Hello and happy Sunday! What’s this? A weekly blog on the day I said I would publish it?! Go me! How has your week been? Are you still feeling emotionally and physically drained thanks to the continued effects of the global pandemic on life and community? Yea, I know.
I had a four-day working week this week, which is always better than a normal working week in my humble opinion… I booked Monday as leave to give me a chance to wind down from our camping weekend in Shropshire. It was a good job I did as we came home with wet and muddy camping gear that needed cleaning, sorting and putting away. I only had to rush out to catch the tent after it tried to escape to next door’s garden twice!
And, of course, last night the clocks changed back to GMT. It’s definitely not summer anymore! Were there any clocks you actually had to change manually, or are you completely electronic? And for the automatic clocks, did you have to google the time just to make sure they changed properly? Time is so weird.
Anyway, it’s weekly blog time, and in this episode I’m back to my usual roundup of what’s been going on in my life in-between the daily commitments…
Camping in the Shropshire Hills
Last weekend I had an absolutely brilliant time with my good friend Jenni and her (should have been husband by now, but you know, pandemics and weddings haven’t exactly been compatible) partner, camping in and exploring the Shropshire Hills.
We camped at Small Batch Campsite in Little Stretton at the foot of Long Mynd, which was surprisingly busy for an October weekend, primarily with campervans and motorhomes (jealous of those heaters!). It was a lovely little site, with good facilities (including free hot water with decent pressure), and an ideal base for us to hike Long Mynd on the Saturday. It’s always good to find a site with hikes directly from the gate; not needing to drive anywhere makes for a much more relaxed day. I can imagine us returning here another time.
Our hike on the Saturday, just shy of nine miles from the campsite up Long Mind and down through Carding Mill, was just so beautiful. The weather was absolutely spot on for hiking – yes it was cool, but it was dry and even sunny, which makes going uphill much easier than if it’s hot or wet but meant we still had great views. We weren’t the only people on the hill by any stretch, but it was only busy when we were in Carding Mill itself, which is always super popular with families enjoying the area. We might have gone a little off piste in our route finding, but what is a day out in the hills without a bit of a navigation challenge?!
On the Sunday, after packing up in the most leisurely fashion, we went for a wander around Clun before enjoying lunch at The Postcard Café in the middle of the village. This is a place we came across on our motorcycle road trip last month, and it was nice to be able to go back to have a proper look (and eat another one of the amazing cakes from that café!). Clun Castle is an old mott and bailey castle from the Welsh Marches, and it’s free to wander around.
Apart from that it was just a great opportunity to relax, catch up with friends, be outside, and slow down. These are the things that we need more of at the moment, and I think all four of us came home from our weekend feeling a little bit better than when we arrived – the sign of a good trip.
I think that’s it for camping this year, now. I’m not exactly a fair-weather camper, but I do prefer the warmer months. Now the tent is away in the garage I suspect it will stay there until Spring.
Awetumn at Westonbirt
Yesterday we headed to Westonbirt, the National Arboretum, for our first visit. We’ve had tickets waiting since just after Christmas but with lockdown we have only just been able to make use of them. Apart from the fact that we picked a wet Saturday to go, which you can’t do anything about in these days of having to book everything in advance, it was an excellent weekend to visit – wandering through a tree museum in autumn was perfect timing.
We wandered the various paths for a couple of hours, enjoying the variety of trees in the arboretum. Run by Forestry England, Westonbirt has 15,000 specimens, and 2,500 species of tree from all over the world, and plays a vital part in research and conservation as well as being a beautiful place to visit.
My personal highlight was the huge range of gorgeously brightly coloured Japanese Maples (Acers), which put the little one in my back garden to shame, and an opportunity to once again touch the soft bark of a Coastal Redwood. Sequoias are definitely my favourite tree, and while the ones here aren’t a patch on those in California, it is always good to see one up close.
I’m not sure about “Awetumn”, though… not a fan of misspelled puns. Ah well!
In the Mail
The Mystery of the Toilet Paper
Over the years I have had the pleasure of finding myself on various random mailing lists, thanks to blogging, which means occasionally I do receive a surprise delivery. But this hasn’t happened for a good while, things are very different these days, until last week…
I received a large and very random delivery of 48 rolls of toilet paper.
That’s right. A massive box of loo roll. The delivery came from Who Gives a Crap, but I don’t know who sent it – or why.
Who Gives a Crap sells toilet paper to build toilets. The founders started the company when they learnt that 2.4 billion people don’t have access to a toilet, roughly 40% of the global population. 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation; that’s almost 800 children per day, or one child every two minutes.
The company donates 50% of profits to help build toilets because access to a safe, dignified loo is a basic human right. Having a proper toilet keeps waste out of waterways, prevents nasty diseases, and helps keep people safe. So far, they’ve been able to donate over £4.5 million to help provide proper sanitation where it is needed. Very nicely done.
Whether it was a PR gift or a friend playing a silly game, it made me smile, and means I shan’t by loo roll from the supermarket again. I might even try out their forest friendly kitchen roll.
A New Scratch Map
Maps International sent me a new scratch map as a gift this week, and I think it’s so lovely. This new map of the UK features scenic areas such as National Parks and AONBS, and will be a very welcome addition to our home office wall.
The Great British Outdoors map displays our 15 National Parks, 54 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), and 40 of Scotland’s National Scenic Areas. They’ve even included information on where to find the UK’s National Nature Reserves – the map is covered in teeny ducks!
It is a nice looking map, perfect for anyone who loves to spend time outdoors here in the UK. A bit like the Scratch Map of the world I already have (this one by Luckies of London), you simply scratch off the areas you’ve visited, and use the map to plan your next trip. It would make a lovely gift.
You might be interested to know that Maps International have actually given me a second map to give away to a Splodz Blogz reader next month… maybe that’s a reason to make sure you’re subscribed to my blog (bung your email address in the box at the bottom of the page), and following me over on twitter and Instagram?!
Unfortunately, our new internet radio (the Cello from John Lewis), developed a fault – the remote control completely stopped working – and so we had to arrange a replacement. One thing about John Lewis is their customer support is really very good; I called them up and explained the issue, they did a couple of tests to check the fault, and within the same phone call had arranged for a replacement unit to be sent to my local Waitrose where I could complete the exchange in one visit.
It’s a real disappointment and shame when you spend money on something that arrives either damaged or faulty, but it is very good when a company takes this seriously and makes getting replacement products nice and simple. In our case, just receiving a new remote would have been preferable, but that wasn’t possible, so I was happy to box up the whole unit (always keep your delivery notes!) and return it.
Our new radio seems to be working very well so far!
On the Table
I talked last week about how autumn is most definitely here, and while I do struggle with the dark mornings and evenings, and the cold and damp weather, there are two things I love about this time of year… sweaters and food. There is something so comforting about making and eating a proper Sherpherd’s Pie, or digging into a bowl of hearty curry.
This week we did just that; I made a Thai Green Curry, which we ate out of a bowl while watching Saving Lives at Sea on the tellybox, and a proper Shepherd’s Pie with lamb from my local butcher (there are lots of reasons to buy any meat that you eat from your local butcher rather than the supermarket…), which provided food for two nights and enough to go in the freezer for another time.
Oh, and we also did DIY pizzas, with bases we bought from the shop and way more toppings than you’d get if you went to an Italian restaurant – mushrooms, red onion and chorizo. Completely over our suggested calories for the day, but completely worth it!
For the coming week I’ve planned tacos (yes, on Tuesday) and a (probably not entirely traditional) Paella, but I’m in need of some more (easy) autumnal mid-week meal ideas. I particularly like things that I can cook on one day and eat for two, saving on time spent in the kitchen every other day. I’d love to hear your favourites – inspire me in the comments below!
My OneHourOutside November Challenge Starts Next Week
And finally, I wanted to give you a heads up that my annual One Hour Outside challenge, the one that asks you to commit to spending a little bit of time outside every day in November, starts next week. I’m giving you a whole week to prepare, and so while I am very poor at completing 30-day challenges (more on that another time), this is one that I can definitely talk about with authority.
Spending time outside, in the (very) fresh air and (sometimes dull but still important) natural light, is good for our body, mind and soul. Plan now, commit now, to making November your month of the outdoors. You don’t have to run marathons or climb mountains to be outdoors, you can walk around the block, sit on a park bench to drink a coffee, or potter in the garden.
As always, I would really love to hear from you in the comments below. Let me know what your favourite thing about the last seven days has been, and don’t forget to share your favourite autumnal meal ideas to help with my meal planning…
If you enjoyed reading this episode of my weekly blog, and if you think my weekly blog series is a fun thing to read regularly, and especially if you got to the end of this one(!), I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Come on by next Sunday evening for the next in the series.