Birthdays, bluebells and bikes

After enjoying Monsal Trail parkrun at the start of the bank holiday weekend, we had all weekend to enjoy that part of the Peak District.

Chakra Lounge avocado on toast, vegan Bakewell tart, vegan ice cream from Lick.

Our air BnB was very central, so we could be in the centre for a wander very quickly. There was a farmers market and food fair going on, although not really any vegan options there. We found a gorgeous cafe, Chakra Lounge, and ended up going there both days.

We went for a walk around the woods by Chatsworth House. It was so lush and green, but as we were close to the end it absolutely poured with rain- we were drenched through! A contrast to the sunny morning that we’d enjoyed.

Bike ride views along the Monsal Trail.

On the Sunday we walked along the Monsal Trail to the bike hire place (handily at the start of parkrun so I’d had a chance to check it out the day before. We hired bikes for a few hours and then rode along the old railway line. It was around 15 miles there and back, with a few stops for photos and drinks along the way. I did feel a bit anxious at times as there were dogs on long leads that were a bit erratic and kept running out in front of us- I was so worried I would end up running a dog over. At times you had to cycle through old railway tunnels and it was so strange to feel the temperature change so drastically and quickly.

Another Chakra Lounge visit- the prettiest chai latte ever, plus a pistachio matcha latte.

As we had walked there and back as well as cycling, we took it fairly easy in the evening, with a gentle walk around the river in the town in the evening, spotting ducklings.

After driving home on the Monday, I was keen to see the bluebells at Panshanger before they go, so we had a wonderful walk around there. It was good to stretch the legs after a long car journey too.
Matching the bluebells in my purple top!
The bluebells in our local woods were also out, so my early morning runs that week were also full of me stopping for photos of the bluebells- it is one of my favourite times of year.
My birthday was on a working day, and one of my busiest with a lunch time club and after school meeting, but we had booked to go out for dinner, and made it in time to even pop to the Pudding Stop to get a brownie for after. As the weather was so good, we had a walk around the park in St Albans.

Monsal Trail parkrun, Bakewell

As it’s my birthday in early May, we often have a weekend away for the Bank Holiday, and this year we opted for a weekend in Bakewell. We’ve been to the Peak District a few times, but only ever driven through Bakewell before, so I was looking forward to staying there. We drove up after work on the Friday night, and had an Air BnB right in the centre of the town.

Of course I was looking forward to some more parkrun tourism! Monsal Trail parkrun starts around 1.5 miles from the town centre. I ran the most direct route, but for a prettier route I could have found the end of the trail in the town and then ran that way.

It starts at an old railway station, and is an out and back route on an old railway line. I was there fairly early so opted to run the opposite direction of the railway line for a bit- plenty of runners were using it as their warm up.

The old railway line, a parkrun sign (yay), and the map.

I always feel a bit awkward asking someone to take my photo, but there were lots of tourists there and people were happy to do this, so after watching a few people pose for photos, I plucked up the courage to ask someone to take one for me. I am terrible at lining up the signs in the background when I attempt a selfie, so a photo taken by someone else is preferable. I ended up chatting to a mother and son who had travelled for his first parkrun (not hers)- he even asked “do you have to have a photo with the sign?”- that’s how many people were doing it!

The actual course is gently downhill for the first half, a u-turn and then gently uphill to the finish. Nothing really steep, but it did make the final mile feel a little tougher. Even with that, I somehow managed the elusive royal flush negative split (9:31, 9:27, 9:17 and 8:08). On the way back I had a guy right behind me who was breathing really heavily, which I am not a fan of. (I know people need to breathe hard when they run, but it just makes me focus on my own breathing and I find it off putting). I kept trying to overtake the person in front to make a bit of space, but he kept getting behind me and keeping there, even when I was overtaking. As it’s fairly narrow in places, with cyclists and walkers as well as parkrunners, so you had to be a bit careful when overtaking. At one point I was hanging behind a group of runners, with cyclists coming the other way. A voice behind me went “go now, before the next cyclist”, and I thought it was aimed at someone else, but then he said again “go now!”, and I realised he was talking to me. As we neared the end, the same guy told me to keep running faster, I told him I couldn’t go any faster (briefly) and told him to push to the end, so he overtook me right at the finish. Clearly for him he liked to have someone to pace him!

How good is their token sorting box?

After taking a few photos, I headed back for breakfast, as we were planning to come back to hire bikes later on in the weekend.

So that was event number 97 for me. Another really enjoyable event, such a pretty route, easy to find, everything you would need at the start/finish area. Perfect!

Cannon Hill parkrun- why we always check social media

We had tickets to a comedy gig in Birmingham on a Friday night, and as it’s a fair way away, decided to stay overnight after. Of course this means a new parkrun on the Saturday morning.

I’d not been to any Birmingham parkrun before, and it seemed there were plenty to choose from. In the end I went for Edgbaston reservoir as it was the closest to the hotel. It was 1.5 miles away, which meant a nice warm up in the morning.

I’d checked the future roster and added it to the planner in the 5k app, and it was good to go. For some reason on the Thursday night, after packing, I checked their facebook page, only to see a cancellation message- due to some event (rowing?) happening that the event team didn’t know about. On to find a plan B. Thankfully there are loads of parkruns, and the next nearest one, Cannon Hill, was only around 2 miles away, so still a nice distance for a warmup. I’m so glad I checked, as if I had run there, I would not have had enough time to get to a different one.

Cannon Hill in the sunshine- everyone meeting at the bandstand in the park

Confusingly, Cannon Hill parkrun was by Edgbaston stadium- I checked that many times before setting off. Our hotel was on one of the canals, so I did get slightly lost when heading out, and I think the tall buildings confused the satellites as part of my run was a straight line through several buildings. Anyway, after the initial getting lost it was a fairly simple route. My phone battery has been getting worse and worse (I did take it to the shop for them to have a look at and to see about it being replaced, but they said it wasn’t worth it)- by the time I got to the park I had used over half, so had to remember the way back without using google maps which is always challenging for me.

The park was very pretty- a manicured park with plenty of flower beds, a band stand (where the volunteers were meeting), a lake and various buildings, cafes etc. It was a sort of two lap course, with an out and back bit too. It reminded me of Stevenage parkrun in that it’s a similar park, all flat apart from a little hill up to the finish funnel. It was very busy, with 668 runners that day. The finish funnel was very long, and one of the volunteers told me that they usually have around 500, but probably with Edgbaston being cancelled they had a few more. It was well managed, and with wide paths it didn’t feel that busy after the first few metres. At one point I was running along and a buggy runner passed me, and then a toy dinosaur fell out. I picked it up and called out but they didn’t hear, and another runner told me to catch them up- I had to sprint very hard as he was going super fast! I handed it over, and then as soon as he handed it to his child, they dropped it again so I picked it up again! Thankfully that was the end of catch the dinosaur!

The canal by our hotel, penguin art in the centre, parkrun magazine and of course a postbox.

At the end they had boxes of the parkrun magazine- this was the first time I’d seen this issue, so I picked one up for me and one for my dad. I managed to get back to the hotel and only had to get out my phone to look at the maps once, so that was not too bad.

After a shower, we headed into the centre as we’d booked lunch at The Ivy (as we had vouchers), and then had a little wander around the centre. It reminded me that I am not a Saturday shopping person. We did see some cool penguin art by the station.

That was my 96th different event. Another really enjoyable one (aren’t they all?). And an important lesson to always double check social media in case of cancellations!

DLP and comedy shows

The last few days of the Easter holidays were super busy! We had 3 days in DLP, which turned out to be just about the right amount of time- no need to rush. There was a new drone show in the studios, and it was cancelled on the first day due to bad weather, but we managed to see that on one day and the new drone show in the main park on our final day.

Crosstown visit, tea in my new DLP mug, B&B visit and the badges.

Once home, we were off to London the next day to see the live recording of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia podcast, at the Royal Albert Hall. We headed into the centre for a wander and lunch (Leon) and then walked to the show, as it was a matinee. It was brilliant (we tend to watch them rather than listen at home anyway)- we even got given some badges from the green men in the interval!

The next day we were back into London again, this time for Made Up Games live (a spin off game from the Elis James and John Robins radio show). This time it was an evening show so we went for a pizza before walking to the venue.

Normandy

For some of the Easter holidays, we headed over to France. Andy was keen to visit Normandy, so we stayed there first, and then headed to DLP for a few days on the way home.

√Čtretat was our first stop (we drove to the channel tunnel in the evening, crossed over and stayed in a hotel right by the tunnel (handily had car chargers in the car park) and then drove down here the next day. It was amazing, with all of these arches in the water and a fantastic clifftop walk to do.

We then stayed in Honfleur for one night (another little town fab for a wander, even with a little sculpture park by the water), before driving to our Air BnB for the next 5 ish days.

There were so many memorials to visit. We went in a few of the museums, and visited lots of the memorials, although there were lots more. History isn’t such a big interest of mine, but actually visiting the places did put things into context (for example, seeing the cliffs the soldiers had to climb up). It was a strange contrast as we had amazing weather, the beaches were beautiful, but we were reading horiffic stories.

One day we went into Bayeaux to see the tapestry, and also the amazing cathedral. One of the windows looked purple from the outside (see below), but when you went inside it was mainly yellow.

At our Air BnB the owner recommended a walk to us, around 45 minutes to a local church. I had packed my running things, so we thought we’d walk it one evening and then I might run it later. As we walked, two dogs came out of a farm, barking and jumping up at us. It was quite scary, as neither of us are really fans of dogs (especially not dogs that jump up at you)- there were no owners around and we were just on a small country lane. Eventually they settled down and just ran ahead of us, but later on a huge dog, that was barking at us from behind a fence, somehow got out and ran after us too. Luckily it didn’t follow us far, and didn’t come too close, whereas the two other dogs walked all the way back to where we were staying. Hopefully they found their way home. I decided after that to not go on a run as I didn’t fancy being on my own and being chased by those dogs, or other ones. It seems that people just let their dogs wander freely about (which seemed crazy due to the big tractors driving around the country roads with some regularity).

We had a very relaxing few days there anyway, with plenty of walks but also plenty of reading and relaxing. And of course lots of baguettes!