Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Druidic Rave

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

The children weren’t back at school until Thursday and, as we still have time left on our English Heritage membership, we decided to head to Stonehenge for a visit. I admit that this was largely for my benefit. The children have both been there on school trips. I, on the other hand, just have childhood memories of looking at the stones through the 6ft fence from the road when we stopped at the car park for lunch on our way to holiday in Bournemouth!

Although the road has now been diverted, you can still stand at that same point without paying a penny. The fence has been reduced to 3 feet high but there’s a burly security guard to ensure that no-one takes advantage of this! As a paying guest, you get closer to the stones although you’ll have to come on the solstice or one of the small group tours to actually get amongst them.

The car park has now relocated to ~1 mile away and is adjacent to the shiny new exhibition centre. We decided to walk from there to the stones rather than take the shuttle bus. Unfortunately, more than three-quarters of the exhibition centre is given over to the shop, cafe and toilets, which means what remains feels rather cramped. As with the audio tour, the exhibition struggles with the fact that no-one really knows why Stonehenge is there and probably never will. As impressive as it is, I left thinking “but look what the Egyptians were doing at the same time”!

Oh, and what of the “Druidic Rave”? An anagram of my name!

Camping Capers

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

On the Bank Holiday Monday we continued on to Gower where we were booked in to camp at Pitton Cross. Admittedly it was not our first choice but, at least in the camping field away from the electric hookups, it was a pleasant enough site. On arrival, we wasted no time in checking out the footpaths that led down to the nearest rocky cove, less than a mile away.

The next morning, we made the slightly longer trek to Mewslade Bay. It was pretty quiet when we arrived but filled up as the day went on. As is my want, I didn’t make it in over my knees but the water must have been fairly warm as the others spurned their wetsuits when bodyboarding. As high tide approached, the sand almost disappears completely and we were almost the last ones off the beach. The day was rounded off with a lovely meal with friends over in Oxwhich.

Wednesday was forecast to be wet and it didn’t disappoint. I did quite a lot of reading whilst Christine and the children dodged the showers with a walk to Rhossili. The sun re-emerged in the evening when we went over to Port Eynon, picking up fish and chips on our way back to the tent. We then copied our neighbours as they tried out their frisbee and then kite.

The sun was out again on Thursday although the blustery wind made us think twice about our planned trip over the causeway to Worm’s Head. It was fine though and the lush green grass on the island contrasted beautifully against the blue skies and water. As I set off for a run over Rhossili Down, Emma was heading down to the beach for more bodyboarding. Duncan was less keen. Perhaps not surprising when we later discovered that we’ve mistakenly given his younger cousin the wetsuit he wore earlier in the summer and were trying to shoehorn him into the smaller version. He also caught a glancing blow from a bodyboard flapping about in the wind which didn’t improve matters! Nothing that couldn’t be resolved with tea and cake though.

With the wind set to continue through the night, for the second time this summer we decided to pack up our tent that evening and head home. For myself and the children, it wasn’t an end to our camping though. We joined friends for our annual ‘Dad’s camping’ night on Saturday. This year we spurned the New Forest and stayed at Holden Farm on the South Downs. The site facilities were flawless although the grass was a little long where we were in the overflow field.

We made the short walk to the Flower Pots Inn in Cheriton, only to find it closed for the afternoon. As the heavens opened, they took pity on us and supplied beer as we (and others) sheltered in the marquee. When the sun came back, we returned to the campsite for the traditional BBQ. The Dads didn’t manage to stay up much longer than the kids as, having failed to book a firepit, the temperature plummetted as darkness fell. It was also only in the dark that you became acutely aware of how loud the traffic on the A272 was. It’s still a lovely location though and I’m sure we shall be back.

More photos from Gower over on Flickr.

Peak District Camping

Sunday, August 11th, 2019

We had our first trip away of the school holidays last week. We were due to camp in Edale in the Peak District and, with the news full of the reservoir full to bursting-point at nearby Whaley Bridge, we were somewhat concerned about the potential weather conditions. As we arrived at Upper Booth Farm there was, thankfully, no sign of the forecast downpours.

The campsite itself is fairly remote (the final instruction from the sat-nav was to turn right onto the Pennine Way!) but it was a pleasant walk over the fields to the pub in Edale for dinner where we were joined by Christine’s cousin. We started out again that way the next morning to pick up lunch supplies and then continued on up Grindsbrook and on to Kinder Downfall, returning via Jacob’s Ladder.

On Tuesday, we drove to the National Trust car park at Mam Tor and had a quick trip up to the top before walking down into Castleton. We visited the town’s main attraction (one of the many tea shops) and then, as we have English Heritage membership at the moment, Peveril Castle. Not much to see of the castle but, having ascended to the keep, there are good views to be had. We returned to the car via Cave Dale and headed for Blue John Cavern just as the heavens opened. The natural caverns are fairly impressive and the guide was both informative and entertaining.

Christine abandoned us to visit her aunt in hospital the next day. We drove round to Ashopton (most of which is now under Ladybower Reservoir) and walked up and along Derwent Edge. Christine had picked her day as this was the only occasion on which we had to don full waterproofs whilst out walking. Christine returned with her cousin (a different one) and two children and we checked out the other pub in Edale that evening.

The enlarged party went for a walk along Stanage Edge the next day. The rocks were crawling with climbers. We then decamped to Hathersage’s open air pool. The pool is heated but it was absolutely heaving which meant moving about sufficiently to actually stay warm was difficult. I was happy to warm up with a pot of tea afterwards whereas Emma went for the obligatory holiday ice cream.

With rain forecast for the Friday, we decided to pack up a dry tent and head home late Thursday evening.

More photos over on Flickr.

Underground, overground

Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

We were up in Monmouthshire for Emma’s birthday weekend (her joint party is still a couple of weeks away). The day itself looked decidedly grey so we picked a random nearby indoor tourist attraction to visit: Clearwell Caves. I had been caving there a long time ago as a scout. This time, there was no overalls and helmet, we just went around the show caves. As a natural cave system expanded by mining activity they were more extensive than I was expecting. Not on the scale of Dan-yr-Ogof but the snippets of local history made it interesting enough. Tickets can now be bought online at a small discount (which appeared to be news to the guy manning the entrance) and Emma was sufficiently taken to want to return and explore deeper.

The next day, Christine’s parents had paid for those of us with a May birthday (Emma and I) to canoe down the Wye. It was a fairly sedate affair, just covering the four or so miles from Monmouth down to Whitebrook with a stop off in Redbrook for ice cream on the way. With the current in your favour, paddling was really only required to stay on course with the main obstacles being fishermen and the bottom of the river! We managed to get stuck on top of a weir at one point but eventually freed ourselves. My highlight was seeing a kingfisher: a first for me.

Romsey Relay Marathon

Friday, May 31st, 2019

One of the Scout leaders had submitted a team for the Romsey Relay Marathon (10 legs of 2.6 miles) and persuaded Christine and me to run. Given the event has been running for seven years and its proximity, I’d never heard of it before but it was big enough to reduce traffic through Romsey to a crawl on the way into the Broadlands estate!

There had been a few dropouts in the run-up to the event, including Christine. This meant I ended up running both the fourth and ninth legs. I was pleased with the consistency of my timing: 14:46 on the first and 14:42 on the second. Emma was standing in for Christine and really impressed us with her determination to keep going given the heat of the day. She put in a very respectable time of 22:49 (far from the slowest in the team). The team as a whole finished in a time of 3 hours 34 minutes, well within the top half of the finishers and fifth charity team.

A lovely way to spend a sunny Sunday even if perhaps not the best thing for my knee recovery!

OMM Lite Alone

Wednesday, May 29th, 2019

After last year’s success, we had signed up for our third Long Score at the OMM Lite, this year taking place on Cannock Chase over the May Bank Holiday weekend. Unfortunately, a week and a half beforehand, Christine decided to kick a hotel bed sufficiently hard that she suspected she had broken a toe. I failed to find a replacement partner but, for better or worse, this year they were allowing individual participants…

I set off on Saturday morning with a certain amount of trepidation. At the forefront of my mind was the 53km that we had run on Saturday in the Forest of Dean and the expectation that in similar terrain, on my own, I should be going further than that. Having taken a few minutes to pick an initial direction and set off for the first checkpoint, I started to do the mental math about the pace I was doing. Given the size of the map, I fairly rapidly worked out that it was not a question of which controls was I going to do, but which I should leave out.

I panicked a little when I couldn’t find the second checkpoint but it was an early lesson in how important it was to read the descriptions containing the detailed location of the SI box. After that, I settled into a steady pace and, in hindsight, it was remarkable that it was only after about 4.5 hours, as I was wading through bracken along a path that didn’t really exist, that I was starting to struggle. The only problem was that still left over two hours to go!

I slowed the pace and managed to keep moving. I even managed to force myself to do a dogleg to pick up some extra points towards the end. At the finish, I’d covered over 66km collecting 800 out of 900 points and was placed first. I had, however, been overtaken by another individual runner travelling at speed and he duly finished 40 points ahead of me.

The next morning, I was very stiff and started at a much slower pace. It was quite refreshing to be able to just focus on what controls it made to sense to visit rather than having to go to every far-flung corner of the map. I made a couple of route-choice errors though. The first, trying to persuade myself that a purple cross on a junction didn’t apply to the direction I wanted to go and then having to retrace my steps when faced with a ‘Private’ sign. Later, I then managed to get tangled up in some housing where the exit into the forest wasn’t clear on the map.

I made a calculated decision to return late and collect a 50 point control near the finish although another dogleg down a hill and back up again was soul destroying! I wasn’t surprised to be 100 points behind the winner but, having covered just under 70 miles over the two days, I still managed to hold onto second place.

The rest of the family hadn’t just been resting on their laurels. Christine went out on the Bike Score but didn’t fare too well after a major blowout on the first day. The children did some helping, a bit of biking, and also ran the trail race. A fun if tiring weekend was had by all although, writing this three weeks later, I am still enduring some enforced rest from a dodgy knee.

South Central JK

Tuesday, May 28th, 2019

We arrived back from our US trip just in time for Easter and the JK. We decided to skip the sprint race to give us a little time to recover (and Christine was doing the entries and isn’t a fan of the discipline). Saturday’s middle-distance event at Windmill Hill wasn’t optional though as we were organising the string course!

There were mixed fortunes in the Currie family. I had a decidedly average run, making a few mistakes and was generally slow in the physical terrain. Amidst lots of controversy about the Emit Touch Free punching, Emma was disqualified on her course for a missing punch (at a control she definitely visited). Christine took fifth place and Duncan had a storming run on M10 to finish first. Regardless, it was a lovely day and we had a great turnout for the string course!

On Sunday, the action moved to Cold Ash for the long distance race. Christine was out first with the rest of us getting to run in the midday heat. Duncan sadly succumbed to the electronic punching and was disqualified (although probably would not have retained his lead anyway). Emma, in contrast, was out an age but was pleased to actually finish successfully. My effort was pretty much on a par with the previous day. We stayed for the prizegiving as Emma was meant to be helping but the results had turned into a bit of a fiasco and it was eventually cancelled.

The relays were at Minley and, after a brief stint on parking, I watched Emma head off in the mini-relay. She handed over to Duncan and then, unfortunately, the club had exhausted its supply of juniors! Christine’s team was also non-competitive as they had swapped in a New Zealand ringer due to injury. I was running third leg on the JK trophy and continued my run of mediocre efforts.

All that said, there was some good orienteering to be had over the course of the weekend and the good weather made for a sociable event (which is largely why we attend the JK).

Days in DC

Monday, May 27th, 2019

On arrival in Washington DC from New York for the second half of our holiday, we checked in to our hotel and headed a few blocks south to the White House. It ended up being a longer lap of the building than we had anticipated as the immediate area was cordoned off due to a security incident earlier in the day.

The next day was a Saturday and we took the Metro to Roosevelt Island, somewhere that is probably not high on the list of attractions for most visitors but is the home to one of DC’s parkruns. It was nice to be out doing something other than seeing yet more sights. After showering back at the hotel, we walked along the Mall where the Cherry Blossom Parade was just coming to an end and went to the Botanic Garden. My eyes were streaming by the end of the day which I put down to the tree pollen and spent the rest of the holiday on antihistamines.

The next day was spent at the National Air and Space Museum. The downside of the Smithsonian Museum’s being free is that it was absolutely jam-packed with people. We’d booked in to see a 3D film which was a relief from the crush even if two out of the four of us ended up watching the film in 2D (with the same colour glass in each eye!). We walked back to the hotel via the tidal basin where the cherry blossom was, unfortunately, past its best.

Christine was working the next day so we were left to our own devices. We started at the far end of the Mall this time with a trip to the Library of Congress where the baseball exhibition was somewhat wasted on us. We then moved onto the Postal Museum which was a surprise hit (even if just because they were giving away free stamps to start your own collection). Next stop was the Natural History Museum which was as packed as the Air and Space Museum had been; the butterfly exhibit that Emma had quite fancied also turned out to be a paid extra. We rounded off the day with a quick whizz round the Museum of American History and eventually found the superheroes exhibit.

Christine rejoined us for our final day when we spent about seven hours at the zoo! The main aim was to see the giant pandas and they duly obliged (if only because they had been kicked out whilst their cages were being cleaned). Emma also finally got the large soft pretzel that she had been the object of her desire for most of the holiday!

We were flying back from New York although out of JFK so the following morning we took the Amtrak back up north. Christine had ended up on a different flight back (a long story) and so had an extra five hours to kill at the airport. We were having breakfast on our flight around the time she was having dinner on hers! I’d had several hours asleep at home when I was woken by the phone asking us to collect her from Winchester station.

All-in-all a fun ten days away even if it did sometimes feel like we were working our way through a long list of tourist attractions. Indeed, Duncan was heard to remark at one point: “I just want to do something rather than see something”. I suspect we’ll probably revert to our normal formula in future of a few days in the city at one end or other of a more outdoorsy holiday.