A Break At Center Parcs Whinfell Forest

When I retired in January 2020, I wanted to treat my family to a special holiday, so we booked to go to Las Vegas and New York. Sadly due to the pandemic, this got cancelled. After some discussion about waiting and rebooking, we decided that none of us knows what may happen in the future. With that in mind, we booked a break to Center Parcs, initially for February 2021, but this also got postponed and we finally managed to get there in October. I went with my husband, our eldest daughter and her friend, and our youngest daughter and her boyfriend. It was a brilliant weekend and well worth the wait.

An Afternoon Of Laughter

We arrived slightly late at Whinfell Foret, due to being stuck in traffic for a while. Once we had checked in, we were straight to the pool, as we had booked a session for the afternoon. The “tropical Paradise” is a large swimming area under a dome. There are slides and chutes, as well as a wave pool and a rapids area. We did spend a fair amount of our time in the outdoor pool, which is a tempting tropical temperature on a fresh autumn day.

We left the pool area a couple of hours later, as we could now make our way to the lodge. Some of us walked up, whilst the others went to bring the car with all our belongings. It seemed like a long walk on that first afternoon, but once we knew our way around the forest paths, the walk seemed to get shorter each time.

The lodge was absolutely spotlessly clean. we quickly allotted the three bedrooms and each one had a bathroom, so we all had our own spaces to retreat to. We unpacked some of our things and then it was off to our next activity – football pool.

The sports area was nice and quiet, so we were soon on the “pool table” and were told we were the last spot of the day, so could stay as long as we wanted. The object of the game is to kick a white ball which then knocks one of the coloured ball into one of the pockets. The same rules as normal pool, but using your feet instead. Sounds simple and in theory it was, but as some of us have no coordination, the ball was off the “table” more than it was on. We played in various combinations of teams and there was a lot of witty banter going on. I laughed so much my sides were aching.

It was then back to the lodge, where we cooked pizzas and snacks for tea, had a few drinks, then played Pictionary Air, which involves drawing items for your team to guess, with the added hurdle that you are drawing in the air and only your team can see what you are drawing. again we laughed all the way through.

It was then off to bed for some rest, ready for the activities the next day

Aerial Challenge And Bowling Fun

The following morning, after a freshly cooked breakfast, we set off to take part in the Aerial Challenge, which is an obstacle course high in the trees, ending with a zip wire back into the village area. we were all booked on to take part, but there was a massive shock for me. As you were being fitted for safety gear, you were then placed on the scales as there is a weight limit. It was here where I was told (thankfully very discreetly) that I was too heavy to take part. I was really disappointed, but also extremely angry with myself for once again allow myself to gain so much weight. However I pulled myself together and became the official photographer for the others taking part.

They all managed to complete the course and I was so proud of my youngest daughter who was terrified of being up so high, but managed to calm her nerves and terror with a little coaxing and encouragement. She was so pleased to have overcome her fear and not let it beat her. It was great to hear her screaming in triumph as she came down the zip wire.

We had a break for a coffee and a walk back to the lodge for lunch, before making our way back to the village centre for our ten pin bowling session. It is a while since we have been bowling, but we soon managed to get back into the swing of things and had an amusing afternoon, mostly taking the mickey out of each other.

We then had another session booked in the pool, so we enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on the slides and in the pools

We went back to the lodge for a rest and a shower, as we had booked a meal that evening in the Lakeside Lodge. It was clear that there was a shortage of staff, but the service and food was pretty good, until a very large group arrived and we were virtually left in the lurch. As a result of this we didn’t order any desserts or further drinks and made our way up to the sports bar to play pool, this time on a proper table with cues (not that I’m much better at that)

A Not So Restful Sunday

On the Sunday morning, we had split activities at first. Some of us played table tennis, whilst the others went to the golf driving range. I was the only one that knew how to play and particularly how to score, so it was nice to show the young ones how to do it.

We were then booked in for an archery lesson, so we walked to the outdoor activity centre, where we were given an hours lesson in target archery. We all seemed to get the hang of it fairly quickly and took up the challenges set by the instructor, who pleasant enough, but not quite as funny as he seemed to think he was.

There were a few misses of the target by most of us, resulting in a search for arrows in the grass. There was one slightly hairy moment when the instructor shouted “stop”, just as I had pulled my bow back, and I didn’t know what else to do but let go. Luckily it was an amusing moment rather than causing any harm!

We went back to the lodge for lunch and a few games before a sauna and then getting ready for our evening meal. We had booked “Hucks” which was advertised as an American Diner. The waiter came and told us that we had to book everything on the app and then reeled off a list of things that weren’t available. The food was okay, but not very inspiring and definitely felt like it was mass produced. It was definitely overpriced and a little disappointing.

We then went to the bar in the village centre. I wanted to go into the amusements area, where all the coin operated games are (very childish I know, but I still love to do this). We ordered some drinks and sat in the bar, but it had a very different feel to the rest of our experience of Center Parcs and was more like being in a cheap pub, with children running amok whilst their parents drank and ignored them. We decided to go back to the lodge and have a few drinks in peace.

Swimming And Pancakes

On the Monday morning we had a quick breakfast and packed up our lodge, before heading off for another session in the pool. As it was the first session of the morning, it was really quiet, so we decided that we would try all the slides and rides before they got too busy. It was great to be able to just get on and off them as we wanted without queuing. We also managed to get in the jacuzzi whilst it was quiet. We ended the morning with a nice relaxing float in the warm outdoor pool.

We were all then really hungry. My daughter and her boyfriend were desperate to try the pancake house, so we sent my husband in to charm the hostess into getting us a table. He did a magnificent job and in no time at all we were sat enjoying the pancakes with gorgeous sweet unhealthy toppings.

We then went into the sports centre for a few games of pool before setting off home.

I had an amazing weekend and I am sure that the others enjoyed it too. It was so nice to spend time with our daughters and to see the young people getting on so well. The banter and laughter made the weekend so much fun. Despite it being such a busy, active weekend, I was really tired, but also felt refreshed by the whole experience. I feel so blessed to have these wonderful moments with my family and to make such great memories.

A Weekend In Wales

At the beginning of October, we spent a lovely weekend in Anglesey with a group of friends, to celebrate a 60th birthday. It was also my brother-in-laws birthday and a long time since we had been together as a group due to all the restrictions. This was finally the weekend when we could all get together. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like that, as some of the group were unable to come and some of us that did make it ended up being struck down with the really nasty cold that is going around at the moment. Even with all that, we managed to have a great weekend, helped by the unseasonably warm weather.

Perfect Conditions For Paddle Boarding

On the Friday and Monday, my husband and I decided to visit Llanberis Lake, which is part of Padarn Country Park. There are a number of parking areas, some of which are free. there is also a café and toilets. We parked in one of the areas that was free, bit was also easy to reach the water. There were quite a few paddle boarders, kayakers, and swimmers. It was great to see everyone out on the water. Because the lake is so big, it did not feel crowded at all.

The lake is stunning, with lots of small inlets as well as the wide expanse of open water. As there was very little breeze, it was a great place to practice paddle boarding. I managed to stand up for long periods of time, practicing paddling and turning , which was a great boost to my self confidence. Getting from kneeling to standing is still a little tricky, but I am definitely getting much better and only need a small amount of support from my husband, who steadies the board for me. Hopefully with a little more practice I will be able to improve this even more when we go out again. As the weather was so warm, we were able to spend a great deal of time out on the water without getting chilly.

Meanwhile, our friends went out in their kayak on the water and managed to make their way around most of the lake. My brother in law and sister in law chose to take what they thought would be a gentle walk around the lake, which turned into a five mile hike.

A Longer Walk Than Expected

On Saturday we had a restful morning around the house which we had rented for the weekend. Clynnog House, is situated at Dwyran and is a stunning six bedroom house, which would not look out of place on Grand Designs. However, it was not quite as clean as it should have been, particularly in the current climate. Although the layout and size of the house is impressive, there were some features that were a bit disappointing. We worked around this and enjoyed the space and lovely gardens.

On Saturday afternoon, we decided to take a walk to the beach. On reading the leaflets at the house, we believed we were taking a “short” path to the beach and would then be able to take a slightly different route back to the house. We took the path to the beach, which meanders through the very pretty Newborough Forest. However, the short walk turned out to be over an hour to get to the beach. We had passed another path on the way, so in our wisdom thought we would meet this further down the beach. this was not to be, and by this time some of our group who were feeling the effects of having cold, were starting to struggle. At this, we turned around and walked back up the beach, to a car park in the forest. Gallantly, my husband and brother in law walked (or possibly ran) all the way back up to the house to collect the cars to ferry us all back. Thankfully we all survived and despite achey legs were none the worse for our experience.

Gorgeous Anglesey Coastline

The glorious weather continued on the Sunday, so we decided to have a drive down the coast and make a few stops on the way. Our first stop was Porth Trecastell Beach, where we had a walk across the headland. The coastal path stretches around the whole of Anglesey and is absolutely beautiful. This particular area has a a petty, flat beach, with a craggy, rocky area around it. There is also an ancient burial chamber hidden in the hillside.

We then travelled on to South Stack, passing so many beautiful beaches and coves along the way. South Stack is a on a stunning area of coastline, with a lighthouse on the craggy out crop. It was busy here, but there was plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the scenery. As we were all now gasping for a cuppa, we did the very British thing of putting the kettle on! Our friends have a camper van, so we boiled the kettle, making tea and coffee, then cutting up the birthday cake and copious amounts of biscuits. It was certainly quicker than queuing for the café.

Once we were all refreshed, we took the path towards the lighthouse. Due to Covid restrictions the lighthouse was not open, but the scenery is still well worth the steep walk. We then walked past the lighthouse and up to the top of the hill behind the lighthouse. There are lots of steps and it is a little uneven underfoot. The views are amazing from the top. It is such a beautiful part of the world and I would definitely go back for another visit.

Cornwall Revisited (3)

Eden Project

We had visited Eden Project back in 2009 when our girls were still quite young. I remembered this as a really great day out. Unfortunately, on this occasion we were a little disappointed with the experience and felt it was overpriced. Luckily, we managed to book using Tesco Clubcard Vouchers, which made it worthwhile, otherwise the steep £35 per person would have been a bigger blow (we are from Yorkshire after all!).

The Biodomes have some amazing plants and trees, which are fascinating to see. There is also a lot of information about recycling, climate change and sustainability. Reading about the destruction of areas of rainforest and people and animals being driven from their homes for mass production and profit is pretty heart breaking and made me think more about this than being preached at or watching protestors on the television.

There are some areas of the project that really look tired and need some revamping. It feels a little run down. There are also areas that are not open, due to “Covid” which should really be taken into consideration when looking at the ticket price.

The gift shops stock some beautiful sustainable products and gifts, but again they are expensive, and it is a bit sad that sustainability may only be affordable for those with lots of money to spare.

We had a good morning but were really expecting to have a full day there, so were really surprised when we had seen everything and were on our way back to the cottage in the early afternoon.

Luckily the sun had come out, so we were able to get the kayaks out and spend the afternoon and evening paddling up and down the estuary, which was great fun.

We made fish finger sandwiches and potato wedges for tea, which we took down to the fire pit,where we sat relaxing and watching the glorious sunset. What a perfect end to the day!

Marazion Beach Day

We packed up the car with our kayaks and paddle boards and headed to the beautiful area of Marazion, to the beach overlooking St Michael’s Mount. Having seen how beautiful and calm it was on our previous visit, we decided that it would be a perfect place to practice and improve our skills on the paddle boards. Once we had set up camp (we still take so much stuff every time we go out!) and had a bit of lunch, the tide had started to come in, giving the perfect opportunity to paddle in safety.

From the beach, the water looked very calm, and we were convinced that it would be as easy as paddling on the lake. We couldn’t have been more wrong. I was knocked off my board by a wave as soon as I had got on before I even had chance to stand up. My husband paddled along with his usual confident air, and we were all extremely impressed with his proficiency, until he was knocked off by a wave and he disappeared into the water (we didn’t laugh much!). It certainly wasn’t easy to stand up and to be honest, I gave up and decided to just sit on my board and paddle. The others managed to stand, but it was not easy. My friend spent the afternoon practicing getting back on to her board, but was not particularly successful and we could hear her screaming and laughing right across the beach.

We had a fabulous afternoon but were extremely tired and a little bit wind swept by the time we left the beach. We decided to call in Newlyn for fish and chips on the way back, so we didn’t have to go to the trouble of shopping and cooking food. Later that evening as we sat at the cottage, we were all struggling to stay awake after the exertion and all the fresh air. Needless to say, we all slept well.

Cornwall Revisited (2)

Newlyn and Mousehole

On Thursday morning, the sun was out and it was warm, so we spent the morning relaxing in the garden at the cottage. After lunch, we decided to drive to Newlyn and walk along the coastal path to Mousehole. The walk is around a mile and a half and is a shared footpath and cycle path. There are coastal views along most of it, and at various points along the way, St Michaels Mount can be seen from slightly different angles. There is also a memorial to the Penlee Lifeboat disaster, where the crew lost their lives whilst attempting a rescue in an horrendous storm. The garden is set on top of the cliff above the old lifeboat station.

The weather was just right for walking, warm with a gentle breeze, but not blazing sunshine.

Mousehole is a stunning picturesque village, with quaint cottages sitting around the harbour. It was late in the afternoon and quite busy. It was great to see children, having finished school for the day, playing on the beach and in the sea. After strolling through the village, and enjoying the scenery, we called for a coffee, before heading back on the path to Newlyn.

We were unable to find a restaurant which was open and had room for us to eat, so called for takeaway from Lewis Fish and Chips. We sat on the benches by the war memorial eating them out of the box. They were excellent and I would recommend them if you were calling at Newlyn at any point.

The Minack Theatre

Having featured recently on a documentary, the Minack open air theatre had been added to my list of things to do. We had tickets booked for Thursday evening, for a production of The 39 Steps. The drive to the theatre is an interesting one, on some very narrow and winding roads. Once we arrived, the staff were amazing, guiding us to a parking space and then into the seating area.

The view from the top of the theatre is breath taking, looking down on the theatre itself and in the distance, out to sea, where several fishing boats were bobbling around.

As the production began, the sun started to set. The play was amusing, and all the characters were played well by the small cast. As it became darker, the moon cast an eerie glow on the boats out at sea, creating a unique atmosphere as the play continued. It was a chilly evening, but we were well prepared with coats, hats and blankets. At the end of the production, we all had slightly numb bottoms and achy backs, but the experience was well worth it.

Marazion And St Michael’s Mount

On Monday, we had pre-booked tickets to visit the castle at St Michael’s Mount. We visited last year but could only get tickets to the garden and were unable to visit the castle. We were very lucky again with the weather. We drove to Marazion, a picturesque village, with a soft flat beach and crystal-clear waters.  We walked to the castle along the causeway, which is only visible during low tide. The causeway is cobbled and flanked on both sides with rock pools.

The grounds of the castle are beautiful, with well kept lawns and beds. The route to the castle is very steep, up lots of steps cut from the rocks. The view from the walls of the castle is astonishing, looking out over the bay and the coastline of Cornwall.

The castle is worth visiting, having developed over centuries from being a monastery in the 1100’s to now being owned jointly by The National Trust and the St Aubyn family. There is an online tour which gives information for each room as you walk around the castle. There are also guides on hand if you have any questions. There are the usual art works and artefacts, but it is the structure of the castle and the location that is most impressive.

After visiting the castle, we sat on the lawns in the sunshine, eating lunch, before heading back to the mainland. The causeway was now closed, due to the tide coming in, so we were taxied back by one of the little motorboats, which was only a short journey, but worth the experience.  We had a little wander around the village and then sat looking out across the bay, watching the kayakers, paddle boarders, swimmers and the unusual sight of a man riding a shire horse along the beach.

Cornwall Revisited

After having such an excellent time in Cornwall last year, we decided to book the same cottage for this year (we actually booked it whilst we were still there as we had a feeling that holidays abroad would not be on the cards). We set off on Thursday lunchtime, meeting our friends and staying overnight in Bristol, before travelling down to Cornwall on Friday. We had a short stop off in Polperro for the extremely tasty crab sandwiches at the museum tea rooms on the harbour. Our  cars were even more packed than last year, after the purchase of the paddle boards and more recently inflatable kayaks. Luckily, we managed to squeeze everything in, with a little room to spare to pick up the click and collect order at Tesco in Truro.

We arrived Ruan Dinas in Coombe early Friday evening. The cottage is just as we remembered it and this year, we have the added bonus of staying for two weeks.

We all spent the first couple of days relaxing around the cottage, the garden, and the riverside, with a short trip to the garden centre and a wander around the shops in Falmouth. I also had my first go at fishing, but didn’t catch anything, which was okay as no one else did either.

My husband was the first to be brave enough to take his paddle board onto the estuary straight away. The rest of us were a little more cautious. We were convinced that the tide would wash us out to sea within minutes, but we soon realised that this was not the case. I took my board out the following day, and me and my husband paddled up and down the river a couple of times, with our friends in their kayak.  I must admit I stayed kneeling all the time, as I didn’t feel confident enough to stand up in the tidal water.

Enjoying The Sunshine

On Tuesday it was a beautiful sunny day, so we decided to paddle the kayaks up the estuary and have breakfast at the garden tea rooms. Unfortunately, when we got there, the tea rooms were closed.  After making our own breakfast, we paddled a little further down the river, around the large ferry which is moored up in the widest part of the estuary, and in and out of a few of the coves. The river was surprisingly calm and easy to paddle. We even sat in the kayaks in the sunshine for a while, just relaxing and watching the world go by.

After lunch we set off to the pitch and putt in Falmouth. We had an amusing afternoon, one we had negotiated the grumpy attendant, who opened a window and served us through a tiny gap. He was not amenable to any queries and slammed the window shut after pointing out the signs which said the café and toilets were not open. The fact that he was so rude, just set us off in fits of laughter, which continued around the course.  None of us are particularly good, but it all adds to the enjoyment.

Making the most of the glorious sunshine, we drove down to Swanpool Beach, where we were tempted by the quirky named ice creams at the beach café. I chose “Malt Pleaser”, which was a Cornish vanilla ice cream cone covered in Maltesers. After sitting for a while, we walked along the coastal path to Gilly Vase Beach, stopping to take in the outstanding views. At Gilly Vase, we strolled through the beautiful gardens before heading back on the coastal path to Swanpool.

Driving back from Swanpool, we took the scenic route and came across Pendennis Shipyard. It was fascinating looking at the huge ships in dry dock and seeing the people at work who looked like tiny ants in comparison to the ships.

Messing About On The Water

The following day we booked to take our Kayaks and paddle boards to Stithians Lake for the day. The idea was that it would be a safer expanse of water to practice our skills and improve our technique. It was a warm sunny day and we had packed the car the night before, ready to set off early in order to set up camp (we have so much stuff between us, including an event shelter, four paddle boards, two kayaks, a gas stove, chairs, food in two cool boxes, wet suits, towels and changes of clothing).

Stithians is one of the South West Lakes and is a large expanse of freshwater, with all the facilities to launch your own boats, hire, or even take lessons. I decided to get some practice in on my paddle board first. After lots of attepts at standing up on my own, I eventually managed to stand up with help from my husband. I was paddling along merrily for quite a while, before the wind got up and started making the water quite choppy. Needless to say, I was soon off my board and into the water. I managed not to panic but couldn’t manage to get back on my board at such a depth, so swam almost the length of the lake using my board as a float.

After lunch, I had another go. This time the wind made me drift into the banking at the other edge of the lake. At this point I should have gone from standing to kneeling but wasn’t quick enough and as I hit the bank. I fell forwards, face planting the board. Once I had recovered (and stopped laughing), I decided to sit on my board and paddle back to the shore, which took some doing as the wind was constantly trying to blow me in the opposite direction.

It was at this point we decided to give the kayaks a go. We paddled around the edge of the whole lake, which was easy when going in the direction of the wind, but much harder work when going against the wind.

After an amazing but tiring day, we headed back to the cottage, where we cooked a meal and then took drinks down to the firepit on the jetty. We sat toasting marshmallows and laughing at our antics.

A Bit Of A Catch Up

I thought I would just write and let you know what has been going on over the last couple of months. In many ways things are starting to get back to normal, although the pandemic is still very much with us.  I am still quite cautious if I am in a place with lots of people and feel more comfortable in the outdoors than being in an enclosed area. I have managed to get out and about to a few places and return to some of the things that I really love to do.

I’ve managed to get a couple of decent walks in with my brother, whose Charity Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is delayed until next May. So far I have walked Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough with him. He is really good as when he gets a little ahead, he walks back to collect me, meaning he always walks quite a bit further than me. I am still unfit, having reverted to all my old eating habits during the last lockdown over winter. I get plenty of exercise but I do need to stop eating quite so much of the wring types of food, especially in between meals or on an evening.

Having said that one of my other great loves is eating out. It has been great to start doing that again over the last few weeks, particularly in places where you can book a table and know that it is not going to be overcrowded. We have met up with friends on a couple of occasions and it has felt great to be doing something “normal”

As a little treat, my sister in law and I took our mums and mum-in-law out for afternoon tea at Angelina’s Tea Rooms in the Mill Village at Batley. To be fair I had bought the vouchers as a present for Christmas 2019, but we have never been able to use them. It was a really pleasant afternoon, as we rarely all get chance to spend time together. It was lovely to see the older ladies relaxing and chatting whilst enjoying their teas. There were plenty of sandwiches and cakes for all of us and as much tea as you could drink. They all went home with a little box of leftovers which was an added bonus.

Birthday Treats

At the end of July, for my youngest daughter’s birthday, we took both her grandmas (my mum and mum-in-law) out for lunch at The Garden Café, at Bennetts Eggs in Liversedge. It was a warm sunny day. The food was great, if a little much for both the older ladies, who went home with a doggy bag to have for lunch the following day. We had a lovely afternoon, and it was great to be able to spend some time together. After lunch we strolled around the little petting farm before dropping them off back home.

Later in the week, as another birthday treat,  we went to an Escape Room with my husband and my daughter’s boyfriend. I absolutely love escape rooms, and this is one of the things that we have not been able to do over the last eighteen months with all the restrictions. I enjoy the puzzle solving and working together. I am always amazed at how everyone thinks differently. Puzzles that are obvious to one person don’t make any sense to another and it is great to see everyone playing their part to get out in time. If you’ve never done an escape room, I would recommend you give it a go. They are all different levels and themes, so you would be able to find one that suits you. The one we chose was a Titanic theme, in an Escape Room very close to our home. It was not too difficult, and we managed to get out with a good amount of time to spare, with lots of laughs along the way.

A Trip To London

In august it was my eldest daughter’s birthday, so I arranged to visit her. I travelled down on the train and we stayed in a nice hotel near to St Pauls Cathedral. She only lives forty-five minutes away from the centre of London, but I thought it would be nice for her to have a change of scenery, after the lockdowns and not being able to do many of the things she normally enjoys.

I arrived on the Sunday afternoon, and we popped into the amazing Theatre Café for lunch and a couple of cheeky cocktails, before going to the theatre. We had booked to see David Walliams’ Billionaire boy at the Garrick theatre. This may seem a strange choice for two adults, but as her friend was in the production, it was great to support them and see something that we wouldn’t normally see. The production was entertaining. There were lots of funny moments, which appealed to adults, but went over the children’s heads. However, the children did find the jokes about “pooping” and “farting” hilarious.

We popped back to the hotel for a relaxing swim and sauna, before heading out for something to eat. It wasn’t easy to find an open restaurant close by and we did not want to go too far. We arrived at Gordon Ramsay Maze Grill just as they were about to take the last orders at 8pm.  The atmosphere was pleasant enough, the service was efficient, and the food was reasonable, but I was not completely blown away. It did feel that they were getting ready to close by the time we finished our meal. By the time we left there was just us and a couple of ladies on the table next to us. Luckily, no one made us feel that we were being a nuisance by being there.

The following day I had persuaded my daughter to take part in a Sherlock Holmes outdoor game, which took us around the streets of London following online clues on an app. It was an interesting couple of hours. I was surprised by how much building and maintenance work was going on. Considering the amount of time restriction have been in place, it would have been more sensible to carry out the repairs then, rather than in the height of the summer holidays. It was certainly much quitter than usual, with the obvious lack of international tourists, which seemed strange in a capital city.

On the Monday evening, we went to the open-air theatre at Regents Park. We had enjoyed it so much last year, I didn’t really mind what was on, I just wanted to go back. This summers production was Carousel, which I haven’t seen for years and even then, only on film. The production had an unusual setting, with very neutral colours and clothing styles, which di not depict a particular era. The singing and dancing were beautiful. Although it is probably an outdated story, it had been altered to make it a little more relevant to modern times. I am not a fan of changing everything to suit modern values (sometimes we need to see how things were, to understand how far we have come and how much change is still needed), but on this occasion I think that it was needed and was not overdone. All in all, it was a great evening, helped by the warm weather and the different atmosphere that is gained by being outdoors.

On Tuesday, we went out for a walk and had breakfast, before checking out of the hotel. We walked to the station and got on the same tube, before saying our goodbyes and heading off home.  Although we had had a busy couple of days, I felt relaxed as I travelled back home.

Paddle Board Practice

After having our paddle board lesson in June, we decided to invest in a couple of inflatable paddle boards to take with us on our holidays. Although that sounds fairly straight forwards, as we knew exactly what we wanted, it seemed that everyone else in the country had also had the same idea. We eventually managed to pre order some and they arrived on 2nd August. As it was a fine sunny day(and we were self isolating), we spent some time inflating them in the garden. This took quite a while and a lot of energy. Needless to say we have now invested in an electric pump!

Over the August Bank Holiday weekend we went up to Ullswater and spent the day on the lake, with friends practicing on our paddle boards. We had a great day, but I am still struggling to get from kneeling to standing without leaning on my husband. Luckily he is proficient and very confident on his paddle board, so is able to assist with this without me tipping him into the water. Hopefully it will come with practice. If not I’ll just have to keep leaning on him every time i want to stand up!

Taking On A New Challenge

One of the activities that was on my list of things to try when I retired, was stand up paddle boarding. Unfortunately, due to the travel restrictions, not mixing in groups and all the other strange things that have happened over the last eighteen months, it was something that I never got round to doing.

However, last weekend I finally managed to go and give it a whirl, along with my husband and two friends. We had booked a beginners lesson with Lake District Paddle Boarding. The lesson was three hours long and we booked a private lesson for just the four of us as we did not want to be holding anyone back or being embarrassed by not being able to actually get on the boards.

I have to say that we had an excellent afternoon. When we first arrived on the edge of Ullswater, it was very murky, overcast, with a chilly breeze. Whilst we sat and ate our picnic, we were all shivering – I think from the cold rather than the sheer terror of what was to come. We were all convinced that we would be in the water within five minutes and frozen to the core.

We went to introduce ourselves to our instructor Joe, who was excellent. He reassured us that we would be able to get on the boards and was confident that we would be paddling across the lake by the end of the afternoon. We were slightly more doubtful! He also convinced us that the water wasn’t actually that cold and we would not be chilly if we fell in.

The first hurdle was to get into a wetsuit. This is no mean feat when you’re younger, but when you are over fifty, overweight and not particularly fit, it becomes a bit of a workout in itself. By the time I managed to shoe horn myself into the suit, I was definitely not chilly anymore. I was relieved that I had fitted into one, as I had nightmares about being stuck half in/half out of a wetsuit, witnessed by hoards of Lake District tourists.

Joe explained the basics at the side of the lake, whilst we watched and asked questions. He was really encouraging and patient with us. He made it sound very straight forward. He then got us all to get onto the boards, kneeling up and we set off into the water. They were much more stable than we had anticipated. After about ten minutes, the boys were already trying to stand up and doing a pretty good job of it. Us girls were a little less confident, but with lots of help and encouragement we were all actually standing on the boards and paddling, much to our amazement. It was quite hard work, requiring a considerable amount of concentration. The advice to look ahead to where you are going and to relax, really helped, but what you actually want to do is look down at the boars and cling on by clenching your toes.

After we had paddled up and down near the shore for a while, Joe then suggested that we paddle across to the island in the middle of the lake. Despite our initial reluctance, we were now all up for this and made our way across with a combination of standing and kneeling, depending on the choppiness of the water. I was mostly kneeling, as I still did not feel particularly confident. Once we had had a short rest on the island, we then crossed the lake into some of the more sheltered bay areas, where it was a little easier to stand up. I still needed a bit of help getting from kneeling to standing, but I managed to paddle standing up for a short while.

Joe showed us some further skills on the boards and also some tricks, which the more confident paddlers tried, some with more success than others. The boys both ended up in the water, mostly from showing off and being over confident. But we laughed so much! Once we had gone in and out of a few more of the little bays, it was time to make our way back across the lake to where we started. I don’t think any of us could believe how quickly three hours had passed by.

As we set back off, the steamer was approaching and Joe warned us that it would cause a few waves. The choice was to kneel down and be more stable in the waves, or stand up and try and balance. Needless to say the boys tried standing and riding the waves and ended up tipping off into the water.

We all managed to make it back safely and a little quicker than going out, as the wind was blowing us in the right direction. We had had a great time and were really impressed with the whole afternoon. We all had slightly achey legs and had definitely used muscles that we hadn’t used for a while.

I would definitely recommend this as an activity and would suggest booking a lesson to try it out with some instruction. I can also heartily recommend Lake District Paddle Boarding and particularly Joe, who was encouraging, amusing and very knowledgeable, nit only about paddle boarding but about Ullswater too. One of the other really nice things was that he took lots of photographs throughout the session, which he then sent us free of charge. The photos make us look much more confident and proficient than we were!

Stand Up Paddle board lessons in the English Lake District. (lakedistrictpaddleboarding.co.uk)

Another Goodbye And Some New Beginnings

The last few weeks have been a series of ups and down, as that generally are in these ever strange times. There have been some really difficult days, but also some uplifting moments too, along with new beginnings for some of my family

A Difficult Goodbye

This week we said a very sad goodbye to my lovely father-in-law David. He passed away on 30th January after a long period of time living with Parkinson’s. Over the last year his health had really deteriorated, particularly during the lockdown periods, when his usual activities and the ability to get out and about was curtailed. After falling a number of times, he was admitted to hospital and then to care homes and hospitals, until he was admitted to full time care in December. Sadly he tested positive for Covid mid January and passed away soon after.

Over the last few months it was so difficult not to be able to see him, other than through a window, but he seemed settled in his care home and never seemed upset when we left.

However, it is best to remember the really good times, rather than the more difficult ones. David was a really gentle man. He never took centre stage or craved attention. He was always quietly there in the background, willing to help wherever he could. He loved and spoiled his grandchildren and in his younger days was the best mechanic and decorator any family could wish for.

The funeral was short and small, as the current situation dictates, but it was also very fitting for David. The sun was shining, the music was lovely and the memories of David were all very happy ones. Although it was a sad day, in many ways, it was also a lovely way to say goodbye to David and to be together as a family in a socially distance way for a short amount of time.

A New Home

This week there was also a really positive event, which helped to cheer us all up and look towards the future, instead of dwelling on the past. My youngest daughter and her boyfriend have just got the keys to their first house. Lockdown has meant that they were able to save up enough money for a deposit. The house that they have bought needs a lot of work and they have already started some of the renovation with the help of the rest of the family. They are looking at it as a “project” and hoping to move in before Christmas. I am sure that they will achieve their dreams, with a little help from friends and family.

A New Job

After volunteering at the Food Bank for over a year, I have now applied for and started a part-time role working there. When I retired from work, I had several plans for the world of work, but as most of these involved training and workshops, this all fell apart during the pandemic. I wasn’t actively looking for a job, but the post came up at the right time and has given me a new focus and much more structure to my days. It is only a temporary role and I am hoping that by the end of the term, we are able to get back to some sort of normality and I will be able to take part in all the leisure and travel activities that have been on hold since I retired.

A New Business

After many years of working for a bicycle retailer, my youngest brother was made redundant last week. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has worked so hard and being so stressed, that although it was a bit of a smack in the face, it has also given him an opportunity to move on and start his own business. He wasted no time at all in setting up a website and has already received lots of enquiries. He is very determined to make it work and certainly not afraid of hard work, so I am sure that he will succeed and make this a great business venture. I have shamelessly added his link below!

https://www.total-cycles.co.uk/

My Foodbank Challenge (4)

Although I hate to admit it, I didn’t completely fulfil the foodbank challenge. I managed just over three weeks. Why did I give in? Well there were a number of reasons:

  1. I really found it hard to put together a full meal from some of the foods, as there wasn’t always things that went together. A lot of this was probably me being quite choosy about what I eat. This resulted in me snacking a lot on things throughout the day and never really eating a proper meal. I think this ended up with me eating more in a day than I normally would and consuming more calories.
  2. The lack of fresh foods was something that I am not really used to. I don’t eat much tinned or processed food generally, so this was a bit of a shock to my system. I found a lot of the food unappetising, but again probably me being quite fussy.
  3. There seemed to be far too many carbs and not enough protein. In the week that I had eggs or cheese, it was a little easier, but I normally eat lots of fish and vegetable protein as well as quite a few eggs. I ate far too much bread and quite often had unhealthy things on the bread, such as chocolate spread.
  4. There just wasn’t enough milk for me. Even on the weeks when I didn’t have cereal, I found that I was really short of milk. I found myself drinking more coffee too, sometimes instead of eating properly.

After the three weeks, I have now returned to eating what I would normally eat. I have loved cooking foods from scratch this week and have enjoyed eating lots of fresh vegetables and fish. I’m still not the healthiest eater in the world, but I have really appreciated much more variety and being able to buy the foods that i love.

I have also found that I gained weight. I think that this is down to the processed foods along with the snacking. I have heard in the past, people saying things like ” well they hardly look like their starving, they can obviously afford junk food”. I don’t think it’s quite as straight forward as that. The cheaper foods that people buy fill you up and will feed a family on a budget, but they are not necessarily the healthiest of choices. Fresh foods and meals cooked from scratch are so much healthier, but you have to be able to afford them, have somewhere to store them and have a little bit of cooking and nutritional knowledge to put a decent meal together. Unfortunately not everyone is able to do this. Don’t assume that someone has to look skinny to be hungry or malnourished.

People ask why the foodbank doesn’t provide more fresh foods. The main reason is around longevity and storage. There are some fresh foods available most weeks, as well as frozen meats and other frozen foods. On a week to week basis no one knows how many referrals there will be, how many emergencies, whether there will be single people or large families in need. The only way to provide food in these circumstances is to have a good stock of basic tinned, dried and long life foods to ensure that there is always enough to provide for people in need. This can then be boosted with any fresh foods that are available.

Another thing that has reared its head again this week, particularly on social media, are the comments around “well they can afford a TV/Laptop/ weed/cigarettes (etc), why should we be providing them with food?” There is no simple answer to this. Some people cannot manage money very well, some may not prioritise, some may be struggling all the time, some may just be struggling short term. None of us are perfect. Lots of us are lucky enough to afford the things that we like as well as the things that we need. Using the services of a foodbank is not a lifestyle choice. It is a necessity for some people. How it became a necessity is not really for me to judge.

It is a personal choice whether you choose to give to a food bank or not, just the same as it is to give to any charitable cause. I will continue to volunteer and help where I can. I hope that I am never in a position to need the foodbank, but no one knows what the future holds or what help we might need.

Whatever your views, just be kind, try not to judge others who need help and hope that others won’t judge if you ever need help.

My Food Bank Challenge (3)

Well the second week of the food bank challenge has proved more challenging than the first. I have definitely needed a few more tweaks and additions than I did last week. A couple of times I have had to add fresh vegetables to my processed meals as I have just found them so bland and I have also mixed fresh vegetables so much.

On Saturday evening I was treated to a Chinese takeaway and a bottle of prosecco, which was really nice, but I know that a lot of people who are using the services of a foodbank would not be able to afford to buy extra takeaways.

On Friday evening my daughter cooked tea for me and my husband, which consisted of fresh prawns, cream chees, chillies, linguini and garlic bread. Again this was so delicious, but definitely not on the list of items from the foodbank.

On the plus side, the spread that I had initially has lasted me for the two weeks and I still have some left. I have not drink a full jar of coffee or used a full jar of chocolate spread. I also still have bread left as I am running out of ideas of what to put on or in my bread and there are only so many beans and spaghetti that one person can eat in a week. I have not used any of the sugar at all, as I do not have any in my tea or coffee.

Milk has been an issue again and I definitely cannot manage with only one litre of milk per week. Even though I have had porridge made with water this week, I still have not had enough milk.

I am definitely eating too many carbs and I find that I am eating more calories than usual, but it is not keeping me as full for as long, which means I seem to be snacking more often, which is not really a good habit to get into.

This week at the food bank we had eggs and cheese, which is really good news for me as it means that I can up my protein intake and also add a little more variety to my meals. It also gives me an extra choice of something to put on or in my bread.

Here’s to week Three!