Rediscovering my legs – January Walks

Despite my best intentions, the festive period always degenerates into excuses for staying inside and eating. Whilst my weight hasn’t spiralled *completely* out of control, my activity levels plummeted over December and that just leaves me primed with excuses for January – “But it’s been so long, I just lost all my stamina” (that is of course a complete lie – I never had any stamina to begin with).

Thanks to the positive influences that are Pete (boyfriend) and Alf (dog) I have managed to peel myself out of my chair on occasion and get out to enjoy some fresh air and the beautiful Anglesey coast.

Newborough and Ynys Llandwyn

We had some spectacular weather over the weekend of the 21st & 22nd January and even though domestic tasks took up a large part of the day we wanted to make the most of the sunshine and get out for a walk. Pete decided he wanted to go to Newborough forest for what he described as a short walk to the beach and Llandwyn Island. The ‘short walk’ turned out to be a 2.5 hour, 11.3 km round trip – really I should know better than to have trusted his perception of how long things take!

Whilst I did end up in an awful lot of pain having gone from no activity for practically a month to an 11.3km hike and we had to finish the walk by the torches on our phones, we did get to witness Newborough beach and Ynys Llandwyn at sunset, which was very beautiful even if I’m not overly romantic (for those who don’t know, Ynys Llandwyn is named for Saint Dwynwen, the Welsh patron saint of lovers).

Unsurprisingly, as such an iconic and picturesque place there were quite a few people gathered, most with very fancy camera set ups and one with a camera drone, while I was just snapping with my phone. To be honest, I’d hate to see the place in August at the height of the tourist season, if you can I would definitely recommend going in the ‘off season’.

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Sunset from Newborough Beach
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The Old Lighthouse at Ynys Llandwyn
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Sunset over Llandwyn Island
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Sunset and the less-old Lighthouse

Lligwy Beach

The weather this past weekend wasn’t quite as glorious as the weekend before, but we made the most of the bit of sunshine on Saturday afternoon and paid a visit to one of our more regular dog walking locations – Lligwy Beach. It was coming up to low tide which is the best time to visit Lligwy as it means there is masses of open sand that the dogs can run around on and we were keen to try and wear out both Alf and my parent’s dog Molly who had been staying with us for a few days.

We got caught in a very brief hail shower but were rewarded with a lovely rainbow (hail-bow?) afterwards.

This time of year is great on Anglesey as there are so few people around. I could have counted the other people on the beach on my fingers. It’s so nice to be able to get out and see the sky and the sea and have some space to breathe and think and disconnect from all the rubbish for a while.

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Empty Beach, Long Shadows, Rainbow, Brittle Star, Alf on the Rocks
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Molly chasing Alf chasing Pete

I have big plans for getting out and about this year, including climbing Snowdon, which I still haven’t done even though we’ve been up here 3 and a half years and Pete has done it several times. I really need to get over this excuse of ‘breaking myself back in slowly’ and actually put some effort in though, my concept of slowly might frustrate a snail.

Hope you are well and have survived January in more-or-less one piece,

Love

Betty

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2016-2017; Another year

Another year is over and we’re all trying to find our feet in 2017. As much as I sometimes see the fuss around ‘New Year’ as a bit pointless, I do like the impression of beginning a new chapter that comes with the change of date – generally speaking, as people we have always found new beginnings and clean slates appealing and a motivation for change  (who starts a new fitness programme on a Thursday?).

I have spent the past week or so drafting a list of my own personal ambitions for 2017. Unfortunately I am currently fighting off a rather persistent illness which has left me quite unable to act on most of them so far,  so I thought I would take the opportunity to look back on 2016 in the meantime instead.

From a global media perspective, 2016 seemed a little cursed. Looking a little closer you home however, I am looking back on 2016 rather fondly. I did lots of fun things, caught up with some old friends, took a couple of holidays, got a new job, made progress on the house and made progress on myself too. As I didn’t really get my act together on the blogging front, I wanted to share some of the highlights with you now.

February – Long Weekend in York

In February I arranged to take Pete to York for his birthday to coincide with both the Jorvik Viking Festival and going to see Týr, a band he is a big fan of but never managed to catch live. I was in the early stages of what would go on to be an epic chest infection and pleurisy but still had a lovely time getting away with Pete and seeing York and all the Viking attractions. Unfortunately the Jorvik Viking Centre itself was closed after being badly flooded at the end of 2015, but the rest of the Viking Festival was really interesting and enjoyable – Pete entered the ‘Best Beard’ Competition and was very pleased to come in 2nd place.

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clockwise from left; Micklegate, Emblem of the City of York, Jorvik Vikings
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clockwise from left; Hnefetavl (Viking Chess), Pete as Dick Turpin, Second Place in Jovik Best Beard Competition

March – Chickens!

Since we moved to Wales in 2013 we have toyed with the idea of getting chickens and in March Pete decided to go for it, built a coop with help from a friend and then bought us four hens from a local farm. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but it’s actually been really enjoyable to keep them. It took a few months before they started laying eggs but we haven’t been short of eggs since.

Since we got the first four hens our flock has now grown to 8 with the addition of a cockerel who we hatched from an egg ourselves, two hens that were a gift from a neighbour and one more hen who we rehomed from a colleague of Pete’s who was having to move away and couldn’t take the hen with him.

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The Original flock
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Chipper – Our very own hatchling. Clockwise from top right; hatching day, one day old and four weeks old
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clockwise from top right; me with Chipper at 4 weeks, Mabel & Beauregard, Chipper at 2 and a half months

March-April – A Hen-do & Wedding

At the end of March I went on my first ever hen-do for my good friend Laura. We had a great day and night out in Oxford, starting with a walking tour, then lunch and drinks, followed by cocktail making, a late night tour of the castle then on for more cocktails all followed up with afternoon tea the following day. It was lovely to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen in ages and to let my hair down a bit!

Although it was a bit of a trek down from Wales to Oxford I returned the following weekend, this time with Pete, to celebrate the wedding days itself!

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Obligatory Hen-do accessories, Cocktail Making, Afternoon Tea

June – Northumberland

In June we went away to Northumberland for a week with my parents and our dogs. We stayed in a lovely cottage near the ‘village’ of Twice Brewed which was within walking distance of part of Hadrian’s Wall. We had (mostly) great weather and spent lots of time out and about and did lots of walking, I clocked more than 100,000 steps on my FitBit and we tired the dogs out thoroughly.

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Playing Shield-Maiden at Homesteads Roman Fort, Alfred owning Hadrian’s Wall, The Sycamore Gap in Hadrian’s Wall near our cottage
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Ruins of Thirlwall Castle, Molly enjoying the sunshine and a sheep outside the garden wall
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Lindisfarn Castle, Cragside, Bamburgh Castle
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Walking along Hadrian’s Wall and a very tired dog

July – Croatia

For the past three years Pete’s research has required him to spend around 3 months every summer living in Croatia and for the first time in 2016 we actually managed to find a mutually convenient time, and the money, for me to go out and see him. So, despite being terrified of flying on my own, I headed out for a week at the end of July which also happened to include my birthday! It was far from a ‘normal’ holiday, but I was expecting that, staying in an old house in the middle of nowhere with no mains anything – water from a tank that needed to be kept topped up, gas from bottles and the only electricity from a car battery in the main living room. I had the best time and it made the summer apart from Pete and Alf so much easier.

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Me & Pete, My accommodation, The meadow next to the house
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Radio Tracking, Croatian Lunch and a baby Salamander
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Plitvice Lakes 
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Clockwise from left; Lake, Birthday wine and epic food

September – Wedding Weekend

Just after Pete returned from Croatia in September we had a mission of a weekend attending two weddings nearly 300 miles apart. It was important to us to be able to attend both so we didn’t mind making the effort to get to both. It was a lovely weekend with great weather on both days and two lovely (and very different) ceremonies. It was strange that having had very few friends get married we had 3 this year, that combined with 2 babies in our close friendship group probably suggests we’ve got to ‘that stage’ in life (not planning on following suit ourselves mind!).

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Wedding Number 1 – tipis in a field in Yorkshire
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Wedding Number 2 – Pete as an Usher at a Church Wedding in Hampshire

Well that’s ended up being quite a lot longer than I expected, but enjoyable for me to look back at all the pictures we’ve taken over the past year. It’s not that nothing good has happened since September, but I thought I’d better reel myself in before this becomes even more of a mammoth post than it is already!

I’ve been saying this for a fair while now, but I really do hope to get back into blogging properly so hopefully this will just be the first of many 2017 posts!

For now I’ll leave you and say Thank You to everyone who made my 2016 so great, and to everyone who might still be reading this.

Happy New Year,

Love

Betty

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Is it still January?

January has been such a long month! Not that I’ve done a lot with the endless amounts of time that seem to be between us and the New Year now – it feels like this has just been a month of working, sleeping and waiting to get paid. An early pay day in December seems great at the time, but 6 weeks between pay days seems like a massive stretch now.

Despite the incredible amount of rain we’ve been getting recently, we have still managed to get out most weekends with Alf. I’ve even bought myself some upper sexy outdoorsy walking trousers. Ok so they’re not going to in any style awards, but they are comfortable, warm, water-resistant and mean I don’t have to risk damaging any of my smarter trousers on our outdoor adventures.

I’ve really enjoyed being able to get out-and-about up here, even when the weather isn’t perfect. The scenery is beautiful and most places we go are so quiet we barely see another person. Plus I can really do with the exercise – a desk job isn’t agreeing with my waistline.


When the weather hasn’t been so good I’ve been doing some reading – books and magazines – I seem to read an inordinate number of magazines these days, particularly compared to a few years ago. Current favourites include The Simple Things, Mollie Makes, Women’s Health, Delicious, Good Food and I recently picked up my first copy of Things & Ink. I don’t read all of these on a monthly basis, I only subscribe to The Simple Things and pick the others up as and when I remember and am particularly interested in the edition. I’ve also subscribed to Audible, so I can listen to audiobooks at work when thing are a bit quiet or in the evening if I’m too tired to read. The first audiobook I’ve downloaded is The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, which won The Man Booker Prize or 2013. I’m enjoying it a lot, there’s definitely a lot of mystery and intrigue.



I suppose the most noteworthy event of January is that I have got a new job! I interviewed yesterday afternoon and was offered the position by the evening 🙂 I’m very excited by the new opportunity. My current job has only been on a three month contract which expires at the end of February, plus it hasn’t been the most exciting job in the world – but they have paid me my first decent salary, so I’ve tried not to complain too much. The new job is about the same money but I’ll get a two year contract which gives us much more security and the possibility of being able to buy our own place soon(ish). I start in the beginning of March and I’m very excited. I think this will definitely call for a shopping spree for some new (work appropriate) clothes and shoes J  I’ve done  fair amount of browsing online lately and there’s quite a long list of things I’ like to add to my wardrobe. I’ll probably have to go through and whittle the list down though, we are trying to save for a house a well!

Roll on Friday evening,

Love


Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold

I’ve still not quite got back into the blogging habit, have I. Things have been a bit busy, well, busier than I have been used to for quite a while anyway. Pete and I have both been doing some teaching at the University, only a couple of hours a week but often quite spread out so we end up spending most of our days there.

Things are going to be getting even busier for Pete now though, as he got a job this week! As of the 1st of November he will be a full time teaching assistant and PhD student at the uni. We are both so happy and I am very proud of him. Not only is it great news because we a) have an income and b) have a definite reason to stay in North Wales for at least 3 years, but he has been trying to get funding to do a PhD for a long time now, so it’s so nice that all his hard work has finally paid off.
He interviewed for and was offered the position on Wednesday, but as we had to work again on both Thursday and Friday we put off celebrating until Friday evening. I cooked a huge Chinese feast, as he loves Chinese food and it meant I got to go to the local Oriental Supermarket and search through all the exciting things. My favourite bits are always the ‘accesories’ – prawn crackers, spring rolls and fortune cookies 🙂 I meant to get pictures but it all got eaten so quickly I didn’t get chance!

The plus side of being kept busy during the week (other than making some money) is that our weekends feel more proper again and we try and make the effort to get out and do things – ideally things that Alf can join in with as well.

Last weekend we visited the local Farmers’ Market and picked up some pumpkins to carve for Halloween. If you are a regular reader you are probably aware that I LOVE Halloween (see my previous Halloween posts herehere, here, here and here). My plans this year include pumpkin carving, helping out with a kids’ Halloween craft event at the nearby National Trust property (including dressing up) and going to see Benedict Cumberbatch as The Creature in Frankenstein at the cinema. Oh yes, and hopefully get some Halloween baking in :)I’ve been trying to think of a design to carve into my pumpkin this evening. I’m not totally set on an idea yet, but I’ve put together some ideas on a Pinterest board. I will blog about it once it’s done.

Today we went on a trip to Beddgelert (pronounced Beth-gelert), which translates as Gelert’s Grave. Beddgelert is a village in Snowdonia National Park which (allegedly) takes it’s name from the nearby grave of/monument to Gelert, a dog that belonged to Prince Llewellyn, Prince of Gwynedd. The legend of Llewellyn and Gelert tells how, upon returning from a hunting trip, Llewellyn was greeted by Gelert who was covered in blood and discovered his baby son missing from his crib. Llewellyn immediately drew his sword and slew Gelert for murdering his son, but, as Gelert gave his last whimper, Llewellyn heard the cries of a baby and discovered the child, unharmed, alongside the dead body of a wolf. Realising his error, that Gelert had in fact saved his son and not killed him, Llewellyn had his faithful hound buried in a big ceremony and was said never to have smiled again.
We were following a route from a new book my mum bought us – Countryside Dog Walks: Snowdonia. It’s a really good guide, breaking walks down by level of difficulty (this one was an ‘Easy’) and gives helpful information about parking and facilities. The instructions are really clear and easy to follow, even for someone with as poor a sense of direction as me, it was obviously written by someone who has walked the route and not just looked at it on Google Earth.

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The route took us briefly through part of Beddgelert village then onto Gelert’s Grave just on the edge of the village. The grave itself was quite humble, a large rock flanked by two trees with two plaques in front of it telling the story of Gelert (one in English and one in Welsh). Just beyond the grave are the ruins of a small building, inside which is a bronze sculpture of a dog which we tried to get Alf to make friend with, although he wasn’t exactly sure. Most of the other visitors made it as far as the grave, a few ventured the extra ten or so yards to the house, but once we ventured on with the walk past the ruins we didn’t see another person until the end when we returned to the car park. On one hand it’s a shame that everyone else missed out on the beautiful scenery and views, but on the other, it was really nice and peaceful having the whole place to ourselves.

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The title of the post is taken from the song of the Dwarves from The Hobbit, which came into my head as we walked through a forested area with several rocky outcrops and a carpet of fallen leaves, moss and mushrooms – it just seemed appropriate (even thought it was, thankfully, not particularly misty or cold). The lack of people did make the whole walk feel like a bit of a mysterious adventure – going through forest, through gaps in stone walls and along and across rapid little streams.
Alf absolutely loved it, running through the trees, smelling every smell he came across and climbing every rock and wall that we encountered along the way. He got thoroughly wet and muddy and was really quite tired by the time we got back to the car – he slept wrapped up in a towel on Pete’s lap the whole way home.

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We were rather lucky with the weather, just as we got back to the car it had started to spit with rain and had started absolutely chucking it down within minutes of us leaving.

I really love living up here, it’s so much more relaxed and beautiful than the south coast. There are certain things I miss about Southampton and it’s proximity to London, but I’m not sure they’re worth giving up living here for. Plus, once I get my own job, it shouldn’t be too hard to make the occasional visit 🙂

I hope things are going well for all of you and that you’re looking forward to Halloween, however you chose to spend it.
Also, what do you think of the new blog look?

Love,

Betty

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