Cream teas and not such a good cinema trip

Last Saturday (the first one of half term) we had to drive to Exeter and were originally going to visit Stourhead- the leaves at this time of year are meant to be amazing- but with storm Brian on the way they had closed the gardens, so we went to Montacute house instead. It had a cool wobbly hedge, and some nice gardens to wander through.

The traffic was pretty bad, so we headed into Exeter after that for a mooch around the town and dinner at Bill’s before going to our hotel, which was out in the middle of nowhere it seemed (single track roads to get there- we had some air miles which were going to expire and we could use them for the hotel- I don’t think we would have chosen it otherwise as it was a bit remote).

On Sunday we were up early to drive to the Eden project.

It was such a sunny day when we arrived.

It was really interesting- there are these huge domes that contain plants from different parts of the world- we spent ages in the rainforest one. You could even walk up these wobbly stairs suspended across the roof to get to the very top (apparently a rainforest canopy walkway)- it was boiling up there! As it was half term they had some Roald Dahl themed activities going on, like a show about how to spot a real witch, but there was enough for us too. The food choices were not easy to find- they were a bit spread out and didn’t all seem open all the time- once I had eaten my (fairly nice but nothing special) beetroot and something wrap, I found the burrito stall which could have tempted me as it was cold. All the stands sold Pukka tea so I had a lovely lemon, ginger and honey tea to warm up with.

I also bought a few bits in the shop including ginger muscle rub (it warms as you rub it in) and lemongrass hand cream.

One of the exhibits was closed over the winter, and by the afternoon we felt we had seen it all, so we drove back via another National Trust place (Lanhydrock).

We had a walk around the huge grounds (filled with cows), walked through the house as quickly as is polite, and then went for a cream tea. I don’t usually go for cream with a scone (I usually go for just jam) but I had a little cream on top and it was actually really nice. I might have been converted. Maybe it’s a different type of cream?

Then we headed back to Exeter- we had cinema tickets that would expire, and the only thing that was on at that time (well apart from It which I do not want to see) was a film called Happy Death Day, which we thought might be funny. It was basically Groundhog day crossed with Scream. I am not a horror fan, but I don’t mind thrillers or black comedies (I just close my eyes in the tense bits)- this however, was just terrible. It made me feel so old-it was aimed at teenagers for sure. Plus the bits that were repeated were all terrible lines, so you had to listen to the same awful dialogue over and over. At least it was free (and out of the rain!). Afterwards we went to Pizza Express before heading back to the hotel- a busy day.

On Monday we made it to Stourhead- it really was beautiful there and well worth a stop. We’d bought some lunch to take with us and although it rained on the walk around the lake, it eased off for a bit so we could sit outside and enjoy our picnic before driving to the next hotel. We’d booked a spa hotel (Bowood, near to Chippenham- a free night from, and the spa was available for use for hotel guests, so after checking in we headed straight down. The pool felt a bit cold, so both of us (with incorrect logic) thought “we’ll warm up in the steam room first, and then swim”- no, that doesn’t work! I could only stand the steam room for a few minutes, and then of course when we got into the pool it felt freezing! After swimming for a bit, we used the sauna and the jacuzzi (which was extremely violent) before going for a final (and of course cold) swim. The pool area had huge windows overlooking the hotel grounds and golf course, so it did feel relaxing. They did treatments such as massages, but I’d had one on Friday so we just used the normal facilities. The hotel was not near a town, but it had a few options for dinner so we ended up in the Brasserie.

The next morning we had breakfast in the same place and then drove to Windsor to break up the journey home (we know a nice tea room in a garden centre…). As we had mainly sat in the car that day we walked the long way into town- it was about 4 and a half miles in the end- before braving the unpacking. Why does unpacking take so much longer than packing?

Are you a fan of a cream tea? Do you like using a steam room or sauna? Have you been to the Eden project? Apparently there’s a parkrun starting there soon, although I can’t work out where the course would be. What is the worst film you have seen at the cinema? 

Castle Park parkrun- Queen of Herts!

This Saturday I decided to visit Castle Park parkrun, to finally achieve my aim of running all of the parkruns in Hertfordshire. Castle Park is in Bishop’s Stortford, a town close to Stansted airport, and close to the Essex border.  It only began a month or so ago, when the team moved over from the original Hatfield Forest venue (in Essex).

The info on the website was handy and in the morning I put in one of the car-park post codes into my sat-nav and set off. I then remembered that I didn’t have much petrol left, but due to leaving the blowers on cold (so the wind screen didn’t clear until I noticed and turned on the heat) I didn’t really have time to get some beforehand. Anyway, the drive was fine; it’s around 30 minutes from home and fairly quiet roads. However, when I parked I then realised I had no idea where the start actually was…. such poor planning! I looked at the course  page on my phone, but that didn’t help as I had only been to the town centre once before (after we went to Hatfield Forest we went for breakfast in Bishop’s Stortford after as it’s only a few miles away). I started walking towards the town centre, hoping to see some runners to follow, and thankfully spotted some people in high-viz across a road- hooray! And phew!

There were lots of people collecting in the park, near to a big mound (the castle that the park is named after- an old motte and bailey castle) and next to the band stand.

The new runner’s briefing explained that it was pretty much two laps, with an out and back section at the start and end (like a lollipop really- you run up the stick, around the loop twice and then back down the stick)- and warned us to look out for bollards on some of the paths, and also that the finish was a bit of a loop around and not a straight line once you got back into the main park.

It was so cold- I’d worn my new leggings (hooray- with one zipped pocket for my car keys, one stretchy pocket for lip balm and hand sanitiser, and one stretchy pocket for my phone), a t-shirt and jacket, and I kept my jacket on for the first mile or so. My feet were also freezing as the long grass was damp, so after walking a few steps my socks were soaked through. Brrrr.

Lots of people were dressed in fancy dress- I was envious of people with gloves or hats as it was very chilly.  Anyway, it was a lovely sunny morning and I really enjoyed the route- it is very flat and not too busy after the first bit across the field. There were lots of things to notice in the park- particularly a few of those fitness centre things with benches for press ups and that sort of thing, as well as the football pitches to look at. I  had decided to not push too hard and just enjoy the scenery, aiming for under 30 minutes, so I was pretty pleased to finish at 28-something, with nice negative splits of 9.53, 9.12, 8.45 and then 7.34 for the little end bit.

When I had finished one of the volunteers saw me stopping my watch and asked me for my time, name and finish position- he had a list of around 10 so I wonder if they are doing that to check up on the timers? Although I didn’t stop mine until the end of the funnel when I was given my token so I did explain it was likely to be a few seconds out.

The sign at the end of the first lap amused me so after I finished I popped back to take a photo- it says Finish (left arrow), Lap of Deja Vu (right arrow)- it made me chuckle when I saw it the first time. The route went around a lot of football pitches and so on the second lap you had to watch out for stray balls- there were plenty of marshals out with their backs facing the pitches (rather them than me!). I didn’t notice getting lapped either- I think it’s less likely with a two lap course.

It was super cold so after taking a few photos of the park I headed to the nearby shopping centre and got myself some breakfast- I’d usually wait until I got home but I knew that the drive would take longer (and I needed to get petrol), plus I had a free drink that would run out soon so it would be rude not to, right?

Cinnamon swirl for breakfast, autumn leaves, the car park I used (just to remind me) and one of my stretchy pockets.

I was going to get some petrol there, as I only had something like 50 miles left, and it was 20 miles away (and it’s only an estimate- it seems to go down a bit faster usually), but I couldn’t find a petrol station and didn’t want to waste time driving around, so in the end I drove home, but without the heating on (to save fuel- not sure if that really makes a difference?)- at 30 miles left the display then changes to just lines, and the arrow was below the zero on the fuel gauge- this was all very stressful! Thankfully I made it to the petrol station near home without breaking down.

So, my final Herts parkrun completed! (There is one starting early next year, but it will be easier to just visit the new ones as they come along). I really enjoyed this challenge- I do like going to my local parkruns and seeing people I know, but I also love visiting new places, and seeing the friendly welcome that you get at every parkrun. I’ll do a separate post about them all I think, but for now I will enjoy my Queen of Herts status (credit to Gavin Nicholls on the UK parkrun tourists facebook page, as I had announced that I had “attacked Herts”- he came up with Queen of Herts which I very much prefer). Of course I’ll be re-visiting some of them- on my parkrun profile I’ve only been to 4 events more than once. Dad agrees with me that Tring is high on our list as when we went it was very foggy so we could not see the stunning views, and I quite fancy Aldenham again to chase a higher placing.

Have you been doing any parkrun challenges? Anna posted the other day about the parkrun alphabet– and if you are on the tourists facebook page there’s a file you can get to keep track of the ones you have done. I’ve got a parkrun tourist page to keep track of the ones I have visited, and also future ones planned, but at the moment I am not adding to any of the letters (e.g. hopefully next weekend I’ll visit Brighton and Hove for the first time, but I already have a B- Barclay).  There are some clever satellite challenges – if you look at your closest event they list the nearest events, so you can do all of those, and then all of those parkrun’s closest ones) but this takes me into London very quickly which to me is a hassle and not really enjoyable. I think probably the next thing for me to realistically aim for would be 50 different parkrun events, but that will take me a few years I would think. I’d also like to do some in other countries- so far the only countries I have run in have been England, Scotland and the US (Crissy Field), but I really fancy a Scandinavian one, and a German one once they get going, and of course Canada/ New Zealand but they are more wishful thinking at the moment!

Andover parkrun and the start of a little holiday (not quite Croatia)

Last week was a busy one (two evenings at work) and I stopped by home on one day to pick up the curtains for our living room as my mum had shortened them for us. It has made a huge difference- making it much lighter in the day (the doors have these so-called clever blinds inside the glass, but in reality it takes about 20 minutes to wind them up or down, so we tend to leave them down but open, which cuts out so much light) and much cosier in the evenings.

I caught up on some of Bake Off one evening, enjoying how cosy the living room now feels (I did not like it before when people could potentially see in).

As a treat for a busy week Andy gave me these amazing peanut butter chocolates- they are possibly the king of chocolates.

We were meant to be going to Croatia on Friday for half term, but we were flying with Monarch, so when that went all wrong it basically meant we had to cancel (the only other airline that flew there were Ryanair and we are not risking them, plus they put the prices up loads anyway). Andy had the great idea of heading south-west to visit the Eden Project, as we’ve both wanted to go for ages but it’s so far (you could fly to New York in the same time pretty much).

After work on Friday I had booked a massage (which I arrived very stressed at, because there were no parking spaces in the normal car park, so I found one further one, ran to the pay machine but it was only a sign and not a machine, ran to the next one, paid, grabbed the ticket and ran back to my car only to realise it was the receipt of the person before me and not the ticket, so then ran back all the time worrying that someone would get there before me as I had no cash to buy a second one, got it out of the machine just in time, ran back to my car and then ran to the building feeling very flustered indeed), and then had a little wander around town to get us some breakfast for the next morning. After dinner we packed and drove to the hotel. We’d booked a Friday night stopover at the Premier Inn in Andover- normally I look into parkrun locations but being busier than usual Andy took this on for me, and found that the start of Andover parkrun was half a mile away- perfect!

The run from the hotel was along an industrial looking road with loads of warehouses and things (Portway industrial estate according to the map)- I was really wondering if I was in the right place. But at the end of the road I could see cars (and people wearing high-viz driving them) turning off down another road, and there was suddenly a huge park. It was a lovely location, but I really should have worn trail shoes as it was pretty muddy in places. I had a bit of a grump (not really a panic) on the run down as my watch wouldn’t find the GPS- I decided I could use Strava on my phone instead (because otherwise it didn’t happen…), but once I got there and googled, I did a soft reset which seemed to work- phew!

My cow cowl worked (once you have run 20 UK events you can buy one- it’s not an official parkrun item like the milestone t-shirts, but it means tourists can identify each other)- I ended up chatting to a guy called Kevin who usually ran at Bedfont Lakes, but was travelling to Exeter to watch the football. He was a total uber tourist- this was his 99th different parkrun event! I had my Panshanger top on and he’d been to the inaugural event there and we chatted about the finish (it used to be straight up a horrible hill, but now they’ve changed it to a zig zag  which I think is just as tough as it goes on for longer).

The new runners briefing was great as usual- they had a map but as they were following a different course due to works around the lake, it didn’t matter. Although the person did say the parkrun sin of “winner” (gasp- it’s not a race…)- basically saying that unless you’re going to run it in 15 minutes, just follow the person ahead. It was two laps which I always find passes fairly quickly, and you don’t have the monotony of a higher amount of laps. Plus in the middle you pass by the start/finish area and get a big boost from all the scanners, timers and funnel people.

The course had a few out and back sections with tight turns- it was narrow in places as we had to keep to the right of the path (as other runners were coming in the other direction) but I wasn’t in a hurry so I didn’t mind being stuck behind people for a bit. The lakes had been partially drained, but I imagine that normally it would be really pretty. On the second lap I took my phone out to take a photo of all the mud on the field- it didn’t seem that bad on the first lap but I suppose by the time I got to my second lap it had been churned up several hundred times.

I ended up running 28.35, 162/293- I didn’t expect it to be that busy. As I was on my second lap it began drizzling a bit before easing off, and as I finished it started to rain pretty heavily. I was going to stay around for a bit of a chat, but the rain made my decision for me. On the run back my watch beeped to tell me it was going into power saving mode- argh- I thought I had pressed go but clearly not (for the run back). It was raining pretty hard so I put my cowl/buff thing over my head to keep my hair dry.

After a shower we had a breakfast of a chocolate almond croissant (plus a nuun tab in water for me), before heading towards Exeter for the rest of our little holiday (I’ll save that for another post).

So that was my 31st different parkrun event (30th UK one). To keep track of my parkrun touristing I have made a page of all the links here, which you might find useful if you are planning on visiting any of them.

Do you know of any good hotel and parkrun combos? Any car park stresses? I really don’t like pay and display anyway, I’d much rather pay when I leave because then I am in no hurry and if I need to get change I can get it while I am in town.

Bright10 2017, bad things coming in threes and a power cut!

So earlier in the week, yoga had been delayed due to a power cut in the building. I am totally useless about these things, but thankfully some other yogis were able to sort it out and we could proceed by fairy and candle-light. (I may have mentioned this before- at one point we all had to stop because I was in downward dog and then saw a big blob on the floor- I don’t wear my glasses so I got up to take a closer look and realised it was a big spider- not so relaxing!) Anyway, that wasn’t the only power cut that week.

On Saturday after visiting Bushy parkrun (which was very exciting) we headed off to Petworth (a National Trust place of course) for a walk. We’d bought lunch in town earlier so we sat in the gardens and ate it before walking around. The houses don’t tend to interest me that much, but we always walk through to be polite- this one had a big art collection and also a very cool thing- the oldest known globe in the world. I love looking at maps, and this one had expeditions such as Drake’s voyage marked in red across it. I looked at that for quite a while.

Of course we had to visit the tearoom, it would be rude not to (and we now have a loyalty card so wanted a stamp for that). We shared some ginger cake, and although it was lovely, it was self service which I am not personally keen on.

Just look at the side of the mushroom I found! Bigger than my head (or shoe- easier to photograph…)

Later in the afternoon we headed into Chichester for a wander around the shops before heading to the cinema as we had booked to see The Snowman (not the cartoon Christmas one…). I was really looking forward to it because the advert looked great, and although I hadn’t read the book, I had read others by the same author and found them to be page-turners. However the film was disappointing. It wasn’t awful- the film didn’t drag or anything, and it was tense at times, but there were loads of plot holes and weird jumps, so some of it was a bit confusing. It seemed like it strayed too far from the book (this hopefully isn’t a spoiler but apparently in the book the murderer cuts legs and arms off and uses them in place of the sticks for the limbs of a snowman- in the film the murder just build a snowman nearby which was creepy but not really the point of it- but then still had the weird cheese wire thing for cutting the limbs off). If you like a thriller, Wind River (which we saw a few weeks ago) was way better and really worth looking for. I also think a Norwegian film with subtitles would have been better than a load of random English actors (kudos to Borg vs McEnroe who had subtitles for the Swedish bits).

When the film finished I had an awful headache (maybe from the tension?)- we headed to GBK on the retail park by the cinema and had a quick dinner before going to our hotel. Thankfully my headache left once I had eaten some food but I made sure to drink a bit more water as I probably hadn’t drank that much during the day.

The next morning we had about a 40 minute drive to Brighton- I wasn’t really hungry when I woke up. I’d packed a Clif bar (coconut chocolate chip)- I thought it would be white chocolate (due to the colour of the mountain- now I see clearly that it doesn’t say that anywhere) and although I usually prefer dark over white, I wasn’t feeling it, so only ate about half. I thought I would be fine as I usually do my long runs before breakfast, and the race started nice and early (9am) so it wouldn’t be too late after to eat breakfast. I took my shot bloks in my belt just in case. Our journey went fine- we parked in a car park in Hove around 5 minutes walk from the start. I did think that I needed the toilet but Andy convinced me it was all in my brain and I really didn’t want to use either the car park toilets or the port-a-loos, so my decision was made. I’d jut dropped my bag off when it was time to line up -perfect timing!

I didn’t have any plans for finish times- I was aiming for under 1.40 (so just under 10 minute miles) but I was wary because last year it was very windy and my leg got sore part way through- sort of twisted- and I really slowed. I knew I wouldn’t get a pb (my 10 mile pb is 1:33.51 which I achieved at the 2015 Bright10), and also it is a bit tricky because the hill is a little later on than it is in the half or full marathon, coming at mile 4 and 5. It was a fairly bright day so I was just out to enjoy myself. I did glance at my watch every now and then to check I was under 10 minutes per mile, but mostly I occupied myself with looking at the other runners (one guy ran in a full on Elmo suit- no idea how he did that). I was so glad I had only worn my vest and not a t-shirt as after only a mile or so I was dripping with sweat- I’d worn a sweatband on my wrist which was much needed!

The course was a little different from past years- last year we ran around the Marina a bit but I think work was going on which meant it had to be avoided. It starts on the Hove lawns (where Hove Prom parkrun starts)- you do a loop of the lawns and run towards Hove for a bit, before joining the seafront and running past the colourful beach huts. At the 2 mile point you are back by the lawns again and close to the start, before running along the seafront, past the big tower and the pier and then up the hill towards Roedean. This bit is tough as you are going up hill but can see all the faster runners already heading down on the other side of the road. This year the wind was behind as you ran up the hill so it wasn’t as bad as it could be. At the 5 mile point you are at the top of the hill and have to run along a little more before turning around and enjoying the downhill  for a mile (albeit into the wind this time). You then run down a path towards the Marina and have a u-turn to run along the seafront (East) and then a sharp u-turn to end up running west along the seafront. The 8 mile marker was close to the pier so I ended up looking in the crowds in case I could see Andy (he’d gone to have breakfast while I was running, and was going to meet me at the finish). I didn’t spot him but apparently he saw me. Mile 9 is around the Hove lawn area, and by that point the crowds were thick with loads of great signs and enthusiastic cheering- Brighton does always have great crowd support. You then have to run a loop (but not as big as the one at the start) to come around to the beach huts again. I was feeling OK but quite thirsty at the end- it was fairly warm and I had noticed the drinks stations but felt OK at the time- really I should have had something at the final one.

My final time was 1:35.14, which must be my second fastest 10 miles and only a couple of minutes off my pb. I was pretty pleased with that. My final mile was 8.46 and all the others began with 9 so I was pleased to have run a fairly consistent pace.

I was given my medal (which is fantastic as always, and this year had lovely details on the ribbon too).

The finish area had water bottles and clif bars so I took water for now, and a clif bar for another day, and then had a little wander after collecting my bag. There was an amazing stand called Parklife with the best array of cakes, so I bought a peanut butter square for later (I was going to get a tea but they didn’t have Earl Grey so I thought I’d wait).

Andy met me with an almond croissant so I enjoyed my breakfast as we walked into Brighton. I’d packed a towel and change of clothes- usually we stay in Brighton and I can go back to the hotel for a shower, but this year that wasn’t an option so I headed to the swimming pool in the centre- I had to pay £5 but it meant I could use their showers and changing rooms to feel a little more human (although I did wander around the changing rooms for ages because I could not find the showers- I could hear them but could not see them anywhere…). The hairdryers were really like someone gently blowing warm air onto you, which made no difference to my hair, but as it was a fairly warm day this didn’t matter too much (and I’d packed a hat in case it was cold-wet hair makes me so cold).

Andy had bought a big cup of tea while I was in there, and then we walked around the shops a bit. Of course I couldn’t resist going to Bluebird tea (and one of the staff members recognised me as I am such a regular- we hadn’t been to Brighton for months!)- they were doing their own version of a pumpkin spice latte using their teabags, spices and almond milk. I was still super thirsty so had one of those too- it was delicious!

We had booked lunch at Food for Friends, my favourite restaurant. I have mentioned it on here before but it’s an amazing veggie and vegan place that just has the best options. Usually when I go out I will look at the two veggie options, but here I can choose from the whole menu and it’s all such tasty and fresh stuff. Anyway, as we arrived they asked us to wait for a bit, and then told us a little later that they had had a power cut, and had to close and send everyone away. I was so sad- I had been looking forward to it so much.

Everywhere looked fairly busy so we went to Leon in the end-  they do really good hummus so we got some chips and hummus to share, I had a really good haloumi wrap and we shared a lemon ginger crunch bar – all so tasty if not quite what we had planned. We shall have to go back to Brighton sooner rather than later!

We then walked back to Hove to the car park before driving home- we drove past the park where Brighton and Hove parkrun starts, so I think that might be on my list for the next time we are down.

As for the bad things coming in threes- we saw three separate car/bike crashes that day- once as we were walking to the town centre we heard tyres screech and then a bang- we turned around to see a motorcyclist on the road, having been knocked off by a car. Lots of people were nearby (and we hadn’t actually seen it) so we carried on. When walking back we saw a guy pull over and open his car door without looking, so a car driving past drove into the car door and bent it, and then on the motorway we saw the carnage left behind (a motorbike wheel totally broken off) after a lorry and bike had collided. Not good. I’m just waiting for the third powercut…

Are you a fan of self-serve cafes? I never trust that someone else has not touched or coughed on some of the food…

Where is your favourite restaurant? Have you seen (or read) The Snowman?

Peanut butter caramel slices

I have still been loving the Bake Off. Yes, I love Mel and Sue and I miss them (and Mary) but Noel and Sandy are funny too. And really I watch it because I find it so relaxing- I don’t mind who goes home or who wins. I like to see them bake new things and decide that I will never attempt something that looks such a faff (mini swiss rolls) or maybe give something a go (I think the first time I tried to make a Battenberg was because I had seen it on Bake Off). Anyway, the other week was caramel week and inspired by it (because I think they made it look harder than it actually is) I have created my own recipe for peanut butter caramel slices.


150g soft margarine (Pure spread)

6 tbs brown sugar

165g plain flour

60g rolled oats


125g butter

1 tin condensed milk

75g brown sugar

1 tbs golden syrup

Plus 3 tbs peanut butter (to add later)


200g dark chocolate

1 tbs peanut butter


Preheat the oven to 180C

Line a square brownie tin with baking paper

Cream together the margarine and sugar for the base. Stir in the flour and oats, then press into the bottom of the tin.

Bake for around 25 minutes until golden

To make the caramel, put the butter, sugar, condensed milk and syrup in a pan. Gently heat and stir for around 10 minutes. The mixture will bubble but it should not spit. It will gradually turn darker as it thickens. I don’t use a thermometer for this bit- to test if it is thick enough put a little blob on a plate, leave for a few seconds and then push it with your finger to see if it has thickened. Once it has thickened, turn off the heat and stir in the peanut butter. Pour the peanut butter caramel over the base and leave to cool.

To make the topping, melt the dark chocolate (I have a nice thick bowl that I can use in the microwave) and then stir in the peanut butter. Pour over the caramel and leave to set again.

Once set, slice and enjoy.

Do you like caramel slices? What would your ultimate flavour combination be?