Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Simple pleasures

It was a glorious day here yesterday and today is just as lovely and I've been snapping away like mad as everywhere looks beautiful so thought I'd share some of my photos, with a minimum of words, to brighten the day.


Feeding time for this crowd

I hung my jacket on the hedge whilst poo-picking and the sunlight shining through it created a magical effect.

Some of our guests

A young fox watched me for a while

Sunlight made the Pampas plumes shimmer

My Fascicularia bicolor shone like a jewel.

Beautiful bracket fungus

The morning so far today: 

2 young moorhens explore their world.  They came right up to the patio which is unusual as they are very timid.

The gang heading down to the pond after breakfast

The sun shining on one of my beautiful cacti

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Tick Tock

Doesn't time seem to pass slowly for those who wait.  Yet if you want a moment to last forever then it's gone in the blink of an eye. I am waiting and hoping that when a certain magazine lands in our letterbox it says 'You're In!" rather than "Sorry!"

Yep, it's nearly October when all the people who entered the ballot for the London marathon get to find out if they've been lucky enough to get a place.  If I don't get a ballot place then I have to hope that I get a Gold Bond place from the Dementia Revolution (the alliance between the Alzheimer's Society and Alzheimer's Research UK).

It would feel really strange if I don't get a place as for the last 14 years I've dreamt that one day a dementia charity would be the chosen charity for the London marathon. Fingers crossed anyway.  In the meantime I'm busy plotting new challenges to raise money for dementia research.

Alzheimer's Research UK have just pledged to commit £250m by 2025 for research into dementia.  You can read about the pledge here.  That is one heck of a pledge isn't it.  This latest campaign is called 'Make breakthroughs possible' and there is a video about it here.

Now for a bit of running that isn't a marathon or ultra, a nice local 10k starting in Northiam and going through the lanes I know and love down to the grounds of Bodiam Castle.  This was the second running of this event which I did last year and as it's so close to home it would have been rude not to do it again.

I chose a hilly 6 mile route to get to the start so was nicely warmed up ready to push a bit harder during the race.

A few brave souls did an aerobic warm-up beforehand.  You can just make me out on the left of the photo wearing my 100 Marathon Club top.

Unfortunately the start was delayed because there was a massive queue for the toilets because the Railway station wouldn't allow people to use their toilets even though they'd told the Race Director they could.  This meant there was a 10-15 minute delay before we set off!

Finally the race started and as usual I positioned myself near the back only to find I was overtaking people almost immediately.  Take a look at the course profile below and you'll see why:

Just a few hills to run up!

I suspect some people didn't realise it was such a tough route.  As I train on these lanes all the time there were no surprises for me though.

There seemed to be a few issues with traffic this year with confusion over which side of the road we should be on with cars coming really close to us on the main road at the start then a dangerous instruction to run on the righthandside of a busy road approaching a blind bend where I would always cross to the left. I emailed the Race Director afterwards to mention this as the runners in front of me had a near miss with a car driving close to the edge at that point.

The other thing I commented on was that 2 people were wearing headphones which are banned in road races.  However, apparently they were bone conducting headphones which I'd never heard of before, nor had the RD!  They don't fit inside the ear so presumably the users were still able to hear external noise/instructions.

I chatted with several people throughout and had lots of comments about my club vest.  Some runners commented that a 10k must be easy for me as I've run lots of marathons but it's a completely different type of running - I could never run a marathon at my 10k pace! The marshalls were all lovely and I joked with them and thanked them all for their hard work and encouragement. As I ran through our village some of my neighbours were out supporting so I stopped for a few hugs which was nice.

Mike said he'd walk down to Bodiam to watch me finish so we could have coffee and cake in the tearooms afterwards so I was looking out for him as I neared the entrance to Bodiam Castle.

Catching up with Sally who lives nearby and often runs past our house

I was quite pleased with my time of 1:03:55 given that I've put on a bit of weight recently and had already run 6 miles beforehand (I managed 1:02 last year so need to lose this extra weight).

Horsey Guests

Heather asked if she could turn out her brood mares on our fields for a few weeks whilst they separate their foals to wean them.  Yes please I said as I'm missing my horsey hit!  Her stablemaid was poorly and so I offered to help lead them over and rather than going the long route down the lane I decided we should bring them down the drive.  Mike waited patiently to take some photos!

As we lead them away from their foals, who were indoors in a large barn, there was lots of neighing and squealing as they realised their mummies were being taken away and at one point one of the mares became quite agitated, poor love.

Heather leading Full Bloom

Notice how I'm leading from the right rather than the left.  This is because she's blind in her left eye and tends to walk into you because she can't see you!

The gorgeous Serene Grae and I think that's Quayle Landing with Heather

There were 7 to bring over and they were really skittish for a few days before they settled down.  I'll take some photos of them in the field when the weather bucks up as it's too cold, wet and windy at the moment.  Heather was asking if I missed my horses, which of course I do, and Mike said he thought she'd offer me one of her older mares if I wanted one but I don't want to commit to caring for another; not yet anyway............At least I get my daily horsey hit whilst they're here with us.

It's a horrid wet and windy day today so Tilly and I are settling down to some serious sleeping and knitting.

My Allie shawl is growing slowly but surely and I'm awaiting my copy of Laine magazine number 6 so I can make a start on a lovely jumper in there.  

I loved doing the mosaic stitch section and extended it by one repeat

I'm having to limit my knitting time because the arthritis  in my hands  and wrists is really bad now and I need to write a separate post about some of the adaptations I've made to make my life easier (hopefully) and the therapies I'm trialling.  I'm struggling to hold a crochet hook at the moment because my really sore index finger can't cope with it but I'm sure it will quieten down again soon #arthritishurts!

Monday, September 10, 2018

Gardens, Sculpture & Going Loopy with another Ultra Marathon

As I drove home from my marathon yesterday I passed a sign to a garden we visited recently and realised I hadn't written about it.  Doh!  So I'll start with that as it was glorious.

Godinton House Gardens

This had been on my 'to visit' list for ages and when I spotted they were displaying sculpture throughout the garden for a few weeks we finally managed to go although we didn't have time to see inside the house which looked interesting too.  It's a working estate, maintained impeccably by just 4 gardeners and it was a delight to experience the beautiful gardens.

There were lots of photos taken, 152 to be precise, so I've had to be selective:

First stop was the ticket office and cafe where we had coffee and cake to sustain us (as you do)

It was housed in an old stable block

Then it was time to explore the outside of the house

Notice the arched brickwork which was echoed throughout the topiary in the gardens

This topiary archway was being trimmed back to shape

Even the gravel area in front of the house echoed the shape of the walls

Side view with some sculpture balls (shown in detail later)

These modern doors looked out of place

Some of the windows had stained glass panes

Rear view with seagull sculpture

Now for the sculpture and some fabulous views:

Notice the topiary shapes echoing the house again

Not sculpture, just a stone ball covered in beautiful lichen

Not a sculpture but I loved the way they'd allowed this old tree stump to become a feature in this bed

Pan in his labyrinth

Can you see 'that' shape again?

With husband for scale!

Rusty rabbits or hares

Gorgeous bark

There's a trend for laser-cut metal objects at the moment, often discarded farm equipment or oil barrels. 

This was an old water cistern

The entrance to the Italian Garden

Next was the walled kitchen garden.  This is where I got serious greenhouse envy!

An insect hotel

There was so much insect life

Fruit trees and lily pond

The alpine house

The Fernery

Statice (Limonium) grown to be dried and used in flower arrangements

Then it was time to explore some of the wild areas of the estate:

I loved this skeletised leaf shape cast in bronze

This massive felled tree trunk was made into a seated area

We both had a go on the giant swing

That was indeed a grand day out as Wallace would say!

Sussex Loops LDWA

Yesterday I headed off to the beautiful Ashdown Forest to take part in the Sussex Loops ultra marathon event organised by the Sussex Group of the Long Distance Walkers Association who put on cracking events throughout the country.  Some events don't allow runners but the longer distances often do and their events take you across some amazing countryside.

There were 3 distinct routes of various distances so you could choose to do just one, two or all three.  Each loop started and finished at the village Hall at Forest Row in East Sussex.  I prepared well beforehand, printing out the instructions for each section and making sure I packed my foldable cup to use alongside my soft flasks which were full of water and electrolytes.

The plastic sleeve is essential as you can keep your instructions dry if it rains and sweat free otherwise.  There was also a GPX file to download to your device if preferred but even that wasn't completely risk-free as there were areas where you couldn't get a decent signal.

I really love this little cup as it's robust enough to hold a hot drink as well as water and the handle makes it easy to hold

The outer rim folds down inside when not in use.

When folded, it fits easily into a pocket of my ultra vest.

We'd been advised that there were major roadworks in the village centre so I chose a route which allowed me to park on the outskirts with a short walk to the village hall to register.

It's an attractive stone building with a timbered section and elaborate chimneys

I managed to snap one of the marshalls unloading his car and he threatened to hunt me down if I published this (tee hee!).

A mix of runners and walkers.

Plenty of familiar faces from the marathon circuit.

With lots of Mega Marathoners shirts on view.

Group shot but missing 3 other chums.  Amost 2000 marathons between us!

At registration we were each given an electronic card with our name & number which had to be scanned at various points along the course.  There was a tracking system in place so Mike was able to long into it to see whereabouts I was.

Although I could easily have tagged along with one of the many groups of runners I decided I wanted to go solo so I could go at my own pace and stop to enjoy the views etc.  I did however chat with plenty of people en-route.

There was a real mixed bag of terrain with a total ascent of 3250ft which made ti rather challenging to say the least!  The upside of scaling the heights of Ashdown Forest etc was that you were rewarded with some spectacular views across East Sussex.

The first loop of 11.9 miles (or rather 13 miles if you took a wrong turn as some of us did, me included!) took us through Winnie the Pooh territory in Ashdown Forest taking in a golf course where I had a close shave with a golf ball!

Shortly after this I missed a turning through a gorse bush and only realised when I'd gone a mile and the instructions didn't make any sense!  Thankfully I was not alone as the 2 men in front and 1 behind had done exactly the same so we got back on track together with the help of the GPX tracker.

One of my friends, Louise, turned her ankle in a rut in the first section and had to retire, poor love.  By the time I'd finished it had gone back and blue and swollen to twice its normal size.  She had to hang around for 8 hours waiting for her friend to finish and drive her home.

Most of the trail in Ashdown Forest was very rutted, as usual, often with lots of loose flints and tree roots with trip potential.

The second loop took us in a different direction with less elevation (thank goodness) and very different landscape of more woodland and grass, although no less rutted.

I spotted this mansion high up in a clearing on the other side of the valley.

This house looked as if it had been converted into flats.  It had fab, far-reaching views both front and back.

We trudged across plenty of fields.

It often wasn't clear exactly where you should go.  When the instructions say "follow the faint path across the field to enter woodland" there was a whole load of people wandering up and down the edge trying to find the entrance to the woodland!  You had to use all your detective skills and keep your wits about you.

When the sky clouded over for a while I was quite glad as it had been very hot and sunny.

This silhouette of a soldier was erected in front of a monument by the village hall and I took this photo when I got a clear view.

That was 9.9 miles and I was glad to have still remained upright with no extra miles.  The next loop was 8.7 and was similar to loop 2 but in a different direction.  The scenery throughout was absolutely stunning but I couldn't afford to stop and stare for too long as I had to really concentrate on my navigation.  

A fine example of a 'dead hedge' which provides a perfect habitat for many insects and invertebrates.

Our route took us alongside Weir Wood reservoir, created in 1954, a huge expanse of water with a capacity of 1,237,000,000 gallons of water.  I read an information sign which said this would provide over 28 million baths.

We ran alongside this massive dam and the instructions said to go through 5 wooden gates, cross 2 bridges and then turn right after the "narrow" metal gate then turn right up a hill past the fingerpost.

As we passed through gate 3 the man in front went off course and passed through a metal gate and started walking up the hill.  This made me panic thinking I'd misread the instructions so I checked and double-checked, realised I was right and so went over and called to him to let him know he'd gone wrong.  He was very grumpy and kept insisting he was right until I pointed out we'd only gone through 3 gates and it should have been 5 whereupon he harrumphed and just ran off ahead on the correct route - I should have let him go the wrong way!!!

After we left the reservoir the instrucions got a bit more complicated and not as detailed as would have been helpful so I just slowed right down and made sure I was going the right way.  Just before the last chackpoint I saw a girl, who's run the route before, heading towards me and my heart sank as I thought I'd gone wrong again.  No, she'd taken a wrong turn as she was enjoying running through the woods and had lost concentration so she lost about 20 minutes retracing her steps.  Not just me then!

As I left the trail I spotted this cycle route marker which I've only ever seen in Kent before

I arrived back at the village hall in 8 hours 31 minutes and I treated myself to a badge as a memento.  It was interesting to read the history of the Sussex Loop.  There is so much interesting history in the area.

Seeing the 3 loops we'd completed on a map I thought they made the shape of a reindeer with big antlers!

That was marathon 156 (ultra marathon 30) and I have a few weeks before my next one with just a local 10k next weekend.  I should add that although the route was 30.4 miles I actually did 33 miles by my watch so I got extra value for my money!