Friday 12 November 2021

Frugal Friday…

 So having reassured you last week that you’re not going to end up sitting in the dark, shivering (unless you want to!) the next thing is clearly to deal with the escalating energy prices we’re (almost) all facing at the moment. 

I’m pretty sure I’ve dealt with energy saving ideas before on here - but I’m deliberately not looking back to see what I’ve said before as hopefully there might be some new ideas to come. Surely I must have learned SOME different stuff in the past few years, no? 

I know my energy bills are increasing at the moment - we lost our lovely gas “zero standing charge” tariff earlier in the year, and are now paying more than three times as much for our tiny gas usage. As prices increased our previous electricity supplier decided to boost their cashflow by fabricating a need to increase our direct debits to an amount which would have left us literally hundreds of pounds in credit even at the end of the winter period (which is not what’s meant to happen) - they couldn’t justify it, but nobody we spoke to was able to over-rule the system and get it dropped back down,  so we opted to depart and go onto a standard variable tariff with a new provider. 

We’ve established that prices are increasing, and that unusually there is nothing you can do at source to reduce the impact, so instead what can we do to reduce costs by reducing the amount of power we use? Well some stuff is obvious and talked about everywhere - turn off lights when you leave a room, don’t leave tech on standby, turn the thermostat down a degree, and only boil the amount of water you actually need in the kettle. 

If you’re on Economy 7 electricity you have a great route to really reduce your costs without actually even reducing your use - simply by using more during the cheap overnight period. We almost only use our dishwasher and washing machine overnight, and usually run the dehumidifier overnight too. The hot water and the heating are already set to operate in the cheap period of course. Learning exactly how it works, when your time periods are, and setting storage heaters correctly all also help you get the most bang for your buck on E7. For anyone on E7 particularly with an immersion heater for hot water, and an electric shower, consider using the hot water already in the tank for a bath before bed rather than showering when you get up - electric showers are a devil for power use and it will cost less to reheat a full immersion tank on the cheap rate. If you have a gas boiler that deals with hot water and are still using an electric shower, consider having a mixer tap shower fitted instead - it will probably earn it’s money back in relatively short order at the moment. 

Want some free heating? Well next time you get up in the morning and find the sun streaming in, throw those curtains wide open and get the benefit! On chilly days, for unused rooms that don’t get any sun though, you’re better leaving curtains or blinds drawn to help retain more heat. On the subject of curtains, think about lining any lighter weight or unlined ones too. That doesn’t need to be purpose-made expensive linings either - something as simple as a cheap fleece blanket tacked in will do the job brilliantly. If you have a draughty external door then scour charity shops for a long curtain and hang that in front of it - and make a “sausage dog” draught excluder to keep the wind from whistling in underneath (this can be as simple as an old bath towel, rolled up and secured with a couple of elastic bands). And once it gets dark, get those curtains pulled - helps prevent heat loss and just gives a room a warmer feel, too. 

More ideas: If you’re a coffee drinker, boil a full kettle of hot water for your first cup of the day, and transfer the excess to a flask - you can then use that to make subsequent drinks. For tea, you can transfer the right amount back to the kettle for a far quicker boil - although I know tea purists are wincing at that one! If you’re a frequent tea drinker then pour the cold water for your next cuppa straight into the kettle while it’s still hot - it should mean some of the work of heating it has been done for you when you come to boil it next.  Lighting a few candles can give both additional light and a little extra heat - and who doesn’t love the glow of a candle or two? (Or indeed four…for added comedy value). Batch cooking for course - don’t make one dinner’s worth of bolognese sauce or chilli, double or even quadruple it up and freeze the extra. The added bonus there is subsequent portions give you a home made “ready meal” that can be “pinged” in a fraction of the time in the microwave.  Time AND money saving! If cooking using the oven, again try to fill it rather than just cooking one item, and once you’re finished, leave the door ajar to let the heat escape fully into the kitchen. If replacing a light fitting, or even a bulb then look for LED rather than halogen. If you’re fortunate enough to have a wood-burning or multi-fuel stove, a stove-top kettle can be used sitting in top of it to heat water for washing up or cleaning purposes.

As ever the website has a whole fund of advice on this sort of thing, and still more can be found on the forums too - just whenyou think there are no more ways possible to save a bit of gas or electric, someone pops up with a whole new idea! Indeed - if you have any favourite energy savings tips that aren’t covered here, pop them in the comments below.


Friday 5 November 2021

Frugal Friday

 Oh poor, poor neglected blog - and after all the love I showed it last year, too! There you go - this is what a return to something approaching normal life does. Again for the benefit of anyone reading later, we’re still in the Covid-19 pandemic, but with nearly 70% of the U.K. population now vaccinated, in a rather better place than we were this time last year. 

Anyhow - what better way to come back than with a Frugal Friday post (albeit belated) and what better time to write a Frugal Friday post than when the U.K. is facing an energy crisis? Electricity and gas prices have sky-rocketed over the past few months, and the myriad energy companies who were relying on clawing in customers by offering “cheap” fixes are now struggling as the wholesale price they pay have exceeded the price they are selling the energy for. We now have less than half of the energy supply companies in the market than we had this time last year as many - and even some decent sized ones - have gone bust. 

So - if your supplier bites the dust, what can you expect? Well the first thing is that there’s no need to panic, you’re not going to lose your energy supply and be left without lighting or heating!  You will be transferred to a “Supplier of Last Resort” - SoLR - yes, your prices will probably increase, but everyone’s prices have increased, so consider yourself part of a pretty big club! Your supply will continue unaffected - and credit you have on your account will be transferred to your new supplier - you won’t lose any money so don’t worry, although getting everything squared away will probably take a couple of months. Don’t cancel your Direct Debit unless you are specifically told to either - it will almost certainly be transferred to the new supplier, and continuing to pay means you won’t end up with a big bill to pay. 

So what if you’re on a fixed rate deal that’s about to end? You should fix again, pronto, right? Well, usually, no. With the price of energy as it is, currently the cheapest tariff to be on is your supplier’s standard variable tariff (SVR), as that will be set at the price cap - currently almost without exception any fixes that are being offered are hundreds of pounds mor expensive. (The exception is from a couple of small providers who are extremely likely to go bust any day - and being mid-switch to one of them when they DO go is not a great position as that almost certainly WILL hold up you seeing any account credit you build up.)

Essentially, right now we are in an unprecedented “do nothing” situation. If you’re still on a fix that started back in the summer, stay put, it’s likely to be cheaper than anything you will get now. If your fix is ending, do nothing - let yourself roll onto the variable (capped) tariff, and if you are moving into a new property, contact the existing supplier and resist all their efforts to convince you that you need to sign up to a fix! There are awful tales out there of people being told they can’t go onto the SVR and the only tariffs available are fixes - this is nonsense, and all you need to say is “no thank you” - they don’t have a choice. Remind them that they should not be treating you as a new customer - you’re not, you are simply taking over the supply already in place in your home. Pass on your opening readings as usual, make very clear you want to go onto Direct debit, and make sure that you put in meter readings monthly if you’re not on a smart meter as your use may be very different to the previous occupiers. 

Next week, with the weather now getting colder, expect a Frugal Friday post from me on things you might be able to do to save energy - even if you don’t need to do it from a financial standpoint (lucky you!) we should all be trying to reduce our energy use from an environmental point of view anyway. 


Wednesday 9 June 2021

Still standing...

 The pier at Loch Skippprt, South Uist, that is! I looked back at our past years holiday notebooks the other day - and reminded myself quite how many years this remarkable old structure had been “just” hanging in there as far as we are concerned - nearly 20 years now!

So there we are - another Hebrides trip done and dusted. We had the usual mixed weather, everything from freezing cold temperatures and howling wind through to several days warm enough for short sleeves and, for MrEH at least, shorts.  Just the one day of pouring rain thankfully - and obviously we chose a walk right round the RSPB reserve that day and got back soaked in spite of full waterproofs! Hebridean rain does have a way of driving in through any gaps or slightly less well proofed points in jackets! 

Some highlights to be found as ever in the astonishing array of wildlife, and particularly birds. Our best year ever for total sightings topping out at a quite astonishing 114 different species across the bit-over-a fortnight. Best sightings would be the largest - great views of White Tailed Eagles from a boat trip - with Nick on the Lady Anne, we’ve done his trips before and they never disappoint - through to two of the smallest - some time spent watching Red Necked Phalaropes, plus one of those oddity sightings that turns up over there from time to time in the shape of a Red-Spotted Bluethroat. 

Yes - a little brown job that’s been let loose with the poster paint, to all intents and purposes! The Hebrides is one of those places where you never really know what birds might show up - stuff gets blown off course on migration and ends up where, really, it shouldn't - the 2016 Black Billed Cuckoo is a great example of that! It certainly adds an element of excitement to things! 


Sunday 9 May 2021

Hebrides Countdown...


Not done one of these for a few years...I used to do one a week in the run up - back when I also blogged regularly while we we were up there. I love looking back at those posts now, but equally don’t feel a massive drive to go back to blogging daily while we’re there. Back when I first started doing it it was before all the cottages had WiFi, and the signal across the islands was generally still really poor, so actually finding somewhere I could post from was often an issue - there were a few cafes with WiFi that were happy for me to take a laptop in, and I knew a few spots in the right place to get a decent data signal via the 3 broadband dongle that I had - I’d load it up with enough credit ahead of the trip to allow for whatever internet we planned to use. 

So - to this year’s plans then. Did I already mention that yet again our trip across is to be affected by ferry issues? It’s hardly unexpected these days - with an ageing CalMac fleet usually to blame, this time round it is the turn of one of the newer vessels to have suffered a catastrophic engine failure (that is Calmac’s wording, too!) taking it off the Ullapool > Stornoway run and into dry dock. But how does that affect us? I hear you ask....! Well....*takes a deep breath* this means that the MV Isle of Lewis - the boat that usually serves Barra (confused yet?) has been returned to her old route serving, possibly not unexpectedly, the Isle of Lewis. With no spare boat available, this in turn means that dear old MV Lord of the Isles now not only has to serve South Uist (our crossing of choice going over) but also needs to visit Barra on the way - this means a change of departure port from Mallaig to Oban (not altogether bad as Oban is a lot closer than Mallaig) but also a change of time to three hours earlier - and yes, you’ve guessed it, Oban isn’t THAT much closer! Thankfully we’ve managed to sort things out via an Airbnb booking rather further north than our usual overnight stop, and a planned early start from there to get us on our way in time. 

Accommodation wise we are back in the same location as the past few years “summer” visits - a now familiar little cottage on a wind blown headland. It’s such a fantastic spot we had no hesitation in booking there again - our third time staying there. Many of the “usual” things are planned too - some walks, possibly some hills although that might depend on how my poorly foot holds up. Lots of nice food (and beer!) and hopefully some good wildlife spotting. We also have our eyes on a boat trip - either with Nick who we’ve been out with before on the Lady Anne, or possibly in the rather faster vessels of the newer Uist Sea Tours guys.  All in all it is safe to say that we’re looking forward to getting back across quite as much as always! 


Wednesday 5 May 2021

2021 Airshow season is GO!

I'm pretty much still smiling after a fabulous day at Shuttleworth's opening airshow of the season on Sunday. Shuttleworth is a gorgeous venue - a real favourite of mine as you are always guaranteed an array of wonderful old aircraft including the warbirds I love so much. Also, quite often, you're guaranteed great company as well - and this time was no exception. Normally it's a case of rock up there and meet people, but because of the current restrictions around Covid-19 this time was a drive-in airshow so a little more logistically challenging, which is why 9am on Sunday morning saw myself, Max, Kevin & Sven, Richard, Mark and his Mrs (Wendy I think?) and Adam gathering in a car park on the outskirts of Biggleswade to travel in convoy to the show. 

The organisation at the Shuttleworth estate was superb - a large holding area for those arriving ahead of the official gates open time, then well managed queues to the ticket gates and a special convoy system for groups of vehicles wanting to be placed together. People were also being very conscious about giving others space in food queues, and while generally wandering about.  

Opening the show was the Consolidated Catalina in the photograph at the top - a stunningly beautiful aircraft. She'd flown in ahead of displaying so seeing her powering up and taking off was an additional treat. Next up was a series of flypasts by two of the Spitfires of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - one of the two flown by my pal Andy, who managed to multi-task what might be described as a "sporty" entrance, a cracking topside view of the aircraft AND a wave, all at the one time - impressive! 

Shuttleworth has a big collection of resident aircraft ranging from vintage biplanes like this Gloster Gladiator...

...through to classic racers - including the immaculate DeHavilland DH.88 Comet...

If ever an aircraft looked like it simply belonged in the sky, flirting with the clouds, then this is it. This particular example also has an illustrious history - winner of many air races in the 1930's, it also appeared as a static exhibit at the Festival of Great Britain in 1951. Above all it is just stunningly beautiful and a joy to see fly. THIS is what the Shuttleworth Collection does so well - taking classic aircraft and putting them where they belong - up in the sky. 

Sunday was a brilliant day - great company, great aircraft, lots of banter...and if driving into the show and having to stay in our own little allocated areas by our vehicles is currently the way we can actually have airshows, then that's worth it to me. It was fantastic to spend time with good friends, and catch up with others who I'd not seen in ages. Max and I have already booked for another Shuttleworth show in a few weeks time - and it just feels brilliant to have airshows to look forward to again! 


Saturday 1 May 2021

A tiny bit normal...


This week has felt like something approaching a bit of normality is beginning to creep back in. Firstly, I’m looking forward to my first airshow of the year at lovely Shuttleworth tomorrow - there will be brilliant people, and good banter, and biscuits (always biscuits!) and above all lots of fabulous warbirds to watch and to photograph. Bliss! Not the rather wonderful old girl above though, no, that shot was taken earlier in the week up at RAF Coningsby when I ventured up for a trip which I knew would include not only some BBMF flying in the shape of the Dakota pictured above, but also something rather faster, noisier and altogether whizzier...

Yes - that’s the 2021 display pilot practising his display routine - and a first watch suggests that it is QUITE the routine, too! I was lucky with this sky too - the weather forecast said grey and overcast, but when I arrived in Lincolnshire there was a nice little patch of blue in not far off the right place, and sure enough it lingered around with some attendant sunshine for just long enough! 

I’ve got a soft spot for the Dakota - often overlooked in favour of her more famous BBMF hangar-mate the wonderful Avro Lancaster, and I am nothing if not a keen supporter of the underdog as those who remember my speedway days will be all too aware of! The Dak is a beauty of an aircraft though, and with a fantastic history too both in military and domestic service. 

That blue sky came into its own when it came to perfectly showcasing the Typhoon’s exit from the display, too - the traditional exit when the conditions allow is a fast vertical spiralling climb - as you can see from the photos above this looks great when seen from almost directly underneath, and the blast from the reheat looks fantastic against that vivid blue sky, too! 

Also in an aviation vein but slightly earlier in the week, we had an unexpected and very local visit from the East Anglian Air Ambulance too. 

Sitting in the front room after eating our tea, we heard a helicopter passing over somewhat lower than we are used to, so I opened the tracking app to take a look - and sure enough confirmed that it very much appeared that the Eurocopter EC145 had just landed in a nearby playing field. We threw on shoes and jackets and walked through the woods to go and take a look. Thankfully soon after we arrived the pilot confirmed that they had been stood down as the incident was deemed not serious enough to require their team’s skills. We quite often see the Herts & Essex machine locally but very rarely this one - it was called upon because it was already in the air returning from a previous shout when the call came through for this one. 

As if a LOT of photos from the Coningsby trip weren’t enough to be working on, I also ventured to Imperial War Museum Duxford for a brief visit yesterday afternoon. I have taken a year’s membership to the museum - in part because it includes free entry to the “flying days” they have planned and in part because it’s been such a difficult years for museums generally, and in particular those who rely on big events like airshows. It felt like an easy way of doing something - and gives me some benefits also of course, including the ability to just pop up there for an hour or so as I did yesterday. 

That is the Aircraft Restoration Company Hispano Buchon taxiing out ready for a run through of the display it will be performing at Shuttleworth - it’s a fantastic although slightly odd looking aircraft, but all those blurred edges on the camo pattern make it an absolute devil to photograph! There were also several Spitfires up and about so my trip up was very much worthwhile! 

All in all, it has felt like a rather aviation-filled week, and with more yet to come! 


Friday 30 April 2021

Frugal Friday...

 ...the (hopefully!) final lockdown summary!

It’s been a strange old year hasn’t it - for many, a really stressful one on the money front, with job loss or furlough hitting hard. For others, income has remained stable but spending has dropped drastically as there has simply been little to spend on. We have, perhaps somewhat unusually, seen both sides of this - the first lockdown saw MrEH switched to a three day week for a while with accompanying drop in salary, and me furloughed. Although my furlough has continued, thankfully MrEH’s working hours and money went back to usual a few months down the line. (I say thankfully, that was about the money, less so about the hours!)

On a personal level because I’m still putting the same contribution to our joint account each month, my own disposable income has taken a significant drop. It hasn’t been a major problem as yet because as said, there has been little to spend on - in fact I’ve mostly managed to continue to save at least some money each month, but with things now opening up and even some airshows re-starting, money is going to start feeling rather tighter. I’m hopeful that I might be back working before too long though so fingers crossed there. 

In terms of household spending, most of our essential spending categories have either stayed much  the same (gas bill, council tax, service charge & garage rent, water rates, broadband & phone), increased somewhat (electricity - which we use for heating - and food) or dropped substantially - commuting. Discretionary spending - “fun” money, both joint and personal, and the money we set aside for random weekends away - has dropped hugely, not surprisingly. We set aside money each month to pay towards holidays, and also ongoing car costs, and have continued with this as usual, meaning that quite a surplus has build up in the car account now - this will be used as a lump sum to go towards a replacement car for MrEH as his 55 plate Citroen won’t work for our commute come later in the year. 

One of the things I struggled the most with early last year when the pandemic first hit was the increase in food costs - with our usual £175 per month budget increasing by anything up to £100. Two significant factors to this though - one was shopping more regularly because we switched to mainly making shopping trips on foot rather than using the car, and the other was undoubtedly buying beer for home drinking in the supermarket, as well as placing online orders direct with breweries we wanted to support on an occasional basis also. It was inevitable it was going to happen - we’d usually eat out at least once a week, often more if we had a beer festival meeting or a day out with friends, but of course usually that money would be taken from either the “fun” spending budget or from our personal accounts. Similarly with beers - we would usually drink at the rugby club at least once over a weekend, and if not that, then chances are we’ll be off somewhere with friends. 

As a  Household, we fall roundly into the section of the U.K. that has actually managed to stash extra into savings over the period of the pandemic. During those first months when we were on a really reduced income, had we still had a mortgage it would however have been a very different picture - I’ll not be apologising for THAT though because we worked hard and went without things previously to pay it off early - this recent period of time more than any other goes to truly prove the benefit of that decision too. Personally I’ve unsurprisingly not been able to continue with my usual savings - although I have managed to continue to save some amounts here and there. The one area of my savings that does currently look quite healthy is my airshow savings account as I have managed to keep feeding a bit of money here and there to that, and of course it’s seen a lot less ticket purchases, accommodation bookings etc as well. The unusually high monthly surplus from the joint account will gradually start to reduce again now as things ease back towards normality though - but the extra money in savings and the fact that we’ve been able to do things like a rather longer Christmas Hebrides trip, and our recent week away in Cornwall as an “extra” trip is at least some consolation for all the things we’ve had cancelled because of the Covid situation. 

We made a couple of large purchases in the year, but both already had the money set aside for them and have been balance transferred onto 0% cards to keep the money sitting in our accounts for as long as possible - for what THAT’s worth. There are however some early signs that interest rates for savings might be beginning to creep back up slightly - fingers crossed. The refunded money for our cancelled Lundy trip from last year has also been safely stashed away ready to cover the costs when we need to pay out for the rebooked date. 

Hopefully you are also in the category of feeling financially, if not mentally better off after the last year. Maybe you’ve managed to pay off some additional debt, or knock a bit extra off a mortgage, or perhaps like us you’re just feeling an added degree of security from a bit extra in savings. If not, and you are feeling the pinch, then please do remember that help always just a click away at the Money Saving Expert forums, or from the various free debt advice charities. 


Thursday 22 April 2021

Good news!


A highlight of our week away was centred on some news from rather a long way away from Cornwall - in fact rather than the extreme south-west of England, this referred to the extreme north west of Scotland. With lockdown easing happening across the UK, many in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland among others had been bitterly unhappy that while everywhere else was being given at least a rough “roadmap” around what was predicted to happen with travel in their areas, on the subject of travel to Scottish Islands all that was being heard was a deafening silence. t one stage the suggestion was made that the islands could have an earlier relaxation of restrictions around the hospitality industry in exchange for a delayed return to travel - unsurprisingly it was somewhat sarcastically pointed out that there is precious little point in being able to open hotels etc if nobody is allowed to travel to use them... Many island accommodation providers were experiencing existing bookings cancelling in their droves as people, unsure whether they were going to be able to travel, opted for a mainland holiday instead. We were facing similar uncertainty, but fortunately were in the lucky position of being able to book the Cornish trip in part in case our planned Hebrides visit was unable to go ahead - many others aren’t in that position. 

Finally, last week, an announcement was made by the First Minister that on 26th April all travel restrictions would be removed - between Scotland and England AND between mainland Scotland and the Islands - a huge relief not only to us and many others with trips booked, but also to the huge number of islanders who rely on visitors being able to actually visit to keep their heads above water. 

From our perspective, having just returned from one holiday we’re now in the slightly odd position of preparing for another one! It feels rather decadent, but we’re refusing to feel guilty about it - booking the Cornish trip was absolutely the right thing to do, and we had a fabulous time. The last year has been ludicrously tough for almost everyone, and us as much as anyone else, and it definitely feels like the right thing to do to ensure that we grab chances to do stuff now while we can, in part to make up for all the disappointments of so much being cancelled previously. In other “things to look forward to” plans, I have also started getting some more airshows booked - Max and I are teaming up to do another Shuttleworth show, and I have also booked an event at Duxford as well as taking out a years membership there. I’ve got a few more shows in mind to book too, although it does seem unlikely that many of the big seafront shows will go ahead this year. 

Here’s to future plans then - at this rate I’ll need to buy a diary! 


Wednesday 21 April 2021


Saturday was inevitably always going to be a slightly odd day. With the funeral for the Duke of Edinburgh happening in the mid afternoon, and us both not exactly “wanting” to watch it, but feeling as though it was too historically significant not to, as well as being somehow respectful, we took the decision to get out fairly early to be able to pack as much into the earlier part of the day as possible. 

First stop was a favourite spot - the Basset Monument at Carn Brea. We tend to park down just outside Carnkie village and walk up - it’s a nice, if uneven walk, and a fairly gentle way to cover the 300ft of climb to the top. It also has truly stunning views almost all the way up, but when you get to the top you can see fully to the sea across Redruth and Camborne, just beautiful! 

 From there, we headed to Ponsanooth, where, in a little unit tucked away behind a rather impressive railway viaduct the Dynamite Valley Brewery can be found. During our week we’d made efforts to track down plenty of good Cornish beer from various different breweries, but the Dynamite Valley Black Charge that we bought a bottle of from the village shop in Coverack stood out as something rather special. It also came with a voucher for a free half pint of beer at the “Beer cafe” at the brewery, which just happened to have its first day reopened since lockdown on Saturday...! 

So we had some beer - just the half pint for me because I was driving, but MrEH sampled one of each of the three beers they were serving. And then, because we needed to eat somewhere, and the offerings from “The Aussie Smoker” on site sounded rather outstanding...

As you can see, they didn’t disappoint, either! That is chicken, cheese, bacon, spinach, and some rather incredible barbecue sauce stuffed into a tasty roll, with truly excellent seasoned fries. Well worth the £10 price tag, and I for one was completely stuffed when I (finally!) managed to finish mine! We also left the brewery having purchased two cases of their beer, which will help to keep us going for a while back at home. 

From there it was back to the house to turn on the TV and be ready for the National minute’s silence at 3pm. It was strange, honouring that while looking out over a beach with children and adults playing happily, although I was pleased to see that it did quieten down noticeably in the run up to the silence. In common with the majority of the country I found the sight of Queen Elizabeth sitting alone in the chapel heartbreaking - it’s impossible for almost any of us to really understand quite how bereft she must have been feeling, with the man she had loved for over 80 years no longer by her side. Sad also that she was unable to receive the comfort that her children in particular must have been quite desperate to give, due to the restrictions still in place around Covid. I’m sure though that she would be the first to say that it is no more than so many others across the country have gone through in the past year. 


Saturday 17 April 2021

Hills for miles...


We’ve done a lot of walking this week. Almost every day has ended with us saying we’d have a bit of a lazier day on the next, to give my poor foot a bit of a break, and each time we’ve said it we’ve failed entirely to make good on the idea! A lot of that walking has also by necessity involved hills -  Cornwall is by nature a pretty hilly county, and the bits round the coast all the more so. As I by nature gravitate towards water, we’ve done much of our walking by the sea...

Yesterday’s nearly 10 miles were across on the other side of the Lizard from where we’re staying - from The Loe - Cornwall’s largest freshwater lake, along to Gunwalloe and then on to Poldhu using the coast path, then back to Gunwalloe and returning to the car via the beach. And of course you can’t go to Poldhu without visiting the wonderful Poldhu Beach Cafe. And you can’t visit the cafe without having a hot chocolate....look.... 

See?  This is the “special” hot chocolate, and yes - it tasted every bit as good as it looked, too! I’m a bit funny with hot chocolate as a rule - sometimes it can be way too sweet for me, and a real struggle to drink, but this one was just perfect! 

We’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather this week - I’m conscious that the photos I’ve been posting both here and elsewhere on social media are all very “blue skies and sunshine” but in fact that is exactly how it’s been - although quite chilly at times, and especially in the evenings, the days have been beautiful. Mr EH has worn shorts for a good part of the week, and we’ve both spent a reasonable amount of time in short sleeves. Holidaying for a week in the U.K. you do expect at least some rain, but we’re certainly not complaining about not having seen any this week! 

As it wasn’t too late when we arrived back at the car, we decided to head a little further south to Lizard Point again to see if I could track down the Choughs for some photos. Although we had fabulous views of them earlier in the week, I’d not taken my camera with me, and as I was keen to get some shots if at all possible, and we were in the right area already, we decided to go back. We retraced our steps from the previous visit, but to no avail, there were plenty of Jackdaws but no Choughs to be seen. The final hope was to head back round the lighthouse to the car, and as you can see from the picture above, it paid off! This shot was taken on my Canon 80D with its built in WiFi meaning I was able to transfer it to the phone and process on there. I don’t use this method too often as the results are nowhere near as good as “proper” processing via a laptop, but it does mean that sometimes I can play with the odd shot like this. I’m delighted to have got some photos of these fantastic birds, anyway! 


Friday 16 April 2021

More Cornish Ramblings...


Yesterday started out in St Ives - a beautiful little town we always try to visit when we’re down this way. The best way to arrive is by train, it basically makes you feel as though you’re stepping into an Enid Blyton story  - not really doable this time sadly. This time we discovered a Farmers market - always a good thing, as they often sell things like beer, cheese and millionaires shortbread (guess what we bought?!) and also a rather wonderful off license which as well as some more nice beer, also turned out to stock one of my favourite gins - Curio. 

On the way back up the hill to the car we spotted this rather fabulous mural...

...and even more fabulously the owner of the building saw me photographing it and came out to tell us the story of it - what a treat! We then called in for a wander at RSPB Hayle Estuary - a reserve we visited briefly last time we were down this way but didn’t have time for more than a quick look. It is impacted quite badly by being dissected by a quite busy road but still we enjoyed it. 

From there it was on to an essential part of any Cornish visit, for us - 

Yes, Padstow and fish and chips from Steins chippy. My parents discovered quite how good this little gem  is many years ago when they were down here, and no Cornish adventure is complete without a visit there, now. Fractionally more expensive than the average, it’s well worth it  as invariably the quality is superb, and this time was no exception. Eaten, as ever, sitting on the harbour side - perfect! 

And finally a walk along the banks of the River Camel before heading off. Another lovely day, albeit another also with rather more walking than my poorly foot is entirely happy with. So far since Monday I have averaged about 11miles walking a day! Next week had better be considerably less active I think! 


Thursday 15 April 2021

A room (house!) with a view...

 On Sunday we packed up the car and, early in the evening, left to drive the 300+ miles down to Cornwall where we had, several months previously, booked a stay in the hope that lockdown would be sufficiently eased by now to allow us to take it. Originally booked to start on the 10th, we had to cancel the first two days as the easing to allow stays away from home wasn’t in place until Monday, however the chap we’re letting the house from kindly agreed that we could get in here for just after 00.00hrs on Monday in order to maximise the time we still had while still staying firmly within what the law allows. 

Obviously we arrived in the dark, but on getting up on Monday morning “proper” this was the view that greeted us...

Pretty stunning, eh? It’s SUCH an amazing view it’s actually quite hard to tear yourself away from it - and indeed that was one of the considerations when I booked, that if we did have dodgy weather and wanted to be outside less then at least we’d still have plenty to look at from the house. In fact the weather so far has been superb, and exploring aplenty has happened! 

We’ve been to Cornwall a few times before - I holidayed here as a child with Auntie D & Uncle B, and MrEH and I have camped at a rather glorious site near Camborne several times. I of course also spent a night at Lands End whenI took part in the inaugural LighthouseRun road rally back in 2004 (?) but one of my favourite spots in the county is undoubtedly even further south, at Lizard Point. The ruined boathouse in the picture above, and probability of seeing the lovely Cornish Chough, and the fact that it is the most southerly point on the U.K. mainland (and that it is generally FAR quieter than the better known Lands End with its hotel and “end to end” connections) all combine to make it somewhere that if down here I always try to visit. 

Tuesday saw a trip to Truro which included a walk along a disused railway line overlooking the river, and then a second walk at Goonhilly Downs NNR - a landscape almost Hebridean in type, with gorse, heather and heathland. Very familiar but also very different as it is almost completely flat, and also peppered with remains of old WWII buildings and installations. A really interesting place to explore! 

Right now breakfast beckons, so I’ll leave you with that taster of our first couple of days (and for those wondering, yes we most certainly HAVE made it back into a pub or two already!) and will post again later on or tomorrow with a few more pictures. For now though, I’ll leave you with another shot from the “House with a view” 


Wednesday 7 April 2021

First steps...

 Couch to 5K - week one, run 2. Run 1 happened last week. The foot is...improving, but not yet fixed, however, I reached the conclusion that not running wasn’t actually making it improve any faster. Things that *were* making it improve faster were less total mileage, more foam rolling, and anti inflammatory gel. So a plan was formed. Reduce my walking on weekdays - I’d been doing anything up to 8 miles most days and even more sometimes, so that needed to come down. The foam rolling is painful but necessary. The anti inflammatory gel 3 times a day is by far the easiest part of this whole procedure! 

Last Tuesday morning I put on my comfiest, most cushioned running shoes (yes, of course I have several different pairs - ask another runner, they’ll explain!) started the C25K app, and reminded myself that the plan here relies on me sticking to the plan. That means only running when the app tells me to run, and keeping the pace slow on those intervals. It also, at the moment, means slowing things down rather overall - the programme usually relies on 3 runs per week but at the moment I plan to cap it at a maximum of 2. Eventually I’d like to get back to a more consistent, regular pattern, but for now it’s about building things back slowly and being prepared to step back again if things with my foot seem to be getting any worse again. 

This morning I walked three miles with MrEH, then came back, switched shoes and got out there for run 2. I opted for trail shoes this time as I was planning my route to be through the woods and round the field - but those are also less cushioned and proved to be a bit of a mistake. I also assumed that the more uneven paths through the woods would help with the slower pace thing. Ummm. No, not so much - that still needs work. It WAS way more fun than just running round the roads though, so until I can get a bit further afield a bit of mud clogging up my road shoes and needing to keep a close eye on my watch for pace is stuff I’ll happily put up with. 

At the moment, it’s hard work. Really hard. You lose running level cardio fitness quite fast when you can’t run, and my last run was Christmas Day. It also builds back again quite fast though, so I know it will get better. I’ve also run the programme before of course, so I know that if you stick to it it works - although my reduced number of runs are very likely going to mean some repeated weeks, but that’s fine too. Slow and steady - no speedwork, no long runs, stay patient and do the work. Just being back out there again is beyond brilliant though - being injured sucks, particularly at a point where you REALLY need running for it’s mental health benefits. And even when it feels tough, those benefits are still very much there. And THAT is why doing the work will be worth it! 


Tuesday 6 April 2021

Signs of a new optimism...

Something we have realised just recently is that over the last year we seem to have seen a lot more wildflowers - during the first lockdown last year of course areas that would usually be mown regularly were left to grow meaning things like the Speedwell in the lawn outside suddenly made its presence felt far more than usual. 

This time of year is always beautiful with the vibrant green of spring appearing everywhere - the willows in particular are looking wonderful just now, giving an almost lime-green tinge to great areas of the countryside.

Everywhere you look too, buds are breaking. The Blackthorn near here having been a riot of frothy white blossom just a week or so ago is now dropping the petals in great drifts, while all the tree’s energy seems to suddenly be going to producing leaves instead - and incredible metamorphosis!

We saw the first bluebells of the year at the weekend - native ones too rather than the pervasive Spanish invaders. It always feels like spring has properly arrived when the bluebells appear - although the sub-zero temperatures overnight and the snow flurries we’ve had do seem to suggest otherwise! The Hebrides had quite a sprinkling of snow this morning and while it didn’t last long I gather it did leave the landscape looking more winter than springlike!

One plant that seems to have thoroughly taken off around here over the past few years are these beautiful little violets - always seen occasionally, there are now great carpets of them on many of our road verges, in every colour from a deep, rich purple right through varying degrees of paleness to pure white. 

 Are there actually more wildflowers this year than usual or are we just seeing them more because we’re looking for the bright cheerful signs of optimism - confirmation that the changing seasons might hopefully bring a bit more of a return to normal? I’m sure someone knows the answer - I just hope that in future years we remember to notice them just as much! 


Monday 5 April 2021

Long weekends and good news..

 Four lovely days of feeling absolutely no pressure to be productive - it doesn’t get much better than that right now! I’ve never been someone who lives for weekends and has a sinking feeling of impending doom on Sunday nights, well aside from a couple of years in a truly toxic job shortly before I got out of the construction industry anyway. Recently though I’ve really started to empathise with the people for who that is just standard, as it has got increasingly harder to fill weekdays. The good news from today though - notably that English lockdown easing continues as scheduled - means that our upcoming planned trip to Cornwall  can definitely now go ahead which is great news for us! 

I’ve actually really enjoyed this weekend - it’s a rare year when we are at home over Easter, and last year lockdown was still too new and raw, alongside the fact that we would otherwise  have been on Lundy celebrating a pal’s birthday - to truly appreciate the novelty of 4 days empty to fill as we wish. 

Among other things done, we’ve bought the plants for the pots that live on the two balconies, and got those planted up - still a few things to find homes for, but first we need to hope they will all survive the frost expected tonight! 

We also got some nice views of the Thames from the RSPB reserve at Rainham - the reserve still has the one way system in place so instead of going right round we opted to dive out onto the river path via the handy one way turnstile gate part way round, and walked up to the hill at the old landfill site with its great views across to that bit of Kent that likes to pretend it’s London. 

More exploring at Amwell too - just a handful of miles up the road but of course very off limits from here for the past few months so it was lovely to be back. Not a long walk, but a stretch of the Amwell Walkway  which is along the line of a former railway, hence the bridge...

...and then more views  - this time from the new-to-us Widbury Hill. Not massively high but a nice short sharp climb up and then the reward from the top of the panorama of the Lea Valley stretching out ahead of you. One to return to for sure.  

Then today a nice 4 mile loop out at Norton Mandeville - starting of course with the train, rather more graffitied than the last time we saw it sadly, and with more of the interior pulled out too. It is still entirely baffling why someone would go to the trouble of buying the thing, and having it hauled to it’s current position, and then just leave it to rot. 

Underlining that spring is very definitely now with us is the fact that the oil seed rape is bursting into its full yellow glory - and THAT in turn means I’ve been sneezing for the rest of the evening, ho hum! 

For various reasons all our walks this weekend have been relatively short but also all really nice - we’ve deliberately still stayed fairly close to home, it’s nice exploring areas that we’ve been unable to visit for a while, apart from anything else, and we do after all have plenty of further afield exploring planned for the not too distant future, too! 


Saturday 3 April 2021

First taste of freedom...!

Monday 29th March saw the much awaited first significant easing of Lockdown in England, with the “Stay Home” rule being dropped, and recreational travel allowed once more. As always, word of mouth reporting and “he said/she said” rhetoric has caused some confusion, with individuals claiming that there is still a rule in place that people must stay local and that this is not due to change until early April. In fact the government website makes it clear that further to Monday there is no further easing of travel restrictions to be made - the only further significant change of this type being the ruling that you can stay away from home with your household from 12th April - something we are planning to make good use of, but more on that another time! 

“The Jurors” artwork - Runnymede

The rule change meant that Wednesday saw me able to head down to Runnymede in Surrey. The Red Arrows were making a flypast over the Air Forces Memorial to commemorate the Centenary of the Royal Australian Air Force and I decided that the National Trust parkland down there would be nice to combine a bit of a walk and an explore of an area I’d not visited in years, with a sighting of my favourite little red jets! The weather sadly wasn’t the best, but I had a thoroughly enjoyable few hours wandering round, looking at artworks and memorials, climbing hills and finally getting a quick look at the jets as they roared overhead. 

Thursday was another trip out - this time my first visit to a Scampton in almost 6 months. Thinking about it, I reckon this is my longest gap between visits since February 2014! The weather, again, didn’t quite play ball, although the third flying slot in the afternoon did finally deliver a snippet of blue sky here and there... 

“Flat heart” - spot the 3 jets! fully flat and two at least part rolling displays though, and frankly I was just delighted to be out in the open (and it must be said, quite cold!) air, to see Claire for the first time in an age, and actually get some quality time with my camera, too! 

And of course, this view just NEVER gets old! I’m trying to work on some new techniques for shooting the individual jets like this - but it will require a bit more time to really work on I think - hopefully might lead to some different perspectives from the shots I have got previously once I’ve spent some time working through angles and methods though!

It feels so nice just to be back to actively planning things again - after a full year and more of having been reluctant to really plan much because of the near certainty of disappointment when cancellations happen, starting to get some dates in the diary again feels great!