A Walk with Alpacas

A very unique gift

I received a very unique gift-experience for my birthday, from a very thoughtful friend.   A walk with alpacas.  I took this opportunity to take two of my grandchildren to share the experience, to Treswell, Nottinghamshire, England.

Getting to know the alpacas
Getting to know the alpacas

A passion for alpacas

A husband and wife team, with a passion for alpacas, look after a small-holding ‘OrionTree’ https://oriontree.uk/  They are specialist breeders and keep their herd small.  Anyone who wishes to try one of their experiences is guanteed a hands-on encounter with a difference.

Me and my alpaca
A walk with alpacas

Chalk and cheese

Eight year old Evie and five year old Jack couldn’t wait to meet the alpacas.  Jack loves all kinds of animals and was eager to get stuck in.  Evie, on the other hand, is a little more reserved and preferred to ‘just help Grandma’.

An image of one of the alpacas ready for his walk
One of the alpacas ready for his walk

A calm and gentle nature

Alpacas are beautiful, friendly creatures with a very calm and gentle nature.  They make exceptionally easy walking companions and the team at Oriontree can adapt the walk to suit but they generally stick to a routine. 

Jack with James the alpaca
Confidently walking with my alpaca

Hello boys

After a short introduction the machos (alpaca boys) are brought out.  We were each paired with our alpaca and off we went.  Both children were entranced with their partners from the beginning and it wasn’t long before Grandma’s help was no longer needed. 

A confident little girl leading her alpaca
I can do this

Snack break

A short break at the half-way point provided the opportunity for Jack to ask all his questions.  He needed to know about the alpacas’ teeth and the difference between alpacas and llamas and countless other things.   All questions were patiently and knowledgeably answered by our hostess.  Meanwhile ‘the boys’  chomped their way through a box full of snacks, fed to them by the Evie and Jack.

Alpacas are beautiful, gentle creatures
Alpacas are beautiful, gentle creatures

An absolute delight

It was a very unique experience.  We all learnt a lot and it was a pleasure to be in the company of such beautiful creatures, especially in the lovely, North Nottinghamshire countryside.  https://www.innorthnotts.co.uk/

 

A walk with alpacas in the wonderful Nottinghamshire countryside?

I would highly recommend.

Week 2 is in the bag! #W2Cto5K

I have to say that I never expected to be looking forward to W3Cto5K (week 3 Couch to 5K) but I am! https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week/

I know it is still early days and there is still a long way to go. Last week I was listening to the coach on my Cto5K app and silently screaming at her to make it stop, however this morning I realised that I wasn’t. I don’t think I can quite call myself a runner as yet.

The early morning start helps, although 8.30am is not that early to some but it isn’t too hot and there aren’t that many people about and it’s early enough for me.  It leaves me feeling energised (and righteous) for the rest of the day and positive and wanting to run again… but that’s not allowed.

Chesterfield Canal

I am very fortunate to have the Chesterfield Canal http://www.chesterfield-canal-trust.org.uk/ right on my doorstep, it is a very picturesque waterway.  In fact, this morning the dredger was gently chugging along scooping up the algae a very tranquil scene.  Views across the North Nottinghamshire countryside are very uplifting and at this time of the year (without wishing to sound poetic) it is ‘golden’. This is definitely not your pavement pounding route and I expect, come the autumn, I might have a different, muddier tale to tell.

Chesterfield Canal, Wiseton

It is possible that I can step up the pace a little without breaking the rule of: ‘do not run every day’. At present I am working on 3 runs per week but if I run every other day that will make it 3/4 per week won’t it?  Which might help me to maintain the momentum. Worth a punt I reckon.

As you can probably tell, I am feeling very positive – probably because I haven’t come a cropper as yet and probably because I am doing exactly as Sarah Millican (Cto5K coach) says. If she says ‘Off you go!’ Then that’s what I do. I am impressed with the programme devised by the NHS… so far. Long may it continue.

I will see you back here this time next week to let you know how it feels to be looking at Week 4!

Today, I ran! #thisgirlcan #thisoldgirlcan

I really can’t say how this happened.  Could it have been the football (yawn)?  The tennis?  Or just a general feeling of  ‘I have to do something about this weighty issue that is surrounding me.’  Whatever it is, something has made me think that if I could run fifteen years ago and really not that much has changed, then surely I can run now… can’t I?  Obviously, I need to look into this properly.

Trainers on

I had heard about the NHS ‘Couch to 5K’ scheme.  Hmmm 5K roughly 3 miles, right?  Surely I can do that.  I am carrying extra weight, I am 64 (and a bit) and I haven’t done any form of exercise for a very long time so let’s get this into perspective.  My research found a website https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/couch-to-5k-week-by-week/ and an app ‘Couch to 5K’ – I read the reviews, all very positive.  Surely 25k downloads can’t be wrong.

Well, no time like the present.  I need to check that the old kit fits, (if I can find it and I can always borrow one of the hubster’s big tees if not) and get everything ready the night before I can do an early morning run – before it gets too hot.  There’s no way I can stay the course if I try to run in this 30oC but a pleasant 16/17oC should be OK. That’s it then, app downloaded, old work-out gear prepared, socks and trainers all in place, hat for shade and disguise, ear pods at the ready.  There really is no excuse.  I live right by a canal tow path, a bit tussocky but only dog-walkers will see me, the views are tranquil and calming and it’s only butterflies that get in the way.

Across the fields

Sarah Millican http://sarahmillican.co.uk/ (my coach of preference) instructed me to prepare by doing a 5 minute brisk walk.  I can do that.  Well at least, that’s what these trainers know how to do. Followed by a one minute gentle-jog-run-keep-it-slow.  One minute right?  That’s only 60 seconds, I can do anything for 60 seconds.  The brisk walk went well.  Ready, steady, go!  One minute’s gentle run.  I’d did it and I did 7 more too, interspersed with 90 second recovery walks, ending with a 5 minute cool down walk.  I did it!  I can’t quite believe it but I did it.  One run in the bag and it’s recommended that I do 3 of these per week.  

View from the bridge

But… I am already thinking ahead and looking at the possible obstacles.  If I do keep this up, and there is no reason why I shouldn’t, what happens when it is not a golden morning and the tussocks have turned to mud?  Are there special trainers for that? What will I notice first from this exercise? What are the benefits? I want to become addicted to it, just like I was addicted to aerobics twenty years ago.  And as the old adage says ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it!’  What words of encouragement and what advice have you got for me?

By the tow path

Oh, I forgot to mention, I am keeping this quiet as I don’t want to set my self up to fail 😉

 

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Open Gardens!

Eight brave neighbours of mine got together to stage an ‘Open Gardens’ day this weekend.  The day could not have been more glorious – a typical English summer day,  bright and warm from the off.

The route through the village provided a peep behind the gates into some of the most amazing spaces.  Some filled with quintessential blooms of delphiniums, foxgloves, hollyhocks, clematis, roses and the rest.  And others were tranquil areas of trees providing an uplifting dappled light.

The event brought the community together, my husband was on ticket and car park duty whilst I made teas and coffees and sold cakes in the village hall with many others who had rolled up their sleeves.  It was hard work but well-worth it, as £1600 was raised towards the Memorial Hall refurbishment fund.  And for many, it was a grand day out – especially as The Brewer’s Arms http://www.brewersarmsclayworth.co.uk/ and the The Blacksmiths https://www.blacksmithsclayworth.com/    were both open for business and offering a discount.  What more could you want?

My own garden is very small but I endeavour to fill it with colour- and perhaps, when it’s time for the next ‘Open Gardens’ day in a couple of years’ time, I will be brave enough to open the gate to it too.

Why is Nordic Walking so Good for You?

An image Nordic Walkers wrapped up in winter gear, heading out for a walk

Find out why Nordic Walking is so good for you!

I read an article about British Nordic Walking https://britishnordicwalking.org.uk/ It was exactly the inspiration I needed to hunt out my poles and reintroduce myself to the joys of this unique form of exercise.

An image Nordic Walkers wrapped up in winter gear, heading out for a walk
A group of enthusiastic Nordic Walkers striding out into the countryside

There is a group somewhere near you

A group meets at Clumber Park not far from where I live https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/clumber-park every Friday morning.  An induction period is available for newcomers and poles can be hired for just £1, prior to the main event which is £5.  Fully-qualified British Nordic Walking instructors lead the group.

Nordic Walking poles with spikes tucked away and the hand loops can be clearly seen here with their velcro straps
Nordic Walking poles with spikes tucked away and the hand loops can be clearly seen here with their velcro straps

So what is Nordic Walking?

Nordic Walking uses specially designed poles to enhance the walking experience. Using a technique that is similar to the upper body action of classic, cross-country skiing, Nordic Walking becomes a genuine, whole-body exercise that can be enjoyed at many levels, from walking for health to athletic Nordic running!

An image of a group of cheerful, Nordic Walkers taking a break
An opportunity to make new friends

What are the benefits of Nordic Walking?

Nordic Walking combines the simplicity and accessibility of walking with simultaneous core and upper body conditioning, similar to Nordic skiing.  The result is a full-body workout, which means:

•46% more calories burned, compared to walking without poles

•less tension in the neck and shoulders

•posture and gait is improved

•back and abdominal muscles are strengthened

•the impact on joints is reduced

And most importantly…

… because Nordic Walking doesn’t feel like hard work you’ll be happy to walk further and for longer.

A view across the lake at Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, England
Clumber Park, a picturesque and tranquil place to practice Nordic walking 
Clumber Park, National Trust, Nottinghamshire England
Clumber Park, National Trust, Nottinghamshire England
Woodland walks at Clumber Park, National Trust, North Nottinghamshire, England
Woodland walks at Clumber Park, National Trust, North Nottinghamshire, England

Finish with a stretch

A fifty minute walk through the woods later and we were back to where we started for a ‘stretch’.

A view of Clumber Park, chapel from acrosss the lake
A view of Clumber Park, chapel from acrosss the lake

It’s not all about the exercise

But it’s not all about the exercise, there’s the fresh air too and who doesn’t love trees?  And it’s also an opportunity to meet like-minded people. What more could you want?

The picturesque lake at Clumber Park, North Nottinghamshire, England
The picturesque lake at Clumber Park, North Nottinghamshire, England

You never know, it might be just what you are looking for

Find a session nearby to discover just how good Nordic Walking is for you.

The Traquair Murals (the what Murals?)

Fancy that!

There is ‘brown road sign’ local to us pointing towards ‘The Traquair Murals’ – and as I have only lived in the area a relatively short time, my thoughts were ‘the what murals?’  How on earth is it that pronounced?  Well, through sneaky research I have it on good authority that it is pronounced ‘Trakwair’ and… what are they?  Here is everything you ever wanted to know about the hidden gem of the Nottinghamshire countryside that is the ‘Traquair Murals’:

Phoebe Traquair was born Phoebe Anna Moss on 24 May 1852 in Kiltern, County Dublin, Ireland.  Her parents were Dr William Moss and Teresa Moss (née Richardson). Phoebe was the sixth of their seven children.  She studied art at the School of Design at the Royal Dublin Society between 1869 and 1872 and married the Scottish palaeontologist Ramsay Heatley Traquair on 5 June 1873.  They had three children: Ramsay, Harry and Hilda.

Phoebe’s elder brother was William Richardson Moss, a keen art collector who owned a number of works by Dante Gabriel Rossetti who founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, she shared her brother’s love of art, including a particular fascination with the work of Rossetti and that of William Blake.  Her style and choice of subject matter remained deeply influenced by Blake and Rossetti’s art and poetry throughout her life.

So what has Phoebe got to do with a sleepy little village in North Nottinghamshire?

St Peter’s Church in Clayworth (link: http://www.stpetersclayworth.org) is home to one of only two similar artworks outside of Scotland.  These particular murals are the largest works of art in the East of England and were created by Phoebe Traquair in 1905.  And they have to be seen to be believed… vibrant, rich colours that bring the centuries-old, grey, stone walls of the village church to life.  Phoebe’s earlier Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts influences can clearly be seen in this unique, peaceful environment.

On a silver tablet are the words: ‘To the glory of God as a thank offering for the safe return from the Boer War 1899 -1902 of her beloved son Captain Joseph Frederick Laycock DSO, who being at that time a Major in the Sherwood Rangers Imperial Yeomanry, served on the staff of General Sir John French KCB, this chancel has been decorated in deep gratitude, by his mother Lady D’Arcy Godolphin Osborne,’

I strongly recommend a visit to the church to see this work of art but put on your walking boots and take the opportunity to walk down the lane opposite the church to Otter’s Bridge, walk over the bridge, taking in the views of open-countryside then turn left and follow the canal tow-path to the next bridge.  Leave the canal at this point (unless you want a good 6 mile ramble into Retford) turn left again and follow the road back to the church.  Take this opportunity to call in at either the Brewer’s Arms (link: http://www.brewersarmsclayworth.co.uk) or The Blacksmiths (link: http://www.blacksmithsclayworth.com) for a refresher.  After which, continue back up the road to St Peter’s Church to complete the circuit.  It won’t take long – an afternoon should do it.  If you haven’t seen the Traquair Murals then put it on your to do list.  You won’t regret it, an afternoon well spent.

Make your own refreshing, Elderflower Cordial

This is elderflower blossom in full bloom and also ready to bloom

How to make homemade Elderflower Cordial

I make Elderflower Cordial every year and the time to make this wonderful, refreshing ‘summer in a bottle’ is now!  Get out and pick some of those lovely, fragrant blossoms fast – before they fade.  Top tip – try to find an elderflower tree that is not on a busy road.  They grow just about everywhere and should be easy to find,

Refreshing Elderflower Cordial is so summery

Every year at this time I collect elderflower heads and remember my Mum.  It was the last thing that we did together a couple of weeks before she died twelve years ago.  She had a large elderflower tree at the bottom of her garden.  She reached up with her walking stick to bring down the biggest blooms for me.  This refreshing, summery drink is literally bittersweet for me, she loved it – and everyone who has tried it since loves it too.

This is elderflower blossom in full bloom and also ready to bloom
This is what elderflower blossom looks like. Tiny, creamy-white flowers and bright green foliage and a delicate fragrance 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refreshing Elderflower Cordial is such a good mixer

Mix it with prosecco, gin, vodka – or sparkling water of course – and it can be used to flavour cakes and desserts.  It is so easy to make, I ans sure that you will be impressed at just how good it is – and everyone else will be too.  Here’s how to make elderflower cordial:

Ingredients:

Three lovely, yellow, fresh lemons ready for peeling and slicing
Three fresh, unwashed lemons ready to peel and slice

Equipment needed:

  • A large saucepan
  • A large mixing bowl
  • A wooden spoon
  • A peeler
  • A colander
  • A clean muslin cloth
  • Some clean, reusable plastic or glass bottles

Method:

  1. Gently shake the elderflower heads to remove any ‘wildlife’
  2. Put the sugar and 1.5 litres (2 ½ pints) of water into a saucepan, bring to the boil. Stir from time to time to dissolve the sugar. Remove the zest from the lemons in broad strips with a peeler and put in a bowl with the elderflowers. Slice the lemons thinly and add to the bowl. When the sugar syrup has come to the boil, pour over the flowers and lemons. Stir in the citric acid. Cover with a clean dry cloth and leave in a cool, dark place for 24 hours.
  3. Strain the cordial through a muslin-lined nylon sieve into a large bowl or container.  Pour into warm, sterilised bottles and seal.  (Or plastic water bottles for the freezer, just remember to leave enough space for expansion.  This way you can have the taste of summer at Christmas!)
  4. Leave to cool and keep in the refrigerator. It will last for four to six weeks.
Elderflowers, lemons, syrup and citric acid all mixed together to steep for 24 hours
Elderflowers, lemons, syrup and citric acid all mixed together to steep for 24 hours
Creamy-white elderflower blossom
Elderflower blossoms just ready for picking

Let me introduce myself…

My name is Sharon, welcome to my blog.

I moved out of the city a couple of years ago and my life changed completely.  I now find myself in the middle of England’s best kept secret… the beautiful, gentle Nottinghamshire countryside.  I had a busy, stressful life as a Marketing, Communications and P.R. Manager but now my focus is on very different things,  which I would like to share with you.

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