Sunday, 28 February 2010

Down memory lane

I don't get to see my sister very often... we normally manage to meet up just once a year in August in Dorset for mum's birthday and that is about the extent of our contact, which is a real shame. But here in the Lakes, we are staying just a 20 minute drive from where she lives near Shap, so we grasped the precious opportunity to meet up this afternoon. My niece Emily, sis and I (plus our respective border collies) enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Queen's Head pub in Troutbeck before having a bit of a walk along the popular mountain biking track that is Dubs road past Dubs reservoir and along the track above Troutbeck. We passed High Borrans, nestled in the trees in the right of the picture, which is the Outdoor Pursuits centre where we lived as children. Many memories there.The track winds its way around the hillside high above Troutbeck, affording stunning views as it progresses higherTowards the end of the track, the view of the Tongue and up to Threshwaite Mouth with snow-covered High Street on the right is just stunningly beautifulAfter the walk, we popped up to see High Borrans and to reminisce briefly about our childhood antics. It's a grand house of which, I am sorry to say, we only occupied a small flat at the far end whilst my father was the warden there.High Borrans tarn brought back happy memories of minnowing, swimming and canoeing during the warm summer monthsThen it was time to say goodbye again. Hopefully I will be able to see my sis again before we leave the Lakes on Friday. That said, we have no fixed plans and may stay in the area a bit longer. Who knows.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Some R&R

No, not rock and roll, but some much needed rest and relaxation after a hectic 10 days. We arrived in the Lakes yesterday, having driven up from Sheffield in our wonderful new (well, secondhand actually!) Toyota Rav4 which is an absolute dream to drive.

I stumbled across Mirefoot Cottages not far from Burneside after an exhaustive but largely unsuccessful web search for self-catering accommodation that allows dogs and also has WiFi internet access. The cottages are in a stunning setting at the foot of Potter Fell. They are wonderfully peaceful and extremely well-equipped, including little details like tea bags, sugar, washing up liquid, washing powder etc that you would normallyhave to provide for yourself at other holiday lets. The best bit is that the fells are accessible straight from the door and the Kentmere Valley is just a short hop down the road. My plans for doing some good running while in the Peak District did not come to fruition so it was about time I stretched my legs. A run up towards Potter Tarn and Potter Fell.... then along to Gurnal Dubs.... with great views towards the snow-sprinkled Howgills in the distance ...and then a run down to and along Longsleddale ...provided the necessary 'fix', 14kms in total. It is just SO good to be back among the Lakeland Fells. If I didn't live in the Pyrenees, I would be quite content to live out my days in a quiet corner of the Lake District.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Getting there

We've been back in the UK for just over a week now. The main point of coming back was to clear the house in Sheffield for completion of the sale. This was supposed to take place this Friday but has now been put back 10 days which has taken some of the pressure off. What has surprised me is just how quickly we have been able to get rid of so much stuff from the house, mainly thanks to the Freecycle Network which is an international and UK charity whose aim is to keep good stuff out of landfills. I have given everything from chests of drawers, bookcases, old TV and beds away to a new home which has been quite rewarding - I consider it good karma!

The clearance has not been an easy process as the house was my home for 16 years before we moved to France nearly 3 years ago. It has been hard to let go some items that have sentimental value for me, such as the lovely antique oak sideboard that was one of the first pieces of furniture that I bought for the house all those years ago. But the cost, time and effort required to ship it to France just cannot be justified. I have to let it go.

On the plus side, the other point of our trip back is to try and find a 4x4. Secondhand vehicles in the UK are half the price of those in France and, although the process of re-registering the vehicle in France is somewhat long-winded, the cost-saving makes it worthwhile. We are looking at one today that ticks all the boxes, so fingers crossed. Friday, we are heading up to the Lake District for a week. Hopefully the weather will be a bit kinder to us, as I have some good fell runs planned. I can't wait!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Still brrrr

Although we have not had any more snow here at 826m since Thursday, the temperatures have remained well below freezing and ice is now the order of the day. To have attempted to drive down to Foix for the first aid course this morning would have been suicidal, so I have once again been confined to Pissou. However, I got out this afternoon for an 8km jolly jaunt from the house. I headed through the woodland opposite, round to Eycherboul, down to the road then along the river, up the steep climb back to the road then back down the road and home through the woodland. The skies remain grey and threatening but at least the snow is still crisp and freshThe section along the river was a proper winter wonderland with no tracks or trace of passage - beautiful.Taff and I were joined on our little outing by Chippy, next door's pooch, who point blank refused to go back home. She is the most ill-disciplined, disobedient dog that I know, so I had to just leave her to her own devices, knowing that she was not my responsibility should anything happen to her. As luck would have it, she fell into a fast-flowing section of the river and really struggled to get herself out, she jumped off a steep embankment onto the road and nearly broke her legs and she careered off through the woodland in pursuit of 2 big red deer on our way home. Having her along with us was certainly not a pleasure.

Cold temperatures are due to remain through until our departure on Monday morning.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


Today, we are being treated to full-on blizzard conditions. It is bitterly cold (-7deg C) with strong winds blowing the fine, powdery snow in all directions. It is the wind that is unusual. Normally, we will experience a few strong gusts as a front moves in and then calm returns. But this wind has been sustained since the early hours this morning. I would not like to guess what the windchill could be. The forecast is for it to continue through into tomorrow. I am booked onto a first aid course with the Red Cross in Foix over the weekend and am hoping I will be able to make it. And then on Monday morning, we start our journey back to the UK where we will be spending the next couple of weeks. Conditions really need to improve over the weekend if we are to get away safely.

Monday, 8 February 2010

A brief run

Current conditions are making it very difficult to find a good running route around here at the moment. Below 1000m the recent snow has melted, but mud, rocks and fallen branches have taken its place. Between 1000 and 1500m, snow remains but it is heavy and soft and not exactly runnable. Regardless of the conditions, I was determined to get a 'run' in before the poor weather arrives this evening, so I plumped for a circuit above Ercé that I last did back in October with Andy. The going underfoot was as I had expected, muddy and slippy with rocks and branches strewn across the footpaths. The section of steep ascent was hard going - my legs felt like lead and my lungs protested in no uncertain terms. But I pushed on. I came across snow only from 1000m as I had expected, but it had been tracked by a 4x4, was well-compacted and runnable, thank goodness. I had a welcome pause to take a photo of the view back down to the valley.The stream that I had to cross was carrying a great deal of melt water so I had to wade across it rather than daintily step from stone to stone as we had done on our last outing up there. The run back down on the other side of the valley was more fun and I arrived back at the car having covered the 9.50kms with 400m of ascent in 1 hr 29 mins. I blame the conditions underfoot for the not so amazing time, but I am pleased I got out for a stretch of the legs all the same.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Just a hint....

... of Spring. Only a hint, mind. It has reached 8 degrees today. There were snowdrops along the chemin down in Massat yesterday, not yet open, but pretty in their whiteness all the same. I am noticing patches of fresh new greeness amongst the vegetation on the front terrasse and the bulbs are bravely poking out their green tips. I fear they may be somewhat premature, however, as we are due for another sharp dip in temperature midweek and possibly also more snow at our level. We have taken advantage of the milder temperature today to open all the windows wide, to give the chimney a good sweeping and to get more washing dry outside. I am planning to have a good run tomorrow morning before the weather turns again. Quite where, I have not yet decided, but hopefully somewhere new for a change of scenery.

Saturday, 6 February 2010


Shortly after I made that last post, I gave myself a kick up the backside, donned my running clobber and ventured out into the wild weather, pooch in tow. A quick blast up the Peguere road would blow the cobwebs away. That would do it. Hmm. Think again, P! The driving sleet and underfoot conditions soon had me turning on my tail and returning to the car. Plan B was put into operation. Down to Massat and a fast blast along the 'Chemin des Diligences' track that borders the river, relatively sheltered from the wind and rain and a good surface to run on. Only 4.5km in total but it wasn't a jog! I needed that :-)


We are experiencing another spell of wild, stormy weather at the mo - strong winds and driving rain. Most unpleasant. Temperatures have however risen and most of the snow here at 826m has melted. The forecast is for more snow mid next week, though. Hopefully I will get out for a run tomorrow! In the meantime, I will be delving into and absorbing my Cicerone guides to the Tour of Mont Blanc and the Tour du Queyras for inspiration for future trips away. Oh, and I shall also be eating cake :-)

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


Since our nordic ski outing at the Plateau de Beille on Monday, I have been experiencing a lot of discomfort at the top of my thighs on both legs. It isn't the normal dull DOMS ache that I know well. It feels more like a strain, as if the tendons at the top of the leg have been pulled to near breaking point. OK, I may exaggerate slightly, but lifting my legs when seated should not be painful now, should it! The only difference between this last nordic ski outing and the one that I did with Pat and Kev the other week (when I experienced no discomfort), is that this time I felt like I was continually fighting my skis on any inclines to prevent them from back-sliding which put a lot of strain on my upper legs. Why the skis behaved differently this time, I have no idea. So yesterday, despite the glorious weather, we remained at Pissou. Today, the glorious weather has continued and I had to get out and do something. Skiing was off the agenda so the alternative was a gentle snowshoe outing. We drove 15 mins up to the Col de Port and headed up to Pic d'Estibat (1663m) Fortunately, tracks had already been made by previous snowshoers (in stark contrast to our last outing up there in November) which made our work a bit easier. The clarity of the light and the contrast between the deep sky blue and the pure white snow was striking.I took it really steady and the legs felt OK, thank goodness. The views from the Pic make the 400m of ascent worthwhile. I have also uploaded a short video of the panorama to YouTube The avalanche risk is currently at level 4 here at the moment - the northerly and north-east facing slopes are heavily corniced and wind-slab is also prevalent. The NE-facing cornice that runs between Pic d'Estibat and Sommet des Griets is already showing signs of collapsing under its own weight We were only out for a couple of hours. I wanted to stay out in the warm sun for longer, soaking up more of this amazing weather but my legs need to fully recover before I can enjoy a longer outing. Plans for next week are already forming!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

It's the little things

It's been an absolutely glorious day today - not a cloud in the sky. The air temperature is still only around 3 degrees but there is some warmth in the sun. I got a load of washing done and have been able to get it dry outside on the line for a change. It smells of fresh, clean air - wonderful!

Monday, 1 February 2010


We awoke to quite a dump of snow yesterday morning and the air temperature has stubbornly refused to rise above zero degrees since. The grey skies did however concede to the power of the sun this morning and the blue skies enticed us back onto the skis. Nordic skis, to be precise. Pat was unfortunately unable to make it, but Andy and I had a lovely afternoon up at the Plateau de Beille in sunny but very cold conditions. It looked as though we would be subjected to a full-on blizzard part way through the afternoon but Pat's text confirmed that the white-out had been confined to the valley and to the mountains to the east of the Plateau de Beille. We managed to stay on the very edge of the Weather and covered around 15kms in the course of what was a stunningly beautiful afternoon.