Saturday, 22 November 2014

A Bit of a Do

Thanks ever so much for all the wonderful support and comments on mine and Archie's little run the other weekend.

When this running lark started I had in the back of my mind that I definitely wanted to be in better shape by the time I was 40.

Well the weekend before last, just after Bonfire Night, I hit that landmark feeling so much better about all sorts things in life. 
I hadn't ever thought I'd have a party but once we thought about it, it seemed just the best thing to do. So we gathered together the loveliest bunch of family and friends at the Foxlowe Arts Centre in town, turned on the fairy lights, ate hearty food and let off fireworks and danced into the night.

What a fantastic time. I laughed and
and talked so much I went hoarse and only took a few quick snaps on my phone. 

It was so lovely to have everyone there who helped us to have such fun. I feel really lucky to be here, at 40, with a fantastic family and smashing friends. Life is very good so here's to the next decade! Xx

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Running up that hill - or hills!

I crossed the rubicon a couple of weeks ago and did something I never thought I could ever do. I was in a race! Well race in the loosest sense, more of an amble with a thousand other people - and I didn't actually come last!

Our littlest man is growing to love running so we looked for a cross country thing he might be able to do and a friend suggested the Dovedale Dash, just over the hills from home. But the thing is, there is an adults race too, all around the beautiful dale and the pretty estate village of Ilam. 

Before I knew what I was doing I could hear myself saying I would do it too to give Archie some encouragement and support. Blimey how things have changed! 
Look at his face! He absolutely cantered around, hurtling up the hellish ascent that is Lin Dale to the finish as pleased as punch. I was totally overcome with emotion for him, it's a hard run and I was just bursting with pride.
My run? Well I chickened out of splashing through the freezing River Dove (bit worried I might lose a shoe in the first 1/2 mile!) and took the stepping stones instead. 

Our course plodded along the riverside, over steep, rutty fields then through the village, back over fields, through the thickest mud I HAVE EVER SEEN, skittered back along the river below Thorpe Cloud and eventually back up the ridiculous Lin Dale  (admittedly I walked most of that).

4 & 3/4 strenuous Peak District miles I will never forget. I got a lovely certificate, a pounding head and eventually a very nice feeling of proving myself wrong. 

Here's a shocking picture (excuse the spare tyre - ugh Lycra) but proof I did it and showed my boys that their mum can move, something last year they may have questioned. And that change is enough for me x

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Down by the Dove

We headed over the Weaver Hills late this Sunday afternoon to buy pumpkins at the farm shop and stroll along the river bank.

It's an afternoon that will stay with me for such a long time. A stiff breeze, tumbling rooks, the boys wheeling and whirling and the light fading fast (hence the not brilliant quality photos). I could taste the atmosphere, if only I could have bottled it. Autumn texture and faded colour all around us.
There was a fly fishing match on and we chatted to a couple of happy fishermen, wending their way home after a successful day.

The fields of stubble were showing a hint of green and bordered by skeletons of hogweed, some have come home with us to sit in a huge jug on the mantelpiece. 

I'm joining in with Nina's ( #wanderandgather link. The perfect join up if you too are the type never to come home without an empty pocket, always stuffed with nature's treasures!
Quicker than we thought the light slipped away on this afternoon after our clocks have fallen back. There couldn't have been a more perfect couple of hours I don't think and the only way to finish it off was to scurry home, stick on a roast and prepare to slump! 

Hope you've enjoyed your Sunday x

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Goodbye Garden

It's that moment of the year when the garden begins to retreat and now it's becoming all about the view instead.

It could feel a bit melancholic but there's a richness and beauty about late October that I just can't get enough of. I'm lucky that I adore all the seasons and don't mind the slide into winter one bit. The drama of fierce weather and wildlife visitors will soon be here. 
There's s solitary dahlia left flowering in my old dolly tub but instead of flowers now there's foliage setting the garden ablaze. The leaves of the perennial sunflower are shining as brightly as the flowers did throughout September and the ivy that cloaks our fence is one of those variegated varieties that glows on a gloomy day.

A few late bees are making the most of the nectar bar that the traditional green ivy hosts and I've seen a tiny wren flitting in and out making a shelter for winter. Geese are flying into the valley again and I'm really enjoying seeing the songbirds flocking back into the garden.

Everything leans now, lots of plants with elegant seedheads I'll leave standing, however lopsidedly, to catch the frosts and give another show. After Bonfire Night I'll tidy away the spent fireworks and have a look at what is really past its best in the border. Structure, where I have it is, good but soggy, raggy, blackened hankies of leaves, rotting on the stems, look quite sad so they'll come out and feed the compost heap.
The hawthorn hedge is looking ragged now and the rowan tree is already stripped of it's fruit and bare of leaves. Now we can see across the fields to the farm and the russet beech wood that calls to us to explore again before winter steals all colour. 

I've still got tulip bulbs to plant but narcissi, crocus and miniature iris are already snug in their pots. I garden very little in the winter months, our patch is so small there's not all that much to do other than feed the birds. So I'll enjoy this last blaze of colour until it's time to say goodby for now to the garden and thank you for a glorious year x

Monday, 13 October 2014

Keeping Going

This season of my dreams is settling rather nicely around our valley. This morning I got up while the fog still shrouded our village with the idea of getting in a long run (well long for me!), so that I can try and keep my fitness levels up now that it's too dark for me to get out before work. But mostly I wanted to enjoy the landscape.

I work in an office all week, overlooking town centre rooftops with a view of a church, two trees and if I'm really lucky, the occasional sight of a peregrine falcon who roosts on the clock tower. Now this, undoubtedly, is brilliant but I feel cooped up, claustrophobic and hemmed in - I need to see the horizon! 

Running is just brilliant for that. I get to enjoy the scenery in a way I can't by walking on my own; why is it such a wierd thing, as a woman, to go for a walk on your own, without a dog? Or is that just me? 
Heavy fog cloaked everything this morning and I wondered if I'd see a thing. But once I climbed up towards the village on the ridge, the sun broke through in the most beautiful golden shafts.
It was fantastic to be out, listening to the jays and jackdaws call, enjoying that damp scent of the woodland and the misty lanes. It was an eventful run too. A nice couple walking their dogs helped me rescue a young bullock that had strayed onto the road and we shooed him back into a field before there was a crash!

Seven miles, up hill and down the lanes, and an hour or so that will keep me topped up all week xx

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Autumn Hurrah

It's here! At last after the most glorious and languid of summers the air again is crisp, damp, scented by woodsmoke and filled with the calls of the rook and the robin's winter song.

October so far has been for family time, catching up with school about the start of a new year, visiting relations and cooking a Sunday feast to share with family closer at hand.

I'm running for longer at the weekends now that it's too dark in the mornings before work. I take my phone with me every time to catch moments of the season as it begins to move on. (Pics via my Instagram feed - CurlewSteph).

The next few weeks are all about celebrations and new things (we got to review this lovely Italian restaurant in town last night.) My big birthday approaches in just a few weeks so I'm starting to make a few plans and look forward to lots of fun.

I hope that your spring or autumnal October is shaping up nicely too xx

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Wild Afternoon - Coombes Valley

About a mile or so from home we're really lucky to have the most fabulous RSPB nature reserve nestled in the gorgeous Coombes Valley, part of the bigger Churnet Valley landscape that we call home. Today was the reserve's annual open day so when the rain had cleared and the mist had lifted, we popped over to have a look at some of the exciting new things we heard had been happening.

It was the most brilliant afternoon of discovery and exploration. A new trail has been laid, opening up access to some of the younger woodland that the RSPB manages, as well as new footpaths to make the site more wheelchair, pushchair and family friendly. It's quite a small reserve with tons of different habitats including meadows and native woodlands that cling to the hillsides.
Today it was great to get involved in all the extra activities so we pond dipped, finding water boatman, pond skaters and mayfly larvae as well as a lovely whirlygig beetle, before heading into the brilliant new yurt where the Staffordshire Bat Group had the tiniest pipestelle bat to show us. There was lots to learn as well from the woodland team at the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership who are working really hard to take care for this special valley.

Then we strolled around the woodland where you can make dens to your heart's content, search for bugs, explore the storytelling circle and see where, very soon, a new aerial walkway will give you the chance to get a bird's eye view of the woodland from the treetops! There's a certain eight year old who just can't wait for that!
I got quite over excited about these marvellous little fairy houses the volunteers have worked so hard to create. They're completely magical and I was totally absorbed in the detail of doorways, window frames, roof tiles and even lanterns and garden swings they'd made. Come nightfall there'll be a wonderful little party going on here!

We could really feel autumn upon us this afternoon, especially with the mist lingering and that dampness in the air that heralds the change of the season. My most favourite moment was when a huge flock of sixty or more goldfinches flew above our heads.

Coombes Valley is a truly special place and free to visit. The RSPB are doing terrific work improving the site and managing the landscape for wildlife and visitors to all get the most out of it. Thanks to all the staff and volunteers we met today who were really friendly and welcoming and helped us find out so much more about our lovely local reserve. We'll be back again really soon,

Where's your favourite wild place to visit?