Saturday, 30 April 2011

Sponsored Walk: Final: St Mary's Church, Saffron Walden

The team should be here by 6.30pm.

Most of the team were, but John and I were bringing up the rear and got there by 6.50pm.

[Actually, this is not true! As an additional note to this blog entry made on Friday 6th May, I have been printing various photos that the team and support drivers took and the first people to arrive did so at 6.45pm so we were only 5 minutes behind them.]

This is me again rather than James by the way :)  My thanks to James for updating our progress during the day. I will do a proper 'final' entry, with photos, once I've recovered :) At the moment (10.30pm), I have just had a long soak in the bath and I am thinking about going to bed.

As expected, blisters gave me enormous problems, but we still did it! My incentive was a surprise comment from James on Thursday night. He said he would sponsor us for £50 and this would increase to £100 if we actually finished it! Well ...... had to do it then, eh?


[Additional Update on Friday 13th May.

The walk statistics as recorded by John's SatMap are as follows:
Total Distance: 42.2 miles
Total Time: 14 hrs and 44 mins
Total Time Moving: 13 hrs and 1 min
Average Moving Speed: 3.3 mph

Sponsored Walk: Meeting Point 6: Rickling Parish Church, Rickling

The team should be here by 4pm.

What can I say that hasn't already been said up to this point? Arrived bang on time, everyone still looking very fit and capable.

The finish is in sight!

Taken a few pictures of the grassy hill that ended up being set upon by two Ford Galaxies.

Sponsored Walk: Meeting Point 5: The Green, Bentfield Green

The team should be here by 2.35pm.

Still looking full of energy with around 12 miles to go - give or take!

Sponsored Walk: Meeting Point 4: Pig Lane, Bishop's Stortford

The team should be here by 12.30pm.

So, fourth stop off, the sun is shining, my face is melting and the walkers have just arrived, on schedule as usual! (Some up to 10 minutes ahead of schedule)

Pretty much half way there now!

Sponsored Walk: Meeting Point 3: The Moorhen Pub, Burnt Mill Lane, Harlow

The team should be here by 9.55am

Still keeping good time, and no one's gone for a swim in the river (either by their own choice or foot misplacement)

More pictures!

Sponsored Walk: Meeting Point 2: Dobbs Weir Cafe

The team should be here by 7.45am.

Actually made it around 7:40, everyone is now enjoying a hot breakfast in the cafe. Still have a full team, no drop outs to speak of!

Sponsored Walk: Meeting Point 1: Pindar Car Park, Cheshunt Station

The team should be here by 6.15am.

Still on track - Everyone's doing well, the team have walked around 7 and a half miles.

Another picture of everyone having a little break before striding off to checkpoint 2.

Sponsored Walk: Depart from All Saints Edmonton

As an introduction; I'm James, Elaine's son, and will be taking the helm on this blog whilst the walk is in progress.

The team should be departing from All Saints Church in Edmonton at 4am.

And yep, pretty much at 4am Stuart strode off into the distance and the rest of the walkers fell in behind him. Took a few pictures but can't upload them from here so that'll happen later.

As I'm writing this I am sitting in the car at the second "emergency checkpoint" as the walkers have just left.

Next stop, the first "real" stop!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Sponsored Walk on Saturday 30th April

The map above was produced by using the bike hike website.
It shows in high level detail where the team will be walking on Saturday. The surprising thing is that it says the route is just over 40 miles rather than the 42 miles that Father Stuart measured when he did the route last year. However, in the grand scheme of things, I guess 2 miles isn't much and maybe my guesstimation on the route when using this tool has produced the difference. However, on Saturday our son, James, is going to be one of the support drivers and he will be guest blogging on this blog to report on how we get on during the walk as an hour by hour report (almost!) and I'll get him to report what John's Satmap device says our mileage is at each meeting point.

The progress we aught to make is listed below:

Departing: All Saints Church, Edmonton

Meeting Point 1: Pindar Car Park, Cheshunt Station
7.75 miles total
Arriving around 6.15am
Departing at 6.25am

Meeting Point 2: Dobbs Weir Cafe
12.25 miles total
Arriving around 7.45am (We will be visiting the cafe.....)
Departing at 8.15am

Meeting Point 3: The Moorhen Pub, Burnt Mill Lane, Harlow
17.75 miles
Arriving around 9.55am (.... but we definitely won't be visiting the pub)
Departing at 10.05am

Meeting Point 4: Pig Lane, Bishop's Stortford
25.5 miles
Arriving around 12.30pm
Departing at 12.50pm

Meeting Point 5: The Green, Bentfield Green
31 miles
Arriving around 2.35pm
Departing at 2.50pm

Meeting Point 6: Rickling Parish Church, Rickling
35.5 miles
Arriving around 4pm
Departing at 4.15pm

Final: St Mary's Church, Saffron Walden
42 miles total
Arriving around 6.30pm

The team walking is 15 people strong and, although personally it has been an enormous personal challenge to see if I can get fit enough to walk it, the real aim of the walk is to raise funds to restore the Tower of All Saints Church in Edmonton, North London.

This Grade II listed building was put on English Heritage's At Risk register last year and it requires £500,000 worth of restoration. As this year is the Church's 875th Anniversary, it seems appropriate to have a Pilgrimmage this year both to celebrate the 875 years of Christian witness at the Church and to raise money to preserve the building.

But why walk to Saffron Walden? Well, 1136 was the year that the Church first appeared in official records (and so a Church has actually been here a lot longer but we use 1136 as the 'start' year). In 1136, the living from our Church was given to the newly formed monastery at Saffron Walden; hence our walk to Saffron Walden!

In actual fact, the monastery no longer exists, having been swept away with Henry VIII's Reformation but apparently the grounds of the monastery are where the current Audley End House is to be found.

So, if anyone would like to sponsor John and myself, you can do so by visiiting our Charity Giving Webpage. You can, of course, encourage the whole team by sponsoring the whole team at the whole team's Charity Giving Webpage.

Any donation, however small, would be very gratefully received. In the words of some supermarket giant or other ..... Every Little Helps :)

Thank you :)

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Whole Series of Firsts!

(The above photo was taken by John in the Lea Valley Park on 22nd April ..... but more of that later!)
On Saturday 16th April, our training walk encompassed several 'firsts'. It was the first time we walked what will be the end part of the sponsored walk route between Stansted Mountfitchet and Saffron Walden and also the first time we have seriously walked with anyone else. We did this last part of the route with Father Stuart and a friend of his. Stuart keeps up a cracking pace! So cracking that taking photos was out of the question!! This section of the route is also the most challenging in my opinion as it covers uneven paths going across fields and a couple of steepish hills and slopes. So, at the end of this walk, I was a little apprehensive about how I will cope with the end, mostly because walking over uneven ground plays havoc with any blisters!

Anyhow, the stats for that walk were:
Distance: 12.5 miles
Total Time: 3 hrs 59 min
Total Time Moving: 3 hrs 46 min
Average Moving speed: 3.4 mph

Still ...... once again I found myself pondering how to deal with the blister problem and I think the only way I am going to do it is by switching to some sandals for the end of the walk since at around the 28 mile spot, I seem to have a blister burst and then I can't really walk in my boots. A friend recommended Karrimor walking sandals and I found a pair on the Internet for a very good price. These arrived last Wednesday and we decided to have a brief walk over the Lea Valley Park in the evening. The sandals are brilliant! Also, what totally made my day ...... another 'first' ...... the first ducklings of this year. They were so tiny that they can only have hatched within the last day I would think. They were darting about catching insects and were just so cute! I couldn't photograph them as the light levels were just too poor and they were moving about too quickly. Also, one other 'first' ...... we heard the first cuckoo in our neighbourhood ...... we jokingly decided this is the 'Cheshunt' cuckoo :)

John's Satmap wasn't playing ball, but I would guess the following for this walk:
Distance: 5 miles
Total Time: 1 hr 30 mins

For Good Friday, we did something we've often talked about doing but never actually got around to. Namely, to get up really early to see what birds and other wildlife we can see over the Lea Valley Park. So, another 'first' for us, we got up at 4am and were out by 5.15am! In truth, the dawn chorus was already well under way, so we should have got out earlier. Still ...... it's a great thing to do! Witness John's atmospheric photo at the top of this blog entry showing the sunrise through the pylons. There was a certain amount of mist around that added to the atmosphere and seeing our first baby Brent Geese through the mist was another magical moment. We continued our walk by going south towards Waltham Cross, just north of the White Water centre built for the Olympics and just north of there, at about 7am in the morning, yet another 'first' ....... a barn owl flew silently across ahead of us. Who would have thought to see a barn owl in Cheshunt! John did try to take a photo, but the light levels were just not good enough. Still, seeing that ghostly form silently gliding past us is not something I will forget in a hurry. We carried on by walking up to Broxbourne Mill. In the meadows by Broxbourne Mill, there were lots of warbler-type birds and one in particular came very close. John took several fantastic photos and the following is the one I like the best.

By carefully looking over my bird books once we got home, we thought it was a Willow Warbler. However, John has already posted this photo on a photographers blog he is active on and someone else thinks it is a Sedge Warbler. So ..... opinions gratefully received! However, although I realise most bird watchers like to categorise what they see, I have to say I really don't care! I just love watching birds and what they get up to and this one was a delight to watch as it flitted up and down the reeds, singing beautifully!!

I did all this walk in the sandals, wondering whether I could do all the sponsored walk in them. However, they really don't provide enough ankle support as I could feel my ankles starting to ache. On the way back home, we did a quick shop in Tesco and were back home by 10.30am ........ and then went back to bed :)

Anyhow, John's Satmap was again not playing ball, so I worked out the distance from the OS maps, giving the following stats:
Distance: 13 miles
Total time: 4 hrs

On Saturday 23rd ...... St George's Day ....... and also our 28th Anniversary ....... once again, off we go walking!! That in itself is a 'first' for us, I guess, walking on our Anniversary :)

We got the train to Harlow Town and then walked almost all of the end part of the sponsored walk. The only difference being that we diverted at the end to Audley End to get the train, rather than walk into Saffron Walden. It was incredibly hot on Saturday! Although we took a lot of drink, we ran out and I think I can say we were getting dehydrated towards the end with nowhere to fill up or buy extra drink, apart from at Audley End station itself.

Here's a couple of photos from the walk.

A fantastic horse chestnut at Bentfield Green where we stopped to have lunch.

I'm afraid there is an awlful lot of oil seed rape in the fields between Stansted and Saffron Walden. This may look a spectacular colour but it is not particularly pleasant to walk beside!

At one point, my ankles really ached so I swapped to the sandals and felt much better for doing so! A blister on my little toe did subsequently pop and hurt like crazy, causing me to hobble a little. However, unlike with the boots, after about 5 or 10 minutes, this eased off and I could continue walking normally. So ..... the sandals are hopefully going to be my secret to doing this, blisters or no blisters!

Stats for this walk are:
Distance: 26.3 miles
Total time: 9 hrs
Total time moving: 8 hrs 20mins
Average moving speed: 3.2 mph

On Easter Sunday, after Church, we went to our friends in Bicester, Oxfordshire as their younger son was 18 on the 23rd and they were having 'open house' for family and friends. We had a lovely time, not getting home until about 10.30pm ....... at which point John suggested getting up even earlier on Easter Monday to get out before the dawn chorus really got started! I agreed ....... which possibly could indicate that I was still dehydrated and not quite in my right mind :)

Still, it was worth doing as the early morning really is magical! We got out by 4.30am and saw yet more baby ducklings ...... and our final 'first' in the Lea Valley Park as two kestrels swooped round above our heads. We didn't stay out too long, getting back by 6.30am and going back to bed :)

Stats for this walk:
Distance: Approx 5 miles
Total time: 2 hrs

At this point, we will be taking it easy for the rest of this week until the actual sponsored walk this coming Saturday 30th April.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Our First Cuckoo Of The Year

OK ..... the photo isn't of a cuckoo! Afraid I'm not that good a photographer! This pretty little flower was growing on a wall at Broxbourne Mill and I just thought it looked very delicate, although I have no idea what it is :)

As the weather has been getting better, each time we have passed a spot where we saw a kingfisher last year, I have been automatically looking out to see if we can see our first kingfisher of 2011. Unfortunately, we haven't seen one yet.

Still, we actually had two 'firsts' on Saturday. Walking along the Stort navigation, not far from Parndon Lock on the outskirts of Harlow we heard the unmistakable sound of a buzzard calling. In actual fact, it was two buzzards which we could then see wheeling about in the sky. Who would have thought to see buzzards in deepest, darkest Essex :)

Then, further along on our walk, just south of Bishops Stortford, we heard a cuckoo calling - our first for the year.

The photo below is just north of Sawbridgeworth.

So, although we were once again walking from Cheshunt, along the Lea Navigation and then along the Stort Navigation to Bishops Stortford and then across to Stansted, finishing at Elsenham, it isn't boring doing the same walk as every time we do it, we see or hear something new.

Certainly, one very noticeable feature, having not walked the weekend before, was how green and lush everything looks! It is always so amazing how quickly plants start growing once the temperatures start to rise. Also, just two weeks ago I wondered when we might start seeing some baby ducklings ... the 'aaah' factor! Well, you can't really blame me for that, can you? Well ...... no ducklings! However, mallards were conspicuous by their absence! Just the odd drake mallard every now and again, and we only saw about two female mallards during the entire length of our walk. Might they be off someone sitting on eggs?

Of course, Saturday's weather was glorious! However, this meant we felt we aught to take more drinks, so our rucksacks were rather heavy. I also had to be careful not to get sun burnt! Although my red hair may have now gone, the fair skin that goes with red hair is still with me and I burn easily!! So ...... sun hat ....... long sleeved t-shirt ...... but I stupidly forgot a scarf for the back of my neck, so improvised with a clean hanky from John!

The photo below is near to Bishops Stortford. Actually a field full of dandelions! Although possibly everyone hates to see them in their garden, this field looked quite spectacular! Afraid my photo doesn't do it justice.

Of course, I also had to be careful of the new skin on my previously blistered feet! Masses of Compeed plasters (I think I shall get shares in the company at this rate!!), boots laced so tightly that I regretted it later! But ...... I still got blisters and in particular, on both little toes, one of which burst at the same distance as before ..... just over 28 miles. Sigh! I guess this really means that my boots are just not a good fit ....... but how on earth I could have worked this out when I bought them I don't know. My little toe really hurt! It's going to be back to the drawing board to think of some way of stopping my little toes rubbing against the side of the boots.

Also ..... I ached by the time we finished, so not walking the Saturday before, although necessary because of my blisters, from a fitness point of view it was not so good.

However, John only got a couple of little blisters and his back ached a bit by the time we finished. However, I think at the moment he's in better shape at the end than I am ....... all because of these blooming blisters!!

One final point, having watched 'Lambing Live' all week on BBC television, I was hoping we'd see some lambs. However, none to be seen in any of the fields alongside the tow paths. Nevertheless, when on the train coming home, we passed a field full of little, pure white gambling lambs. So cute and a delight to see :)

Anyhow ...... stats for this walk:
Total distance: 29.6 miles
Total time: 10 hours 3 minutes
Total time moving: 9 hours 22 minutes
Average moving speed: 3.2mph

Friday, 8 April 2011

Received Joy's Giveaway In The Post Yesterday

Yesterday, I received this much anticipated parcel in the post ....... Joy's Giveaway prize that she was offering because she'd reached 100 followers on her blog. Joy very kindly posted it to my work address ....... and it arrived in the morning and sat on my desk, teasing me for the rest of the day! I didn't want to open it until I got the chance to photograph it.

However ....... last night I had to go to a meeting and after getting home, it was a quick meal and then out! No time yesterday!! So, I rushed home today so I could photograph it and then actually open it :)

And here it is opened. Joy had wrapped everything up very carefully ...... thank you Joy :) ...... and the box was packed with lots of goodies that I will very much enjoy using. By the way, it is a shame you can't smell the cider apple candle because it is devine!

Thank you once again Joy for running such a generous giveaway :)

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Don't Mess With Me!!

This little lady looks like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, doesn't she?

However ........

Minstrel here would beg to differ :)

Although like many brothers and sisters, they can get along quite amicably and quite frequently they will wash one another. And as their human slave, I can vouch that they are the nicest natured cats I have ever known, and they never bite or scratch.

However, like many brothers and sisters, they do have their moments!! They do have the odd barney when you'd think they were trying to kill one another. Last night was one such occasion! We're not quite sure what happened but they were having an 'argument' and John then noticed Minstrel was working his mouth ...... and a tooth fell out! This resulted in a little bit of blood on the front of his white bib, although he didn't seem too bothered and a little while later he was actually chasing her again.

Flossie is actually a little bit smaller than Minstrel, so I don't know if she has enough punch in her paw to knock out a tooth. We can only assume that she whacked him one and his head knocked against a table and that was enough to knock out a tooth.

Still, clearly ....... not a sister to mess with :)

Another Spirograph Experiment Pattern

Another Spirograph pattern experiment. The pen is thicker and a more 'open' pattern. The 'dithering' on the lines is probably because the image initially created is a bitmap. However, when creating the jpeg I made the quality high rather than low, as before, but it doesn't make much difference.

I have read somewhere that if you print a pattern and then photocopy it, the photocopy can be ironed onto fabric and it is permanent enough to then embroider over. I haven't tried this! However, I shall have to do so!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Spirograph Patterns

This blog post is a test on my part! I am in the process of re-aquainting myself with producing Spirograph type patterns using a free program called MSWLogo. My initial influence for trying this out was seeing the fantastic pattern embroideries produced by Ruth O'Leary. You can see an example of this type of work here.

My interest was then further stimulated by an entry in the smallest forest blog. Natalie, the owner of this blog, was given a Spirograph set as a Valentine's present. They get sold on ebay as 'vintage' toys ..... and I had one the first time round :) They can be tricky to use, mind you! However, you can see on Natalie's blog that, having drawn a shape, she then embroidered it and it looks really good.

I rather like the idea of producing Spirograph type patterns and then embroidering them. And producing the patterns themselves appeals to the part of my brain that loves maths and programming. You see ...... I do have to confess ..... although I like embroidery, I am a bit of a geek at heart and mathematics and programming are close to my heart.

I first got to know the MSWLogo program when I worked in a Primary school. I was the IT Technician until 2005 and in those days, producing patterns using MSWLogo was part of the Year 5 curriculum. Things change so frequently in UK schools that this may no longer be the case, but I did enjoy teaching the children (and the teachers!) about MSWLogo and a lot of the children really got into experimenting and produced fantastic patterns. The bit I'm uncertain about is how successfully I can produce patterns that could then work as embroidery patterns. You see, if you zoom into the pattern above, there is a bit of 'dither' around the lines so I'll have to investigate the manipulation of the images produced.

Of course, I mentioned the dreaded word 'maths' ...... which makes quite a few shudder :)

However, if I can manage to tempt someone to have a go, it will be worth the effort!

I've Won A Giveaway!

I am so amazed!

Today I received an email from Joy from Joyknitt to say that I was the winner for her recent giveaway that she ran to celebrate reaching 100 followers.

You can see what's included here. It's a very generous giveaway and I will look forward to the postman's arrival.

Although I have entered a few giveaways since starting my blog last year, this is the first time I have won .... hence my amazement!

The wool looks particularly interesting. Although I haven't blogged about it, I recently started a 'sitting in bed' project of a crocheted shawl using a pattern from my Mum's Woman's Weekly. Had I used the wool the magazine recommended, it would have cost about £30-40 so I bought some cheap yarn from Lidl and have been using that. It's not really suitable but this wool from Joy's Giveaway looks like it might be ideal!

Thank you again Joy for running such a generous Giveaway.

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