My fat year: almost at 2nd target …

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Castleton landslip walk (picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I’m just one week away from the end of my first three months with Slimming World. I’ve hit the 7lb loss twice, and today’s weigh-in has been my lightest so far. I’ve lost 9lb in almost three months, and if I crouch down and squint at the scales, I can see the next stone-zone. In fact, I’m just ¼lb away from that next personal target of mine.

This means that I will probably renew my membership for another three months. There’s a very good renewal offer of £45 (apx $56), which is £15 (apx $18) cheaper than the usual fee. But if I just select a rolling monthly membership, it will be £20 (apc $25) per month. So I think I’m going to renew for another three months.

There are some better offers, for a longer period, but as they cost more, I’ll leave those for now.

So … I’m still on it, and it’s still working – apparently.

The picture is of the “big hill” we walked up last weekend. Last time we tried a big hill (Kinder Scout), we turned around and gave up. That one might be back on the plan of action this coming year.

How are your fitness and slimming plans coming along?

Walk: Castleton Landslip

There are several reasons why I’d not attempted the very short Castleton Landslip walk before now. Mostly words like “reaches”, “up the valley”, “gain height”, “climbs” and “significant ascent” (!)  in the walk description were a big turn-off for me. I really, really don’t like big hills.

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The beautiful Hope Valley. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

But the walk has been on my list of walks I’d like to do for quite a long time. And when the poet was assigned the task of selecting our next 2- to 3-mile walk, this is the one he chose.

The book is starting to get out of date now, however. We bought a new OS map and checked the footpaths are still current, but the book tells us to start the walk in a car park that is now, apparently, a coach park. A sign on the gate said it was open from 10am until 4pm in the winter when the Speedwell show cave was open. The cave was open, but the coach park was not …

So we joined the walk a little further up at the actual Speedwell cave. Then we followed a slippy path up towards the Treak Cliff cave. The path got muddier and more slippery the further along we walked, until eventually it was quite disgusting and treacherous in places. At once point I thought the dog would pull me down the slope, at another point I just lost my balance and nearly went anyway.

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Strategically placed bench on a very steep incredibly muddy section of the walk. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I really hated this part of the walk. Not only was it UP HILL, it was also VERY NARROW, alongside a SHEER DROP, and we were up to our ankles in mud.

While the poet took some landscape pictures, I walked a little further and found the bench above:

A rocky outcrop on a lonely moor
Stirs an ancient sense of place
Belonging to a time of long before
Where roamed the spirits of an older race

We had to skirt the Treak Cliff cave and climb some steps behind it to continue on our walk. By this time I hated it and couldn’t wait to get to some nice, firm, dry ground. But we did have some stunning views.

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With Mam Tor behind us. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We passed over and through several stiles and gates and then the path opened out into a beautiful view of Mam Tor and the exposed south face. This was the only time the tripod came out for the camera, so we paused for a quick “team photo” here. I look a lot happier than I felt! Although I was glad to have some grass beneath my feet.

Just over that grass plain you can see in the picture is the Blue John cave. This is where we paused for a snack, a drink and to avail ourselves of the facilities.

Then we left the Blue John cave along a metalled track, turning right at the bottom towards the A625 …

… what a treat. I didn’t even know this was here.

Apparently, in 1819, a road-building company, in their wisdom, decided to build a road on land that had already been prone to landslides for the previous 4,000 years. And this road crossed the actual landslide twice.

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Remains of the ruined A625. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

For the next 160 years, the road was in constant need of repair until in 1977, following the dry summer of 1976, it was restricted to a single lane. Finally, in 1979, the road was closed to traffic.

We had to go through another gate and wade through an ankle-deep ford (deeper in places) to follow the road back down the hillside. At once point there was an 8-foot drop we had to clamber down.

See now, the word “down” appears twice in the previous paragraph. This is a much happier state of affairs for Yours Truly, especially the clambering bit.

Through another gate at the bottom we reached the point to where vehicles can still drive and turn around. Then we turned right and followed the road back down into Castleton.

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Crushing circle. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

At the next car park we left the road to walk down another muddy, wet path to a crushing circle once used by the Odin Mine – this mine is the reason for the A625 road being built in the first place. I’m in the picture this time for perspective.

The path continued over a wooden bridge to a picnic area and another path that carried on over several more stiles to a farm. Here we rejoined the main road and made our way back to the coach park where we should have started the walk. It was just up another small hill to where we’d left the car.

I’m really glad we did this walk in the end … now we never, ever have to wade up that quagmire again. EVER. But it is a beautiful part of the country and it’s steeped in history. Plus, it’s also where the Blue John came from in my engagement ring, earrings and pendant. In fact, it’s also where we bought the jewellery.

We walked only 2.66 miles, but we did more than 12,000 steps and burned more than 500 calories. Hopefully, the next walk will be easier …

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Mam Tor. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

My fat year: 2lb on, 2lb off …

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At Whitby (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

So the 2lb I put back on last week has come off again. What have I been doing? Cutting down on bread. Bread really does seem to be the culprit here.

This means it was a much better week, and there is still just over a week left of my initial three-month membership of Slimming World. Over the next few days I’ll be deciding whether to renew for just a month at a time, or renew for another three months.

I do believe that had Christmas not come right in the middle, then I might have lost considerably more than the 7½lb, and maybe even dropped down into the next stone-zone. Therefore, I personally believe it’s worth sticking with, and probably for another three months if they have any offers.

This past week, then, we’ve been eating more meat-based meals. Last night the poet made us a Slimming World carbonara – and it was gorgeous. And we have a Slimming World syn-free fry-up (or 2 syns if we have low-fat sausages) at least once at the weekend, sometimes twice.

The only puddings we’ve made have been adapted from a Weight Watchers book (lime meringue pie) and another old favourite low-fat cookbook I’ve had for years (cherry crumble).

Sweet treats have included marshmallows (1 syn each) and/or individual squares of Green & Black’s salted caramel “Thin” (3½ syns per square). Believe me, three big fat marshmallows look much more satisfying than one square of chocolate. But they’re big squares and the chocolate is so rich I really do only need one square.

My bronze activity challenge is going well too. Aside from the chickens, we managed a half-decent walk on Saturday (report to follow this Friday) and Sunday was spent doing manual farm labour.

The 2lb is staying off so far this week. I hope it drops a little more by next Monday.

Life on the farm

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Crisp, frosty morning on the farm.

We made a very conscious lifestyle decision to live in the countryside. In May 2016, we chose to rent a house on a farm in the bottom of a little-known valley.

The house wasn’t available for sale, it belongs to the farm, and the farm wasn’t for sale either. So we rent it, and this means there’s a lot we can’t do to the house or the surroundings, although if we want to do anything or if something needs doing, it is generally done.

The free range farm is a very busy, very hardworking family business, overseen by the patriarch/matriarch farmer and his wife. They have three grown-up kids who all have families of their own, but who still come and work the farm around their day jobs.

There’s just us and them, here in this valley.

Livestock on the farm includes cows and sheep but no pigs. The cows are indoors at the moment, the sheep are allowed to roam – and it’s almost lambing time. Domestic fowl on the farm consists of three geese, two chickens, five guinea fowl and four pea fowl plus a number of mallards and moorhens that live on the river …

… yes, we have a river too. The fast moving upper River Don. The river has wild brown trout and, in season, fly fishermen fish it.

In the surrounding woodland, we also have pheasants and owls. On the river there are also kingfishers. And in our gardens we have woodpeckers, four of the finches, four of the tits, dunnocks, wrens, blackbirds, robins, magpies, wood pigeons and collared doves.

Oh yes, and we have badgers and foxes too …

Life on the farm
Because so much is always going on here, I’ve decided to add a new regular blog feature, life on the farm. I hope readers enjoy reading about it as much as we enjoy living here.

In December we made another conscious decision. We decided to rescue half-a-dozen caged hens who were coming to the end of their commercial viability.

We bought a chicken coop and on 3 December, Lara Croft, Aggie the Agorophobic, Poorly Pauline (“Poorline”), Pink, Blondie and Baldy came to live with us, joining the two farm hens, who we call Madge and Black Betty. Baldy was pretty much “oven-ready” and Blondie wasn’t far behind her. But now both birds have grown brand new feathers and look lovely and fluffy.

The chicken coop went into the front garden, in between the stable and the shed. And then, when disaster struck, and avian flu arrived, we had to buy an additional chicken run.

Avian flu
We’re both confused and disappointed with this whole avian flu business. Disappointed because we’ve received no formal notification from either Defra or the charity we rescued the chickens through. Confused because the Defra legislation says that where there are protection zones birdkeepers should – at the very least – keep their domestic fowl food and water separate from wild birds and – at the very best – keep all the birds on lockdown indoors. Yet the charity and, in fact, the BBC’s Countryfile yesterday say ALL birds need to be on FULL lockdown.

When one of our birds was poorly (can you guess which one?), I asked our local chicken farmer about the lockdown. They have 200 chickens and they’re all classified as free range. And she said that they’d received no formal notification from Defra either and had also only found out by word of mouth. But not only will they lose their free range classification if the birds have to be kept indoors for too long, but they also have to muck out the chickens and their chicken barns aren’t fully covered in. So how can they keep their birds separate from wild birds?

There’s a much bigger chicken farm up on the hill too, with something like 2,000 free range chickens. They don’t seem to have anywhere fully enclosed either.

Our resident farmers also haven’t received anything from Defra, yet we are all, apparently, liable for a £5,000 fine AND up to three months imprisonment. And in the eyes of the law, ignorance is no defence.

So not only have we ALL not received any formal notification of the virus, we’re also seeing conflicting advice on what to do and how to cope with it.

If bird flu comes to our valley, then our birds are going to get it, regardless of whether or not they’re kept separate. And if our birds get it, then others will too.

(EDIT: I have now spoken with Defra and they say the whole of the UK is classed as a “prevention zone”, and we come within that. Some places are classed as a “protection zone” while others are classed as a “surveillance zone”. However, so long as we are doing our best to keep wild birds away from the chickens’ food and water, and so long as we have nowhere indoors to keep them – which we don’t – then we are “complying”. But if a walker happens to report our chickens to Defra, Defra are obliged to send us a letter but are content that we are complying.)

“Poorline”
When our Pauline got ill (she wasn’t called Pauline until then), we were quite worried. She just sat out in the rain, all her feathers ruffled up, head down in neck, not eating or drinking. We brought her into the garden, where some of the other chickens followed and then pecked at her. I had a chat with our local bird farmer, and she said Pauline might have had an egg burst inside her, and that this was usually fatal. So that cheered us up no end.

However, a quick Google search gave us a few things to try, and one of these was to massage her crop – the big, fat pouch on her front where chickens store food to be digested later. It was possible she had a compacted crop.

The poet did this first, and she made lots of smelly, “farty” noises. Sometimes it smelt of bird food, sometimes it smelt of bird poo. But it got better as the day progressed.

The following morning she was right as rain, and now she’s taken over from Aggie as being the first into the bird house at night and the last out in the morning.

Septic tank
Because we’re in the bottom of a valley, we’re not connected to the main sewage grid. Last week the kitchen drain (the *only* drain from the house) started to slow down its emptying.

A course of bricks around the drain was letting waste out anyway, so the big job planned for the weekend was to check to see if the drain was blocked and to re-lay the bricks …

… and there went the best laid plans, and all that.

The drain was actually solid. And when the poet checked one of the inspection hatches, that was solid too. Ooh eck.

When we moved in we were told that the septic tank usually doesn’t need emptying. It’s so big, and only serves one household (us – the farm has its own), that it’s all soaked down through the filtering system before it needs physically emptying.

But we had to find out how to empty the septic tank, and in an emergency too. And the only way I could find anyone interested was when I said it risked flowing into the River Don …

In the meantime, the poet went down to the farm to see if they had a contract with anyone for emptying the tanks – and their son and one of their daughters were there and immediately said, “Don’t do that, we have rods in the barn. We’ll come and see if we can rod it all first.”

But when we finally accessed the septic tank, it was completely empty. It was the drains that were blocked.

And that is how, on a dull, misty, damp Sunday morning we ended up rodding compacted *foul* waste. Waste that had clearly been building up since last May …

I’ll pause a moment while that sinks in …

Urgh!

It took them a couple of hours, one set of rods and our jet washer (thank you, Dad!) to finally clear the blockage and get our waste flowing freely again. And then the poet had to chop out and re-lay that brickwork around the drain. Until the mix went off, I couldn’t use the dishwasher, the kitchen sink or the washing machine.

Overnight we had a hard frost, so the poet was convinced his brickwork would need doing again anyway … but when I tried both the dishwasher and the washing machine (separately, so as not to overload it), everything stayed contained within the drain without washing anything away.

It does, however, still need another course of bricks, as the outflow from the kitchen sink bounces right over the top of the bricks.

Sheep
Because of the hard frost this morning, the poet had to warm his car up and drive away carefully down the icy lane (we really ought to get a grit bin installed). And he left the gate open again at the end of the drive.

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Blondie.

By the time I got up again (I always get up with him, and then get up again to let the chickens out of their coop and into their run), there was a lost sheep in the garden trying to get back to the rest of her flock behind the fence in the woods and at the bottom of the drive.

So I had to get dressed straight away and then shepherd her back to her flock.

Ee, tis a reyt life here on t’farm.

My fat year: a rubbish fortnight

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

Well, I say a rubbish fortnight, but actually, the first week was quite good with me dropping down to almost the lightest I’ve been since I started with Slimming World. But with only twenty-two days before my initial three-month membership to go, I’m very disappointed that this morning I’ve gained 2lb again.

I know what it is: bread.

My husband makes lovely bread. He graduated from the bread-machine to doing it all himself and now he’ll knock-up two loaves twice a week. Slimming World have told me to either allow 3syns™ per slice, or build it into my “healthy extras”.

I’ve been very good at eating salads for my dinners, though, and our teas are pretty much syn-free anyway (meat, potatoes, veg), with low-syn or syn-free puddings.

But for just over a week I’ve been freezing cold, and battling the dregs of that bad cold that’s copping everyone, and so I’ve been eating more bread – cheese on toast, beans on toast, egg on toast, bacon sandwiches, etc.

Oh yes, and pizza. He made us a pizza each on Saturday too, and it was delicious. But I can’t manage a whole pizza in one sitting. In fact, I can rarely manage much of one kind of any thing on my plate in one sitting. So last night I had a left-over pizza slice to eat after our lovely roast lamb dinner.

And this morning the scales made sure to scold me.

A friend of mine … well, it’s the daughter of a friend of the poet’s actually, but she’s lovely so I’ll call her a friend anyway – a friend of ours has lost two stone with Slimming World (28lb) and this morning I saw a recent photograph of her on Facebook. And she looks great.

So today she has given me the motivation to make the most of these last twenty-two days of my initial three-month membership. I’m also going for my “bronze activity challenge”, although much of that is easier now that (a) we have chickens, and (b) the longer, warmer, drier days are on their way, for weekend walking again.

With this seagull keeping an eye on me, how can I fail?

Walk: Fairholmes

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The poet checking my map-reading! (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

We didn’t go out anywhere last weekend. We were both under the weather and the poet was on antibiotics. So we stayed indoors.

The weekend before, however, we did go for a short walk. We went on the Saturday, though, as we had a Monkey Dust gig to go to at teatime on the Sunday.

The walk from Fairholmes to Derwent Reservoir is one that I’ve done before. But this was the first time we did it as a “family”. (Me, the poet, the dog!)

It’s a short walk, only 1¼ miles, but it’s a good one for starting out on a new fitness/stamina regime.

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One of two benches strategically placed to make the most of the view. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The walk starts at the exit from the car park at Fairholmes. We crossed the road and went through a gate that took us up an “easy climb”. (I swear some of these guides can be “done” for misrepresentation!)

The path crosses a water conduit via a stone bridge. Then at the first junction, we turned slightly right and went up some stone steps to skirt the woods, keeping the reservoir to our right and the main woods to our left.

These steps lead to another “gentle rise”, but then it’s all level or downhill from there.

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The memorial to Tip the sheepdog, who stayed beside her master’s dead body for 15 weeks during the winter of 1953/54. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

At the highest point of the path there are two benches engraved with inspirational verses designed to encourage the visitor to sit and rest a while and enjoy the view.

Then the path drops downhill to join a road that runs alongside the reservoir. Here, the poet left us to get closer to the water and to take the picture below of the reservoir.

When he re-joined us, we strolled along the path and saw the memorial to Tip – a sheepdog who stayed with her master’s body for fifteen weeks during the winter of 1953/54.

Rufus had his picture taken here, but he wouldn’t keep still, so it’s a bit blurry, which is why I’ve not shared it here.

Next up is the dam wall, which sometimes has the gate open so you can visit the small museum commemorating 617 Squadron of “dambusters” fame. The gate was closed (it was closed last time I did the walk too), but the poet was still able to take a picture of the memorial just inside the gatehouse.

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Memorial to 617 Squadron, “The Dambusters”. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

In the past few years we’ve been up to see the Lancaster bomber fly-past. I think it’s stopped flying now, so it was quite emotional the last time we went.

The whole area can get very busy, though, particularly on anniversaries.

Both the reservoir and the car park at Fairholmes were quiet, but there were still a lot of cars parked. Lots of people use it as a base for longer walks and there are a lot of cyclists who visit too.

We continued along the road until we reached the far end of a roadside car park, then we turned left and dropped down a path that leads to a closer inspection of the dam wall.

We visited the dam wall itself only recently, and have lots of photographs from then. This time, the water wasn’t running, so we only had a small detour here.

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Derwent Reservoir. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

When we got back to the car, we continued on along the other side of the car park, adding another ¼ mile to our walk.

Down some more steps on the other side of the car park wall was once a farm, which was flooded when the dams were built.

Once we’d completed our walk, we visited the kiosk and bought a Bakewell slice and a bottle of pop each, which we sat and consumed in the car.

We only walked 1.45 miles, or 6,104 steps, and it took us an hour and twelve minutes with all the pausing for pictures. And we burned 217 calories.

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MapMyWalk

My fat year: Back in the 7lb club

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“Reprise”

Just 2 weeks into the new year with Slimming World, and I’m back in the half-a-stone (7lb) club!

Actually, it’s 7½lb, and I’m only 1¾lb away from dropping into the next stone-zone. I’m also only point-two away from dropping into the next BMI.

This isn’t quite the weight I was before Christmas, but even that is only a pound away. And we’ve not really been very strict either.

Cutting out processed food and cutting down on added sugar and added salt to cooking seems to be doing the trick. I’m also eating less bread.

The poet had an annual check-up at the doctor’s on Friday. He’s not very well, sinus-wise, but the rest of him is apparently doing brilliantly.

His weight is down, his blood pressure is “normal”, his cholesterol is three-point-something – down from six-point-something – and his blood sugar is “low-normal” compared to “borderline” just a year ago.

The nurse said to just carry on doing whatever it is he’s doing.

I haven’t had my annual check-up yet, I don’t think I’m due. But last time my blood pressure was “normal” (it always is), my blood sugar was “normal”, and my own cholesterol was “slightly down”. Hopefully by the time I’m due, I’ll get the same kind of news.

So, whatever it is that we’re doing, it’s working. So we’ll carry on carrying on.