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 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!


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)



Brighton Half 2014

I’d entered the Brighton Half an age ago as it seemed there was going to be a big vegan presence. Rubbish that I may have been recently, I’d used this as a focus for some training and – while my target of scraping in under 2 hours seemed uninspired for a distance I could run in 1:45 2 years ago – it was a bit of a boost to be reminded by my ‘purple’ start race number that when I’d entered I’d apparently put 2:00 – 2:15 as my expected time.

As a ‘tune-up’ race (well alright because I couldn’t resist it) I did a orienteering event up Shotover the day before. Went for ‘light green’ this time and while I took a long time again – 1:06:36 for a nominal 2.8k turned into an actual 5k – I made an attempt to do it properly and managed 9th out of 11 finishers with 3 disqualified. 25 minutes ‘stopped’ time according to my Garmin so I obviously need to learn to think quicker!

So Shotover done with mid-afternoon I was off to Littlehampton where I spent a comfy night in the Travelodge before scraping unexpected ice off the car and driving the last few miles to Brighton where I caught the special bus to the start by the seafront. Thousands of runners milling about, I bumped into Matt Woodman and Peter Simpson then deposited my bag before heading off to the ‘purple’ start area – after a bit of a warm-up we were off.

Plan was to start easy and try to keep my miles under 9 minutes throughout. This ought to be easy but I’d struggled to keep under 10 minute miles towards the end of the 13 mile training run I’d done a couple of weeks before and had been absolutely shattered for the rest of the day – it had felt more like I’d just run a marathon. Anyway I followed the convenient 2 hour paceman for a bit – entertained by his obvious urge to run a bit faster tempered by regular checks of his watch to slow down a bit. After a couple of miles I passed him though and was glad to find a bit of space appearing round me as the field opened up a little bit.

Up a long but steady slope for a mile or so watching the faster people descending the closed road in the opposite direction. A great drum band beating out a rhythm – Stix – then our turn to descend with a view of those behind. I had a half bottle of Lucozade at the 3 mile station and again at 6, it had turned into a beautiful sunny morning and I was working up a good sweat for maybe the first time this year.

Brighton Half 2014Tiring a bit around mile 8 I still managed to maintain sub-9s with the help of my Garmin. I felt a little queasy from the Lucozade so washed a gel down with a bottle of water at the 10 mile station which was just at the point where we turned back east and followed the promenade back to the finish. I was seeing a chance of finishing in 1:55 and come the last mile pushed as best I could speeding up for a fast (for me) finish but not quite – 1:55:12 3047th of 6924 finishers chip time – pleased with that though and a day later I feel ok and no injuries 🙂

Afterwards I met up with some of the 15 odd other – mostly much faster – vegan participants, many of them VRUK members. Despite my earlier queasiness a chunk of V-Bites carrot cake and a hazelnut latte went down a treat!



Eynsham 10k 2013

Apart from the return of a slight PF nag since the Watlington Skyline I’ve been feeling pretty good with my shoulder, while still not very mobile, hardly complaining at all. So I thought I’d try for a seasons best at the Eynsham 10k, not a lot to ask being as the best I’d managed so far this year was something like 52:30. I ran 48:33 at Eynsham last year and 47:48 the year before but that was then and it’s going to take a lot more training to get back there. So 52 minutes works out about 8:15 minute miles, achievable but only if nothing started hurting and I didn’t throw up!

I cycled out, over 9 miles, the furthest I’ve cycled since April I think. Last year there was flooding and the Thames had spilled over under Swinford Toll Bridge but this year just a bit breezy and chilly but really not a bad day for a race.

Leaving home just before 9am got me there in plenty of time to pick up my chip, chat to local runners and peel off my outer layers. A chap approached and introduced himself as Dean Miller, a recently joined Vegan Runners UK member. He wasn’t running due to injury but his vegan partner Jackie was. I also ran into another vegan from my neighborhood, Lynne, who was meeting up with members of her running group for the race. So I felt in good company.

We wandered round to the start then bang on 10:30 we were off. Chip to chip timing so I started not far from the back. A shout from Dean who was taking photos – then another from VRUK’s Maria who was unexpectedly supporting along with John and their dogs. The start being a bit downhill I tried not to get carried away but still passed a good many runners completing the first mile in under 8 minutes.

Eynsham 10k 2013 startI eased down to target pace for mile 2 only to feel my right shoe loosening and looked down to spot not one but both laces coming undone. Too far to go to leave them like that so lost about 20 seconds pulling out of the fray to re-tie and tuck in properly – I had been chatting when I put my shoes back on after removing my cycling longs and had obviously done a bad job of them.

The course is 2 laps almost right round Eynsham so a gentle headwind then a very slight climb up to and along the A40 path then left back into Eynsham to go round again. I held my pace and passed a good many runners though did have to ease a bit during mile 5 as breakfast threatened to make a return visit. I was going to get my season best but was glad I wasn’t trying for sub-50 as I don’t have it in me quite yet.

Eynsham 10k 2013 finish

We were marshalled left off the road, past the school race HQ, then onto the finish field where Dean waited with camera. I realised a last push would get me under 52 minutes on the finish clock so easily under on the chip – I went for it and just scraped in. A happy but rather achy ride back to Oxford and the results were up before the day was out. 51:17 394th of 588 runners. Slowest time to date at Eynsham but still pleased as I do feel I’m starting to move back in the right direction 🙂







British Ultra Fest 2013

Let me just make this clear – I did not run in the British Ultra Fest, these people take running so far a marathon starts to look like a pre-breakfast jog.

The 2013 British Ultra Fest comprises 3 races – a 6 day, a 48 hour and a 24 hour. The participants run or walk round a 400 metre track completing as many laps as they can in the allotted time, they change direction every 6 hours. Time spent sleeping or stopping to eat is time lost on the track so kept to a minimum while ensuring you can complete. It was happening just down the road from me at Radley School and Greek vegan runner Mitso (Demetrios) Kehayioglou was taking part in the 6 day so I thought I’d cycle down there to see what it was all about and offer support to Mitso.

This being the start of the 6th day I was sort of expecting something resembling the zombie apocalypse with 6 day runners stumbling about while the 24 hour guys, who were only just starting, charged past them. Mostly though they seemed happily walking round, chatting in some cases, eating in others, still running quite a bit, pain and discomfort hardly registering on their faces. I positioned myself to take a few photos, there were not many spectators so I could pick my place by the track, I spotted Mitso and called his name.


Mitso at the start of day 6 (the green number runners are doing the 24 hour)

Runners are only supposed to leave and regain the track at a particular point and they mustn’t accept pace from others so I took a few photos then went to the refreshment area where Mitso met me and we chatted for a few minutes. His knee was swollen and sore, making every track corner difficult, so he was slowing a bit to make sure he’d finish. I asked if he needed anything, I’d thrown some stuff in the pannier including eats and dry socks, but he had it all planned with assistance from his partner and a tent. I guess you have to get all the preparation spot on with this sort of thing. The official caters were Veggies, a vegan group from Nottingham, so no issues with getting good food.

VeggiesI let Mitso carry on, one more mile then time for a rest he said which turned out to be fortuitous I think as it started raining when I was on my way home 15 minutes later. I took a few more photos, spotted Paul Brackett amongst the 24 hour runners and gave him a shout. The 6 day people would walk off the course, grab sustenance from their support crews or the table by Veggies, then carry on round often spooning food into their mouths as they went. Christian Ritella from Sweden appeared to be refuelling with a bottle of beer – and why not!

Christian RitellaHaving just set out back home, almost at the point where the entrance track through the woods meets the road, I met an American 6 day competitor who I later identified as Bill Heldenbrand who had just set a new 48 hour record for his M65 category. I gave him a nod, he smiled and said he was a bit bored of going round and round the track so thought he’d take a walk and see what the countryside was like. These people are quite special, they seemed to have achieved contentment with their repetitive efforts. Nothing like the soggy, undisciplined, wrecks we must have appeared after nearly 4 days at the back end of the wet 2007 Paris Brest Paris.

More photos on Flickr here. The winner, Frenchman Didier Sessegolo, totalled 533.6 miles. Mitso did 367.9. I hope they are all recovering well and enjoying a rest!

BUF 6 Day Results