Visit to the Lakes

So it’s been a year and a day since I posted anything on here and I’ve got these photos from a most enjoyable visit to Grasmere in the Lake District this week so where better to stick ’em!

Jane being as vegan as I nowadays we wanted to have a short break somewhere offering a choice of eating options and the Lake District, while still not fully recovered from the winter deluge, sounded well worth a visit.

We stayed for 3 nights at Lancrigg Vegetarian Country Hotel which proved to be a lovely place set in it’s own bit of woodland, mostly planted with interesting specimens about 150 years ago and now comfortably damp and mossy.

In Ambleside there seems to be several related meat-free dining places with connections to the cinema Zefferellis – we had a fine vegan pizza in their busy, modern but friendly Pizzeria. The puddings were good too.

We also visited Greens in Grasmere on a couple of occasions, once for lunch and again for tea and cakes. They offered several decent vegan choices including cupcakes!

Somewhere between the eating we managed to squeeze in a few walks, nothing too challenging as Jane has only just got over a long bout of flu. My favourite was the trek up from Lancrigg to Easdale Tarn.

New Bridge (for sheep)

New Bridge (for sheep)

We stayed at Lancrigg Veggie/Vegan Hotel

We stayed at Lancrigg Veggie/Vegan Hotel

Fine view from our window at Lancrigg

Fine view from our window at Lancrigg

Waterfall

Waterfall on the way up to Easedale Tarn

Halfway up

Halfway up to Easedale Tarn

Sour Milk Gill waterfall

Waterfall on Sour Milk Gill

Jane refueling at Easedale Tarn

Selfie with Jane refuelling at Easedale Tarn

Easedale Tarn

Easedale Tarn

Easedale Tarn 2

Easedale Tarn

Another waterfall

Another waterfall

Grasmere bums

Grasmere Swan Bums

That sign really shouldn't be needed!

That sign really shouldn’t be needed!

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Pembrokeshire Puffins & Seals

We spent the last week of April in Pembrokeshire. Jane had fancied a visit there and found a vegan B&B that did evening meals which she had booked a while ago. I wasn’t much looking forward to the 4 hour drive but we made the decision to have a proper mid-way break in Cardiff rather than just wing it which in retrospect was a great idea.

So I let the TomTom navigate us to Cafe Atma in Cardiff which offered some great – tasty and wholesome – vegan food including a good choice of cakes. Suitably stuffed Jane took over and drove us to The Gables B&B in Roch, about a mile away from Newgale Sands. Susie and her vegan dogs and cat* made us really welcome at The Gables and it was a change for me never having to double check if I could eat something, from the scones on arrival to the lovely diners she made us and the cooked breakfast – everything was vegan. Also not too expensive. Highly recommended!

Maybe the real reason Jane had wanted to go to Pembrokshire was to visit Skomer Island with a hope of seeing puffins. With a limit of 250 visitors allowed a day, and the single landing point meaning conditions didn’t always allow the boat to sail, getting there wasn’t a certainty. We were in luck though and at 11am Monday were boarding the Dale Princess then on our way.

The Dale PrincessThe boat trip was fun and took about 15 minutes then up a long stairway to a greeting area where a Welsh Wildlife Trust warden gave us the low down and in particular asked us to stick to the paths as the whole island is riddled with burrows many of which contained nesting birds including the nocturnal Manx Shearwaters – about 300,000 breeding pairs apparently. We couldn’t expect to see any in day time excepting the macabre pairs of bodiless wings scattered about the island, leftovers from when the Greater Black-backed Gulls had a few for supper.

We walked up the old farmhouse which now serves as a visitor centre, attempts at farming having ceased in the 1950’s. Then we set off in the opposite direction to the others so we could have our picnic lunch looking out over the Mew Stone which is a rock out to sea at the south of Skomer. The rock ledges of Mew Stone was occupied with lots of birds that we decided were Guillemot, we’d been told a pair of Chough had been seen earlier but we didn’t spot their distinctive red beaks and legs.

On to The Wick, a steep cliffed feature like someone had cut a thin slice of cake out the island, and there were puffins everywhere. We’d been alone for much of the time so far but loads of people were puffin watching, the birds themselves didn’t seem much fussed though a volunteer told me they could get a bit stressed having to walk across the path to get to their burrows.

Puffin9 Puffins1 Puffin2It was a fine sunny day so I managed to get some good photos despite having to rely on the autofocus as varifocals and cameras don’t mix. We also had a pair of Fulmars snuggling up high on a cliff ledge pointed out to us as well as more Guillimot and some Razorbills lower down on the cliff. It was a while before we tore ourselves away and continued round Skomer’s perimeter.

Skomer had been used for farming rabbits since the 14th century and there were still lots about, mostly your standard issue grey bunny but we also saw several black ones.

Black BunnyI had suggested we travelled to Skomer on the 11am boat instead of the 10am as the first boat back was supposed to be 3:30pm and I had visions of us getting cold and bored on a wet and windy island. In fact the opposite was true and we had to keep an eye on the time to make sure we were waiting for our boat 30 minutes before it’s 4:00pm sailing – it had been pointed out to us at the start that there was no later boat and ‘it was already rather crowded at the hostel’ (some visitors and researchers spend the night there).

A 2nd visit to the old farmhouse to use their compost loos and buy some water then back to the top of the landing stairs where we were entertained by more puffins, seals – in particular a young one that came over to our side of the bay and, on our descent to the Dale Princess for boarding, a close look at some Razorbills who hang out near the steps.

Seal3 Seals1Razorbill1Puffins3Puffins4* Life for Celine, an elegant and friendly black cat – healthy at 15 years on her vegan diet – could have been terribly different. Celine started life at Hill Grove Farm where cats were bred for vivisection until it closed, mostly down to the efforts of activists, in 1999.

Controversial cat farm closes (BBC)

Save The Hillgrove Cats Campaign (YouTube)

 

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Inverted Bowl

Had one of those sad moments when I couldn’t drag myself away from the computer after parkrun yesterday so I decided to get geeky and create a graph of my parkrun times over the last year or so, using data conveniently downloadable from my Fetch training log, to examine their rise and, at last, fall. I know I’m getting a bit of speed back since my shoulder has become less painful but nothing like a graph with a trend-line to illustrate the obvious.

Rise and Fall of parkunThe November 2012 starting point is actually when Fetch introduced parkrun as a separate category but it tallies nicely with when I first started to be aware of something wrong with my arm, though it wasn’t diagnosed as a frozen shoulder till February this year.

Spuds 2013And while I’m posting trivia here is a photo of this year’s main-crop potatoes – pleased with the yield and apparent quality for just 3 rows, it looks like there are quite a few big bakers in there as well. They should last us till Xmas at least. The weather has been much, much better this year but I think the thorough dressing of seaweed fertiliser and compost we applied has revitalised our garden plot.

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Feeding The Vegan Welsh 3000s

So, having failed to actually get up even one Welsh 3000 but still wanting to be part of the Vegan Welsh 3000s adventure, Jane and I were to be found at 7:45am on Saturday the 15th June trying to erect a tent in a very windy car park next to Llyn Ogwen which lives between the Glyderau and the Carneddau mountains in Snowdonia. I’d volunteered us as a food stop where the hardy ultra runners could rest and refuel with strictly vegan calories before tackling the last stage of the race.

We had already been staying in a B&B near Llanberis for a couple of days and had enjoyed a bit of wet but pleasant walking plus a visit to Caernarfon. The veggie/vegan B&B, Graianfryn, was brilliant and did us home-made, exciting, nutritious breakfasts and evening meals complete with vegan wine or beer options. I’d had a couple of fair nights sleep for a change but Friday I’d been arm achy and knackered so I wasn’t that fresh.

The grassy area we were trying to pitch in only actually had about an inch of grass under which was stone so we tried to pin the tent down pushing the pegs in sideways. It was gusting really strongly and despite assistance from Rachel who had volunteered to help us I was beginning to despair of getting the thing to stay put even before the first runner arrived. We managed to untangle and attach a few extra guy ropes that had never been needed before and I eventually sussed that by tucking the pegs under the edge of the various boulders sharing the grassy bit I could get them to stay put. The side of the tent still blew in so far it almost pushed the table over but it would have to do.

Ogwen food stationMeanwhile food supplies and runners bags arrived from the previous food station at Nant Peris and we added vegan pizza and sausage rolls to the supply of sandwiches, cake, bananas, dried fruit, crisps nuts, 9bars, flapjacks, tea, coffee and energy drinks we were offering. It seemed like a lot of food for around 30 starters but while the faster runners just stuffed their faces, downed a coffee, filled their pockets then were off as the day went on the less hurried participants took the chance to unwind, have a decent sit down and  have a proper picnic.

Boris Gaspar, our first runner, approached from the Carneddau as he was one of only two attempting the 84k extreme event which amounted to running all the 3000s then turning round and running them again. He had started an hour late after getting a puncture so by the time he arrived around 9:30 we were ready for him. He was looking fresh despite 14 miles already done and after a munch sprung up the rocky path towards Tryfan like he’d only just started.

Boris heads for TryfanCharlie Sharpe was with us for his first visit half an hour later also attempting the 84k version but starting at the other end so he’d already covered the Snowdon Massif and the Glyderau. A super fit member of team 9bar Charlie looked in better shape than I usually do after a 5k parkrun and was soon on his way up the Carneddau.

Charlie heads for Pen y Ole WenThings were getting busy for us now with Dan Page, who went on to win the 55k in 8hr 45m, followed by a steady flow of faster runners. Vegan Karl Garside had acquired a rather purple looking swollen ankle but the tape applied to support it seemed to work as he went on to finish in 4th place. A minor cock-up meant a couple of the runners drop bags had gone AWOL resulting in a disappointing end to the dream of dry socks. The excitement and feel good vibe was almost visible.

The day had turned out pretty dry and sunny despite a foul forecast and the start of the race having been greeted with a hail storm on the way up Snowdon and poor visibility on the tops. We were told it was really windy on the summits though and the organiser’s switch to an alternative route avoiding the arête of Crib Goch was a good call. Down in the valley we were still struggling to keep the tent up in the strong gusts and any spare minute found me trying to rescue another guy rope from the impossible tangle they’d become. The side of the tent would blow right in and it later turned out a couple of the poles had split. We tucked the camping stove right into a corner behind a wall and it worked well enough to keep a couple of flasks topped up with boiling water for tea and coffee. When things calmed down a bit we got the frying pan out and started a production line for vegan bacon sarnies which found appreciative consumers amongst many of the not- usually-vegan participants.

John BatesonSeveral members of Vegan Runners UK were taking part including Simon Dally, John Bateson (above with organiser Kirsch Bowker), Kate Fitzgibbon and Roger Mills. Runners families, volunteers and supporters from Sea Shepherd cheered in participants as well as welcoming various walkers and runners who were nothing to do with our event. A few people dropped out, another 14 miles starting with a 600m climb was just too much, and I forwarded on their race numbers to marshals down the line. Time flew and around 2:40pm we greeted the last 5 who had got lost and missed out Tryfan while adding on a few miles, 3 of these decided to call it a day but 2 decided to carry on after a feed and a rest.

The mountain marshals who had been stationed for many hours on the surrounding peaks in some pretty hairy winds made their way down to us – another Boris, Jake, Jeannie and Joe. A tired Te had arrived with van and we knew Charlie would be with us soon on his return leg, he was refuelled and on his way back up Tryfan about 4:30pm.

Arrival timings were obviously rather vague at this stage 12 hours after the start and we had one of several comedy moments. We set food – cold bacon sarnie, banana, 9bar, water etc etc – aside for Boris so we could leave Te and Rachel to look after him and get ourselves decamped. The hastily arranged support for Charlie’s next Nant Perris stop hadn’t arrived for his drop bag at the unrealistically early time agreed so Te went off to wait for him and when Kirsch did arrive we packed all the remaining food along with the Vegan 3000s flag etc in her car so we didn’t need to take our knackered selves to Rowen. (They were having a fine party there but I was only fit for my bed.) Boris arrived about 6pm and we realised all his supplies had somehow been taken away in Te’s van. Oh no! Jane and Rachel raided their lunch boxes and water bottles and succeeded in feeding him a feast of oatcakes and grapes and stuff which did the job.

Meanwhile I was desperately trying to stem the flow of blood from a small but unstoppable cut on my thumb I’d somehow got from a sharp end on the flagpole. Double plasters were washed off in the red flow, the finger bandage saturated in minutes – I ended up applying the eye bandage from the first aid kit with the eye pad positioned to staunch the flow. Marshal Boris and Rachel headed for Rowen then Jane and I started to take the tent down just as the wind really got going and, tent by now uninhabitable, it started to piss it down – first proper rain we’d had all day and came too quick to get the waterproof trousers on. Think I was back in my bed at the B&B before the last runners had even finished I was so knackered!

Of course we were just a place on the way for these mountain runners – the real event was going on hundreds of metres above us in sunshine and wind and sometimes cloud. This photo by Patrick Lewis gives you a better idea of what it’s all about, click on it to visit Flickr and see many more.

Up On Top

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Pen yr Ole Wen 1 – Vegan 0

With 6 weeks to go to the Vegan Carneddau and no real improvement in my shoulder it seemed about time to try myself out, I’ve never actually walked or run to the top of a mountain before. We had already booked a couple of nights B&B in Betws y Coed for a break and had been jammy enough to get some wonderful sunny weather. So after a long mornings drive then vegan pastie and chips at the Alpine Coffee Shop Jane dropped me at the east end of Llyn Ogwen with instructions to pick me up in 3 hours allowing me time to find my way up Pen yr Ole Wen and back, maybe with a leg out to Carnedd Dafydd thrown in if I was making good time. I had brought a choice of trail shoes and light showerproof or boots and proper coat, it was warm at the bottom but I could see a couple of patches of remaining snow up there so went for the boots and coat.

East of Pen yr Ole Wen

The way up

I’d plotted on Garmin and map what I understood to be the easier but longer way up, following Afon Lloer up the east of Pen yr Ole Wen then following a path left round to the south to reach the summit. It turned out to be pretty boggy by Afon Lloer with no clear path but marking posts and steps over walls showed the way quite clearly at first. It was of course all uphill and pretty soon I was regretting bringing my coat as the sweat flowed. I took it off and carried it under my good arm, tied my fleece round my waist and slowed the pace reminding myself that the hard work was yet to come.

Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan behind

Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan behind

One of the marker posts had fallen so I stuck it back in it’s hole. They ran out after 40 minutes or so but I could make out a sort of path leading to the rocky bit below the summit and was still on the course I’d loaded the Garmin with. I wasn’t in sight of the small lake, Ffynnon Lloer, snuggled near the top yet but remembered a route description had cryptically stated the need to bear left before you could see the lake. I continued on to the start of the rocks where it was fortunately a bit cooler with altitude as I had to put my coat back on to free up my good arm.

Still looks like a path

Still looks like a path

I picked my way up what seemed to be a steep path over rocks and grassy bits but soon found my way blocked by some larger slabs resting at a quite steep angle. I thought I could see a level bit not far up that could well be the path but there was no way I was going to get past these without a bit of what’s know as a scramble and that wasn’t going to happen with my lack of experience and only one arm working properly. Turning round to retrace I was reminded that I don’t like heights, particularly where the footing is not secure – I pushed that phobia back into it’s hiding place where it was quickly forgotten as I took in the view.

Pen yr Ole Wen view eastI retraced a bit but couldn’t see any obvious path further south so decided to ignore the Garmin and continue towards Ffynnon Lloer to look for a way up I could manage. Perhaps that hadn’t been the correct path and it was a little further on, there were no shortage of false tracks. It was an hour since I set off and I’d not seen anyone since leaving tarmac – not exactly a multitude of walkers to tread a clear path. The little lake was pretty and it was a great place to have to myself. The continual wall of loose rocks towering to my left didn’t offer much promise though. I tried a couple of possible paths but they tapered to nothing, one got so steep that I ended up sliding part way back down on my bum as the vertigo gremlin tried to crawl back out his hole.

A week and a bit of research later and it seems I’d failed to find the proper route though looking at a couple of videos of the scramble I still wouldn’t have got up there without 2 good arms.

Ffynnon Lloer

Ffynnon Lloer

 

Not that way either

Not that way either

I continued round the lake to the shallower looking slopes below Carnedd Fach but really knew it was time to admit defeat. If I couldn’t gain the first summit walking in perfect conditions I wasn’t going to be up to running the Vegan Carneddau with a further 6 peaks. I reckoned I had another 30 minutes maximum before I needed to start back down so decided to follow a clear path up from the lake to a big rock I could see a bit before what looked like another yet more loose rock. Getting closer I could see that with sufficient skill, strength and limbs it might be possible to gain the ridge this way but it wasn’t for me. Time to give up!

Ffynnon Lloer from above

Ffynnon Lloer from above

Time to go back down

Time to go back down

Download from Garmin

Where I actually went – download from Garmin

 

 

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