Alexandra parkrun

Continuing our streak of tourist parkruns, we headed into Manchester for the very flat and fast Alexandra parkrun. Why would we drive all that way when there are still plenty of closer parkruns to Lancaster that we haven’t done yet? To celebrate our wedding anniversary I had purchased for my lovely Helen a two hour pottery session/lesson with one of the finalists of the Pottery Throwdown. Matt Cronshaw used to be a professional cyclist from Lancaster, before taking up pottery and then specialising in porcelain, which Helen had never worked with.

I’m getting ahead of myself. We arrived outside the pottery studio without too much trouble, only one wrong turn. We had 20 minutes to run the one mile to the start of the parkrun, which we made with time to spare, marvelling at how nice Alexandra park was. Not the greatest of areas, but definitely not as bad as it would have been 20 or 30 years ago. There was quite a large field (almost 300 people) and we lined up at the back with Nelly, although once again she was keen. The route involved two large laps with one smaller lap to finish. Wide paths and no mud made a welcome change from Rothay two weeks ago and Pendle last week. At the end of the first lap one of the marshalls told us that Nelly was first dog, not bad for an old girl. We pushed on and finished in 62nd place in a time of 22:48. Happy with that as I didn’t feel as if we’d pushed it too hard.

After barcode scanning we spotted Helen starting her small third lap. I tried to get a photo of Nell with Helen in the background, but she wasn’t paying attention.

Once Helen had finished we made our way back through the park to the pottery studio, just as Matt was arriving, he even recognised me from Lancaster. Ten years ago there wasn’t too many people from the area on Strava so we all kind of got to know each other, even though he was way too fast for me to ever ride with him.

Helen quickly pulled on her pottery overalls for her lesson while me and Nelly headed off for a gentle walk to find a cafe with coffee and cake. Not only did we find coffee and cake for me, but the cafe was in a park with pigeons and squirrels for Nelly to chase. Perfect for both of us. We then wandered back, meeting a mad (in a good way) old woman who just loved Nelly.

Back at the studio and Helen was busy finishing off a large bowl, which looked amazing, while I chatted to Matt about cycling and running (he’d recently done the Manchester marathon). In the back yard I spotted one of his creations from TV, his tea cup toilet with handle.

Matt was saying that he doesn’t really know what to do with it. However my sister suggested filling it with flowers, which is probably the best idea.

Anyway, Helen was as happy as can be and was absolutely buzzing all the way home, telling me how much she’d learned and that she can’t wait to try it all out at home. The three pieces she made will be fired and glazed by Matt, and then will be sent to us. Apparently porcelain is much harder to work with than regular clay, and Helen took to it like she’d been doing it for years. She is totally amazing, and I’ve not even mentioned Archie the pufferfish that she made earlier in the week. Pottery pictures will follow soon.

St Patrick’s Chapel

On the coast just south of Morecambe lies Heysham Village. A couple of days ago me and my lovely wife went for a walk there, not to the nuclear power station or even the Isle of Man ferry. Instead we took our silly old pointer for a run along the beach and to have a look at St Patrick’s Chapel. Before we reached it we had to pass the 8th century St peter’s church. With views across the Bay and towards the fells you can imagine how popular it is for weddings.

We continued on past the church and came to the derelict chapel.

Most famously are the small stone cut graves, as featured on Black Sabbath’s best of album cover.

It is unlikely that the graves would have been used for the recently deceased, although archaeologists still don’t really know who or why the chapel was built, or what the purpose was. Definitely one spot in the north west you should visit.

Marlborough parkrun

Back in October I spent a week in Salisbury, and not wanting to be away from my lovely wife any longer than was necessary, I decided to set off nice and early on a Saturday morning, stopping off in Marlborough on the way home. In the end the M5 was closed and after over an hour sat on the motorway not moving I had to take a long detour, eventually getting home over two hours later than I had planned, but these things happen.

Marlborough parkrun is relatively new with less than 100 events, and it does a couple of laps of the fairly small Marlborough Common.

The day I was there wasn’t particularly pleasant so there was less than 100 hardy souls. Additionally it was completely on grass, wet grass, so once again running in road shoes wasn’t ideal. I set off nice and easy and slowly found my running legs, finishing in 12th place.

While this is a parkrun that I don’t expect that I’ll ever run again, the marshalls and volunteers were incredibly cheerful, even in the pouring rain.

Anyway, once my barcode had been scanned and I was in the car once again, I had expected to be home just after lunch, not just before tea.

Pendle parkrun

Another Saturday morning and another tourist parkrun. This time all the way to Colne for Pendle parkrun, so called because on a normal day you can see Pendle hill. Today, however, it was wet and cloudy, in fact it was horrendously wet; an utter mudfest. Driving there wasn’t much fun either, and once we got there, like almost everyone else, we sat in our cars looking at the start.

I took Nelly out for a quick walk (and a poo) and then we hurried back into the car.

With only a couple of minutes to go we escaped the warm and dry car and congregated at the start. Due to the cold weather, there was still some ice on the paths, we were going to be running the alternative route, which was entirely on grass. Guess which idiot decided to only bring his road shoes!

Anyway, the first 100m was all down hill and guess who nearly fell over half a dozen times! The route was a slog. Trail shoes were slightly better, although what you really needed was 15mm cross country spikes. In such poor conditions I waited for my lovely Helen and ran with her, although when Nelly stopped for an inopportune poo, she left us!

We finished in 30th and 31st places, out of a field of only 49. Definitely one of the smallest parkruns we’ve ever done. Not the most exciting parkrun, but for me, a tourist parkrun on a Saturday morning is one of the best ways to start the weekend.

1500 Strava Challenges

I’m still at it, completing as many random Strava challenges as I can. This morning saw me finish another two, taking me to the incredible 1500! Not a lot else to say really. I haven’t been completing as many cycling challenges recently due to changing jobs, but I’m enjoying my running as much now as I ever have, especially when my lovely Helen comes with me. We’re currently training for a half marathon in March in Anglesey. It will also be Helen’s birthday so we’re making a weekend of it. Really looking forward to it.

Anyway, you can find my blog about 1000 challenges here, which also includes links to my other numerical challenge blogs.

Hyndburn parkrun

Last week before Christmas and I was once again in the mood for a tourist parkrun. Witton parkrun was on a six week winter break, so I decided to take Nelly for a run near her home. Hyndburn parkrun is only a couple of miles from Accrington where her breeder is based. It was just the two of us as my lovely wife Helen was feeling a bit tired.

We arrived with plenty of time and had a little look around, and then before we knew it, it was time to line up at the start. Narrow paths once again so we didn’t start at the complete back. The route was an undulating two lap affair, although not as hilly as Lancaster. There was also a short two way section, fortunately a little wider than at Rothay (read about it here). With less than 100 runners we were soon nicely spread out. Me and Nelly soon overtook another dog, whose owner took umbridge and definitely didn’t want to be beaten by an old pointer and her Santa lookalike.

Second lap and we settled into a nice pace, overtaking a couple of runners and being overtaken by a couple of others. The finish involved a tight corner, and we were amazed to see that we’d finished in 13th place, although Nelly was 3rd dog.

Barcode scanned and back to the car. The journey back was even better as I heard my favourite Christmas song on the radio, Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie. I then spotted two Stobbart lorries on the motorway, Lisa and Azaylia Diamond Cain.

Book Review: Billy Summers by Stephen King

I’ve not done may book reviews recently, not because I haven’t been reading but because I’ve been busy. I probably have a back log over over 20 books which I haven’t reviewed.

Anyway, this book was a post Christmas present from my lovely wife, Helen. It was half price at Waterstones so too good a bargain not to pick up.

To the book, spoilers. A hit man with a conscience, he only kills ‘bad’ people, takes on one last job. The money is too good to turn down, but he smells a set up. He duly is set up, so he finds the man who employed him, who was a middle man. He then finds the ultimate boss. Along the way there are a couple of twists and turns, and most of the supporting characters in the first half don’t appear again, and a new character does appear.

I enjoyed this book, but as I neared the end I realised that it was nothing new, it didn’t add anything to the hit man genre, and that if you or I had written this, it is unlikely that it would have been published. Mr King is a very accomplished author, but this book deserves to be a 99p Kindle give-away. Very disappointing. If you’re looking for a good thriller, ignore Billy Summers and instead search out some of Steve Cavanagh’s books (read my reviews here).

Fairy Steps of Beetham

Last day of the holidays for me, so my lovely wife, Helen, forced me out of bed to go for a walk, and what a brilliant little walk it was. We set off from the village of Beetham, just over the border in Cumbria, through a muddy field and into some woods. Nelly was a little wayward, but she wasn’t too bad so we let her stay off the lead. After about a mile we came to what is known as the fairy steps, a small narrow set of steps carved into the rock.

The flight isn’t very long, but they are narrow and slippery in the wet. At the bottom we did a little loop back around on ourselves and did them again. Legend has it that if you can ascend or descend the steps without touching the sides the fairies will grant you a wish. You can find out more about the steps here.

From here Nelly lost her little brain; too many birds to chase, so she was put back on the lead, much to her annoyance. They say that Pointers calm down once they reach 5. Nelly is now 11!

I had never been here before, although Helen had, so me and Nelly followed as she lead us through fields and woods. One field was particularly muddy, with ankle deep water, but it wasn’t cold. A couple of miles further and we found ourselves heading back to the fairy steps once again. All footpaths lead to the fairy steps.

We took a different footpath back into Beetham, passing a small shrine to St Lioba. The Saxon church in the village does look amazing.

Back at the car and the only sensible thing to do was head to Beetham Nursery for coffee and bacon butties.

If you’re ever in the area I would recommend this little walk, or as a run. We only did 4 miles and our route can be found here.

Pointers at parkrun

Lytham Hall parkrun has been my NENDY since before the very first lockdown (Nearest Event Not Done Yet), so with a free Saturday we jumped in the car and headed off to Lytham St Annes, the posh area of Blackpool. Lytham Hall is a large private estate and house that has a cafe and shop, as well as hosting weddings and such like. They were also hosting a Christmas day dinner with The Nolans. There is a car park on site, but you have to wait until everyone has finished running before you can leave, so we parked in a large (free) car park next to the gate house and walked the 1km to the start.

As we neared the start we could see a man struggling to hold onto a large boisterous black and white dog. Helen, my lovely wife, looked at me and said that looks like a pointer. The mannerisms were exactly the same as Nelly. We were spotted by the owner, John, who immediately chatted to us about pointers, while Nelly and Fred also said hello. Fred was a big lad in his prime at 4 years old, looking incredibly fit. John wasn’t from the area, but had purchased Fred from the same breeder that Helen had got Nell from. Hursted Pointers from Accrington breed their dogs for their strength, health and good temperament, and don’t worry about winning prizes at Crufts. They need a huge amount of exercise, but they are brilliant dogs. John also asked if Witchcraft Bob was Nelly’s father, which he was. Apparently Bob was a legend among Pointers.

Anyway, Lytham Hall parkrun was two and a half laps around the grounds. We set off at the back, while John and Fred were nearer the front and soon disappeared. Nelly was once again keen and all I could do was hang on as we overtook people. With about 1 lap to go we caught up with Fred and John and showed them a clean pair of paws, finishing in 14th place overall with Nelly as first dog.

We chatted at the finish with John and we also now follow him on Strava (standard).

Another great morning out and my NENDY now is Witton, although they are having a 6 week break over Christmas and New Year, so it might be towards the end of January before I tick that particular parkrun off.

New Year’s Day in Ambleside

We’d tried to have an early night on New Year’s Eve, but our pointer was completely stressed out with all of the fireworks. Fortunately they stopped soon after midnight and we could all eventually get to sleep.

Despite all that, we were up before dawn and headed up to Ambleside for Rothay parkrun. It is only a short drive up to the heart of the Lakes and we were there with 30 minutes to spare, which should have given us plenty of time to find some toilets. They were all locked up tight, both in Rothay park and in the town centre. Everyone therefore finds a handy tree, which can’t really be the best option.

Anyway, there were over a hundred parkrunners, with a few dogs and a couple of baby joggers. This was only the 25th parkrun in Rothay so it is still relatively new. They’ve had to cancel a few events due to flooding or trees down in the park, as well as Covid. There aren’t too many parkruns in the Lake District, so it is a welcome addition.

We set off near the back as I was running with Nelly, although she was keen, pulling like a dog half her age. The paths through the park were fairly narrow, so overtaking was very difficult. To make it even more difficult, there was a short section which we had to do in both directions. Not ideal, but you do the best you can.

The winner overtook us when we still had one lap to do, proper fast. Not an easy park to run fast, especially with Nelly, but we all enjoyed it and the marshalls were all very friendly as well. Possibly not one for dogs if you’re thinking of going there.

Once we’d all finished running we set off for a little walk through Ambleside and up the first part of The Struggle, a notoriously steep hill. We turned off the road and walked up Sweden Bridge Lane, which was a very enjoyable track through some woods alongside a stream.

On the way out we didn’t see a single person, and Nelly could have a good scamper off the lead. She also ‘found’ Sweden Bridge first.

The bridge is part of an ancient packhorse route, although mainly used by walkers nowadays. Our route then took us back towards Ambleside with some amazing views of Lake Windermere.

Before we knew it we were back in Ambleside. The town was buzzing, making a complete change from a couple of hours earlier. We decided not to hang about and we were home by midday. An absolutely fantastic start to the year with my beautiful wife, Helen, and our silly old pointer.

More adventures this year please!