New trainers; muddy trainers; hello Hadrian’s Wall

It’s ages (a few years) since I ran from Walltown Crags back to Brampton – the last time was when I was training for Kielder Marathon, the incredibly wet summer of (I think) 2012.  A lot has happened since then both to me and to my friend Penny, with whom I was running today – but as she said, “you can’t be depressed when it’s like this”.

It was slightly chilly as we set out from Walltown Crags, and within the first few metres we were saddened when we came across a recently dead sheep – and saw that she had died giving birth to her lamb, whose legs were sticking out at the rear.  Later we saw another sheep giving birth – we didn’t stop to see if that one was going to live and the farmer was nearby anyway, but it was sad that in the midst of the glorious spring weather with everything bursting into bud and new life, that here were two lives which had ended: and probably in pain and distress.

But here it is, a photographic presentation of our 20km very muddy springtime run from Walltown Crags along the Hadrian’s Wall path to Lanercost, where we then turned south through Quarry Beck and then Ridge Woods to head into Brampton.

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (1)
Brand new trail running shoes
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (3)
Between Thirlmere Castle and Gilsland

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (5)

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (6)
The milecastle at Potross Burn, Gilsland
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (7)
Running down past Willowford Farm and the ruins of the Roman bridge
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (8)
Over the bridge and up the other side (steep!) to Birdoswald.

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (11)

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (12)
Blencathra from Banks Turret
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (13)
Looking towards the Solway Plain and Scotland from near Banks
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (15)
The Irthing near Lanercost
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (16)
Delicate wood sorrel
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (17)
Very early bluebells!
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (18)
I love running through Quarry Beck Woods

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (19)

New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (22)
My damson tree!
New trainers; muddy trainers April 2017 (20)
New trainers… baptism of mud
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Country Nights

I went to a party up past Hethersgill last night, right up in the middle of nowhere, in the wild country where the Reiver ghosts still roam.  I love it up there: rolling hills, miles of roads which could go anywhere, and a deep, deep sense of history – plus, in the daylight, endless views out to the sea and to the fells.  It was a typical country party: you drive up a track, cross a muddy farmyard to get there, and then have lovely mulled wine and sausages in bread rolls to eat (I missed the bonfire for a variety of reasons).  No evening dresses and high heels and no need for piles of make-up.  Bliss.

Driving back across Walton Moss I stopped the car engine and switched off all the lights.  It was black, except that as it was cold and clear the stars were shining brightly.  I could have been all alone in the world other than the stars looking down at me, and I was surrounded by darkness and stillness.  I wished I had my camera, except having just looked for ‘night sky’ images on google I’ve realised that in fact it would probably have been a rather dull picture: lots of black with the odd star dotted around.  But that’s where photos fall short: they can’t describe how you actually felt when you were taking the photo.

stars

I was working (at the computer – doing property valuations) today but by about 4.30 had cabin fever and needed to get out.  The sunset looked promising: a dark grey sky above a reddish pink base, the pinky-red striped by black linear clouds.  I drove up to the Tarn and walked around it as the sun went down tried to photograph the gently rippling dark waters of the Tarn, hills dark shadows in the background, trees silhouetted against the sky, pinks and blacks shimmering on the horizon and then the darkening sky above.  Unfortunately the camera wasn’t man enough for the job and the photos came out too light and grainy.

So I’ll just have to remember these nights and these moments in my mind’s eye: along with the full moons which have been so amazing the past few months.  Yesterday’s night sky and today’s sunset weren’t startling or dramatic, but in their own low-key way they were incredibly beautiful: and a reminder to get out there into the outdoors, whatever the time of day and whatever the weather.

p.s. looking through my previous blog I came across this post:  http://supervet-sarah.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/running-in-dark.html.  When I look back to things I have written in the past I realise that the things which are important to me are still important to me, and the things I love are things I carry on loving. 

Club la Santa, Lanzarote

This is just a brief post with plenty of pictures as a short memento of a fantastic holiday.  ‘Thank you’ to my friend Penny, who was an easy travelling companion, and to my Mum who gave me a generous enough cheque for my birthday that I could afford to go back to Club la Santa for the FOURTH time (I hardly ever go back to exactly the same place twice – there are too many other interesting places to explore, but I always have a fab. time at Club la Santa).  It had been refurbished and extended since I last went and is now really nice and modern – and the showers are fantastic!

We flew out of the UK on a day when there was snow on the ground.  The weather on Lanzarote was not perfect all week – it was very windy for cycling – and we even wore jeans (rather than dresses/skirts) some evenings, and fleeces – but it was as good as many a British summer and great to be outdoors exercising almost all day every day.  We agreed we should try something new every day so in addition to running, swimming and cycling we did:

paddle boarding; a fitness class on paddle boards; deep water aqua; Zumba; aerial relaxation; aerial pilates (and, in my case, aerial yoga as well); TRX; body balance; body attack; body combat, Taiji Qigong… etc.

By bike we cycled:

to the Fire Mountains (the visitor centre en route is great – and free – and I love the way it’s still so hot underfoot in the mountains themselves that dry brushwood will catch fire);

past Playa de Fumara, up to the Monumento al Campesino and then along a very bumpy road through La Geria to then head back down from Tinajo to Club la Santa;

and up through Soo, Munique and Tiagua to Nazaret and a house that once belonged to Omar Shariff – Lag-Omar – but which is now a fascinating ‘museum’ come party venue (I think the guy trying to sell me some Aloe Vera products was also trying to chat me up… telling me that Aloe Vera would make me sexy and that I’d come back in two weeks and want to kiss him… hmm…).

I especially liked the way that many of the roads had ‘watch out for cyclists’ signs – I think it was only on the route of the Lanzarote Ironman, but shows how popular the island is for cyclists.  At 856 sq km there’s only really one ironman route available – as a comparison, Cumbria covers 6,768 sq km: but has a total of c.400,000 people to Lanzarote’s 139,000. Both of course have their populations boosted significantly by tourists – something which the Lanzarotians seem to welcome: they were all incredibly friendly and seemed delighted if you even spoke a couple of words in hesitating Spanish.

I’ve mentioned restaurants in a separate post. We were a bit disappointed by the ones at Club la Santa, other than La Plaza in the square (where we were served by a cute English waiter who was a bit of an Orlando Bloom look alike).  Restaurant Atlantico is great for enormous quantities of food; El Lago was disappointing for what it seemed to be trying to achieve, although they make a lovely gin and tonic.  Talking of gins and tonics, the Welsh barman in the Sports Bar was a bit of a gin expert and took ages creating two masterly gin and tonics – he likes Martin Miller, which is one I had come across, bought and particularly liked when I had a dinner party recently.

So it was a week of lovely weather and fresh air, exercise as well as relaxation, food and drink.  It was good for the mind and soul as well as the body, and I was a little sad to come home.  One day I would love to take the kids there, as I’m sure they’d enjoy it too.

Time with the kids

views-from-mama-cakes-new-location-6I’ve had some fab. times with the kids recently, and the beauty of where we live has been emphasised to me once again.  When I think that back in the early spring I thought I might lose them all together… it’s not that we don’t have a lot of shouting and turmoil (Bella still tells me she hates me from time to time), but I’m now confident that I am who I am and that being me doesn’t make me a bad mother.  I’m their mother, and whatever I give them will be exactly that – something I give them, which nobody else can.  I may be volatile, emotional, frequently broke, money-wise (and therefore stressed) and – as they once said in a card to me – ‘the shouty fairy’, but I’m their Mum and I’m Me.  My way of dealing with life is not the same as their Dad’s, nor as some other people’s parents, but it doesn’t matter – it’s my way.  Some people will be similar to me – some won’t – and there’s not a right way nor a wrong way.

Over half term we went out and about: I know I’ve said it before here but the weather really has been fantastic recently.  We walked to Lanercost via the Ridge and Quarry Beck woods – my ex father in law picked up the boys from Lanercost but Bella and I walked back again; we went to Edinburgh and met up with my parents and went in the place that’s similar to the Puzzling Place; we went to Acorn Bank = spot the photo which is similar to one from when Edward was only two! – which was fantastic (and followed it with Rheged, where we had an argument but resolved it with ice creams).

More recently I’ve had a long weekend in London with Bella: thanks I have to admit to my generous parents, who paid for us to stay with them at the Regents Park Marriott, which was fab. (it has a Carluccio’s as a dining room and such, such fantastic and friendly service).  It was great to cover old stamping grounds and exciting for both my daughter and me.

I haven’t had much time for writing recently so I’m just including a whole load of photos.  It perhaps says something for my mental and emotional state that I haven’t written much – writing for me is a release in times of emotional turbulence (not always very appropriately, but it’s what helps me – I perhaps just need to remember not to be too public) – and generally (other than HMRC, grrrrr….) things have been pretty good recently.

Which reminds me that I must get on with some professional writing…

Too nice to stay indoors

The lovely weather continues and today I woke to another day of gorgeous golden autumn sun.

walk-around-lanercost-23rd-oct-3

I had thought of running up Talkin Fell, but somehow that didn’t feel like quite the right place to go, and also having cycled from Maryport to Ravenglass yesterday (feature to follow…), walking somewhere appealed instead – and I remembered that I hadn’t been up above Lanercost at Haytongate for ages – probably not since I was training for Kielder Marathon (see Supervet Sarah blog).

walk-around-lanercost-23rd-oct-5So, lazily (and as I was meant to be getting back with time to finish painting my utility room), I drove to Lanercost.  I wanted to be on my own, so when I saw some other people heading up the track to Haytongate I turned left to walk along the lane which heads eventually to Walton, knowing that I’d pick up the Hadrian’s Wall path at the top of the hill (you can cut across the field from Lanercost Bridge as well, to join the lane further west near Burtholme East).  The colours were fantastic and the views as lovely as ever.  I walked to the top of the hill above Haytongate, remembering using it for hill training (and Kerry not being too happy about me suggesting she sprint up it and jog back down at least 10 times); remembering the day when loads of people came out to light up Hadrian’s Wall.

Somehow photos of views across to the Lake District never come out very well, but some of my photos did capture a little of the essence of this autumn – so different from this time last year, when it seemed to rain and rain and rain and life felt as if it was just falling apart.  I’ve also added some photos from a run I did up through Rowbank to Milton and back on Friday: all those photos need is some snow to make them Christmassy!  It’s too early to be thinking (much) about Christmas, but the first snow of the year has already been recorded on Great Dun Fell.

Perhaps this winter will be a white one rather than a wet one…

More mindfulness… or just fab. weather

There was an amazing moon last night.  I don’t care what it was or what it signified – it just was fantastic.  I had been down in Liverpool all day (sunny and lovely in the morning; raining in the afternoon; travelling by train all over the place) and as I drove back home along the airport road from Carlisle the moon took my breath away.

Because I had been in Liverpool on site visits I had my camera with me… I turned left towards Irthington thinking that I might find a good spot to take a picture of the moon, hoping that it wouldn’t disappear completely behind the clouds before I did, but found nowhere suitable.  I thought of driving up towards Walton but that seemed a bit excessive – and then I remembered that I had got a good photo at Talkin Tarn the other evening.

Off I headed, via the winding country lanes, to Talkin Tarn – only to zoom into the car park and find the moon couldn’t be seen at all!  At that point I gave up and went home.

Why was I so desperate to get a photo of it?  Because it was the most amazing orangey-pinky colour, but striped by clouds: you know how it can be sometimes.  Simply, it looked stunning and I wanted to capture the moment and save it for ever.

Perhaps the very best moments can’t be captured and held still like that though – perhaps they only live on in your memory.  Perhaps that’s best: they’re so personal.  We can talk about them and write about them and discover that someone else felt a similar way at a similar moment, but the photos come out flat and the words never truly describe how you felt (great artistry, I think, is when someone captures in words or music or a picture exactly how you did feel: when you can look at something or hear it and say ‘yes, that’s it, that’s how I felt’).

This morning then dawned sunny and blue: another of those glorious autumnal days which Cumbria (in particular) does so well.  It was not a day for staying in and working without cease, so I dressed in running attire (to keep me motivated), and once I’d done what my conscience told me I should in terms of work, I headed out and up on to the hill.  I am so lucky that there is a hill nearby with trees to meander among and lovely views of the sky and off into the distance.  I’ve described it here so many times before that I’m not going to again, except that I never tire of it and part of me just wants to reiterate how glorious it is peering through the branches and foliage out into the distance, or standing at the gate before you enter the wood and just gazing across towards the north.

On the way home I paused at a kissing gate and admired the view for the umpteenth time.  I was conscious of the noises around me: primarily the leaves, growing drier and getting ready to fall, rustling in the breeze.  In the distance some birds were shrieking; children could be heard, excited at being released into the school playground and out of lessons; someone in the distance was doing a final cut of his or her lawn before winter; a plane rumbled gently far overhead.  The sky was that cold, clear blue that autumn does so well on beautiful days like today.

My senses were alert: I guess it’s the mindfulness of running again.  In addition to the sounds around me, there was the smell of new wood where fences and gates had been repaired in the woods; the touch under my feet of leaves or mud or dry sandy ground; the sight of leaves obscuring a path or the contrast of the leaves which have fallen and those which are still green; of the heavens in the distance; and the taste of swallowing a fly as I ran along with my mouth open at the wrong moment!

Woods on a hill.  One of ‘my’ places.  I am lucky that I ended up here.

on-the-ridge-19th-oct-2

Meditation and mindfulness: running, singing and writing

My memory of last October is of a dark, turbulent time, my emotions in turmoil.  The nights and mornings always seemed to be dark, the weather rainy.

This year is completely different.  The weather recently has been glorious and even if it’s a bit misty and the car has a slight layer of frost in the morning, by mid-morning the mist has usually burnt off and the sun is warming everything.  If I put a running jacket as well as a long-sleeved top to go out running, invariably I end up too warm.

So whilst I stood shivering at the start line of Kielder 10k on October 1st, I was glad that Kerry had advised me to leave my jacket behind and I found I was just the right temperature while running – although the photos taken before show me looking a bit chilly (plus wild hair – I can’t wait for the top to grow a bit as it looks so weird).  It’s such a beautiful run and every time I’ve run up there (the marathon 4 years ago; the 10k this year and last) the weather has been glorious.  We also knocked 5 mins off our time this year, which was pleasing – and in fact I felt as if I could perhaps have gone a little bit faster.  I’m now keen to do the duathlon and/or the half marathon.  I should also mention the fantastic picnic Kerry and Kevin brought for after the race, which was really welcome and absolutely perfect.  It was a great day.

Mid-week I fancied running through Gelt Woods, which I haven’t done for ages.  I didn’t do the entire loop all the way down to the viaduct, but instead ran up the Black Path (a former Reiver droving route), down through the woods along by the river and then back past the former Roman quarry.  I then turned to go past the farms and up towards Aaron’s Town, now out in rolling open fields where sheep were grazing under cotton-wool clouds in an azure sky.

This weekend just gone I was singing in Catterline, just south of Stonehaven (Aberdeen).  The boys chose to come with me – Edward was keen to see his newest cousin, Baby Mia – I love the photo of ‘Jedi Younglings’ which her Mum, Gulmira, posted on Facebook.  While I rehearsed and later performed Alex and Edward spent the day with their grandparents, cousin and uncle and aunt.  As I drove down the A90 I wanted to stop to take photos of the North Sea from the hill just north of Stonehaven, it looked so lovely – not the slightest bit inviting as it will be icy cold already I have no doubt – but the waves breaking in the harbour and the blue of the sea under the sunshine-filled sky looking lovely.  Sea therapy!

Stonehaven has some great shops and restaurants and I hope I get a chance to explore it a bit more sometime, but Saturday was busy with practicing.  I hope Nigel, who organised the charity-fund-raising soiree, won’t mind my quoting what he said about my singing, as it was a lovely comment: “people don’t know how lucky they are to hear your voice”.  I look forward to seeing some photos, and I met some great people – Morag, who stepped in to accompany; Orit, who wasn’t well but whom I immediately liked and who I hope to sing with sometime; Sheila, who sang fantastically and who I enjoyed chatting to – as well as seeing people I had met before.

I then went for a run with my ex-brother-in-law yesterday and managed 5 miles with two hills and didn’t walk at all.  I was dead chuffed – and again the weather was fantastic.  I’m clearly fitter than I thought I was…

As I ran through Gelt Woods the title of this blog came to mind.  Funnily enough RunABC North this edition had an article about running being meditative, and Sheila and I were talking about mindfulness on Saturday.  I said that running and singing are my mindfulness.  With both if you’re not ‘in the moment’ then you’re not doing either to your best – both require full concentration or involvement, but it’s also possible to almost get to ‘another place’ while doing either.  With both I feel my feet on the ground and my heart in the air.

And now, with a new head torch sitting waiting for use in the utility room, I’m excited about getting some night runs in; and looking forward to my next singing performance which is in Carlisle in a few weeks’ time.

Heroes in boats!

It was late on an August Friday evening that three excited children and I sat at Newcastle airport waiting to fly off on holiday.  We weren’t going abroad but to Exeter – it just seemed so much less hassle to jump on an aeroplane and arrive in Devon an hour later instead of being stuck on the M6/M5 with three children who were likely to get bored and start fighting.

I have to admit I’m not the world’s best flyer.  Like so many people, I think, there’s something completely illogical about being in a metal tube in the sky, even though I’m the daughter of an aerodynamicist so know the basic principles of how these things work. However I love the vantage point of seeing the world lying beneath you like a map: on the way down we flew over Leeds, Liverpool and North Wales in the dark, the lights of the Wirral divided from those of Liverpool by a dark band of river.  On the way back it was light so the distinctive shapes of England and Wales were even more clear.

My sister met us at Exeter airport and we drove down to the English Riviera – to Paignton.  It’s part of the world which my crowd-hating parents steered us clear of when we were younger even though we only lived an hour or two’s drive away.  We were staying in a house which had been recently completely refurbished to provide accommodation for 10, and was on a site with the owners’ house, three other cottages and a swimming pool (Blagdon House Country Cottages).  Needless to say whatever the weather the children insisted on going swimming at least once a day, and several times I had a battle to get them out when my fingers had turned green with cold (‘Yoda fingers’ according to Edward) and it was time to get on and do something else.  I’m so proud that my oldest two are such confident swimmers though, and that Edward is getting there – I was still nervous into adulthood.

As you’d expect from an English summer, the weather was mixed but on the whole most days were dry and several were warm and sunny.  There was only one day, when we went to Agatha Christie’s home, Greenway, when Bella and I did not take jumpers or waterproof jackets and both suffered (not in silence, in her case!).  It struck me how much National Trust properties have improved since I was a child.  You no longer have to traipse round looking at paintings, china and furniture in museum mode, but the experience has become more interactive and also the outdoors seems to have more on offer as well, with playgrounds and games.  This was especially the case at Killerton, which we went to on our last day.

Although we didn’t play on the beach at all we went on steam trains and boats and explored castles and houses.  Dinner in Brixham near the Golden Hind was popular, where we watched a dog on a first floor windowsill (now called De Locus Dog by Edward and Alex), as was crabbing from the quayside in Dartmouth.

And the heroes?  While we were crabbing Bella managed to drop the bucket in the water, which was several feet below us, and Edward burst into noisy tears.  On hearing Edward, a lovely man in a pinkish coloured T-shirt with pointy ears (the man that is, not the T-shirt – I think he may have been an elf) manoeuvred his boat to fish it out for us, throwing it up to a cheering crowd on the quayside and to an impressed five-year old boy whose tears had been stopped by this hero.  Then on the ferry back to Kingswear, as we went past the Royal Navy ship anchored in the river and I was encouraging Edward to wave, two Royal Navy officers looked through their binoculars at us and waved back – and one then raised his cap and saluted (I think my Mum was a little envious as she said something about liking the Royal Navy uniform best of the forces uniforms and how smart it is… which is similar to my boss assuming that I like going on inspections of Fire Stations because of the firemen in uniform.  Actually I’m not a great ‘uniform’ fan – it’s a bit too formal and smart for me – but it was rather an ego boost being saluted).  Having a five-year old, like having a dog I guess, can be quite an ice-breaker…

We finished the holiday with a lovely few hours and an al fresco meal at my Uncle’s and his wife’s.  They have a fantastic garden, including a stream and an adjacent field with cows, for the children to run around in and there are all sorts of things to discover including wooden statues carved – impressively – with a chainsaw.  My uncle also has an infra-red camera so was later able to send some images of a fox and a hedgehog eating our leftovers that night.

It wasn’t exactly a highly relaxing week as the children fought and wound each other and everyone else up (especially my parents) – but it did make me think that the French custom of taking the whole of August off is rather a good one, and if I can afford it next year, that is what I would really like to do – and spend time going around and about doing exciting things and exploring places with my children.

I even have a bit of a tan.  And when Edward found he had left Darth Vadar and Chewbacca at the holiday cottage, the obliging owners posted them back the following day.  There’s service!

Schizophrenic life; schizophrenic weather

It struck me, as I had a week without the children while they were away on holiday with their father, how my life seems to fall into two extremes.  I am either child-free and single, spending a lot of time on my own doing my own thing; or I have three children around creating a lot of noise and havoc.  I don’t prefer either over the other – but they are very different and sometimes adjusting from one to the other isn’t straightforward.  I’ll have got used to having the house to myself, the quietness, peace and tidiness – and in the three of them storm, dropping things, losing things, demanding things, fighting: and giving mammoth cuddles and (in Edward’s case) sloppy kisses.

Then they vanish, it seems almost as quickly as they have come, and I walk back into a house which suddenly seems too large and quiet for one person.  At least because David and I share childcare 50/50 it’s never that long before my mini whirlwinds rush back into my life – and because we live near each other the time at each house is rarely regimented, and we’ll both borrow a child or two at times so the other can do something with the others (I took Bella and a friend of hers skating one weekend; it took me back about 12 years to when I first knew David, and recalled memories such as the time David and I were driving up to Hemel Hempstead for my lesson but never got there as it had started snowing that afternoon.  The snow was so heavy it was causing problems on the A41 and M25 and roads around north London.   The next day there were news stories of people who had slept all night in their cars).

The weather has been as schizophrenic as my life.  Working at home I get really cold, and when the children were away I even had the fire on a couple of evenings.  Then the sun will come out for a few days and the temperature soars and everybody strips off their jumpers and lets their arms go brown in the sun.   Fortunately a couple of days I had with the children were exactly the latter, and we took advantage of the weather to go to Lowther Castle one day and Mirehouse on the other.

Both places are great for the children to have a good run-around, and both have play areas as well as the general grounds.  Lowther was somewhere I had been thinking of going for ages but what especially prompted me was the fact that I had read about it not having the largest wooden play structure around.  It’s something like the ruined house, with a ‘tower’ type building on three floors and other parts to run around on two floors, plus a zip wire and an under-5s area.  In the wood nearby is a wiggly footpath created out of fallen logs, with a ‘wobbly bridge’, boardwalk, upended logs of various heights to jump from one to another – etc.  There are also lots of tree swings as you walk through the parkland to get to the play area, as well as ponds and gardens to discover as well as the ruins themselves.

15th Aug Lowther Castle (19)

We took a picnic and spent several hours there, and it’s clearly popular – I was talking to another mother and we agreed that actually the wider appeal of the gardens with the play areas is probably financially more sustainable and successful than just restoring the 15th Aug Lowther Castle (15)gardens, which had been the plan several years ago.  There are bits of garden: I didn’t get a chance to look around the exhibition or the shop, but did get time t
o read the boards in the memorial garden which is a touching tribute to men from the Lowther estate who fought in the Great War.  There is also an area of formal garden and a lovely colourful area of wild garden which greets you as you first enter the park.

A couple of days later and we headed down to Mirehouse, on the edge of Bassenthwaite Lake.  I really like the Old Sawmill tearoom next to the car park (you have to park in the car park for Dodd Woods) but I wasn’t feeling particularly affluent, so we took a picnic again (I must get myself one of those backpack picnic hampers though – my cool bag is not comfortable to carry for any great distance or time).  It was also a relief that the price of admission was far less than it had been for Lowther.  At Mirehouse there are several play areas, including a small wooden fort, a steeplechase course, an assault course ending in a zip wire ride over a stream, and an area for younger children.  You can also walk down to the Lake – we didn’t make it more than halfway before we sat down for lunch – and look around the Bee Garden, which is lovely and peaceful unless disturbed by Briggs children.

Lowther costs almost 3 times more than Mirehouse and whilst the café is lovely, that is also on the expensive side.  It’s definitely worth going but only if you are prepared for it to be a relatively expensive day out (from memory it was £30 or so to get in and despite having a picnic we spent about the same on tea and cake in the café – but parking is free).  Mirehouse and the Old Sawmill tearoom are cheaper and just as good, but you do have to pay for parking – with any luck the Forestry Commission will introduce those numberplate recognition machines soon so that you don’t  have to remember to take cash.  It’s a long walk from the far end of the car park to the tearooms and back in order to pay for a parking ticket, and also of course you then have to estimate how long you’re going to be.

I’d recommend both, particularly on a fine day.  Remember the backpack for a picnic, and it might be worth taking a change of clothes and a towel to Mirehouse.

Weather!

It’s been a good weekend.  It started on Friday when I had to take Isabella to hospital.  You’d think that wouldn’t necessarily be a Good Thing: but it gave us several hours of mother and daughter bonding.  As she was the last child to be seen in Day Surgery and we didn’t get home until about 7p.m., and the boys were round at David’s having a Boys’ Night, we treated ourselves to a TV supper of scrambled eggs on toast in front of the film Maleficent.

If I’m completely honest I always agree to a film or television programme any of my children suggest with a touch of hesitancy.  For example, they love Sponge Bob Squarepants and I don’t: and there are programmes they will happily watch for hours and hours and which I can’t wait to switch off.  But Maleficent – for those who haven’t seen it – is a different spin on the Sleeping Beauty story and I thought it worked well.  In fact I really enjoyed it.  I’ve always liked the idea of acting one of those strong, rather feisty women who cause trouble… (I have an as yet unfulfilled dream to star in just a single film… any film producers out there, please take note!).

In fact Bella liked it so much she started watching it again the following day, but by then the boys were back, Alex had a friend round and after doing some stuff in the garden and having lunch I decided to take them all out.

I’ve written a few features about Kirklinton Hall in the past and had kept meaning to take the children there and to walk down to the river, waterfall etc.  Unfortunately it’s closed on a Saturday and it started hailing anyway, so we headed to Whitesykes garden centre at Longtown for hot chocolate (with the obligatory cream and marshmallows) and ice cream – or just a cappuncino in my case – and to play on their fantastic climbing frame as the sun had come out again.  The children all ran around playing a version of Tig which involved the person who was ‘it’ being a pirate: when all of a sudden it started hailing again, this time heavily and rather more persistently than earlier.  After hiding under the climbing frame or in the various summer houses and garden sheds, we decided to head home.

Such have been the vagaries of the temperature recently that there was snow on the hilltops when we awoke this morning and then the temperature climbed throughout the day to at least 13 degrees – having been as low as 2 or 3 yesterday.  Alex was saved from having to come with Bella, Edward and me by a friend coming round and inviting him out, so while they headed off to do whatever 12-year old boys like doing best, the other two and I went down to Penrith.  Both were saying they didn’t want to see a ruined castle: but once we got there neither wanted to leave.  Unfortunately we noticed the ‘no climbing’ sign a bit too late… We went in the playground in the park as well and the only way I could persuade the two of them that it was time to leave was to promise Edward faithfully that I’d take him back there again sometime.

Having had lunch with my friend Penny and done some shopping in Booths, it was time to go home.  Bella busied herself picking daffodils and making chocolate cake while I cooked dinner: I think today’s Yorkshire Puddings were possibly the best I have ever made (and I do love having an oven where you can see through the door!).  We finished with some homemade Apple and Blackcurrant ice-cream as well as some locally-made Mint Choc Chip and Vanilla.  Why is it that home-made ice cream takes so much longer to soften enough to scoop than commercially-made ice cream?

It’s been a particularly pleasant and happy weekend.  Inevitably there have been a few squabbles and tears, but very limited: in fact the three of them were all playing amicably together this evening, building a helicopter in the hall out of the dining chairs… my garden is getting marginally tidier and is bursting with spring flowers (every time I look something new is blossoming: I particularly like the delicate white flowers on the damson tree) and my house is full of flowers as well, some from my garden and some given to me.   Spring is here, and whilst the weather may be fickle, snow on the hills glistening under blue sunny spring skies lifts the heart.