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Why I chose the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust for my charity ride

Just to give you a heads up, this post will talk about mental health and wellbeing, and suicide. If you are feeling vulnerable at this moment in time; maybe bookmark this post for a later date, when you are feeling a little stronger. Please do check this page on where to get support for your mental health, should you need some help right now.

I’ve worked in health and social care for 25+ years. Over that time, I have worked in acute learning disability services, substance misuse services, sexual health, HIV+ community drop-in, care leavers supported housing, and youth work project. In the last 15 years or so, I have worked in mental health services in acute child and adolescent, and also in acute adult services within the NHS in both metropolitan and rural areas. More recently, I have worked in university campus-based services within student support, initially as a mental health adviser, and currently, I am now a manager of a Mental Health and Wellbeing Team.

The Ambleside campus of the University of Cumbria

I love working with students, they are such a diverse bunch of people. There are stereotypes of students that still persist from the 1960s that they are all on the radical left, and protest lots, and smoke copious amounts of cannabis, and drinking Real Ale. This stereotype has remained in the public eye through the 1970s and ’80s and exacerbated with the BBC comedy “The Young Ones“. But the reality is that the stereotypes are just cliches and oversimplified beliefs that we have of others. The reality is much more complex. Students are by enlarge in the 18-21 age bracket, but many more adults are returning to education later in life. I myself didn’t go into Higher Education until my late 20’s, and I was very much the first person to do so from my immediate family. Like most other students, I enjoyed university life; the studying side, as well as the social side.

However, for many students, university can be a difficult period in one’s life. For traditional undergraduates, it can be the first time living away from home; it can be isolating, bullying in halls can occur, being away from family and friends and other support networks. For other types of students, it might be having to give up a good income, caring for children on top of studies can also be quite a challenge. For most students, it will be the first time that they have really had to think differently, to be more critical. There will be some students who have additional difficulties, such as coping with a disability, including a mental health condition.

Indeed, over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of students declaring they have a mental health condition, and this has been well documented in various reports and good practice guides in recent years. In the 2017 IPPR report, “Not by Degrees“, Thornley identified a five-fold increase in the number of students declaring a mental health condition. There could be a whole range of reasons for this increase, partly linked to the stigma of mental illness slowly being eroded, partly because the awareness of the range of support for students with disabilities (including mental health conditions) is becoming more known, and other reasons will also exist (but that will be getting political, so I am going to leave it here for now).

There has also been an increase in student suicides in recent years, and there has been some Suicide-Safer Universities guidance from Universities UK and Papyrus on how university leaders can work towards preventing further suicides. This is something I was particularly interested when it was first published. Surprisingly, it isn’t as researched informed as one would hope, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. What we do know about student suicides is that they have increased in recent years, however, students are at no higher risk than other adults outside of the higher education sector.

We also know that around 80% of students who take their own lives are not known to specialist counselling or mental health support services. This isn’t unique to the UK but is known to be the case in the USA too. But those students who do die from suicide, are known to someone, a peer, a tutor, a residents life officer, a librarian, a receptionist, etc. Can training non-clinical staff help? Gatekeeper training (as it is collectively referred to), is often recommended by many good practice guidelines, including the suicide-safer universities guidance listed previously, and in other guides, such as the Universities UK #StepChange . However, very little is known about the benefits of rolling out such training, and equally, we don’t know what risks can happen with such training.

We know that some of the students who die because of suicide often faced barriers to accessing help. Examples of barriers include ambivalence regarding treatment outcomes from specialist services, and also the stigma associated with accessing counselling, psychotherapy, or mental health services have been documented by Czyz et al (2013), long waiting times have been identified as a barrier by Arria et al (2011), who also found that poor knowledge of where to get help, is also a barrier.

It is that last point that I want to pick up on, with regards to the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, and the Cameron Coasters. Anyone who has ever worked in a campus-based counselling service will know that promoting the service can be quite a challenge. During Freshers Fairs, when young eager and bewildered students first arrive on campus, the vast majority are usually wanting to find out which bars in town have the best offers, where they can get a free pizza, and the what, where, when of their first lecture. Very few are interested in a talk from the counselling service on how to get support if they are struggling emotionally, and the leaflets often end up in the bin. The Cameron Coasters is a bit of a game changer. Not only are they informative, but they have another use! They can prevent a coffee/beer stain from forming on your desk whilst you work (or watch another box-set on Netflix/Amazon etc.). You might be excited to have started your undergraduate/postgrad/PhD studies, but if things take a turn for the worse later on, then the coaster might be there. It might breakdown one of those barriers to accessing support (namely, knowing where to get such support).

The Cameron Coaster for the University of Cumbria

For those of you who haven’t seen my previous posts about the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, they are a small charity set up by Carol and Evan Grant. Their son, Cameron, died by suicide in 2014 whilst a student at University. Carol and Evan came to the University of Cumbria where I work, around 18 months ago to talk to staff and students about Cameron, and the work they now do for the charity. They also produced, and then printed thousands of Cameron Coasters for the University of Cumbria, for free. They have produced thousands of coasters for various organisations including schools, colleges, universities, and police forces across the UK. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that students and staff at the University have found them invaluable, to hand, they have the details of how to get support on and off campus.

Moved by Cameron’s story, and the charity’s generosity, I decided to fundraise for them. I raised a small amount on my birthday via Facebook, but now, I plan to ride the Coast 2 Coast this summer to raise more money for this worthwhile cause. If you would like to donate, please click here to get to my Total Giving webpage.

Third and final leg of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust ride

Assuming I make it to day 3 and haven’t fallen by the wayside, this is my planned route for the final day. It also happens to be the shortest day at a mere 36.5 miles. It also has the least hill climbs too; which is probably a blessing at this stage, I am pretty sure the accumulation of the previous two days riding will be taking its toll by now. That all said, I am hoping that by the last day, I will have reached or surpassed by target fundraising of £500. If you haven’t donated, and would like to do so, (think about giving a couple of pounds, and skipping a coffee this week), then please go to my TotalGiving webpage to find out how you can donate, and remember if you are a UK resident, don’t forget to tick the GiftAid box, which will cost you nothing, but the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust will get some extra cash to help with suicide prevention.

Okay, so the plan on the final day of the charity ride will start off with me filled up with as hearty a breakfast as I can get. I will have burnt up a serious amount of calories by now, and I will need all the energy I can muster for this final stretch. Starting off in Sheriff Hutton, I head east of north-east towards the beautiful market town of Malton. I head up a pretty steep but short hill-climb, before passing through the village of Bulmer. Shortly after passing Bulmer, I head north for short distance (I think this was to avoid a fairly steep climb, but can’t remember), passing the amazing Castle Howard before turning east through Coneyshorpe. Still heading east, I come to Malton. I love Malton, it holds a lot of special memories for me. I might stop here for a little break, get some tea and cake! The town has a market, bars, and shops, so I should be spoilt for choice.

The final day

Once I get to Malton, the next 20 miles or so, are relatively flat, which will be very welcomed. I cross over the River Derwent, into the neighbouring town of Norton-on-Derwent, heading east before I skirt around the village of Scagglethorpe (there are lots of villages with the name “Thorpe” in it, I think it is Old English or Viking for “cluster of houses – any history buffs reading this, will you let me know if I am correct?). Next little village is Rillington, and shortly after passing through there, I take a north-east route through Yedingham, and back over the River Derwent.

I then come to territory I know very well, in the Vale of Pickering, and skirting around and partly through the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. I spent many childhood family holidays here, and have been a few times with my son, in the quest to find fossils. The first large village I come to is Snainton, and I may well stop here for lunch. Snainton and the surrounding area is well my great-great grandmother’s side of the family came from (I also think it is where Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame is from). The road I follow, is pretty much the same road all the way to my final destination of Scarborough.

From Snainton, I pass the little picturesque village of Brompton, Ruston, Wykeham, West Ayton, I skim around East Ayton, and take my final hill climb (only a few hundred feet, but it will be pretty gruelling by this point). I’ve yet to decide, but I think I will go to the Harbour, take a photo of the end of my journey, take my bike to the place I am staying overnight, and then head to the Harbour Bar (it does shut at 5.30pm, so I am hoping I make it in time). The Harbour Bar is an old ice cream parlour that hasn’t changed much since the 1950s (although the family have been making ice cream since the 1930s I think). I am hoping to get a full-fat ice cream sundae!

Vegetarian Chilli Non Carne

This is a great meal for sharing informally around the dinner table. It is cheap as chips, and healthy too. Its very simple to make, and takes around 1 hour prep and cooking time. It was a new recipe for me, so part of my 5 ways to wellbeing being, learn something new! This is a great meal for sharing, helping you to connect!

It will serve between 4 and 6 people depending on your appetite, and what you plan to serve with it.

You will need

  • 1 large onion diced small
  • Vegetable oil, such as olive oil (for frying)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic minced
  • 1 cinnamon stick broken in half (alternatively a quarter of a tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 2tsp of cumin seeds, slightly crushed (alternatively, a 1/2 tsp of ground cumin)
  • 2 can of black beans
  • 1 can of red kidney beans
  • 1 jar of roasted red (0r mixed) peppers (alternatively, roast 3 fresh red peppers in your oven), chopped small
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (and use half a tin of water – see note in method)
  • 2 tbsp of tomato puree
  • 2 tsp of cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp of chipotle paste (available in most supermarkets)
  • Salt and pepper to season

Method

It’s always best to prepare all the ingredients and have them ready to hand. In a large heavy pan, sweat the onion, garlic and cinnamon stick on a low to medium heat for around 10 minutes until the onion has softened, and just started to brown.

Onion, garlic and cinnamon

When the onion has softened, add all the other ingredients (beans, tomato puree, chipotle paste, coca powder, and half a tin of water, etc.)

Cook over a gentle heat, with the pan lid on for around 30 minutes. Taste, and see if it needs seasoning, or an extra spoon of chipotle paste. Stir from time to time. When the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly, you are ready to serve. Serve with rice, or fill tacos, etc.

Just a few more minutes, sauce still a little too runny

Second leg of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust ride

Following on from my previous post on the First Leg of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust Ride, I thought I would give a quick overview of the second leg of the ride. I am expecting this to be a very tough day. I will be physically tired from the previous day, and I am not expecting anyone to ride with me on this section, so psychologically it will be challenging too. For most of the second leg, I will be travelling through the Yorkshire Dales National Park, (think Brontes, Emmerdale, and James Herriot).

Initially starting off by heading south-east from Burnsall, I will come to the picturesque village of Appletreewick, which is only small, but apparently very popular with hikers and cyclists. From there I climb up a very steep hill to move out of Wharfdale, to reach the highest point of the whole journey (and I will have as my mantra that, “I am raising money for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust!“). Then, I go down a very steep and scary hill (1300ft, to 400ft in the space of about 2 miles – I hope my brakes work well), into the River Nidd valley, and to the larger village of Pateley Bridge. I know of Pateley Bridge, but have never been there (to my knowledge). Once over the River Nidd there is steep 200ft ride out of the valley via the village of Glasshouses heading north, for one more big hill climb, before changing to a easterly direction.

Other than a few farmsteads and hamlets, I don’t see much in the way of civilisation until I come to a small village called Markington, and it does have a small pub/inn, which might be a welcome rest (for a non-alcohol beverage and a bite to eat). It will be just shy of halfway through the second leg, so once fed and energised I will be back on the bike. It will be pretty much a flat ride for the second half. Next village will be Bishop Monkton, and shortly after that I will be following the River Ure for a short while, coming to another little village called Roecliffe.

A little further east, I come to the small market town of Boroughbridge. This could be a good opportunity to have a break, and stock up on provisions. Boroughbridge has the A1 trunk road bypass it, and it is roughly midway between London and Edinburgh. I also cross the River Ure at this point. Having travelled briefly north, I head east once more, and come to a small village called Raskelf. Another little market town called Easingwold is my next significant bit of civilisation that I come to. I pass by a couple more small villages, and have a little hill climb before I reach my second days destination of Sheriff Hutton. It is a very old village (mentioned in the Doomsday Book), and has a ruined castle. It also has two very good pubs (I am led to believe), which is probably where I will dine, and try and recovery!! I may celebrate with a cheeky 1/2 pint of Mild, and use a Cameron Coaster to rest it on! I am still open to sponsor money if you have a few quid spare for this worthy cause. Please click on my TotalGiving page to find out how you can donate, and if you are a UK resident, do consider the the GiftAid donation at no extra cost to you.

First leg of the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust ride

I thought I would give a little overview of the planned route for the 1st leg. This is a bit of up hill and down dale (as they say in Yorkshire). Starting off at the Eric Morecambe statue in (you guessed it), Morecambe, it is a very easy first few miles. I know the ten or so miles very well, as I have cycled in both directions plenty of times. It starts on Morecambe Promenade for a few hundred yards, before a small stretch of road takes you to Morecambe train station. From there, I will be travelling along the old railway track, that is now a mixed pedestrian and cycling route for around ten miles, taking me to the ancient small city of Lancaster. Remaining on the old railway line, I follow the River Lune, past Halton’s old railway station (now used as Lancaster University’s rowing club, clubhouse), past the beauty spot of the Crook O’Lune by the village of Caton. Shortly after Caton the cycle track comes to an end at Bull Beck picnic site.

The Crook O’Lune on a grey day

Then the journey starts to get a little uncharted for me. I know the villages and towns for a little more of the journey pretty well, but I don’t know many of the little country lanes I will be travelling on that Komoot has recommended. I know the main trunk road that takes me north-east from Caton to Wray, but then the little lane that takes me east out of Wray is unbeknown to me. It is also here that the hill climb starts. There is a nice little tearoom in Wray, so it might be a timely stop to get a quick sugar fix, as there few and far between villages of any decent size, so shops and cafes will be a rare sight. Below you should see the route on Komoot, embedded (if the technology works) into my blog!

It is pretty much one big hill climb from here, riding along the River Hindburn for a while, before going the River Wenning valley, on the other side from Low and High Bentham. I criss-cross the Morecambe to Leeds railway line four or five times as I approach, but avoid Giggleswick and Settle (I deviated the Komoot suggested route, to avoid a killer of a hill climb).

Photo of the River Wenning taken from the train as it crosses one dreary morning in March 2019

It is here that I meet the River Ribble as it head south towards Preston. After approximately 15 miles of leaving Wray, I come to the next village (although I will have passed a few hamlets), Rathmall. If I am honest, I had never heard of it (sorry Rathmallians), where I hit a flurry of other villages, including Wigglesworth (I promise I am not making these names up). The first real town (although technically a large village) of any description is next, which is Hellifield. I am not sure if I will have stopped for lunch before now, but if not, this could be a good spot.

Heading north-east out of Hellifield, I cross the River Aire valley, before facing my first big steep climb, through Cracoe, and into the River Wharfe valley and reaching my first overnight stop at the picturesque village of Burnsall. I am going to need all the rest I can get, as the next morning for my second leg, I have one huge hill climb (if I stick to the suggested Komoot route).

Hills! Cycling up them is an art form

It’s a month away before my coast to coast ride for charity. I’m trying to get over the two psychological blocks that I have, that I am going to have to overcome by the time I do the Coast to Coast ride for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust (by the way, there is still time to sponsor me if you would like, even if it is just £1.00, click over to my TotalGiving page). The two blocks are:

  1. Steep hill climbs (I’ve done long steady climbs, but nothing too vertical!
  2. The accumulative effect of cycling two long rides in two days

Now, some of you will laugh, but for me, it’s all about small steps (or should I say, short revolutions?). My ride yesterday was the hiller of the two. 1848ft elevation gain, and was just shy of 24 miles. Today’s ride was a much flatter, at only 953ft elevation gain, and a little shorter at 21.29 miles.

The two pictures above are screen shots from the route from Strava and Cyclmeter. As you can see from Strava the weather was pretty good. The only let down was the cross wind between the 19th and 20th mile, as I was dropping down fast into Quernmore from Jubilee Tower. The first 13 miles are mainly flat, but the roads are busy, as you head towards the Forest of Bowland, (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the hills come thick and fast, although the roads are much quieter. What I did notice about this ride, it that I seem to have got the hang of hydration much better than previous longer rides.

Pretty much the highest point on the first ride, is Jubilee Tower. The tower is a little folly standing 950ft above sea level. It was built by a local wealthy business man for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee (1887). However, it is now owned by Lancashire County Council, and there is car park next to it. It is a popular spot for cyclists to take a little break from the hills climb (I took the easier route, but it was still a challenge for me). For once, the sky was blue, and the views were excellent. Visible to the naked eye was Blackpool Tower, the Lake District Fells, and the Trough of Bowland. I stopped for a few minutes to take in the view, get my breath back, sup some water, and eat a little energy bar. But I was chuffed that no pushing of the bike happened – I am at last getting the knack of using gears (although by no means perfect yet). When I got home, I was physically tired, but feeling of great satisfaction. Cycling has been really beneficial for my mood as well as my body.

Today’s ride was more a psychological challenge. I woke up still a bit achy from the ride yesterday, and part of me just wanted to roll over and have an hour or so extra, in bed. However, I knew that wouldn’t cut it on the coast to coast ride. As you can see above, much of the ride was flat! But then, for much of the ride I was cycling along Morecambe Promenade, and along the Lancaster canal towpath – both great for cycling along, and indeed, parts of the Prom was rammed with cycling clubs on their Sunday rides. However, once I got Carnforth and on the country roads, it was quiet. So very quiet. I stopped for a few minutes to pick up an ink cartridge for the home printer (only annoyingly to find out, I had got the wrong one when I got home). This was a great ride, as I ended up on lanes that I had never been on before, as a cyclist or a motorist. It made me think more about the whole 5 Ways to Wellbeing, and the take notice aspect. I was going to stop and take photos, but I decided to live in the moment for once, and just appreciate everything that I could see.

The next step is to do a whole days ride. Of the 3 days cycling on the C2C, at least one day is 50+ miles, with some big climbs involved. I am going to plan a route using Komoot that will take me from home, over towards the Yorkshire Dales and back in a nice loop (I am not a fan of cycling to somewhere, and using the same route back – unless it is my commute to work, but even then, I sometimes mix it up a little).

Strava v’s Cyclemeter

Now that the days are getting longer, I have decided to go for some after work rides. This is really helping with my 5 Ways to Wellbeing and the Be Active component of that. If I am to get fit enough for the Coast to Coast charity ride, every practice mile will really count for the big event and help raise more money for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust. If you haven’t donated and you want to give a fiver, tenner, or more, please go to my Total Giving page. Remember, if you are a UK resident, you can include Gift Aid, which costs you, the sponsor nothing to do, but increases the money for the charity. That’s also the great thing about Total Giving, it is a non-profit organisation, so everything you donate, will go towards suicide prevention and mental health awareness.

To kick off these early evening rides, I went straight home after work, fed the dog, and got changed into some cycling gear. I went out after work today. I didn’t plan my route, (which in hindsight, is not always a good thing – I got a little lost, but soon found myself in recognisable territory). However, I decided I wanted about 60 – 90 minutes, so I could get back, and have dinner without it being too late into the evening.

As mentioned in previous posts, I have used Strava and Cyclemeter for a while now, but never done much other to clock how many miles I have been, and get sadly excited about the speeds I have managed to achieve (or in most cases thought to myself “Seriously? I thought I was going waaaaay quicker than that!“). Both Strava and Cyclemeter can also be used for runners, joggers and walkers, (although there are other apps that are possibly more suited for those activities).

Let’s start off with Cyclemeter. It’s the app for cycling I have had the longest. I find it has a lot more detail in it that Strava and other apps that I have used, but no longer have on my phone. Abvio, who are the makers of Cyclemeter claims to be the most advanced cycle app, and to a novice like me, it certainly appears that way. Let’s have a look at my ride this evening.

This evening’s ride. Screenshot of Cyclemeter app

Unless you are local, you won’t know the terrain etc. It was a mixture of city streets, cycle tracks, an old Victorian promenade along the coast, canal paths, and quiet country roads. You can also see that it was sunny, and just over 16 miles in total. The squiggle between 11 and 12 miles is where I got a little lost, trying to get onto the canal!

Cyclemeter overview of the speeds (e.g. fastest, average, etc.)

Cyclemeter, like Strava gives you an overview of the speed you travelled on route. I don’t know if I will eventually get used to seeing 30+ miles per hour as being 30+ miles per hour. I always feel at the time, that anything over 30 miles per hour, is like the speed of light! The fastest I have achieved before now (according to Cyclemeter) is 42 miles per hour.

If you live in Lancaster, you will be used to hills!

Depending on which side of the River Lune you live on in Lancaster, you are guaranteed hills! The further north or east you go, the hillier it gets. However, as you can see, nearly half the ride was along the coast.

Cadence – it’s like Quantum Physics to me!

The app (if you have a ANT+ or Bluetooth cadence measurer on you bike set up – my bicycle has a Bontrager one built into the frame) can also let you know your RPM. But that at the moment is as much as I know what this section of the app is all about. I have no idea if my cadence is any good or not, or what to do with the reading (if any cyclists are reading this, do let me know if my cadence is good, bad, or indifferent)!

Cyclemeter’s little summary page

Each ride you do with Cyclemeter results in a 13 page report. The above screenshots are just a few examples. There are some that really aren’t worth that while (I don’t personally think). For example one page summarises what music you listened to, whilst on your ride. If you have a heart rate monitor, there is a report page for that too. The above screenshot is the summary page

How does Cyclemeter compare with Strava? Well, I find Strava fun, but less informative.

Strava homepage of the route

Like Cyclemeter, Strava shows the route you completed, but without the mile markers on the home page. What is interesting is that Strava thinks my average speed was 0.30 mph slower, by 7 rpm faster on my cadence. Which one is telling porkies?

The fun stuff

I quite like the little medal you can get for regular stretches that you might ride. Basically stretches of road or cycleways get given nicknames by the Strava community (it has a social media aspect to it). Some names are more imaginative than others; Dead Man’s Prolapse being one of my favourites. When I’m in the mood it does make me want to push a little harder to get a PB (personal best).

Elevation review on Strava

Like Cyclemeter, Strava reviews your elevation. Interestingly, Strava and Cyclemeter differ slightly on how much elevation I actually did on this ride!

Speed merchant (or not) on Strava

Final screenshot is of Strava’s analysis of this evenings ride. Interesting that Strava thinks I did 3 mph faster than my fastest time according to Cyclemeter. Maybe I should average the two?

I think I’ll continue to use both apps, as they each give me something a little different. I’m certainly going to use them for the C2C ride. On my current phone, I’ve got a good data allowance and battery life is sweet, so I don’t have to worry about being drained of either battery or data.

If you use either of the apps or have others to recommend, do let me know.

Taking notice: 5 ways 2 wellbeing

Back to the 5 ways. I love Mid-Spring, it’s a time when here in the UK that as a hobby gardener, I feel everything is rapidly growing. It’s a great time to take more notice. Gardening is very much my therapy. It’s a great way to nurture plants, enjoy the seasons, have all the senses used. Below is a selection of flowers from the past year in my garden.

I particularly took notice just now, as this is the first time I have managed to harvest asparagus. People often are like Marmite with Asparagus, they either love it or hate it. For me, I love it. I love it for several reasons, one being that it is the one veg that I truly only ever eat when it is in season locally. Britains asparagus season is pretty short, usually from mid-April through to late May. Shipped in Asparagus loses its flavour rapidly, hence why I avoid it like the plague.

My favourite way to enjoy asparagus is with eggs. The simplest way, is with a lightly poached egg, with the asparagus gentled steamed or boiled. However, I am not a huge fan of steamed or boiled asparagus. I think the next simplest way is to cook the stems over a hot griddle pan (with or without first oiling the stems). Cook until they start to char. Once they have stripes, take them off the heat. I like them to still have a crunch! I serve with a simple, homemade Hollandaise Sauce.

You might be thinking, “Hey, hold on a minute, are I thought this was a 5 ways to wellbeing?”, but for me, you can eat rich sauces, and still maintain good general health. It’s all about the relationship you have with food. I know there will be some very health conscious people out there, who will say eggs and butter are not healthy (and I know some will come at this from a vegan angle too), but for now, I am still eating the occasional high-fat foods, but in small portions, and only occasionally. I think some fad diets, are much more harmful to a person, than getting the balance right. For anyone who does have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight range, then I can’t recommend enough Judith Beck’s book which is based on her Beck Diet Program (American English!). For most people who struggle with eating too much, it is often not what they are eating, or how much they are eating that is the problem, but more to do with the thoughts and feelings linked to food and their body image. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help overcome those thoughts and feelings.

For the simple Hollandaise Sauce (serves one or two people)

  1. 1 Egg yolk
  2. 1 splash of cider or white wine vinegar
  3. Around 10g melted butter
  4. 1/4 teaspoon of Dijon Mustard

If you need more of a visual aid than my photos, or you are someone who likes exact measurements when following a recipe, then Google, Jamie Oliver or James Martin for recipe ideas. My method, in a clean wide bowl, add the yolk, mustard and vinegar. Whisk until all the 3 ingredients are blended together. Place the bowl over a pan of boiled water. Keep whisking, and add the melted butter slowly. The whole process of preparing and cooking takes me less than 10 minutes. Which is also plenty of time to cook the stems of the asparagus. It makes a great starter, before the main evening meal.

Gardening is my therapy

I use “therapy” in a very loose way. But particularly at this time of year, I find my garden a place of sanctuary in the evening after I get back home from work, especially in warm and sunny evenings like it has been this past few days. This week, as part of my 5 Ways to Wellbeing, I did take notice, and this coming weekend, depending on the weather, I will be active, and get some weeding and mowing done.

You see, I moved into a new house two years ago (and I mean, ”new”, the house had only finished being built weeks before I moved in with my family), and I was given a blank canvass. The rear garden was laid with a small patio, and turf. Straightaway, I cut some new flower and shrub borders.

I realised when marking out and digging the beds just how physically unfit I was. But the benefits of gardening and green space on the body and mind has been well documented. Richard Thompson has written a very good overview of these benefits (Gardening for health: a regular dose of gardening, Clinical Medicine, London Vol. 18, Issue. 3,  June 2018, 201-205), for the whole academic paper, please click here. In summary in his paper, he refers to several studies that have shown that the physical activity has a positive impact on human health (that isn’t rocket science), but it is cheaper than joining a gym. Some of the other benefits are may be not as obvious, such as increasing Vitamin D, improving social isolation, and nurturing others (be it humans or plants) can improve mood.

Two years later, and already the plants are getting established. All of the five senses are being used, sight and smell, is obvious, particularly now that the roses are starting to bloom. Taste, has been happening for a few weeks now, thanks to the aspargus I have growing. I’m lucky that for the second time in two year, I have a mating pair of Blue Tits nesting, and their little chicks are chirping away, which is a heartlifting sound. Finally, touch, whilst pruning my roses, I did get scratched on the thorns, not the most pleasant of experiences, but “no pain without gain”.

No matter where you live, gardening can be beneficial, even if you are in a tiny flat/apartment. A windowsill is all you need to grow something. May be some culinary herbs in the kitchen? If you enjoy gardening, leave a comment, and let me know what you particularly enjoy.

My cycle kit. What I will be using for my C2C ride. (Part 1)

I thought that there will be some cycle geeks who will be interested in what bicycle I will be using for my Coast to Coast ride. I think, this is the seventh bicycle I’ve owned since I was a child. It’s a Trek 920. I also have a MTB, but I don’t fancy riding 135 miles of road on that!

My Trek 920. Without a doubt the best bike I’ve ever had

The 920 is a workhorse of a bike, yet light as a feather (or under 13kg to be a little more precise). Its frame is aluminium alloy and comes with tubeless ready Bontrager Duster Elite 29er wheels. I am planning to replace tyres, as they are a bit too grippy for what I need, (although last weekend the current tyres were useful, as I went for a ride along a canal and the path in parts was muddy grass). It comes with very sturdy rear and front pannier racks. The combined maximum weight it can carry (bicycle, rider, and cargo) is 136kg. I am 80kg, and the bike is 13kg, which leaves me with a whomping 43kg worth of gear I can carry (although that is never going to happen)! Additional to the racks, there are also 6 water-bottle mounts (yes, 6 is not a typo).

It comes with SRAM S700 shifters, 10-speed gears. This is the first bike I’ve had with SRAM tap shifters, and they have taken a little bit of getting used to. However, I have travelled around 200 miles now on the bike, and I am just about there with gear changing. This is also the first bike I’ve had with hydraulic disc brakes. I was alarmed when I first went out on it, as the brakes hardly worked. I thought I was doing something wrong, however, where I purchased my bicycle from, had swopped over the left brake with the right brake to make it more in line with the UK braking system (the bike had to be shipped in from mainland Europe – where the brakes are on the opposite side from what we are used to in the UK). This had caused air bubbles to get trapped in the braking fluid (some of you more technical types will be able to explain this far better than I can), causing the brakes not to function too well. However, the bike has been back to the shop, and it is all fixed now!

The one tap system has taken a little getting used to

The bike didn’t come with mudguards (fenders), although there are mounting points for full guards, nor did it come with pedals. For mudguards, I opted for Planet Bike Cascadia Fenders 29″ x 65mm. They were easy to install. The only downside to them is that they don’t have any hi-viz elements to them unlike some other mudguards that I had seen, however, they did come highly recommend on various websites, including Adventure Bike Touring who happened to write about the older version of the Trek 920. As for the pedals, I took the plunge, I have finally gone clipless! I got myself a bargain in the January sales, with Nukeproof Horizon CS CrMo Trail pedals. They (as would any clipless pedal) took some getting used to. Thankfully, YouTube gave me plenty of hints and tips. I’ve only had one embarrassing moment when at a junction, I forgot to clip out and fell sideways. Thankfully for me (but not my son), I was riding with my boy, and he cushioned the blow for me!

As for the extras. Well as you can see, I have added a horn/light on the handlebars. It is a Hornit, claims to be the loudest mass-produced bicycle horn available. And it is loud. Very loud. The problem I have encountered though is that people (pedestrians, car users, other cyclists) don’t recognise it as a bicycle horn (it sounds more like a car alarm), so no one moves out of the way! For that reason, it is the only item in this blog that I wouldn’t recommend. However, the light is pretty good, certainly good enough for commuters. I have a small Oxford alarmed D-lock. It’s just big enough to go through the frame, and loop around most bicycle shelter stands, as well as through a long reinforced bicycle cable that I carry to loop through the two wheels. The alarm is very loud, and would make a bike thief have second thoughts of robbing me of my pride and joy. I have also mounted a few bottle cages on. The black bottle is actually a handy little container for tools. If you read the reviews for the bottle/tool container, a lot of people complain that everything inside rattles (tools, tyre levers, etc.), however, I stuff a few disposable latex gloves in and that stops things moving inside, plus keeps my hands clean if and when my chain comes off or tyres need replacing on the roadside. Another cool little gizmo is the Quadlock. Easy to install, and basically is a mount for a smartphone. Given how much I use Cyclemeter and Strava, and have a TomTom Bandit camera mounted to my helmet (but it can be turned off and on from my phone); Quadlock is a handy little kit.

Elite Tool Carrier and Elite Bottle Cage

Part 2 will focus on the panniers and their contents.

The Komoot route of my Cameron Grant Memorial Trust Morecambe to Scarborough cycle ride

The 50 to 75 mile section looks, erm, interesting!

So here it is, the route for anyone interested in seeing where I am going, how steep the hill climbs are, which villages I will be passing through, etc. For those of you with a bicycle, if you want to share part or all of the journey with me, do get in touch, and I can give you dates, and estimates of where I will be at different times of the day. For those of you who would like to sponsor me to help raise funds for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, my TotalGiving page is now up and running.

As you can see above, the total distance is 135 miles. Apparently, it will only take 15 hours and 53 minutes, if I average 8.5mph (this is based on “average” fitness). There are some significant hill climbs, and they will be a real challenge, especially with accumlative days of riding, and having aches from the day before!

I have used Komoot to set the route. For those of you unfamiliar with Komoot, it is basically a satnav for cyclists. It’s very good as it can even set routes for mountain bikers. You can set your starting point, set your end point, and what type of cycling you are doing (e.g. touring, road race, MTB, etc.) and it plans your route for you. There are also options to edit the route manually.

I’ve got my accommodation booked, but I am looking for suggested places to stop and eat for lunch. If you know any cycling friendly cafes or pubs on route, let me know in the comments section on this blog. Also, do you have any recommendations of snacks to take for along the way?