Autumn is well and truly making it’s presence known, the temperature has dropped, the mornings are darker and the colour of the leaves has changed to those beautiful autumnal reds and browns.
After a very wet week we have been very lucky with a dry and bright weekend, making the most of the Saturday to get some work done down at the allotment we decided to have a family day on Sunday and go for a decent walk. At ours son’s request we headed out to Virginia Waters, a loop around the lake is about four miles, enough to blow away the cobwebs without leaving you pooped for the rest of the day.
To begin with the paths are busy with couples, families, people on bikes, others with dogs. There were dogs of all sizes, from the beautiful, shaggy Irish wolfhound who made a small girl screech by merely loping past her, to tiny little chihuahuas and a Dachshund being carried in a specially designed bag, with just his head poking out.
As we reached the totem pole, the path branches off to the left, in the hope of avoiding the majority of the other enjoying the weather we hope we are taking the path less travelled.
When you do escape the madding crowd you can start seeing beyond the wood to the trees and more.
There are trees growing as much horizontally as they are vertically…
Trees growing out of trees…
Fungi growing out of trees….
Evidence of romances past – I do hope these two are still together…….
Flocks of parakeets….
Then you look down and there is an amazing array of fungi growing all the way around the five mile walk…..
There are also the picturesque waterfalls, once people were allowed to walk all around them, but now they have been cordoned off, health and safety no doubt. Annoying for a teenager wanting to rock hop, but it makes it a lot easier to take a photo without people popping up in the background.
All in all, if you are after a good walk, to blow away the cobwebs and enjoy the fresh air, then this is definitely a place worth visiting – there is even a nice place to stop for a coffee and a bite to eat.
My dragon boating adventure has just reached news heights, as this weekend I took part in my first races.
After work on Friday Sarah and I jumped in the car and set off for Nottingham, what should have been a two and a half hour drive, turned into a three and a half hour magical mystery ride. The traffic was horrendous and so the Sat Nav decided to avoid the worst of it by taking us cross country, through some very picturesque wee villages and towns. This would have all been fine, except after never being let down by it before, this was the day it decided to play up, every now and again it would just turn off, leaving us…… well who knows where! Luckily we had the back up of Google Maps, but it was an irritation I could have really done without.
As it turned out we hadn’t done too badly, other members of the team had set off at midday and taken just over five hours to make the same journey!
We managed to check in at the Village Hotel with no problems, then there was the hike to get to our room. Up in the lift, down various corridors, up some stairs, more corridors, down some stairs and eventually we found it. A few minutes to off load our stuff and back out again to meet up with some of the team to join them for dinner. This turned out to be another first as we all ended up ordering from the ‘seniors’ menu – I’m only forty-six!! This worked out well thought, the portions were supposedly smaller, but certainly big enough for me, especially given we knew we’d have an early start in the morning.
A good breakfast in the morning and we were off to the National Water Sports centre, where the first thing needed was to unload the boats from the trailer and get them on the water.
After that a pep talk and set up ‘camp’ with our chairs and the team gazebo, I was told there would be a lot of waiting about, so I’d brought a comfy chair and a book to fill in the time, ready for the day. How wrong was that, we went down for the first of the ladies 200m races soon after, then we had been barely off the water before we were back for the second, then the third race. Waiting around? What waiting around?
The day was truly glorious, not a cloud in the sky, the sun was shinning and we were ready to give it our best. The first race, my first ever race, and we loaded up and were off, heading up the way to the start line, practicing a few race starts along the way.
After some toing and froing we and the other boats were ready, the call comes out ‘teams, are you ready? …. attention …… GO!’ The first, deep, hard strokes, then the pace steps up, then up again, up once more before we ‘reach…. it…. out….’. We did our best and came in second. The next race we were third, the. We were in our final race, the Minor Finals. Maybe it was the determination not to let down our coach, maybe the threat that we would miss out on the lovely cake Josh had cooked, but whatever it was we really went for it. The grunting and effort put in to that final race paid off and we did it, we won the Ladies Minor Finals – at the Nationals!!!
The buzz from that was truly amazing, I won’t claim to be the best or the strongest paddler in the team, far from it, but I will always give it my best and work through the pain to keep going right to the final call of ‘easy’.
I was lucky enough to join the team for two further races, this time in the mixed races. They too were hard work, but great fun, then I was able to sit back and enjoy the sun and the races from the sidelines. Watching some of those teams was inspirational, the timing and power they can put in to moving those boats through the water is phenomenal.
Sunday was a whole different experience. We were warned the weather was going to turn and it certainly did. As we had breakfast it started to drizzle, then as we walked to the car the heavens opened and it came down in torrents. But, given dragon boating is a water sport, this wasn’t going to stop anything.
I was lucky enough to participate in a couple of 500m races, they were hard and fast and great fun, neither were winning races, but I’m still so glad to get back out on the water. The team did, however, win their Minor Final, a fantastic finish to a brilliant weekend.
Of course once we were off the water we had to still get the boats off, the heads, tails and drum removed and stored in the van and the boats onto the trailers. This in itself takes all hands and a fair bit of co-ordination, those boats really are heavy, so to get one off the water, over to the trailer, lifted up, turned over and then onto the top of the trailer was a feat in itself. With both boats loaded we could finally get everything else packed away and a cup of tea before the final stretch – that last, long, drive home.
I’m tired, I ache today and I know I’m going to ache more tomorrow, but I wouldn’t change a moment of this weekend. Spent with some truly wonderful people, my Hurricanes family, I have had a brilliant time and so pleased to haxve been able to take part in the racing….. now to sleep……..
Sometimes you can plan everything, other times you just have to wing it. Saturday mornings are now taken up by dragon boating for me, after an hour or so on the water and then the time it takes to put the boat away, stretch and have a cup of tea and a natter with the team that’s the whole morning gone and I wont get home until lunch time, by which time half the day is gone.
This Saturday was one of those days, but having had a stressful week and with my boy away doing his Duke of Edinburgh Silver award trek and husband just back from working away for the week, staying at home cleaning the house was not an appealing option. So, on the spur of the moment we grabbed a bottle of water, couple of bananas and some crisps and jumped in the car and drove – just like we used to twenty years ago.
Okay, twenty years ago we wouldn’t have thought to bring any snacks or quickly book a table for dinner, but I guess that’s what happens when you grow up… a little.
After a mere two hours in the car we arrived in Lulworth Cove, on the Jurassic coast in Dorset. Late afternoon and it is still beautifully warm with a clear blue sky, the car park is busy, but I suspect not nearly as busy as it would have been earlier in the day. The area is so beautiful it attracts a huge number of visitors, each wanting to take in the beauty of the place and the atmosphere.
From the car park you have to walk down the hill, past the tourist traps and expensive ice creams, past some pretty wee cottages, which would be a dream to live in, if only you didn’t know you’d have so many tourists wandering past you window all the time….
It is all worth it when you reach the sea, the cove is idyllic and the light is just perfect.
The beach is mainly the rounded pebbles which don’t hurt your feet, but make it hard to walk as they move under foot, they also make a gentle whooshing noise as the water that has moved in pulls back out, taking some of the stones along with it. Time spent just sitting and listening to the noise of the water is time well spent…
The bet was then on, who could find the first fossil, failure would mean paying for dinner. To my mind this was highly unfair, hubby is a keen metal detectorist with a love of all such things, whereas I am probably the most unobservant person you could meet. It also felt, with all the rounded, almost uniform pebbles, it was a lost cause. Sure enough, as we reached to far side of the cove another couple came round and the woman asked whether we had found any fossils. She was convinced they would be just tripping over them and was disappointed to have not seen a thing – I wasn’t holding out for much more luck.
Once we reached the larger rocks I took the chance to sit and just take in the surroundings, on the water the boats of varying sizes, people swimming, kayaking and snorkelling. On the beach the teenage girls taking selfies, parents with small children paddling, a group of young lads listening to music and clambering down the steep hill, one slipping, laughing at himself and carrying on to the beach.
Then, as I looked down I noticed some more unusual rocks, oh yeah, I found the first fossil. Then, once I had seen one I kept finding more and then before long we had an entire selection of them.
Slowly, as the light faded the people started to drift away the place actually becomes more beautiful.
As we wandered back along the beach we found another interesting stone, I suspect this one was man made…..
To finish off a perfect afternoon we head to the local pub, an hour earlier than our reservation, but they managed to seat us.
Of course when eating by the seaside you have to have fish and, to be fair, they did a lovely fish and chips with the best onion rings I’ve had in a long time.
A lovely meal, with someone I truly enjoy spending time with proved to be the perfect end to the day.
This is definitely somewhere we will be returning to explore further, we took the low road this time, but there is still the high road left to climb…….
Whilst all roads lead to Crail for my family, there are other very picturesque places in the area which are also worth visiting. I will only mention here those which we visited this time we were in Fife, but there were others which we would normal go to. It just so happens that on this occasion we just ran out of time, but, as my Dear, Dear Aunt always says, you need to always leave something undone so to have a reason to return….. not that we need any more reasons….
The village of St Monan’s, just south of Anstruther, has a lovely harbour from which you can walk along the shore, at low tide, to reach the restored windmill.
This has the remains of the saltworks just below it, from where sea water was pumped, by the windmill, into the salt pans where it was boiled to evaporate off the water to leave salt.
My interest is mainly with the tidal swimming pool, sadly no longer maintained by the local council, but still quite impressive. This is one of many along the coast and harks back to the days before health and safety took over from common sense….
Many questions arise from a walk along the coastline, such as what did this wall once lead to?
Again, keep your eyes open and you will fall in love with the quirks of the area which make it so worth a visit….
My guilty please will always be a wee trip into Pittenweem, as pretty as the name suggests, but it’s lure is not just due to the winding lanes, lined with some beautiful houses, but that does help.
There are places like St Fillan’s cave to explore – once you have collected the key from the a wee cafe called the Cocoa Tree, which unsurprisingly does a fantastic hot chocolate.
Then, if you come at the right time of year, there is the Pittenweem Arts Festival, which is always worth going to. There are such a variety of exhibitors, located in and around the village. In galleries, halls, sheds, people’s home and garages, whatever space people can find they will utilise – so also great fun for those of us who are nosy and like having a look into places which would normally be closed off to the public! There is also a broad range of exhibitors, covering a huge variety of genres and price points, definitely something for everyone…
Despite all of the above it is one particular shop which always draws me there, that would be The Woolly Brew, it’s not a big shop, but it is one I wish I could pick up and move down to where I live – or one I would love to emulate down here! As the name suggests there is wool – but more than the wide variety of yarns, the needles, patterns and bits n’ bobs is the attitude.
Not only can you buy what you need to make a pair of socks, a jumper, a tea cosy or whatever your chosen project may be, but if you are lucky enough to live nearby you can attend the fortnightly knitting group or a workshop to expand on your skills. Sadly I don’t live close enough, but when I made my first attempt at a pair of socks, with wool I had bought there and the free pattern I picked up, I got myself into rather a muddle and could not work out what to do next. After almost giving up I took to Facebook and messaged them asking for help and before long I was back on track and managed to finish a wearable pair of socks. To me that sort of attitude to customers, even those who only rock up once a year, buys my loyalty….. so obviously I came away this year with another couple of balls of wool, I haven’t got a project lined up for them yet, but it’s only a matter of time – or weather – and the needles will come back out and into use!
There are some places which will always be a little bit more special than others, maybe for this reason you will always view them through rose coloured glasses, or maybe they just are that perfect little oasis of calm to head for whenever life allows. I suspect some people don’t understand why we go back to the same place every year, but when we drive over the Forth I can feel my shoulders relax and then when we enter the town, the sigh of relief, we’re back…..
Each morning we took a walk around Roome Bay to start the day, everyone you see along the way will say good morning, or even stop to chat. It’s a friendly place, but then the same could be said of much of the area.
If the tide is out and the weather is fine then the best way to spend the morning is the same now as when I was a child, crab fishing in the ‘paddling pool’. This is a tidal pool with plenty of shore crabs to occupy a morning or an afternoon.
A line and a net and the competition will begin – who can catch the most! Once caught the crabs are let loose into another little pool a little further back to ensure they are only caught/counted once. The excitement of seeing if you can ‘land them’ before they decide that they don’t want to hang on to the bait bag and would rather stay hidden beneath the rocks. This time there was a really cheeky crab which had the most fun teasing the boys, it came out from under the rock shelf, carrying a limpet, right in front of them. He walked out towards another rock, then back and kept scuttling about in the pool, showing off his prize limpet and making it clear that they would not be catching him, he already had his limpet!
Crail is one of those places which it would be easy to overlook, there is definitely more to see if you spend time to look more closely. Walking down to Roome Bay you will see the Doocot, a building made to house pigeons which were bred for both meat and eggs. The doocot was built in the mid 16th century and is one of the last few of its kind in Scotland, just bear in mind if you go in to have a look it triggers a recording of pigeons, a more recent addition!!
There are some classic ‘postcard’ views of the village, mainly of the harbour. Not to detract from how pretty it is, after all, we had some of our wedding photos taken down there! But there are many other areas worthy of exploration.
A walk through Denburn Woods (I would Not recommend playing on the rope swing, given how my boy came a cropper as a result of a fall from there!), will take you through to the back of the churchyard.
Here I will admit a soft spot for the church, it was where my husband and I were married and where our son was christened. It is a beautiful place with a rich history, there are better sites to visit for a full insight into it, I can only provide the broad brushstrokes of the place, to attempt to do anything more would do it an injustice.
There is also the Dead House at the back of the church, which was pretty much as described, back in the day, but I suspect it now is more of a storage area for lawn mowers and the like.
The original use of the Dead House was as a place to securely store the dead until they had decomposed enough that they were of no use to the medical students and therefore there was no temptation for the grave diggers to steal them.
Bodies would be kept in the Dead House for six weeks in the summer months, but twelve in the winter, just to make sure when laid to rest there was no chance of them being disturb again.
Outside the church gates you will find the Blue Stane, a large stone with a dip in the top, the dip was made by the thumb of the Devil when he threw it over from the Isle of May, trying to hit the Church. We were always told to sit in the dip of the stone and make a wish.
But, it is not the only stone to take note of, there is also the Mermaid’s Cradle, only accessible at low tide, after a bit of rock hopping, if you know where to head.
Another stone to sit in to make a wish, although it does have a bit of seaweed now growing on it and the birds also seem to like it…
Move further down the way, just past the harbour and you will come across fossils that not even I could mistake, two tree stumps, right next to the tracks of a giant centipede!
Back on land and the picturesque village is still one of my favourite places to spend time, it would take a dark soul to not fall in love with it…
There are plenty other places to discover, but I won’t tell you all, you have to discover your own special places… you just need to spend time and look….
We have often taken a train into London and I can tell you the car park cost more than the £1.00 we were charged at Leuchars, our son’s ticket was more than £1.00 and the scenery whilst waiting for the train to arrive was not nearly as relaxing…..
We visited just before the Edinburgh Festival kicked off, it was therefore before it became really busy, but that’s not to say it was quiet! There is a lovely buzz about the city, it always feels a more friendly place to visit than London, but then that’s generally the case in Scotland from my experience. Here you are much more likely to get talking to strangers in the street and to not say hello on your morning walk is more likely to mark you out as a tourist than anything else.
Arriving in Edinburgh I never know where to start, there is always so much to see and do, best thing is just to bimble and see where the wandering takes you. In our case the first stop was the Scott Monument, a Victorian Gothic construction which stands at over 200 hundred feet and was built as a tribute to the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. To get up to the viewing platform means tackling my nemesis, the spiral stone staircase.
I have always disliked them, mainly because they feel to me to be so unsafe – especially if there is someone coming the other direction!! But, like flying, you can’t let these things get the better of you, so hubby went to check out a gallery whilst my boy and I climb our way as high as we were allowed to go. Sadly this was not to the very top and it had to be done in a group, due to a mixture of people being taken ill whilst up there and vandalism of the monument. If there was an upside to this it was the brief bit of history from the guide and the fact there was no chance of having to cross on the stairs!
The views are brilliant, definitely worth the climb, looking over Waverley Station and Princes Street Gardens, out to Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh Castle, it’s a shame you are limited on the time you spend up there as it really is mesmerising.
We were lucky to get such a beautiful day, I can’t imagine it would have been as much fun, or the view as good, if the rain had hit. As it was we were able to ramble about exploring, stopping in the Grassmarket to eat outside, at the Black Bull. Enjoying a nice chilled glass of wine and a chat and a gentleman passes by, all dress up on a beautiful grey horse, led by a young girl….. ten minutes later the say gentleman returns, minus the horse and the girl…. A perfect place to people watch, I can imagine it being even more fun during the festival!
Edinburgh is not only a good place to watch people, but if you keep your eyes open you will see some amazing architecture, interesting shops and funny little quirks. So many people will visit and yet barely scratch the surface of the treasures which just waiting to be discovered. I remember years ago visiting the Old Town, back when the entrance was just a door like any other front door. You would meet at the top of the hill and the guide would walk you down and through to discover the streets which remain, covered over and buried by the modern city. Nowadays it is all quite commercial and although they now make it ‘an experience’ I do think it’s detracted from the atmosphere it used to have. It can be really quite spooky, with the room filled with small dolls and toys for the little girl, abandoned by her family, supposedly still haunted by her. I seem to remember they even filmed an episode of Most Haunted there, although I’m not sure they ever captured any evidence of anything…
Everywhere you look there is something to see, one day is not enough, next time we will have to make sure we have longer to spend there as there will always be something new, whether it is one of the new Harry Potter shops, where you can buy a Butter Beer and a Gryffindor scarf……
Or the Love-locks on a section of fence as you go from the Royal Mile down towards Waverley Station……
Or if shopping is what you’re after there is everything from the beautiful department store Jenners…
To something a little more lighthearted..
It can all be found in Edinburgh, you just have to look.
Every year we return to Fife and for very good reason, it really is a home from home. Although we have visited here every year for more years than I care to remember, we still always enjoy coming back to both revisit some of our favourite places and discover new adventures and we never leave disappointed. A trip a wee bit further north is always on the itinerary as there is an antiques centre which is always worth a visit. We don’t always find anything to buy, but there are always some interesting bits and pieces… both weird and wonderful to discover. It’s a mixture of new and old pieces, some practical and some frivolous, some you love and some which may you question who will ever want to take them home. In the past I come out of there with everything from a pet brush to a half whisky barrel!
In case a trip to Narnia is required…
You can find everything necessary to get you there…
On the way back to Crail a visit to the Botanical gardens of Dundee is a must for us as they have a great wee cafe for ‘soup and a sandwich’, something which I’m sure is more prevalent up north, a trick we are missing out on down south of the border. You know it’s good when the place is always full of locals, with only the odd tourist!
Food in general has a few distinct differences from Southern England, starting at breakfast time, when you pop to the local paper shop for bread rolls. I would never think to do that at home, but here I would never consider anything else. For some reason the rolls here are a totally different thing from any we can get at home, soft, light and perfect for real butter and homemade marmalade, they arrive fresh every morning and a steady stream of people leaving with a bag of rolls for there breakfast and a newspaper, turn up too late and you go without! Serve them with a mug of tea and you have the perfect start to the day!
Then there’s the fish and chip shop, how different could that be? Very. No, I’m not talking deep fried Mars bars or pizza slices, I’m sure that’s only for the tourists – at least I hope so. No, it’s the fish, not only is it as fresh as you can get, but you are given the choice of battered or breaded, at home we can have a choice of fish, but always in batter. Here it is only haddock, but you can choose the coating, for me this is much the better option, but then I’m not that keen on batter, oh, and obviously being on the coast you want to eat fish whenever the opportunity arises!
We also ventured to the new V&A museum in Dundee, we had seen it going up on previous visits and I so wanted to enjoy it, but sad to say it felt a little bit of a let down. Outside was quite impressive, but the inside already felt tired and as though it had seen better days. There were two exhibitions, one free one, which felt a little disjointed, and a second one which you needed to pay for, but which we had already seen in the V&A in London. There were a couple of hands on activities, but not enough to keep a child, let alone a couple of adults interested for very long.
Next time I will stick to the Discovery, the Dundee Science Centre or HMS Unicorn, at least they will have a lot more to look at and enjoy. At least we had fun spotting the Oor Wullie statues, all decorated differently and dotted about the area, just waiting to be found.
With all the enthusiasm of two weeks off work we packed up the car with just about everything but the kitchen sink. Two bikes on the back, tent and basic camping equipment and normal holiday bits and bobs. There was even a little bit of room for two adults and a teenager. First mistake, we didn’t set off as earlier as we might usually manage, which meant we hit every little bit of traffic and therefore had the longest of journeys, not arriving until almost 11pm.
The bright side to a late arrival would be the chance to see the new road bridge at night….
No matter, we were here. The shoulders relax, the brain unwinds and we are back in Crail, a home from home. Up to our attic rooms and a good nights sleep and a whole week to look forward to.
Day one and we start with a walk around Roome Bay before I go back for my breakfast, the only time I ever have bread rolls for breakfast is when in Scotland, for some reason they are so much better than any we get round where we live. Number one boy is desperate to find out if the rope swing is still in place in Denburn Woods and I finally give in and let him go to find out, with the proviso to look, but don’t swing. Over protective mum I know, but that’s my job!!
All good, ropes swing is there and boy back in one piece. Then both grown up and teenage boy decide to go on a bike ride, not a long one, just to open up the lungs to the fresh sea air and blow away the cobwebs, although why there would be cobwebs in their lungs heaven only knows!
A wee while later and hubby arrives back, not too bad shape, but minus the boy. No problem, he’s down at the woods playing on the rope swing!! Doh! Ah well, what could possibly go wrong?! A short while later, sat at the dining room table I spot said boy coming up the path, jokingly I tell the others he is back and walking, so all good, he’s in one piece…. As he comes in I call out to ask if he’s okay, ‘not really’ is the response – oh sod!
First thing to strike me was he was filthy, well that’s okay, boys are washable. Then I see the blood on his face, right by his eye, not a good sign. A quick hose down in the shower so we can see what we are looking at and he has managed a cut by his eye, grazed face, arm, knees, a sore wrist and broken glasses – not bad going!
The cut by the eye is quite open, so a quick photo and hubby is sent to the local chemist for supplies and advice – soon to return with saline solution and steri strips to clean and close the cut. Cleaned up and the only real concern was potential concussion and his wrist, so off we go to St Andrews and the wee hospital there.
Fortunately we had an idea where it was, as the signposting was rather conspicuous by its absence, then when we got closer there were signs stating there was no A&E, but there was a Minor Injuries Unit – that’s fine, he is still a minor and he has injuries, so in we go. Of course the boy dared me to say as much to the receptionist and being a grown up, responsible individual I did – ‘I have a minor, he’s been injured, where should I take him?’
Very impressed with how quickly he was seen, taken for an x-ray and then cleaned up, given a splint and sent on his way – my butterfly stitches were deemed good enough to not require removing and reapplying, his knees and face were scrubbed again and a splint applied to his wrist as it was confirmed he has fractured his distal radius. Glad to escape without a plaster cast we made a break for freedom and to the town centre to get his glasses fixed. It would appear that he had a screw loose, so loose it fell out of his glasses and the leg fell off. Thankfully this was a quick fix and meant we were able to get a medicinal application of Jannetta’s ice cream organised before returning back to Crail!
Lesson learned? Maybe, maybe not, we’ll see. In the meantime we are counting our blessings; no serious injury, no plaster cast, glasses were easily repaired and sense of humour was definitely left intact – that’s my boy!!