It’s been a while since I have blogged, and given the unprecedented times that we live in, I thought I would blog to give some useful hints and tips on maintaining good mental health for those who are having to self-isolate during the COVID-19 aka Corona Virus pandemic.
Obviously, my first point that I want to make is that wherever you are in the world, avoid misinformation about the virus, and listen to advice from official health organisations in your country, or from organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Assuming you have read up on COVID-19, and you are required to self-isolate, here are my suggestions for what to do at home over the coming weeks.
Connect with people
Connecting with people when self-isolating might sound like an oxymoron, but it isn’t! Use social media, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, WhatsApp or whatever non-face-to-face format you need to speak to friends and family, or work colleagues. Make time to have some daily contact with the ones you love and care about. Sometimes it might be worth planning ahead, and setting a specific time of day to connect each day to those that are closest to you. Also think about the people that are most vulnerable, such as those that you know that are older, or have long-term health conditions, or have other vulnerabilities.
Also keep connected with the outside world, by keeping up to date with the news. Use respectable and trusted news outlets, either on-line or on the television. Remember that most supermarkets can do home deliveries if you need shopping, be it groceries, medications, or things to keep you entertained and to prevent bordom!
If you are self-isolating with others (e.g. family, or flatmates) and it is safe to do so, keep connected by switching off the television and enjoy games with each others.
2. Be physically active
Being physically active can be a challenge when stuck at home for several days at a time, but simple stretching exercises are one effective way to achieve this. Doing a minimum of 20 minutes per day would be advisable, but if you can do more, then go for it. Simple yoga could be a start, and if you are unsure how to go about this, there are a number of apps available or use Youtube. Depending on your fitness levels, there are other gentle exercises you might be able to do in the comfort of your own home, such as sit-ups, press-ups, etc. Other options could be to try the 30 day plank challenge (look on your usual App Store for details). If you can, give others who are self-isolating words of encouragement to keep active; it can be challenging to keep motivated when you are on your own, but giving each other encouragement, can help massively. Another option to keep active is to Spring Clean the house, now could be a good time to clean the nooks and crannies within your house that may get neglected normally. Choose one room each day to have a full clean, and bag up items that you no longer need or use ready to take to the recycling centres when the self-isolation period comes to an end. If you have a garden, can you mow the lawn, or weed a bed?
3. Learn new skills
This could be the perfect time to learn something new, or to further your knowledge on an existing topic. An obvious start if you are stuck at home, is to try a new recipe. This could be a particularly good activity if you have children in the house, as it can be a good time for everyone to learn, and to socialise together. It is also a good opportunity to use food items at the back of the food cupboard that seldom get a look in. If you are stuck what to cook, the BBC have a good selection of recipes to try, and you can search by ingredient, meal type, cusine type etc.
You could try some new activity such as yoga (see above), or a new hobby such as learning to play an instrument, or some type of art such as drawing or painting (and if you don’t have a flute, guitar, paints or pencils to hand, don’t forget that you order on-line for home delivery). There are plenty of free or cheap online websites that can teach you new hobbies, just use the internet search engines, or go to you App Store. If you have access to LinkedIn Learning, there are multiple online courses that you can try on there including guitar lessons!
4. Give to others
With your new hobby or extra skill, now is the chance to give to others. Could you write a poem for a loved one, make a cake for your housemates?
If you are not someone who is self-isolating, but know people that are, can you volunteer to get them some groceries, or take their dog for a walk? Can you volunteer at the local food back?
5. Pay attention
Mindfulness could be very helpful for you right now. Paying attention to how you are feeling, and learning to relax will be very helpful as we go through self-isolation. There are a multitude of mindfulness apps available, Headspace is probably the most well known, but there are others. The NHS has some useful information on mindfulness that can be found here.
Remember, that this is a pandemic, but it will come to an end, and life will eventually get back to normal. Keep following the updates on nationally television to see if expert advice changes (and it may change as new information about the virus comes to light). Stay safe, stay well. Remember to keep a look out for vulnerable people in your neighbourhood and your community.
I’ve not blogged for a while, and I thought today would be a good day to talk about the Keep Learning element of 5 Ways to Wellbeing. One of the things I have wanted to know more about in my adult life, is evolution. It was the 160th anniversary of the publication of, On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin earlier this week. I purchased a copy of the book a few years ago, but never got round to reading it. I have decided to start reading it this week as part of my Keep Learning. I would then like to read other books on more advanced studies of evolution, but without the need for a PhD in Biology to understand them!
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, the first seed of interest on the topic of evolution started when I was a boy. I had a school friend who had a houseplant terrarium. Within the terrarium was a Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula). This is probably the one carnivorous plant that most people will recognise, with its distinctive shaped leaves and trapping mechanism. It utterly fascinated me. We did what you’re not supposed to do, and set off the trap by touching the trigger hairs with a stick or something (I can’t quite remember now). I was desperate to have one of my own, but back then, they were quite expensive.
But evolution and plants, never cross my mind. As a child, I was indoctrinated into the High Church arm of Anglican Christianity (it’s like Catholicism, but without the smells of incense wafting around). The church I attended saw the book of Genesis as literal truth. Therefore, I was brought up believing that Yahweh/God did his magic in 6 days, and then needed a rest. All life was created within an instant, and then most of it was wiped out in the great flood. As I only ever socialised with people from the church, or in my school which was next door to my church, I never questions the authority of the vicar or my family. My primary school didn’t really teach science at all, so it wasn’t until I was around 11, that my eyes slowly but surely opened, when I went to high school. Therefore, up to this point, my only explanation was that “God created the Venus flytrap”, and I never gave too much thought to the plant for a good few years. I certainly didn’t make any connection with evolution, as my teeny tiny knowledge of the subject at that point was how “man came from monkeys“, which had been ridiculed by my church and family. However, for lots of different reasons and over a period of several years, I stopped believing in Christianity, and then all religions. Once I had left school, I had also started to train in horticulture, and I soon became interested in the breeding of of different plants. Where I worked, the head gardener was always trying to create new varieties of various plants (and so I was introduced to artificial selection or selective breeding).
It was around this time, that I got my first carnivorous plant. I was given a Venus flytrap, and, before long, I had purchased several more. Eventually, I bought Carnivorous Plants by Adrian Slack. Although the book has over 200 pages, it only has a couple of pages on the evolution of carnivorous plants. It was these two pages that started me to think more widely about evolutionary biology. No more “man came from monkeys” for me! I still grow a handful of carnivorous plants to this day. I particularly like the Nepenthes genius of plants, commonly known as tropical pitcher or monkey pitcher plants.
The two pages in Slack’s book was enough to whet my appetite to learn more, but over the years, I have kept finding other things to do and read. However, I have now made the conscious decision, and have started to read Darwin’s book, along with other sources of evolution. It feels good to be learning for pleasure!
One great educational resource has been OneZoom which is an interactive map of the evolutionary relationship of over 2,000,000 species of life on our planet.It’s a non-profit charity based in London. You can even sponsor a leaf on the tree, which I have done.I have opted for “leaf” containing one of the endangered carnivorous plants that I now learning about, Nepenthes rajah.
It’s never too late to learn something new, or update your knowledge on something you think you know.
I’ve not posted for a while, so I thought I would share a new recipe. This is loosely based on a recipe for Rocky Road Power Balls I found in Men’s Health Magazine in the summer of 2019, but I a) couldn’t get all the ingredients in the original recipe, and b) I like to experiment with recipes. As the flavours are predemoninately chocolate and cherry, it reminded me of those Black Forest gateaus of the 1970/80’s that you used to get. Interestingly, as a kid, I hated that flavour, but these energy balls are really good (even if I do say so myself).
They are really easy to make, and require no cooking as such. They are great to take on a big bike ride, or for post workout energy boosts. They are packed with carbs and fibre, so not recommended for snacking!! Most of the ingredients should be readily available in your local supermarket. The only ingredient I struggled to source, was the cocoa butter, which I got online, but I think you could substitute this ingredient with another hard fat, such as butter (but obviously that would be for non-vegans).
250g of pitted dates
40g of dried cherries
10g of dried blueberries (alternatively use raisins or sultanas)
10g of dried cranberries (alternatively use raisins or sultanas)
4tbsp of cocoa butter
6tbsp of mixed seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, golden linseed in mine, but any edible seeds should work)
8tbsp of ground almonds
4tsp of cashew nut butter (almond or peanut should also work pretty well – note this is the only teaspoon and not tablespoon portioned ingredient)
4tbsp cocoa powder
2tbsp of golden syrup (or maple syrup)
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)
Soak the dates and dried fruit in some boiled water to soften them. This should only take a few minutes. Whilst the fruit soften, melt the cocoa butter and the syrup in a pan on the stove, until all has melted and mixed together. In a food processor whizz the ground almonds with the seeds and cocoa powder, until you get a rough crumb type texture
Add the drained fruit to the food processor along with the other ingredients, and quickly whizz, until you get a sticky dough. Tip that into a mixing bowl.
If you find the dough a little too sticky to hold its shape, then add a little more dried ingredients (e.g. ground almonds and cocoa powder), a spoonful at a time. If you have some plastic food grade gloves, they might come in handy for the next part. Using your hands, take a piece of the dough and roll it until you have a neat little ball about the size of a golf ball or a ping-pong ball. To keep them from sticking together, roll on the ball on a plate of icing sugar. I made 22 out of my batch. They can be placed in a food grade airtight container. They can be frozen, and taken out on the day of use to thaw out.
Well, I’ve done it. My first tour, my first charity bike ride, my first major cycling challenge. It’s been a fantastic adventure. My legs, and neck muscles, really are feeling the effect of cycling 150+ miles over 3 days, in horrendous weather, with some significant hill climbs. But I didn’t want to let myself down, and more importantly, I didn’t want to let down others (those who had coached me, sponsored me, and particularly I didn’t want to let the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust down).
On Sunday 9th June, I packed my panniers, and loaded them onto my bicycle. As I went to bed on Sunday, the weather forecast for the next 3 days looked a mixed affair, but not too bad, but when I got up the next morning, Lancaster was beautiful and sunny; although the forecast didn’t look too great! I cycled into the city centre, and hopped onto the train to Morecambe. It’s only a short distance, but I didn’t want to waste any energy, as I knew I would need all the reserves I could get for when I reached the Yorkshire Dales.
First leg of the route
Of course, no long distance cycle ride from Morecambe is complete without the obligatory photo opportunity with the Eric Morecambe statue. As a kid, I loved the Morecambe and Wise show, utter comedy genius! I then set off feeling energised, excited and nervous all in one.
Setting off from Morecambe at 8.15am, 25ft above sea level, along the Promenade, it’s a nice gentle start. No motor vehicle traffic, just a handful of dog walkers. It’s only a few hundred yards, but then you join a street for about a 1/2 mile, before coming to the old railway line, that is now a cycle track to Lancaster (and beyond). It was midway between Morecambe and Lancaster that I met up with John who had volunteered to cycle with me. It was also at this point that I realised I hadn’t set up my Strava or Cyclemeter to record the ride, so I missed the first couple of miles, but not too concerned as I had Komoot up and running from the start. Komoot is great as a guidance app, but doesn’t give me the details that the other two apps do. John had been put in contact with me as someone who has also supported the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust, and who gave me a little advice over the phone about doing the C2C cycle ride as he is an experienced rider. John also volunteered to cycle some of the first leg with me, which was a great help – giving me a morale boost. John cycled with me as far as Giggleswick, before getting the train back to Lancaster.
John and I cycled the rest of the old rail track for around another 5 or so miles, it’s a beautiful little track taking you through the Crook O’Lune beauty spot. It was initially busy with people rushing to get to work, but once we were out of Lancaster, it became very quiet. It is here where I slightly deviated from the traditional Way of the Rose route. Usually people go into Halton and up the north side of the Lune Valley, but I stayed on the south on the A683 on the stretch where the very first white lines In the world were painted onto roads in 1922. We would rejoin the traditional Way of the Roses route near Wray. It was in the village of Wray where we decided to stop and have a quick refuel. The Post Office, has a few tables and chairs outside, and they serve hot and cold drinks and light snacks/lunches.
Refuelled, we set off once more. Mainly on little country lanes with little traffic. We did come across a guy on an electric bicycle, who was doing the whole of the traditional Way of the Roses route from Morecambe to Bridlington. We met him (or should I say, he overtook us), as we started the long, but fairly steady hill climb into Yorkshire. The first real test for me, and the weight of the gear I was carrying (which was far too much, but I will come onto that later), climbing out of a hamlet called Mill Houses. Not a big climb by any stretch of the imagination at around 150ft, but it was at 12%. Thankfully, I was very fresh still at this stage, and had John to climb behind.
When we go to around 600ft, it was fairly easy, as there were just some gentle peaks and troughs, with the occasion steep climb (never seemed to be any steep drops mind)! From here we kept zigzagging over the Bentham railway line, which is the route that John would eventually get on, as he headed back to Lancaster. It’s an area that I don’t know that well, other than the hamlet of Eldroth. We had made very good progress, John had to take a quick business call (and what a great place to take a call).
We eventually reached the railway station at Giggleswick on the A65 trunk road, and I thanked John, and said goodbye. I was a little daunted by the A65 as it is a major road from Kendal into Yorkshire, but thankfully, it did have a designated cycle lane. I headed south-east as it bypassed the towns of Giggleswick and Settle; again, this is a diversion from the traditional route, but one I had planned (not all my diversions were planned)! I turned south, and when down river with the River Ribble. Through various little villages, before taking my first unplanned diversion! It was clear that I should have double checked any unscheduled routes between Komoot and a proper OS map! As the route tried to take me down some private road on a country house estate (this wasn’t the only time this happened). It was also around here where I stopped and chatted with the second cyclist of the day. A woman who had decided to go for a”quick 50 mile circular ride“. “Quick” and “50 mile” seemed like an oxymoron to me, but she was happy, and advised me where I could stop for lunch, in Hellifield, which was only a matter of minutes away. By this point the cloud was starting to thicken considerably, and a cold breeze had started to pick up. Unfortunately for me, the normal prevailing winds, were not around to give me a tailwind! I grabbed a quick bite to eat, and started my climb into the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Reaching the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales felt like a psychological achievement. My legs were really starting to feel tired now, and it was here whilst I stopped to take a break, that I got patronised by some cyclist who stopped to tell me that I had packed far too much; and I wanted to say “No sh!t Sherlock“, but just kept that thought in my head! Climbing out of the Ribble valley, I crossed into the Aire valley. Many of the villages were like those you used to see on chocolate box covers. It was around here that the first rain started to come down. It wasn’t heavy, and to be honest, I appreciated the cooling effect. One of the extra difficulties I was now facing was the number of lanes that had been given a recent topdressing. There was so much loose gravel/chippings, that if it hadn’t been for my 29er wheels and fat tyres, I think I would have been all over the place.
I eventually made it to Hetton, and I was tempted to go into the Angel pub. I’ve been there in the past, the food is to die for, but it ain’t cheap! I was tempted, as I knew I had one big last push with an elevation of around 300ft over the space of 7 or 8 miles, and some of it was a steep gradient, and I thought that a hearty pub meal would give me the boost, but that was just a fleeting idea. However, the beauty of that section, is that the lane is a designated cycle road, between Cracoe and Burnsall.
I eventually made it to my first Air BnB stopover in Burnsall. I did it in good time, but I was cold and tired. I had a quick shower, and changed into some non-cycling gear, and had a little stroll around the village before refuelling in the local pub (which was interesting as they served the starter at the same time as the main. Not sure if this was Yorkshire Tapas!). I slept like a log!
Second leg of the route
Overnight there had been an Amber Severe Weather Warning from the Met Office for the whole of Yorkshire and Humberside for strong winds and torrential rain, with localised flooding predicted! Ugh! What to do? I had a hearty breakfast, and packed up and took a look outside. Yes, there was a stiff breeze, and yes it was cloudy, but I thought that it must be in other parts of Yorkshire where the worst of the weather would be! I was a little achy from yesterday’s ride, but not as achy as I thought I would be. I was in good spirits, so thought I might as well get on with the ride. I knew the second day was going to be very tough, with two big hillclimbs to do.
The climb out of Burnsall started off gentle enough, and the weather wasn’t too bad. But in just five miles, the weather really took a turn for the worst; partly due to being more exposed (Burnsall was snuggled in the bottom of a valley). The other unexpected difficulty was the road from Burnsall for a few miles, had recently been top dressed with new tarmac and new gravel/grit (this seemed to have been a common occurrence during the three day ride). As mentioned before, I was grateful for the tyres that I had on my bike are 29ers with good grip, but I was still skidding slightly as the depth is of the clippings, was much deeper than yesterday. I also became concerned about my crankshaft as it had started to make a slight “clunking” sound on every revolution of the peddles. My front derailleur was struggling to work correctly too. My enthusiasm was waning rapidly. And to top it all, it started to rain, hard!
Now, I am not religious by any stretch of the imagination, but like a sign from the gods, a little tourist show cave, with an attached tea room appeared on the horizon. I pulled in straightaway, and ordered one of the best slices of chocolate cake I have ever tasted, with a pot of Yorkshire Tea! Whilst there, I met another touring cyclist, who inspired me. He was cycling 1,800 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats via various places he had lived or had a connection with (which meant he was zig-zagging his way north, and not going the direct route).
Back on my back, I was off like a shot. The weather became much more changeable. One minute it was sunny, next it was doom and gloom. I was finding I was stopping and starting whilst I changed layers of clothing to meet the needs of the weather, which was frustrating, but it did help with making sure I kept the calorie intake up! John from the first day, had recommended taking a slight detour to Brimham Rocks, which is a National Trust owned site, of some amazing rock formations. It handily had a little outdoor cafe serving bacon baps and hot tea, which was brilliant, as it coincided with lunchtime. The staff there were very friendly, and we had a good chinwag about the weather (British, talking about the weather. Stereotype or what?)
Once I had lunch, the route became a little gentler, less hills to climb. I loved the name of the lane that I was on for a couple of miles; Careless House Lane – I did wonder how it got its name. As with the first day, there were lots of pretty little villages and market towns to go through, and also like the first day, the Komoot on a couple of occassions tried to take me the wrong way (again, down a private drive way to a very large stately home), but in all, the voice that Komoot was my companion (yes, by this point, I was talking to my satnav, and yes, I enjoyed the conversation). Another little minor detour was in Easingwold, but this was because my bladder was full!
Eventually, I made it to my second day’s destination of Sheriff Hutton, and what a treat, the room was brilliant. Again, another Air BnB, but the hosts, were also keen cyclists (although they were tandem riders). The room was cheap as chips, yet modern and clean, and just across the road from a pub. It was such a relief to get here, as the start of the day had been really challenging both physically and mentally!
Third day of the route
My hosts from my second night provided a much needed breakfast, and I was away by about 8.30am. It was quite a humid morning, and my host knew most the the route I was taking. He mentioned a fairly big hillclimb just a couple of miles into my journey, but said the rest was pretty easy (just what I wanted to hear). This was the shortest distance of the three days, and I was hoping the weather would let up, but again, it was a mixture of drizzle, sunshine, and showers. That said, a much needed welcome relief was that the breeze had dropped considerably.
The first hill, Bulmer Bank was a killer; and I am not going to lie, I did get off, and push my bicycle up most of it, which was really challenging. I was physically tired from the previous two days, my bike weighs around 15 kilos, and my panniers had around 9 kilos of weight in them. Plus something I was really surprised by, my neck muscles ached like crazy (I was expecting thighs and other leg muscles to ache, but not my neck and shoulders)! Once past Bulmer Bank, I skirted around the magnificent Castle Howard estate. As a keen gardener, I love Castle Howard. It also holds special memories for me and my partner, as we celebrated her birthday there recently. I did think about popping in to look around the gardens, but given the time and the weather, I thought better of it.
Castle Howard is just a couple or so miles away from the old market town of Malton. It’s a great town to visit, and is known as the Food Capital of Yorkshire (not entirely sure why, but it does have some great food shops with local suppliers, and some cracking pubs, severing fine Yorkshire ales and gins)!
It was busy getting through Malton. I had got there whilst rush hour was still going, and some motorists were a little impatient. I made it to the A64, where again, it was a major trunk road, but thankfully it had a designated cycle lane (although it wasn’t that well maintained by Yorkshire County Council, with potholes on it, and overgrown branches hanging low). I also noticed that Elvis is alive and well and on tour around Yorkshire! By mid-morning, I was at the end of the section on the A64, and I was ready for a little brunch. In a layby just where I turn off the A64 I came across a little burger van. I ordered my food, and the owner asked where I was going and where was I from. When I told what, where, how, etc, she very kindly gave my money back, and told me to donate it to the charity (which I dully did).
From the A64, I took back road up to the A170. I know the A170 very well and the villages that I would ultimately go through, as I used to spend my childhood holidays in and around those villages, as well as the are around Scarborough and surrounding seaside towns and villages. The first village I arrived at is Snainton, where as a child I learned how to ride a horse! Just beyond Snainton is Wydale Hall. Now a Christian retreat centre, it had been a private home, and during the time between the two World Wars it had been the family home of the Illingworth’s. During that time, my parternal great, great grandmother had been in service; around the time of the fictional Downton Abbey. Along the A170 I continued, sometimes of the road, and sometimes on designated cycle paths on the side of the road. I was making very good time, when I turned off the A170, and Komoot decided to take me down a forest track! Highly sceptical of where this was going to lead me, I followed the route. The Trek 920 is designed to go pretty much anywhere, and it handled the muddy track very well (although there was a sharp downhill where I nearly fell off)! At the end of the track, I came out on the outskirts of Scarborough. I foolishly stopped following Komoot, and thought I remembered how to get to the South Bay from my childhood memories, but I ended up in North Bay; just a small detour! However, I had made it to my final destination!
The weather when I arrived wasn’t exactly get down on the beach and sunbathe weather, but it did start to getting better. I was buzzing though, my legs ached, my backside was saddle sore, but mentally I was stoked! I couldn’t find anywhere by the harbour to safely lock up my bicycle so I quickly dropped it off at my final Air BnB place to stay, and walked back to the Harbour Bar, which was just shutting up for the day. However, they had a little kiosk serving ice cream (much needed at that).
All in all, I was thrilled that by the end of the day, I had made the epic journey (epic in my eyes), and very pleased that I had surpassed my original target of £500 for the Cameron Grant Memorial Trust. By the end of the ride, I had got to £820, and I think some money is still coming in now, two weeks later. Thank you to everyone who donated. Thank you to everyone who supported me with hints, tips, and advice! It’s been a great start to my 5 Ways to Wellbeing. Now, where will I go next???
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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:
Steep hill climbs (I’ve done long steady climbs, but nothing too vertical!
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).
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.
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, 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.
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.
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)!
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.
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?
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).
Like Cyclemeter, Strava reviews your elevation. Interestingly, Strava and Cyclemeter differ slightly on how much elevation I actually did on this ride!
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.
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 Egg yolk
1 splash of cider or white wine vinegar
Around 10g melted butter
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.
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.