Walk: Rock houses, Kinver Edge

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New boots! (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We’ve not had a lot of time to ourselves for a few weeks and have been dashing all over the place visiting various family members in various places. But I did have a brand new pair of walking boots for my birthday, I did want to at least start to break them in, and we did want to try at least a little walk where we can.

So, not this weekend just gone but last Sunday, we went to Kinver Edge near Stourbridge. Actually, we started off by going to the Lickey Hills Country Park, but couldn’t park in the very busy car park. Then we tried the Clent Hills, but couldn’t find anywhere to park. Then we grabbed a quick lunch and then I took us on a magical mystery tour. And we ended up at the rock houses at Kinver.

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Rock Houses, Kinver Edge (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I’ve wanted to see these houses ever since I found out they existed, but I’d tried to find them before sat-nav and got hopelessly lost. This time I was able to plug the post code into my mobile phone and just tell the poet which way to drive.

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Rock Houses, Kinver Edge (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

At first we thought we’d struggle to park here too, as the first car park you come to was already packed. But we drove on up the hill a little way and found another, bigger, emptier car park. It seems this was the car park used by regulars and locals too, as there were lots preparing to walk their dogs or coming back from walking their dogs.

The signpost said that the houses were only 500m away, or we could divert upwards towards a viewpoint. As I was dying for the loo, we said we’d visit the houses first, use the facilities, and walk up to the viewpoint after. But we had a perfectly adequate view from the rock houses, so decided in the end not to carry on upwards.

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Rock Houses, Kinver Edge (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The houses, managed by the National Trust, are on 3 levels. The 1st level has 3 restored houses; the 2nd level is closed to the public; and the 3rd level has the café and toilets plus a couple of caves you can walk inside. There is a piped soundtrack in the bottom houses, and they felt quite cool. Apparently, however, they were supposed to keep cool in the summer but warm in the winter once the fires were lit.

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Lord Rufus – isn’t he gorgeous? (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I’ve always wanted to see them ever since my dad mentioned he used to know someone who lived there in the 1930s. The houses were, in fact, lived in right up to the 1960s, but had to be abandoned due to lack of sanitation.

On the footpath back to the car park is a small adventure area and the dog climbed up a stair of logs where the poet could take his picture at the top.  They both did very well! 😉

The boots held up, didn’t even give a hint of rubbing or pinching, and were very comfortable.

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We only walked 1.04 miles this time and only burned 225 calories. But there’s plenty more for visitors to see and do.

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Walk: Fountain’s Abbey

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Cock pheasant (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We skipped a week’s walking last week because of illness and because we were busy visiting family. So this week we wanted to make sure we had a decent walk to make up for it.

Off we pootled to Fountain’s Abbey near Ripon. The poet had been avoiding this visit because he thought it might take too long to get there. I wouldn’t have minded going over Christmas, but they had some very bad floods between us and North Yorkshire, so we steered clear.

It’s been a long time since my last visit, and I was quite excited to be going back as it’s a beautiful place in beautiful surroundings with some terrific history. AND … it took us just over an hour to get there, and just under an hour to get back – on a Saturday too.

The plan was to do a 4½-mile walk, but when we got there we thought we might give the 5½-mile walk a go instead, or the “walk through the centuries”. This goes around the National Trust property and then out into the countryside. But there was so much to see and do within the grounds that too much time was spent exploring and taking pictures.

In the end we managed just under 4½ miles, but I’d introduced the poet to a magical place and one we hope to go back to again and again.

We started our walk at the visitor centre and were pleased to see how welcome the dog was. There were water bowls scattered around all over the place, one of which was beneath a cold water tap so could be freshened when necessary. So long as he was kept on a lead, which we usually do anyway, and a short lead at times, and so long as we cleared up after him, which we also usually do anyway, he was allowed everywhere we went, just not inside a couple of places such as the porter’s lodge.

At the abbey, we should have taken the path to the left, but instead we took the path to the right, although we didn’t see Fountain’s Hall on this visit. We ended up on the wrong side of the water for the walk we were supposed to be doing, and we were diverted by signs to “Anne Boleyn’s seat”, which turned out to be a modern, wooden construction that took full advantage of the wonderful views available. And it was up hill … (I don’t really do hills … but it was fine).

We continued along this elevated path to the “temple of piety”, where a kindly gentleman took our picture for us. We were rewarded with some more stunning views. And we were surprised by the “octagon tower”, a lovely little summer house, behind which the poet caught his first sight of the glorious “Studley royal water gardens”, and he just wanted to get down there to have a closer look …

… only it wasn’t very clear which way to go and we ended up wandering through the pheasant farm and back instead, deciding to retrace our steps down the hill and see if we could find our way that way.

And then we saw someone emerge from a cave that we thought was just a grotto to the right of the octagon tower. So we went inside to investigate, realised it was a tunnel running beneath the tower, and the dog panicked halfway through and wanted to go back. He didn’t like it.

Sure enough, we ended up beside the water gardens, and found our way to the café, where we had a glass of pop each and a piece of cake. We toyed with continuing the walk outside the estate, but chose instead to make our way back along the path we should have come along in the first place.

We skipped the banqueting house but took several pictures across the water gardens and of the “temple of fame”. Then we climbed back up the hill to the car park for our picnic and then the drive home.

We were there for 2½ hours, we walked for 4.47 miles, and we burned around 650 calories.

New boots
My lovely walking boots are starting to let in. I’ve had them for nearly 3 years, as they were one of the first things the poet ever bought for me. I’m dreading having to break in new boots and am of the opinion that I’d sooner have wet feet than broken feet. BUT, needs must. So I’ll be starting to look around for a comfortable, lightweight pair of boots and any recommendations will be appreciated.

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Walk: Clumber Park

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Bridge over Clumber Lake (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

New Year’s Day dawned bright and relatively clear and we wanted to kick off our new “regular walking regime” with an actual walk. But where to go?

We wanted somewhere a bit flat (because we’re just starting). We wanted somewhere near water (because we both like water). We wanted somewhere the poet could have a go on his new “spotting scope” (because it was his new Christmas toy and he wanted to play with it). We wanted a National Trust property (because we’ve paid for it). And we wanted somewhere fairly close-by (because we didn’t want to spend the limited daylight hours at this time of year driving and only an hour of daylight walking).

So where to go?

Our choices included Nostell Priory (but we weren’t sure what would be open), Calke Abbey (but that might be better visited on our way back from Birmingham one day), and Clumber Park (but we’ve been there before – lots of times). We settled for Clumber Park for the flatness, because we know there’s birdlife, and we knew it would be empty … And anyway, as there’s a path all the way round, I wouldn’t even need my walking boots …

Ho ho ho – how wrong were we on those last 2 counts?

So we packed our picnic, packed the car, and headed off. Within 45 minutes we were there.

And it was PACKED.

And very, very MUDDY.

We had to go through 2 different checks to get in on our membership cards and then drove around for a while, in the regular car park, looking for a space. And we found one that was just being vacated.

Clumber Park has lots of facilities for visitors, including bicycle hire (and power cycles), gift shops, nature trails, things for kids to do, several cafeterias, a church, a walled garden – I love the walled garden but (a) the dog isn’t allowed, and (b) it was closed on this visit. The dog, however, is allowed everywhere in the grounds SO LONG AS HE’S KEPT ON A LEAD … there were a number of other dog owners there who really need to know that this applies to them as well.

(Mini rant alert) If there are other people about, especially children, or other dogs, or livestock, or signs that request it, we always keep our dog on a lead. He’s not vicious, but he is playful. Very playful. Quite excitable. And a nuisance. So when other dogs come up to him that aren’t on leads to sniff at him, he may think they’re coming to play and he goes into play mode. But if that’s not what they want, they can go into snap mode – and that causes our dog to go into snap mode too. He also has a massive BARK. And then it risks getting nasty. OUR DOG IS KEPT ON A LEAD FOR A REASON. Please respect that when you see other dog walkers around. And please, please, PLEASE respect the signs. They really do apply to you too. Those who don’t keep their dogs under control risk having dogs banned from that attraction for ever – and that really isn’t fair on those of us who do keep them under control. (End of mini rant)

So anyway, we headed off across the lawn to the lakeside and started our walk. By this time I had put my walking boots on … and my gaiters, as it really was very wet and muddy underfoot, with path-wide puddles up to the ankles in some places. It was incredibly busy and we tried to keep to the grassed and wooded parts, where we saw a rhododendron coming to life after the autumn hibernation and a white squirrel. There were grey squirrels playing too, but the white one was quite a treat.

The poet took pictures of the ducks, the geese, the swans, the other waterfowl. He took pictures of the surroundings. He took pictures of us.

About halfway around, just over the first bridge, there was an ice cream van and a snack bar. We’d left the picnic in the car but I needed some sugar to get me back there. So we both had mince pies, I had an ice cream, and we shared a bottle of Coca Cola. The dog was far too excited to have anything, especially as all of these hundreds of people were obviously there just to see him! (And in fact, some of them were!)

I checked MapMyWalk and we’d done just under 2 miles, so that didn’t feel very good.

We walked a bit further to where the poet could set up his telescope, and we stayed a while to see what he could see through that. We met a labradoodle and a jackshit (a cross between a jack russell and a shiatsu!). The lab was yampy, the jack was very sweet – and quite quiet for a jack.

By the time we got back to the car we were ready for our picnic. The weather had stayed dry and we’d walked more than 4 miles, but the dog was filthy and needed a good rub down before being allowed back in the car. He had a big, long drink, helped us with our picnic, and then fell asleep.

The walk was nice and flat, if muddy underfoot. It’s further than we’ve walked just lately but it was doable. We were both stiff when we got out of the car at home 45 minutes later, and I was quite achey the following morning (so was the poet, but his was gigor mortis). But it was a nice, easy walk to start with and had plenty to see and do on the way around.

MapMyWalk

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I promised a brilliant picture …

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Dragonfly (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

… and I always try to keep my promises. 🙂 Isn’t this a beautiful shot? It was taken at RSPB Old Moor last weekend when we went on our photography safari. He has a picture of it in flight too, but that one’s a little bit more blurred.

I’ve had a good week. I’ve been very busy and I’ve got a lot of writing work done (have you seen the word meters in the sidebars?). But the best thing is, showing up actually works. (surprised face)

I made a bit of a decision a few weeks ago to do any writing work in the mornings and any editing work in the afternoons. I’m much more creative in the mornings and have more energy for it too. Most of the time I get to the writing early, and I’ve managed a fair amount of wordage each time. Sometimes, things happen, I get into administrative wrangles, and I might turn up to my writing late. Instead of skipping it, though, I’m still turning up at least. And I’m still doing the writing work first, even if it means pushing everything else along and working late. I’m doing the writing work first.

This is a major achievement for me as my own work has always taken second, third or fourth place and often been neglected entirely. So all those “nags” who bang on about showing up? Pay attention to them. They know what they’re talking about.

I’ve been a bit light on the editing side of things anyway, having only a couple of short works in the bag with a couple of longer ones not getting here yet. But I’ve also been in negotiation all week with 3 different clients (1 existing, 2 potential new) regarding several new jobs, all of which are going to be considerably bigger than the average gig I get, and one of which I really, really would like.

Does anyone remember the cosmic ordering that went on the other week? Well, it seems I’ve won not one job from one of these clients – one of the new clients –  but three. And job #1 consists of several little ones. The work should keep me busy for several weeks.

Now watch all the others come in as well … (said she hopefully).

My car had to go in for its MOT this morning. The MOT actually ran out in May, but with getting married and going on honeymoon and everything, for the first time ever I completely forgot about it. Needless to say, the car failed. But we’re going to get it through today and then look at either selling it or chopping it in for a new one before the next 12 months are up. It’s a bit of a nuisance in what’s already a 5-week month, but it’s worth more to us with the MOT than it is without.

This morning my housework-half-hour included making a strawberry flan. But we couldn’t get any Quick Jel™ from the supermarket. So I tried to use ordinary jelly for the glaze but the flan sponge soaked it up like a, well, sponge. Now I’m torn between letting the rest of the jelly set slightly before pouring it on, or making a fresh jelly glaze with less water. A friend has just this second told me on FB than she always uses regular jelly but with less water for flans, so maybe I’ll just try for that first.

We’ve cancelled our fruit and veg boxes after today as we’re not using all of the goods they send us while they’re still at their best, as we often go gallivanting in the summer months and are rarely home to cook with perishables. But we’re still going to look for fruit and veg that’s in season and that’s good for us (such as super-foods like sweet potatoes and blackcurrants) and start cooking from scratch again.

In the week the poet made a savoury mince using mince, peas and sweetcorn from the freezer and carrots, onions and mushrooms from our last box. And for the first time in ages, half of it went into the freezer to eat at another time. (Wormy’s savoury mince is legendary, by the way.) We’ll also choose when to buy courgettes, instead of having 4 sent at a time, and he’ll make just the one omelette rather than one a night.

As part of this cooking from scratch, and with seasonal berries, etc, I’m going to have a bash at fruit flans, fruit crumbles, summer puddings and steamed puddings, as well as mixing fruit with yoghurt or having it with meringue nests and yoghurt. I do the sweet stuff, he does the savoury stuff. So any suggestions of what to do with seasonal fruit other than what’s already mentioned will be gratefully received.

Once we pick the car up at the close of business today, I think we’re going fishing. This will give me a good few hours away from any distractions – apart from cows, chickens and ducks – to carry on with that short story I started last week. It’s been a while since I wrote a 2,000-word story, but I think this one is definitely heading that way.

Tomorrow we have another local music festival to go to, but I think it depends on the weather. Last year we had press passes but this year we have to pay. It’s for a good cause, though, so that’s why we’re still hoping to go.

On Sunday we’re off to Birmingham to see my parents. If it’s a nice day, and if we make good time, we may visit a National Trust property on the way home. We also want to go and see the poet’s parents as soon as we can as it’s his dad’s 80th birthday next week.

Have a great weekend.

Nevis and Culloden

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The Commando Memorial, Great Glen Way (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

As it’s a Wednesday, I’d normally be writing my diary of a scaredy cat today, and I did promise one this week. However, I’ve not done a lot of actual writing work in the week since we got home (although I have been reading lots and making copious notes), so here are some more photographs from the Scottish leg of our honeymoon.

On the Monday we decided to drive through the Nevis range of mountains to see the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness, and we took the “scenic route” along the minor roads that run parallel to the canal.

The scenery was stunningly breathtaking and we were additionally rewarded with little surprises here and there, such as the Commando Memorial that stands overlooking the landscape in which our first commandos did their training in the Second World War.

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Caledonian Canal (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I particularly wanted to see the Caledonian Canal, having seen it featured on the BBC’s Coast series. This beautiful stretch of water links several lochs, rivers and lakes so that boats may take a short cut from one side of the country to the other without having to sail around the top.

But once we’d seen Loch Ness (and no, we didn’t see the monster, funnily enough), we wondered where to next.

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The Nevis Range (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Then the poet remembered his parents taking him to see Culloden when he was very young, and as I’ve always been interested in Scottish history, that’s where we decided to go.

When we arrived we were delighted to see that it belonged to the National Trust for Scotland and, as National Trust members, we not only saved our admission fee, but also our car park fee – a total of £25.

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Loch Ness. And no, we didn’t … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The poet said that it had changed a lot since he’d been – a very lot. And we spent a good while exploring the visitor centre and then part of the battlefield. But it was already late in the day and we had to do battle with the Inverness traffic at rush hour on our way back as well.

So off we headed, back to our hotel, getting something to eat on the way. The food really was delicious at our hotel, but we fancied something a bit less … fancy for our last evening in Glencoe.

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Culloden battlefield (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The next day we were up early and off on the next leg of our trip … but more on that when the pictures are posted …

Yesterday I did quite a lot of work but I was feeling a bit rough. So when the poet called and asked if I wanted to ride shotgun with him on a visit, and get lunch while we were out again, I jumped at it again. This time our sandwiches came from the Co-op, but I had a nice prawn salad and he forced us to have chocolate covered doughnuts …

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Diane at the MacDonald memorial on Culloden battlefield (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I’m still washing, washing, washing – and drying it indoors and out, depending on the weather. And yesterday was no exception. I had a packed, full washing line and bedding in the tumble dryer. But yesterday I also had to tidy up the gig list and put out the shout for this weekend’s gigs as well as plug the next Monkey Dust gig too.

I also caught up on the daily competitions and did yet more name change admin online.

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Graves on island in Loch Levin, Ballachulish (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

My lovely business manager suggested I take the afternoon off. I argued at first, but then decided to heed his advice as I had lots of reading work to catch up on as well. So I was still working, even if I was taking it easy. When he got home he brought the washing in too, bless him, before cutting the grass.

Today I’m back at the washing – there’s another line-full and more bedding drying in the tumble dryer (just call me Widow Twanky …).

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Loch Levin, Ballachulish (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

I’m going to surf the job boards and catch up with emails and invitations there. I also have that new edit to continue with and more reading, writing, research and note-making work to do.

This last picture is one of my favourites from all the Scotland holiday. This was the view from our hotel room. I think the poet has done a lovely job with the light, the colours and the perspective.

I hope you enjoy all of the photographs.

Easter weekend

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Baddesley Clinton (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We decided we wanted the whole of the bank holiday weekend off, so that’s what we did.

On Friday we drove down to Warwickshire and joined the National Trust. We’d worked out that if we paid a joint membership for the year, we’d get our money back after visiting just 5 properties. Baddesley Clinton is an old favourite of mine. It’s an Elizabethan moated manor house and I remember when it was taken over by the National Trust in the early 1980s. I knew the poet would love it too, and he did.

Before visiting the property we decided to wear the dog out first by going on a short walk in the surrounding area. One of the volunteers at the property gave us a map to follow, but it was pouring with rain, the map soon got soggy, and we were joining the walk part-way around. Needless to say, we got a bit lost, but we did have a great walk in the surrounding woods (once part of the Forest of Arden, I believe) and we discovered some badger setts that seem to be in use, judging from the dog’s reaction.

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Baddesley Clinton (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We were gone for about an hour and once we’d dried ourselves and settled the dog in the car (it was wet and cool and he was sleepy anyway), we went to visit the house and join the National Trust. Afterwards, we enjoyed a very expensive piece of cake and small bottle of pop each in the café (we didn’t get much change from £10 – apx $15) and headed home via my parents, as they’re only about 15 – 20 minutes away.

On Saturday we didn’t do much, but because the shops would be closed for Easter Sunday, we did nip out and get a new floodlight for the garden, which the poet fitted on Sunday afternoon. On Sunday evening we went for a walk to the lake so he could measure the depths. The dog had another great walk and the poet lost some line, a float and a weight when he caught a tree branch …

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Rievaulx Abbey (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On Monday we decided to go to Rievaulx for a short walk around the area. The idea was to visit the terrace as it’s managed by the National Trust, but parking was so bad there we drove down instead to the abbey, which is managed by English Heritage. We had a bit of a snack in the car park, then off we tootled on our walk, which took almost 2 hours in the end, to walk about 2 miles, due to stopping to take pictures.

Along one section of the River Rye, we thought we might see dippers. Instead the poet was rewarded with a grey wagtail. I’d sat on a log while he tried to capture shots of some little grey birds that were flitting around. I  had no idea it was a grey wagtail he was paddling after!

Much of our walk was along the River Rye and through picturesque villages and hamlets. When we got back to the car we had a bird’s eye view of a birds-of-prey demonstration that was just starting, so we settled own to eat the rest of our picnic while we watched that. We’d thought to visit the abbey when we got back, followed by the terrace, but it was already 4pm by the time we’d eaten, and we decided to head home and come back another day, and another day, and another day.

It was lovely to be out and about in the fresh air, even if it was raining on Friday. At least we had glorious sunshine yesterday.

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Grey Wagtail, River Rye, Rievaulx (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

When we arrived home I was greeted with a new job from the lovely new Spanish clients, and news of many more to follow in the coming weeks. They asked me for my availability, and I gave it to them. That means that this week I now have a lovely big job in from lovely already boss, along with 2 smaller jobs already in from him, and a series of work from lovely new boss. And it’s pudding week as we apparently get married in just 24 days before heading off on our funnymoon. (I have a 14 day settlement on most jobs, but the lovely new boss always pays on completion.) I’d best crack on.