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Our Northumberland Yurt Adventure

2 Apr

This Christmas my parents surprised The Boy and I with a holiday: two nights in a yurt at Wild Northumbrian in dark sky country up by Kielder Water. We were both really excited and couldn’t wait for our yurt adventure. We decided to book it as a relaxing couple of days after my first work trip of the Spring, so I returned from Canada on  Friday 27th March, and on Sunday 29th March we packed up our warm clothes, food, and bikes and made our way to Northumberland for our adventure.

 

 We had chosen to stay at Brock yurt, a cosy 16ft yurt perfect for two. The yurt was located a short walk from where we parked our car and so we donned our wellingtons and made our way down to the stream to move into our home for the next couple of nights.

  

The yurt itself was perfectly formed. There was everything we could possibly need including a gorgeous little wood burning stove, which The Boy particularly enjoyed tending, and which kept us toasty warm at all times, and a gorgeous handmade wooden bed that was so cosy and comfortable that it was often difficult to leave.

With no electricity, mains water or gas, this really was an opportunity to get back to nature. There was no phone reception, so we turned off our 21century devices and adopted a simple, slow life for a few days. We listened to the sound of the wind, the stream, the birds, we read, we played cards, we talked. It was wonderfully relaxing. Everything took on a much slower place, and we were no longer slaves to the clock. 

 

We experienced every sort of weather, including snow, but we did get some clear skies with and opportunity to enjoy the myriad stars above us. The yurt had handy star gazing binoculars which made this all the more fun. 

And there is nothing quite so lovely as waking to the morning sun peeking through the roof light of the yurt, all warm in your bed with the chill morning air all around you, and getting the wood burning stove going for morning coffee. There is something very lovely about a back to basics life like that, and we thoroughly enjoyed our immersion.

We were both pretty sad at the end of our visit to have to leave our yurt and return to the 21st century. However, I’m sure we will return. 

Vegan Adventures: Brighton Edition

21 Jan

I was in Brighton for work last week, which is always a massive treat because Brighton seems to be the epicentre for awesome vegan eats and treats. 

I visited last summer with The Boy. We stayed at Paskins Townhouse, and ate at Terre a Terre. We had an awesome time.

Paskins was a great B&B, and we enjoyed our stay there immensely. It was a little bit of a walk from the town centre, so this time, because work was paying, I stayed at the Hilton on the sea front. 

I love seaside hotels with that faded Victorian glamour, and the Hilton had it in spades. Grand sweeping staircases, massive high ceilings, the full shebang.

Whilst my accommodation was different I was determined to return to Terre a Terre because I had nothing but great memories from my visit last summer. 

I wasn’t disappointed either.

The restaurant, when I arrived at 6pm, was still almost empty. Even so, attentive wait staff showed me to my table and gave me the menu. I chose the set menu, because it had things on it that I would have chosen anyway, and seemed good value for money.

I don’t usually go for 3 courses: it’s usually too much food for me, but this time I thought ‘to hell with it’ as the food at Terre a Terre is too good to pass on. 

My three courses were absolutely amazing, but like my last visit, I think my starter was my favourite.

I noticed that they also offer an afternoon tea, and I would love to experience that. Has anyone tried the vegan tea? What’s it like? I was also recommended Food With Friends by a local, has anyone had a vegan meal there, and how does it compare to Terre a Terre? 

I also had a good mooch around the great vegan shops in Brighton, stopping into Infinity Foods to drool over all the amazing things they had on offer, and purchase some of their delicious vegan baked goods.

I dropped into Vegetarian Shoes to have a look at what they had on offer. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this brand. I like their products, but I think they are expensive. Also, the quality of the shoes is really hit and miss. I’ve had the Snowdon Walking boot and the Vegan Ugg boots from them, and they have been great, but other shoes I have purchased from them have not been great quality and have fallen apart in less than a year, which makes me reluctant to buy from them. Have you had is experience with Vegetarian Shoes? What do you think of their shoes and boots?

 I also came across a gorgeous dress shop called Pretty Eccentric (http://www.prettyeccentric.co.uk) which had some beautiful stuff. Sadly a lot of it was a little out of my price range, but it was stunningly beautiful.
The young lady I spoke to explained that they design for the modern woman, but are inspired by design from the 20s – 50s. The result was just stunning.

Guest Blogging

28 Sep

Guest blogging for Sean the Fat Gay Vegan about my recent vegan airline meal fail.

You can read all about it here: http://fatgayvegan.com/2012/09/28/vegan-airline-meal-fail-guest-post/

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!

 

Northumberland

5 Aug

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My parents are lucky enough to live in Northumberland, and seeing as I haven’t seen them since March I decided I had better rectify that with a weekend visit.

The weather was pretty lovely luckily and I had a lovely few days wandering along beaches with them and the dog. I managed to get a run in along the lanes on Saturday morning, but the rest of the time i just relaxed and ate far too much food. 🙂

Next week it is back into my usual training regime, but it was nice to have a relaxing weekend. 

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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.