A ‘first’ at 36

For a while now, ‘A’ has been driving me mad to go horse riding.  I have to say this is something I’ve wanted to do myself for as long as I can remember but I did wonder if at the age of 36 I was a little too old to be potentially ‘falling off’ a horse.  After a little discussion I finally decided to do a bit of searching online to see if I could find a suitable place for us to experience our first pony ride.  I came across a site called horsetreks.co.uk part of livetheadventure and after a few emails back and forth we booked a 45 minute hack.

The Ginny Hole centre was located in Stottesdon which was nearly an hours drive from home.  Far too much time, I have to say, to weigh up the pros and cons of why I’d finally decided to do this.  ‘A’ was seriously looking forward to it though so I figured it was now or never.  When we arrived the staff that greeted us were so friendly they immediately put us at ease.  We discovered that I would be riding ‘Apache’ and ‘A’ would be on ‘Thunder’.  We laughed when we heard the name of ‘A’s horse as I had mental pictures of a huge black stallion, rearing up and neighing!  It turned out that both Apache and Thunder were very lovely black and white cob horses that were extremely well behaved and calm and nothing like the the image their names conjured up.

As it turned it, ‘A’ and I were the only riders on this particular hack and as we’d never so much as sat on a horse before they decided it would be a good idea for us to each have our own member of staff to accompany us on the ride.  This was great as it filled us with a lot more confidence.  We were given directions on how to ‘steer’ the horse and get him to move and then off we went for our 45 minute walk.

We were told that the horses are extremely clever and that usually within 5 to 10 minutes they have a notion of what type of rider is ‘onboard’ and if they feel it’s a novice then they decide to ‘try it on’!  Apache tried this a couple of times by eating the hedge as we walked along and then doing some serious head shaking.  I never realised that it could be quite so difficult to control a horse.  You watch others doing it and it looks so simple, but even managing to keep your balance at such a height can be tricky if the horse decides to have a wobbly moment.  We did attempt a little trot on the way back up the lane which was fun but blimey was it knackering and we only did it for a couple of minutes!

I’m very pleased to say that neither of us fell off and both returned with our limbs all intact.  After seeing how high you are on the horse’s back falling off would definitely be the last thing I’d aim to do.  We both had a fabulous time at Country Treks.  I can’t see myself competing in the 2016 games but it’s really something I’d like to try again at some point and ‘A’ has said the same.  Horses are such beautiful and intelligent creatures, it was a real honour to be so close to them even if it has taken me 36 years to get around to it.

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‘A’ and I with ‘Thunder’

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Lazy days of Summer

After returning from holiday to ‘not so great’ British weather imagine our joy when the forecast was for the temperature to reach the dizzy heights of 24c!  Woo hoo!  As we still had a few free days from work we decided to make the most of the dry spell and headed off to Bidford-on-avon for a picnic and afternoon by the river.

A walk along the Avon

Arnold having a lazy afternoon

Frisbee!

Arnold gets his own ice-cream

We arrived around lunchtime and tootled off for a stroll along the river to let Arnold stretch his little Border legs.  We ate lunch and then spent a lovely, lazy afternoon playing games, reading and doing the crossword.  And what trip to Bidford would be complete without a trip to the chip shop for tea.  By the time we left for home it was around 8.30pm which meant we were treated to the most beautiful sunset throughout our journey.

The following night, although cloudy, we enjoyed a smashing barbecue in the garden followed by an evening around the chiminea.  Many, many games of pictionary and uno followed then lo and behold the cloud shifted and we were left with an evening of star gazing.

‘A’ & ‘P’ enjoying a night in the garden

Saturday saw us taking a drive out to Mom and Dad’s caravan as they’d decided on a short break near Enville.  Another leisurely afternoon ensued with an attempt at our 2nd barbecue of the week.  Unfortunately the wind had other ideas leaving us to use the small caravan oven to cook for 7!

I’ve only just realised that I’ve not yet told you of my new addition, so now seemed a perfect opportunity.  Her name is Glinda (as in ‘Wicked’/’The Wizard of Oz’) and she’s a beautiful Ice Blue Mini Convertible.  She arrived just before our holiday so I’d not had much chance to test drive her.  However, Saturday’s sunny trip to Enville was a superb opportunity even if it did mean we had to take two cars to enable us to transport all of our junk!  It was worth it though, nothing more exhilarating than powering down the country lanes with the wind in your hair.

‘Glinda’

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A blissful break in the Balearics

A couple of weeks ago we headed off on our Summer hols to sunny Majorca.  This was our 5th year in beautiful Puerto Pollensa and as ever it didn’t disappoint. You’d think we’d be bored with the Balearics by now but there’s just something about the laid back lifestyle, the beautiful weather and glorious sandy beaches and scenery that keeps us returning year after year.  This year we took Mom-in-law and among her first comments were ‘I can see why you come back every year’.

Puerto Pollensa, Majorca

Peaceful times on the Pine Walk

Having five on the Pine Walk

As ever, our holiday journey was anything but ordinary.  We set off from Birmingham at 6.20am and by 8am were making an emergency landing at Limoges Airport in France after a pressurisation problem with the plane.  We were informed later in the day that the Captains sudden and rather terrifying announcement of “May day, may day, emergency descent” to the entire cabin was actually intended for the surrounding air traffic rather than our panic stricken souls.  Not much of a consolation after having your pants scared off!  By the by, we landed safely but then had a rather long delay whilst awaiting another plane to safely transfer us onward to Palma.  I did vow never to fly again after our little incident but funnily enough, 12 sunny days later the whole experience didn’t seem quite so bad :). However, I think it may be my last booking with Monarch!

Most of our holiday was spent lazing on the beautiful golden beach at Puerto Pollensa and swimming in the clear blue Mediterranean sea.  With the baking temperatures the beach was most definitely the best place to be as there was a constant cooling breeze.  We did do a couple of sight seeing trips during our stay, more than anything to show Mom-in-law the lovely Majorcan way of life.  We visited Arta and climbed the steps to the church of Sant Salvador and then took a stroll around the town visiting the convent on the way.  After Arta we headed on to Portocristo a little further down the coast.  Portocristo is such a scenic little resort with many yachts and boats lining the harbour and a charming beach and town.  We stopped for a ice-cream break on a bench over looking the beach and MiL commented on how it looked like a picture postcard.

Church of Sant Salvador, Arta

View of Arta

Steps from the Church of Sant Salvador, Arta

Harbour at Portocristo

‘S’ at Portocristo

Sunday was market day in Alcudia and Pollensa Old Town so we headed out early morning to miss the worst of the heat.  As normal the markets were bustling and alive with the Mallorcan vibe.  At Pollensa we scaled the 365 Calvari Steps to the little church although the heat was a little overpowering at times.  The view from the top over Pollensa Old Town and out towards Puerto Pollensa is glorious and well worth the climb.  Right near the top a local was playing lovely Spanish music on his guitar as we walked by.

‘P’ and ‘S’ at the market in Pollensa

Market in Pollensa Old Town

Guitarist at the top of the Calvari Steps

Calvari Steps, Pollensa

During our stay we spent many an evening at our favourite local venue, Palms Bar.  They remembered us from previous years and gave us a lovely warm welcome each evening when we visited.  We saw some fabulous entertainment while we were there including a Rod Stewart tribute, Michael Buble tribute and Abba Angels.  Rod Stewart (also known as Vinnie Scott) has a fantastic act and we were keen to see him again this year after being so entertained in 2010.  This year they had a new act, Michael Buble, who although was a little lacking in confidence and looked absolutely nothing liked the man himself, was an amazing sound alike and sang his songs with great flair.

‘P’, ‘S’ and ‘A’ at Palms Bar

Rod Stewart Tribute at Palms Bar

We had our regular visit in the town square to Jose at Bony’s bar.  Again, it was lovely to see he remembered us and that he’s still as colourful as ever.  We had a lovely take-away this year too from the Dragon Oriente.  Customer service was brill and the food was lovely.  In fact MiL liked the duck so much that it became a holiday phrase :).  In fact we ended up with many silly holiday phrases as we do on most holidays.  Such as “Hola, mi llamo A…”, “Do you want to play Uno?”, “That duck was just lovely” and probably most used of all “the RELAY!!” which was a send up of a rather enthusiastic British swimmer we’d seen being interviewed during the Olympics.  Absolutely riveting stuff I’m sure you’ll agree ;-), but they all meant something to us lol.  Does everyone have ‘holiday phrases’ or is it just us?

‘P’, ‘A’ and me at Bony’s

‘S’ and Mom-in-law at Bony’s

For the first time ever after visiting Majorca I was actually happy to return home.  I’m never one to be homesick but I think a mixture of the hotter than normal weather and the fact I missed our lovely pooch was all the incentive I needed to get me on the plane home.  Not to say I didn’t have a wonderful holiday as I really did and now feel thoroughly refreshed  .  ‘P’, ‘S’ and ‘A’ would have been quite happy to stay even longer I’m sure, and ‘P’ has already said that our next trip definitely needs to be longer.  Arnold didn’t seem too disgruntled at being deposited in kennels and judging by the fact he looks a little slimmer I think he perhaps had more exercise than he does at home!

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May Day in Cowdale

Although it’s been a while now, we spent May Day Bank Holiday weekend in a lovely little cottage in Cowdale, in the Peak District.  We found the cottage through Sykes Cottages but it really was a super ‘find’.  ‘The Loft’ was the top floor of a converted farm building in the grounds of Cowdale Hall which is home to the Morten family.  We were made to feel very welcome when we arrived and the cottage had been prepared with tea, coffee, milk and biscuits and all the lights and fire switched on to make us immediately feel comfortable and at home.

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Double bedroom at The Loft

Twin bedroom at The Loft

The cottage had two bedrooms (a twin and a double) and was decorated in light neutral colours.  The lovely L-shaped sofa and footstool has to be about the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat on and was wonderful to chill out on after walking the Derbyshire dales.  The kitchen was well equipped with everything we could possibly need and although it was May the weather was particularly cold, but this we didn’t notice inside the cottage as the mini heaters and electric stove more than kept us warm.

Lovely comfy sofa at The Loft

Onsite there is also a small caravan area (5 van site) and there are also stable facilities where locals keep their horses.  At night we enjoyed the short 20 – 30 minute walk around the outskirts of the farm, talking to the horses and just being one with nature.  On a couple of occasions we stood and watched the rabbits hopping across the fields.  You only have to cross the road from Cowdale Hall to also reach one of the many local public footpaths.  We ventured a short distance on this walk but the weather wasn’t great and being a little ill, we returned to the comfort of the cottage.

Horses at Cowdale Hall

Circular walk around the farm

Midshires Way – nr Cowdale

Midshires Way, nr Cowdale

Midshires Way, nr Cowdale

On Sunday we headed of to Buxton Country Park and then later along the Monsal Trail.  Can you believe that it even began to snow while we were at Buxton, but hey, that’s British weather for you!  However, by the afternoon the sun came out and it warmed up a little.  The Monsal Trail runs from Buxton to Bakewell and is popular with walkers and cyclists.  We entered the trail at King Sterndale and walked a fair way, taking in the scenery, stopping for photographs and walking through many of the long tunnels that line the route.  We even stopped to watch some rather brave souls who were abseiling off the bridge at Millers Dale.

Me and ‘S’ at Buxton Country Park

The Monsal Trail

King Sterndale Cottages along The Monsal Trail

One of the bridges along the Monsal Trail

Arnold having a dip in the river along the Monsal Trail

Monday we’d planned to stop off at Bakewell before heading home but as we got closer the traffic was so horrendous we decided to give it a miss.  Our next port of call was to be Dovedale.  We made a slight detour to our usual journey home but it was certainly worth it.  Despite the fact that the rain at some points was torrential, we zipped up our waterproofs and headed off to find the ‘Stepping Stones’.  Even on a day like this the area was still very busy and I’d love to return maybe on a week day to see it a little quieter.  However, it didn’t detract though from the beautiful surroundings.

Stepping Stones at Dovedale

Dovedale

We decided to make our way across the Stepping Stones which all seemed fine in theory until we realised that ‘P’ had absolutely no chance of walking Arnold across them!  The kids and myself precariously made our way across the rather wet and slippery stones and waited on the other side while ‘P’ struggled across carrying Arnold in a rather ungraceful fashion.  We later watched another potential stone walker give up on the idea after his German Shepherd refused to budge and I’m thinking the carrying idea was not exactly feasible :).

‘P’ and Arnold at Dovedale

We walked some way following the river and then eventually decided to do a u-turn and head back as we thought that the route we were on would take too long to come full circle and we needed to get home.  We decided to give the stones a miss on the way back and headed straight for the bridge.  On the last stretch we were dive bombed by swallows, obviously flying low looking for insects after the heavy rain.

All in all another very relaxing weekend that we all enjoyed.  Cowdale was just so quiet and away from it all we can’t wait to return.

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A sunny morning surprise

‘A’ dashed upstairs this morning while she was getting ready for school.  “Where’s your phone…..quick…I need it….quick”.  I asked her what she wanted it for and she replied, “There’s a fox in next door’s garden and he’s playing with Arnold’s yellow bone toy”.  She dashed off downstairs to snap it with my phone and shouted to me to come look.  I got to the kitchen just in time to see him tossing the toy in the air, when next thing another rather pointed nose appeared from under the shrubbery.  There were two of them!  They were quite small so I’m assuming they were only cubs.  The first visitor seemed to be aware that we were watching him and kept glancing towards us in the window.  Visitor number two also decided that Arnold’s toy looked enticing, picked it up and they both ran off over the other side of the garden.  What a fabulous start to a sunny (yes, for once, sunny) morning :).

Not the greatest pics I’m afraid as they were with my phone but ‘A’ shot a bit of video too which I may upload later if it’s clear.

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An ending and beginning

An Ending

Yesterday was our final session with the school choir club.  As always, we finished the year off with the usual choir club party complete with a lovely selection of cakes, sweets, crisps and all the things that kids love!  After a bit of a sing-a-long the children who wished to, volunteered to sing solo’s on stage in front of us all.  The choir party is always popular and they really look forward to it after the hard work they’ve put in throughout the year to prepare for the Summer concert.  Both Jo and I were given some lovely thank you gifts which is very kind and we really appreciate.  This year we seem to have amassed a plentiful supply of chocolate so looks like I’m going to have to run even more over the next few weeks.

Unfortunately, on the flip side of all the fun and food, we have to say goodbye to our year 6’s, some of which have been with us since year 3.  Obviously, we’ll be really sad to see them go but they’re ready to move on as were our own daughter’s last year.  We wish them the best of luck at High School and hope they continue singing and all thing ‘music’.

A Beginning

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two and half months already since we performed our ladies choir concert ‘Film Fantasia’.  After a committee meeting last week we began rehearsals again last night for a new concert.  I have to say that I found the work on last years songs particularly hard, not only writing and re-writing harmonies but also painstakingly teaching the songs note by note to the ladies.  I think this had a lot to do with the pressure from our business at the time along with home, life etc…. So this time we decided that in addition to some new selections we would re-use some of our old material as over the years we’ve sang some wonderful songs and it’s such a shame not to resurrect them.

We finally went with a theme of musicals and asked the choir for suggestions regarding their favourite song choices.  Some were VERY popular so we’ve made sure that these have been included along with some less used numbers and some new ones to keep things fresh.

First rehearsal went very well indeed last night (despite me being on ‘piano duty’) with two songs learnt in full in 3 parts.  We have a couple of new members two which is always nice and only helps to enrich the overall sound.  Here’s hoping that next week’s rehearsal goes even better, it’s always so much easier to teach the parts when I can wave my arms around rather than hammer the piano keys :).

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Magic of Oz – A few creations

For those of you who don’t follow my craft blog, I thought I’d just post a few pictures of my recent addiction.  I’m absolutely loving the ‘Magic of Oz’ papercraft collection from Graphic 45 and have made several cards recently for family and friends using their stamps, die cuts and papers.  I’m sure there’ll be many more to follow :)

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You can find more details on how I made the cards over at my sister site ‘Twinkle Twit Crafts’.

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A sunny but wet day out in Wales

A couple of weeks ago ‘P’ finally managed to book his White Water Rafting experience at Canolfan Tryweryn that I bought him for his 40th birthday last year.  As luck would have it, his choice of weekend was superb as the weather was far better than most we’d seen so far this year.  The location of Canolfan Tryweryn couldn’t have been more perfect.  Situated in Bala, North Wales the surrounding countryside was just lovely, made even better by the fact it was warm and the sun was shining.

After a talk on rafting instructions and safety, ‘P’ was then bussed up to the start point to begin his rafting session.  The children and I sat at the centre, where there were picnic benches and cafe facilities, awaiting ‘P’s first run down the river.  A few of the participants in ‘P’s raft had missed their slot which meant that rather than having a full raft, there were just two others and the instructor.  This unfortunately meant that some of the tricks that are carried out on the river weren’t successful as the raft simply wasn’t heavy enough.  This didn’t stop ‘P’ having a fabulous time though.  He had 4 runs down the river in total which I thought was extremely good value for money.

The children and I walked Arnold along the trail that follows the river.  This allowed us to take up different vantage points for snapping pictures as ‘P’ whizzed past!  By the time he was finished he was completely knackered, but he did say he’d love to go back at some point and give the kayaking a try.

I’d really recommend Canolfan Tryweryn to anyway who’d love to give rafting a go.  The venue was smashing and all the staff extremely pleasant and helpful.  We’ve already said we’ll go back and have even talked about the prospect of group rafting.  I have to say though, it’s one occasion when I’m more than happy to ‘walk the dog’.  Water and I don’t mix and the thought of being drenched from head to toe does not appeal in the slightest.

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June already?

Yes, it’s June already and the longest day today too!  Hard to believe really looking out the window.  Today we have a mix of rain, cloud and yet more rain.  Beginning to wonder if we will actually have a Summer this year.

The last few months have been full on with work, in fact, for our little business year 5 has been our busiest to date (not that we’re complaining!).

The lovely ladies choir that I belong to finally put on their concert back in April after 9 months of busy rehearsal.  We raised around £1600 in total half of which went to Short Cross Methodist Church and the other half toward research into Lupus.  Since then we’ve taken the concert out to a couple of other venues and we’ll be performing again on Saturday night but this time in aid of Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice who do invaluable work offering help and support to people with terminal illness.  This should then be our last performance of ‘Film Fantasia’ and then we’ll have a short break before starting up again later in the Summer.

Halesowen Circuit Ladies Choir – Opening the show

A few of us doing a line dance

Halesowen Circuit Ladies Choir – Sister Act Medley

The school choir will be performing their Summer concert next Tuesday after rehearsing since January.  During the last few weeks we’ve taken a small group from the choir to sing at the Salvation Army’s Birmingham Citadel and also at the ‘Time Out’ group’s Jubilee Party.  We were made to feel very welcome on both occasions and children sang their hearts out.  They’re more than ready now to perform their final concert and I think we’re all a little sick of the songs if I’m completely honest!

My running has recently come to a bit of a standstill unfortunately due to some health worries.  Everything now looks to be clear so I’m hoping to get out for a run at the weekend.  This will be my first in 2 months so as you can imagine I think I’ll struggle to get to the end of the street rather than manage the 7 miles level I’d finally reached.  It’s a bit disappointing really as I felt I was doing so well, but I’m determined to get back to it and build it up gradually again as I did before.

The family are all well.  The school year seems to have whizzed by so fast, can’t believe ‘A’ is nearly at the end of her first year of high school.  It doesn’t seem 5 minutes since we were stressing about how she’d settle in.  ‘S’ has had a good first year of study for his GCSE’s and has done some marvellous things in Music in particular.

‘P’ celebrated his birthday at the start of the month so thought it was about time he booked in his birthday present from LAST year…..White Water Rafting.  See my next post for all the fun and photos!  He’s still running and his performance has come on no end since he’s been regularly running with the club.  He has another race tomorrow in Blakedown and during March managed to win 1st place in the competition on RunBritain for most improved running handicap..

Arnold celebrated his 2nd birthday on Tuesday.  Hard to believe he’s been part of our family now for 2 years.  I can still remember when he first came home with us, I had to wear my knee length boots around the house in the peak of Summer to fend off his feisty puppy needle teeth!  Well worth the pain though, we wouldn’t be without him :).

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A piece of heaven in the Peak District

Last weekend ‘P’ and I took a trip to Hartington in the Peak District for a little weekend break.  The kids and dog were unceremoniously dropped off at Mom-in-laws and we headed off for a weekend of walking and relaxation.  Although we only live 90 minutes away this was the first time either ‘P’ or myself had visited the Peak District, but now we’ve been we can’t wait to go back.

We arrived in the small village of Hartington around 7.30pm on the Friday evening.  The Charles Cotton Hotel where we’d chosen to stay looked very welcoming and we thought the lanterns that had been lit and scattered on the outdoor tables was a lovely touch.  The reception staff were very friendly and we were shown to our room which was small but clean and comfortable.

We ate in the bistro, just off the bar area, on both nights and the food was to die for, both times served promptly and by friendly service staff.  We were also surprised that there was entertainment on both evenings which we didn’t expect in a small village hotel.  Friday nights entertainment far outweighed Saturday’s though, it has to be said.  After an hour of Alan ‘Shakin’ Dakin (aka Vic Reeves ‘in the style of a club singer’) we almost gave up the will to live and retired to our bedroom :).  The bar area is very ‘country’ and has a super open fire to sit by.  We found that not only were the hotel staff extremely pleasant but also the locals who would pass the time of day whilst propping up the bar.

'P' and I in the Charles Cotton bar

Breakfast on both mornings was served in ‘The Cotton Room’ which had a beautiful hand painted mural around the top of the walls depicting a countryside scene.  Once again the food was delish and the lady that served us on both mornings was a treasure.

The Cotton Room

Hand painted mural in the Cotton Room

Saturday unfortunately started off foggy so we had a short stroll around the village and then back to the hotel for cappuccino’s and read of the paper.  The village itself is very small with just a couple of general stores, an antique shop, cheese shop (?) and another inn.  Luckily by lunchtime the fog cleared, the sun appeared and we headed off on a circular walk using a map purchased from the hotel.

A foggy morning - Duckpond in Hartington

The walk took us out of the village and onwards to Wolfcote and Beresford Dale which was very scenic and great for photographs.  Lots of little bridges over the River Dove and many unusual rock formations jutting out from the landscape.  Being fairly early in the season it wasn’t too busy either so all in all we had a lovely peaceful 5 mile walk.

Hartington from The Charles Cotton Hotel

Circular Walk from Hartington

Bridge of the River Dove

Both ‘P’ and I returned thoroughly relaxed from our weekend in Hartington and have already enquired as to their availability for May so that we can visit again for our wedding anniversary.

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