Morning Coffee on Top of the World

Ok well not quite on top of the world. But perched on a rock at the top end of Low Wood Nature Reserve (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust). Kath had suggested this particular adventure the other day and while getting up really early doesn’t appeal to me very much at the moment, sitting outside listening to the birds wake up in the morning light very much does.

Of course, for the first time in ages, we were both asleep when the alarm went off at 5.30 and I just turned it off and dozed a little. It was clear I wasn’t actually going to go back to sleep so we got up. Kath fed the cats and made coffee and then we set off. We walked the mile and a half down to and along the canal to get to Low Wood. Then we followed the path.

By the time we got into the wood I was much more awake. I was really conscious of how achey and heavy my legs felt from walking yesterday and how overall tired my whole body felt. I didn’t like it at all but I tried to push all of that to one side and just focus on the beauty of being outside.

The path slowly winds uphill running parallel to the canal for a bit. Within minutes we had seen several deer, 4 nuthatches, loads of blue tits and great tits and a squirrel or two. At the end of the wood there’s a dry stone wall and the path turns right and heads up. It’s a pull but a perfectly walkable proper path. Still I kept having to stop and catch my breath.

The last bit up is a tiny little scramble. Nothing major at all and if you have long legs it’s probably no more than a couple of slightly awkward big strides. For us with little legs it was a short little climb up. Then perfect path again. Looking down I felt slightly nauseous until everything adjusted and I got used to the view. It’s a lovely time of year to be there. The buds on the trees are beginning to be really vibrant but there’s no leaves yet so you can see through the branches down to the canal and the sea of green from plants below really stood out. It’ll be stunning when the bluebells flower.

We walked along a little and found a nice looking rock to sit on and have our coffee. Height induced jelly legs made sitting down on the rock a little trickier than it really needed to be and after brief thoughts of falling to our death because the rock might just decide that today is the day it’s had enough of just hanging around there, I settled in. We had our coffee mostly in silence watching all the little birds go about their morning. We were shouted at by a little blue tit who seemed to think we were way too close to its tree.

After a while, not sure how long really, time was a bit irrelevant, we got ready to leave and slowly make our way home for breakfast. Kath got up first and then gave me a pull back onto the path. There were several trees with spectacular woodpecker holes in them along the path and we stopped to admire them and two more deer that were just ahead of us on the path. The deer negotiated their way down the steep hill so gracefully and quickly it was almost like they just beamed down.

My downhill was of course less graceful and far less quick. You cross a little stream and then turn down the hill. It’s a path, it’s fine as long as you are not me with my silly fear of downhill. I think it felt worse because everything felt so achey and tired but really it wasn’t horrendous and is perfectly walkable without really giving it a second thought. It’s just me being weird.

We left the nature reserve and walked back along the road, saw more deer (well probably some of the ones we’d seen earlier again) and picked some wild garlic from the wood further along to make pesto with later. It was a lovely start to the day. I might not feel quite right at the minute and I might fatigue really easily and ache even when I have hardly done anything but I am grateful I can do things like this.

Walking tired

I meant to post this last night but eventually I realised I was both cold and too unfocused to upload the pictures into the post and went to bed instead. But here you are, a slightly frustrated rant about not really being able to do much and pictures from a lovely walk.

I haven’t been running. I haven’t been doing a lot of things. I don’t know whether I have long Covid because I don’t know if I had Covid but I have something. I can do some things but I can’t do all the things. I am getting better at the HIIT sessions and definitely feel fitter for the short burst exercise. I can work a full week, I can even write a little. I can cook and do house stuff, I can read for pleasure and I can go for walks, do yoga and file my admin crap and sort of vaguely function as an adult. What I can’t do is all of that in any sort of consistent way.

I was doing quite well with the fitness stuff. I managed the workouts and some running. Then I went back to work and also had to deal with stuff and my system put the brakes on. I can hear my inner self screaming, well whimpering really, ‘stop, too much’. I have activated my brain again and that feels really good but energy is finite and using energy for brain power stuff takes it away from other areas. Rest becomes an imperative and I have never learned to properly pace myself through a day or a week. Finding a balance between rest and exercise that is calibrated to a very flighty system in hyper-vigilant overdrive is not easy. I realised that I can’t do the Body Coach App 5 sessions and run as well at the moment. I sort of thought I’d prefer running and drop the HIIT sessions accordingly but I’ve felt vulnerable out running, anxious. So I have stayed in and done the sessions. I have also realised that sometimes it is tempting to do sessions on several back to back days. But then it suddenly hits me and I feel exhausted. Maybe 2 days on, 1 off is a better pattern for me right now. Maybe. Today was a workout day and I had every intention of doing it but we went for a walk. It was 5 miles and lovely but it felt much much more tiring than just walking 5 miles. I feel so physically tired after that but it’s too soon to go to bed because my brain is still too active.

We have talked about exploring the footpaths round here ever since we moved in over 15 years ago but we always stick to our same routes that became routine for one reason or another – the route to Kath’s Mum’s, running down to the canal to make use of the flat, the sheep fields where we had our flock, the road up to the moor for the curlews and lapwings and the moor to the stanza stones and trig point via the grumpy grouse. Familiar. But random. So today we went for a walk to explore a footpath loop I have never been on and Kath has been on once, long before we met even. The first mile was just up the hill as if we were heading for the moor but then we turned off following a footpath sign down a track. And we stuck to that track through a farm and followed it until we came to a point where a sign told is that we had to decide whether to keep following it or take a path through a wood on the edge of the glen. Part of the reason for walking this route was to see if it would be runable for Kath and as it was clear the track would be, we went for the wood option.

It was a lovely trail, slightly undulating and skirting the edge of the glen. You can’t get lost, you just follow the path which is clearly well used although we didn’t see anyone else. Kath had her OS map app open on her phone to see how well it worked and it was actually really fun to see where we were and remind ourselves what things look like on a map. We did miss the original turning (or rather we followed the track and turned when we shouldn’t have done) that was the original route plan but the way we went was actually much more fun. Well into the wood we crossed a little stream with a little waterfall using a little bridge that was less than confidence inspiring and then continued along the woodland path which eventually brought us out just above Sunnydale Reservoir. I had no idea it was even there. I didn’t much like the look of the steps going down to it, they were a bit ‘steps of doom’. Ok, I am being dramatic but they looked in urgent need of some TLC and by TLC I mean rebuild. In spite of the washed out steps we made it safely down. There was someone else enjoying the tranquility and solitude and there was another walker behind us just approaching the steps as we had got down so we didn’t linger.

We picked up the track again and noted the point at which we would have come out if we had chosen track over wood earlier. Useful to know for another adventure. The track took us through fields and would have been a lovely stretch of the walk had it not been for loads of dead rabbits. There were loads. It seemed particularly disturbing because it felt like someone had hunted down all the world’s easter bunnies. Hm. They must have been hunted or poisoned or something. The track took us to a road at the edge of East Morton. Instead of heading towards the village and home that way, we turned sharp right and up another track, a grass road, called, according to the app, wait for it, yep, Grass Road. It was clearly a well used bridle path and was actually the track we had meant to come down on when we originally decided on what route to walk. We followed it all the way back up to the farm at the start of our adventure and then back onto Ilkley Road. We stopped frequently to watch the lapwings and curlews or just stand and listen.

As we were out and about having adventures we decided we would check out a footpath we keep missing. We have a footpath at the back of our house which opens into fields and then goes up through a farm and up a road to the main road but we know there’s a footpath that runs up the hill from the farm earlier and would therefore allow us to cut off some of the main road. We just weren’t quite sure where exactly it goes through the farm. As we were coming down the hill, we decided to track it from that end which would make it easier to find and show is where it came out on the farm. Once you know it is actually really easy and obvious! The path took us down through a couple of fields with sheep in and it was lovely to see the lambs bouncing about. Once through the farm we were in familiar territory and on the home stretch. We stopped to watch more lambs and then made our way through the fields and onto the path that took is straight to our back gate. It was a lovely walk.

Lovely as it was though, I felt absolutely shattered. Walking not quite 5 miles with lots of stops to look at things and at a very leisurely pace seemed to have completely tired me out. I haven’t done anything since we got back. I feel physically tired but mentally in over drive. It’s odd and I’d like it to stop.

The Lakeland Lapland Festive Virtual Ultra

I can’t remember when exactly we signed up for this but it seemed like a good idea at the time because it seemed like it would get us out of the house doing some miles. We signed up as Team Double Dopey and because we had no idea how I would be, the plan was always for Kath to do most of the miles and I would contribute what I could. To cover the full trek distance of 234km we would need to do just short of 10km a day each over 12 days. That actually didn’t sound too bad! At the start I had grand ideas about doing lots of run/walk but I soon realised that I was once again expecting too much of myself and that I really needed to remember that I have been quite poorly and that really not that long ago walking 1km was pretty much impossible. So a reigned myself in and settled into the idea that walking was a good thing!

Today we completed the challenge with a whole day to spare and in fact we also sat Friday out and didn’t add to our total then because we were both really tired and heavy legged. In the end I did almost half of our team effort with 113.8km and Kath did 122km exactly. Mostly I walked. Here’s how my challenge went:

Zero (A Nightmare Before Christmas) sort of
  1. A shortish local walk ‘inspecting’ other people’s Christmas lights started us off on 10th December
  2. A shorter than planned run because of the now infamous bra malfunction on the 11th
  3. Another evening walk, more inspecting of Christmas lights again on the 11th
  4. A slightly longer distance (4.4 miles) of which the first 3 miles were run/walk on the 12th
  5. The 13th saw us walk 6.75 miles in the cold and wet and dry and warm feet have never felt so good
  6. On the 14th I just walked a short loop because my feet were sore
  7. On the 15th I went to Bolton Abbey and walked a stunning sunny loop of 7.6 miles
  8. I added another couple of miles to that with a short out and back walk in the evening
  9. On the 16th I combined a post office stop with a canal walk home adding another 5km to the total
  10. On the 17th I stopped at the post office again and looped home the other way round drawing Zero from A Nightmare before Christmas in the process (sort of)
  11. I’d just got back home when Kath finished work so we walked up to say hi to the grouse – they were grumpy of course
  12. On the 18th we rested and on the 19th we walked to Ilkley to the bookshop and back
  13. And later that day walked a loop with multiple errand stops
  14. Yesterday we walked 6.74 miles mostly in the sun
  15. And today, well we walked at dawn – out and back just over 5km
  16. And then we finished with a run/walk on a similar out and back route for our Solstice Saunter at dusk

It was lovely to finish the challenge with a run/walk and I found the 30 second run intervals much easier than I had the last time I tried them so walking most days has helped. The challenge also meant that I went out much more than I might have done otherwise – particularly on those rainy grey days. It’s been great all round really – in spite of sore feet at times.

A walking kinda weekend

Our Lakeland Lapland virtual ultra adventure continues. The weekend was all about walking. After a coffee and pancakes we decided to get organised and walk across to Ilkley to go to the Grove Bookshop to buy a present for one of our friends. It’s about 4 miles across the moors and it looked like a gorgeous day to head up and across. I have no real fitness at the moment and certainly no hill fitness so I knew I was probably going to find bits quite hard going and my feet have been painful so I was a bit concerned about that, too. But I like an adventure and I like a good bookshop so this was always going to be my kind of adventure.

We set off up the hill. It was a lovely mild morning and soon we were in grouse territory with grumblings coming from everywhere. While the way up from this side is a pull, it’s also a has plenty of almost flat sections to get your breath back. There were lots of birds around – mostly unidentifiable against the light as they flew by. We saw what we first thought was a kite because of the size but it was the wrong colour and on closer inspection the wrong shape, too. Not sure what it was but it was great to watch it glide in and out of view for a while.

Soon enough we were at the top and finally had the track mostly to ourselves and no longer had to worry about cars coming. We navigated our way around puddles and down the other side. I must have been tensing my feet and not walking properly because going down really hurt my feet. By the time we were about half way down the pain was actually making me feel a bit nauseous. But there aren’t many things I won’t do for a bookshop browse and we had come so far that turning round and not making it down to Ilkley just seemed silly – so onwards, even with painful feet.

Eventually we got all the way down and on the flat my feet recovered quite quickly. We stopped our watches and put our face masks on and went into the bookshop. We spent a little while browsing, picked the present we’d come for and then headed out again. There was a huge queue at Betty’s which we just laughed at. Imagine joining a queue of at least 25 people for a takeaway coffee/tea/cake… There were a few little market stalls on the other side of the road including a little coffee van so we got coffee and sat on a bench watching Ilkley people trying to navigate life. There was definitely a type that was out and about in Ilkley on Saturday – a sort of designer wellies with not a speckle of mud on them type rolling up in their range rovers (also no mud). It’s not a type I have much time for.

Grouse on Ilkley Moor- taken Feb 2020

After coffee we started the long long climb out of Ilkley back up onto the moor. The first mile felt a lot longer than a mile but mostly I tried just to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. On uphill sections my feet don’t hurt and given that this was all uphill for quite some time I didn’t need to worry about them at least. I was trying very hard not to get frustrated. While I have never been able to run up to the moor – from either side – it was a bit embarrassing to have to stop and admire the view so much. Soon though I could hear the grouse again – John Ruskin apparently said that one can’t be angry when one looks at a penguin, I think that it is impossible to feel frustrated or sad or angry when one hears a grouse.

So it took forever, and we were passed by runners and cyclists who did have the required fitness, but eventually we made it to the top. Now for the downhill. I was worried about my feet. I tried to stride out a bit more and walk a bit faster to see if that would make me walk a little more normally and be less tense. It seemed to work and I got all the way down without my feet hurting. Result! So our buying a book adventure added 14km each to our total.

After lunch we decided to set off again and run some errands. We had to drop off some home made granola at my mum’s, pick up cats’ medication at the vets, drop the present we bought in Ilkley off and then drop something else of at Kath’s mum’s. So off we went. This is something I definitely wouldn’t have done as a walk without the challenge. I would have driven down to the vet to pick up the medication and then would have stopped off at mum’s probably – and most likely I would have done this while already out and about anyway. The other two stops we might have done on a walk – but probably not the same walk. Another 7km later and we were home. A Saturday total of 21km walked and just over 40km left.

Sunday morning started with coffee and french toast and Kath charged her camera battery before we set off on our walk along the canal. We made our way down through the village to the canal and didn’t have to go far before Kath spotted the glittering blue of a kingfisher. We watched it for a few minutes before it flew off and we moved on. Less than a mile further on we saw a second kingfisher. Again we stood and watched for a little while. It was definitely a different bird, it was bigger than the first and slightly darker in colour. It flew back in the direction we’d come from so we moved on again and a little further saw kingfisher number 3. This one was more nervous and didn’t stay on a branch for long and disappeared into the vegetation to hide. So we left it to it and walked on.

A little further on we saw a rhino runner. If you’ve ever run or watched the London Marathon you might be familiar with the rhinos. I can’t decide if I am annoyed or proud of the fact that all of the rhinos overtook me at both my London Marathon attempts. But anyway, there were a few runners about and we realised that it must be an event. We didn’t give it much more of a thought as we came off the canal to do a little loop through a farm and back streets. Once we turned back onto the canal to head back towards home though we got caught up in a bunch of runners. They were doing the Grim Up North Bingley Christmas Canal Race. We talked about races for a bit and as we approached the stone bridge almost back where the farm loop starts, we saw a lovely dog without a human. It seemed pretty clear she was a farm dog but she came to say hi, trotted alongside us a little and then stayed by the farm turn off.

Spot the Kingfisher!

The rest of the walk was uneventful as we kept stepping into the side to let runners come past and tried to look out for the kingfishers again – or any other interesting wildlife. There were plenty of ducks about but the swans and geese must have moved further along. We had been thinking of going a little bit further along the canal and up through one of the estates but we could see the canal was busy with people and we were both beginning to really need a pee. So we took the shortest route home.

We were toying with the idea of going out for another short walk in this evening but we’re all warm and settled with cuddly cats and the weather had deteriorated so we’ve decided to stay in. I’m also tired – in spite of a long afternoon nap. We’ll probably finish tomorrow and do our Solstice Saunter as part of the finish. 20.43km to go in the virtual ultra and 2 days left if we need them.

A Bolton Abbey Walk

The Lakeland Lapland Festive Virtual Ultra continues. I have given up the idea of doing much running on this. I want to make a contribution every day if I can and my feet are struggling a little – and they struggle more when I run. I had my therapy session over at Bolton Abbey earlier today and I was very much looking forward to a walk afterwards. I had my heart set on doing a sort of figure of 8 loop from the abbey to the Cavendish Pavilion and then on to Barden Bridge and back. I was however a little worried about how my feet would hold up. Once I set off though I realised I’d be fine, they actually feel better when I am using them.

I walked slowly towards the stepping stones with the abbey in the background and crossed the bridge across the River Wharfe. There were a couple of people walking on the bottom path that forms the Welly Walk so I walked up the top path and didn’t see anyone else until I got the bridge at the Pavilion. It was nice just walking along lost in thought and enjoying the sunshine. I crossed the bridge and went to get a coffee and walked on towards the Strid sipping it. There were a few people about but not very many and wherever possible I took the route they weren’t. I caught up with some people just before the aqueduct and decide to just fall in at their pace and stay a few metres behind them. I stopped to watch a dipper for a minute or two and then carried on – the people in front went across the aqueduct and I had the path to Barden Bridge to myself again.

I briefly stopped on Barden Bridge, like I always do and took a picture before enjoying walking on spongy grass and saying hello to the sheep as I walked back towards the Pavilion. There were loads of little birds around and squirrels everywhere. The sun was actually quite warm and I stopped again to watch a pair of red kites overhead. as I headed back into the wood on the path there were a few people coming the other way which confused me a bit and initially I didn’t know why. After the 3rd or 4th person passed me I realised what was wrong – they were going the wrong way. The estate is operating a one way system to help with social distancing and for a second I panicked that I had got it wrong and it was me going the wrong way. I wasn’t. I don’t really mind but my brain somehow wasn’t prepared for meeting people coming the other way and I found it irritating because it meant I actually had to look where I was going more than I wanted to.

I got back to the bridge by the Pavilion and a walker asked about the length of the circular route or what I’d recommend. We had a little chat and together managed to persuade his little dog that the gaps in the wood on the bridge would not swallow him up alive or despatch him straight into the depths of the Wharfe. I took the opportunity for a toilet stop and then wandered across the long long car park alongside the river. I was getting a little tired now but the sun was still shining and I found myself smiling. As I went through the gate to the field I had to cross there’s a sign asking you to pick your own path so I did just that and turned left to stay right next to the river. I went down to a little pebble beach and then back up the steep hill to the road.

The final section took me into the Priory Church to light a couple of candles. I’m not religious. I don’t believe in God and even less in religion but I do very much believe in the power of silence, reflection and light and they can often be found in churches. Just as I lit the candles a lawnmower started up outside so the quiet didn’t quite work but it still felt nice to pause for a second and stand and just be. I walked through the cemetery and back up to the car park for a total of just over 12 kms.