Let’s go for a walk – along the Cleveland Way

This week I have been walking along the coastal section of the Cleveland Way in Yorkshire. The whole Way is 109 miles, and starts in Helmsley. The first part of the route crosses the North Yorkshire moors, and my walking friends Steve and Michelle had already completed that part by the time I joined them in Whitby for the second section – 53 miles along the coast to Filey.

Based in Whitby, in a comfortable self catering cottage with stunning views across the river Esk to the famous Whitby Abbey, we have used the very reliable coastal bus service to get to and from the start or finish of each day’s walk.

Day One: Saltburn-by-the-Sea to Staithes (walked approximately 18km/ 11 miles)

Perfect walking weather – sunny, blue skies, and only a moderate breeze!

This sculpture Charm Bracelet is part of a series by artist Richard Farrington.
The scenery is really beautiful, and the weather was pretty much perfect.
This interesting sculpture was at the site of the Boulby potash mine, and represents a miner sitting at the ‘bait’ table which could be moved around to different parts of the mine. Bait is a local word for a miner’s packed meal.
Descending into the very picturesque village of Staithes, where we had a very good coffee and delicious cake by the harbour wall.

Day Two: Staithes to Whitby (walked approximately 21km/13 miles)

We got the bus back to Staithes, and then walked home! It was quite a bit further than we thought! It was very windy, but blowing from the west so not too cold. There were a lot of steep hills – up and down – something we were going to encounter quite a bit on the Cleveland Way.

Looking down at Staithes.
Runswick Bay. Luckily the tide was out so we could walk along the beach. At the hotel here we had the most disgusting ‘coffee’ I have had for a long time – a sachet of sweetened ‘latte’. You couldn’t really call it coffee! But we did meet a lovely lady running to Robin Hoods Bay as part of her training to run a 100 mile ultra!
Fields of rapeseed – the yellow contrast so wonderfully with the sky and the grass.
Walking into Whitby – two miles along the beach from Sandsend. The wind was strong!
The whalebone arch at Whitby – the lower jaw of a bowhead whale commemorates the history of whaling in Whitby.

Day Three: Whitby to Robin Hoods Bay (walked approximately 15km/ 9 miles)

I think everyone knows about coastal erosion, and periodically we all read about this or that dramatic cliff fall, but when you are walking along the cliffs and see the fences literally hanging over fresh air it is quite sobering. And just a little scary.

199 steps out of Whitby to the famous Abbey. Whitby Abbey was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The town makes the most of this link as you can imagine.
The dark clouds made a perfect backdrop.
Yikes!
Slogging up and down the steep paths is so much easier when these beautiful spring flowers are peeking out at you! And taking a photo is a chance to catch your breath.
Robin Hoods Bay was famous for its smugglers back in the day. Now it is a very pretty village with steep streets and alley ways going every which way (but mostly up it seems). It is also the final point of the Coast to Coast long distance path (293km/ 190 miles) which starts at St Bees in Cumbria. Normally this is a walking route, but over the last few days some 150 very determined people have run it. The first person made it in just over 44 hours!

Day Four: Robin Hoods Bay to Scarborough (walked approximately 26 km/ 16miles)

Well if we thought the ‘ups and downs’ couldn’t get any steeper we certainly had to think again today! It was a tough day, with some rain in the afternoon. But you can’t have rainbows without rain and we were lucky enough to see some beautiful rainbows over the sea. Coming into Scarborough the tide was out, and we walked along the North Sands into town.

We saw (or heard) many birds today including buzzards, curlews, lapwings and oystercatchers. And then caught a glimpse of an adder before it shot away into the undergrowth!

Leaving Robin Hoods Bay in the distance.
It’s a long way down.
And what goes down has to then come up again!
Not such great weather in the afternoon, but by this time we could just see Scarborough castle in the distance.
A photo cannot capture the effect of this shimmering rainbow on the horizon.
And then another!
North Sands beach at Scarborough
Rows and rows of jewel coloured beach huts!

Day Five: REST DAY! (Walked approximately 6km/ 3.7 miles)

We had a welcome rest for our legs today and caught a steam train to Pickering. The weather had turned, and was a lot colder and wetter, so it was nice not to be up on the cliff tops. The steam train passes through Goathland station, the location for Hogsmeade station in the first Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It was also used as a location in the video for Simply Red’s Holding Back the Years. Once in Pickering we visited the Beck Isle Museum, which is an interesting local museum. Then through the powers of the internet I found the blue plaque on 3 Hungate for Francis Nicholson, an artist who developed the art of watercolour landscape painting in the 19th century. He was also my four times great grandfather! I also visited the church of St. Peter and St. Paul where there are amazing medieval wall paintings, covered up in the Reformation and restored in the 19th century.

Steaming into Pickering station
St. George slaying the dragon
It was quite exciting to find this blue plaque for one of my ancestors

Day Six: Scarborough to Filey (walked approximately 18km/ 11miles)

The day started with an hour’s bus ride from Whitby to Scarborough. It was freezing cold, but nobody told the locals this, and there were plenty of people young and old breezing about in shorts and t shirts. Meanwhile we were wrapped up in at least 4 layers, hats and gloves! (Soft southerners – you could almost hear them saying this out loud 😉).

Scarborough is a big town and we walked from the north beach round the headland to the south beach along Marine Drive which gave fantastic views of the crashing waves. Scarborough was the first seaside resort of the 19thC, and its popularity increased with the coming of the railways, and the introduction of Bank Holidays in 1871.

Scarborough – photo from this website
Leaving Scarborough

The walk was, for the most part, easier than some of the previous days because there was less ascent and descent. But there were still spectacular views across the bays and cliffs. There are some really beautiful beaches along this coast.

A lovely woodland section with the sea in the distance.
Wide sandy beaches are a feature of this part of the coast
And so are very precipitous cliff edges!
Filey beach. We walked all along the beach from almost the end of the headland in the far distance. There was a brisk north west wind blowing!

Arriving in Filey along the sandy beach felt like a fitting end to a coast walk. Michelle and Steve have walked the whole of the Cleveland Way (109 miles) and I have done the coastal section. Sixty miles altogether, which is a bit more than the official distance. This takes into account walking to and from the bus stops!

Ice cream to celebrate!

I will miss the sound of the sea in my left ear, and the sound of the larks in the right; the sight of the blue sky, and the white (or sometimes grey) clouds. I will miss the cheery primroses and daffodils everywhere, and the friendly greetings of fellow walkers. I will even miss the climbs up and paths down! Most of all I will miss the very fact of the walk itself.

Bake for Ukraine – Sochniki

I am sure that many many people around the world are shocked and horrified at the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent devastation of people’s lives, and the tearing apart of families. It is easy to feel helpless faced with such an enormous tragedy.

Living in London with neighbours from all over the world, it is hard for me to see people at work, in the local shops, friends and family upset, sad, angry and quite frankly heartbroken by what is happening.

As well as donating money to charities such as the Red Cross or Unicef I can bake. For this post I decided I would bake a typical Ukrainian pastry: sochniki. Simple ingredients, an easy technique and a delicious pastry to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea. The recipe is from this website, check it out for more authentic Ukrainian recipes. There’s a hashtag doing the rounds on social media – #cookforukraine, and a related JustGiving page raising money for Ukraine. Here is the link to the page.

All the ingredients – except some icing sugar which I forgot to put in the shot.
Before they went in the oven
And after they came out!
Sweet pastry filled with a not too sweet cheese filling. Ypou could add a little grated lemon rind for extra flavour. Or maybe some rum soaked sultanas?
Field of sunflowers (photo from this website) Sunflower seeds and oil are a major export from Ukraine
Beautiful sunflowers – the national flower of Ukraine

Let’s hope that this awful time is over soon.

Let’s go for a walk – in Cornwall

I have been lucky enough to spend the last few days in Cornwall, and I have done a bit of walking. As today is St Pirin’s day (the patron saint of Cornwall) I though it would be nice to share some photos of the beautiful countryside and coastline around Port Isaac and nearby places.

Herringbone slate walls with liverwort growing from them. Liverworts are very ancient simple plants that have their origins 400 million years ago.

On Wednesday I walked from Wadebridge along the Camel estuary before turning inland to the church of St Breock which dates from the 13th century. The weather in the days before had been very rainy and the ground was muddy. But luckily for me the rain mainly held off.

The Camel estuary. You can cycle along the old railway path all the way to Padstow.
The lichens on the trees were beautiful. Because the leaves aren’t out yet the eye is drawn to these ancient plants.
St Breock’s nestled in the valley. A stream ran past the church at the bottom of the steps.
Mud!

On Thursday I walked from Polzeath to St Enodoc church. This church dates from the 12th century and is now located in the middle of a golf course. It is close to the sea, and over the centuries became almost buried in sand. In order to collect tithes, and remain effectively ‘open for business’ it had to hold at least one service a year. The vicar and congregation entered through a hole in the roof until in the 19th century the church was restored. The church spire is not quite straight. Sir John Betjeman is buried in the churchyard.

It was a bit grey, but again – no rain!
Look at these amazing stripy rocks! For more information about slate you can follow this link. Slate was produced in great quantities in Cornwall, especially nearby Delabole.
Betjeman’s slate headstone in the churchyard at St Enodoc.
The crooked spire of St Enodoc’s; buried in sand for 300 years!

On Friday I walked from Port Isaac to Polzeath (and then got the bus back). I have done the first bit of this walk before – to Port Quin – so I was aware of the reason behind the nickname the ‘rollercoaster’. However I had forgotten just how tough this part of the coast path is. My goodness me the ascents and descents are tough on your legs! There was a quite a wind blowing but no rain.

Looking over Port Isaac
Pasty for lunch at Port Quin
The Rumps

On Saturday I walked from Boscastle to Minster (St Merthiana’s) Church. This church dates back to 1150, although it is on a site which has been there since Celtic times, and there is a Holy Well in the churchyard which was likely a sacred Celtic spring.

Daffodils in ancient woodland along the river Valency
The river Valency. In 2004 terrible flash floods swept through Boscastle causing huge amounts of damage.
The pretty church of St Merthiana, also called St Materiana, Madryn or Madrun. She was from Wales originally, as many Cornish saints were.
Spot the scissors! Nobody seems to know why they are there…
The little harbour at Boscastle (photo by Simon Bishop)
Another Cornish speciality – saffron cake.

Apart from the walk to Polzeath from Port Isaac all the walks were circular. I downloaded a brilliant app called I-walk Cornwall which I can thoroughly recommend. It meant that I felt quite secure walking without a map, which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend for all terrain, but here felt perfectly ok. Most of these walks I just wouldn’t have done without this app. If you are thinking of a holiday in Cornwall definitely consider getting it!

So – happy St Piran’s Day to all Cornish people! Maybe my next baking post will be about making pasties – or saffron buns!

Nadiya’s Banana Thyme Loaf Cake

Here is another recipe for banana bread/cake! This time it is from the lovely Nadiya Hussain, who won the 2015 series of Great British Bake Off. I was really intrigued by the addition of thyme, and also the fact that the ingredients include olive oil, and no eggs.

Mmm caramel, yum

So I set to. The cake was not a total success. But not an unmitigated failure either. And I know where I went wrong, and it’s totally my fault, not the recipe!

All the ingredients for the loaf cake.
Mixing in the milk and olive oil.

Gathering everything together before I started I was pleased that I already had a half a pot of double cream for the caramel. And exactly 4 small bananas, at the perfect level of ripeness for banana bread. However. I did not have any self raising flour. Oh well, I thought, not a disaster, I will use baking powder. But. No baking powder.

Before it went in the oven

At this point it was 8.30 on a Sunday morning, pouring with rain and blowing a hooley. And I was still in my pyjamas! I did not feel like going down to the shop just to get some baking powder. So – I will make my own baking powder. I looked up the proportions of bicarbonate of soda to cream of tartar (1:2 if you’re wondering). I calculated how much I would need for 300g of flour. All good. Oh but, no but, no. Somehow I managed to put in a little too much raising agent, which meant that the the cake rose and rose far too quickly and then sank like a soggy stone!

Before the caramel
With a nice thick caramel ‘drizzle’

The outcome was a loaf cake with a deep well along the middle. But the caramel needs a place to settle, right?! And the caramel is good! So, although it definitely didn’t come out as the handsomest cake ever, which is a shame as the sliced banana on top does look pretty cool, it was very tasty. We decided it tasted a bit like those yummy toffee bananas you get as pudding in Chinese restaurants.

With an extra dollop of caramel!

And the thyme? It’s very subtle, but there is a hint of herbal tang and aroma which lifts this cake from the ordinary. I will have to make it again, with a proper flour/ raising agent mix.

You can find the recipe on the BBC website by clicking this link. (You really need to click on it to see what it is supposed to look like!) I didn’t change anything much (except the crucial specified flour 😂). You could make this without the caramel – but don’t. The salted caramel lifts it to another level.

Irish Barmbrack – a tasty fruit loaf

I have made a very similar loaf to this before – Welsh Bara Brith, which I wrote about in this post here. This version was in the Guardian Food section on Saturday and you can find it online next week, unless you happen to have bought a hard copy today, or subscribe. (As soon as I can I will add the link.) The article discussed different versions, and then came up with a ‘classic-best-recipe’. In Ireland this fruit loaf was traditionally made at Halloween, but nowadays is popular all year round. Like bara brith it was originally a yeasted bread, and some recipes still use this method. However it’s usually made as a quick bread now with baking powder.

Chock full of fruit

Ingredients

200g currants

200g sultanas

300ml strong tea

50ml whisky – or an extra 50ml tea

25g mixed peel – roughly chopped if it’s not already

25g glacé cherries – quartered

25g chopped blanched almonds (texture) – or I used ground almonds

150g light muscovado sugar (I used 130g of a mix of dark brown and golden caster sugar because that’s what I had)

210g plain flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp mixed spice

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg, beaten

Method

Soak the sultanas and currants in the tea (and whisky) for at least 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C (160 fan) Gas 4. Grease and line a 13cm x 20cm loaf tin. Stir the peel, cherries and almonds into the soaked fruit.

In another bowl which together the sugar, flour, baking powder, spices and salt. The stir into the fruit with the beaten egg. Tip the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for 90 minutes, covering the top after an hour if it’s getting too brown. A skewer or cake tester should come out clean.

Leave for 15 minutes before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

In the recipe as written there is an optional sugar glaze but I really don’t think it needs it. The main difference between this recipe and the Welsh one is the amount of fruit, which is way more in the Irish version. It comes out really squishy and damp. And yummy! The spice is just right, and with a little bit of butter it makes a very delicious tea time treat.

I’ve also been thinking it would make a good snack when on a long walk. Which brings me to my new venture – I’ve started a new blog called Walking the London Loop, which is all about – well you can guess! If you have the time and inclination take a look.

Race Report! New Year Revolutions – here comes 2022

So – yesterday afternoon around 4 o’clock I decided to run a half marathon! Today! As you do. I have run this event before. In fact this event started my year of half marathons in 2019, and then I just had to do it again in 2020. It didn’t happen in 2021, so why not again in 2022?!

Before it started.

Run at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit it’s a timed run which means you can run any distance you can manage within 6 hours. Some people do marathons, some people ultras. Some run, some walk, some run/walk. One person today was in a wheelchair. It’s out and back loops – seven for a half marathon.

Ready to go!

Even though it’s the exact opposite type of run that I normally like (I.e. countryside trail runs) it’s curiously compelling. Meditative and mindless almost. The atmosphere is one of camaraderie, although there were a lot fewer people today than in previous years. There’s no sense of competition because everyone is running their own race in terms of time and distance. The cycle circuit is in a green space within a highly industrial and commercial area. Today there were two kites hovering for about half an hour overhead, and lots of other birds singing away. Ever changing skies remind me of the skies in Suffolk, which is really quite extraordinary when we are in deepest Hayes just a couple of miles from Heathrow!

So that’s the first half marathon of 2022. Done and dusted in 2 hours and 11 minutes! When’s the next one?!

Great medal and superb goody bag!

Happy New Year!

So it’s 2022. Yay! And traditionally it’s the time to look back on the last year. I do wish I had managed to write a few more blog posts, but I have been so busy, and at times quite unmotivated if I am honest. But there have been many good things this year. I managed two trail runs which were a lot of fun. And I also did the wonderful Ealing half marathon, as well as the Ealing parks challenge which was wonderful – getting into all the corners of Ealing borough that I would never normally go to.

A corner of Acton I probably won’t ever visit again! 🤣 (shame about the graffiti…)

As always I feel grateful to live in an area where there are so many nice places to run that are in green spaces – right on the doorstep!

Sunrise over the river Brent and the allotments

I was very lucky to be able to get away to the beautiful Isle of Arran in July for a walking holiday. I feel so grateful that my friend and I were able to do that, given the horrible winter we seem to be having lately. Thinking about all the lovely things that happened in 2021 certainly picks me up when things feel hard.

Lochranza on the Isle of Arran.

I also had a holiday in Suffolk, and ran some familiar routes there. The weather was good, and it was lovely to be by the sea with good friends for a few days.

The old lifeboat station in Aldeburgh

I have not done so much baking this year, or perhaps I just haven’t written about it as much! I’ve made some nice things and some not so nice (!). Highlights were the apple buns and the magic custard cakes!

My husband’s (the love of my life) 60th birthday cake – a truly scrumptious chocolate layer cake – the filling is like a chocolate mousse.

In May all the family managed a few days near Buxton in Derbyshire when the babies – my beautiful grandsons – met for the first time since being born on the same day in 2020!

They’re walking and talking now! (And they have hair.) Love them so much.

Today was the first day of a new year, so time to start as you mean to go on – a nice easy 6km run around one of my favourite parks – Pitshanger Park. It was so warm I went out in shorts and a t-shirt and was still too hot!

On my run today – a photo of one of my favourite oak trees, that lost a major branch in a storm a couple of years ago.

I haven’t yet decided on any ‘challenges’ for 2022… right now there’s enough going in my life without any more challenge thank you very much!

The medal haul from 2021 – plus that ridiculously massive one that hangs from a hook out in the garden!

I am hoping to write a bit more regularly – I’ve been sharpening the pencils and filling the inkwells in readiness.

Happy New Year to all my readers! Wishing you all good health and happiness. 😊

7 Runs in 7 Days – Christmas Week!

At the beginning of December I was feeling quite unmotivated when it came to running – it’s hard to get out there on a dark, cold and sometimes wet morning/evening. So what better incentive than a virtual challenge set by the inimitable Phoenix Running. I have done this challenge before – you can read about it here – but it was in the summer, when it’s easier to feel that motivation to go out.

But there’s something about signing up and committing yourself to something that’s really highly motivating. Why should that be? Usually I am intrinsically motivated to go out for a run, knowing that I will always feel better for doing it. But sometimes I need a little nudge to keep me going in the right direction. Real in person runs/races are probably the best kind of extrinsic motivation, but it’s not always possible to find a convenient race to enter. So the next best thing is a virtual run or challenge. Here’s a link to an article about motivation that explains a bit more.

So in the week up to Christmas I ran every day (7 days) plus an extra run on Christmas Day itself just for good measure. All the following photos were taken during or at the end of the seven runs.

Winter tree silhouettes
Front door wreath
Early morning mist on the canal

The next photos were taken in Olde Hanwell of the Advent Windows. Local residents decorate their windows for each day of Advent. Last year was impressive and this year did not disappoint!

This is my friends Tim and Elaine – who have a very furry cat!

And then I ran a 5km on Christmas Day just because why not?!

And finally – in case you think it’s all running and no baking – there have been plenty of these Best Ever Mince Pies coming out of the oven!

Nigella’s Banana Bread

I make no apology for writing yet again about banana bread. Since 2019, when I started writing this blog, I have tried out several different banana bread recipes: a classic banana bread from the Little Red Barn Baking Book, another classic banana bread by Felicity Cloake, a marbled chocolate- banana bread, a spiced banana bread (using garam masala to spice it up) and a blackcurrant banana bread.

Three of these recipes were baked during the 2020 lockdown baking mania that seized people across the nation. Banana bread was a popular choice for many – but why?! I asked the oracle known as Google. It gave me some answers, which I am sure you would be able to give yourself if you thought about it for just a few minutes. Banana bread is easy. It is delicious. It is relatively cheap to make. Everyone always seems to have a few bananas going black in the bowl that nobody wants to eat. It is versatile – just look at the versions I have already tried – and now I’m going to give you another!

An article in The Grocer about baking in 2020 has some fascinating statistics about who baked what in lockdown. For example banana bread (or similar loaf cake) was baked by far more people in London and the south east – 45% of bakers – compared to just 24% of bakers in the north west of England! And there’s a great article here about the psychology of baking things like banana bread, especially in times of national and personal stress.

21 years old and still a constant go-to recipe book
Can you see that left over rum in the little bowl top left? Cook’s perks!

So – let’s get to this iteration of the wonderful thing that is banana bread. Nigella Lawton’s How to be a Domestic Goddess is 21 years old now, but the recipes still feel up to date, and like modern classics. This banana bread has rum soaked sultanas and walnuts. I made a tropical variation of this a week or so ago, with chopped flaked coconut and soft dried pineapple. It was good. But the original is even better! It’s really just delicious. That’s the reason banana bread is so popular.

Here’s the recipe. I grease the tin and line with a strip of baking parchment. And don’t throw out the drained rum! Drink it!

Race report – Maverick Suffolk trail

I entered this race way back in 2019, and it was supposed to be in April 2020. Postponed to April 2021, and then again to November I almost didn’t do it. A couple of weeks ago it just felt like too much – a 2 hour drive, possible overnight stay, 24 km, cold and wet November… I had definitely decided not to do it.

But, then I got an email from Maverick – looking forward to seeing everyone – etc etc. I had a think. Maybe it was possible. My lovely kind husband said he would drive. I could switch to the middle route – 16km (more doable), the weather looked fair. So at the last minute I changed my mind, and went!

Race village – there were lots of dogs around getting very excited and barking a lot!

And I was very glad I did, because it was so wonderful to be out running in proper countryside, with mud, and trees, and dogs, and pigs, and other people! As a city dweller running trails is something difficult to just go out and do without a lot of planning. And something I wouldn’t feel confident about doing on my own. But it is the sort of running that I really prefer. So thank you Maverick Race for organising such a fab run.

This was still quite near the beginning. Everyone naturally gets spaced apart after a bit.
Suffolk pigs. They really enjoy their outside life in the mud. (And I had a very nice bacon sandwich later… thank you piggies!)

The run started at 10am (another reason why I decided to do it, as it meant I didn’t have to get up too early, even though we were driving there on the day). It was just outside the lovely Suffolk town of Woodbridge, which is on the river Deben. The run went through fields, along the edge of (former) RAF Bentwaters, and through Tunstall Forest. The forest was the best bit for me, I just love running through the trees. I was a bit sad not to be doing the long route which went all the way up to the River Alde. There’s always next year!

Suffolk is known for being flat, and truly there was nothing that could be called a hill. A couple of gentle slopes and some mud, but no real hazards. The dogs on the course were all very well behaved, running along with their owners, and having a great time splashing in the muddy puddles. On the way back, about a mile from the finish, I passed one runner standing next to his dog, who was lying on the ground on strike! What can you do?! That dog was not going anywhere soon, and the poor runner just had to wait until he felt like carrying on.

Photo courtesy of the photographer on the course Jake Baggaley
16km in 1 hour 42 mins. Happy with that!