Staycation

Since Richard broke his arm 10 days ago, our planned summer holiday in Norway had to be postponed. Backpacking and sleeping in a tent would not have been a viable proposition at this point.

So, we decided to stay close to home and have a shorter summer break than planned. Nevertheless we have had a great time, catching up with lots of people and spending some time around the house (which is unusual!).

Day 1: Visit to see my parents and Grandfather.

Day 2: Pressure washed the drive(!) and visited friends in Ilkeston.

Day 3: 17 mile run (take a look at for Mark’s GPS track) and visited sister and Brendan in Leicester.

I was accompanied on the 17 mile run with Mark from running club. We set out with map in hand and ran towards Hints through Gorsey Bank and over to Hopwas Woods. The weather was perfect and the views were pretty good for middle-of-England terrain. Thanks to Mark for the photo

Day 4: Visited friends in Shropshire.

Day 5: Painting and jobs around the house, plus a walk up the local slag heap(!).

The summit of Pooley Slag Heap!

Day 6: Visit to see the Staffordshire Hoard in Birmingham and an afternoon with Keith and his garden railway.

One of Keith's trains arriving at Birdlip station

Whilst the trains were unable to take us on a trip around the garden, my camera had a nice ride…

So, no great adventures this time, but everything is slightly more ‘adventurous’ with a one-armed husband!

Barcelona!

Jo and I had a great three days, walking many miles – why did no-one warn me that the streets of Barcelona are so hard? – in the heat, to tick off as many sights as possible.

There are some superb museums in Barcelona. We particularly liked the Frederic Mares Museum.

I loved the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona because it includes a huge subterranean archaeological excavation – fascinating but impossible to photograph with an ordinary camera due to the low light.

The Art Gallery of Catalunya is excellent. Unfortunately we were thrown out too soon; the guidebook had the closing time wrong 🙁 so there is an excuse to go back.

It is housed in a huge purpose built edifice erected, surprisingly, in 1929: how come there were the resources after the Depression and shortly before the collapse into Civil War?

The Art Gallery
Inside the main hall - a great space for performance, or holding a ball! There is also a good cafe off one corner.

We felt it compulsort to visit La Sagrada Familia, but having seen the immense queue which snaked round the whole block and was several deep, we made do with the outside. It may be deeply un-trendy to say so but Gaudi does nothing for me, so you can look up your own images of the catheral on the internet. Here is is from Parc Guell:

La Sagrada Familia

I will say it is very impressive, and certainly interesting. We looked at quite a bit of other modern architecture; in fact it is impossible to avoid in Barcelona!

A Gaudi structure on Parc Guell

I found the parks and gardens a little disappointing.

There was no climbing; in fact is is prohibited:

Spoilsports at the castle

We made up for the disappointment with cake.

Cake
more cake

The last day became a bit fraught when Jo’s bag was stolen during the afternoon. In addition to euros, wallet, credit card, car keys, and her daughter’s digital SLR, it contained her passport. As a result of this we discovered that:

  1. the British Consulate closes at 1.30 pm;
  2. Barcelona has some very helpful inhabitants but our Spanish could have used improvement;
  3. the police station closes at 5 pm.

I flew home alone. However, I am pleased to say that Jo got home today with a brand new passport. I hope her journey was better than mine: a passenger decided to have a panic attack and was eventually offloaded before take-off. Having lost our slot we finally departed Spnish airspace in time to get me home for 3.30 am. A few hours later I was back at work…

Gauging interest …

This December I will be celebrating a birthday that is divisible by 10 and hence I thought that perhaps I should organise a party. Hence this post is to gauge your interest…

I was thinking of a blog rendezvous-style weekend, but with more cake and a few other invitees, but most certainly with a focus on ‘doing something fun outdoors’.

So, the options are:

Derbyshire: stay in a bunk barn, go climbing, walking, caving, running, orienteering

South Wales: stay at Whitewalls, go climbing (there’s some in the quarrys above Whitewalls apparently), walking, caving, running, orienteering (less likely)

Let me know your preferences via the poll below, or alternatively send me an email.

Would you be interested in attending?

  • Yes (100%, 13 Votes)
  • No (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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Which location do you prefer (if no preference tick both)?

  • Derbyshire (59%, 10 Votes)
  • South Wales (41%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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What dates are you available (tick all that apply)?

  • 17-18th September (24%, 10 Votes)
  • 15-16th October (21%, 9 Votes)
  • 22-23rd October (21%, 9 Votes)
  • 1-2nd October (17%, 7 Votes)
  • 8-9th October (17%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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What is your favourite cake?

  • Chocolate (46%, 6 Votes)
  • Fresh and fruity (23%, 3 Votes)
  • Spongy (15%, 2 Votes)
  • Dense fruity (8%, 1 Votes)
  • Alcoholic (8%, 1 Votes)
  • Pastry-encased (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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I’ll call the poll finished once this post falls off the front page into oblivion.

Boris’ return to the rock…

Boris and Doreen have been holidaying in probably the best week of sunny weather Scotland has ever seen. On the way home they called in to the Lakes to say hi… After a slightly boozy Saturday evening meal we headed out to a road-side (our legs were knackered from our hike up to Scafell the day before) crag on Sunday morning. Boris hasn’t climbed for over a year but he was keen to reacquaint himself, so we started him off on the classic Route 2 but rapidly moved on to the steeper routes of Tritus and Swing to the Right.

Boris on the starting pitch of Route 2
Laetitia and Boris (in Laetitia's old helmet - way too small for him) happy at Raven Crag Walthwaite
The second pitch of Route 2

I’ve done Swing to the Right before and found it every bit as tough today. However, Laetitia managed to swing right a bit lower, below the roof, and go straight up reaching the big holds that signal the end of the tricky bit directly rather than swinging in from the left for them. She reckoned it was way easier this way – perhaps something to try next time?

Swing to the Right

A white weekend

We don’t often journey south, so this weekend’s trip almost felt like a visit to a foreign country… this wasn’t surprising as Essex is somewhat like a foreign country! Our first destination was Hadleigh where we joined my old friend Clare and her husband Ilir to celebrate the blessing of their marriage. After the blessing we retired to the delightful ground of ‘The Lawn’ where we soaked up the atmosphere and enjoyed a lovely three-course meal. The speeches following the meal were jovial and interesting and were followed by dancing. We particularly enjoyed the kosovan dancing…. which was very much like the greek dancing at Bill and Artemis’ wedding. We should have been well practiced… but we weren’t!

Clare and Ilir
The happy couple

On Sunday Richard and I needed to fit in some training and so as we were in the south, Richard suggested that we visit the Seven Sisters because they were only 60 miles away. The miles were a little longer than we first anticipated, but the views of the chalk cliffs were amazing. We parked at Birling Gap and made our way along the beach beneath the towering white faces of the Seven Sisters. When we got to Cuckmere Haven we continued along the coast to get a fabulous view back over the cliffs.

On the beach
View over the Seven Sisters

We retraced our steps to the Cuckmere River and then followed it to Alfriston where we turned off towards Wilmington to see the Long Man of Wilmington, a 16th-18th century hill figure. With only an hour to go on our parking ticket we realised that we should get a move on and so we quickened our pace and headed back to Birling Gap. After another hour we arrived back and ate ice cream to recover some of the calories spent over the 17 mile run, before heading home.

The Long Man of Wilmington

We enjoyed our weekend in the ‘south’ and it was nice going somewhere new. This was particularly true because we got to see a new fake tree that we hadn’t seen before!

A thing of beauty!
and in close up!

A weekend at home…

Richard is ‘working’ in a posh castle near Barcelona at the moment, so I’ve spent the weekend visiting friends and relatives and errr… running.

On Saturday our family came together to give my grandfather the final hardcopies of his memoirs. This might not be the last you hear about this because he tells us that he has started writing the sequel!

Our Grandad signing copies of his memoirs

We celebrated in style with a black forest gateaux that I made the evening before. It was delicious! Kirsch-flavoured cream is just fabulous!

Black forest gateaux

On Sunday morning I ran off the calories around Tamworth and then visited friends in Shropshire.

Not too many other exciting pictures from the weekend, so I’ve added some pictures from the garden. It’s looking nice at the moment and the veggies are super productive. It’s only a small space, but we’ve found space for peas, french beans, mange tout, cougettes, carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, aubergines, little gem lettuces, rocket, leeks, pak choi, rhubarb, gooseberries, squash, raspberries, plums, sunflowers and potatoes…. plus the gravel area is now covered in alpine plants, including alpine strawberries!

The cat belongs to our next door neighbour, but he spends most of his time meowing at our patio door 🙂

The Far North

Another kind invitation from our friend Arthur saw Andy and me driving 6 hours after work on Thursday north to Durness. Well, Andy drove, I just sat there and relaxed, enjoying the spectacular highland scenery. Durness is as far as you can go without falling into the sea, or turning right for John o’Groats. We arrived early on Friday morning, and a bit later were roused by Arthur to ascend Foinaven: a huge massif of a mountain which looks as if it ought to be a Munro but is actually not quite one by a matter of inches.

It was hard work to reach the bottom of the mountain, across a bumpy, heathery, boggy, pathless waste. However, it was worth it for the fab views from the summit over mountains and islands.

Sorry, this doesn't do justice to the view
Neither does this. A view back towards part of Foinaven
On the way down
Great screes

I’m told that this is the only formation of the type in the UK (but am of course open to correction by geologists). Following the descent we had a trek across bumpy, heathery, boggy, pathless wastes to reach a track. I have rarely been so pleased to see a track. However, it was five miles along said track to get back to the car. I was more than ready for my excellent dinner at The Old Schoolhouse, Kinlochbervie.

Disappointingly, there was a Durness mountain that they would not allow me to visit:

So, clearly, I will need to have another visit to Durness.

The next mountain was just south of Ullapool where we had retreated in search of a rain-free climb. We went up something the name of which I have forgotten (if you are reading this, Arthur, no doubt you can advise!).

Andy and Arthur contemplate what the views might have been on a clearer day

The next meal was at the canalside Lock Inn, Fort Augustus, where there were plenty of boats to see – there is actually a series of locks. Roast chicken with haggis: novel and not unpleasant. Sadly, the next day meant a return home. The weekend finished with a run back at Hesket, and dinner kindly cooked by Sabiene. Mountains are all very well but food is just as important.

Dolomiti: Giorno 5

Day 5 of our trip saw us escape from (most of) the snow for a day in the Pian Delle Comelle, a deep valley on the North side of Pale di San Martino. We left most of our gear at Rifugio Rosetta as this would be around trip, and headed North on Path 756. The views were lovely, with Cima della Vezzana, the highest peak in the area, on our left, and various other mountain groups poking through a layer of cloud ahead.

Rachel, Dave and I on the way North from Rifugio Rosetta.
Rachel, Dave and I on the way North from Rifugio Rosetta.

After an easy couple of kilometres we arrived at Passo Antermarucol and started the descent into the forest towards the village of Gares. However, before reaching the valley bottom we turned left on the Viaz del bus, which sounds like a bus route, but was in fact a barely-used path that wound up and over a small col through some very pretty forest and then along a narrow ledge with occasional lengths of cable for safety and which even featured a small tunnel. The ledge ended in a steep gully which was unfortunately snow-filled, burying the last sections of cable, but after a few awkward moments on the step, hard snow, we managed to escape down the gully to the Pian delle Comelle itself.

A first view of Pian delle Comelle from the Viaz del Bus.
A first view of Pian delle Comelle from the Viaz del Bus.

The valley was beautiful, with high cliffs, steep canyons and waterfalls on either side, but a perfectly flat floor. We strolled up the river bed, admiring the flower-filled meadows on either side towards the waterfalls and canyons that marked the end of the Pian. After lunch sat on a giant rock, we continued up around the side of the canyon to find a rocky bowl with a couple of waterfalls spilling into it and another large area of snow. We kicked steps up that, and traversed the loose scree above it to regain the path and more cables, taking us up to the next step in the valley, the Pian dei Cantoni. The contrast between the peaceful, flat bottomed Pians and the steep canyons between them was remarkable.

Lovely meadows of Button d'Oro in Pian delle Comelle.
Lovely meadows of Button d'Oro in Pian delle Comelle.

The path (704) continued across the second Pian, this time featuring a group of Marmots shrieking at us, and then climbed again, back into the snow, and eventually back to Rifugio Rosetta. By this stage the cloud had come in and the wind had picked up so we were glad to escape into the Rifugio for a beer before continuing.

The remarkable thing for me was that we didn’t meet a single person the whole day. The valley was stunning, and yet the people in the Rifugio hadn’t mentioned it as a place to visit, and nobody else was there! In the UK it would be a major tourist attraction, I’m sure. For a one day trip in the Pale, I can’t recommend this trip enough.

Looking down on Pian delle Comelle from the top of the first 'step'.
Looking down on Pian delle Comelle from the top of the first 'step'.

From the Rifugio, Dave elected to catch the Funivia back to our car in San Martino, while Rachel and I chose to run down the hill. 45 minutes later we were all back at the car for an evening of showers and civilisation before the last two days of the holiday.

Wild poppies in the river bed in Pian delle Comelle.
Wild poppies in the river bed in Pian delle Comelle.