Photo by David Evans
I am busily planning the next adventure. Do you have any suggestions of where to go?
The past weekend proved to be busy, more so than previous weekends.
On Saturday we drove to North Wales to escape the rain. We (David, his cousin Keith and myself) did not have any ideas on a destination. We just thought we would drive for a bit, find the rain was all over the North West and come back home again. How wrong we were!
We drove on towards Anglesey and the clouds lifted and blazing sunshine and blue vistas surrounded the island! We stopped off at Holyhead and watched as the Irish ferries came into port. There was a brown tourist road sign saying ‘RSPB South Stack.‘ I checked Google and the website said it was one of the best places for wildlife!! So we decided on going there.
We spent the next three hours walking the coastal pathway, wandering down uneven steps (me, in a a dress and heels!) towards South Stack Lighthouse and spotting some butterflies flitting about the wild flowers.
Amongst the days highlights included: A Puffin, an Osprey, Stonechats, Silver Studded Blue and a Meadow Brown Butterfly.
The Sunday was my nephew Nathan’s 5th birthday party! 5 years have gone by so quickly! David, Mum and I went to his garden party. The children all had a visit from Olaf, the snowman from the film Frozen!
As you all know I have been gripped with anticipation on the budding of my Passion Flower. Today, Wednesday, coming home from work. I looked out of the kitchen window and there blooming before my astonished eyes was a flower! Two flowers in fact! I can’t wait for more to flower, the plant is covered in buds! 😀
What a beautiful weekend it has been in the NW of England!
The sun has been shining brightly for the past three days! It has been warm as well, with temperatures peaking at 21/22 degrees C. Though it has felt warmer!
Amongst popping out to sun myself, I have been doing the obvious weekend chores like visiting the supermarket and cleaning the house. On Saturday I even accompanied David to the local tip to dispose of the pile of bricks that had come from the demolished shed. They had been lying in the middle of the yard for over a year! I was glad to be rid of them! Since their departure the yard is finally looking more like a place to unwind in the summer months after a long day!
It has not just been myself enjoying the warm sunny weather, the plants in the garden have all sprouted up and the bees have loved visiting my Scabiosa and today they were seen on my Cat Mint and Honeysuckle!
Saturday, while David was busy pointing the back yard wall. I was listening to Classic FM At the Movies and cooking vegetables for our makeshift Tortilla Pizzas! Friends of ours had posted their pizzas on Facebook earlier in the week which gave me the idea for Saturday’s dinner.
Ingredients for Tortilla Pizza:
Pack of tortillas
Low fat mozzarella cheese
One red onion
One red pepper
handful of peas and sweetcorn
Three cloves of garlic
Handful of fresh oregano for sprinkling (I used leaves from the garden!)
Smear tomato purée onto one tortilla, leave space at the edges
Crumple the mozzarella on top
Then place the vegetables, in any order. You can use meat if you like. David had pepperoni (though not so healthy!)
Once complete put in oven 200 degrees or gas mark 6 for around 7 minutes or until starts to burn.
Take out, flake oregano on top and cut into sections. Enjoy! 🙂
Sunday, and David got up at 8am to continue to point the back yard wall. I stayed in bed snoozing until 10am! In the afternoon, after sunning myself I prepared a very easy dish for the left over tortillas.
Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Toss the sweet potatoes with chilli, 1 tsp oil, cumin seeds, garam masala and plenty of seasoning on a roasting tray. Roast for 25-35 mins, turning wedges halfway, until tender and golden.
Meanwhile fry onion in remaining oil for a few mins until partly softened, stir in the lime juice and sugar with some seasoning, then turn off the heat.
Warm tortillas following pack instructions, then assemble by adding a couple of wedges of sweet potato to each, followed by a scattering of onions, a dollop of yoghurt (or mayonnaise) and a small handful of coriander leaves. Roll up and eat.
I enjoyed it, but David didn’t. I gave the rest of the meal to my mum who enjoyed it too! It was spicy but not too spicy! As you may have guessed I am in sweet potato mode of late. Hopefully this week sometime I will be able to make sweet potato and lentil soup!
I was looking forward to sending the long four day Easter break with David. I had hoped we would spend the time together, having fun. It was not meant to be.
The Friday started off ok, visiting family and doling out the simnel cakes I had made for everyone. I even sat out in the yard and enjoyed the warm spring sun with a glass of wine and Classic FM’s ‘Hall of Fame‘ playing in the background! 😀
However the rest of the weekend was mired with worry over the living room fireplace, where David was trying to put his TV on the breast. He drilled in four holes for the bracket and found that behind was hollow with bricks falling down!! It did not help matters that I was snapping like a crocodile due to ‘that time of the month’ slowly approaching!
Sunday, Easter Day was a cloudy affair, though I noticed in my garden that things were slowly coming back to life! My Aubrieta, which I thought was dying has sprung into purple flowers and my lovely Magnolia tree is budding with small white flowers. 🙂
I was all excited for Christmas this year. It was my last under my mum’s roof before David and I made the move into the new house next door!!
For Christmas Eve, I listened to Classic FM all day. There were four hours of Christmas carol requests, while I made fat cakes for the wild birds. Then there was the narration of ‘The Snowman’ by Aled Jones, the story gave me memories of when I was a carefree ‘happy’ child!
Christmas day was a quiet affair were I drank a bottle of cava (as no one else liked it!) and I sat watching ‘Insidious 2’ with mum and brother Daniel. In the morning we all opened our Christmas presents together, Riley was funny taking his gifts and ripping the wrapping paper off them!
I seemed to have an endless supply of gifts from the family!! I even grew quite bored opening them all!!! Mum got me a bottle of brandy. Daniel got me a crystal nail file and David got me amongst others, diamond earings and a bucket of actual poo from Colchester Zoo!!! At least the flowers will grow next year!!
Boxing Day was all about visiting family and in-laws. In the morning we visited my brother Stephen and my two nephews Nathan and Aaron and in the afternoon we visited David’s family where we had salmon salad for dinner and played ‘Pictionary’ on the Wii ’til 1am!!