Roadworks and music

A couple of things I had to do in town added up to 4.56 miles of walking and as soon as I was finished, began to head back down south. My iPod was on shuffle and the songs appeared to be amazingly appropriate to the stage of my journey. While I was still in Scotland, battling the rain over Beattock some Runrig followed by Deacon Blue came on. Further south after crawling past the roadworks near Lancaster and nearing the end of the M61 to Manchester, it was Oasis and near the M58 to Liverpool, Elvis Costello. At the heartsink roadworks nearer home which are due to continue until December 2016, I heard the Detroit Spinners’ Working my way back to you, babe, also timely as I am know sitting back at home waiting for James to return from the airport. His plane should be landing in a few minutes’ time and I need to get ready to rehearse The Dream of Gerontius with my choir later this evening.

Still putting one foot in front of the other

Yesterday I walked five miles while doing some shopping around town. Today was a glorious blue sky and sunshine winter day. I had arranged to meet a friend at church (I am trying to find one to attend while I am in Edinburgh). I walked around beforehand and clocked up two miles. After the service we walked along the Union Canal to her flat. There were plenty of dog walkers, runners and cyclists all enjoying the weather and the wildlife was busy – ducks and a water vole on the river and some rats on the bank. We heard a robin but couldn’t see him. One magpie had a tremendously high perch on the top of a crane. However, these swans were not going anywhere.
Swans on canal 28 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
After lunch in a local pub we parted company and I walked back towards my flat, passing the old psychotherapy department on Colinton Road which is now a private clinic. Back at the flat I discovered that I had completed seven miles today so rested before getting organised for tomorrow’s departure. Hopefully the next time I am here, the cherry tree will be in full bloom.
Cherry tree Monkwood Court 28 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Taking a different road to Edinburgh

Thursday was a cold misty day and as we are having some work done on the house, it is full of dust and disarray.
Smallwood mist 25 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
So, I was happy with the plan to spend the weekend in Edinburgh while James visits his parents in Northern Ireland and set off this morning. The M6 was quiet although there are plenty of road works with speed restrictions. I had a coffee stop at Tebay and took a photograph of a derelict cottage sitting between the M6 and the West Coast Mainline. I often wonder who lived in abandoned buildings and what stories are hidden in the stones.
Derelict house vs M6 & Westcoast Mainline Tebay 26 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
A rook was hoping to join in the duck feeding session outside the restaurant.
Rook at Tebay 26 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
Back on the road I could see snow on the tops of the Pennines, the Cumbrian hills and the Southern Uplands. I varied my route from the M74 and took the A701 to Moffat. I was at university with a guy from Moffat who was always teased about the fact that the statue in the middle of the town is of a sheep rather than some local or national worthy. Wool remains an important source of income for the area with tour buses visiting the mill shops.
Sheep statue Moffat 26 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
The town has several independent shops, two secondhand bookstores, scores of places to have coffee/eat or drink and nature reserves and a river walk. It is also only 10 miles from the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall which I have not been to for years. All of this will need to be explored and enjoyed more slowly on another trip as I wanted to get to Edinburgh with time to get some things done there. The road is billed as a Scenic Route and just north of Moffat there are lots of places to stop and take photographs.
A701 view 1 26 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

A701 view 2 26 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

A701 view 3 26 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

A701 view 4 26 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

A701 view 6 26 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

A701 view 8 7 26 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Further north the road was busier and although there were lots of other photographic possibilities, it was harder to stop. I made a note to revisit this road in the hour before sunset. I passed through many of the small villages and towns which were covered by the hospital I first started my psychiatry training at 30 years ago and I also followed a varied selection of vehicles as I approached the city. For most of way until I was past Penicuik it was a truck with an old military Landrover Defender on the back. After that I was slowed down again by a bus which I could not get past until he found a bus lane nearer the city. After filling up with diesel and heading to the bypass, I suddenly found myself behind two brightly coloured Lamborghinis which needless to say, did not hang around once they got onto the bypass. Just south of the flat I hit the last temporary traffic lights of the day.

Getting back on track: walking for Lent

My pledge to walk 4-5 miles each day for Lent came adrift towards the end of last week. I was unwell, not sleeping and could only manage very short walks scheduled around ‘must do’ activities such as work. In addition, we had visitors and I was trying to ensure that I looked after them, possibly neglecting myself in the process. However, I am now feeling better and clocked up just over eight miles on my shopping trip Saturday morning and Street Pastor shift on that night. Sunday’s total was less but I now feel back on track.
Smallwood View Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
Today began with blue sky but clouds were approaching so I decided to head out early afternoon.
Smallwood view 22 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
More signs of spring were around. Here are some of the ladies in waiting who will be lambing very soon:
Ladies in waiting Smallwood 22 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
In the hedgerows celandines and other spring flowers are emerging.
Celandine Smallwood 22 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Sun on the beach and snow on the hills

I love walking and beachcombing in all seasons and as the morning was bright and sunny we decided that today’s walk would be on Gullane Bents in East Lothian. Several people and dogs were enjoying a morning on the beach. Ships were heading out to sea and we could see snow on the hills of Fife to the north. I was wearing my fingerless gloves so that I could operate my camera but they got pretty cold very quickly but I did find some pieces of sea glass to add to my collection and one small scallop shell with barnacles on it.
Gullane Bents 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Gullane Bents 4 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Sea glass 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

After the walk, we warmed up in a coffee shop and then investigated the ruined church opposite, St Andrew’s Old Kirk. It was built in 1170 on the site of an earlier Norman church but was abandoned in 1612 as it kept getting buried in sand blown from the beach. The congregation moved to Dirleton and much later, other churches were built in Gullane and are still there today.

St Andrews Old Kirk Gullane 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)
We had planned to head south over a B road that passes over the Lammermuir Hills and past the Whiteadder Reservoir before descending into the borders. I could see a lot of snow on the hills and have previously taken some good shots up there so was very optimistic as the weather had stayed dry. Unfortunately the road was closed and had a fairly permanent closed sign so we had to turn round. The alternative route was to cross over to the A68 and then to the A7 via Soutra and were were rewarded by some snow.

Snowy landscape Soutra 2 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Snowy landscape Soutra 7 14 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

We had a flurry of snow over the Teviots but south of the border the sun came out again and it was an uneventful drive home.

A day in Dundee

We woke before it was light and so decided we would walk down to the station. There had been some sleet overnight so it was a bit slippery underfoot. At the station, James spotted a coffee place that had Lavazza so I had to have a cup. Unfortunately I spilt it soon afterwards and having found someone to clean up so that no-one slipped, I headed back for a refill and the woman gave me another for free. A great start to the day. On the train we saw the beginnings of the new Forth crossing as we passed over the rail bridge.
Forth Rail Bridge (1 of 1)
The weather forecast said it was to be dry in Dundee but as the train passed through rain and sleet and snow was visible on the hills, it was hard to believe. The River Tay was still high but had obviously been much higher recently and had left mud and pools of water everywhere. On arrival it was dry but overcast. James was keen to visit some of his old haunts so after he had orientated himself (there have been quite a few changes in the last 30 years), we walked up to the street where his old student flat was (still a student flat enclave).
Springfield (1 of 1)

We continued on to where the halls of residence were and which are now a conference centre. A coffee stop was then necessary before walking back towards town to meet a friend for lunch at the restaurant in the Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre. This was somewhere I must explore further on another trip as it has exhibitions, workshops, a cinema and is a real focus for art of all kinds. We then wandered around town and then down to Captain Scott’s ship The Discovery, which has came home to Dundee in 1999. It is interesting to note that while the expedition had a scientific focus and taught us a lot about Antarctica, one of its drivers was the fact that the whaling industry in the Arctic had run out of whales and was seeking a new supply. There was an exhibition and then you can go onto the ship. I particularly liked the contrast between the ship (launched in 1901) and the construction behind it of the building to house an outpost of the V&A.
Construction of the new V&A (1 of 1)
Rigging 1 (1 of 1)
Rigging 4 (1 of 1)
Below deck I was pleased to see that marmalade was deemed an essential supply.
Supplies (1 of 1)
I also loved the penguins outside.
Penguins (1 of 1)
All too soon the sun, which had come out as forecast, was sinking beyond the railway bridge.
Tay Bridge 2 (1 of 1)
There was just enough time for a glass of wine and the newspaper before we had to head back to the station for the train back to Edinburgh.
Station (1 of 1)
We had walked 11.5 miles today so I am still on with my Lent walking pledge.

Walking for Lent & driving to Edinburgh

As we were driving to Edinburgh in the afternoon I had to fit in my walking in the morning. Fridays are the day I do some voluntary work in a secondhand bookshop which raises money for charity. It is just over four miles away so ideal for my Lent pledge. I set off around 8.30 on a misty morning.

Misty mornings Feb 2015 (1 of 1)
The first three miles are not the most pleasant as our local lanes become rat runs at rush hour and many drivers clearly do not expect to find a pedestrian (or cyclist or horse rider) as they speed around. However, the sun did come out and light up some of the fields I passed.
Fields Feb 2015 (1 of 1)

When I got to the edge of Alsager I passed the Smiling Tree which has been painted since at least the 1970s and now has its own Facebook page and appears on other social media. Quite a celebrity.


I did my work at the bookshop and as always, had some interesting and challenging conversations with the other volunteers. James picked me up shortly after 1pm and we drove up the motorways, the weather improving as we headed north with clearer skies near Shap.M6 near Shap Feb 2015 (1 of 1)

We made good progress and hit the city boundary as the rush-hour traffic was heading out. Rain clouds were hanging low over the Pentlands promising a wet start tomorrow.

Walking for Lent Day 2

This morning my walking began in the city as I had an appointment with my hairdresser and a few other things to do there. One spark of interest that crossed my path was an elderly gentleman dressed in a pale linen suit, walking with a stick and wearing a Stetson decorated with flowers. He had turned into a side street before I could dig my camera out of my bag and ask if he would allow me to photograph him. I am sure there would be a story to tell. I only clocked up around two miles in town so late afternoon and having packed up the car for tomorrow’s drive to Scotland, I did a circuit of some of the paths and lanes near my home. Farm animals were grazing quietly in the late afternoon sun and there were signs of spring everywhere.

Sheep Smallwood Feb 2015 (1 of 1)

Snowdrops Smallwood Feb 2015 (1 of 1)

CatkinsSmallwood Feb 2015 (1 of 1)

The remnants of last year’s flowers are still hanging on. I love living in what Patrick Wright describes as ‘an old country’ and when walking, I think of the people who have walked the same route for hundreds of years. For these Lent walks I have now seven people walking with me in spirit. I have read that the more sunken a lane is, the older it is likely to be. This one has a hundred-year old badger sett in one bank and every so often the badgers clean out their accommodation and the lane is covered with sandy soil.

Seedhead Smallwood Feb 2015 (1 of 1)

Path 2 Smallwood Feb 2015 (1 of 1)

The insects are starting to emerge and there were gnats flying around which are probably not easy to see in this photograph.

View Smallwood Feb 2015 (1 of 1)

Walking for Lent

It is Ash Wednesday and the first day of my walking pledge. James had a dental appointment and a few things to do in one of our nearest towns and I wanted to pick up some more books from the library. After weeks of storms and heavy rain it was a joy to wake up to blue sky and sunshine although it is still a little cold. We headed into town by car, I got my books and fortified by a coffee in a local cafe, set off for the return journey on foot. One of the pleasures of my usual walking route into town is a short section in the woods at the edge of a country park. Today, I know that at least one friend is walking with me in spirit even though he lives in another part of the country.

Path in the woods Astbury Mere (1 of 1)In places, the autumn leaves are still lying but in others spring flowers are emerging.

Trees Astbury Mere (1 of 1)

Trees 2 Astbury Mere (1 of 1)

The shapes of some of the trees often start to suggest abstract compositions to me and this out of focus shot of the mere through the branches and trunks of the trees has given me several ideas.

Trees 3 Astbury Mere (1 of 1)This walk was over four miles and other outings including a food shopping trip took me up to the five miles I was aiming for.

Street Art in Liverpool

Various friends have been posting their plans for Lent on social media. I have been wondering what I will give up/do and was pondering this while walking back down to Lime Street Station after a meeting at the hospital. There has been a vacant plot of land on Leece Street for quite a while and various hoardings in place. Today, building work was under way and the new hoardings were decorated with some fantastic street art.

Street Art 1 Liverpool 4 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Street Art 2 Liverpool 4 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

Street Art 3 Liverpool 4 Feb 2016 (1 of 1)

I could not get a straight on shot or I would have been mown down by the traffic. By the time I reached home I had decided that for Lent I will pledge to walk at least five miles each day. My last depressive episode which began in the early summer left me with little motivation to exercise and it is something I need to get back to. Hopefully most of my walks will be outdoors but bad weather or darkness might mean some are on the cross trainer in the garage. Hopefully the weather will improve and the days are getting longer. Today I did 5.6 miles just doing what had to be done in the city.