Monday, 7 July 2014

Vive le Tour!

We were there. We couldn't not be; not this house of cycling nuts. To see the Tour de France pass over the hills just an hour from home, across landscapes we know so well, of course we had to be there.

Everyone on the poetically named Cote de Bradfield yesterday was in such fabulous spirits. We met some lovely people, kind and generous people who gave out chalks to the kids to #maketheirmark on the road, a nice chap who shared his radio so we could all follow the race and some properly funny types who made the waiting all part of the brilliant experience.

Well done Yorkshire, well done to all the organisers,well done to everyone behind three brilliant days. Thanks ever so much. You made our summer xxx

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

And I Walked 500 Miles (well only 20 but...)

I'm not one for epic challenges really. Taking up running this year I've got to admit has been a really Herculean task. I've always been on the other side of that life-defining fence, you know the one you discover at school which puts you either on the sporty or non-sporty side. You can guess what side I was on. And for most of my life, until very recently, I assumed that was the natural order of things and always would be.

I am curvy, asthmatic, completely uncoordinated, so always agreed with that perception that being fast, strong, having endurance etc was a state I just wasn't destined to achieve in life. I'm not blaming anyone, I just did other things instead like helping a friend exercise her horse, swimming in an enthusiastic but really rubbish synchronised swimming team and enjoyed watching hours and hours of cricket (honestly I do love it). 

Last year I got a bike and things began to change. For the first time ever I got that "buzz" thing energetic people talk about. It was hard, but enjoyable. I made some lovely cycling friends and it began to dawn that you didn't have to treat it as a sport or physical torture. I could take myself over that fence all by myself. If I only tried. I didn't need to be picked for a team (something that never happened to be honest!). I could just have a go.

So the running began. Very slowly but I've kept at it with my eye on our trip to Italy this summer and things working. My waist is a remarkable 8 inches smaller, just by eating a bit more mindfully and moving more. People keep asking when I will do a race, 10k? Half marathon? But they're not for me. I admit I shirk from challenges. They loom terrifyingly and put me off, I'd rather just keep on plodding. 

Then Helen rang me. I love her to bits. She's the sort of lovely friend you can't say no to. So when she asked me to join a 20mile walk with her and some friends for Breast Cancer Care, I agreed straight away, forgetting that I just don't do this sort thing.

But I'm really glad I did! On Saturday we met at the glorious Chatsworth House and walked literally uphill and down dale in fabulous sunshine across some of the most astounding landscapes in Britain. It made me emotional, glad to be alive, chuffed to be part of something so powerful. 600 women took part (plus Helen's two border collies) and every time we crested a hill, that snaking line of bright pink bodies pulled us on and on.

But blimey it was hard. After four hours of Helen and I talking the hind legs off each other as we walked, my legs, (well hips), suddenly gave up. I'm fitter but not fit yet and haven't ever walked more than about 12 miles before. After the 11th hilly mile the pain leapt on me and all I could do was hobble. Only half way...another Herculean task. There was no question of giving up. People with breast cancer have no choice but to face the pain head on - get walking Steph!

So I did. Poor Helen, I went very quiet and stopped taking photos (see that's how bad it was!). But she did an amazing job keeping me going, so did the darling dogs who pulled me up the hills I swear.

And we made it, upright and in one piece, just about inside our eight hour estimate (this is us with our friend Catherine who finished miles ahead with some other friends). I can't believe it, can't believe I even enjoyed it. So that old thing about mind over matter is really true. Being on the verge of 40 helps too. I just don't care anymore and I finally feel a little more confident in myself to just have a go.

I've learned a big lesson and surprised myself. How about you? Surprised yourself lately? I'd love to know x

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Messing About in a Boat

It was his idea; he fancied rowing a boat for his Father's Day outing, so that's what we did and rather lovely it was.

We headed to Rudyard Lake a beautiful reservoir, just out of town, that's been a pleasure ground for local people since Victorian times. Back then a Sunday afternoon at the Lake was a welcome refuge from the smoke and smog of the city, from it's pot banks and pits. It must have felt like a piece of heaven. Kipling's parents honeymooned here apparently, hence his name. 

My parents remember Sunday school outings to Rudyard and the sides of the lake being packed with thousands of people enjoying themselves.
The sky was low and threatening this afternoon so it was quiet, not busy at all, meaning our hopeless rowing efforts went pretty unnoticed! It was beautifully still, no breeze at all and the lake surface was still as a millpond.
I could have sat back and drifted up and down Rudyard's watery reaches all afternoon, absorbed in the relections, imagining cosying up inside the cabin of a favourite handsome craft, cooking in the tiny galley and sunning myself on the deck.

Our time was soon up though but we'll be back again, with the sunshine hopefully x

Sunday, 8 June 2014

At Home

It's been lovely just to potter around at home this weekend and tick off a few things on our very long to do list. 

New sofas and a carpet are on the way at long, long last. After eight years we're finally in a place where we can start to make an impression on this little house of ours. 

Later we managed to stock up in town at the butcher and the green grocer and call in for coffee at our favourite cafe while the rain hammered down.

Sunday so far has been beautiful. Woody ran a half marathon this morning and then we walked across the fields to the new/old village pub for a rather hearty lunch in the sunshine. Just my sort of day.

Thanks so much to everyone for your lovely comments recently, especially on my new look blog and all the local bloggers in this neck of the woods. So lovely to hear from you all, thanks. Hope you're having a smashing weekend too xxx

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Moments in May

May's been pretty marvellous I think. It began with cool, dry days that brightened, warmed a little and brought the cow parsley out in foaming clouds.

It's been a month of discovery and making new connections. Blogtacular was brilliant and I'm still thinking often of great people I met and so many things I learned. A big highlight was being asked to join the tremendous, extensive writing team at This is Your Kingdom (you can find my posts through the badge on my side bar). It's a huge treasure trove of quirky, extra-special places to discover, do go and explore.

The best bits of the rest of my month have been spent outdoors. It got really warm and my garden surged ahead. I popped into the city to visit the new garden at the fab Emma Bridgewater factory. It's a beautiful walled garden that is going to mature wonderfully - and the tea and cake is superb! 

I love Bridgewater for their passion and commitment to producing ceramics in Stoke. As the granddaughter of Potters I really admire that; they're great champions of the skills and creative talent around here too. Really looking forward to the Hot Air Literary Festival being held there this month.

Then the sea beckoned. Norfolk for the first time where we fell in love with huge skies, calm sandy beaches, tranquil lanes and great houses. And finally good, old friends came to stay. It was so brilliant to catch up, share good food, potter about the town and walk in the woods together. Pretty marvellous.

You can see more of my photos from May on my Instagram feed via the little camera icon at the top of my side bar x

Sunday, 11 May 2014


What an experience! I'm just back from Blogtacular, a fantastic conference for bloggers held at the  wondrous Royal Institution, off Piccadilly in London, by the very able Kat Molseworth & Kat Goldin.

I'm a bit naive about this side of blogging and had no real idea blogging events even existed or about the whole business side, so wasn't sure what to expect. In this part of the world blogging isn't the phenomenal community thing it is in places like Bristol or Brighton, or at least it seems. Any North Staffs/Peak District bloggers out there?

There was tons of interest at Blogtacular for very kind of blogger from workshops on styling, branding, how to use social media with intention and interviews with real life bloggers who've made it really big.

For me the highlight was undoubtedly the photo walk with the truly lovely and hugely inspiring Xanthe Berkeley. These are my snaps of our stroll around Mayfair, Piccadilly and Berkeley Square with a bunch of great people, colourful balloons and lots of enthusiasm.

And of course meeting other bloggers. It was brilliant to hang out with the ever so lovely Nina who I've blogged with for a long time and other smashing people including Gemma and Laura. 

I've come home with a head full of ideas but the intention to keep my blog focused on what I love; capturing those precious family moments, our seasonal adventures, my growing garden and celebrating this little corner of England that I love so much. 

Thanks for all your comments and following me over the seven years I've been blogging. I can't see me ever doing anything else and it's lovely having you along for the ride. Xxx

P.S you can see lots more on the conference and amazing shots from the photo walk by following #blogtacular & #blogtacularphotowalk on Instagram and Twitter.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Away to the Sea

Well the sun may have disappeared as we travelled and the cloud descended, but our little day trip to North Wales was smashing all the same. In a way, the greyness set off the colours and textures of Llanddudno so well. The seafront is ever so elegant; lovely Georgian terraced hotels painted in subtle shades of cream, white and grey.

We wandered along the pier, me taking photos and the boys spending pocket money on toys and trinkets. The pier is truly beautiful. Everything from the bleached planks, wrought iron railings and the wooden huts filled with paintings, stained glass and tea shops were just perfect.

Afterwards we took a little boat trip around the bay and admired the view of brooding Snowdonia rising above the town. The wind was a bit keen though so we abandoned our plans for a beachy afternoon and headed a little up the coast to one of my most favourite places.
If you gave me a toothbrush I think I could actually move into Conwy Castle. Every time I visit I get tingles up my spine. Medieval history is something I find completely fascinating, ever since I became obsessed with Robin of Sherwood (classic 80s tv!) as a child. 

Conwy is a fabulous place, what one of my uni history friends calls "a climby castle" and I know exactly what she means. There are turret stairs you simply have to climb, wall walks, rooms inside the walls and great towers where you can still see enormous fireplaces where our ancestors warmed themselves, maybe alongside their king.
There are great reconstruction drawings around the site that do such a great job putting the ruins all back together for you, and a kids trail that our boys really enjoyed. We climbed the highest towers that are pretty scary but reward you with stupendous views across the bay, the walled town and the mountains. 
Back home my university books are out again and I'll be lost in medieval England for a while. Back soon :)