The Rain Continues

Woke up this morning to many, many more waterfalls cascading down the mountains outside my room window. There was one there when I arrived; there must be a dozen now, due to our rain.

Our leaders just arrived for breakfast and they’ve adjusted our route for the day…just a walk around Buttermere now. Apparently the route we had planned on involves crossing several becks (streams) which now would be flooded and too high to walk across. Fine with me…it’s too wet and windy out there for any degree of comfort.

The Intrepids

This was the name given our group as we set out this morning in a downpour. We’d come to the Lake District to walk and we all knew that there’d be rain, so of course we’d carry on. We did, however, give ourselves an hour extra in the morning, hoping that things would clear. They did not. On went rain jackets and pants, some wore gaiters as well, and out the door of Hassness Country House we went, directly into sheets of water.

We drove to our trailhead (I’ve not heard that word used here), with those who drove here sharing rides in their vehicles. I arrived here by bus (that day yet to be written of), so I was thankful for a ride. These are narrow and extremely curvy country roads with lots of blind corners….I’m thankful to not be a driver!

I really don’t remember much about the start of our walk. The rain was coming down and we all were adjusting our gear to try to stay dry without getting too hot. I packed away my vest (in the rain) before even beginning as I knew it would be too hot for hiking. I did wear my wool gloves as it was cold and as always, my biking gloves for padding against my hiking poles, but that was kind of silly as the wool gloves were soon soaked and I packed them away in no time.

After some level land walking we began the only real ascent of the day, up a col. For readers who are familiar with “The M” in Bozeman, it was similar to the steep route of that walk, only longer. It felt good to climb, though, as we’re eating very well here and the calories need to be worked off!

Beautiful scenery at the top and I’ll add photos once home again…all in mist, but that added to the scene. Our descent took some focus as we were walking over sheets of shale (I believe, as we were in the Honister Pass/former Honister Shale Mine area) and because they were wet, could be slippery. My post-op knee seems to be content doing what it’s doing, but descending steps is its toughest challenge. All went well though and we arrived at a car park and cafe, but the cafe was closed as not many walkers were likely to be passing by given today’s weather. The rain really came down once we stopped, but we all needed a hot drink from our thermoses and a bite to eat to keep us going. After just a few minutes we all were cooling down so we quickly were on the go again.

Our path now took us just slightly up again and along a feeder stream for quite a way. The birds weren’t seeming to mind the conditions. We heard cuckoos singing and spotted wagtails, great tits and a dipper. After likely a mile along we came to a bridge over the stream and our leader suggested that we carry on for another 15 minutes to reach a lunch spot he had in mind…with tables and seats. Given that by now the ground was soaked, this sounded like a good plan.

So, on we went and at that point I was beginning to feel a bit tired and realized that I hadn’t had any of my electrolyte concoction. We reached the designated spot and it was nice…the “Surprise Lookout,” I think it was called, overlooking Derwent Water, one of the largest LD lakes. I pulled out my drink and had quite a bit of that first, followed by the usual packed lunch of a sandwich, chips and fruit. I could have finished with a dessert bar we’d been given by HCH, but I’d eaten enough of that back at our morning break. Honestly…the calories!

Not unexpectedly, some of us chilled down at lunch so were ready to start again fairly quickly.  Our planned trek was downhill to find a bus stop and then to catch a ride back to where we’d left our cars. Seemed straight forward enough, but of course, the best laid plans…

We came across a fixed-up bothy, hosted by The National Trust. A sign outside read “Muddy boots welcome. Warm fire inside. Tea and coffee.” So inviting, so those of us near the front veered right in 🙂 The fire was wonderful and I managed to feel some warmth. We lingered. Eventually, though, back outside. The NT host had suggested a path we could take instead of walking to the bus stop on the road, so we chose that. The path turned out to be quite tall slate steps, which were a bit of a stretch for my getting-weary knee, but I stepped aside to let the “lungs and legs” pass and then I carried on at my own pace which worked well – much better. We found our bus stop, realized that we’d need to stand around for 45 minutes, so, unbeknownst to me, the group decided to walk along the shore of Derwent Water to a different bus stop, to enjoy the shoreline and put in time waiting on the bus. I was wandering around on my own and missed this decision and when I realized that the group was moving they were almost out of sight. Thankfully, our leader came back to round me up and we walked together to the new bus stop. No more wandering around on my own.

The bus came within minutes and on we went. It was an open air bus at the back end of the second level so a few of us chose to sit up there, not realizing what was coming our way. As the bus passed the tall roadside trees, the rain-soaked branches caught on the sheltered front of the bus and then came back to thwack us with water! It was too unsteady to move and by the time we reached our stop, the four of us at the back were drenched! Fun though, and as my daughter said to me earlier in this vacation…”Mum…live a little!” Certainly did that at the back of the bus.

As we were driving back to HCH we passed a filming crew, filming an episode of “The A Word.” This tv show is apparently about a little boy who tends to wander off and get lost. Today, the mist enshrouded hills of the Lake District must be a perfect setting.

Off to dinner.

 

Getting Our Feet Under Us in the Lake District

It was with some trepidation that I set out this morning. I’m with a group of pretty intense walkers for the most part…some of whom are primarily legs and lungs. And, while we were making our final gear adjustments the rain began. I don’t really mind walking in the rain, but when exertion is added in, even with my Marmot rain jacket, I can get terribly sweat. Who enjoys that?

However, my fears were soon laid to rest as this turned out to be an adjustment day…a day to recover from traveling and to adjust to walking in the Lakes terrain, meaning that we stayed low (about 275m of ascent). And, the rain stopped! We did have distance, at just over 12 miles.

We started at the front door of our accommodations, Hassness Country House, and I was prepared for this this time, unlike in Wales! We walked alongside the east shore of Lake Buttermere, up a low ridge, along Crummock Water to a pub, church and graveyard at the end of this lake where we had lunch. We then headed to the remote Mosedale valley and returned along the west shores of these lakes. All of this is sheep country. Only the last mile seemed tiring as it was through rocky bog land, meaning we really had to pay attention to where we were stepping when we were our most tired. However, all went well and we returned to Hassness, where I learned it’s custom to have tea and cake following a walk…that tasted wonderful! It gave us just enough energy to wash away the fatigue of the day and then sit down for supper, where we dined on beet root, goat cheese and basil leaf salad followed with roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes, cabbage and an orange root crop I don’t remember the name of and then chocolate torte and toasted almond cream. I’m not sure I worked hard enough to have burned off that many calories!

Following tea in the lounge we had a fun quiz..the questions were well outside my range of knowledge with only a couple of exceptions. Maybe I should offer to make up a Canadian or American quiz!

Reades of this blog will realize that I’ve not written about two days of this journey. This will be corrected and photos will be added. I hope to complete the writing over the next couple of days, however, the photos will likely have to wait until I’m home again….just takes tooooo long to add them.

Tomorrow is supposed to bring rain – such a contrast to our lovely clear day today, but it may clear off in time for a good start.The walk will be about the same length, but with a little more altitude gain. Looking forward to it.

 

My Friend, Liz

My friend Liz, from our West Highland Way walk of a few years ago and her sister, Marg, met me at the Stroud train station and we recognized each other instantly! What fun to see Liz again! I think we picked up right where we left off all those years ago.

She and Marg live in the village of Uley so that’s where we headed right away, for lunch and to get ourselves together for an afternoon walk. We walked up the Uley Bury first. This was the site of an ancient Roman fort, nothing of which remains today except what appears to be the old chariot track around the outside of the site.

imageThe views of the scenery below were exquisite…

With the River Severn in the background.

Following this we went down and then, of course, up again, reaching Cam……I’ll add the proper name in a bit. Lovely scenery her which we thoroughly enjoyed before heading back to town, where the town mascot, a gorilla, was pleased to greet us from atop a stone wall filled with self-seeded wildflowers…

…sorry…photos to come later…

Then it was back to Liz’s for good conversation over a delicious dinner. Time with a good friend, a nice walk,mood food…a great day!

 

A day of Recovery

Exhaustion hit yesterday afternoon and I could only manage to crawl back to the flat and crash for the afternoon.

The day began well with walking to the Sir John Soane Museum, suggested in Cardiff by Nick. If I remember the facts correctly, he was an architect in the 19th C, a professor, and a great collector of art. He travelled on one buying trip to Europe, but otherwise bought at auctions in and around London. He put together an large, eclectic collection, all in his home where he would invite his students to study and draw from among his collection.

He and his wife had two sons; one died early and the other was more of a rebel. Soane decided to leave his home and collection and money to maintain it and keep it open to the public to the city versus leaving it to his troublesome son and that’s how it remains today…just as he left it. It’s a good chance to see inside a household functioning in old London…old stoves, beautiful antique furniture, some dishes and to admire the collection. A nice off-the-regular-sight-seeing stop.

From there, I was on the march to find salt tablets. Since I have no access to the Internet without wifi, I wrote out the directions provided by Google Maps before leaving.

…drat…I though the wifi where I am would let me add photos, but not so at the moment. I’ll try again another time. Sorry for just my blabbering on now taking over…

It was about a three-mile walk, should be do-able with such specific directions. In fact, it was quite easy with the only times I was in doubt being on the longer distances, when I was one block short each time. There were a few wrong turns, but nothing not easily corrected. This was an interesting block….all part of Google Map’s route…

 

Three miles later, there, just where it was supposed to be was the shop that online had assured me had what I was looking for. But, no…not so. Neither did the running store next door or the hiking shop down the street. By then, I could have used one 🙂

Time to find lunch. I was in the Spittlefield Market area and lots of food trucks were around, but I wanted a nice table to sit at so I chose a Greek restaurant. Delicious!

 

After this much-needed lunch break I hoisted myself up and through the streets to the Liverpool Station and took the tube back to the flat. Within minutes I was sound asleep and stayed that way until moments before Sara came back from work. After debriefing each other about our day (her’s was much more action-packed than mine), we walked a couple of blocks to a corner restaurant for a light supper. Then, within minutes…more sleep for me 🙂

I’m happy to report that all that sleeping seems to have done its work. With Sara’s help I managed the taxi to Paddington Station, sorting out things there, buying lunch and getting myself on the right train, now nearing Stroud. Time to pack up the ol’ iPad and be ready to meet my friend, Liz, my walking buddy from our West Highlands Way walk with Ramblers Holidays from a few years ago. Looking forward a to nice visit and some walking in the Cotswolds.

 

 

 

A Day at Tangmere

An incredible day. As I’ve written, mum gave me dad’s log books years ago and I’ve read through them several times, but so much of what he recorded makes sense only to others in his situation. The Wing Commander and the former curator of Tangmere, now volunteers, sat down with me and we worked our way through his books, with explanations easily provided.

Turns out, the few stories of his war experience that dad shared (and that I’ve managed to remember) are there in his written logs. This meant a great deal to me as it assured me that my memories were correct even though so many years have gone by. We followed dad’s story from his pilot training days in Ontario to his arrival in England, his subsequent training and becoming familiar with the area and then his many months spent flying gunner trainers up for target practice. After that, he had his choice of where to go and what to fly and that’s when he chose 91 Squadron, flying Spitfires. His Squadron moved around a lot, including a brief time in France. He flew the whole range of Spitfires, including the XXI, the fastest. Even more interesting are his records in the column labeled “Duty,” where he described in a word or two, the reason for each flight. This is the “lingo” column, so it was really great to have these terms explained.

These men were impressed with the flight route map the flight team of my VA Dreamliner gave to me (described in an earlier post), which shows that even surrounded with so much war memorbilia, they still truly enjoy and admire the world of flight.

Following this, I was turned over to Eric, who would give me a demo of the Link trainer, the type of trainer used for instrument navigation training during dad’s training. Tough work! Then, he was determined that I would try my never-before tested skills of flying a simulator – this time of a Lightning fighter, a RAF fighter of the Cold War era. Let’s just summarize by saying that between us, we managed to land in one piece 🙂 Although, he kindly said that I had apptitude for this and when I said that that was a generous statement, he said he wouldn’t say it if he didn’t mean it, so that was nice!

Time for tea and a delicious scone with strawberry jam and then I had an hour left to look at the museum collection before my bus back to Chichester. Eric showed me an amazing colour film, made at the air base during the war of Lancaster Bombers being loaded with bombs, the crew being briefed, the planes in flight, bombs being dropped, and the planes returning…all except one, at least at that moment in the film, and the crews’ debriefing. He said that this is the only colour film of this activity remaining from the war.

Among the collection I saw some items that have come my way over the years…dad’s pilot’s silk scarf with a map of Europe on it (I’ve often wondered how useful that could really have been given the scale and the Wing Commander confirmed – not very), a black model of a plane used to learn plane identification and other items. Again, good to have my memories confirmed as correct.

Among all the things we talked about, one item especially stood out. When I explained that dad had passed away in his seventies, the Wing Commander said that many WWII pilots had passed away at that age. He said that after the Korean War studies were done, post-mortem, with pilots as they also were passing away fairly young. He said the studies showed that war time pilots had hidden maladies…things such as harden arteries…that were attributed to hours spent in the air. He said no one knew or considered the effects of flying back then, nor, of course, could they.

That was it. Time to leave. My bus pulled up just as I got to the bus stop, so there was no turning back. I could have spent much longer…there was more to see…more to talk about. The base itself is completely different from my visit in the mid-seventies. At that time it was deserted…the in-between time when it was neither a base nor a museum. Then, a guard named Syd Shepherd met me at the door and after hearing why I was there, invited me into his guard office and shared his lunch of a meat pie with me. I had a good look around the base after that and took photos of the buildings to show dad (which the museum has asked me for as there are not many from that time). All of those buildings are gone now. The museum is housed in a building dated 1950 and moved to this site. Much of the airfield is built up into housing. I asked about Syd and it turned out that the current day treasurer is a Mr. Shepherd, but when I explained my story of Syd to him, there was no relation and no familiarity. Time surely marches on.

 

Quote from my dad: “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots!”

South to Chichester and More Family History

My day began with me pulling the things I wanted for an overnight trip to Chichester, in southern England. After an afternoon of laundering yesterday, I had lots of clean clothes to choose from…what pleasure!

Sara took me to Victoria Station where I was to catch the Southern Railway to Chichester. My family seems to think I’m challenged in the navigation department. The truth is, when we travel together everyone else is so good at navigating that I usually knit, knowing I’m in good hands. However, when I’m on my own I pay attention. It’s just that no one never see me paying attention!

So, I arrived in Chichester without incident and spent quite a bit of time exploring the main shopping streets, trying to find salt tablets. My long-favoured Cytomax may have to step aside in the future…salt tablets seem to work instantly and efficiently and they’re certainly lighter to carry and don’t require mixing with more water so there’s less weight to tote. However, none was to be found so I’ll look in London on Wednesday when I have the day there. I have a feeling that between the three course meals I’ve been enjoying and the time away from my home base of 4,900′ above sea level beginning to deplete my red blood cell count, I may need a little boost in the Lake District mountains coming up next week. As a side note, a young clerk in one store didn’t know what salt tablets were. When she checked with her older companion he explained to her that “older walkers and bikers” prefer them to the newer options of powders and fizzy tablets. Sheesh.

Anyway…Chichester. I’m here because I’m visiting Tangmere Airfield/Museum tomorrow to go through my dad’s pilot log books from his time at this air base during WWII with the museum curator. I wrote about his log books in an earlier post. This meeting has been set up for some time an I’m looking forward to what I might learn about dad’s war service with the RAF.

I’m staying the night at the Chichester Harbour Hotel, an old hotel from the WWII era. A volunteer with the museum had recommended this hotel as pilots based at Tangmere often stayed here, he said, so I suppose my dad may have been along them. I’m not sure when he could have come hereas he had his work, but perhaps that happened. It’s a lovely thought to think about while I’m here.

The Chichester Harbour Hotel.

It was built as a private home for an important local business many during the era of Nelson and the front desk staff told me that General Eisonhower stayed here during WWII. So, I’m feeling quite honoured. I ate dinner here, and my crab and avocado taco and greens salad (a warm concoction of greens and peas in cream) was just right.

 

Prior to dinner I toured the Chichester Cathedral. My photos (I’m currently lugging around my iPad as a camera, but I’ve located a camera shop in town and tomorrow I’ll check whether they could replace my camera battery) don’t do it justice, but to give an idea…

There a chapel dedicated to WWII servicemen of Sussex, which I don’t suppose my father truly was, but as he was based here, I think he has the right to claim this…

Not that he would have darkened the door of the cathedral, but the RAF meant a great deal to him throughout his life, so including this seem alright.

The waitress wished me a relaxing night’s stay…a comfy bed awaits. Plus, my iPad is just being obstinate.

A Travel Day, following an Incredible Evening

First of all, a photo of our walking group before our last dinner together…

imageWe had our leader and his wife, who served as our “back marker,” six others from England, four of us from the US, and one from Belgium. Liz, third from the left, back row, was a dead ringer for Meryl Streep…I’m not convinced she wasn’t 🙂 Although I haven’t heard any stories of Ms. Streep being a walker and Liz is a powerhouse! Really great group.

Following our breakfast the next morning our group began to break up one by one. It’s always a bit melancholic…we’ve bonded as a group by this time and enjoy each other’s company. We always hope to see each other on another Ramblers Holidays walk and say so, but the odds of this, we all know, are slim.

Sara and I shared a taxi with a walker from NY to Fishguard Harbour. Her train to London was coming right away, while we had a three-hour wait. The time passed quickly, though, partly because the (huge) ferry that runs between FH in Wales and Ireland was coming in and docking. Incredible control over a very large ship as it was gently sidled up to the dock.

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Sara and I were bound for Cardiff. The story behind the reason for our visit is truly incredible, so much so that I hope it will see publication. Suffice it for here to write that it involved my mother in her early twenties, a young Welsh serviceman passing through her hometown en route to serve after training in Canada, mum’s parents inviting him to their home for dinner, a lovely thank you note from him that mum had kept from those 73 years ago, and the internet being able to tie all of these bits and pieces together. We were stopping to meet the serviceman, now in his nineties, and his son. What a memorable evening we had, with good conversation, sharing photographs, telling stories and reminiscing, a delicious pub meal and an overnight stay. Evenings like this come along seldom in life…what an honour and pleasure to have this opportunity. There are pictures…we’ll see how publication works out and perhaps I’ll be able to post one here. I so wish this had been mum visiting, but I was honoured to be her stand-in.

This morning it was up early and on board a train bound for London for an afternoon commitment of Sara’s and a serious date with a washing machine for me. We spotted a white chalk horse on a hillside…

image…but I don’t know which one this was. I can’t possibly search through the white horses of England to find its name on my iPad….it’s just toooo slow. My iPad is a trial in patiences, but I’m not complaining! However, it seems that I’ve burned out the charger for my camera and unless I can find a new camera battery, my posts may be reduced to just my unillustrated writing until I get home and remedy the situation. Probably a common fate of mixing converters, adapters, charges and foreign countries.

Tomorrow brings a train trip to southern England.

Feet Up, a Day of Rest at the Beach

Sara and I and a few of the other walkers decided against walking yesterday. The route sounded alright, but it was more coastal walking and then walking through some agricultural fields and that description just didn’t measure up to finding a local beach and enjoying some salt water and sun. Others went shopping and touring around, but Sara and I headed for the shore near The Cliff Hotel (where we were staying)

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and, after some looking, found a set of steps carved from rocks down to a cove with a small beach.

We spent a couple of hours here, with Sara swimming and me writing and knitting. I was thankful to give my blistered feet a rest…turns out my blister count after our Pembrokeshire Coast walk was actually four. My concern is getting the ol’ tootsies back in shape for my upcoming Lake District walk.

After this we cleaned up and took a taxi to St. Dogmael’s, where the walkers were to finish their day. Sara and I had lunch at the cafe of the St. Dogmael’s Abbey ruins cafe, then toured the abbey and the active old, but active St. Dogmael’s church.

There was a small display inside of used books for sale and, of all things, I found a book of WWII stories by servicemen, which is now my reading material.

The group arrived precisely on time, an amazing feat given that it was a 10 mile walk, and after they’d had a rest, we all went back to our hotel by bus. Dinner, another three-course meal, was at 7p as always. We started our usual pre-dinner meeting a little differently, by presenting Mike with a card of thanks and collected tips. He seems to have enjoyed our group. His wife, Pat, was along and she had served as our “back marker,” keeping us altogether as a group. Later, at dinner, Mike remarked that he’d have liked our group to have a couple more days together. He thought there must be a trail in the Pensilli (probably spelled incorrectly) hills that could be included on this particular holiday of Ramblers Holidays. That would be an interesting walk as that’s where the Stonehenge stones began their travels to the south of England.

Anyway, a nice dinner of tomato and basil soup, salmon with paella and a chocolate brownie with chocolate sauce and raspberries and good company. I’m sure all those calories will get used up down the road a bit.

Yesterday’s Walk: Pembrokeshire Coast Trail

We began with our usual bus ride to the trailhead, this time in the tiny hamlet of Cumtydu. After we all got ourselves straightened out (sunscreen on, hats on, water pipes hooked on, biking gloves on, neckerchief on, sunglasses on, boots snugly on) we set off, or up, as was this case. Our walk to the top of a headland was accomplished by (only) two (long) switchbacks. But, once there we had a nice view of the inlet below.

Carrying on, we soon arrived high enough to see our path before us.

 

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Although we didn’t know it at the point Sara took this photo of me, our lunch destination was beyond the peninsula in the distance (above).

We had a morning rest stop and I got busy and applied Compeed to what felt like a blister beginning on my right heel. And, then ate apples, grapes and a mound of chocolate finger cookies, washed down with Cytomax and tea.

Sara, walking out from our lunch stop and our gang, having a little lesson in how to use poles whilst (hehe) going downhill:

So, we continued walking toward the peninsula, eventually arriving.

imageIt was a pretty sight, with the three sailing boats and there were two seals in the harbour. We’d passed hundreds of jellyfish along our walk, drifting far below in the water. They looked to be white and transparent and must have been huge – to look so huge from so far away.

At this point along the trail, the sign pointed up to the top of the hill just out of this photo, to the left. Mike wasn’t sure whether this was correct and given the distance we’d walked and the steeply rising temperature, some of us were wishing he’d check it out without us, but we dutifully followed. Once at the top it seemed to not be right so down we came, but a little further along the trail, we could see how that would have worked, albeit with a steep downhill.

From this point we could turn around to see where we’d been…we’d walked all of this…

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The temperature was rising…we found out today that it had gotten to 92…and when we came across this view…

image …it looked like an oasis before us. Turned out that this was where Mike had planned our lunch stop, so we scurried down the hill and onto the bench in the shade, beachside of the smaller building along the beach and got serious about restoring lost calories.

Notice the hill on the far side of the inlet? That was our after lunch walk and if I’m not mistaken, we also covered the hilly meadow beyond.

By this time, most of us were beginning to flag (there were a few choice words heard going up that exposed meadow 🙂 Sara and I had long ago taken a salt tablet each, which really helped restore our energy, but they only last so long in this heat, climbing and distance.

From here, our path was pretty much up and down and up and down and up and down. We eventually came to Penbryn, a town of one shop and maybe that many houses on a beach inlet (likely popular is summer) and restocked up on deliciously cold water. An interesting part of the walk came after this as we entered a beautiful wood. Turns out, in a month a Jurassic Park film is to be filmed there…seemed like a perfect setting and we half expected a dinosaur to roar at us through the dense ferns, shrubs and trees.

Within a bit, here was the next “up” greeting us…

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Following this we had another mile or so. Our bus was waiting for us at our pick up point in Tresaith, with the AC running, which I really appreciated. On the bus I took a sip of water and found that my 2gal Dromedary was all but dry. Perfect timing, but also a little unnerving to run out of water.

Back at the hotel I gingerly took off my boots, wool socks, liner socks and compression socklets to have a look at my feet. Well, my right foot as that was the one giving me grief throughout the day. An impressive blister under my Compeed, I think!

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All in all, a good walking day of only 9.25m, but in the heat, a bit of a slog near the end.