Well, it’s the 5th month of the year, time to get reviewing to do list’s (although you should probably do that every day 🙂
As I write this, I’m about to go on holiday trekking in the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
Other good news, is I’ve been on a weight loss program and I’ve his my “lost 1 stone” mark.
Bad news, is I had a stinker of a cold which has been really hard to shift.
The month began with the picture above, with me completing another of the welsh 3000 foot hills while out with the walking group.
The day before, my friend Julie came down to Chester for the day and we had a fab time exploring pubs around the city.
As we went into the Botanist, there was a small army (and it was a small army, they were team handed) of Moneypenny PA’s out for some drinks. It was fantastic catching up with everyone, the only downside is Julie isn’t terribly good at taking pictures on a phone, so this is how the photo came out.
Tomorrow, I’ll be off with those orange uniformed people from Easyjet. Nikki and I are going to Morocco for our yearly overseas walking trip.
Thing I’m most looking forward too, is an ascent of Mount Toubkal. It will be my 3rd ascent above 4000 metres. A modest achievement, but one I’m very proud off.
As I’m going away trekking, I’ve started to convert some of the older trekking pages, that you might find interesting.
It’s a holiday after all, so its 4 days trekking with 3 nights in gite’s and refuges and the remaining time in Marrakesh, relaxing and seeing some of the new sights there since I went last in 2008.
A couple of months ago, I was doing the Fairfield horseshoe and went over on my knee. I landed badly and ended up falling onto my side.
Nothing serious, although my knee hurt a lot, and as my camera was on my belt it took the full force and was destroyed.
At that moment, several people came over from other walking groups who’d stopped on the top and offered assistance. I was surprised at the array of first aid equipment and military grade bandages. I’ve since upgraded my first aid kit, but it left me thinking.
If I’d landed on my knee and broken it, what exactly would I do. I’ve always thought that someone around would know what to do, but what if everyone else is thinking that as well.
As a committee member at the Chester and District walking group, I suggested a half day first aid course.
I’d previously seen the Saint John’s Ambulance station across from the Moneypenny building where I used to work, so I contacted them.
12 places and a 3 hours session for about £240. The training was superb with the instructor Don sharing loads of practical and useful information with everyone (who all really enjoyed it). Nicest thing was, when we ran over, Don stayed for an extra hour to make sure we covered everything we wanted too
If you’re looking for first aid training, I couldn’t recommend them more highly.
With the training over, I’m still in Wrexham (a place I really like) surrounded by loads of my friends and Nikki.
So we had a few drinks around the town and went to a new Turkish restaurant called Turquoise. Daft name, but excellent food.
Later we went to a pub called the Polish Embassy. I was delighted when the barmaid appeared with several bags of chips and buttered bread.
Its a local tradition apparently, that on Saturday afternoons, there are complimentary chip butty’s for every customer !.
I hope that tradition spreads to Chester.
Well, it was my birthday once again, and I got a selection of nice cards and gifts (and loads of texts, emails, fb’s and tweets).
As usual, I opened my memories box and had a look at my photos.
Life has its ups and downs for everyone, but its in moments like these that I realise how lucky I am and I’ve got so many things to feel happy about.
I stopped doing my famous birthday pub crawls last year (they were great fun, but the organising involved was quite stressful).
Instead I had a quiet day with Nikki, and since he was around, my old friend Mike Delafield.
Storyhouse, Chester’s new Theatre, Cinema and Library was open, so we went in there. Okay, hands up. I’ve been critical and sceptical in the past few months, but honestly, its amazing.
We had a full tour if the building and it is spectacular. It’s a starting pistol fired for the re-development of the city.
They sell coffee and wine in the library and they have dozens of travel books so I was in my element.
Afterwards we went to Corks Out.
Their wine bar has been closed for 4 months, during building work, which has now finished.
It’s actually really smart, 4 times the size it used to be and now has a dedicated barman.
As I bid farewell to Mike, Nikki and I head to Upstairs at the grill for dinner.
It’s quite expensive, but considered the best steak in the city and an ideal once a year birthday treat.
On the next table were some American Aeronautical engineers. We got talking to them and one of them had the steak above, described in the menu as the size of a small tennis racket !.
I’ve recently upgraded 2 pieces of gear. The stuff I have I’ve usually owned for years and taken a lot of time to select, so I dont swap things very often.
In this case, my Adidas sports bag of 20 years (which I use for car trips and weekends away) literally fell to pieces so I upgraded with a mountain equipment base camp bag. A bit heavier, but the perfect size, completely waterproof and built for the knocks of airport baggage and high mountain trekking.
The other one was a head torch. The one I had was fine. Lately,Petzle have produced headtorches with selected brightness (if you look around and there’s a tree 3 feet away, it will dim the beam while looking at it). They can also be recharged with USB and you can choose bluetooth to configure its settings.
I like my headtorches simple so none of those features are any use to me. But, the version of the 1 I already have, was released with upto 300 lumens (much brighter than the one I have and ideal for emergency’s) so I bought that too (it also means I have a spare headtorch now.
This month saw us go away for 2 long weekends (hence the delay in updating the blog).
Our first trip was to walk Hadrian’s wall. This time we’d built in a whole day to see Newcastle and have a look around.
The picture above is inside the “new” Castle, a really interesting place. There were loads of nice pubs and bars and we had Thai for dinner.
One of my favourite things was the Baltic art gallery. It had loads of interesting things but on the 2nd floor, they had a standard build kit (polythene sheets and stuff like that) that’s issued to refugee’s. They had constructed one inside and you could see what it would be like to live in there.
We had coffee in a nice cafe. With music as its them, they actually had Jazz LP playing on an old style music centre.
Following day, and we set off.
We walked for several miles along the bank of the river and were passed frequently by joggers and cyclists.
When the Romans left, much of the wall was broken down and used as building material.
The Hadrian’s wall path is basically the route where the wall used to be. In reality there’s not that much left, but we found this bit that was worth photographing.
Its a long way, but it was a more leisurely trip as we had more time. It enabled us to visit the Roman army museum and other interesting things like that.
Willowford bridge is made from the same metal as the Angel of the North.
It was put lowered into position by helicopter and made the original site of the wall, fully walkable for the first time since the 3rd century.
<picture of new ht & bag>
Our other long weekend was a trip to the Yorkshire Dales.
We spend lots of time in North Wales, the Peak District and the Lake District, but hardly ever visit the Dale’s.
We planned 4 iconic walks for the trip, including the one above to Pen – Y – Ghent.
On the way, we stopped at the services to get some coffee.
I remembered that I saw Hugh Laurie on this bridge a few years ago when I was with Frank and Christine on a day walk to the Lakes.
I’ve always regretted not saying something too him, as I’d always enjoyed Blackadder and he was my favourite character (and what we didn’t know then was he would return to form in House).
We went up a different route to Pen Y Ghent this time.
As its near Horton in Ribblesdale, I tried to meet up with my Uncle John who lives there.
Unfortunately, Uncle John suffers “bank holiday” invasion in the same way Chester people suffer “the races” so he was out of town when we were there.
Our base for the trip was a lovely village called Kettlewell.
We had dinner in each of the 3 pubs in the town. I really liked it there, and I’ll be returning.
On the final day, we did a circuit around Wolf Crag’s. The view across the valley was incredible and we’ll be going back there before the end of the year.
Just after Nikki returned from Ski-ing, we headed for Liverpool to see Jimmy Carr live at the Liverpool Philharmonic.
It was a bit of a faf, as we had to get a replacement bus.
I was really looking forward to it, but he wasnt that good (it wasnt helped by the fact that many of the audiance appeared to have spent the afternoon in the pub).
We left in the interval and had a couple of drinks in Liverpool before returning home.
The following weekend, Nikki and I headed to a Youth Hostel called Ravenstore. I quite like Youth Hostels as they are usualy informal, pretty cheap and located in the best parts of the countryside.
We love the Peak District and it was a chance to catch up with an old friend called Cheryle, who moved down to Birmingham and who we dont see as often as we’d like.
Driving straight from work, we had dinner in a country pub on the way, then met up with everyone in the hostel and had a few drinks.
We met a group (3 generations of a family with some freinds). They were planning their own walk the next day. When we asked where they were going, they were a bit vague.
No matter, we respected their privacy and wished them a good day on the hill the next day.
We met Cheryl through the walking group and loads of other members of the group had come along.
So it was logical, that we’d spend the days out walking (and the evenings drinking good bear and wine and eating pie and mash).
We wander along a section of the Monsal trail.
I’ve walked the Monsal trail previously with my friend Frank and a few times since (they’ve actually opened up the tunnels now, so you can do the original route the railway line would have taken rather than the twisty around one which I personally prefer).
The view from the to of a one time railway bridge.
Brian has chosen a “hybrid” route, and we quickly find ourselves on a section of the Limestone way.
We come to a hill overlooking this Quarry.
There is actually right of way, and we follow a path which goes right through it.
By now it was late afternoon, so we stopped by the Quarry and had lunch.
As we continue along, I see this old air raid shelter. I tried exploring inside it, but it wasn’t very big.
The trail carried on for a few more hours.
We came to a pub.
We’d normally have a drink to finish the walk, then go back to the hostel to get cleaned up before heading out for dinner.
The pub was very busy, so we opted for a early dinner with a couple of pints.
Once back at the hostel, we got cleaned up and it was a chance to catch up with old friends.
I was delighted to find that YHA establishments now stock Moretti beer.
In the morning, we have breakfast.
Chatting with the 3 generation group we’d previously spoken too, it turned out they had gone on a walk led by the “son” who had no map and used a phone.
Suffice to say they’d got lost and spent a lot of time walking along the road. They were using the trip as “prep” for a charity walking along the great wall of China.
We invited them to join us on our walk.
The 2nd day is normally a shorter walk, designed to finish around 2pm. Brian had designed an amazing walk to take in all of the countryside in the vicinity around the hostel.
Another mingle of the Limestone way and the Monsal trail with some steep hills and spectacular views.
By 2pm, we’d finished. One of my lasting memories of the trip, was our guests thanking Brian and saying how much they’d enjoyed the walk (and they genuinely looked enthralled).
That’s pretty much how I feel whenever I go walking, and I’m delighted they’ve chosen to join the walking family.
A bit of random stuff now.
With my new “super-kitchen” I’ve started cooking again.
One of the things I love to make is soup.
I think after hillwalking, soup is my favourite way to relax.
On another weekend, we head off to summit Moel Siabod.
Unfortunately, there’s driving rain.
I own waterproofs and if your a walker, you cant be fickle about the weather .
That being said, I refuse to walk for hours in driving rain, so I politely stepped back from the walk (I’d hope the weather would improve on the way there).
Normally, I’d have sat in the car until the 3 other walkers returned, but luckily I was able to relax in the famous Moel Siabod cafe.
I had some lunch and coffee, and later a bottle of wine.
In the 4 hours I was there, I was able to read numerous copies of trail and other outdoor magazines and put plans together for 20 trips over the next 3 years.
So not a complete wast of time. My walking “companions” didn’t get to the top, as with altitude, the rain turned to snow.
Another interesting talk at the Chester Globetrotters the other week.
One I found fascinating, was about Swaziland (the worlds only remaining full Monarchy).
It also featured a Brilliant talk by Kevin (one of the organisers) about a trip around the middle east.
He’d given the talk previously, but I’d missed it, so I was made up to finally see it.
I’ve recently taken over the management of the Globetrotters mailing list.
If you aren’t on it, and want to be, please get in touch and I’ll sort it out (thanks so much to Reggie for recommending mail-chimp which we use to run it).
On the subject of things on at Chester Museum, the Chester Film Society have started to put performances on there.
Additionally, I got a call the other morning from my friend Dave at the walking group. Turns out that evening (also at the Grosvenor Museum) there was a travel talk, put on by the Society of 13.
The Soc13 as I call them (it makes them sound like some sort of black ops outfit, which they clearly aren’t) put on talks and events.
That evening, they were hosting John Pilkington in partnership with the Royal Geographical society. It was the first time I’d been to one of their events. It was very well organised and I even ran into Nikki’s parents who were also there.
The talk, Russia and Europe: what next was absolutely fascinating. He had stood on the hillside from the charge of the light brigade, taken photo’s in Chernobyl and drank Tea in a bombed building.
It’s showing throughout the year at different places, if you get the chance go and see it.
My cycling to work is proceeding well.
I now cycle 3 miles to work from Capenhurst.
On the way back, I now cycle all the way home. At 13 miles per day, I’m coming up on my 300th mile.
My bike locked up at my office in Ellesmere Port.
It still amazes me, that some people just lean their bike against the rack.
I think differently. I grew up in Newton Heath after all. If something isnt locked and you leave it, it might as well be gone already.
When I was 7, mum was taking David and I to school. During the drive there, she said there would be a suprise for us when we get home.
We did everything we could to get mum to tell us, but she was tight lipped.
When she picked us up from school, she made us wait until we got home, and then, there it was. Our black and white tv had gone and in its place was an amazing colour tv.
I cant describe the elation as we flicked through the channels and all the programs I normaly watch seemed to jump into life in colour.
We washed our hands and faces and then had tea (dinner if your from the South) and then we sat together and watched my first colour film, The Magnificent Seven.
Chez Jules in Chester have an event on upstairs in their restaurant, where you have dinner and watch a classic film
So there, all those years later, Nikki and I went to see Mag7 once again. What a fantastic experience, which I’d definitely recommend.
Our 2nd weekend away in March was to Snowdonia.
Picked up at 5pm from work and we set off.
Since the clocks had gone back, it was nice to be driving in daylight.
We returned to my favourite place in Snowdonia, Llanberis, once again staying at the Youth Hostel there.
We cooked some dinner, opened a bottle of wine and settled in for the evening.
In the morning, we head into the town to meet our friends from the Chester and District Walking Group.
Our meeting point was the legendary Pete’s Eat’s where they sell food in large portions and pint mugs of tea.
Our goal for the day, was a circuit over and back around a mountain called Moel Elio, which we’d nicknamed the Elephants back (more about that later).
We’d walked it previously, which is always the preferred way to lead a walk.
You can see the hill was quite steep.
After a couple of hours walking, were at the top, and you can see all the way to the top.
It was quite windy, so we found a spot behind a wall and had lunch.
Dropping back and circling around, you can see Moel Elio from the side and why we call it the Elephants back.
Back into town for a drink and a chat with our friends. From here, they all head home and Nikki and I return to the Youth Hostel.
A sit down and a bottle of Moretti beer, then off for a shower and get cleaned up.
We had a dinner booking at the Peak Restaurant.
I really like it there, as they sell “normal” food like beef and ale pie, but in a fine dining style (and Nikki really likes the wine there).
Some chocolate cake to wash it down, a few more drinks and then off to bed (it had been a long day, but we had more adventures planned for the following day).
Up early and we drive out of Llanberis, towards Snowdon.
Parking near the Vaynol arms pub, we set off with Nikki taking the lead.
Elidir Fawr was our goal.
But this wasn’t a hill walk in the normal sense.
It’s one of the Snowdon 3000’s and its a brutal 1:2 gradient over heath (there’s no path to speak off, and frequently involves scrambling).
After an agonising walk, we get to the top.
Therese a sort of “birds” nest of rocks which is appreciated as its very windy.
The spot is said to feature the best overall view of Snowdon.
Looking towards Snowdonia.
We met up with a fell runner who had jogged over from Llanberis (it had only taken him an hour).
The view in the other direction was incredible.
As we head back down the hill, we pass the reservoir that feeds Snowdonia’s famous power station “hidden” inside a mountain.
At the bottom we have a drink the Vaynol Arms before heading home.
Traffic is terrible on way home, so we stop in Llandudno and have fish and chips.
While there, I see the Grand hotel on the sea front, a place a used to see frequently on caravan holidays in my youth.
Just like the Snake Pass Inn, I’ve always promised myself that I’d go back there and so I’ve added it to my mind-map for this year (along with completing all the Snowdon 3000’s).
I’m pretty switched on about stuff, and I’m on a lot of mailing lists for deals on travel, hotels, theatre and stuff like that.
One of my key information tools on my adventure journey is that I work in an office with some Millennials.
They literally know everything that’s going on. My friend Matt mentioned that Virgin were doing a seat sale and why didn’t I have a look and see if there was anything that suited me.
As usual, it was cheap going there one day, and expensive coming back the next. But, I found I could travel from Chester to London at 7:30am and come home again 6:10pm for £20 return trip.
I booked it 10 mins later and Nikki and I began planning our fast track trip to London.
We prepared our own breakfast and made our way to the train (Chester station is only 5 minutes from my house).
Just to the left of this picture, you can see a lone head. Its Nikki, this was our Jeremy Corbyn moment…
We had an entire carriage to ourselves, and I took this shot as I was returning after getting coffee’s
We used the 3 star system that has served me well in trip all over the world and made a list of place to see.
I knew all too well that things can end up taking longer than you intend and this can have a knock on effect for the next and subsequent places you want to visit.
So, strict discipline to the clock throughout the day.
Other important thing was getting around. I much prefer to wander on foot while exploring, but to see everything we’d need to travel almost exclusively on the London Underground.
We emerge from the Tower of London tube-station.
It was a lot cheaper to book things online and print your own tickets.
It also meant you could just walk straight in, without queuing which was ace.
Once inside, we see a talk by one of the Beefeater’s.
A beefeater must have served in her Majesty’s forces for 22 years before applying to work at the Tower. It must be pretty cool, as they get to live there as well.
With limited time, head off on our own.
The Crown Jewels are obviously a must see sight, and known for their enormous queue’s.
We’d factored this into our plans and put it first on our list.
No photographs can be taken inside, but I thought they were quite splendid, regardless on your thoughts about the Monarchy.
Unsure of the protocol when speaking to the Guards, I asked if it would be ok to photograph him. He remained completely motionless.
I said “I’m going to presume its ok” then took the shot and said “Thank you”.
I can only imagine the 10’s of thousands of pictures he appears in, in photo albums all around the world.
Another section of Tower, is the fusiliers museum, a regiment who are based here (there were video’s of men training for the 2nd world war in the grounds).
Inside, it had 2 Victoria Crosses, and this Napoleonic Eagle, captured in the Peninsula war (which I heard was the inspiration for similar events in the book/tv series Sharp).
There was some stuff about a steel boot and how it had helped to stop desent in the regiment.
I couldn’t imagine what they meant, until a read it. Basicaly a shirker had an injury to his leg, which he claimed would not heal.
They made a steal boot that was locked and would completely enclose the leg. And sure enough a week later, it had healed (and he got 50 lashes).
The white tower is an incredibly beautiful building.
It has has stood in the grounds of the Tower of London for 900 years.
Inside it had loads of old suits of armour and swords, which frankly I found a bit dull.
It’s said that if the Ravens ever leave the tower, it will crumble and fall.
There are always 6 Ravens, and they have a spare just in case.
I had read that their wings are clipped so they cant fly away. I was surprised to find that they were in cages anyway, I presume this was to protect the general public as they can be quite viscous.
We got up onto the battlements and walked all the way around.
There was an interesting sign about the Duke of Wellington.
I hadn’t realised, that for a period of time, Wellington had actually been Prime Minister.
On one occasion in the house, during a debate, he took issue at something his debating opponent had said, and challenged him to a duel !.
But this is tourism after all.
As we wander along I offer to buy Nikki a gift and crown her as my Queen.
She comments that she would like to “crown” me, but in an entirely different way.
She eventually declines my kind offer and says she wants to be sick !.
Tower bridge, frequently confused with London Bridge is somewhere very special.
Its an iconic symbol of my country and so you might be surprised to hear that I’ve never walked across it.
We could see enormous queues for the Tower bridge tour (originally built by the Victorians it was steam powered until 1987).
Everything is running to schedule, so when we reach the opposite bank, we take some time to wander along the bank of the Thames.
Its getting on for 1pm, so we stop for dinner at a traditional London pub called the Mudlark.
Nikki has fish and chips and I have Pie and mash.
Washed down with a few drinks, we are suitably re-energised and continue on our way.
I took this picture back across the river (it reminded me of the sort of think you see in Lucky Man).
It features famous London buildings like the Walkie Talkie and the Gherkin.
I can only imagine how much extra it costs to make a building that isn’t the normal square shape.
Only 10 days earlier a terrorist atrocity had resulted in 5 deaths, including a Police officer.
We were passing by on our way to see another popular attraction.
A sobering moment, but democracy and freedom come at a cost.
The classic statue of Winston Churchill gives a hint of where were going next.
Outside, people are queuing for upto 2 hours, to get inside and see the Cabinet rooms.
If they’d just taken 5 minutes to book online, they could have walked straight in as we did.
The cabinet war rooms, has many rooms setup roughly as they would have been during the 2nd world war, when the war effort was co-ordinated from here.
In many ways similar to Bletchley park. This room, was Churchill’s telephone room, which gave him a secure, direct line to Roosevelt, the American president.
The venue also has a museum dedicated to Winston Churchill.
To be honest, I’m quite well read on Churchill, so I’d seen/read most of it before and there wasn’t anything in the museum that really jumped out at me.
Instead, this replica of 10 Downing streets door, which features some comments he made on becoming prime minister.
The thing I really came to see.
OK, a minor moan. Just like Bletchley park and similar venues, they have rooms with some old wallpaper, and old desk and some other stuff, and say its a re-creation of Alan Turings desk, re-creation of Churchill’s bedroom etc.
But its not really is it ?
However, at the end of the 2nd world war, the door to the Map Room was locked and it remained exactly as it was until it was re-opened decades later.
It was here, that war was fought. Completely authentic and you could feel history as you looked at it.
It didn’t take long for me to see everything I wanted to at the Cabinet rooms, and we were once again above ground.
As I said earlier, freedom and democracy aren’t free.
After wandering through St James Park, I made a point of visiting the National Police Memorial, to pay my respects to PC Palmer who had been killed in the recent attack.
This isn’t a political site, and I wont get into the one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter thing.
What I will say, is that a man got up that morning, kissed his wife, hugged his son and then went out to work, not knowing he’d never return.
It doesn’t feel like we’ve seen much, but its getting towards the end of the day.
As we walk towards Trafalgar square, you can see the sky. The weather was amazing, all day.
Our final trip is the National Gallery.
Some of the most amazing paintings in the world hang here, and its free to visit.
But its also quite modern and contemporary, apparently there’s a picture of the Smith’s in here somewhere.
Knowing we had limited time, I looked on their website, and they said if you only have an hour, these are the 30 must see pictures.
Nikki and I managed to see 20 + of them.
And then, the best bit.
The Fighting Temeraire as featured in the James Bond film Skyfall where Bond and the new ‘Q’ meet for the first time.
Well, a fab day complete, we head back to Euston station (I wasn’t looking forward to it, they have an awful pub and Macdonalds and not much else…).
But I was wrong. The pub has closed down and a load of new places have opened.
We get a beer and a glass of wine at Gino’s Italian. Quiet and relaxing, the perfect end to an amazing day.
A bottle of wine on the train home and then dinner at Artichoke in Chester.
Can’t wait for the next £10 deal, I’ll keep “monitoring” the millennials, stay tuned.
It’s ironic to be frustrated by the difficult decision of where to go for the years “big trip”.
After much deliberation, its Namibia.
The cost of visiting Namibia is extremely expensive (and that’s comparing it to places like Cuba and Myanmar (Burma) which weren’t 50p either!).
However it has some incredible sites like the one above, of entire ships left in the desert of the skeleton coast.
It also features extensively in Wilbur Smith’s novel the Burning Shore. Sadly, I wont get to meet any real San bushmen but it isn’t a bushcraft course after all (Nikki wouldn’t be going if it was) and we get to meet other indigenous tribes.
As some of you know, we go away for the whole of Christmas and New Year every alternative year (and why not, when else can you get 9 or 10 consecutive days off for an investment of 3 days holiday).
This time, we’ve decided to visit Sicily. It’s our usual format, where we visit 4 destinations for 2 nights each (although what those are has yet to be researched on the big computer on a wet Sunday mentioned later 🙂
Valentines came around again, and the usual juxtaposition of the flowers being delivered to me and then me bringing them home and giving them to Nikki.
As usual, I cooked, although this year I moved away from Jamie Oliver Sea-bass, and instead made a fusion mix of Chinese starters and a Thai main (green curry).
It was different in other ways too. Since the tragic departure of Tom from Corks Out, we’ve sort of fallen out of love with the place. So for the first time, the wine was sourced (as an experiment) from Waitrose. It was really nice, and I plan to attend a wine tasting there soon.
Chester has also benefited from the opening of a new wine bar in town. Veeno has been a fixture of Liverpool for a while and they have opened a place in Chester right near the town hall, in what used to be a pasty shop.
We really like it there.
But back to valentines.
This year, in addition to valentines day celebrations, we’d decided to go away for a weekend together.
Some years ago, My brother David, Mac, Cazzie and Lee all drove out on a Saturday afternoon to Snake pass (Mac was the only one of us who could drive at the time and we got there in a Ford Escort he’d borrowed from his mum).
We stopped on the pass at a hotel and bar called the Snake Pass Inn.
The weather was amazing and the ramblers bar was full. People were sitting in the car park drinking and talking and the atmosphere was excellent.
In the main hotel, families with men in shirt and tie, were settling down to Sunday lunch.
For no reason I can remember, we went down through the forest next to the river and played football. A day I’ll never forget.
So with so many happy memories for me, it seemed an ideal venue for our weekend away.
Well times have changed a bit. The place is a bit run down, doesn’t have such well to do clientèle and has been up for sale for 4 years.
Worse, the previous management had walked out 4 days before we arrived.
I was a bit concerned at first but then thought better of it. Its a traditional coaching house in the middle of nowhere and we were happy to be there just relaxing.
A stand in manager was on site with various volunteers and some Dunkirk spirit.
We had something nice to eat and some reasonable wine.
During the daytime, the plan was obviously to do some walking (there are a dozen excelent routes right outside the front door).
At this time of year, as a walker you plan for everything, but this view through the window at breakfast was still a shock.
No matter, we got ready and set off.
A good route would take us up the valley and back down to one of our favourite places in the Peak District, Hayfield.
If we timed it right, we could get there, have fish and chips from the chippy and trot back.
Better still, if time was on our side we could do a quick side route on the way back to Kinder Downfall (a famous waterfall in the area).
The temperature was freezing.
Because of the snow, it was very difficult times to work out where the path went so sometimes we were just smashing through bogs, which left our feet very wet.
Logistics weren’t on our side, and it didn’t look like we’d make Hayfield and back before dark (and from the picture above, you can see this wasn’t somewhere you wanted to be at nightfall).
However, the view of the countryside was fantastic and we were in high spirits, so we headed for Kinder Downfall.
Weather conditions worsened (ice had frozen onto my hat and waterproof jacket).
We decided to turn back, and do it again in the summer.
Overall, a fab day out and this time, Steak for dinner.
After a fun evening in the bar with a roaring fire, we headed for bed exhausted.
Our room was a bit cold, so I “shored up” our quilt with a combination of down and fleece jackets.
In the morning another fab breakfast (one great thing about hill walking, if your out for the day, you can eat a full English without any feelings of guilt as you’ll burn of all of that and more).
A shorter route today, as we’ll be heading home in the afternoon.
We head down through the forest this time. This was the place on a sunny day all those years ago, that I actually played football without complaining I was so happy.
There’s still snow everywhere and wandering further we come to this bridge and cross the river.
We wander along the valley in the other direction. I remember my brother saying years ago, that the place looked like Canada.
We’d already checked out of the hotel, but we popped back in to change our wet clothes and had coffee before setting off.
I saw this amazing board, which had pictures of the pass frequently blocked by snow. In this picture, there were 15 feet snow drifts which had been cleared with multiple snow ploughs.
That was after people in the pub had been stranded for several days, drank the bar dry and at one point had to burn furniture to keep warm.
It’s time to head home and once again, the pass is blocked due to snow and we have to drive the long way back.
I also notice that they now have a new sign 🙂
Thing is, this place might not be what it once was, but the only difference now, is that less people seem to go there.
You can change that if you want.
The only reason I have money and time to do the adventures I do, is because I’m pretty organised.
This Merino wool jumper from Rohan is perfect in just about every way a jumper can be.
With one exception. It just looks awful on me.
So last week I put it on ebay and sold it.
Interestingly, I now have some money to spend on adventures and dont have this guilt thing of not wearing it hanging over me.
On the subject of organisation and ideas. My idea factory.
Goals for the year are always listed (and reviewed) in brief in my mind map.
Activities are organised in my week/weekend planner (email me if your thinking of doing something similar or have a similar system, I’d love to discuss it).
The essential 3rd process is the brainstorming, where the ideas actually come from. I call this my idea factory, and I thought I’d explain how I do it in case its useful to someone.
Venue: A proper pub. An empty house is too quiet for my thought process and a well run pub won’t have noisy idiots or anything like that.
Equipment: Relevant magazines and books and my notebook and pen (I normally use my space pen, but on this occasion had this one from advanced bionics).
I can use my phone to check dates in my calendar but no other purpose. Remember that this is just the capture process, and research that comes from it will be done on a wet Sunday on a powerful computer with 2 enormous monitors). Oh, and finaly a pint of Moretti, Asahi, Peroni or Budvar.
From here, I’ll normally get about 20 ideas, which may vary from 2 weeks in Cuba to cooking a particular meal.
Typically, of the 20, 2 will be infeasible, 4 will be put on the mindmap for the following year.
The remaining 14 will be fully researched and then completed (with enthusiasm) as quickly as possibly.
One idea I had recently was losing a significant amount of weight for 2 ambitious walking trips I’m intending to do later this year (Hadrians wall, 20 miles + per day and Mount Toubkal in Morocco a 4000m peak.
There’s loads of information out there about losing weight, but in its essence it creating a calorific deficit (or taking more calories out, than you put in).
So, first thing, is recording and measuring. My friend Julie recommended a website/app combination called Nutracheck. Using it, I work out a plan of how many calories I can eat per day, and ideally how many calories I should burn in exercise. Plan is to lose 10% of my bodyweight by the 8th of May (or the weight of 1.5 old style Dell 15 inch monitors for those that remember them).
The next thing is exercise.
I absolutely love walking, but it just doesn’t burn calories fast enough around work in the winter.
I’m really into cycling at the moment, so instead of getting 2 trains to work, I get on the first one with my bike and then cycle to the office (3.2 miles) and do the reverse at the end of the day.
So far, everything is going to plan and I’ve lost 8 pounds.
People have asked me how I’m making it work so well, and the honest answer is something I read by Tony Robbins. The key is to make things real to you (ie find something personal that you connect with).
When I see a chocolate bar and feel like eating it, will the idea that I’ll feel better in myself or increase my concentration by eating more vegetables motivate me to stop ?
Off course not. What will actually focus and motivate me ?.
- When I cycle home, I get home 45min earlier than I would if I got 2 trains. That’s almost 4 hours a week, and I can do a lot with that time.
- I have a box in my wardrobe with some of my favourite clothes I can no longer wear. When I hit goal weight I’ll be able to wear any of them I like.
Just to prove that adventure is everywhere, as part of my weight loss plan, I try to go for a walk at lunchtime 3 days out of 5.
The other day I spotted this fox near some railways lines.
If you look on the top right of the screen, you may see a countdown timer and a few people have asked me what its for.
Well, if you have a normal job in the UK, there will be 141 days in the typical year when you can go out in pursuit of adventure if you want to.
I dont think I’ve ever done all 141 but I constantly strive to do as many as I can. I also list all my planned adventures on a whiteboard next to my bathroom at home (its the first room I walk into each day).
The countdown is too my next adventure and updated each time its completed.
This weekend I’m going to see Alan Carr, walking up Moel Siabod, cycling 16 miles, going wine tasting and eating at a Brazilian steak house.
The following weekend were off walking in the Peak District staying at Ravenstore Youth Hostel (my first visit).
Its organised by my old friend Cheryl from CDWG who now lives in Birmingham and did something similar on a trip to Ironbridge a few years ago.
Near and far the search for adventure continues…