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Pembrokeshire

9 Sep

It was my 33rd birthday on the 5th September.

I absolutely refuse to work on my birthday, and usually go on holiday. This year I decided to return to Pembrokeshire after having such an amazing time there in June. I booked into the gorgeous Rock Cottage for a week and on Thursday 30th August set off for Hay on Wye.

I decided to break my journey down to St Davids with one night in Hay in order to mooch around all the book shops. I was staying in vegetarian B&B Trericket Mill, which turned out to be brilliant. Hay was a little disappointing though. I think I have been spoilt by Barter Books in Alnwick, which is one of my favourite places, and I imagined that the book shops in Hay would be equally amazing, but sadly they weren’t: they were small and cramped and crowded and seemed to have no logic to the layout – I couldn’t find anything. Also, besides the great B&B, the vegan options in the area were really disappointing, and the coffee shops were rubbish (again, I’ve been spoilt by having Flat White Durham on my doorstep).

So, Hay was not so good, but after a lush breakfast at the B&B on Friday morning I set off for St Davids!

I got there at about lunch time so dropped into St Davids to buy some food and then headed over to Rock Cottage. Rock Cottage was absolutely perfect – even better than Shearers’ Loft where I stayed in June. Rock Cottage is a bit closer to St David’s with great views down to the Cathedral from the living room windows. After settling in and unpacking that afternoon I cycled into St Davids and then over to Whitesands, and back. Then after dinner that evening I walked down to Porth Clais.
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Saturday morning I walk over to Whitesands and along to St David’s Head and then up on to the top of Carn Llidi for fantastic views of the peninsula. From there I walk down to St David’s for a coffee, and then back to Rock Cottage.
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Sunday morning the weather is misty and a bit drizzly. I walked from Rock Cottage down to St Justinians and then around the head of the peninsula to St Nons and then into St Davids. Later on that evening I have another shorter walk down to Porth Clais.
On Monday I drove over to Abereiddi and walked to Penberry and back. It’s quite hard walking – lots of up and down, and quite overgrown (clearly a less popular part of the coastal path). At the Blue Lagoon at Abereiddi they were preparing it for the Red Bull Cliff Diving Championship at the weekend, which quite frankly looked terrifying. That afternoon I cycled down to Whitesands and have a walk on the beach before having a coffee and cycling back.
I walked down to Porth Clais on Tuesday and made my way down the coast to Solva. I got there about lunch time and catch the bus back from Solva into St Davids where I picked up lunch before walking back to the cottage. The morning is grey and rainy, but the sun comes out after lunch. So after lunch I walked back into St David’s and have a wander about the shops and then take a look around St David’s cathedral before walking back to Rock Cottage. That evening I went down to Whitesands to watch the stunning sunset.
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Wednesday was my birthday! I walked into St David’s and had a lazy morning wandering around the shops and having a coffee. I then headed back to the cottage for lunch, and for an afternoon walk down to Whitesands and along the coastal path to St Justinians. That evening I returned to Whitesands to watch the sunset again.
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Thursday was my last full day sadly. I drove over to Whitesands and leave the car there to walk the coastal path towards Abereiddi. I make it into a loop walk and come back to Whitesands inland using field paths – they are not well trodden at all and I got brambled and nettled to death, that was a bad decision! I got back about lunch time and drove back to the cottage for lunch. After lunch I walked into St David’s for a cherry sorbet as a treat, and then that evening I had a walk along the lanes around the cottage, stealing blackberries from the hedgerows.
Friday was a 4am wake up call to get me on the road early. I got back to Hartlepool by lunchtime. Gutted to be home as I had an absolutely magnificent holiday.
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Lake District Bank Holiday Loveliness

29 Aug

It was August Bank Holiday weekend, and for the third year running that meant an escape to the Lakes.

I stayed in my lovely vegan B&B Fox Hall in Kendal, which is always a pleasure, and being looked after by Sylvia and Chris always does me the world of good. It’s only 30 mins from the central Lakes so a great location for me.

I headed over on Saturday morning. The weather wasn’t great, and the Lakes were absolutely heaving. My original plan was to head into Keswick to have lunch at The Lakeland Pedlar, but Keswick was so busy and it was chucking down with rain so everyone was driving about like a nutter, that I thought I would give it a miss. I drove down to Grasmere, which was much quieter, and had a lovely bowl of soup and gf bread at Greens instead.

I then drove over to Elterwater where I parked up and walked along the Cumbria Way to Skelwith Bridge to have a coffee at Chesters by the River. Chesters make a pretty amazing coffee – probably my second favourite. First place goes to Flat White Durham mostly because I adore the barista boys and girls that work there, they are such sweeties. After coffee it was a walk in the rain back to the car, and then over to Fox Hall to check in and chill out.

Sunday morning was mixed – there were showers and the high peaks were covered in cloud. A friend from the NE drove over to join me for a walk. We set off from Grasmere and walked up to Easedale Tarn. The original plan was to head up Sergeant Man, but the cloud was right down and my walking companion was struggling a bit so we had lunch at Stickle Tarn, and then headed across the ridge to Silver How before descending to Grasmere.

It was was a really nice day’s walking, and I really enjoyed myself. We headed over to Chesters after the walk for a coffee, and some cake for my walking companion.

Bank Holiday monday dawned with torrential rain and cloud down to floor level. Frankly, it was vile.

 

I was meant to be meeting Amy for a walk. Amy now lives in St Bees, but used to live in the NE and walked with our Ramblers group. We met up, but decided the weather was far too disgusting for the walk we had originally planned so we cut the walk short and spent 2 hours in a coffee shop instead having a catch up and watching the vile weather out of the window.

After Amy headed home I went into Ambleside for a wander around the shops and a short walk in the rain. Then it was back to Fox Hall to get showered and changed before heading out for a meal. I had booked dinner at Lancrigg, the vegetarian country house hotel in Grasmere. I was thinking about booking there for Christmas this year, but wanted to go for a meal to see what the food was like before I did so.

Sadly, I was very disappointed with the food. Despite mentioning on several occasions that I was vegan and allergic to wheat I still ended up sick the next day, so can only assume that dairy or wheat some sneaked into my meal somewhere. I had the falafel for starter, which turned up with sourdough bread and had to be sent back. When it arrived back without sourdough bread it was ok, too heavy on the mint in my opinion. My main course was puy lentil shepherds pie. It was dull and too heavy on the celery – I hate celery and it was all I could taste. I make a better puy lentil shepherds pie myself, and it came with rather dull steamed veg. The portion was small and it was very disappointing. For dessert I chose the chocolate, toffee nut sundae. I was given some melted chocolate ice-cream in a glass – there was no toffee or nut as far as I could tell, just a lot of melted cheap chocolate ice cream with ice crystals in it – and they charged £6 for this?! The meal came to £30 for the three courses, and no alcohol (I don’t drink). It was exceptionally overpriced for the quality of food, and I was very, very disappointed. It was useful to go because it meant that I realised I did not want to book in for Christmas there at all. Such a shame as this was my birthday ‘treat’ meal out.

On Tuesday the weather was much much better, but it was also the day I was going home. Boooo hiss!

I decided to walk in Patterdale on the way home, so drove over to Cow Bridge and parked up the car. The walk I had planned was Dove Crag and Little Hart Crag: about 8 miles. It was magnificent.

 

It was pretty windy on the top, but I managed to hunker down behind a dry stone wall so that I could enjoy the view with my lunch. The view from the top was great because I could look down the valley to Patterdale, but also in the other direction I could look over to the Langdales, and Ambleside and Windermere – the Lake District really was laid out all around me. Fantastic.

Sadly, it was then time to go home, but I can’t be too sad because after 1 day to clean my clothes I’m off again tomorrow down to Hay-on-Wye for a night, and then on to Pembrokeshire again!

Hurrah for holidays!

 

Craster to Warkworh, Northumberland

12 Aug

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Gorgeous day for hiking. The sun shone, the views were spectacular, what more could you ask for?

We met at Warkworth and car shared up to Craster, where we joined the Northumberland Coastal path and headed south to Howick, then Boulmer, then Alnmouth (where we paused for lunch and an ice-cream) then onwards for the final 4 miles down the fantastic sandy beach to Warkworth.

Today it felt like summer might finally be here. 

Lakes Long Weekend

30 Jul

After a very, very busy July with work, I booked in a long weekend in the Lake District to recover. 🙂

So, on Friday Sean and I headed off for the Langdale Valley. We were booked to be staying on the National Trust campsite at the bottom of the Langdale Valley. Daniel and Nicola, also from Darlington Dales and Hills, were joining us and the plan was for a long weekend of big walks.

Sean and I arrived at lunch time, got the tents up in glorious sunshine, and decided to have an afternoon ramble up Lingmoor Fell and down to Chapel Stile before heading back along the valley to the campsite.

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It was hot going in the sunshine, but the views of Crinkle Crags and the Langdale Pikes was absolutely stunning. We really enjoyed the walk, how could you not wish such fabulous weather and scenery. When we got back we sat in the sun for a while before getting a shower and changed and walking down the road to the Sticklebarn pub.

Last year I was really pleased with the Sticklebarn because it did an amazing vegan curry. Unfortunately, it looks like the place has been bought by the National Trust who have completely changed the menu, and now there is nothing vegan on it. 😦 I ended up with a salad, some peanuts and some chips for tea, which was disappointing. However, despite the food disaster we had a nice evening there people watching.

We got back to the campsite at 11, just as Nicola was finishing putting up her tent. Unfortunately Daniel decided not to come because he was suffering from both a bad back and a cold. It was late and had started to drizzle, so there was just enough time to wish Nicola goodnight and head off to bed.

The next morning the weather was damp and drizzly. This was the view from my tent:

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I had breakfast, got myself together, and the three of us set off for St Bees to visit Andy and Amy, former members of Darlington Dales and Hills who moved to Cumbria a few months ago. The plan was to see their fabulous new cottage and have a walk along the coast with them.

Sean decided to drive to St Bees over the most terrifying mountain passes, with steep gradients and tight hairpin bends. It was fabulous scenery but a bit scary in such wet and grey weather. It was still raining when we arrived at St Bees, and was blowing a gale on the coast. However, undeterred we set off with Andy and Amy on our walk. The walk was really nice, and followed the first section of the Coast to Coast path for several miles. As we walked the weather got better and better, and by the time we arrived back in St Bees the weather was glorious!

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After having a reviving cuppa at Andy and Amy’s house we left them in peace and headed back to Great Langdale for a shower and then into Ambleside for dinner. 

We went to Zeferellis for dinner. Zeferellis is a vegetarian restaurant with lots of vegan options. The restaurant was busy when we arrived, but they suggested we went upstairs to eat in the Jazz Cafe. The menu was just about the same, but it was more informal and there was a great jazz band to enjoy whilst we ate. It ended up being a fantastic evening, with excellent food, and great music. We stayed all evening, long after we finished eating. I really enjoyed Zeferellis and plan to eat there again when I go back to the Lakes in August.

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After a night of extensive rain Sunday was big walk day, and I took the three of us up to Stickle Tarn and then up Pavey Arc, Harrison Stickle and Pike of Stickle before looping around and coming back down the Cumbria Way. The weather when we set off was wet, but just like the day before, improved as the walk continued.

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By the time we were heading down at the end of the day the weather was pretty nice. We got back to the campsite and had a quick shower before heading to Chesters on the River and Skelworth Bridge for coffee and in Nicola and Sean’s case huge slabs of cake!

Sadly Nicola had to go home then, but Sean and I continued into Ambleside, dodged the rain showers for a bit, and then had dinner at a Thai restaurant in town who had an early evening meal deal on. After dinner we had a coffee in Esquires before driving back to the campsite. It was still fairly early so we walked to the Old Dungeon Gyll Hotel for a few drinks before bed. We sat outside under a canopy and watched the rain absolutely hammer down. 

It rained heavily all night, and was still raining as we packed down the tents. After several days of big walks we decided to have a slightly more gentle day today, and with improving weather I took Sean on one of my favourite walks around Loughrigg from Elterwater. 

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We dodged the showers all day, but managed to stay mostly dry. The walk took us right past Chesters so we stopped there for lunch and a coffee, sitting in the warm sunshine, before finishing he walk about 2.30pm. 

It was an absolutely fantastic weekend. I had a fabulous time and despite the weather being really mixed, with rather too much rain, I think it would have been difficult to have have a better time. I’m back in the Lakes for the August Bank Holiday weekend and really cannot wait to get up in the hills there again.

Great North 10k, Gateshead

22 Jul

No hiking this Sunday because I was taking part in the Great North 10k. I really like the 10k distance, it’s not too long, and it’s always a pleasant run (especially since my regular runs are about 5miles, so it’s not that much further to the 6.2 mile mark of a 10k).

My plan for this summer was to do a series of 10k runs, but it hasn’t quite worked out like that because the last one I was meant to do I was injured for. I’m still nursing a problem with my right foot (plantar fasciitis) but ran with it taped up today, and it seems to be ok. The next one I’m booked in for, the Middlesbrough Pride 10k, I’m now going to be in Pembrokeshire for: useless!

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Anyhoo, today’s run was good. I went over to Gateshead to walk down with some friends from work. The race set us off in waves, and they were in a different wave so I didn’t get to run with them but we met up afterwards, and I’m actually much happier running on my own anyway.

The course in Gateshead was really nice. From the International Athletics Stadium we ran down to the quayside and along the Gateshead side of the Tyne passing the Baltic, Sage, under the Tyne Bridge, past the swing bridge and a good way along the quayside. At the 5k mark we turned around and headed back the way we came. The course has some nasty hills in it in the latter half that really sucked the energy out of you. The worst was a nasty climb in the last half mile from the quayside back up to the stadium. A lot of people walked it, but I’m pleased to say I ran the whole thing, hills and all. The final part was a lap of the stadium, and I even had enough beans left to sprint the last 200m or so, which I was so pleased about even if I did feel like I was going to vomit as I crossed the finish line!

The weather was pretty nice for running too – dry, mild and cloudy. Perfect.

Afterwards we headed back to my colleague’s house for lunch of lentil soup and a wheat-free pumpkin muffin, which I had made yesterday. I think we had earned it!

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Final time from my chip was 1 hour 3 minutes, which I’m pretty pleased about for the course and all it’s hills. The next goal is to get my 10k time below the 1 hour mark, so I’m going to have to start working on my speed. 

Narrow Boats and Lunar Landscapes

24 Jun

This weekend we had 20 members of the Darlington Dales and Hills in North Yorkshire for wet weekend!

We headed down on Friday night through awful storms and roads that were flooding all around us. What is it with the weather this summer? We were staying in Clapham near Ingleton in North Yorkshire, and when we arrived it was absolutely pouring down and the river running through the village was threatening to burst it’s banks.

We unpacked and after a quick one in the local pub, headed back to The Old Manor House to unpack and have a few drinks in the bar there. 

The next morning we got up fairly early and headed to Skipton where we had hired two canal boats; ‘Bill’ & ‘Ben’, for the day and evening, on the Leeds to Liverpool canal.

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We had a fantastic time on the canals all day, chugging along enjoying the view and drinking lots of cups of coffee.
 
The next day we went out for a hike in Crummackdale. Enclosed on three sides by pale-grey escarpments, the walled fields and green lanes of Crummackdale are ringed by an almost lunar landscape, scoured by a glacier 15,000 years ago. The weather was really mixed: plenty of rain, plenty of sun, and moody skies all day, but the walking was fantastic.
 
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More Wales!

16 Jun

Week 2 – St David’s, Pembrokeshire

Friday: It’s hard to believe that such a wonderful week started with such shocking weather. The journey from Liverpool to St David’s, which was meant to take 4 hours, ended up taking 6 because the weather meant the roads were just awful. My journey took me through Bala and Machynlleth (again) before heading down the coast. The rain was absolutely torrential, and as it turned out, resulted in floods for the Machynlleth area! I was so pleased that we had been staying there the weekend before this happened!

I arrived at St David’s around 4pm Shearers’ Loft, which was my base whilst I was staying there, and was absolutely fabulous! The weather wasn’t great, it was blowing a gale and raining too, so I unpacked and relaxed for a few hours. After dinner it had cleared up a bit so I went for a stroll down to the end of the peninsula, overlooking Ramsay Island, to enjoy the views.

Saturday: I woke up early with the sunshine. The storm clouds had moved off and it promised to be a bright and breezy day. So it was Radio 4 and coffee whilst I consulted the map and decided where I would adventure! In the end I decided to head straight down to the coastal path at St Justinians (about 10 minutes walk from my cottage) and turned left, with the sea on my right, and headed along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.

The storm the night before had left the sea between the mainland and Ramsay Island, with its rocks (called The Bitches) and dangerous currents, a rolling seething mess: very dramatic. I walked all the way around to Caerfei Bay where I stopped to eat lunch and enjoy the views. From there it is a short walk into St David’s itself.

St David’s is really pretty, and the smallest City in the UK (even smaller than Durham!) It has lots of lovely coffee shops and plenty of vegan friendly shops too. I spent the afternoon with a bit more walking and a bit of exploring of St Davids, as well as stopping to drink coffee and read the newspapers, as well as writing a postcard for the Parentals.

Sunday: I’m lucky to have another glorious day on Sunday, and the wind has dropped too. I spent a lazy morning watching the news and eating breakfast before heading out to walk at about 9.15am. I traced the same steps as I did the previous day, but this time turn right, with the sea on my left, and walked up the coast past St Justinian’s lifeboat station towards Whitesands, which is the big sandy bay popular with families and surfers!

I walked from Whitesands into St David’s and had lunch at the Farmer’s Arms pub, whose food wasn’t as good as the menu promised, sadly. I then walked through St David’s to St Non’s on the other side of the peninsula and followed the coastal path back to St Justinian’s and Shearers’ Loft. It works out about 14 miles (same as Saturday), but the walking is just so wonderful, it’s difficult to head home! 🙂

Monday: Another fantastic day with lots of sunshine. I walked into St David’s and caught the 9.50 bus to Newgale, which is down the coast from St Davids. The first section of the walk from Newgale to Solva is hard work with lots of climbing up and down the cliffs, and in the sunshine it’s really hard going! I made it to Solva by lunch time and enjoyed sitting on a bench in the harbour to eat my lunch and people watch!

The second section from Solva to St Davids is much easier, with lovely wide grassy paths to follow and magnificent views of the coast. The reward for reaching St David’s is coffee and reading the newspaper in The Sound Cafe before the final stretch back to Shearers’ Loft. Another 14 miles under the belt, but the downside was that I had managed to hurt my right foot by doing too many miles in the last few days. Nothing too bad, but I know I need to be a bit more gentle with myself for the rest of my holiday!

Tuesday: The weather forecast for Tuesday was that it wasn’t going to be great, and as I also had a sore foot I decided that I was going to have an easy day. As it turned out, after a short-lived sea fret, the weather was fine and sunny. After walking into St Davids I spent the morning mooching about drinking coffee, reading newspapers, writing postcards and exploring the shops. I do get a walk in later along the lanes around my cottage so it’s not a completely lazy day.

Wednesday: Another good day weather-wise: early drizzle gives way to sunshine. I drive up the coast to Abereiddi and walk up the coast to Trwyn via Porthgain, and back again. It’s a really lovely section of the coast. Abereiddi is a popular spot for coasteering and it’s good fun to watch, although I’m not sure I fancy it myself!

Coffee and newspapers in the afternoon, and then after dinner I have another walk in the lanes before heading to bed. I can’t get enough of the magnificent coastal views!

Thursday: For some reason I slept really badly and wake at 4am on Thursday morning, and cannot get back to sleep. The weather on Thursday, my last full day, was forecast to break at lunchtime with storms heading in so I had a morning walk along the coast nearby the cottage. I’m back by lunchtime just as the weather breaks with rain and very high wind.

I spent a wet and windy afternoon in St Davids and didn’t manage to get an evening walk in because the weather outside was so dreadful. I swear it sounded like the cottage was going to blow away and the rain hammered on the windows and roof with such force! I was so lucky with the weather during the week, it would have been a disappointing holiday if the weather had been like this all week!

Friday: I left the cottage early on Friday morning in an attempt to get off the country roads before they get too busy. It worked and it takes about 7 hours to drive home. The wind and rain stormed all Thursday night, and it was pretty nasty driving for the first couple of hours out of Wales.

The whole week was pretty fantastic. I really enjoyed Pembrokeshire, and if you like walking I would definitely recommend it as a great location for a walking holiday. The coastal walking is spectacular, and the plentiful and cheap buses means that you barely need to use your car to explore the coast: linear walks are really easy to arrange. Every inch of the coastline seems to over fantastic views! I don’t think there was a section that I walked that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy.

It was one of those holidays where you are very sad to be going home, which always signals a fantastic holiday in my opinion.