Faroe Islands – to go or not to go.

I’ve been looking into holidays recently (more like constantly), with the aim of going somewhere wild and adventurous.

The Faroe Islands kept cropping up in my searches, but I have a dilemma. The scenery and landscapes look right up our street, but I can’t help be put off by the annual dolphin killings – do I just write it off as a cultural quirk, or avoid going to an otherwise perfect destination because of my own morals and beliefs?

Help!

 

Northumberland Coast Part 1: Seahouses

We are so lucky to live so close to the beautiful Northumberland coast, and so last weekend we took ourselves on a couple of mini adventures, to explore the dunes and beaches north of my home town of Cramlington.

Johan had been away the previous week, and arrived back in Newcastle on Saturday morning. We had a wonderfully lazy late morning/afternoon catching up with each other after a week apart, but eventually we realised that we’d have to feed ourselves at some point! Neither of us could be fussed with cooking (that and there was nothing in the house) so I tentatively suggested a chippy tea. This then led to “Shall we have a look up the coast?” and “You haven’t been to Seahouses before, have you?”. And so we (I) packed the customary accompaniment of cameras, grabbed a couple of layers and headed for the A1. We decided to go the quicker, less scenic route on the way there as we were both getting hungry!

We arrived in Seahouses, found a parking spot (didn’t have to pay as we’d gone past the charge time – score!) and made a beeline for Neptune’s chippy, just across the road. We had only intended on getting some fish bites, but ended up with a full fish for me, and a battered smokey for Johan. Each with chips. The reputation garnered by this particular chippy is certainly founded in truth, as we sat and demolished our food in silence, punctured by “How’s yours?” … “Amazing, yours?”…”…muffled sounds of satisfied delight”. There’s nothing quite like chowing down on fresh fish and chips, sat outside with the dulcet tones of seagulls circling overhead.

Once we’d finished, we took ourselves for a lovely little wander along the dunes towards Bamburgh Castle, and down on to the beach.

 

Early Easter at Eskdale

The weekend before Easter, we had our annual weekend at Eskdale for Johan’s mum’s birthday. We have been doing this now for the past 4 years (where has the time gone?!) and each time I fall in love with the valley a little bit more.

We are lucky enough to be able to stay with friends when we are over there (Johan’s god parents, who went to university with his mum) and I am continuously envious of their fabulous lifestyle. I have picked up a tendency to take myself away with a camera while we are visiting and shoot the surrounding fields, hills and land. Although, I often enjoy simply wandering around their gardens and shooting the wonderfully diverse flora and fauna that can be found there. They are always working on something, and have made constant improvements/changes to their land.

I always feel at peace when visiting Eskdale, it’s such a beautiful place, and I truly hope that Johan and I can emulate Peter and Fionna in our later lives.

Below is a selection of the images that I took while wandering around their house and garden, and more can be found on my Flickr page: https://flic.kr/s/aHskUEbs7k

A mini birthday escape

It was my birthday last Saturday, and so Johan and I escaped up to Scotland for a long weekend of relaxed celebrations. Due to his competing in the OMM 2015, Johan was entered into a prize draw to win a stay at the Hearthstanes Estate  self catering cottages. Luckily, his name was drawn out of the hat (so to speak), he’s so jammy! And so, we used the opportunity for a birthday getaway.

We had planned on getting out as much as possible and exploring the local area in more detail, rather than running around the place as Johan had previously done. We bought the relevant maps and packed an assortment of outdoor gear, ready to hit the surrounding hills and trails. However, I soon learnt that I was in dire need of a rest and so my mind and body decided to shut down and demand that I take things easy. Patchy internet access and lack of a TV allowed us to embrace the peace and quiet, and so we read and chilled out in our lovely little 1-bed cottage. It was so cosy and comfortable, and I found myself drifting off into naps periodically – I must have needed it!

We did go for a couple of wanders around the valley surrounding the estate and enjoyed a nighttime romp up a hill opposite our accommodation.

On the way home, we took a drive through the Tweedsmuir Hills and gawped at the snow-capped mountains; it was truly beautiful. I would definitely recommend staying in the cottages at Hearthstanes, especially if you are looking for a ‘getting away from it all’ break.

Lumley Fee Bunkhouse

A couple of weekends ago, we stayed at Lumley Fee Bunkhouse, just outside of Kendal, with a group of friends for a weekend of walks, drinks, catching up and good food. It was fabulous! We can’t recommend the bunkhouse enough, it was simply stunning!

OMM Lite/Bike Autumn 2016

After two unsuccessful attempts at placing first in the OMM Lite Long Score, this time round felt as though it may be the one. I had convinced Chris Swanepoel to be my running partner, on the assumption that if I was running with someone who was a stronger runner than I was, then it was likely that we would be able to cover more ground, and thus stand an excellent chance at placing highly/first.img_2659
I have to admit I was a little nervous; when we ran the Old County Tops together Chris was in much better shape, and I could only feel like I’d let the side down. I really didn’t want this race to be a repeat of that, especially as we’re running the OMM together in October. The OMM Lite was an excellent chance to calibrate our pacing, route planning, and get Chris used to OMM format events.img_2665
This, it turned out, was an excellent idea. We eventually placed fourth overall, but covered way more distance than anyone else we talked to – over 100km across the weekend!
Our troubles started on the Saturday. Running wise, the weather was excellent; not raining, clear skies, and a nice breeze to keep us cool. However, and this is really stupid, having almost cleared the course on the Spring Lite whilst being much less fit, we assumed we’d be able to repeat course clearance again. Which was wrong. Very Wrong. img_2666
Running on the assumption that we were going to get to every check-point, we very quickly planned a route and set off. As always, the first checkpoint felt sooooo far away, but after dibbing for the first time, the wheels of the machine started to turn much more freely. Soon, we were blasting round our chosen route, picking up even the awkward controls, and even passing teams we’d passed already due to our wiggling path. It felt good! It always does when you’re moving well…
As three and a half, and then four hours passed, it became obvious that we weren’t going to get everything. We were at top of the course about then, so had to start making provisions to get back to camp. Ditching an attempt to get a difficult 50-pointer, we headed  toward the start of what would have been our second loop. We were both running low on water as well; fortuitously we found a water-butt full of rainwater and, without any better options, refilled our bladders.
The end of Saturday was an exercise in suffering. We started up a path which looked like it would cut off a reasonable corner, only to find it was overgrown and virtually impassable, so had to turn back and go for a serious hike up the road. We then followed a path through the forest, which should have dropped us about 300m from a control, but this time the path disappeared almost directly after a foot-path sign. Stumbling through dense vegetation and lumpy, boggy ground, we made it back onto a major track, only to struggle with the problem of not knowing where on the track we were. Fortunately, a cyclist bombed past us on the major trail, and we picked up the run again.
Eventually, and after a serious conversation, we pushed on to grab a final couple of check points. We were going to be late, but these points would tip the overall balance into the positive. Forest tracks are hard going at the best of times, but with the clock ticking, and a voice in the back of your head saying “Go home! Go home!” this final leg was a serious test of how deep we could dig. Picking up the points, we made swift time down through the forest, and to the base of the hill up to Cropton.
Here, the hill made us pay, and at the end of 60+km it was slow and painful. Chris had his watch on, and said at the end that the hill on its own had cost us somewhere around 50 to 60 points, slowing us down just as we had to get back. But we were back, and not feeling too bad, all things considered.
A pub burger, a pint, and a good sleep got us ready and raring for the next day’s challenges.
A Sunday morning breakfast of Extreme Food and Mountain Fuel porridge filled us up ready for another 5 hours of running. This time round, we planned to pick up big points where we could, with contingency plans for heading back if we were running behind schedule. We also both felt surprisingly fresh considering the previous day’s running.
Hatching a plan, we set off down the Hill of Despair towards our first check point, which was our final check point from the Saturday. Cogs were turning as we made our way, and before long I asked Chris how much it was worth. 20 points! Is that all? I’m not dragging back up that long slog, let’s go along the lower road and pick up these 10 pointers instead. Just as many points, flatter running. Great!
All-in-all the running was going well. We hit our check points at, or even just before expected, and were feeling strong at the furthest most point with about two hours to go. It was here that we made our final error.
Experience was telling me that we should be heading back, pretty much the fastest way possible. Chris was excited, and had a loop of high value check points firmly in his sights. We sat for a couple of minutes looking at the maps, and against everything I know, I agreed to continue on with Chris. It was easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm; we were running well – it seemed completely feasible.
The mid-day sun was beginning to take its toll though. I’m not good in hot conditions, and there was little to no shade around this part of the course. Running started to slow. Navigation was still pretty good, but a single error, followed by another confusing woodland section compounded matters. Psychologically, I was beginning to feel the strain, but the only way out was onwards.
Dibbing at the penultimate control, home was in sight. We were still shifting reasonable, although I was really starting to feel like throwing up. Chris, being South African, wasn’t bothered by the heat. Damn Northern acclimatisation, it’s usually good for sports like the OMM, but not this time.
Approaching the final control before home, we arrived to find it being packed away! “It’s after 2 now” we were told. Fair enough, but what about late arrivals like us, and amusingly, another team behind us. The final push began.
I’m pretty sure I whimpered a little when Chris demanded that we pick up the pace again. Oh dear, I’m dying. This is horrible. The team who were behind us peeled away up an obvious track, which, in hindsight we should have used. In my absolute certainty in my navigation, I said we should continue, and pick up a smaller, but more direct track. It never showed. We fortunately came across the next track along, and took it up the merciless hill back to the finish. Finally, we were just outside the camp, and pushing through everything, we trotted back in to finish on 300 points for the day, after a rather hefty fine of 150 points!img_3688
I’d like to say I could have given more, that we could have made it back a little faster, but I couldn’t. Chris didn’t seem bothered by the heat, but I get a feeling that we’ll be in reversed roles on the OMM. Cold and wet is my forte.
To look at the positives though – we placed especially well, considering all our mistakes and 240 penalty points. More than that though, we ran well together, kept pace together, and proved that our route finding skills, although the planning could do with a little tweaking, were generally pretty damn good. It’s also left me feeling like I won’t let Chris down on the OMM, which is important. I was upset with our time on the Old County Tops, and I knew that one was my fault. img_3692
As always, the campsite was good, the vibe was excellent, and there were plenty of old friends and familiar faces to catch up with. Good work OMM, keep ‘em coming. We’ll be there again. (Until I place first on the Long Score; guess I’ll switch to bikes after that…)

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