Adventures, Travel

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Nestled in the glorious depths of Cornwall you will find The Lost Gardens of Heligan. Boasting over 200 acres, it is renowned for being one of the most mysterious and romantic estates in England – a genuine secret garden that for years was overgrown.

Today it has over 20 gardeners and estate workers cultivating the walled gardens, growing vegetables and creating a thriving community to ensure that it remains is it is now – a magical place to visit.

As my sister lives in Cornwall I have been to the county numerous of times and never ventured to the estate myself. With my nephews being extremely young in recent years we stayed close to home taking them out to soft play, local beaches, zoos and farms.

During my recent visit this week we decided to take the boys to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. As a strong advocate of keeping active and teaching those of a young age to be active, I wanted to get them out exploring. And they were thrilled at the thought of going back – as unbeknown to me they have annual passes. Though I think the child in me was more excited to see the estate, take in the scenery and generally be outdoors during my stay. I thought the boys would be bored – I was so wrong.

20517777_10159238485870604_437878427_o.jpg

Those working at the gardens advise that you need a couple of days to take in everything the estate has to offer. However, in the three hours we were wondering the grounds we covered a fair amount of distance. And the boys were not bored at all, they were enchanted with everything the estate has to offer.

 

Starting along the “woodland walk” we followed the path round, spending time clambering over the “giants adventure trail”, taking pictures of the Giants Head and Mud Maid. This area seemed to be one of the busiest areas – with everyone keen to get their own pictures – so we swiftly moved along to areas that gave us the serenity to walk around at our own pace.

20597798_10159238485750604_1806525708_o.jpg

We made our way down to the “jungle” area – which was simply breathtaking – walking down to the raised boardwalk around the water towards the area dubbed as “Fern Gully.”

20542823_10159238684430604_538986029_o.jpg

Here the boys remained enchanted with the idea that this was where the fairies lived (obviously me telling them so) and spent an age spotting tadpoles in the water.

20536087_10159238485625604_504242883_o.jpg

Moving on we started to walk along the path known as the Georgian Ride through the “Lost Valley” taking in the Charcoal Sculpture and tackling Bottle Dump Hill and Higher Sunken lane – with buggy in tow. The older boys aged five and three, did not complain one bit. The sense of adventure within them keeping their legs going on the upward climb. So proud of their good behaviour they were treated to some ice cream that was suitably located in the picnic area at the top of the hill. To be honest I was relieved to have a sit down after taking turns to push the buggy up the steep hills.

20495471_10159238485510604_900851670_o.jpg

Refuelled and ready for some more adventure we ventured on to the home farm – taking in the animals – before wondering around the gardens through Floras Green. It was here I was told by one of my nephews that he wanted to go home. Several hours walking in this adventurous estate had finally tired him out (for the next hour or so at least).

So we made our way home – happy to have spent a good number of hours exploring but at the same time sad to leave such a magical place.

And it is simply that – magical. There were many parts we did not see, some due to the children being too young – for example the rope bridge. I would love to take them back in a few years time when they are able to explore this area too. And when the youngest no longer needs a pushchair – as trying to push this up some of the rocky hills was somewhat of a challenge. But a good work out for both myself and my sister.

20590587_10159238485715604_2041943909_o.jpg

If you are currently in Cornwall or if you are planning a visit in the coming months I would thoroughly recommend adding the Lost Gardens of Heligan to your list. Pack a light lunch and refreshments and spend the whole day exploring.

20597900_10159238996430604_998021356_o.jpg

Compared to some other attractions in the area it is reasonably priced, making it a wonderful day out for all the family or even just an adventurous day out for those without children. No matter your situation you will simply be enchanted by this charming attraction.

Fitness, Training

High Intensity Interval Training – HIIT

Over the past few years there has been a steady rise of people taking part in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and with several influencers dominating the space, such as the Body Coach and Clean Eating Alice, it is hard not to take part in a session or two.

Studies show that just 15 minutes of HIIT training burns more calories than jogging on the treadmill for an hour. This type of training involves intense bursts of exercises followed by short recovery periods. The best thing about this kind of work out is that you can moderate it to suit your needs, abilities and is adaptable to complete anywhere and at anytime – so no need for expensive gym memberships if you don’t want them.

Three years ago, I was not savvy when it came to different exercises. Don’t get me wrong, I was always at the gym sweating it out, but in regards to anything other than cardio – I was clueless.

I then joined what was then known as Regiment Fitness, who provided outdoor boot camp sessions, and started to learn more about different exercises, using equipment and body weight.

When my place in the London Marathon was confirmed I stopped my boot camp membership to focus on my running and as a result my strength has deteriorated. Now, my situation has changed and I can no longer make the boot camp sessions. Therefore, recently I have started to take the matters into my own hands and put together my own HIIT work out.

Downloading an app that times my sessions I have been picking a couple of high intensity exercises to alternate. This week I have been combining the work out with my usual cardio sessions – running 3 miles outdoor (because I refuse to ever run on the treadmill), then 10-20 minutes on the stair master at the gym, followed by a 15-20 minute HIIT work out using a variety of equipment available at my local gym – Xercise4Less.

20353867_10159200030610604_1646383016_o.jpg

My favourite this week – the battle ropes. Often thought as a tool to tone the upper body, they also work abs, backs and glutes. If you include jumps, lunges and squats then using this piece of equipment can work the legs too. And it is indeed a workout. Combining the battle rope (alternative waves) with sand bag squats or skipping with kettle bell swings have made me work up as much a sweat as running. Working a 30 seconds on each exercise for 10-15 rounds means that I was soon out of puff and once the work out was done I certainly felt that I had worked. I have had that dull post exercise ache all week – which made running up hills this morning incredibly difficult – but makes you feel that you have worked hard.

So, I am going to continue over the next weeks working on varying the exercises – perhaps using more of the battle ropes (they have always been my favourite) and re build my strength.

I thoroughly recommend others to give HIIT sessions a try. You don’t need equipment or a gym membership, so fit it into your day.

 

Adventures, Nutrition

Cammas Hall Fruit Farm

Located in the picturesque countryside along the Herts/ Essex borders you will find Cammas Hall Fruit Farm. A family owned and run business fifteen minutes from home it has become a little sanctuary for me in recent weeks.

20216708_10159175976835604_2100544141_o

With my love of the outdoors in the Summer months there is nothing more tranquil than wondering the rows and rows of table top fruits picking out the most luscious looking berries and filling my basket to the rim.

Recently I have come to the farm on many occasions – sometimes making the mistake of popping by on a Saturday afternoon, when the best looking strawberries have already been plucked by eager children and their parents. Envious of their full baskets I decided to seek better times to visit – discovering from a member of staff that the best time that this would be is on a Tuesday, after they are closed on a Monday after busy weekends of fruit pickers.

20257729_10159175976725604_2022539344_o.jpg

Yesterday morning I did just that. With schools not quite out for summer and the sun beaming on a glorious Tuesday morning I ventured to Cammas Hall. Though there were plenty of excited children – mainly using the playground facilities – I found the venue rather peaceful. Parents clearly abandoning the thought of fruit picking and favouring the playground with a quiet cup of coffee meant that the rows and rows of fruit were mine for the taking, along with a handful of other guests too.

20216314_10159175979445604_1328612018_o.jpg

I need not have wondered far – the days pickings of strawberries and raspberries were plentiful. That did not stop me wondering as far away as possible – picking the most plump fruit that was on offer – and going home to devour full baskets of both. Obviously to be washed down with the cream and home made meringues customers can purchase in the farm shop.

20251130_10159175976535604_1229014064_o.jpg

Throughout the summer months there are various fruits and vegetables available for “pick your own”. Strawberries and Raspberries, my favourite, are usually available throughout most of the season. But if they do not tickle your fancy then there are many others to pick from; blueberries, blackberries and blackcurrants are all in abundance in the summer months, followed by onions, sweetcorn (which are to die for) and lastly pumpkins and a field of sunflowers ready for the very end of the season.

20182618_10159175977390604_2142475656_n

Sadly, as they are only open seasonally, you have to make the most of these summer months. A fantastic place for a family day out, with farm shop, cafe and adventure playground they don’t just attract those with families but customers from all generations and backgrounds. Elderly couples were spotted yesterday morning, as well as avid cyclists and runners planning their routes for a quick stop off for some fruit picking and refreshments too.

It really is one of the jewels of my local area.

With my collection of berries already running low I am already looking to plan in my next visit. You can never have too many berries right?

 

 

 

Races

Virgin Sport – British 10k

After my disappointment at Hackney, where the organisers at Virgin Sport refused to allow me to defer my place or refund me after a injury post London Marathon, I did not have high hopes about how the British 10k event would turn out.

Having run it in 2016, when it was organised by Vitality, I got one of my best times for a 10k race – getting closer to the sub 60 minutes I am constantly chasing.

19911635_10159126982455604_1034181023_o (1).jpg

On arrival, it was very clear that the organisation had been stepped up a notch. With several different waves and what looked like many more runners than the previous year (though Virgin Sport are yet to confirm the total number of runners), the organisation was, in my eyes flawless, the finish, goody bag, medal and finishers t-shirt amazing. Last year I was very close to the start line from the get go, where as this time round my pen congregated on St James’s Street – which meant that it took me a good 20 minutes to cross the start line. This leads me to believe that there were, indeed, more runners than the previous event in 2016.

I am not going to lie – this event was a struggle for me. It was one of my worst 10k times to date – but none of it was down to the organisation and planning of the event itself.

20050237_10159126900775604_101453026_o (1).jpg

I was lost.

Lately I have let external factors into my running. Something that clearly showed on Sunday. Yes, the race was hot, there was little air and there were far too many bodies around me – but I have dealt with this before.

20048693_10159126903545604_1703082101_o (1).jpg

My problem was that my mind would not remove itself from recent stresses and trauma – something that I had experienced throughout the week in the lead up to race day. My mind was heavy and where I would usually be able to de-stress through running – this time I couldn’t. I could not compartmentalise my problems and lock them away in a box like I usually do. As such, my running was an issue. My legs, my mind and my breathing became heavier with each step and I just wanted to give up – not the first time I have felt this way in the past few weeks.

But – like anyone with determination and a little grit – I had to come away with a medal. And with this in mind, along with the ever amazing spirit that surrounds road races in our glorious capital city – I kept on. I walked at times when my thoughts took over my mind, I ran and then when it came to that final corner I powered through to take out as many people I could towards the finish. Sprinting the last 500 meters like I did the previous year, over taking and over exerting myself in the last few steps.

19885819_10159126901590604_1483333091_o (1).jpg

And then I wondered, will I ever find running easy? Will I ever be able to obtain the sub 60 minute goal? I have come very close at times, and with a little bit of a push I could beat my PB of 62 minutes.

19897730_10159126982360604_350430537_o (1).jpg

But, when push comes to shove, does it really matter if I don’t? Today something exceptional happened. I set my Garmin’s GPS running at the start of Harlow parkrun to discover it had very low battery. So I ran blind. It was recording my time, my distance and my pace – but I had no idea what they were. And in running blind, I went back to basics and finished with a time that was 45 seconds faster than my PB.

So it makes me wonder, as always, if we spend far too much time thinking about time.

Think about the journey. My journey during Virgin Sports British 10k was over cast with gloomy clouds – but I finished. My journey at Harlow parkrun today was blind, and I conquered more of the hills I hate, at the same time giving me a PB.

20049263_10159126995110604_1920771249_o (1).jpg

Lesson learned? To take each day as it comes. The good days are fantastic, cherish them, build on them. But the bad days – cherish them too as you will remember these. You will remember the lowest moments and look back on how far you have come.

Bring on Virgin Sport’s British 10k, 2018!

Travel

Game of Thrones Tour

With Game of Thrones due to return to our screens in less than a week, for the seventh series, it has got me reminiscing about travel adventures past.

In early 2016 I treated Ross to a Game of Thrones tour, which departed from Belfast, for his birthday. With him being an avid fan of the TV series and myself having read the books (but not watched the show), we were both keen to pack our bags for a short adventure to the Emerald Isle – obviously turning the Game of Thrones tour Game of Thrones tour into a cheeky city break to Belfast.

For anyone who is a big fan of the show or books, this tour is simply a must. For those who are not a fan, but would still love to see the beautiful sights along the Antrim coast then you will be equally enchanted by the views on offer here.

Starting in central Belfast you will journey along the coast (the longest part of the trip without a stop) with the tour guide pointing out landmarks of interest on the way.

Stopping first at a small town called Glencoy. Here you will be shown a filming spot from season six, where Ayra Stark climbs out of the water via the stone steps. A short stop to allow pictures and you will be on your way again.

20049192_10159127538545604_805361949_o.jpg

The next stop on the tour was the Cushenden caves. The filming location where Melisandre of Asshai gives birth to her shadow assassin. Here you are able to walk into the caves, take pictures and try to imagine what it would have been like with everything needed to complete filming the scene.

19911917_10159127538550604_194340721_o.jpg

After this stop, the tour allows time for lunch – which you can purchase if you wish. Personally, as a vegetarian I did not find the food options that great. So I would advise to keep your options open by bringing a packed lunch – which you are allowed to eat at the venue.

20049160_10159127538535604_68038981_o

Once lunch is consumed you will be on your way to the next area on this tour which will see you visit the Camp of Renly Baratheon of Storms end, followed by one of my high lights of the tour – the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge. Crossing the bridge is optional, you are not forced to do it. However there is a charge for this that is not covered within the fee of the tour. I would thoroughly recommend paying this – unless of course you are scared of heights and rope bridges. There is not much to see on the other side of the bridge – but it is an experience to cross it, especially if your other half is a man child like mine and decides to bounce it whilst you are crossing (something I did not find it funny). If you don’t want to cross I would still recommend the walk up to the bridge – the views are simply stunning, though the walk when we went in the winter was slightly bracing (hold on to your hats and scarves).

19897713_10159127538605604_2096037367_o.jpg

After a quick drive up the road the next location will see you visit Lordsport, the port town on the Islands of Pyke, in the Iron Islands, where Theon Greyjoy returns to his family and betray those who raise him.

20048658_10159127538755604_1109434759_o.jpg

The next stop on the tour is not featured in the TV series, but you cannot take the trip along the Antrim coast without visiting the famous Giants Causeway. The UNESCO listed site is simply breathtaking. The tour allows you a good hour to explore the area – but to be honest you could easily spend the best part of a day here. We spent the time simply clambering over rocks, taking pictures and generally trying to ignore the fact that we could no longer feel our ears (yes, in April it was that cold and windy).

13055404_10156946538225604_7220019198006170775_n.jpg

13096013_10156948894490604_6563024861818143153_n.jpg

Sad to leave the Giants Causeway but desperate to see the final location on our tour we made our way back to the bus and on wards to the photo stop on the “Kings Road.” The Dark Hedge, with its natural archway and intertwined trees is remarkable. As one of the most photographed locations in Northern Ireland this is where Ayra Stark dressed as a boy to escape the Kings Landing. An incredible final location for the full days tour, we took our photos and were soon back in the city centre of Belfast.

13077096_10156948894960604_6416240206001968907_n.jpg

This tour is exceptional, it was definitely worth the money I spent. Both myself and Ross had an amazing day, with memories to remember for a lifetime.

Plus, it gave us reason to visit Belfast. A rather small city in comparison to others we have visited, it still offered plenty to see and do.

And of course no visit to Belfast would be complete without a trip to Titanic Belfast and the Crumlin Road Goal, both filled with fascinating facts that would thrill anyone interested in the history of this thriving city.

13077074_10156948888755604_6049568663021110113_n

13087349_10156948895880604_1910041670703964695_n

As with most city breaks, the time is short but very sweet and we were soon on our way home. Ross found a new love for the country and as such we came back in February 2017 to visit Dublin.

Next on the bucket list, most likely for 2018, is a trip to the Kings Landing. Continuing our Game of Thrones tours in the beautiful city of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

 

 

Fitness, Training

Learning to run again.

Its it approaching eleven weeks since I crossed the finish line at the London Marathon and I my running could never be so far from form as it was back then.

On completing the race I was so sure that I would continue on, running long distances with ease and enthusiasm. Sadly that is far from the truth. Other runner friends said once completed my running will come to a halt and I struggled to believe them. I had high hopes that I would dust myself off after some time out, pick up the running and learn the joy again.

How wrong was I? I had my time out, I had my two week holiday (with short runs included) and then I returned to normal life with every intention to continue running and slip back into running long distances with ease.

It has not worked out that way.

I find myself struggling. Struggling, mainly with getting into the running mindset I had during the training and on race day itself. The days where my mind went to a different place enabling me to run for miles and miles on end are simply lost. I look back and wonder, how did I possibly get into this mindset? How did I manage to get through the miles without thinking about stopping? It just seems unobtainable to me right now.

Lately, I don’t seem to be able to get into a running mind, I find myself stopping consistently during a run and I am only running short distances – three miles at most.

I am not sure why; is it the training in Summer months, rather than Winter months that is causing my slump? Is my mind not here or have I simply lost it? If you loose it, how do you get it back?

19807559_10159103566790604_1001338553_o.jpg

 

Today I had an aim. I had an aim to run from Harlow Mill to Dobbs Weir – seven miles – along the river. A lovely route I managed with ease during my Marathon training. Today it was pure torture. It started well, running faster than my usual pace but then I quickly realised seven miles was unobtainable, I would have to cut it down. It was hot, even along the river, I was constantly checking my watch and my quad was tight – most likely due to the over zealous high kicks during last nights Body Combat. So I managed a slow three miles with a three mile walk back the way I came – which with it being such a warm, sunny day was pure bliss.

19850656_10159103567360604_569959706_o

Having recently signed up for two further half marathons this year (Bedford Half and Hertfordshire Half) I need to learn how to run again. I need to find my running mojo. I need to learn to get back into the running mindset. And I need to do it soon.

However, with a little more time on my hands than usual to focus, several shorter races in the diary and with the aid of my new found love of parkrun I hope to start to rebuild and learn to run again.

Adventures, Races, Training

Great Newham London Run

Sunday 2nd July saw me return to road racing, after a substantial break of eight weeks. I am not going to lie, I did not prepare myself for this one. I did not train and the week leading up to the race saw me go through some pretty stressful times. So it is safe to say I was extremely un-prepared. But I was not going to let the weeks events scupper my racing schedule. I just had to except that it was just going to be a “run” and I should not expect any PB’s.

19724061_10159082736130604_1040066379_o

The day began with glorious sunshine, and on arrival at the Olympic Park Stadium organisers where already advising runners not to run for a PB. It was simply too hot!

Running in the green wave I watched the first few runners set off, including the visually impaired runners, with Jo Pavey signalling the start of the race. Then soon enough it was my wave.

I did not get my pacing right this time round. The first ten minutes saw me running faster than my training pace. Looking down at my Garmin I saw I was running a faster pace of 9 minutes per mile. Which I thought was fantastic – but with 6 miles to run and in higher than normal temperatures I had to think about regulating the pace to my normal speed to cope with the running conditions.

I eventually brought it back down before the second mile – steadily trotting along at 10:30 minutes/ per mile. Which is my standard comfortable training pace. Adjusting to the running conditions and getting my breathing under control was important to see the run through, even if it was just a 10k race.

19693381_1691796404448534_1378039190608169877_o

The course saw you run around some of the iconic landmarks in the Olympic Park; starting under the Arcelormittal Orbit, round the Copper Box, Velodrome and finishing in the Olympic Park Stadium itself. It was an amazing course, though rather undulating; giving me flash backs to the British Heat Foundation 10k of 2016, which gave me my fear of laps and due to a cold winters morning, pushed me into a poor state of health.

 

During the section of the course that saw me re-trace my steps of the one race that I look back on with dread, I had to fight my mind to push through, to forget that horrid day. It took some will power to do so, my pacing slowed and with the increasing temperature my body was severely over heating. But I pushed through. The hilly part of the course was less of a challenge that it was before, mainly due to participating in the Harlow park runs. Clearly the hills of Harlow Town Park had worked in my favour as when others were breaking into a walk up the hills, I was powering up to the top and ready to take on the next one.

19867027_10159082729890604_847507295_o.jpg

Soon enough the tough part was over, 7km marker passed followed quickly by the 8km marker. The heat of the day was increasing, so I wanted to finish as soon as possible. So water was thrown over my head and legs to cool myself down, to get me through to the finish. 9km passed, and I knew it was now flat to the end. So the speed picked up again, running around the track outside the stadium then running round the indoor tunnels of the stadium itself for the final 400 meters. 100 meters left and you entered the track inside the stadium. With my name popping up on the big screen, announcing my final steps, I channelled my inner Bolt (as if), and sprinted to the finish line.

19724045_10159082729800604_546551850_o.jpg

Job done. Another medal. Another stadium finish.

This is an event I would definitely want to run again. The organisation, planning and amazing finish was worth every penny. My only criticism, as with most races, the water stations are slightly lacking. Personally I was fine, I always carry my hydration pack, but there were many around me who were gasping for water. There just did not seem to be enough stations at the right time, especially given the hot weather.

That said, roll on 2018 because I cannot wait to run this one again!