A weekday walk

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Chilham Castle
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Snowdrops and daffodils
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Birthday man and his dog

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Tudor house with pleached limes. It was raining at this point, so difficult to get a good photo.
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Birthday beer

 

David was 50 yesterday. He’s been remarkably mellow in the run-up and took it all in his stride. I was wondering whether he’d wake up and have some major melt-down thingumy but, thankfully, he didn’t. He was so happy to have an extra day at home and a day off work that the age situation didn’t ruffle his feathers at all. And quite right too. Having reached my half-century in August I can vouch for it being absolutely fine. Better than fine, in fact. I am blazing a trail.

Being a Tuesday, the children begrudgingly went off to school (they hate the thought of fun being had when they’re not around) and we had a leisurely start to the day. I’d asked David what he’d like to do – anything, limited budget allowing – but all he wanted to do was to go for a decent walk and have a pub lunch. We drove to Chilham (a beautiful 15th-century village near Canterbury) and followed a circular 5-mile route from the village, through fields of sheep, along woodland paths and country lanes, past the river Stour and back to the village pub. It was a dull, grey, windy old day and the light levels were low (hence the darkish photos) but it was totally lovely to spend time together and catch up. That sounds daft but as he works away for most of the week and our weekends are busy, busy, busy there’s precious little time alone together and we are spectacularly rubbish at making it a priority.

We discussed our holiday plans for this summer (a long-awaited trip to the USA. Yes, I know! Exciting!); we talked about the children and how blinking proud we are of them and how well they’ve settled in to life here; we reviewed where we are with the house renovation (ongoing) and garden (always ongoing, as it should be); and we enjoyed the walking and the fresh air and the beautiful countryside. It was fabulous and precious, all the more so because it’s so rare. The children and I have more treats in store for him this weekend but I can’t tell you about them in case he reads this post. He doesn’t often read my blog, unless I tell him to have a look at the photos while he’s away, but sod’s law he would if I told you about our secret plans!

Have a great week. I will report back after the weekend 🙂

Blustery walks, not much gardening and a birthday

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I’ve not posted an awful lot recently (apart from joining in with In a Vase on Monday) – a mild case of blogger’s block, if you like. Life has been trundling along pleasantly: the mock exams are over (results so far are encouraging), my mum is making steady progress following her op and we’re in the groove of a routine. Well, we were, before my middle child broke a foot playing rugby on Sunday (during his second match for a local team), so I temporarily have an hour’s round trip to drive him to school to add to my day. Negotiating all the steps at the train station in a scrum of school children wouldn’t be ideal and I’m a softie. Hey ho.

Today the sun is (was) shining and Storm Barney – the rather inappropriately cuddly name given to the latest storm to batter the UK – has calmed down a little. It’s still very breezy indeed but it is possible to walk along the clifftops without worrying about a gale force wind pushing you flat on your face.

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It is tricky to hold the phone steady to get a horizontal horizon in the wind.
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Can you see Cassie staring into the hedge (mid-bottom-left of photo)? Our wouldn’t-say-boo-to-a-goose dog caught a rabbit here last week. Ever since, when we walk down this lane, she’s made a bee-line to the same spot and stared intently to check for more rabbits. Thankfully there haven’t been any.

I’ve been rather slack on the gardening front recently. We did manage to clear the strawberry bed of rooted runners and weeds last weekend, though. There are now over 30 baby strawberry plants tucked in here and there to settle in over the winter. A few of the parent plants were actually flowering and one was even sporting a large white strawberry. Weird. There’s still quite a bit of clearing and cutting back to do outside before winter properly sets in. Amazingly (to me), I’m STILL picking raspberries, freezing some, making small batches of jam and scoffing the rest. At this rate, they could be fruiting into December. Is that normal?

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Me and my boy, winter 1999.

My first-born is now a broad-shouldered, 6ft man-child – opinionated, argumentative, handsome, kind, infuriatingly contrary, loving, hilariously funny and very, very nearly 16. It’s his birthday tomorrow. We’ll be having a fairly low-key, family celebration as he doesn’t want a big fuss. When I say low-key, I mean no big house-party. He knows not to even ask. I can quite clearly remember 16th birthday parties from my youth and he’s been to friends’ parties and seen what happens and doesn’t want the responsibility of anything like that happening here! There will still be plenty of cake (chocolate, of course), candles and presents. We will be making a fuss of him, that’s for sure. I can see his eyes rolling now…

My youngest is also very excited because, once this birthday is over she can start talking about Christmas!

Dusting off the cobwebs

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Walking in the Langdales this time last year.

Ever since David and I have known each other, we have tried to visit the Lake District and get up into the high fells at least once a year. It’s a place that never fails to lift our spirits and re-energise us. Once the children came along, we adjusted our walks (no scrambling up Jake’s Rake on Pavey Ark with a baby in a backpack!) but we still went as often as possible. In more recent years, since the children have been able to do long, high walking, we’ve been going every October during half term. This year, however, we didn’t – financial constraints, work commitments and revision for exams (our eldest has mock GCSEs starting tomorrow) meant that we had to stay at home. We have all missed it and have agreed that we really must try to make it happen next year if possible.

After a week of mostly sitting down, we decided that, Lake District or not, we had to get out and have a Good Walk yesterday. We do a lot of walking here on the coast, exploring the wonderful paths close to home but have yet to explore much of inland Kent. David planned a circular route through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty around Wye and we set off. The promise of a late pub lunch was enough to persuade our more reluctant walker to leave his revision behind for a few hours.

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There is always a ‘discussion’ about the route, no matter how carefully planned. Our eldest child often walks on ahead, confident that he knows best…
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We walked from Wye and followed part of the North Downs Way past the Wye Crown.
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This is as high as it gets in this part of Kent. It was hazy sunshine but we nevertheless had gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside.

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This deep valley (formed by glaciation) is known as ‘The Devil’s Kneading Trough’ and is part of the Wye National Nature Reserve. On a clear day, you are supposed to be able to see Romney Marsh and the English Channel beyond. Not yesterday, though.

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David’s Short Walks are misnomers. We should know by now to add at least an hour on to his estimate of how much time a walk will take. The light was fading fast as we got back to the car and we were all rather hungry, so it was off to a lovely pub in Chilham for steak and ale pie, really excellent beer and the Rugby World Cup final. Perfect.

To the Lighthouse

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One of my favourite local walks is to the South Foreland Lighthouse. If I go via the beach it’s about an hour’s round trip and, on a clear day, the views are quite breathtaking. photo 3 Today, though, I had to go via the village hall (to drop off the June issue of the village magazine – more of that another time), so this meant approaching the lighthouse from inland. There were a few other dog-walkers about but mostly it was just me and my dog. I love these early morning walks; I’ve had a lot on my mind lately and really felt the need for some peace and quiet. Strolling along, dog at my side, listening to the birds and noticing the light in the hedgerows is one of the best tonics I know. photo 2 At one point, I stood still to listen to a wren belting out it’s glorious, uplifting song. Sorry there’s no sound with this picture (or any sign of the wren). photo 3 Along the wooded lane and into a clearing – there’s the lighthouse. It’s not open to the public until later in the morning but luckily the gate was open, so I was able to get close to it. photo 4 It dates from Victorian times and Marconi sent his first international wireless transmission from here in 1899 – a little historical fact for you! There’s an older, derelict lighthouse a little further along the cliffs but this one is the landmark. You can find out more about the lighthouse here if you’re interested.

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There’s a path that runs right down to the cliff edge – dogs must be kept on leads and you have to take care. The sign says it all (although there’s a much bigger drop)! photo 2 I returned home to the children, who are on half term holiday, and all the jobs to do feeling much perkier. I hope you are feeling perky whatever you’re up to this week.