Romans Revisited

We’ve had Sam’s parents staying with us for a couple of days en route to their home in Spain, so we thought we’d combine their company with our ‘special weekend’ for March. It’s always nice for us to have people to stay, especially when they’re not familiar with the area and we can enjoy sharing some of our favourite places.

Just like us, Roger and Lis are keen walkers so there was no question of what we’d be doing with them – it was just a case of which walk to pick!

As it was our special weekend we also wanted to incorporate an interesting stop into our walk, and decided to continue our Roman theme from February with a visit to Bignor Roman Villa.

Although I really enjoyed visiting Fishbourne, for me Bignor is the firm favourite, partly due to the setting (this is most definitely not in the middle of a housing estate!).108_3790.JPGThe Villa is smaller than Fishbourne, and I suppose it could be argued that none of the mosaics are quite as impressive as ‘Cupid on a Dolphin’, but the whole set-up feels far more informal and friendly which suits us perfectly. The Villa has remained in the same family since its discovery in 1811, and they’ve managed to avoid any kind of corporate feel which sometimes detracts from historic monuments. I’ve found that a lot of local people haven’t really heard of it, unlike Fishbourne which I’d say is recognised by nearly everybody as one of the leading sites of Roman remains in Britain.

The mosaics themselves are stunning. The craftsmanship is so impressive; it’s hard to believe that the Villa disappeared from all knowledge and was hidden for hundreds of years.108_3841 (2).JPG108_3830 (2).JPG108_3802.JPG108_3826 (2).JPGBignor also provides several picnic benches in the grounds, so we made the most of the sunshine  and ate outside (this was the first walk I’ve done this year without a hat and scarf, and I had to carry my coat most of the way – I think it must finally be spring!). I’d packed some curried sweet potato and pea pasties, made using Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s wonderful rough puff pastry recipe, as well as whinberry muffins and some more home-grown Spanish kiwis. Mmm.108_3791.JPG108_3793.JPGThe walk itself was lovely; we parked at the top of the hill which made quite a change, and walked down into Bignor before climbing back up and following the ridge until we arrived back at the car park. I’ve been rambling on about hints of spring in my last couple of posts, but this weekend really felt like spring was out in full force. The fields were full of lambs; daffodils and primroses were brightening up the hedgerows; and we even saw a herd of wild deer happily grazing in the middle of a field (unfortunately, the only angle I could get included a telegraph wire, but I took the picture anyway).108_3780.JPG108_3850.JPG108_3846.JPGWalking on the Downs on days like this makes it easy to understand why the Romans settled here. The land is green and fertile, with the gentle hills providing protection from any wind and rain blowing in from the coast. The Villa in its heyday would have been spectacular, and I’m so thankful that enough of it has been preserved to allow us to admire it today. There is so much history packed into the landscape here and I don’t think I’ll ever be tired of finding out about how people from across the ages have left their mark on the land.108_3761.JPG


Windswept Wanderings

As well as being behind with my walking miles, I’m now seriously behind with writing about said miles! Oops.

Backtrack to a couple of weeks ago, where despite the wind and rain caused by ‘Storm Doris’ we managed to get out for a couple of good walks. We re-attempted our abandoned walk of a few weeks ago and this time successfully completed the loop on the Downs overlooking Lewes.

Doris was causing a fair bit of chaos and the Downs were windier than we expected, although the rain only came in showers so we at least managed to enjoy the view in sections. The hints of spring from a couple of weeks before were becoming more obvious, with daffodils and snowdrops making an appearance.108_3600.JPG108_3604.JPGWe could see quite a long way from the top, although we didn’t stop to enjoy the views for very long (or take many photos, as it was proving a bit difficult to hold the camera steady!).108_3611.JPG108_3617.JPG108_3618.JPGNext time, we’ll try and visit without gale force winds and rain. Who knows, maybe third time lucky?108_3602.JPGLast week, we managed to dodge the showers completely and had a great ten mile walk on the Downs nearer to home. We started from a car park just below Chanctonbury Ring and headed across the hills towards Cissbury Ring. We’d not actually been to Cissbury Ring before although we’ve walked past it a few times. Bizarrely – and quite embarrassingly – I’d somehow managed to miss the fact that it features the remains of whopping great big Iron Age hill fort (I’ve since found out it’s the largest in Sussex and the second largest in England).

Our pictures don’t really do it justice unfortunately; the ramparts and the defensive ditch would have been huge and they really stand out in the landscape as something man made.108_3648.JPG(For anybody interested, the National Trust have a great aerial photo on their website which gives a much better perspective)

The climb up to the top was gentle and short, so we were very pleasantly surprised to see such far reaching views in every direction.108_3661.JPG108_3665.JPG108_3671.JPGAlthough the views were stunning, the wind was still quite bitter and after a refreshing kiwi snack (grown by Sam’s parents in Spain – thank you!) we set a brisk pace back down the hill towards home.108_3675.JPGHaving managed to miss Cissbury Ring up until now, I think I’ll be making up for lost time and visiting again soon!

Scramblers and Seeds

We had a busy weekend of socialising and (for one of us at least) yet more tennis, but did at least manage to fit a new eight mile walk in on Sunday afternoon.

Starting from Bramber – very near to Steyning – we walked up Beeding Hill and across to Truleigh Hill before dropping down and returning to Bramber via the South Downs Way and the Downs Link.

The walk overlooked the very familiar Chanctonbury Ring to the west, and Lancing College and Shoreham to the south.108_3566.JPG108_3572 (2).JPGThe light levels seemed really odd, and the camera has made my photos very dark and gloomy although it didn’t seem particularly dull when we were out (I am reminded at this point about a saying about a workman and his tools..!). As a result, I don’t have a great selection to choose from, although in all honesty I didn’t take a huge amount, being content to wander and simply take in the scenery.

At this point, it would be lovely to write about walking in the peaceful countryside but what we hadn’t realised is that in one of the valleys below us was a scrambling centre with a large event on. On the approach, we were rather puzzled trying to work out what the noise was, but once we could see the bikes we were quite entertained and sat and ate our lunch watching the race. Not the most scenic of views, but definitely a fun distraction.108_3562.JPGThe noise soon disappeared as we dropped onto the other side of the hill and joined the Monarch’s Way back towards Bramber, leaving us to walk across the downland and enjoy the sound of two larks high above.

One of the main things that I enjoyed about the walk was the difference in the weather from last week. Now, I am not about to get ahead of myself and say that spring has arrived, but I am starting to see hints of it approaching. When I was weeding our new garden in the summer I unearthed loads of bulbs, so I was hoping to see at least some of them come up in the flowerbeds and I’m very pleased that they seem to be doing just that. Most of them aren’t near to flowering yet, but I love seeing the promise of the new life to come, and we do have a few early splashes of colour emerging. It’s quite nice not knowing what’s going to appear; I resisted planting many bulbs last year before I’d seen what was already there, so I’m looking forward to seeing what comes up.108_3516.JPG108_3511.JPGIn other exciting garden news, the first shoot of rhubarb has emerged which I’m thrilled about. I wasn’t 100% sure that I’d planted the crown the right way up, and I’d forgotten to mark where I’d put it, so it’s somewhat of a relief that a) it’s the right way up, and b) it’s roughly where I thought it was!108_3531.JPGInspired by the turn in the weather, I may have got a little carried away online with my seed purchasing. I bought from and and was really impressed with both sites. They had a great choice of vegetable and flower seeds, and they were all delivered very quickly. Now I just have to work out what to do with them all..!108_3532.JPG

Snowfall in Sussex

After a few weeks of minimal walking, it was definitely time to get a couple of decent walks in and try and regain some lost ground. I’m conscious of the fact that the #walk1000miles challenge is supposed to be fun rather than something to beat myself up with, so I’m trying not to focus too much on the numbers and just enjoy all of the new things that I’m seeing from spending more time outside.

Sam set off for a game of tennis armed with a giant lemon drizzle cake (personally, I’m still wondering whether he was hoping to fill the opposition up before the match and prevent them from running!), and I set off for Chanctonbury Ring.

It’s one of my favourite walking spots, especially as it’s only a few miles away and has – for now – free parking in Steyning. There was sleet in the air and the weather was pretty dismal as I set off and I wasn’t expecting to have much/any of a view from the top but I was looking forward to a good leg stretch after spending all week sitting at my desk.108_3338.JPGAs I started to climb up the hill, the sleet turned to snow, and I enjoyed wandering up through the woods where the whisper of snow falling through the trees was the only sound. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there didn’t seem to be anyone else about!108_3392.JPGAs expected, the view from the ridge wasn’t brilliant, although it made a good stopping off point for a quick lunch of carrot and coriander soup accompanied by almost-warm toast. I’d also pulled a chocolate and chickpea blondie out of the freezer before I left, so tucked that into my pocket to eat on the go.

(As an aside – the blondies are super tasty! They’re made with chickpeas instead of flour, and are gluten, dairy, and ‘sugar’ free. They are however made with maple syrup which in my book is pretty much the same thing. I didn’t make them for any health benefit, I just wanted to use up some cheap dark chocolate, had a spare tin of chickpeas in the cupboard, and felt like an experiment. Definitely one to repeat.)108_3402.JPG108_3405.JPGI also met another lone wanderer who very kindly took a picture of me and the ‘view’.108_3408.JPGI didn’t stay on the South Downs Way, but instead turned onto the Monarch’s Way, another long distance path. It follows the approximate route taken by Charles II after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester, running from Worcester to Brighton. We’ve walked a few local sections of the trail over the past couple of years, and I’d quite like to explore it further as I think it passes through some interesting countryside.

Unlike last week, it wasn’t really ideal weather for wildlife spotting, but I was perfectly happy with this wonderfully woolly sheep who followed me along the fence for quite a distance. I think she must have been able to smell the cake!108_3411.JPGFollowing the Monarch’s Way, I dropped down onto the other side of the Downs and passed through low-lying farmland, before turning to head back up the hill to rejoin the South Downs Way. The visibility was really poor, and the only splashes of colour came from the gorse bushes at the side of the path.108_3440.JPG108_3437.JPGThe approach to Chanctonbury Ring was very strange; although I knew I was nearly there, I couldn’t see it at all until it suddenly loomed out of the cloud right in front of me.108_3452.JPGAs I began to walk back towards Steyning, the cloud lifted so that I could enjoy the wintery landscape. I’d taken longer than I’d planned on the top, so had to set a brisk pace to get back to the car and home in time to watch the rugby – although in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t bothered!108_3469.JPGThe total route was just over nine miles which helped reduce my deficit slightly. I managed another six miles on Sunday, taking in one of our easy routes along the Downs Link to Henfield, with a (muddy) detour along the river. The day was overcast and grey, although there was no snow in sight.

It’s been a couple of weeks since we were last on the Downs Link, and in our absence it seems that the political activists have taken over…108_3491.JPGPersonally, I think setting off for a walk equipped with a permanent marker and some campaign slogans is rather odd (the other side of the gate said “Spring is in the air, but where is Brexit?!”) – I think I’ll just stick to my packed lunches and camera!

That February Feeling

The last couple of weeks of January seemed to fly by with the excitement of starting my new job, and as a result my time spent walking has really decreased. It wasn’t exactly unexpected, as I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain my rate while working but I’m now four miles below target. I’m hopeful that I’ll make it up once the evenings are lighter, but it’s still disappointing to see the numbers dropping, and I know they’ll continue to fall for a while until spring arrives.

We’ve got a busy February coming up (well, I say we – what I really mean is that Sam has lot of tennis planned), so we decided to do our February ‘day out’ this weekend. It does seem like it’s coming hot on the heels of January’s and we’ll have a bit of a wait until our one in March, but I’d rather get it in early than run out of time and not do it at all!

The day was off to a great start before we’d even set off, with the arrival of this fine fellow on the bird-table. I’ve really not been having much luck with feeding the birds this winter and have been attracting mainly pigeons and starlings, with a couple of robins and blue tits thrown in, so I was thrilled to have a bullfinch visiting. I know they’re not rare in the UK, but it was a very welcome change to have such a colourful visitor!108_3295 (2).JPGWe began with lunch in Arundel which is one of my favourite spots and so always a great start to a day out. I have mixed feelings about the castle as it was restored in 1900 and has a slight air of being made of Lego rather than being a ‘real’ castle. It redeems itself with its 12th century remains, and also by its wonderful gardens that are a real treat in summer. Regardless of its origins, it remains an imposing sight.KODAK Digital Still CameraInspired by my love of castles, Sam took me to the Motte & Bailey cafe where I had a scrumptious lunch of scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, and salad, but the real highlight of Arundel was this beauty that we followed into town!108_3306 (4).JPGIt was quite happy to pose for photos and took very little notice of us on the path as it happily fished in an offshoot of the River Arun.

It’s quite difficult to top seeing (and photographing!) a kingfisher, but our next stop – Fishbourne Roman Palace – was trying its best to impress. Okay, so the first impression of the building was a little underwhelming, not helped by the fact that it’s right in the middle of a housing estate, but the inside definitely made up for it.108_3335.JPGThe highlight was the ‘Cupid on a Dolphin’ mosaic that has been incredibly well preserved, although there were several other mosaics that were impressive in their own right.108_3329.JPG108_3319.JPG108_3327.JPGIt had only just opened for the year and was fairly quiet which meant that we were free to wander around at our own pace. We’d not been before although it’s been on my list of ‘places to go’ for a while now, so I was thrilled to finally visit. It’s hard to believe that such a huge palace could disappear without a trace for hundreds of years, and I found the whole site fascinating.

It was a fantastic day out and a great start to February. As the days start to slowly lengthen and warm up, I’m hoping that we can squeeze a few miles in around the various tennis matches coming up this month – watch this space!

Castles and Crochet

This week has marked my last week of ‘unemployment’, and so I’ve been making the most of having my time to myself. The weather has been glorious – gone is the drizzle and grey skies of the last couple of weeks and instead I’ve been treated to day after day of bright sunshine. Admittedly, it’s also absolutely freezing, but I never mind being outside in the cold as long as I’m well wrapped up. I’ve taken the chance to get in some more miles (the current total stands at 77 miles since January 1st) while I can still walk in daylight, and have continued my trend of trying to catch either the sunrise or sunset.108_3040.JPG108_3061.JPGAs well as the walking, I’ve also been making a start on some of my other resolutions this week. Resolution #2 was to learn a new skill, and so last week I headed into Horsham and picked up a crochet hook, some cheap yarn, and a reference book. I can’t exactly say that I’ve been making great progress, but it’s definitely a start. The thing I’m really struggling with at the moment is keeping enough tension in the yarn to catch it with my hook, and as a result my hand is really aching. However, I do like the motion of crocheting, and I think I’ll easily be able to sit and chat while crocheting at the same time (something I never really manage when cross-stitching). It’s slow going for now, but I’ll be sticking with it. Stay tuned for the next half inch of my tiny square being added some time in the not-too-distant future…108_3273.JPGResolution #3 was to plan a day out per month, and this weekend was the first installment. We’ve decided that we’ll take it in turns to plan each month, and as this whole thing was my idea, I went first. Sam had Friday off as he has some carry-over holiday to use, so I thought it would be good to plan two days of activities to really kick things off in style!

On Friday, we took advantage of the weather and walked some of the South Downs Way along Devil’s Dyke. This is one of the most popular spots in the area, partly because it’s quite close to Brighton, partly because you can park at the top of the hill, and partly because the views are spectacular. It’s been a tourist attraction for years; the Victorians built a cable car, funicular, bandstands, and a fairground on/around the Dyke, and although that has all disappeared there is still a very popular pub at the top and at weekends the area is usually covered with people.

The resident Geologist informs me that the Dyke is the longest, widest, and deepest dry chalk valley in the country, formed by snow melt during the last Ice Age. It’s been of interest to humans for thousands of years and is the site of an Iron Age hill fort, as well as a later motte and bailey castle further along the ridge.

After a hearty breakfast of whinberry pancakes with maple syrup, we set off from the village of Fulking and headed towards the Downs.108_3074.JPG108_3076.JPGWe then began the short and steep climb up the Fulking Escarpment which hadn’t seen the sun for days – the path was frozen solid and the frost lay thick on the ground.108_3080.JPG108_3088.JPGOnce at the top, we stopped for lunch at a handily placed bench and enjoy our picnic of homemade quiche and whinberry cakes. The view was stunning, but a very cool breeze meant that we didn’t linger for too long!108_3097.JPG108_3100.JPG108_3135.JPGWe then made our way to the first castle of the weekend, which were the motte and bailey remains on Edburton Hill. There’s not a huge amount to look at, and it’s admittedly not the most impressive of castles, but the view more than makes up for it!108_3110.JPGWe bypassed the pub and the few other people who were around and headed down into the Dyke itself. I think the concrete slab that I’m sitting on in the next picture is the remains of the cable car supports, but otherwise nature has truly reclaimed the land.108_3126.JPGAfter dropping down into the valley, we walked the last few miles through gently sloping fields back to the car at Fulking, ready to go home and make our new meal of the fortnight which was salmon and ginger ‘burgers’ (they were definitely fishcakes, but they tasted great regardless of the name!) with sweet potato wedges. Mmm.108_3155.JPGAfter the great walk of Friday, I’d planned a day out to Pevensey Castle which was the landing place for William the Conqueror in 1066, as well as being an ancient Roman fortress. We’d not been before, and I loved it – it was the perfect blend of crumbling ruin but with enough still standing to make it worth exploring. Entry was a little bit odd as we almost had to go out of our way to find the ticket cabin and buy tickets (a few people just seemed to be wandering in) but I was glad that we did as we were given really good audio-guides which made up for a distinct lack of signage in the grounds.108_3167.JPG108_3179.JPG108_3186.JPG108_3181.JPGWe then headed next door to the Royal Oak and Castle for a warm lunch before setting off to Lewes, our last stop of the day.

I’ve been to Lewes before and love the sheer amount of history contained in a relatively small area. One of the main attractions for me are the ruins of the priory which are fairly substantial despite being a fraction of the size of the original complex. It underwent a pretty thorough demolition thanks to Henry VIII but there’s enough there to be worth looking at, along with a number of good signs (plus it’s all totally free).108_3210.JPG108_3223.JPG108_3232.JPGWe’ve currently got free entry to Lewes Castle for a year after gift-aiding our tickets last May so we decided to take advantage of this and make the most of the abundance of castles in the area. It also proved to be too good of a dressing-up opportunity to miss…108_3241.JPG108_3258.JPG108_3251 (2).JPG108_3253.JPGWell, if they provide a trunk full of costumes for adults, why not?!

We stayed up on the battlements to watch as the sun sank in the hazy sky, enjoying the views above the town.108_3262.JPGI’m so glad that I decided to keep resolution #3; I wasn’t convinced when making it as it seemed a bit too ill-defined, but taking the time to plan something special gave me something to look forward to all week and also had us venturing slightly further afield to explore new places. Definitely a resolution that we’ll be sticking to, and I can’t wait to see what Sam comes up with in February!

Thunder Snow

There has been much excitement in the South-East this week, as we’ve been subjected to the prospect of ‘thunder snow’! Cue mass hysteria, various weather warnings, and general panic…

Thunder snow actually turned out to be, well, just snow – and not much of it at that. We ended up having a light smattering on Thursday which only managed to stick around until Friday because it froze overnight. It was ever-so-slightly underwhelming, but did make for some nice pictures on Friday morning when I caught the sunrise and notched up another couple of miles on the Downs Link.108_2804.JPG108_2832.JPG108_2845.JPGActually, the weather that had the biggest impact on my week wasn’t the snow, but the rain. The beginning of the week was lovely and I had a couple of great walks with Mum although I forgot to take the camera out with me so have no photos – oops! After that though we had several days of rain and I was surprised to see just how quickly the River Adur responded to the rainfall. The morning following an afternoon/evening of rain resulted in the river overflowing its banks and covering the fields which I really wasn’t expecting as I didn’t think that the rain had been anywhere near heavy enough to cause flooding.108_2866.JPG108_2868.JPGThis meant that most of my usual walking routes were out as the river was up over the footpaths, so I had to go exploring. We live close to a Carthusian monastery, and I decided to head north and find out how much of it I could see from the path. The spire is visible from miles around, but the rest of the building is very well hidden from the road so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get a good view. After a couple of frustrating miles where I could only see small glimpses through the trees, I turned a corner and was treated to an unobscured view and it really is very impressive. I’ve heard that the best way to see it is from the air, but I think I’ll be quite happy with what I can see with my feet planted firmly on the ground.108_2907.JPGThe rain may have led to one interesting new walk, but it made for a fairly awful one on Saturday. Sam has had a really busy week at work and hasn’t been able to get out at lunchtimes for a run or walk, and as a result has started to fall behind on miles. He planned a new walk for us just south of Lewes which would have been a good nine miles, but the weather was so atrocious that we called it off after three miles and drove home.108_2922.JPG108_2923.JPGThe walk was made worse as the lovely homemade quiche that I’d packed for our lunch was still frozen, and the parking area recommended by the guidebook had a rather large “Absolutely No Parking” sign by it resulting in a detour to another village to find somewhere more suitable. All in all, it was a rather unsuccessful day! One of the only bright spots – quite literally – was a kingfisher happily diving in the River Ouse. Sadly, my wildlife photography skills are not up to kingfishers (or otters, not that I’ve seen it since the first sighting), but we enjoyed watching it make its way down the river. At least someone didn’t mind the rain! Another point of interest was the church in the small hamlet of Southease which dates from the 12th century and is one of only three in Sussex to be built with a round tower. It also has wall paintings inside which date from the 13th and 14th centuries which I enjoyed looking at while sheltering from a particularly nasty downpour.108_2937.JPG108_2929.JPG108_2931.JPGWe think that the walk itself will be lovely when not tipping down with rain, so we’ll definitely be going back and hopefully managing the whole distance. The weather for this week looks better, so fingers crossed for some better walking over the next few days!

January Greys

I think it’s fair to say that I class as a fair-weather walker; although I love to be outside, I very much tend to stay in if it looks like it might rain, even if it might just be a light shower. I think that this partly stems from our love of climbing hills to see the view – I see very little point in putting in all the effort to get to the top and not being able to see anything when there (case in point: this spectacular photo of the view from the top of Bla Bheinn on Skye).108_1298.JPGHowever, I have a feeling that my #walk1000miles challenge may change all that. Knowing that I have to get in on average 2.74 miles a day is definitely going to make me get outside in all weathers, as this week has started to prove. Although we’re very fortunate to live in the part of the country with arguably the best weather, it does have its grey days, and we’ve been ‘fortunate’ enough to have several of those this week.

I always find January to be a rather bleak time of the year. Spring still seems a long way off and the festive excitement that overwhelms December soon disappears into a cold, grey period that can stretch on and on. In fairness, we have had some lovely days, especially at the beginning of the week where I spent a quiet few hours wandering along the River Adur watching the sun set.108_2692.JPG108_2722.JPG108_2734.JPGThe latter part of the week has been much duller; the frosty fields have been replaced by muddy paths, the clear skies for gloomy cloud.108_2749.JPG108_2752.JPGThat’s not to say that I haven’t been enjoying the walking – far from it actually. We are very lucky to live only a couple of minutes from the Downs Link, a great path that is walkable in all weathers, and very popular with cyclists, dog walkers, joggers, and horse riders. The change in the weather has sent almost everyone else indoors, leaving us free to roam in peace, and as soon as we leave the path for one of the many footpaths that branch off it, there is nobody else around.108_2776.JPGWe had quite a treat yesterday when walking in the drizzle, and I’m seriously considering promoting the pond back up to lake status as we’ve discovered that it’s home to an otter! We only had a few glimpses of it in the water, and didn’t manage to take any decent photos unfortunately, but it was so lovely to watch. The pond is going to become a favourite haunt of mine, and ‘otter-watch’ is officially on!108_2788.JPGApart from the walking, I’m also trying to stick to my other resolutions, and we’ve enjoyed a new meal this week. We made a dhal makhani – admittedly, it wasn’t the most exciting of creations, but was delicious served with homemade naan bread. I’m not so sure this one counts, but Sam has also just made apple and mincemeat muffins to use up our leftover mincemeat. This is a recipe completely of Sam’s own invention, so while it might not be a ‘meal’ as such, it’s definitely new and when they look this good, who’s complaining?!108_2783.JPG108_2795.JPGWriting this has encouraged me to reflect on the past week and all its achievements, however large or small. Sometimes I think we can get too caught up in the huge parts of life and we forget about all the small things that when taken together can also make a massive difference.

The week has really been a great one, and I’ve enjoyed summing up all of things that made it so: I’m currently 6.6 miles ahead of target with my walking, we’ve spotted an otter, I’ve cut my running route time down by 90 seconds in the space of just three runs (I need to reduce it by another minute to meet my goal for January, so considering we’re only just out of the first week of the month that’s pretty good going), we’ve just booked our flights to Norway for our summer holiday, I’ve just been offered a fantastic job that I’m absolutely thrilled about, and I’ve got tasty muffins to look forward to this evening!

January might be grey, but I’m finding that grey definitely doesn’t mean dull. Cheers!108_2782.JPG

Ringing in the New Year

Following on from a thoroughly miserable New Year’s Day where we hunkered down with board games and jigsaws, yesterday dawned bright and clear. Sam had a tennis match first thing, so we weren’t able to set out for a walk until after lunch and couldn’t plan to go too far.

We decided to go to Chanctonbury Ring, one of our favourite spots. The walk itself was 7.1 miles, starting from Steyning village and climbing up to meet the South Downs Way, wandering along the top until reaching the Ring, and then descending through woodland back into the village.KODAK Digital Still CameraSteyning has a fantastic team of volunteers who are helping to conserve the downland and are busy reintroducing native species to the banks with the aim of supporting the wildlife that only exists on the chalk hills. I’ve really enjoyed watching the area develop over the past year and am looking forward to spring and summer when their new planting will really become evident.

Once at the top, the countryside is very typical of this part of the Downs, characterised by gently rolling hills and distant sea views. It’s very different to the rough, windswept hills that Sam and I have grown up with, and although it may not be as dramatic, it certainly is beautiful. One thing that I’m really learning to love about the landscape is the sheer amount of sky – as there are no large hills around, the sky just seems to go on and on. My serotonin levels are certainly very thankful!108_2533.JPG108_2538.JPGAfter a couple of miles, we reached Chanctonbury Ring. Originally an Iron Age hill fort, followed by Roman temples, then a ring of beech tress planted in the 18th century, the hill has been the site of human activity for thousands of years. Looking at the view, it’s not hard to see why this site was chosen; it’s a fantastic location for either defense or religious purposes.108_2543.JPGTo me, there is something incredibly special about areas that have held a significance for generations of people. The world may have changed beyond almost all recognition for those ancient civilisations, but it’s not too difficult to still feel a connection to the landscape and the people who have stood here before us when at places like the Ring.108_2557.JPGAs the sun started to set, the temperature dropped rapidly and we set a brisk pace back down the hill. We missed the actual sunset while we were walking through the woods, but returned to the car under a beautiful evening sky.108_2579.JPGConsidering how quickly the temperature changed in the evening, it was no surprise that there was a heavy frost this morning. I grabbed the camera and headed out along the Downs Link to watch the sun rise. The fields were sparkling white and the sky was tinged with pink as I set off, followed by a stunning orange sunrise.108_2588.JPG108_2597.JPG108_2612 (2).JPG108_2623.JPG108_2645.JPGIt was so cold that that the ‘lake’ (although I think lake sounds better, I think that’s been a bit generous – it’s a large pond) had completely frozen over and showed no sign of thawing as I headed back home.108_2607.JPGAlthough the walk this morning was a very short 2.8 miles, I enjoyed the time spent outside and am hoping to spend more early mornings as the only person out on the path quietly notching up my miles. As Sam has kindly pointed out, I’m nearly 1% of the way towards my 1000 mile goal!


New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve never really been in the habit of making any resolutions for the New Year. If ever I have made any, they’ve always focused on altering a negative trait which of course leads to dwelling on all the things that I dislike – not the most positive way to start anything!

This year, I decided that I would like to make some resolutions, but ones focusing on things I’d like to add to my life, particularly those that allow me to learn new things and see more of the world. I’ve only made a handful, although my list is definitely a work in progress and can be added to at any time. So far, they are as follows:

1. Complete Country Walking’s #walk1000miles challenge. I love walking and tend to spend at least one day every weekend with my walking boots on, but I think this challenge will encourage me to do smaller walks during the week as well as push for an extra couple of miles on my long weekend walks. At the very least, I’ll get to discover new parts of the country and it’ll be a great achievement when completed.

2. Learn a new skill. The exact skill is still to be decided (crocheting is currently a strong contender, but I’m open to other suggestions too!) but the general idea is for me to find something new to love and dedicate time to. Ideally, I’d like to learn something that can have a practical use, but I’m equally happy learning something pointless (or at least, pointless to anyone but me) as I’m more interested in finding something new to enjoy than achieving specific results.

3. Plan one ‘special’ day out per month. This one is slightly open to interpretation, but the general aim is to have at least one day per month where we go somewhere new or further afield than we would normally, or a day where we do a favourite walk but prepare a fancy picnic beforehand. I’m hoping this will encourage me to put more thought into what I spend my time doing, as well as always having something to look forward to.

4. Cook a new meal once a fortnight. Other than walking, cooking/baking is one of the things I love the most, but we’re definitely guilty of making the same meals time and time again. This one is Sam’s suggestion, but I’m definitely going to be sticking to it and am looking forward to trying out new recipes (some hopefully with homegrown vegetables…).

5. Visit at least two new places abroad. I definitely don’t class as ‘well travelled’, having only ever been to France, Spain, and Amsterdam (once, for one night only – hardly a chance to really get to know the place) but would love to experience more in 2017. I think the British Isles have so much to offer which has meant that I’ve spent quite a few holidays travelling around the UK, but I’d also really like to explore new cultures and see totally different landscapes. We’re already planning our summer holiday to Norway, but I’d love to sneak another trip in somewhere as well.

I’ve started this blog to document all of the adventures that I have over the coming year and to encourage myself to really keep track of them – I’m hoping that by the end of the year I’ll have a great record of some fantastic memories!