Goodbye 2018…and Hello 2019!

Happy New Year from Christine, David, Artie and Riley! Here’s hoping 2019 is a year full of love, laughter and friendship!

It’s taken a while but below find the annual video sharing the most memorable moments of 2018. Here’s hoping 2019 will just be as wonderful!

I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with us!

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x

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December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Twenty-nine

Day Twenty-nine: Today’s photo prompt is, this year – a reflection.

On reflection 2018 has been pretty much a perfect year! There may have been the odd blip (e.g. like the burst water pipe) but otherwise there have been many more positives to glean from the year than negatives. Below find a small gallery of pictures from the year.

How has 2018 been for you?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Three

12 drummers drumming

12 Drummers Drumming

Day Three: Today’s photo prompt is snow. Since it very rarely snows in Liverpool, I decided to stretch the meaning a little and post a picture of a snow-man. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the timeless storybook, The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, Manchester commissioned 12 snowman statues. The trail of about three miles traverses around Salford’s Media City.

We visited on a wet, gloomy day, but it didn’t detract for the fun we had looking for all 12 snowmen. Twelve Drummers Drumming was one of my favourite.

Have you visited Manchester? What were your impressions?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

 

Birthday Swim 2018

It’s taken me ages to write about my birthday swim!

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Loughrigg Tarn

The public vote this year very much focused on the Lake District. I decided to leave the Langdale Angle Tarn (the clear winner) for next year and chose another tarn in the Langdale Valley, Loughrigg for my birthday swim!

We left home early in the morning and after a two hour drive we headed towards parking alongside Loughrigg Tarn. Due to it being early, we managed to get free parking in a lay-by beside the tarn. From there we followed a bridleway towards the Loughrigg Tarn.

It was a cold, crisp autumn day. Loughrigg Tarn proved popular with dog walkers, photographers and families alike. This is due to the – access for all – Miles Without Stiles easy, low level walk around the tarn.

After taking in the views David and I walked around the tarn looking for good entrance points. These were were few and far between. I found the entrances uninviting or littered with obstructions. Loughrigg Tarn wasn’t my favourite swim of the year, though I did manage a good 10 minutes in the water once I got in!

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42! Birthday swim at Loughrigg Tarn

The water I found was murky and I didn’t like my feet sinking up to my shins in sediment as I walked into the tarn! Maybe I chose a bad entrance to access the water? But I was trying to find a more secluded spot so I would not be watched by an audience. Perhaps I should start rating my swims? The views were gorgeous, the swim less so.

Have you visited Loughrigg Tarn? Swam there? Let me know your thoughts.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Riley in the Lake District!

This weekend David, Riley and I went on a wild adventure to the Lake District!

It’s been a dream of mine to take Riley to my beloved Lake District. However Riley suffers badly from car sickness, which has always put us off going further afield. This year, on our travels we managed to drive for an hour with Riley being ok in the car. So we decided that with a short stop at Lancaster Services, we might just be able to get Riley to the Lake District.

So on Sunday, David and I got up at 6.30am, picked up Riley and headed north up the M6. We had chosen a low level walk to Rydal Water and Grasmere via White Moss Car Park. As the sun rose on a beautiful late autumn day we managed to drive two hours without hiccup. Riley enjoyed his break at Lancaster Services where there is a designated area to walk dogs. I don’t know if other services have this facility? We pulled into a busy White Moss car park around 9.30am.

It had been two years previously since David and I had visited the area, then I completed two fantastic wild swims. You can read about that adventure here. With Riley on lead we embarked on a six mile walk along the shore of Rydal Water, up towards Rydal Caves and then back down along the River Rothay towards the shores of Grasmere. Some three hours walking were enjoyed by us all.

At Grasmere we tried Riley in the water. At first he was a bit nervous but once I had waded in with him, he seemed to enjoy paddling in the shallows. Perhaps in time he will become my swim buddy?

I was so happy that we managed to get Riley to the Lake District. On the way home, he slept the two whole hours. It was all that fresh air! I hope this is the start of a new venture. I wonder where David and I will walk Riley next? Do you know of any easy dog friendly walks in the Lake District?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Apples Galore!

The nights are drawing in, the geese are flying south and there’s a smokey chill in the air. Perfect time for an apple festival!

This weekend (13-14th October 2018) was the annual Apple Festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. The reserve has two orchards with more than 100 fruit trees, including apple, plum and pear. We first went last year, you can read about that visit here. This time we brought our parents along and had such a good time. The festival seems to just get better!

Being eager beavers, we arrived (on the Sunday) just before 11am when the volunteers were all having their huddle and pep talk in the barn. They were very welcoming and guided us through the displays of dessert and cooking apples. On the day there was an opportunity to go on a walk of the heritage orchard, spiralize apples and taste apple leather, a delicious cooked and dried delicacy. It made me think of stewed apples.

In a room adjacent to the barn there was a machine for pulping apples and an apple press. Here they offered apple juice to sample and purchase at £2 a bottle. In future they hope to also make cider from the apples that are left to waste. Sounds a good plan to me :p

Due to this years hot summer many of the heritage varieties had already been harvested, though there were a good number of Discovery Apples available. I promised myself that I would be more adventurous in my purchases this year. So after I had purchased a selection of Discovery and Ellison Orange, I went on to buy, Russets, Sunset, Lady Sudeley and Ribston Pippin. The costing of apples was very cheap (at 4 for a £1) and I wouldn’t have minded paying more.

I also purchased some cooking apple varieties such as the iconic Bramley Seedling, Lord Derby, Arthur Turner and the humongous Mere de Menage. I think I will be eating and cooking apples for the foreseeable future.

Mere de Menage

Mere de Menage

I really enjoyed my time spent at the apple festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. I will undoubtedly visit again next year. I believe these heritage orchards are vital in keeping the history of British apple growing alive. It’s just a shame that future generations will mostly only know supermarket bought apples and not the variety, taste and texture of traditional/heritage apples.

What is your favourite apple? Have you visited a local fruit festival?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Glencoe and Loch Etive

Since holidaying in the town of Fort William our journey to and back home passed the famous Glencoe valley. The Three Sisters need no introduction. Bidean nam Bian as they are also named, create the picturesque and iconic scene which so many travellers have photographed. On our journey home we had to stop off and take a picture of this wondrous mountain range.

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However before we headed towards the Glencoe valley, we paid a short visit to Glencoe Lochan, some 20 minutes drive from Fort William.

Glencoe Lochan is a man made lochan created by Lord Strathcona in the 1890’s. Lord Strathcona was governor general of Canada before returning to Scotland. He created a landscape planted with North American trees to aid his homesick Canadian wife. However Lord Strathcona’s attempts failed and the couple later emigrated to Canada. Today some people comment that the lochan looks like a miniature Lake Louise in British Columbia.  I had planned on a wild swim here, but on the day the water looked brown and uninviting and there was no easy entrance into the lochan. Sadly I gave this swim up and made my way towards Glencoe and Glen Etive.

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Glencoe Lochan

Glen Etive is some 30 minutes drive along the A82 from Glencoe. The Glen is accessible via a winding single track road with passing places. As we drove deeper into the Glen, a white rapid River Etive surged to our left. In the distance low lying clouds drifted enticingly over the loch. There is a car park to the north end of Loch Etive with some access to the loch-side. On arrival I noticed a distinct salty scent to the air, thus being because Loch Etive is a sea-loch.

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Loch Etive

We made our way to the shoreline and stood on a sandy beach overlooking Loch Etive. Though the entrance looked inviting, I wanted somewhere more secluded. So we headed south towards a small ruined jetty, where once ferries docked. Having found a decent entrance point I began my rigmarole of getting ready for a swim. I don’t know whether it is because I chose poplar viewpoints to access the water but whenever I go for a swim, I always seem to draw a crowd. Loch Etive was no different. While I was fighting the rain and midges whilst trying to strap various accouterments to my person I noticed a man with a dog watching from the jetty, then a young couple joined him. Then to my horror a man with a fishing rod was seen poking his head from the jetty wall. From experience and reading stories from others’ I know that swimmers and fishermen do not mix! I was fearful of confrontation! Thankfully, I kept my distance and the fisherman seemed to go back to his watch.

The entrance to Loch Eive was deceptive. Though the shallows looked rocky, it soon smoothed out into a bed of sand and seaweed. Much like Loch Lomond, I walked out into the water. I really enjoyed the swim in Loch Etive and was in the water for around 15 minutes. Terrence the thermometer clocked 13° but it felt much warmer.

While swimming, the man with the dog walked to the loch-side and stood chatting with David. His dog (a terrier) barked at me, and I wanted him to come swim with me, but he wasn’t that kind of dog. So I swam alone. As time passed the rain grew heavier. Worried for David, I cut short my swim and stumbled back onto land, where I hurried into my Dryrobe® and threw everything into my rucksack. I would get dry and changed in the relative warm confines of the car.

Loch Etive was my final swim in Scotland for 2018. Perhaps I can get up again next year?

Have you swam in a Scottish Loch? Visited Glencoe and the surrounding area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

What’s That Coming Over the Hill?

It wasn’t a monster… that David and I saw at Loch Ness but unwelcoming waves. I don’t like swimming when it’s windy as the chop knocks me about a bit. Not to mention throws spray up my nose and into my mouth. Unfortunately the day we had chosen for my Loch Ness swim dawned squally. Determined to face the swell we headed towards the shores of Loch Ness.

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Loch Ness

The drive from Fort William took two hours. We headed north-east along the B852 towards a lay-by overlooking a stony beach. The rain that had dogged the morning cleared away to leave broken clouds drifting over the large expanse of loch, sadly the wind prevailed.

Fun fact: Loch Ness contains more water than all the lakes/llyns of England and Wales combined! Though it isn’t the deepest lake, that accolade goes to Loch Morar. Loch Ness is pretty large and only second in size to Loch Lomond.

I was excited to face Loch Ness and to swim in its salt tasting waters. However my dream didn’t turn into the reality I had hoped. The stony beach was shallow and the waves crashing onto the shore were that fierce I couldn’t stand, let alone swim. I sat down in the shallows and clung for dear life to a rock as the swell knocked me for six. Whenever I thought the wind was dying down, a large wave took me unawares. The swim turned out disappointing. I decided to call it quits after 10 minutes of being battered by the wind and water. I’d rather be safe than nursing contusions or worse. It seemed there was only room for one monster in Loch Ness that day!

Have you visited Loch Ness? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Hello Dippy!

I’d recently read that 200,000 visitors had visited Dippy at Birmingham’s Museum and Art Gallery. That was before David and I ventured south to visit him. I don’t know what possessed me to book tickets to see Dippy on Tour for the August bank holiday! But (free) tickets I had anyway! So this Saturday we drove the two hours from Liverpool. Luckily, I had planned an hours leeway. On our journey south we hit miles of roadworks, due to the M6 being turned into a smart motorway, to be completed 2022! We also faced a junction closure. Junction 10 was closed, due to a police incident. Recent research discovered that the incident was of a man on the wrong side of a bridge! With the motorway swelled with bank holiday traffic and football supporters travelling to see Wolverhampton v Manchester City and Aston Villa v Reading matches, the delays were up to 90 minutes!

Thanks to motorway signs early informing us of the closure at junction 10, we managed to divert, (though heavily), away from the jam and navigated, thanks to the M6 toll (at £5.30 a car), back and around towards the centre of Birmingham. Adding 40 minutes to our journey.

Our meeting with Dippy was at 1pm, so you can imagine the pressure we were on to get to the museum on time. We parked up at the Bullring and with twenty minutes to spare, rushed towards Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, which can be found on Chamberlain Square. The entrance to Dippy was on the Gas Hall entrance on Edmund Street.

With time to spare we checked in and walked into the Gas Hall to come face to face with Dippy, a 100 year old cast of not one, but five Diplodocus skeletons. David commented that Dippy was smaller than he’d expected, but during the time we spent with Dippy we marveled at his size. This sauropod (lizard feet) stands some 26m long, is 4m wide and stands 4m tall. I particularly liked his little face with razor sharp teeth. He roamed the earth some 150 million years ago, during the late Jurassic age.

Dippy was undoubtedly the star of the attraction. The surrounding exhibit paled in comparison and sadly did not measure up to my expectation. It was a poorly comprised set of stuffed birds (with pigeons and magpies) alongside skeletons featuring a velociraptor and dodo to emphasise the link between dinosaurs and the evolution of birds. I think the Walking with Dinosaurs Arena show said it more eloquently.

‘We think of dinosaurs as…fierce creatures from a mythical world… they [were on this planet] for 170 million years. If you look closely, you’ll see, they’re not really gone, not completely…remember the raptors, the way their arms folded at the wrists?… The next time you are outside, have a look at a bird and try and imagine it 50 times bigger, with razor sharp teeth. So do not mourn the dinosaurs, they are with us still, their direct descendants are the birds.’

We spent 40 minutes with Dippy. Walked around him three times, and took lots of pictures. I was satisfied that we drove the two hours to see him. We did not linger in Birmingham, though we did casually look at the replica Typhoon, as Victoria Square held a 100 RAF event. We decided to return home, and make head way against the traffic and roadworks, which took three hours instead of two!

We got home to news that an injured pigeon was sitting outside our back door. As you know we have a long standing relationship with the descendants of dinosaurs. I found it rather fateful that this pigeon (a descendant of the T. rex) chose our step to rest upon. He was but a fledgling, his down still protruded from his adult feathers. However we could not save this particular soul. He had suffered a brain injury from what probably was a collision with a wall. His beak was all bloodied and he was labouring for breath. He passed away in our care not an hour later, wrapped him in a towel and placed in a carrier. At least he died safe and warm.

It was rather a mixed day. I’d say Dippy was worth the visit, even if we had to fight through roadworks, delays and road closures to get to him. Dippy will be touring the UK until 2020. If, like us, you hadn’t seen him when he was resident at the Natural History Museum, London, then you can catch him at these other locations:

If you have seen Dippy before, what were your recollections? Do dinosaurs interest you? If so what are your favourites and why?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

The Weather Didn’t Deter Us!

A few weeks back David and I played hosts to my friend, Jennifer, who traveled from the USA. She stayed with us for two nights and voiced her wish to go hiking with David and myself. So, I planned a little tour of my favourite part of the Lake District, the northern fells.

Weeks before, the UK had been in the grip of a month or so long heatwave. However on the dawn of our little excursion to Cumbria, the day broke overcast with showers and winds of 50 mph forecast.

It was a 6am start. We breakfasted, packed the car and headed out of Liverpool by 7.30am. David drove two hours up the M6. As the day lengthened it became apparent that the predicted showers would be a predominant feature of the day, with heavy, prolonged incidents. Swathes of showers swept across the countryside, as we pulled the car into a free parking space alongside our first stop: Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Castlerigg Stone Circle was raised in the Neolithic period, about 3000 BC and overlooks the Thirlmere Valley south, towards Helvellyn and north to Skiddaw and Blencathra. You can read more about the circle here. Castlerigg is only 30 minutes walk from Keswick, but on a dreary July day we managed to find parking right outside, even at 10am!

From Castlerigg we drove the 30 minutes to Buttermere, where we would spend most of the day. On arrival, I was surprised at how quiet the village was. We even managed to get parking at the National Trust car park behind the Fish Inn, paying £8 for all day. From here we donned our waterproofs and rucksacks and headed for the planned hike to Wainwright, Rannerdale Knotts.

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Rannerdale Knotts Walk

The walk to Rannerdale Knotts took us two hours through woodland and up hill. Once past Ghyll Wood the trail gained height quickly and from our viewpoint we could see the weather once again closing in. Low clouds, full of drizzly rain swept in and obscured any view of Buttermere and Crummock Water from the trig point.

The top was a bit of a scramble which (as you know) I don’t like. We managed to scurry across Rannerdale Knotts and even descended without slipping on wet stones. The walk though hindered by the rain was not ruined. We arrived, unscathed at our next destination: Crummock Water.

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Jennifer at Crummock Water

Crummock Water means the Crooked Lake and reflects the lakes shape. It’s 44m deep and nestled between Buttermere and Loweswater. The clear, cool waters make for a wonderful swim which I can vouch for as seen here.

After a quick lunch, we ventured to Buttermere and traversed the path towards the lake’s southern point. We passed the Lone Tree and even managed to walk through the tunnel, which I had never done before. Jennifer and I were hopeful of going for a swim, but the wind chopped waters and cold wind made me abandon this plan. Instead we enjoyed views of Haystacks and High Crag from the shore.

From Buttermere we drove the 30 minutes back towards Keswick, to visit my favourite lake of all, Derwentwater. We parked at the Theatre by the Lake and then walked the path towards Friar’s Crag.

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Jennifer and Christine at Derwentwater

At Friar’s Crag we enjoyed views towards Castle Crag, Catbells and Walla Crag. It was nice to share my love of Derwentwater with someone new.

We then headed into Keswick and sought shelter from the rain and wind in the restaurant of The Old Keswickian. We enjoyed a restoring meal of fish and chips before heading home. It was a fun filled day. One that I have enjoyed reliving for this blog.

Have you shared your love of a special place with a friend?

Thanks for joining in my reminiscence,

Christine x