Friday, March 25, 2016

A Grand Day Out

Oh yes, last Sunday was indeed a day to remember.

I completed an event to replace the Book Day challenge that I bailed out of after 9 miles and I am so glad I did this instead as it was really different. It was not the sort of event I'd usually enter though; it was one organised by the Kent group of the Long Distance Walkers Association and there were options to complete 15, 20 or 30 miles so I chose the 30.

I've never done one of these events before and I was rather worried about the navigational side of it but the lovely Bryan volunteered to guide me along with Kirsty and Liz who I've seen at a lot of events in the last 12 months and we had a n excellent day out.

With most of the running events I do there is a strict cut-off time and although there was a cut-off for this event it was much more generous to allow walkers enough time to finish (10 hours). Our strategy was to run the bits that we could, walk the uphill sections, have a good natter and enjoy the scenery and that's exactly what we did.

The event started just outside Sevenoaks, an area Mike and I used to visit frequently when we lived in London many years ago and dreamt of moving to the countryside as there are some beautiful areas around there. As it was only about 50 minutes drive I didn't have to leave at the crack of dawn either which made a nice change.

Race HQ was West Heath School, in a lovely setting, and we started and finished there. I met up with Bryan, Kirsty and Liz inside. At registration we were given a card with our number on and we had to have it stamped at each of the checkpoints.

Kirsty and Liz always look lovely and bright. Their rucksacks contained enough food to feed a family!

Bryan with his exceedingly heavy rucksack

Some of the entrants - a mix of runners and walkers with several familiar faces

There was a lovely friendly atmosphere at the start and I started to feel more relaxed about it; I'd been worrying about the navigational side of it but I needn't have worried  as the instructions provided were really clear and we had Bryan guiding us.

Photo courtesy of Kirsty as I dropped mine into a gulley when I slipped on a bridge and couldn't reach them!

Soon after the start we headed across the grounds of Knole  which was originally a medieval deer park and there were plenty of deer around as you'll see later on.

The house itself is well worth a visit as it contains some fabulous 17th century tapestries and furniture alongside paintings by Van Dyck, Gainsborough & Reynolds. Mike and I have visited there many times in the past and it was lovely to actually run through the grounds.

What I enjoyed most was the variety of the route - we went up and down hills of varying steepness, went along flinty paths, some across hard clay, some with lots of mud, across fields with hummocky grass, and along the side of hills where one leg felt longer than the other as you were at an angle rather than on a flat path!

We passed through part of the grounds of Ightham Moat another property maintained by the National Trust. If I remember correctly it has a Grade 1 listed dog kennel in the courtyard quite apart from the interesting interior and grounds.

Striding out towards St Giles' church Shipbourne across a rather muddy field

"Are you taking another photo of my bottom?" shouted Kirsty as she climbed over the stile. Tee hee!

David was either just in front of us or just behind us most of the way round.

The weather was mostly dull and cloudy with a few bursts of sun peeping through. We were just glad it didn't rain!

Quite apart form the glorious scenery, we also had a few sections along lanes and footpaths by houses and we saw some amazing properties.  The only downside for me was that on occasion we could hear the traffic roar from the A21 and the M25, aka the London Orbital or the world's first circular car park as it's famous for traffic jams!

There were 5 checkpoints en route where we had our cards stamped and our number checked against a list. The marshalls were all lovely and very friendly and there were hot and cold drinks plus goodies to eat at each one.

Poor Liz was feeling rather poorly all way round but she was such a trooper that although she had to slow down and stop occasionally she showed true grit kept going right until the bitter end. I found some of the walking bits painful as I'd developed 2 enormous blisters on the inside of each heel at around 5 miles. I managed to burst the one on my right foot, which brought immediate relief, but the one on my left foot remained stubborn and refused to oblige. I dealt with it when I got home and wondered why it felt so much better when I got rid of the fluid that was supposed to protect it?! I rarely get blisters so it was a shock but I suspect that I hadn't broken my new trail shoes in properly so I'll be wearing them a lot more in the coming weeks as I have some more off-road marathons to come.

Ouch! I should add that after I'd drained the fluid I smothered the blisters in antiseptic cream, to keep them moist, then put dressings on top to protect them and the next day they felt right as rain.

On the way back we ran on the footpath alongside the main road into Sevenoaks and then crossed over to pass through a heavy wooden door into the grounds of Knole. I wish I'd taken a photo 'cos it was like going through into a secret world.

This time we ran through the valley part of the grounds and we were surrounded by herds of deer. They are so used to visitors that they didn't pay any attention to us as we ran past and we got some lovely photos of them.

Their bottoms look like faces don't they! I'd guess that must be to confuse predators.

They were quite well camouflaged against the bracken

We finally reached the finish in 8:53 and it really had been great fun. There wasn't a medal but we were each presented with a certificate showing our finish time. This event had been all about 'time on feet' and was ideal preparation for my next long distance event.

There were refreshments at the finish too and I was very impressed at the whole event. I enjoyed it so much that I emailed the organisers to say a big thank you to everyone involved.

What's next? The Fowlmead 50 miler in 3 weeks. This weekend I'll be doing 20 miles on Saturday and Sunday and then reducing my mileage during the following 2 weeks ahead of the big one!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

An adventure

Mike and I had promised ourselves that we'd explore some bits of Hastings that we didn't know and so the day after my aborted run we headed off to the seaside for an adventure. Although we've visited many times there were still several areas we hadn't explored so we were really looking forward to it.

Our adventure started in what's known as 'the old town' and we took the opportunity to have a look round the Parish Church which we've walked past many times but had never found it open before. We were fortunate because there was a toddler group in there in a specially built inner area surrounded by glass.  They were having a singalong/baby-dance type session and both mums & babies looked as if they were having great fun.

As we walked through the door my eye was drawn immediately to this amazing modern stained glass window behind the altar:

As I approached I saw these delightful kneelers. I have a whole load of photos of kneelers from various churches we've visited but I think these are some of my favourites. They're so bright and modern: 

There were many more beautiful windows but I've just selected 2 more of the modern ones to share:

Then I spotted this smaller one in an alcove and next to it was a plaque:

Having had a good luck round we then headed onwards and upwards towards the remains of Hastings Castle. We knew it wouldn't be open to look around but we were looking forward to the views from on high. 

We followed the road past the side of the church

Through a narrow twitten (Mike posing for scale) adjacent to Harpsichord House, which has a wooden floor and you can hear the occupants moving around above you as you pass through!

Harpsichord House

Up several flights of steps and along a tarmac path to a good vantage point for viewing the town below

Fishing boats next to the relatively new Jerwood Gallery (more on that later)

Looking towards East  Hill Lift, a  funicular railway. We had intended to have a ride up and down it later but decided to walk up the hill instead!

You could hardly tell where the sea ended and the sky began as it was quite misty first thing

I took this photo when we were nearing the top. This building had always fascinated us as when viewed from the town below it looked like a very grand house or hotel........ we were disappointed to find it is now a collection of separate dwellings and wasn't at all grand when we got close!

After a little walk around the area we went back down the hill for some sustenance - coffee and cake at one of our favourite haunts. Suitably refreshed, we set out on our next adventure - to climb the hill up towards Fairlight.

It was rather steep but the views were well worth the effort:

There were several of these footprints in special paving slabs which we guessed must be part of a tourist trail

The view from the halfway point looking towards The Stade, a shingle beach (the tall black wooden sheds are used by fishermen to store their nets etc)

Looking back to where we'd been earlier

That's the church we visited earlier

We wandered around at the top for a while but it was rather muddy and as it was nearing lunchtime by then we headed back down the hill to have a look around the Jerwood Gallery. I took a few more photos en-route though:

Tackle Way

I loved this giant crown and the pub looked very nice inside

The next few photos are of a house which has been photographed by many tourists who think that it  is really old, but it isn't! I remember seeing an article in a magazine ages ago about the man who constructed it using salvaged materials. I absolutely love it and each time we visit I always look to see if he's added anything else.

Side view

Aha, 2 lions have appeared atop the gateposts

See how well it sits with the genuinely old houses along the street.

That huge stained glass window came from a church

Finally we reached the Jerwood Gallery and crossed over to see if the exhibition was of interest. John Bratby (Everything but the Kitchen Sink) and John Piper (An Eye for the Modern). Ooh yes please!

See how well The Jerwood blends in with the net sheds

You aren't allowed to take photos of the paintings but I was allowed to take some photos of this  installation by Heywood & Condie of a greenhouse constructed from 18th and 19th Century stained glass. Here's the plaque about it:

There were mirrors on the floor & lights in the corners and I imagine it must look very pretty when illuminated at night

The Bratby exhibition was interesting as he really did capture the essence of his subjects, and we especially enjoyed his portraiture. His use of paint was extraordinary when you saw the thickness of it in close-up. There was an eclectic mix of subject matter, curated using many paintings from private collectors - he lived in Hastings for a while and so many local people bought his work.

John Piper's work always delights me and it was great to see a wide range including several abstracts alongside his ecclesiastical works. The best bit for me was his foliate head tapestry (this link shows a similar example although the one in this exhibition was nicer).

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and I asked one of the staff if I could take a photo on the landing upstairs as it's a lovely feature, bringing the outside into the whole experience of your visit:

From the end of the corridor

Looking down on the world outside

Well at that culture certainly gave us an appetite and so we headed off to The Neptune Cafe, just over the road, for fish and chips.

But you're a vegetarian Susie! Indeed I am but do not fear there was something for me there too. Whilst Mike tucked into his fish and chips, I had chips with mushy peas (which we shared) and curry sauce (of which we had to have our own portion or there would have been an undignified squabble!).  I have to confess that I didn't hold up much hope for the chips as last time we had them from a chip shop they were all soggy and horrid. But oh my goodness those chips were lovely: all golden and crispy and fresh. Plus I managed to get a pot of green tea and the lady served us with the biggest smile and even brought us some more hot water to top up our pots without us asking.

A nod to the Bayeux Tapestry (which as we all know isn't a tapestry, it's embroidered!)

Feeling replete we headed back to the car and I took a few more shots to complete the trip.

Seagulls standing patiently waiting for an eating opportunity!

Fresh fish for sale (there's been a lot on the local News recently about fish claimed to have been caught locally having been caught elsewhere!)

The upturned hull of a boat used as a small shop

The entrance to the East Hill Lift

Looking towards a new development of a business unit with apartments above, again designed to echo the style of the huts on The Stade

This tree always makes me smile for it's sheer determination to grow in completely the wrong place!

I've just had to rummage around for another couple of photos I took of this a while ago but forgot to share:

Can you spot anything odd?

Let me zoom in for you - Action Man looking out to sea! He's still there too.

All in all that was a grand day out.