Walk 15: the dreaming spires of Oxford

This was a walk in several parts, walking different sections with different people. It all started with a story-telling conference at Mansfield College in Oxford, where I met some truly inspirational people. On Monday night I went walking with Prue and Laurinda – along the streets of Oxford – through an alley/jitty/ginnel (so many local names used to describe a passageway between buildings) and into the University Parks.

The following night I had a shorter walk with Estelle, on her first visit outside of the US – lovely to see Oxford ‘through her eyes’. On Thursday I went walking with Ian (who had joined me the night before). We started in the centre – quick trip to Blackwell’s for books, then tea/coffee and cake – where we were joined by an Oxford Bear, called Manny who asked us to help him look for Alice.

We followed a guide, bought from tourist information, with two walks around Oxford based on Alice in Wonderland. We stopped for lunch mid-way, and Manny ejoyed a pint of Old Dairy at The Chequers!

Finally, after 6.5 miles of searching, and encounters with ducks, geese, swans, cattle, a heron and a groovy green spider, Manny Bear found Alice – thankfully she had drunk some shrinking drink, otherwise he wouldn’t have been able to afford her! Who’d have thought a little girl would cost so much????

The final walk of the day was to Wadham Gardens for a bit of Shakespeare – brilliant way to finish the day.

Walk 14: Bridges, arches, alleyways and graves – plus lots and lots of kittiwakes!

An early start to the day to walk and feed the dogs before heading off across the Pennines to Newcastle upon Tyne. First stop, Seven Stories – the National Centre for Children’s Books. We had booked into a session, listening to Michael Morpurgo, his wife and brother read from his stories – wonderful.

Then we explored the exhibition on his work – I treated myself to a book, 2 notebooks and a pen – I do so love stationery. We enjoyed a delicious lunch then set off for a walk…

We parked near the quayside and started walking, following a guide we found on the Internet. Thankfully, although grey clouds scudded overhead, the rain (mostly) stayed away. We added in a quick walk across the Millennium Bridge, then were surprised by a ‘fleet’ of naked cyclists – try explaining that to the curious tourists who asked me ‘Why?’

We took our time exploring All Saints Churchyard, a little oasis of calm and memories, gradually being overtaken by nature. Then we carried on with the guided route.

This was a walk with lots of bridges, alleyways and arches, through a historic area of the city – so many signs that this was once a vibrant, working area full of markets, fishing and people, which has now evolved to servicing the needs of the modern generations. The markets are now cafes, the warehouses have become homes and offices. Overhead the skies, bridges, rooftops and window ledges are homes to thousands of birds – filling the air with noise and the streets with the acrid smelling guano…

This was an interesting change from our more usual walks, urban rather than rural, river instead of lake – with the added bonus of stories.

Walk 13 – Penrith town and Talkin Tarn

This was the last day of Alma and Norman’s holiday with us. We headed into Penrith for some shopping (supplies for the train journey), then coffee and cake (MORE coffee and cake!!) in a lovely little tea room near the church. Needing to work up an appetite for lunch, we drove up to Talkin Tarn, near Carlisle, for a walk.

We walked along by the lake, and then back through the woodland. Lots of birds, insects and wild flowers – not many people around today. This is a really lovely little walk – Ian and I plan to return soon to explore some more. Later that evening, following afternoon lunch at a carvery and afternoon nap (parents) / dog walk (us), we strolled across the road to look at the church in Newton Reigny – a pretty little building, surrounded by wildflowers. The final walk of the holiday was short but sweet.

Then home for a cup of tea, before an early night to prepare for the next day’s train journey.

13 walks (3 months) recorded, 37 walks (9 months) still to go – where to next I wonder? I’m feeling the need for a longer one, with less coffee and cake…


Walk 12 -Acorn Bank

Ian’s parents, Alma and Norman have been staying with us this weekend. They arrived by train on Thursday afternoon – the first time Alma has been on a train for more than three decades, and it was delayed by an owl which took out some overhead cables! Friday was a gentle day of visiting Keswick for coffee and cake at Theatre by the Lake, followed by a stroll around Grasmere, buying gingerbread and enjoying lunch at Tweedies Bar.

On Saturday we walked around Aira Force (walk 2 of my challenge). Sunday morning we agreed to head over to Acorn Bank. Ian and I have started volunteering here with some of their events, and Alma and Norman were keen to find out more about the place. We had a stroll around the herb garden, followed by coffee and cake in the sunshine.

Alma rested while we had a tour of the house, then she joined us for a little walk around the garden, checking the pond for newts, admiring the water lilies and looking for  fairies in their house. We all enjoyed a Sunday roast dinner (nut roast for me) – yummy! Alma returned to the car to read the newspaper and rest, and we headed off through the woodland to visit the mill.

Lots of birds in the woods, and fairy doors hinting at magical worlds beyond the gaze of human eyes… then we arrived at the mill, which was working – we tasted the flour. We had a lovely chat with the volunteers, then stood and watched the swallows, who are nesting in the roof, swooping in and out of the barn window.

Back through the woodland to the car for the short drive home – what a lovely day out.

Walk 11 – Part of St Oswald’s Way

Yesterday we attended my nephew’s wedding, so only had little walks near our hotel in Beadnell. It was a lovely day, with family and friends, and lots of food and drink. We woke on the Friday needing a good walk… which was just as well as we had left the van at the wedding venue! After breakfast, we set off along the coast from Beadnell to Low Newton, following part of St Oswald’s Way.

It was a lovely walk, well-signed posted and very peaceful. We stopped off to look at the Little Terns nesting at The Long Nanny Tern site, located between the villages of Beadnell and Low Newton. It is a nationally important breeding site and since 1977 the National Trust has worked to protect the site and the birds that breed there.

We collected the van and drove further along the coast to Craster, where we refuelled with coffee and cake. Then, we got on a bus and returned to Low Newton to continue our walk back to Craster (the challenges of walking a linear route instead of our more usual circular ones). Another very beautiful stretch of coastline, with the added bonus of a wonderful pub part-way and Dunstanburgh Castle to aim for.

We finished the day with fish and chips in Seahouses, before returning to Beadnell for bed with tired feet and happy faces!

Walk 10 -The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

20160601_134728Lindisfarne – one of our favourite, most special places. I came here often as a child with my family, and brought my children and Ian as an adult. It takes a bit of careful planning, checking the tides and trying to avoid the crowds. To enable us to have an early start, we stayed overnight on the mainland, near the start of the causeway. The staff very kindly packed our breakfast and we were off just after 7.00am. There was only one other car in the car park, which seemed to have been there overnight. A gentle, grey start to the day…

We walked a circuit of the island, refuelling mid-way with coffee and cake. It was peaceful and quiet, apart from the birds. Aporia Bear made friends with some sheep, admired the pebble ‘sculptures’, then found a puffin, which he took for a pint in the pub – we thought it only polite to join them for a pint of Golden Plover 😉

It is a fascinating island, full of stories and wildlife, with so much to experience, you need to use all your senses. Once the tide allowed, we returned to the mainland, restored and happy. Thank you Lindisfarne, for once more sharing your magic with us… we will be back.

Walk 9 – Finding Hidden Light in the Vale of Nightshade

Needing another trip to Ulverston (for another crystal gift) we searched the internet for an interesting walk nearby. Intrigued by the title we chose this one: “Walking ‘The Vale of Nightshade” This is a walk which has been published by the Hidden Light-Low Furness Association, one of a series which explore the unique  heritage of Low Furness. Ian and I walked and settled the dogs (who don’t like shopping for crystal), then headed out accompanied by Aporia the Adventure bear.

It was a walk of light and shade, full of wildlife and history. Starting at the Brown Cow pub – I couldn’t resist a little ‘how now’ comment (I know Ian, I am predictable) we headed off on the trail. At times we walked alongside the railway, other times we went under it, though dark, old tunnels. We meandered past gardens, allotments, fields and orchards – and said hello to Mr Scarecrow.

On past Furness Abbey, pausing to appreciate its enormity and history – what a magnificent place it must have been.

We had a little stop-off in the nearby tea room for tea and cakes. The carrot cake was yummy!

Suitably refreshed, we continued the walk through fields, along a river, spotting a dipper nesting under the bridge (if you look closely you can just about see it) – what a great spot for a nest!

We had some fun with the camera, playing with the shadows. Then spotted this sign which aptly summed up the walk.

Along the way we met lots of interesting animals… first two bullocks, then a field of cows with their calves, and finally two very friendly horses, who walked with us across the field.

The final stile proved a bit wobbly, it looked as though it had been chewed… who could have done that, we wondered? The bite marks looked quite big…

The final part of the trail took us back to Dalton-in-Furness, through some flowery meadows, over the train track, past the church with its magnificent tower and back to the car.

This was a lovely, tranquil Bank Holiday Monday walk, far from the madding crowds of Cumbria and through the Vale of Nightshade… bliss!

Walk 8 – Grasmere & Keswick via Castlerigg Stone Circle

20160525_111335My beautiful daughter Suzie came to stay for a few days with her boyfriend, Adam. This was her first visit to our ‘new’ house, the first time we had met Adam – who is a very lovely and welcome addition to the family – and Adam’s first visit to the Lakes.

It is fair to say we were out to impress, so we decided to go for a walk (without the dogs) and headed over to Grasmere (having first walked the dogs). We parked in the centre of the village, then headed off around the Lake.

20160525_121500Arriving back in Grasmere we made a beeline for Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread shop…  yummy! A quick look in some of the shops then on to Tweedies Bar for lunch, and real ale.

Feeling happy and full we wandered towards Keswick, stopping off at Castlerigg for a bit of stone-hugging on the way. Suzie was a little reluctant, so Adam gave a helping hand…

20160525_151146We helped couple of walkers lift their elderly dog over the stile, and in return they shared some ideas for interesting routes up Catbells – something for us to look into for a later walk.

Then on to Keswick for a little shopping (I bought Tom Kitten for my collection, who hitched a ride in Suzie’s hood) and a trip round Derwentwater, this time by boat instead of foot. Back to the car, and home for a rest, before dinner at the pub, joined by Jason and Charity – what a wonderful way to end a wonderful day.

Eight walks completed, 42 to go…



Walk 7: Near and Far…in the steps of Beatrix Potter

Saturday 7th May, Ian and I decided to head to the south of the county to buy a wedding gift from a special shop in Ulverston, and to stop off for a walk on the way back up north. This is a walk from one of our many walking books, that we have wanted to do for years, but hadn’t quite got round to. The title is intriguing and inviting – Near and Far, as in the Sawreys – and the start is by one of my favourite places, Hill Top which we first visited on our honeymoon in March 2005. Owned and managed by the National Trust, it celebrates the life and works of Beatrix Potter, fell-farmer, conservationist, artist and writer – and is one of the people who has inspired me most in life. Inspired yesterday, I took approx. 60 photos (a distinct contrast from last week’s paltry collection).

The gardens were blooming and lovely – although we didn’t see any rabbits! Ian treated me to a new book for my collection, celebrating her 150th birthday, plus a cute little cast iron mouse to sit on our kitchen windowsill. After a lovely chat with one of the volunteers, we headed off for our walk.

Down the land, through the woodland, enjoying bird song, buzzing bees and lots of beautiful flowers.

Across the sheep-dotted fields, to the tranquil and lovely Moss Eccles Tarn – well, it was tranquil until I arrived!

We paused for a while, enjoying a snack, looking at the reflections on the water, and reflecting on life. “I’m going to have a paddle,” I gleefully announced to Ian, “Look there’s a stone just under the water, so it won’t be too deep…” I stripped off socks and shoes, rolled up my trousers, stepped on to the stone saying, “Ian, do you think it will be slippery?” and slipped…..SPLASH! Thankfully I’d grabbed at the bank so managed to stay upright, although in water up past my knees! I crawled on to the bank where I lay laughing for ages…

Thankfully, the water wasn’t very cold, and the gentle breeze and warm spring sunshine helped me dry out before we returned to civilisation. It reminded me of my childhood, when my clumsy adventuring often resulted in me having a return car-ride in pants and a borrowed jumper – with the rest of my wet clothes in the boot of our car!

A crunchy, pine-cone strewn walk by the tarn, then back to Hill Top car park. A wobbly little lamb, could only have been a few days old, bleated as we passed. What a ‘blooming’ marvellous walk – full of flowers, wildlife, love and laughter! Thanks Ian for a lovely day.

Walk 6: Oops, I mistakenly did a Wainwright!


On Saturday 30th April, we decided to take the dogs for a walk around Great Mell Fell, then some silly woman (yep, that was me) said, “why don’t we take the path up the fell, it doesn’t look that tricky…

However, what appeared to be the top, was not – a pattern that kept repeating on this walk. I got close to give up several times, a combination of both physical and mental exhaustion combined to make me want to sit down and cry – really not like me.

And yet, we kept going – urged on by the dogs who unlike us, were having a good time.

It was very blowy and snowy on the top, with patches of snow, but the girls seemed to enjoy it.  The cairn signifying we had arrived was unimpressive, however the views made it worth it (almost).

The route back down was tough going through boggy ground and fallen trees. In places we really struggled to find the path. Perhaps it would be easier on a drier, sunny day? This may definitely not my most favourite walk, and one I’m not in a hurry to repeat. Though I have to admit, I did have a sense of achievement once I’d made it home and had a cold beer in my hand.