Friday, December 30, 2016

A Short Holiday With My Brother: Day Four

Today has been the last day of our unexpected holiday. We set off for home at two o'clock and arrived back at Doncaster just before five o'clock, this after having dropped people off at Wakefield and the coach company's garage at Upton. We didn't stop anywhere and took the quickest route via the M6 and M62. Even the rush-hour traffic coming into Doncaster didn't delay us.

I've enjoyed my short break in the North West, but I'm glad to be back home.

A Short Holiday With My Brother; Day Three

Today we only had a half day out, to the next town, Lancaster. We did have the services of a guide on the bus though, and her stories and insight into both Morecambe and Lancaster were very enjoyable. She tried her hardest to persuade us that Lancaster was a beautiful and historic city, but it was a difficult job for her though, especially since the castle gatehouse and the parish church were both covered in were several other buildings in the old town. I wasn't impressed with Lancaster at all; for the most part it was no different to several West Riding or Lancashire mill towns that I've visited.

It was overcast for most of the time at Lancaster, but by the time we returned to the hotel at Morecambe by three o'clock it was sunny...with some interestingly lit clouds. We walked along the promenade to the town centre and I took a lot of photographs. This was my first chance to see Morecambe; I was expecting it to be a bit of a dump, but I was pleasantly surprised. Certainly, with a bit of money spent on it, it has the potential to became quite a smart resort.

A Short Holiday With My Brother: Day Two

DAY TWO: Bowness-onWindermere and Keswick

Today was the highlight of the holiday for me, in particular the time we spent at Bowness, which is possibly the best place I've ever visited in England...I fell in love with the place, it was magical. The town itself reminded me of an Austrian mountain village and down on the waterfront it was like the Italian Riviera, or the Italian Lakes, as I'd imagine them to be. It was an excellent day; sunny and not too cold or windy; perfect for photography too. Bowness was so vibrant, so colourful and full of life and activity. I could have spent the entire day down by the marina watching the steamers come and go, people queueing for their tickets, families feeding the ducks or posing for photographs, the moored yachts gently bobbing as the wakes of the passing  boats broke over them...and of course, the fells rising up steeply in the distance; absolutely lovely!

We got stuck in a traffic jam for part of the way, so it took us over an hour to reach Keswick. The countryside was stunning though; lakes, high mountains, rivers, and pretty villages...the absolute best that England has to offer. Although I didn't know it at the time we passed at the foot of Helvellyn, the third highest mountain in the country. My only disappointment was that there wasn't any snow on the tops of the fells.

Despite the delay, we still had nearly two hours at Keswick. Keswick turned out to be a disappointment. I didn't know we would be visiting here until the coach driver announced the day's itinerary before we set off, otherwise I would have done a bit of research and found out how to get to the lake for some nice views. I ended up walking towards the river, which is in the opposite direction; there were some decent vistas from there though.

I returned to the town centre and found a few interesting subjects to photograph, but it didn't take me long to see everything.

We passed through Ambleside on our way to Keswick; I would have preferred to have a couple of hours there.

We left Keswick and headed west towards the M6 motorway at Penrith; yet again some more magnificent mountains to enjoy - we passed Saddleback, or Blencathra, one of the more well-known Lake District fells.

A Short Holiday With My Brother: Day One

This short break was totally unexpected, and unplanned. My parents had booked a four day holiday in the North West but couldn't go because they both had bad I got to go away for a few days with my brother, rather than the holiday having to be cancelled.

It was an opportunity for me to visit parts of the country I haven't seen since I was a child.

DAY ONE: Visiting Skipton En Route To Morecambe

We had two and a half hours at Skipton; enough time to pose for photographs in front of the castle gatehouse, visit the parish church, find a nice pretty walk at the back of the castle that was recommended by our parents, and continue along the canal towpath to the canal basin to look at the boats...and look in the shops of course.

We then continued on our journey to Morecambe, where we would be staying for the next three nights. The route took us past Ingleton, where I recognised the step pyramid shaped hill of Ingleborough, one of the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks.

When we arrived at the hotel, which was right on the seafront, the evening meal and accommodation turned out to be fine, as were all of the meals and complaints there.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Review of the Year, 2016

It's been a good year for me despite having being diagnosed with two serious, lifelong, life-limiting illnesses...rickets and diabetes. My health is much better than it has been for fifteen years; I've lost nearly three and a half stone in weight and am now full of energy, stamina, and enthusiasm...the hills in the Peak District are certainly getting a lot easier to climb. 

Because of not knowing exactly what public transport is running on any particular day I doubt that I shall be walking any more until the New Year...but that's not too long to wait. I'm looking forward to even more improvement in my health next year and completing some even more challenging walks.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Ladybower Reservoir, Nether Booth, and Castleton

I got off the bus just after it had crossed over the Ashopton Viaduct and turned right to travel up the valley to Fairholmes. I was immediately climbing up steep grassy fields; the first photograph was taken probably no more than five minutes after getting off the bus.

As I climbed higher, past Crookhill Farm, I noticed four large, freestanding, sturdy, white gates seemingly randomly positioned in the field where I was walking. I've never seen this before anywhere, and was puzzled for awhile until I thought that the most likely explanation that I could think of is that they've been put there to protect the farmhouse from avalanches, to dissipate the force of the snow crashing down the hillside. Of course I might be completely wrong and they are actually something to do with the sheep that were grazing on the grass.

Just after I reached an area of Access Land at the base of Crook Hill three mountainbikers caught up and then kept pace with me for a while as we all climbed up towards the northern of the two twin summits. We talked about their gear ratios and where they planned to go for the rest of the day.

They waved goodbye as soon as the path levelled out and then went back downhill. This section of the walk is very easy underfoot, a wide gently undulating grassy path with only an occasional stile or gate - the views are nice as well.

The terrain was good, the views were good, and I felt good, so I jogged for a few short sections along here; only the gentle uphill sections....and I was going to feel even better about my stamina and fitness a couple of miles later.

The path came down to the Snake Pass Road and then continued further down into the bottom of the valley and then up the other side through woodland to reach the open meadows near to Hope Cross. Looking at the map, I calculate that the climb up from Haggwater Bridge is about 350 ft and I did it without once having to stop to catch my breath. I convinced myself that I deserved a break when I reached the top, an opportunity to eat my sandwiches and have a drink. I didn't need to stop though, After the good news on Thursday about my blood test results I was very capable at that moment of powering forward...I felt I was unstoppable - no hill in the Peak District was too high for me to conquer. The diabetes picked on the wrong mug when it picked on me; not only will I defeat it, I will destroy it too...and I will be much stronger in so many ways for having done so.

Just before Hope Cross I reached a junction of paths, I certainly didn't need to refer to my map to check which way I was going.

A few minutes later as I was walking along the track that leads down to the road in the Vale of Edale I took a photograph of the challenge ahead, traversing the Great Ridge.

The climb up to Hollins Cross, the lowest point on the ridge is about 550 ft. I stopped twice on my way up, once when I was struggling opening and then closing a gate, and then further up when a couple with a large boisterous dog was approaching downhill; I stood to one side to let them pass. Maybe I could have done it without these short breaks...I don't know.

It was a steady descent down to Castleton: I arrived at least an hour earlier than expected and just sat at the bus station until the bus arrived. When it pulled in at least a dozen people got off who looked like as though they were here for the Christmas lights and the carol singing in the pubs.

On the way in to Sheffield, travelling down Ecclesall Road, a student got on the bus and asked for a student concession. The driver asked him for proof of status; the student said he had his NUS membership details on his phone. He quickly scrolled through several pages and then showed it to the driver...who was immediately satisfied and let him on. I was sitting quite close to the front of the bus and caught a glimpse of the screen; in large capital letters I could make out the word 'STUD.'

For the rest of my journey home I tried to think of the first four letters of an appropriate word which would work for me...but nothing came to mind.

UPDATE: Someone on Facebook has suggested that the white gates might be used for horse jumping practice. I briefly considered this but thought it would be dangerous in a field that a public footpath crosses. You never know though, that might be precisely what their intended use is. I know absolutely nothing about horses, and have no interest in them whatsoever, and stay well away from them.

Thanks Nigel, for the response though.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Blood Test Results

I phoned up the surgery yesterday and was given my results; 42mmol/mol, right on the cusp of being back down to normal. I'm very pleased with this, I've not been contacted by my GP so I'm assuming that I'll need to continue taking the tablets. I'm expecting more improvement in my blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels, and, of course, I'm continuing to lose weight - I'm down to just over sixteen and a half stones now.

I'm feeling very well, better than I have in fifteen years, however I'm not immune to viral infections. There's a nasty stomach bug going around the town and I've caught it. The weather is lovely this morning and I had planned to go walking, but I woke up a couple of times in the night and had to rush to the I'm staying at home all day. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Wentworth and Elsecar

My first day out  for nearly three months with Siobhan, my support worker, because of a problem with social services and my personal budget, or personalised budget - I never know which is the correct term.

It only takes about half an hour in the car to reach Wentworth, where we parked at the garden centre. We had a quick look round; it was mainly Christmas trees, shrubs, primroses and cyclamens on display...the cyclamens had very large flowers. We strolled into the walled garden and climbed up the observation tower in the maze, before briefly exploring the other areas, including the bear pit.

The shops were very much geared to the Christmas season; I wasn't really that interested. My main interest was the farm shop where I bought a couple of large rabbit pies.

We sat and ate our sandwiches in the car before going to explore the village, first of all the new church...the building was locked.

The old church is partially ruined, but part of it is still roofed and in regular use...and it was open, so we could go inside.

We walked back to the car along the main street through the village and then drove down the hill to Elsecar Heritage Centre. The two main attractions we looked at here are the antiques centre and the antique furniture centre...oh, and of course we popped in the cafe for tea and scones.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Visiting Retford With Justin

I regularly go to Retford with my friend Justin, maybe once every four to six weeks; it's our favourite local town - so a visit there is nothing special, although there was a specific reason we went today, Justin wanted to try the festive turkey pie meal at the local Wetherspoon's pub, The Dominie Cross. With it being near to Christmas I thought I'd take my camera along just in case there was anything interesting to snap; well, the unexpected rain spoiled that for me...I did manage to take three decent photographs though. 

The festive turkey pie was delicious and well presented; I wasn't sure if Justin was joking or not when he said he could eat another. The Dominie Cross is a large modern pub, however The Turk's Head across the road looks much more traditional from the outside; I haven't been inside though.

We then looked round our favourite shops, the charity shops and CEX for Justin to find a DVD to watch later. Not too far from The Dominie Cross is the Market Place, where the beautiful Town Hall dominates the townscape.

There are about eight charity shops in the town; I bought three pairs of shoes, two pairs of which were actually new...the total cost was only £14. Not long after I'd taken the photographs of the town hall, a young woman, who maybe recognised him from Doncaster, walked up to Justin quite aggressively, waved her arms about and then shouted, "Kentucky Fried Chicken" at the top of her voice. Justin does visit KFC in Doncaster a lot. 

More Blood Tests

I had to go for more scheduled blood tests yesterday morning, to check my average blood sugar levels for the past three months. The nurse needed to withdraw two vials full to be sent for analysis at the hospital. It's usually hard work finding the veins in my arms and so it was a genuine question when I told her that I've lost a lot of weight and didn't know if that would make it easier, or more difficult...she never got around to answering.

Well, I've now got two plasters on each arm as she valiantly struggled to get the blood to flow; apparently I was quite dehydrated, possibly due to having been walking the previous day, so she gave me a glass of water to drink and within seconds she then had no problems withdrawing the blood.

Getting dehydrated is something I will need to be on the lookout for in the future; because I don't excessively perspire now and don't feel thirsty any more I probably forget to drink as much, and as often, as I need to.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fox House, Longshaw Estate, Upper Padley, Leadmill, Abney, and Brough

I took the first appropriate bus  to the Peak District from Sheffield this morning, the 272, and got off at Fox House: the 273 left ten minutes earlier but the map I'd taken with me today didn't cover the areas it serves.

I walked down to Grindleford Station at Upper Padley by a slightly different route, which was mostly new to me. Before being prescribed my metformin tablets I would have probably popped in to the Old Station Cafe for one of their massive breakfasts...but now I don't feel hungry all the time and so I had no problem in only stopping to take a photograph.

A few minutes later I reached Padley Chapel; there's a nice shelter where I sat and ate my sandwiches.

There's some pretty countryside on the walk down to Leadmill; this photograph was taken during one of the short brighter spells during the morning.

After a short walk along the road and then a step climb up a field I reached Hazelford Hall.

Another short stretch along the road and then I took the footpath down into the valley, walking through a variety of terrain and underfoot conditions until I reached Stoke Ford, a location where five or six ancient footpaths meet. I selected to take the path which leads up to Abney, a route I hadn't taken before...something that is becoming increasingly rare these days. It was easily walkable - but very muddy in places.

The walk along the narrow walled lane up to the moors from Abney is a bit of a slog, not helped by having to get out of the way of motorcyclists on a couple of occasions. I had a treat coming...although I didn't know at the time; I had a choice of footpaths and took one which I've not taken before, I don't know why - I've always been aware of its existence. Well, this path took me right to the edge of the moor, from where I could see right down into Overdale. By this time it was getting quite murky, so I didn't bother getting the camera out...I'll come back here again though because when the sun's out I should get some good photographs of a hidden corner of the Hope Valley.  

This path turned out also to be a short cut onto Brough Lane, a byway open to all traffic,  along which I could make good speed down to the bus-stop at Brough; I needn't have bothered though - I had thirty five minutes to wait for the bus.

An uneventful day today, just an enjoyable walk covering about ten miles, in decent weather along a few new stretches of footpath; nothing unusual or unexpected, and certainly nothing potentially very dangerous...unlike yesterday when I went to Buxton Christmas Fair with my friend Justin.