Maastricht was an easy 30 minute cycle from out camp site, so we headed there for a couple of days.

The first day after the obligatory visit to the, rather impressive, tourist information centre (VVV)

DSCF0847_r

 

we set out on a walking tour of the city.

First stop was the magnificent bookshop converted from an ancient Dominican church – Boekhandel Dominicanen

P1000009_r

 

DSCF0789_r

 

DSCF0790_r

 

 

We opted for the fortifications tour so we saw lots of, well, fortifications.

2-DSCF0815 1-DSCF0811 1-DSCF0812

1-DSCF0828 1-DSCF0830 1-DSCF0827

We learned that “molen” means mill and saw some watermills.

1-DSCF0813

 

 

Jonathan wanted to take some photos of the deer in the town park.

1-P1000016

 

 

We ended up back at the very empty town square and had an ice cream, toasted sandwich and a beer before cycling back to the camp site.

1-DSCF0833 5-DSCF0838 2-DSCF0834

6-DSCF0849 4-DSCF0837 3-DSCF0836

 

 

Last Friday in a beautiful break in the weather we went on a fungi walk with the fantastic Sue Bailey  not only is she an amazing storyteller but she also leads a great fungi walk.

1-P1140674

I have been doing Sue’s fungi walks since we move to the Island (yes when you live on the Isle of Wight you really do just refer to it as “the island” and everything a ferry ride away is just “the mainland” regardless of whether it’s London or Edinburgh) twelve years ago. In that time I have come to learn a lot of the names but still can only identify about 3 fungi on my own – I aim to learn a new one each year but for some reason i just can’t retain the information!

1-P1140702

 

One of the things I love about a fungi walk is it is one of the things my family refers to as a “proper home-ed activity”. What they mean by this is it is something that people of all ages can and do join in with.

1-P1140712

1-P1140691-001

1-P1140687

 

Jonathan even managed to find one this year, but already I’ve forgotten what it is – maybe some sort of russula?

1-P1140737

 

parked_carsMaking good provision to allow people to walk, cycle and use public transport is a sensible thing to do even if you don’t give a stuff about the negative environmental or social consequences of driving a car and want to drive everywhere. Forget the green stuff*, simple old fashioned self interest shows it makes sense.

I’ll use the Isle of Wight as an example. We have a limited road network, little chance of major expansions to it and a population which mostly lives in small towns and large villages. For a rural area we have fairly low car ownership, and a higher than typical number of car-free households.

If our car ownership was more typical for our population density we would expect to see an extra 6,000 cars on the road (and this number could be much higher). Let’s ignore the impact that would have on congestion and demand for workplace parking and look at one single issue – overnight parking. A large number of these “new” cars would be owned by currently car-free households, some would be second/third etc. cars within a household. Given the makeup of Isle of Wight housing I think it is fair to say the majority of these cars would be parked on-road overnight. Conservatively let’s say 65%. Allowing 5.3 metres of space for parking (and people are going to have to get better at it if that’s all we use…) that’s 20.7km of extra on-road parking that needs to be found. I don’t know about you, but I struggle to see where we will find the space to put those extra cars

So, if we want to avoid this, doesn’t it make sense to ensure people have some good quality alternative options, so they don’t have to buy a car (or a second car, or a third car)? Wouldn’t it be better to invest in cycleways, making junctions safer for pedestrians, reducing traffic on side roads and improving public transport infrastructure and service provision than building 20km of new roads just to park our cars on?

(* Actually I’d rather you didn’t, but if you must…)

A couple of weeks ago I traipsed off to London to visit Rebekah – while poor Martin went to his Charity Management lectures at Twickenham.

It was lovely to meet up with one of my longest standing friends for lunch in the late summer sunshine at a beautiful spot near London Bridge.

You could see:

The Gerkin

1-P1140402

 

The Tower of London

2-P1140403

 

Tower Bridge

 

3-P1140404

 

The Shard (just about – much better view of that from Rebekah’s bedroom)

4-P1140405

 

And some weird alien looking thing!

5-P1140406

 

Then Rebekah met us and we had a walk along the Southbank and then had a tour of the various places she does her placement work (and the pubs she visits).

1-P1140409 2-P1140412

A very quick trip to the Imperial War Museum followed.

3-P1140423 2-P1140419

4-P1140424 1-P1140418

Then back to Rebekah’s flat. It was great to see her settled in, having a laugh with her flat mates and generally seeming very at home, and lovely to get some bangers and mash. We waited somewhat impatiently for Martin to arrive with the car and the office chair for Rebekah’s room and then dashed off to try and get the ferry we were booked on – with Martin shovelling down the bangers and mash as we went!

The Shard from Rebekah’s Bedroom:

1-P1140432 1-P1140441

 

I have been think a lot about happiness recently – at some point I expect I’ll get round to blogging about it. But for now I have been thinking about things that make me happy right now, today. There is so much.

Because we are having a new bed made in Ruth’s room there were a pile of mattresses in the middle of the living room floor – I leapt on them and had a bit of a bounce, Martin joined me 🙂 Then Jonathan had a go and Rebekah also couldn’t resist

P1110809

P1110813

Then the kids were heading out to various places and I needed to do the dishes so I found a radio 4 murder play and listened while I happily did the dishes and cleaned the window and window ledge in the kitchen.

P1110818

And the sunshine was glorious – even have a little washing on the line.

P1110822

A good walk out through the park to Gurnard

P1110823

and some time spent watching some of my friends doing some Morris dancing in their troop Moonshine along with The Oyster Girls.

P1110845

P1110888

P1110890

Jonathan and I had a fabulous time at the Fort Victoria Foray yesterday.

We were there right from the start so had time to have a go at everything we wanted to do. Jonathan was probably at the older end of the age that these type of events are organised for and said there wasn’t too much that he wanted to do that he hadn’t done before – however we love Fort Victoria so it wasn’t hard to fill the day.

After a quick story about how the sea became salty with Sue Bailey Story Teller we headed off on a tree ID walk – it was a bit early so we were the only people on it which was great as we got lots of personal attention and we definitely picked up a few tips.

Next we had a quick wander down to the beach where we tried rock pooling without rock pools with Gift To Nature – it involved looking under loads of seaweed to find various creatures: fish, crabs, anemones etc. We only managed the anemones but others found more. As we were hungry we decided to find a quiet spot for some lunch and ended up perched behind the Aquarium. Then we popped in to have a look round – we love the aquarium and on this occasion saw the infamous weaver fish and a large cuttlefish.

 Had another look around all the stalls and Jonathan made a badge with the Wildlife Trust to add to his collection. Next off to the woods to have a look at the Forrest School area and make a clay face on a tree.

 

We started watching the Lifeboat displays but then went off to look at the new woodland trail.

We were not quite the only ones on the walk this time but very nearly. It was good to have a look at the new paths and also to see some of the work done by Ruth and Rebekah with the rangers and The Learning Zone a few years ago. We also got to see some of the musical items in the wood and learn how to tell the age of an oak tree without cutting it down (rule of thumb is measure 1m up and then measure around the trunk in centimeters – halve that number and you have a ball park age – the one we measured was about 100 years old).

 

 Time for an ice cream and while Jonathan was scoffing it I was watching the beautiful bees and butterflies on the buddleia behind the cafe

.

A bit of assisting with some kite flying, as well as a couple of HE conversations and a chat about Jonathan’s interest in animation, and it was time to pack up and head on home.

A few years ago Ruth and Rebekah spent lots of wet wintry Tuesday afternoons working with rangers and other Learning Zone families on the island learning and putting into practice skills such as coppicing and hedge laying as well as using some scary looking tools. This walk took us back to have a look at the clearing that they had done at Mill Copse.

  

  

One of the many things I love about the Isle of Wight is the brilliant Walking Festival that takes place every May. This year there are 270 walks – there really is something to suit all abilities and interests, food walks, coastal walks, long walks, short ones, story walks, town walks, alpaca walks, sponsored walks……

The most amazing thing is that many of the walks are free or for charitable donation, many of the walk leaders just do it voluntarily, I didn’t realise that this wasn’t the norm until I started looking at other walking festivals and found most of them you have to pay for all walks.

Martin has led many walks in connection with work, a few years ago it was based on food and farming and for the last couple of years it has been on chines and I have co-led – although Martin always refers to me as the sheepdog leading from the back!

 So we had a beautiful walk on bank holiday Monday looking at Changing Chines – the weather was glorious and we walked, with 20 people, from Brook along to Compton Farm along the coastal path and then up through the farm and over the downs. It was so warm that after we had finished we walked back along the beach to Compton and bought ice-creams.

  

  

Unfortunately our next walk was on Thursday when we had a bad weather warning for gale force winds – one of the accesses to the beach had been closed, in the week since we assessed, it due to a landslide and the wind was certainly unpleasant. We decided to cut the walk short as we were concerned about the safety of walking along narrow paths beside high cliffs.

As well as leading some walks we also like to try and do a few so we can learn something new about the island or visit somewhere we haven’t been before. This year I finally managed to get on Mathew Chatfield’s “Tree Identification For Neophytes” walk that I have been wanting to try for ages. Despite setting off rather late we had a really interesting and informative walk and I intend to take martin and Jonathan out on Sunday to show off my new found knowledge. Well worth doing this walk if you get a chance another year.

  

  

I had decided before we went that I would walk up the tourist route not any route involving things with names like the horseshoe (with a narrow ridge and sheer drops) or similar. However, once I had walked up to the waterfalls the day before on the start of the innocuous sounding Watkins Path and seen that the climb looked steady on Pete’s map, I decided I would join everyone else going up the Watkins path and perhaps take the tourist route (or even the train) back. I also thought if I was finding it too hard I would turn back rather than feel like I needed to get to the top.

  

  

It all started off just fine – the path was wide and although steep in places it was fine. I didn’t even hold the group up – I wasn’t even at the back! I also found that my muscles weren’t aching and although I was getting out of breath I recovered quickly. The walking we have been doing regularly since our Cornwall trip must have paid off.

  

  

I started to believe I might actually get to the top – in fact I was starting to feel that coming down would be much worse, I don’t come downhill well and it was quite steep and a bit wet in places. I was loving my walking poles and also loving my walking boots.

  

Then we came to the scree – this was the point where I had initially thought I would go back – but I didn’t really fancy heading back the way we came and the scree was relatively short and I thought if I could just manage it then I could always take the train back. Besides I had started to feel like I had got this far I jolly well wanted to get to the bloomin’ top! I was really surprised by feeling like this because before we had started I really wasn’t bothered and I just wanted a nice walk, now I really wanted to get there (and beside I didn’t want to go back down).

I struggled up the scree, Martin helped me lots and my poles were now more of a help than a hindrance. At this point I was starting to hold people up. It took me a long time and I found the scrambling in the scree very hard but I did it, all the while telling Martin there was no way I was coming back this way! I was definitely slow on this bit and really admired my friend carrying her baby on her back. I was also interested to notice that Jonathan, who had been flagging on the steady walk up, did absolutely fine on this part but he also was not keen to come back over the scree.

  

The weather had been reasonably clear up to this point but now the visibility was really reduced and it was getting cold. We all regrouped outside the cafe and headed up the stairs to the very top in dribs and drabs, drank hot chocolate from the cafe and munched our sandwiches.

The general opinion was that going back down the scree field wasn’t a good ides so we’d go back by the southern ridge instead. I knew I was going to be much slower going down but decided to give this a try. The group decided to split in two with a faster group consisting of most of the teenagers and a couple of adults and the slower group with the smaller boys and most of the adults and the baby. Rebekah kindly stayed with us to keep an eye on the 10 year olds as she knew I wouldn’t be able to do that and that Martin would be helping me.

  

I needed a lot more help from Martin coming down and the poles seemed to be either absolutely essential or a complete pain. Most of it wasn’t too bad but there were quite a few places where I had to slither on my bum! It was worth it the views were amazing.

  

  

My knee started to hurt quite a lot on the way down but I managed it.

I managed it – I couldn’t believe the sense of satisfaction I had at the end – I was so proud of myself not only had I got up Snowdon but I had done it up one of the harder parts and I hadn’t felt completely unfit doing it either. Fantastic.

   

  

The teenagers hadn’t had enough with just climbing a mountain, they then went swimming in the pools at the bottom of the waterfalls – Ruth was particularly delighted to do this as she has wanted to do some wild swimming for ages. They also went for a little walk in the evening – youth is an amazing thing!

  

I went and did some hospital visiting in the evening and then came back to a lovely curry and a game of cards. My friend said she would give the day a 9 1/2 out of 10 and only not 10/10 because of the friend in hospital. I couldn’t agree with this more – it was one of the best days of my life even if my knee was hurting and my hips were aching. A great sense of achievement, the company of good friends, good food and playing cards – what a wonderful day.