A much needed holiday. My lovely wife, Helen, and our silly pooch, Nelly, are staying in a lovely little cottage in Wigtown. Scotland’s book Town.

Less than three hours from Lancaster, we passed the Devil’s Poridge Exhibition on the way. The aforementioned exhibition is all about the largest munitions factory in the world, which made cordite during World War I. Huge vats of lumpy grey cordite were mixed by thousands of women, and was given the name, the Devil’s Poridge by Arthur Conan Doyle.

When we arrived in Wigtown we realised that the spring festival was on. We booked tickets for a talk about the Scottish persecution of witches, and the ongoing battle to have them pardoned. Really interesting.

We went for a walk with Nelly and the stone where a “witch” was tied to and allowed to drown as the tide came in.

We walked through the graveyard and the ruins of an 8th century church. It felt like the start of a horror film, grey skies, ruined church in an old churchyard with crows squawking noisily.

There was a tent in the main square for a charity blind date with a difference. Books wrapped in paper with a cryptic description. Make a donation and take home a random book. I unwrapped my “date” to find The Lightkeeper’s Daughter by Jean Pendziwol.

We perused The Bookshop, Scotland’s largest second hand bookshop, owned and run by Shaun Bythell, who has written a number of humorous books about his life running a second hand bookshop.

This morning it is raining heavily. A short walk with Nelly, bookshops, cake and coffee sounds like a good relaxing day to me.

Offspring by Jack Ketchum

If you’re a fan of horror novels, you might have heard of Jack Ketchum. He was an American horror fiction writer born in 1946 and passed away in 2018. Ketchum has written several novels, including The Girl Next Door, The Lost, and Off Season. Offspring, published in 1991, is a sequel to Off Season, which was released in 1980.

Offspring continues the story of the feral cannibals introduced in Off Season. The book follows a family who vacation in a remote island off the coast of Maine. The family soon finds themselves hunted by a group of savage cannibalistic humans who have lived on the island for generations. The family must fight to survive against the brutal attacks of the cannibals.

Ketchum’s writing style is graphic and visceral, making the reader feel the terror of the characters. I would say that his style is similar to Richard Laymon. The pacing of the story is fast and intense, keeping the reader engaged and on edge throughout the book. The characters are mostly well-developed, and the relationships between them are explored in-depth.

One of the most significant strengths of Offspring is its ability to evoke a sense of primal fear. Ketchum successfully creates a world where the rules of civilization no longer apply, and the reader is left to confront their most basic instincts. The book does not shy away from graphic violence and gore, but it’s not just gratuitous; it serves a purpose in advancing the story and enhancing the horror.

However, there are a few negatives to the book. Some of the scenes in Offspring are hard to stomach and might not be suitable for all readers. The story also lacks a clear resolution, leaving some loose ends untied. While this is understandable in a horror novel, it might leave some readers feeling unsatisfied.

Overall, I would give Offspring a score of three out of five. The book is not for the faint of heart, but it delivers on its promise of horror. In conclusion, Offspring is a worthy addition to the horror genre and a solid entry in Jack Ketchum’s bibliography. While it may not be a perfect novel, it succeeds in delivering a visceral and terrifying story that will leave readers on the edge of their seats.

Lancaster Parkrun Via AI

It seems these days you can’t open a newspaper App with stumbling across something or other all about AI, or Artificial Intelligence. ChatGPT is the most well known, part owned by Microsoft, but all of the big tech firms are introducing them, including the mighty Google.

Anyway, I decided to have a play with ChatGPT and see what an article describing Lancaster parkrun and parkun in general, written by AI would look like. It was an interesting experiment, and on the whole the results weren’t too bad, although the AI article did suggest that Lancaster parkrun ascends Pepper Pot Tower, which it doesn’t. Pepper Pot is located in Silverdale a few miles north of Lancaster.

Below is most of the AI written article. I have edited it, corrected it and hopefully made it more readable, one of the oft written negatives about AI. On the whole, I was very impressed. More importantly, can I somehow convince AI to write my work reports?

AI Article

Parkrun is a global phenomenon that has taken the UK by storm in recent years. It’s a free, weekly 5km timed run that takes place in parks and open spaces across the country, bringing people of all ages and abilities together to enjoy exercise and community spirit. One of the most popular parkruns in the UK is Lancaster parkrun, located in the picturesque Williamson Park in the North West of England.

Williamson Park is a stunning 54-acre green space that boasts sweeping views of Lancaster and Morecambe Bay. It’s the perfect setting for a 5km run, with a mix of flat and hilly terrain that provides a challenging yet rewarding course for participants. Lancaster parkrun takes place every Saturday at 9 am, with runners and walkers of all abilities gathering at the start line to begin their weekly 5km journey.

The parkrun ethos is all about inclusivity and community, with participants encouraged to take part at their own pace and support one another along the way. This is reflected in the friendly and welcoming atmosphere at Lancaster parkrun, where volunteers and regular runners alike are always on hand to offer words of encouragement and support.

One of the things that sets Lancaster parkrun apart is the stunning scenery that surrounds the course. The route takes runners through the park’s beautiful gardens and woodland, past the Ashton Memorial and up the steep incline of Fenham Carr. From the top of the Memorial, runners can take in panoramic views of Lancaster and the surrounding countryside, making for a truly unforgettable parkrun experience.

Of course, parkrun isn’t just about the physical benefits of exercise – it’s also about the mental health benefits of being part of a community. The sense of camaraderie and support that comes with taking part in Lancaster parkrun is second to none, with participants of all ages and abilities coming together to celebrate their achievements and support one another through the ups and downs of life.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring things about Lancaster parkrun is the way in which it brings people together from all walks of life. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a complete beginner, there’s a place for you at parkrun. It’s not about being the fastest or fittest – it’s about showing up, taking part and enjoying the sense of community that comes with being part of something bigger than yourself.

In conclusion, Lancaster parkrun is a shining example of the positive impact that community exercise initiatives can have on people’s lives. From the stunning scenery to the supportive atmosphere, there are so many reasons to take part in this weekly event. Whether you’re looking to improve your fitness, meet new people or simply enjoy a beautiful run in the great outdoors, Lancaster parkrun has something for everyone. So why not lace up your trainers, head down to Williamson Park on a Saturday morning and discover the joys of parkrun for yourself?

Before and After by Andrew Shanahan

Once again I’ve been slack with writing reviews of the books that I’ve read, with over 30 not yet reviewed. For this reason, my reviews might be even shorter than they usually are.

Before and After, and Flesh and Blood, are a two book series written by an author who I had never heard of before. I stumbled upon a list of ten post-apocalypse books from less well known authors, and this was one of them.

Ben Stone, the main character, is house bound. He’s always been a large person, but due to a series of circumstances, including the death of his mother, he ends up almost eating himself to death, resulting in him weighing 600lbs (or 42 stone). He hasn’t left his third floor flat for three years. His health has deteriorated and he needs emergency surgery. This involves removing the outside wall of his flat, a crane, firemen and specialist paramedics. Ben is strapped to a stretcher ready to be lifted out of his flat when something happens. We don’t really know what it is that has happened, as the whole book is written from Ben’s perspective. Sirens go off and all of the emergency personnel rush off, leaving Ben strapped to the stretcher.

One man is left behind in the flat with Ben. He becomes violent and tries to kill Ben.

The book has alternating chapters, with one set in the present and the next set in Ben’s past. Each chapter lists Ben’s weight, gradually going up as the past chapters reach the present, and the weight going down in the present chapters as Ben loses weight.

The violent tendencies of the infected people is never truly explained, or why Ben isn’t infected seeing as it appears that everyone else in the whole world is infected. What is the waking slumber that the infected exhibit, which allows them to remain alive even though they don’t appear to be eating or drinking anything. Why do they hate the uninfected?

Eventually, Ben realises that he has no option but to leave the flat, which in a roundabout kind of way, is when the second book begins. Ben needs medicine, which means he has to somehow get to one of the large hospitals in the city. There is a twist, which is revealed early on in the book, which I won’t give away, but slowly some of the questions from the first book are answered.

I gave both books four out of five, which is a little generous, but three stars would have been harsh.

Four More Wainwright’s

Another Sunday and another adventure with my lovely wife, Helen, although this particular adventure was back in February. I haven’t found the time to write about it, even though it was bordering on epic.

We drove over the top of Kirkstone Pass and parked in the small hamlet of Hartsop. Our walk headed almost directly up as we climbed towards the summit of Hartsop Dodd. We climbed 400m in the space of less than a mile. Even Nelly thought that the first climb went on a bit too long.

From the summit there was a small downhill section before a long gentle climb into the clouds to reach the top of Caudale Moor, which is also known as Stony Cove Pike, depending on which guide book or map you’re looking at.

From there we had a short steep scramble down before a short steep climb up to the top of Thornthwaite Crag. We bumped into three hikers who were doing exactly the same route as us, but in the other direction. (We all walked into the carpark at the end at the same time.)

By this time the clouds were really low, with visibility down to not very much, although it was easy to know when we’d reached the top.

It was an easy and gentle slope down as we walked towards our fourth and final Wainwright of the day, Gray Crag. As we descended we left the clouds behind, giving us a stunning view through the valley and across the southern tip of Ullswater.

The final descent was almost as steep as our first climb, but this time the wind had picked up, nearly blowing us over a couple of times. A little lower down the path became quite wet and I managed to slip onto my bum, sliding a few meters down the hill dragging Nelly with me, much to the amusement of Helen. With my back, bum and legs covered in mud we made our way back to the car with Helen chuckling most of the way. I even went into Tesco on the way home looking like that to buy a chicken and some roast potatoes.

The full route took us four hours, even though it was only a little bit over six miles. In better conditions it is probably one of the best walks in the Lakes, and one where there probably won’t be too many other people. The carpark isn’t very large so I would suggest getting there early.

Raven Crag, High Tove and Armboth Fell

Our adventuring has been lacking in the past few weeks. Both me and my lovely wife, Helen, needed a day out. Wainwright bagging it is then.

I looked at our Wainwright map while Helen opened Wikiloc. A suitable route was found starting from Thirlmere Reservoir. There is currently work being carried out on the dam, which means that it isn’t open to vehicular traffic. I ignored the warning sign and we parked in a small layby close to the dam.

It really is amazing that it was built so many years ago simply to supply water to Manchester.

The original water pipe passes close by Lancaster at the base of Clougha Pike.

We crossed over the dam and found the footpath that would take us up to our first of three Wainwrights. It was a steep path, twisting and turning, finishing at a deer fence. There followed a short out and back section to the top of Raven Crag. It is difficult to put into words how extraordinary the top of the crag was. A wooden platform had been built with views across Thirlmere and to the larger forbidding Helvellyn range of fells.

Early in the morning on a fairly bleak day there were still at least a dozen other walkers making their way either up or down the flight of steps to the summit. I expect that it is one of the more popular fells in the summer.

We made our way around the back of the fell along a forrestry track, before turning off towards High Seat, a Wainwright that we’d climbed back in December. With High Seat looking down on us we tramped across some very boggy fell to reach High Tove. It was a little disappointing, mostly because the clouds were blocking most of the view. I bet on a clear day it is amazing.

We dropped down and across more boggy fell towards our final Wainwright of the day, Armboth Fell. It was another fairly low lying fell.

From here the route, as expected, headed down, slowly dropping below the clouds.

The last mile of the route was along the banks of the reservoir, which allowed us to let Nelly off the lead for a scamper. We can’t risk letting her off on the fells as we don’t know where she might go. It is the way of the Pointer.

Back at the car and my feet were soaked. I definitely need to purchase a new pair of walking boots.

Another fantastic little adventure with my adventure family. Love my life,

Heaton Park parkrun

Last week I ticked off my NENDY of Myrtle parkrun, which gave me a new NENDY of Heaton Park in Manchester. We needed some new garden furniture and the only sort we’d seen that we liked was only available at IKEA. Not my ideal day out, but it did mean that I could run at Heaton Park before battling IKEA hell.

I arrived at the very large car park nice and early, which allowed me time to take a few photos beforehand.

Apparently, Heaton Park is the largest park in the north west, covering an area of over 600 acres. The park includes Heaton Hall and a golf course. The whole park was sold to Manchester City Council in 1902.

It also has a disused tram line, as seen below.

I walked around and familiarised myself with where the start/finish was, as well as café corner and a large adventure play area.

I have no idea what this huge edifice is. For all I know it could be a disguised water tower.

Back at the start and I attended to tourist and new comers briefing. The course involved a small lap to begin with and then a larger lap. Not too difficult. The paths were nice and wide, and even though it was busy, there was plenty of room. The Manchester marathon was taking part the next day, hence why it was busier than usual.

I set off with the 22 minute pacer, but soon left him behind as I chased a man pushing a baby jogger, complete with small child, probably his.

There was one climb on each lap, nicknamed Angina Hill. It wasn’t as bad as the hill at Myrtle or at Lancaster. The route went past the front of the Hall before winding around on end of the golf course. It was then downhill all the way back to the lake.

I was incredibly pleased with my finishing time of 21:09, especially as I didn’t feel as if I was pushing it as hard as the previous week. I finished in 37th position overall, 25th male and 3rd in my age-group, out of a field of 768 finishers. I’m fairly sure that the only larger parkrun that I’ve done would be a trip to Bushy Park. It turned out that it was the fifth largest UK parkrun that week. My new 5k App (read about it here) also told me that I progressed three different challenges, Cowell Club, Freyne Club and Date Bingo.

My new NENDY is now Croxteth Hall parkrun on the outskirts of Liverpool.

As a bonus, the new garden furniture looks amazing. We now need a matching table!

5K App

I’ve written about the Chrome Extension Running Challenges a few times. The extension adds loads of interesting statistics for all of your parkrun fun (read about it here). Yesterday I stumbled upon an App which has most of the same stats as Running Challenges, but also has a load more as well. The App is simply named 5K.

Once downloaded it will ask for your unique parkrun barcode number, and then a whole new load of stats are opened up for you. I won’t go into them all in detail, however, the App is very easy to navigate.

The main screen lists most of the stats available from Running Challenges, although the Wilson Index includes a Floating value as well. There is a map with all of the different parkruns you’ve done ticked off, however, this isn’t anything like as good as the one in Running Challenges. It does include a link to your closest 50 NENDY’s. My nearest five events that I’ve not done yet are, Heaton Park, Croxteth Hall, Roberts Park, Chadderton Hall and Whitehaven.

The App includes a short summary of each parkrun that you’ve done, with the most recent first, along with how many achievements or challenges you progressed that week. For example, Philips Park, which I did two weeks ago, gave me 5 achievements, Cowell Club, Freyne Club, Date Bingo, Fibonacci and Primes.

To tick off the Cowell Club you need to complete 100 different parkruns. The Freyne Club is more 250 different events. Date Bingo is every day of the year. I’m currently at 42%. I have 43% of the Fibonacci challenge and 18% of the Prime numbers. There is also a position bingo (70%) where you need the finishing position from 00 to 99. This isn’t weighted towards the faster runners, as finishing in position 101st or 201st gains the 01 position.

Anyway, I’m having a lot of fun with the 5K App. If you are a fan of parkrun and like a few extra stats, then I would whole heartedly recommend it. I’ll probably discuss it many times in the future.

Myrtle Parkrun

Myrtle parkrun has been my Nearest Event Not Done Yet (NENDY) for a few months. The reason I’ve not ticked it off is mostly because it is located in an area that isn’t particularly easy to reach from Lancaster. Myrtle Park is in Bingley, close to Bradford, which despite being less than 40 miles as the crow flies, takes almost 90 minutes to drive.

Yesterday I set off early and ignored the Sat Nav when it wanted me to drive south down the M6 and M65, instead opting for driving cross country through Gargrave and Skipton. I found the suggested car park without any problem, although the machine ate my pound coins. Annoyed, I drove out of the car park to look for alternatives. Adjacent to Myrtle Park was a Lidl, which allowed people to park for 90 minutes. I definitely wasn’t the only parkrunner to be using this car park.

As I was a little early I ran down Bradford Road to Cottingley Bridge over the River Aire, which obtained a new Veloviewer tile and added to my Explorer score and my Maximum Cluster score.

After my short warmup I took a quick photo of the bandstand where the finish was located. There are paths surrounding it, although they can’t been seen from the funny angle I took the photo.

I run director explained the course, which involved four laps of the small park, with a short and steep climb, along with a few tight turns. There were a few milestones and other runners from all over the place, including someone from Devon.

I lined up close to the front for the start as the paths were narrow and I didn’t want to be blocked in. The route immediately headed down the steep hill and onto a grass section. Note, if there has been a lot of rain, trail shoes might be a good option. Around the grass section and back onto the paved paths as the route climbed up, twisting and turning until we ran past the bandstand for the first time. The fourth time I would peel off to the finish line.

As with all multi-lap parkruns I was soon lapping people, although despite how small the park was, there always appeared to be plenty of space, almost the complete opposite of Fulham Palace parkrun a few weeks earlier.

By the fourth and final lap my legs had had enough of the short steep climb and I gratefully crossed the finish line. Amazingly, I finished in a time of 21:08, my fastest parkrun so far this year. I was 16th overall and 3rd in my age group out of a field of 162, almost 40 runners more than the average attendance.

Another friendly parkrun ticked off with my new NENDY being Heaton Park in north Manchester, which will be far quicker to drive to.

Finally, I downloaded a new App for my phone called 5k, which has loads of parkrun run stats, much like the Chrome extension Running Challenges. I will undoubtedly review it at some point in the future.