Keeping it local

It’s a beautiful spring morning here in North West England. There’s a cool breeze, clear blue skies and the birds are singing its praises.

I’m sat outside, enjoying the peace and sunshine with a coffee. I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed by my house guests and have decided to go out again today. Destination unknown as yet, but I want somewhere quiet and peaceful and beautiful again.When Dad was alive, Easter Sunday was always a chance for a big family dinner. Not today. My children will be having dinner with my in-laws. One of my sisters is with her in laws and I expect my youngest sister will stay here for the day. I feel a little guilty that I’m not staying here with her, but the countryside is calling me – I’m back in work in two short days and I want to make the most of it.*******It’s now the evening and a glowing golden sun is beginning to set.I did indeed go out but not for as long as usual. The best of both situations perhaps.You may have guessed that I particularly like castles and so I used the following website’s interactive map to find a castle to visit.I chose a castle I hadn’t heard of, and one that I figured could be quiet today. Unfortunately, I chose a little too well – we couldn’t actually find it! From what I read, we would have found low stoney walls and signs of earth works. Never mind. What we did find though was a beautiful valley with rocky crags, a babbling stream, trees and bluebells. Pretty heavenly to me.The forest and valley were beautiful and tucked away right near the motorway. The car park had disappeared and the picnic bench were a little worse for wear but we had brought a large picnic blanket anyway. The paths were well worn though so I figure that this place must be loved. It is so important to visit these places, those quiet secluded little spots that only the local know. I’ve always loved the stunning Lake District or Snowdonia National Park and rightly so, but I am also realising that these smaller places are even more important to treasure and look after.Why not explore your local area? I’ve found that the Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission are a great place to start, as are your local council website and local historic societies pages.



I awoke this morning to the beautiful sounds of birdsong. It was last year since I have heard such a beautiful dawn chorus and it lifted my heart as well as saddened it too – I remember very clearly the dawn chorus which accompanied me as I watched my Dad leave in the ambulance.

Even so, it was a lovely way to wake up this morning.

This afternoon was great too. For the first time in seven months my friend and I went out walking again.

We’ve not been out walking since the beginning of the summer holidays and before she weirded out on me.

We went to a National Trust property, wrapped up warm but loving the sunshine. We bought sandwiches and coffee from the restaurant and found an obliging bench to sit and eat. Then it started to hail. Yes, hail.

We sheltered under the bare branches on a huge tree which surprisingly helped. Ten minutes later the sun was shining again and we set off through the parkland. It felt amazing to breathe in the crisp air, feel the faint heat of winter sunshine on my face and feel my body respond to the exercise. We then wandered through the gardens and saw a fantastic display of early spring flowers.

Dad loved his snowdrops and always pointed them out.

Word has it that they are the symbol of renewed life: the end of the death that winter brings.

We talked of our fathers and how, if they had met, they would have got on so well. They had so much in common and it’s sad that they didn’t get a chance to meet. We laughed at things they would have said to each other and then the strangest thing happened.

In the shrubbery, not a metre from us, was a Robin. As we got closer it didn’t move – just looked around and sang.

My photos do not do justice to how close this bird was to us. Just as I was saying to my friend that there must be something wrong with it, another one appeared on the same shrub!

To both of us it was a sign – it was too unusual for it not to be. We carried on, hearts swelling and renewed. We felt that our Dads had heard us and were telling us they were here.

And so, tired from my walk, I too felt on the cusp of change. From the cold and icy hail to the warm sunshine… the bare limbs of trees to the early flowers…. the sight and song of birds…

A hint of spring yet still winter too… Spri-nter. ☺

And although I’m still in the darkness of my grief, there are signs of positivity too.

A cream tea and a castle

Yesterday was my second outting of the weekend, and I took my friend to Ruthin Castle in Clwyd. Usually when we go into Wales we go along the coast, visiting Llandudno, Conwy and more recently Anglesey. I was a little concerned that Ruthin wouldn’t have the natural beauty that we love. Boy was I mistaken.

Ruthin is in an area of outstanding natural beauty: you are surrounded by hills and vales and woodland. The town, although we didn’t visit it as such, is quaint and picturesque.

Ruthin Castle Hotel stands at the edge of the town and you enter under an impressive arched gateway. As you drive up, the medieval ruins of the castle are on your righthand side, tempting you to walk around the hotel’s extensive grounds.

The hotel itself, although more modern, still retains an air of grandeur and certain parts of it still look like a castle with their beautiful red brick. Inside, the hotel is luxuriously decorated and befitting it’s description: unfortunately on this occasion, we were not staying the night.

We were taken to Bertie’s restaurant and whilst I was initially dismayed as I booked the library bar, we were not disappointed. We were sat near a beautiful window, draped with heavy rich curtains. The window was open, allowing a delightful breeze to enter and a chance to see the pretty gardens below. The restaurant itself was tastefully decorated and had some stunning chandeliers.

View from Bertie’s Restaurant, courtesy of my friend
Courtesy of my friend

The afternoon tea consisted of four tasty finger sandwiches each, a warm scone with jam and cream and a selection of four mini cakes. We had a raspberry delice cube, a mini peanut butter eclair, coffee cake and bakewell tart.

The sandwiches were delicious. The scone, perhaps not as light as I would I have liked, was served with ample jam and cream. By this point, we were pretty full so were pleased that the remaining cakes were just bigger than bitesize. The peanut butter eclair was surprisingly tasty and sweet: unfortunately the choux pastry was quite dense and perhaps had been made a little while. The bakewell was nice, the delice was amazing despite looking a little like thick pate on toast. The coffee cake was dry and tasteless apart from the little piping of coffee flavoured buttercream.

We could have as much tea and coffee as we wanted and you could not fault the service and the setting. At £17.50 each though, I think that this is what we were paying for rather than the food itself. It was nice but not excessively so – I’ve paid less for better.

After eating we changed our footwear and had a walk around the grounds. The hotel is beautifully situated and the gardens are pretty.

We particularly liked the Italian garden built in the ruins of the old castle. There were some truly stunning views, perfect for a summer’s day.

Ruthin Castle Hotel is definitely worth a visit and my friend and I plan to come again and stay. I don’t think we would have the afternoon tea again as we didn’t think it was worth the price but I have high hopes that other food there would be delicious.

Wonder walk

Disclaimer: I am about to completely contradict myself

Last night was a new first. 

We left work and drove the 30 minutes or so it took to get to a beautiful piece of coastline owned by the National Trust, calling in at Costa for a cappuccino on the way.  I put my new walking boots on, and we set off into the woodland first. 

I can’t tell you what I loved most… The sounds of rustling leaves and crunching twigs underfoot… The warmth on my skin and the pleasure of knowing I can walk up each dune without gasping… The glow of sea and sky as we walked along the beach. 

I just loved it. I love how it looks, smells, feels. But more importantly, I love the way it makes me feel. I have never driven anywhere after work other than home or to the shops. And why not? There’s nothing wrong with choosing to do something for me: my health and wellbeing.  Once in a while I can make that choice. 

The same, unfortunately, can definitely not be said for my eating. I’m struggling. I’m tired. I’m hungry. 

I know it also is a choice. But I just can’t stop myself at the moment. I remember how it feels when people notice my weight loss, or when I pull on a pair of trousers and they’re too big. I just can’t seem to do it. I can’t stick to anything.  For a short period of time, the euphoria of my wonder walk convinces me to refuse the pull of those unnecessary foods. But not for long enough. 

Today, I have the welcomed ache in my legs from running down the beach. I also have the unwelcomed pinch at the waist of trousers that have suddenly become a little tight. 

Any suggestions?