Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Circular walk from Cheesefoot Head

Sunday 19-Jan-14. Near Winchester. 14.3 miles in 4:36, average speed 3.1.

Last year we walked a total of 390 miles on proper walks (Mary did more because of Race for Life and some power walks where I was not present). So we reset the clock and started our 2014 walks.

We parked up at Cheesefoot Head (a large natural amphitheatre near Winchester) and headed off on a big anticlockwise loop. Apparently during the Second World War, prior to D-Day, General Eisenhower addressed American troops stationed locally and it is regularly the site of crop circles.

It was a lovely day if a bit nippy and, thanks to the recent rain, a bit slippy.

We had been aiming for The Milbury's Pub for lunch but the going was slow so we took an early sandwich stop on a fallen tree.

By then we were most of the way round with a stretch through some woods to our original, planned lunch stop which turned into a beer and crisps stop.

The sun was getting low when we got back to the car park with some lovely "Golden Hour" light showing the countryside to best effect.

Not a bad pace for a walk that was very muddy and slippery underfoot.

Up next we hope to restart our Thames Path expedition.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cleaning the Wandle January 2014

A chilly clean-up in North Road, South Wimbledon carrying on from where we left off last month (Cleaning the Wandle December 2013).

The river was swollen and rapid due to all the recent rain. Levels had dropped from a reccy done a couple of days earlier. We were able to go in but the current was pretty strong so I decided not so take my newly upgraded iPhone with me, hence no action shots from the water.

Setting up the gazebo

I like to be there promptly as there are a limited number of size 9 waders. These are heavy duty waders with steel toe caps and, more importantly, steel shanks to protect your soles in case of treading on jagged rubbish.

The equipment laid out

This stretch was not as bad as some in terms of rubbish despite the adjacent housing estate. Only two shopping trolleys, a couple of tyres, one bike (that I saw), very little in the way of carpets, duvets and mattresses plus a ton (literally) of general rubbish. We (not me personally) did find a firearm which may turn out to be a starting pistol but did require the police to attend.

At the end a couple of us did a final scan of the stretch for overlooked equipment, trugs, litter-pickers, grapples and crowbars - all clear.

As usual we load all the rubbish onto the local council lorry.

The water was freezing - air temperature 0°C - so my toes were pretty chilly despite wearing longjohns. I leapt into the shower a bit too promptly when I got home and gave myself a case of chilblains. Painful. Just the big toes but it has taught me a lesson: thicker socks and warm the feet gently before showering.

The Wandle Trust is an environmental charity dedicated to restoring and maintaining the health of the River Wandle and its catchment. They hold community river cleanups on the second Sunday of every month, up and down this unique urban chalkstream – pulling out everything from shopping trolleys to shotguns, and improving the environment for birds, fish, insects and local people. For more visit:

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Two titanium implants

You can tell when someone takes a pride in their work by the way they talk about the task in hand. My work-in-progress implants involved careful planning and preparation by my dentist, Dr Rash Patel, to make sure all goes well.

I have a large gap from previous extraction of a molar (back in 1989 and that is another story). Then, eventually, the tooth next to the gap (labelled X) gave way. That meant I was going to have a two-tooth gap - too wide for a bridge so implants was the answer. In some ways it was a bit of a repeat of the two previous implants - see An extraction and two posts.

Rash very carefully extracted the tooth by bisecting the crown and extracting the two roots separately. That way the bone between the roots remained undisturbed and maximised the bone regrowth where the planned implant would go. That needed six months healing but in the end it was nearer to a year before I went back.

I went back for a proper three dimensional CT scan to check bone density, location of the nerve and positioning of proposed implants. Casts were taken and implants prepared for the procedure

The actual implant installation was done under sedation and all seemed to go very well. I was under for two hours and Mary was the "responsible adult" who came to escort me home as required after sedation. I knew nothing as I was "away with the faeries".

The after effects were minimal: I took a couple of paracetemol for when the anaesthetic wore off and that was it. No painkillers needed the next morning, no bruising, minimal swelling that subsided in a couple of days. A tribute to Rash's skill.

A couple of weeks later I went back to have the stitches out. Next up a fresh impression, and then the actual crowns. In March the things that look like golf tees will be replaced by two new crowns and I will be able to eat properly on the right side of my mouth for the first time in over a year. Om nom nom.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pitlochry - New Year's Day street party and panto

Wednesday 01-January-2014

The main, planned entertainment of the day was a trip to the panto, Cinderella at the Perth Theatre, but Mary had read about the Pitlochry Street Party in the bumpf at the hotel. We had time to take Mary's mum into town to see the start of the festivities.

The event was kicked off with the complete Vale of Atholl Pipe Band.

That was followed by dancing in the street - they did well known dances like Dashing White Sergeant and Strip the Willow, it was a sight to see.

This is a video report on the full event:

Over 5,000 enjoyed 3 hours of entertainment in Pitlochry, Scotland consuming over 4,000 hot pies and 300 litres of soup. A very popular Scottish New Year highland community run event.

We were not able to stay for the full event as we had to get back to the hotel for the coach to the matinee of Cindrella. It delivered all you would expect from a panto.

"Some excellent performances and great pacing leave audience members thoroughly entertained." The Stage.
"Along the way there are many rich and gorgeous aspects to this good-looking show, with Barrie Hunter in rip-roaring form as the leading ugly sister, Luvvie, and the local jokes coming thick and fast." The Scotsman.

Then back to the hotel for the evening meal and more live music from North Sea Gas. The gig was in the lounge and the chairs had been arranged in a semi-circle around the band. Everybody was being very British and sitting at the back so I got a front row sofa. Sitting in comfort with an unimpeded view and a glass of red wine - result.

They played some excellent folk with some serious and some tongue-in-cheek tunes.

I was reminded of the joys of 3D vision being so close. People don't always appreciate depth perception; 3D is a cinema gimmick for most. I spent a couple of years between cataract operations being effectively monocular. Following the second operation binocular vision was restored and now I can enjoy 3D all the time.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pitlochry - New Year's Eve

Tuesday 31-December-2013

To avoid being stuck in the hotel all day we went for a walk up to the local viewpoint on Hogmanay morning - Craigower 6.7 miles.

Thanks to the recent winds the ascent was more like an obstacle course of loads of fallen tree.

This is the plaque at the top showing what we should have seen.

Well, we could see the trees but thanks to typical dreich Scottish weather this is what we actually saw. 

Back to the hotel in time for lunch. No trip to Scotland would be complete without haggis, neeps and tatties.

After lunch there was a falconry display with about eight different birds of prey, this sea eagle being the most spectacular. The beak is pretty scary that close up!

The evening was in the function room: a cold buffet followed by a live band, ceilidh dancing and a disco.

The hotel did a good job: the buffet was excellent, there were crackers, lots of party balloons, and such like on the tables and the entertainment was, well, entertaining.

After the bells and the singing of Auld Lang Syne there was some stirring tunes from members of the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band and more disco dancing to two in the morning. And so to bed.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pitlochry - Blair Castle visit

Monday 30-December-2013

As with many families the offspring takes it in turns to spend Christmas or New Year with one or the other's parents. This year it was our turn to spend Hogmanay with Mary's mum.

We decided to treat her, and ourselves, to a proper break with all catering and entertainment laid on. The Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry had an excellent package of meals, events and music laid on to keep May and us occupied.

We arrived on the Sunday to a glass of rose champagne and dinner.

In the evening after a tasty supper we were entertained to some New Orleans style trad jazz. A promising start to the stay.

The next day trip to to Blair Castle. Its origins are old but much of it is more of a monument to Georgian ostentation and Victorian industry. They extended and expanded the original castle and put back the mediaeval battlements.

An entrance hall to impress the visitors

Georgian elegance throughout.

Some serious stucco work.

Lunch after the tour was in a echoing hall where we got chatting to a family who are making a repeat visit to the Atholl Palace Hotel. It seems there were a number of regulars who come to Pitlochry for New Year's Eve - some every year. Seems we have chosen well.

Then it was back to the hotel for supper followed by a practice session of Ceilidh dancing. That is like Scottish country dancing with many of the same dance but less formal. It was preparation for the following night but I wimped and sat it out.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Christmas 2013 - Ambleside, Lake District 04

Friday / Saturday 27/28-Dec-2013

It was a very damp couple of days after Bob and Lynn left so we decided to swap walking for eating and drinking.

Friday we strolled into Ambleside for a beer festival and a bit of shopping for walking gear.

A number of pubs have started doing beer paddles holding three third-of-a-pint glasses. A good innovation for the indecisive and those who like variety. My favourite was the Bowman Quiver.

On the Saturday we went into Windermere to meet up with Mary's uncle Ronnie and Avril. On the way we called in to the Lakeland Mothership (home of the company formerly know as Lakeland Plastics). This is an Aladdin's cave of kitchenware; we bought all sorts of stuff.

One gadget I can see little use for is this pineapple and wedger. How many pineapples do you have to eat to make this a worthwhile purchase over a sharp knife and a few minutes hacking? We eat about one pineapple a year so clearly not on our shopping list.

Our holiday in the lake district ended with a flurry of domesticity as we cleaned the apartment thoroughly before checkout - that is the etiquette for the timeshare. Then checkout on Sunday morning and off to Bonnie Scotland to collect Mary's mum for the New Year's Eve celebrations.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Christmas 2013 - Ambleside, Lake District 03

Saturday 26-Dec-13. Grasmere, Loughrigg Fell. 10.3 miles.

Boxing day was an opportunity to walk off the Christmas lunch. It was an anti-clockwise tour starting with an ascent to Loughrigg Fell and down to Grasmere. Lunch stop was in Grasmere village: a flask of soup out of our trusty thermos flasks.

The afternoon followed the coffin route from Grasmere to Rydal and then back to Ambleside by yesterday's route in reverse.

Mary took this lovely, atmospheric picture of Windemere just as we set off using her Christmas present from me - a new camera.

At the top of Loughrigg Fell we met another bunch of hardy souls and got them to take the obligatory team photo.

Once again panoramic views from the top.

Our lunch stop included a visit from this ludicrously tame robin who is clearly used to crumbs from the hordes of tourists who use the picnic benches where we dined.

One of my favourite features of the Lake District is moss covered walls. The combination of stone walls and high rainfall encourage these vivid green cushions - I just love them.

Supper was a rib of beef and some of our best wines.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Christmas 2013 - Ambleside, Lake District 02

Wednesday 25-Dec-13. Rydel Water. 5.8 miles.

At home Christmas lunch would be at four in the afternoon. Since we were dining at The Rothay Manor Hotel and lunch was at 12:30 we only had time for a short, brisk walk before lunch - if you call six miles short.

Possibly the National Trust's smallest property: the Bridge House in Ambleside.

Once out of Ambleside we headed uphill with countryside looking pretty as a picture.

Where are we now?

More babbling brooks, you can't move for rushing water in the lakes. This one at Rydal Hall - a spectacular country house and gardens.

The far point of the walk - Rydal Water. The return route was back down the west side of the River Rydal valley.

Back at the apartment there was time for a quick shower and change ready for the full Christmas lunch at the hotel - only 10 minutes walk away. The rest of the day comprised eating, drinking and party games.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Christmas 2013 - Ambleside, Lake District 01

Tuesday 24-Dec-13. Wansfell Pike, Troutbeck. 8.0 miles.

An excellent week of eating, drinking and walking in the Lakes with our friends Bob and Lynn in our timeshare in Ambleside.

The level of exercise was a bit of contrast from Christmas 2011 when Mary was recovering from her bunion operation and her Mum, as a blue badge holder, was not up to to more than a short stroll. This time we planned to do more walking and so we did.

We arrived on Sunday 22nd after a long drive from London for a quiet evening in. Monday we settled in and Mary and Lynn went for a walk. Tuesday we went for a full walk.

Our route for the day: a big clockwise loop.

The day started off misty but improved later.

 There was snow on some of the higher slopes.

We saw a lot of herons this trip - this was the first of many.

The approach to Stockgill Force is, in my opinion, more impressive that the actual waterfall itself.

The day before it had been pretty spectacular when Mary and Lynn did their afternoon walk up to the waterfall.

By the afternoon, as we approached Troutbeck, conditions had turned into beautiful walking weather.

Lunch was a pint and some nibbles at The Mortal Man. Outside the Weather Forecasting Stone provided some drollery.

The last leg back to Ambleside included a view of Windermere from Jenkins Crag.

Back to the timeshare with a cold collation for supper and some fine wines. We were restrained in our eating as we knew we were in for full Christmas lunch the next day.