Walking for Health

I’ve recently trained as a Walking for Health leader.

I’ve recently been getting involved in my local area’s Walking for Health scheme. I’ve done a couple of walks with one of the groups and discovered some lovely places on my doorstep that I never knew were there. Last week I spent a day attending a training course to become a Health Walks leader. This is a voluntary role so I can feel all altruistic and magnanimous whilst getting to know new people, finding good walking places near my house and, most importantly, getting some experience leading adults. As most of my walk leading experience has so far been with teenagers, I’m keen to build up some age-group variety before I apply for my Walking Group Leaders’ qualification. And it’s good to experience a completely different style of walking to that which I usually do myself or with groups of Duke of Edinburgh Award youngsters.

So what is Walking for Health?

Walking for Health is England’s largest network of health walk schemes, helping all kinds of people to lead a more active lifestyle. I’m quoting from my training manual there.

The scheme was originally set up in 1995 by a doctor who ran the scheme for his patients as he believed in the benefits of walking for general good health. By 2000 the scheme had been adopted nationally and was run by the British Heart Foundation and Natural England. That Natural England were one of the first sponsors probably explains why it’s only ever been an English scheme and hasn’t reached the rest of Britain. In 2002 Natural England pulled out and the funding was taken over by The Ramblers and Macmillan

Why these two?

The Ramblers is probably an obvious sponsor as their aim as a pressure group is to promote and facilitate walking. Macmillan might seem to be a less likely candidate but their statistics show that out of two million people with cancer, at least 1.5 million of these are not active enough. Research is showing that those who are active (albeit it in a reduced way) throughout their treatment have a higher and faster recovery rate and lower rate of the cancer recurring. The  routine promotion of (gentle) exercise isn’t something oncologists are currently known for, but Macmillan are trying to change this. 

But I don’t have cancer …

There is also some evidence to show that active people and people who get into the outdoors (walking’s a great way of combining the two) are less likely to develop cancer in the first place.  

Is it only for people with cancer / who have had cancer / who want to avoid cancer?

No, walking is also recommended for a whole range of physical ailments and mental health issues. Regular physical activity such as walking can reduce:

  • coronary heart disease by 20-35%
  • type 2 diabetes by 20-35%
  • colon cancer by 30-50%
  • breast cancer by 20%
  • hip fracture by 36-68%
  • depression by 20-30%
  • alzheimer’s by 60%

The list goes on. It can help with lowering blood pressure, increasing levels of ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL), managing weight, coping with stress and anxiety, recovering from heart attacks and strokes …

In fact, a former Chief Medical Officer of England said, If a medication existed which had a similar effect to physical activity, it would be regarded as a ‘wonder drug’ or a ‘miracle cure’.

How many people don’t get enough regular activity in the UK?

Around two-thirds of all people are not meeting the UK Chief Medical Officers recommendation that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.  Ideally this is split over at least five days a week with sessions lasting at least 30 minutes. For children, the recommendation is at least an hour a day.

What is moderate activity?

Moderate activity makes you breathe harder and your heart beat faster, but you should still be able to carry on a conversation. Walking is the ideal moderate activity. (As an aside, on the course we were told to use the word ‘activity’ rather than ‘exercise’ as although most people aren’t against the idea of getting fitter, the concept of ‘exercise’ is scary and off-putting – it’s too easy to imagine a gym full of bronzed and toned bodies and superfit people who you won’t fit in with at all and be completely intimidated by)

So how can people be encouraged to take part in a Health Walk?

Firstly, they have to be accessible and to ensure that they are four things need to be considered:

  • Location – walks are available in towns, city centres and villages throughout the country. The Walking for Health website will show the walks that are available in your local area. They all start and finish near car parking and on a public transport route.
  • Timing – Walks are held at different times on different days of the week including weekends. The lengths of the walks differ too.
  • Cost – Health Walks are free. As they are local it shouldn’t cost much (if anything at all) to get to the start and finish point.
  • Ability – some walks are only a mile long and last just half an hour. Others are 3-4 miles in length and last 2-3 hours. All are on relatively easy terrain.

Although the point of the walks is to raise everyone’s heartbeat, the walks are not so strenuous that it becomes impossible to hold a conversation. So the opportunity to meet new like-minded friends, increase your social circle, even get to know people if you’re new to an area is all part of the attraction.

So far, I’ve really enjoyed the walks I’ve taken part in. Although not challenging, they haven’t been as short or slow as I originally expected, though I have only done the longer ones which appeal to the slightly fitter walkers. Over the next few weeks I have to shadow a current Health Walks leader and then lead a walk of my own. After that I’ll be let loose to help England get fitter!

Introduction to BELA

The first step towards learning to be an expedition leader.

I was up early this morning to drive to a primary school in St Helens for the first day of my BELA course. I got there early and sat sipping a coffee as the other delegates arrived. There are 21 of us in all. Most of the trainers we’ll be meeting over the next few months were there too to introduce themselves. 

BELA stands for Basic Expedition Leaders’ Award and will qualify me to lead bronze and silver expeditions for Duke of Edinburgh Award students. It’s only one step down from the walking group leaders’ qualification and so should stand me in good stead to achieve that whenever I get round to going for it.

It’s quite a time commitment as between now and November I have to attend three residential weekends. They start on the Friday evening and finish on the Sunday. I have to do another one in March for my assessment. In between finishing the third residential weekend and the assessment I have to fit in 30 hours of leading kids on walks. This concerns me a bit as it’ll be in the winter when daylight is short and the weather may be bad. Although this wouldn’t stop me from going out on a walk myself I won’t be able to take students out in the dark or in torrential storms and heavy snow drifts. I thought I’d be able to backdate these 30 hours to the spring and early summer when I spent, what seemed like, most of my weekends out with kids on practice and assessed bronze and silver expedition weekends. But, unfortunately not. I have to somehow fit it in between the end of the course’s practice weekends and the assessment weekend.

What I can backdate is my own walking experience. I have to fill in a log of walks I’ve done myself. Easy-peasy – I’ve got lots of them logged on here so I just have to flip back through my blog and copy the details over. 

Throughout the day we went over the expectations of the course and got a lot of the admin and form-filling done. Then we looked at equipment and did quite an interesting exercise in which we were given an equipment list, a total cost spent and lots of pictures of equipment from which we had to choose items to fit the cost we’d been given. It really showed how little you can spend to get the basics on a low budget and how much you can spend if you want to splash out on the best of everything and/or go for named brands. 

We looked at some actual equipment and were advised on how to tell if something is good or not and which items it’s worth spending a bit more on to get something decent (basically the things that can hurt you – boots and rucksack and also jacket because being soaking wet and cold is the equivalent of being ‘hurt’). 

All in all it was a good day and I’m feeling excited about my first residential the weekend after next. 

Silver weekend #1

Is it possible to have a great weekend even though a zillion things go wrong? Apparently the answer is yes, as I found out this weekend.

Is it possible to have a great weekend even though a zillion things go wrong? Apparently the answer is yes, as I found out this weekend.

Way back about a year ago, when school first mooted the idea of an enrichment programme every Friday afternoon to give our students, many of whom are from a disadvantaged background, a bit of, well, enrichment in their lives I jumped at the idea of getting involved with a Duke of Edinburgh Award group. We had over 80 students interested, as well as several members of staff. It was a logistical nightmare, but bit by bit, we got everyone registered, sorted out activities, arranged funding, got parental permission slips signed and gathered relevant medical information. I tried to organise a series of archery lessons for one group of students, but we ended up going climbing instead. They did this over 6 months and all got their level 1 and 2 NICAS awards.

School then decided that the whole idea of enrichment was way too expensive (I suppose I can see their point) and pulled it. Of course, Duke of Edinburgh is not just a one term only activity and some of these kids had made a serious commitment to see it through. They were getting a lot out of it and were devastated at the thought of not being able to continue. The lightweights dropped out and we were left with a (hard) core of 40+ students who really wanted to carry on.

Enrichment was pulled at the February half term which is halfway through the school year. During the first half of the year we’d concentrated on activities which would count towards the skill, physical and volunteering sections of the award. We’d planned from February onwards to run a series of first aid courses, and then focus on expedition skills e.g. navigation, camping skills, route planning, and so on. We also planned to get some Friday afternoon walks in to give them some actual walking experience. A couple of Saturday or Sunday walks out in the Peaks wouldn’t have gone a amiss either. As we no longer had Friday afternoons for enrichment, staff and students were all assigned other lessons. This meant anything to do with the Duke of Edinburgh had to take place after school during the week. This is usually how it would be run anyway, but as we hadn’t planned it this way, it threw everything into disarray and we didn’t get half of what we wanted to do done.

We split our students up into 2 rather uneven groups. The silver students are the older ones who had completed their bronze awards over the last year or two and had wanted to continue. There are only 8 of them. The other 30 odd of them are bronze award candidates who signed up when they had to choose an enrichment activity last year. We also have a few younger students (you have to be 14 or about to turn 14 to do the Duke of Edinburgh) who wanted to get involved. We thought it would be great for them to have a taster so they’d know what to expect when they’re a bit older and come to do the real thing, and so created a special school award that runs along the same lines but is a little easier.

This weekend was the first of our expedition weekends. We decided to take the silver group out first as we have to fit the practice and assessed weekends around their GCSEs. Also as it was our first expedition, having a smaller group of experienced students made a lot of sense.

So what are all the things that went wrong? Apart from us not being nearly prepared enough in the first place?

1) It snowed when we were supposed to recce the route and we weren’t able to rearrange it, so we were heading out on un-recced routes. Not ideal, but we didn’t anticipate any major problems.

2) We found out that we needed a BELA person at all times (BELA stands for basic expedition leader’s award) and not many staff have this particular qualification. I’m starting the course for it in September and my colleague, who has done most of the work for this expedition, won’t be doing her course until next month. So we had to go all out with our powers of persuasion, to powerfully persuade enough relevant people to ‘volunteer’ so we’d be covered all weekend. Job done. We had the people.

3) Two days before the expedition one of our BELA people dropped out. We flung a panic-stricken net far and wide to try to recruit anybody, ANYBODY, who could replace the missing person. Friends of friends of friends, passing acquaintances, anyone we thought might just happen to have a BELA qualification. No luck. Being bank holiday weekend, most outdoorsy, BELAy type people already had plans to be outdoors.

4) Two days before the expedition, but a bit later, another one of our BELA people was in hospital having surgery. We really didn’t want to cancel the expedition as, it being the GCSE season, we wouldn’t be able to rearrange it and our students would completely miss out. Cue massive hair-pulling, hand-wringing, head banging against wall session.

5) One day before the expedition our one remaining BELA person changed her time with us to cover both Friday and Saturday, and the hospitalised member said he’d be out and fit enough to cover Sunday. Big PHEWs all round.

6) On the day of the expedition, both my colleague and I were given covers to do during our free lessons. We were hoping to get away straight after period 3 at the start of lunch. As we’d lost our frees all the last minute getting together of gear and paperwork, getting ourselves changed, loading the minibus and Landrover, etc, just didn’t happen. So we ended up an hour late leaving.

7) Just before we left, my colleague thought she’d better double-check we really were insured to drive the Landrover which had been lent to us by the local authority Duke of Edinburgh people. Er, no. We’re not. As our school is an Academy, we are no longer covered by anything to do with the local authority. We couldn’t put all the luggage in the minibus with the students as there are safety requirements we have to abide by like not blocking the aisle or burying the students under mounds of backpacks. Isn’t it lucky I bought a van last year? So we transferred all the bags from the Landrover into my van.

8) I then had to go and get fuel which made me later at the rendezvous point than the minibus and so they’d all had to sit around waiting for me.

9) It was getting so late by this time that we decided to start the day’s walk 2 hours in and so drove to a layby where we could park my van and myself, my BELA colleague and the students started walking. The other two staff members took the minibus to the campsite.

10) Once we arrived at the campsite I had to get a lift back to my van to collect it. We were going to pick up a takeaway on the way back (for the staff; the students have to be self-sufficient and carry and cook all their own food). It took us quite a long time to get back to the van and we were finally on the way to Bakewell to get our takeaway when we got a tired and despondent phone call from our students. Their tents were up, they were unpacked, they were tired and hungry and ready to cook. But the meths for their camp stoves was on my van (as a safety precaution the fuel is the one thing we carry for them and just give them the amount they need when they are cooking). So we had to turn around and head back to the campsite so they could have a very late, but well-earned dinner.

11) The next day, started off rainy, but by the time we set off walking it had brightened up. I didn’t start the walk as we decided to take my van to the next campsite and leave it there and get us checked in at the same time. This would mean the students could go straight to our allocated sites and pitch their tents when they arrived rather than hanging about waiting for us to get them checked in. As we arrived there was a big notice at the front of the campsite saying no arrivals before 1pm. Then another notice saying ‘do not enter this campsite before the 1pm check-in’. So we entered and went to check in. We left the minibus part-way up the track and I drove down to the reception area to park up and deal with checking in and paying. The young guy behind reception was quite happy to get us checked in and for me to leave my van, despite the 1pm rule.

12) So far, so good. He opened his bookings book, checked his computer and … no sign of our booking. Thank goodness we’d come early. He was able to create a new booking for us and showed us where we could pitch our tents later on when we all officially arrived.

13) My colleague drove me out on the minibus to meet up with the walkers so I could walk with them for the rest of the day. For the final part of the walk we decided to let them walk on their own as this is what they will have to do the entire time on their assessed expedition. We drove round to a point where we knew they would have to cross the road and waited to see them. We waited and then waited a bit longer. It really shouldn’t take them this long. We finally spotted them walking along the road. They’d missed the turnoff for the footpath and so walked the long way round by the road. Minus a few points for missing the footpath, but full points for figuring out exactly where they were and working out an alternative route to get them where they needed to be.

14) That evening I came to put my stove on for only the second time ever. It’s a super-trendy stove bought for me as a present last year by my brother. As it was the end of the camping season when I got it, apart from checking it was working okay, this trip is the first time it’s been used. When I boiled water in the morning it was fine. It has an ignition switch that just needs pressing when the gas is on and it ignites automatically. No need for matches or a lighter. Great idea. I came to put it on in the evening and the ignition wouldn’t work. It just wouldn’t press in at all. Closer inspection showed the plastic switch had melted. So it was back to using a lighter. I’m not at all impressed as it was quite an expensive stove. I can feel a strongly worded email coming on. The area near the switch does get quite hot which is probably the problem. My brother has used one of these stoves for a long time and never had a problem with the ignition so this is probably just a faulty one. Hopefully Primus will do the decent thing and replace it for me.

15) Our students came to put their stoves on to cook their evening meal and asked for the meths. The meths had gone home with the teacher who’d been picked up by her husband an hour of two earlier. We broke the rules (it’s only a practice after all) and once the replacement teacher arrived, took them all into Bakewell so they could go to the chip shop.

16) By Sunday, our third day, the students were suffering. The lack of training was having an effect. We cut the route and part way through let them leave their backpacks in the minibus so they could finish it. This is something we won’t be able to do on the assessed expedition, so is a bit of a worry.

17) We climbed up to Monsal Head and met the minibus. The last part of the walk was along the Monsal Trail into Bakewell. We decided I’d get taken back to the campsite in the minibus to pick up my van and we’d meet the students at one of the disused train stations along the route to check they were still ok to finish the walk. They were fine and seemed a lot more cheerful now they were near the end. I came to reverse my van out of its parking space so I could drive to Bakewell, but nothing happened. After an awful lot of trying I finally got it to reverse. I then had a bit of a hair-raising drive into Bakewell in which, for some of the time, I was driving in neutral down a hill because I couldn’t get it to go into any gear. I followed the minibus into the car park in Bakewell and my gears went completely on me.

18) I had all the students’ backpacks and other miscellaneous camping gear in my van and so we really needed to get it back to school. Especially as it’s a bank holiday and so it will be Tuesday before I see them again and if my van is in the garage being fixed it could be even later than that before I can get their stuff to them. I called Greenflag and they said someone should be with me within the hour. We needed to get the students back so we unloaded the van and they took everything they thought they’d need into the minibus with them. It was probably too much to be strictly legal but not as piled high as it could have been.

19) The Greenflag man arrived at the car park well within the hour but then took about another half hour to get to me. It’s a massive car park and was chocca with stationery vehicles (and I don’t mean the parked ones) trying to get out. Bakewell is busy at the best of times, so on a bank holiday and with a funfair just up the road it was a nightmare.

20) The Greenflag man was very nice and soon figured out the problem. He wasn’t able to do a proper repair as it needs a part, but he said he would try to do a ‘bodge job’ (his words) so I could get home safely. If he had to tow me it would have cost around 100 quid. Cable ties came to the rescue and he spent over an hour securely tying numerous of them onto my dodgy gear linkage to hold it in place so I could drive again. As I drove home the gears actually felt better than they had done before, so thank you very, very much Warren for your bodge job. He’s also told me the part should only cost about £15 and take about an hour’s labour to fix. As I had visions of £100 towing fee plus a new gear box, you can imagine how relieved I was to hear this.

21) Once home, a lot later than expected, I had to empty the van into my house. I can’t leave anything in it overnight as one of the problems of living in a dodgy area is car thieves will break into a car if there’s a much as an old carrier bag left in it. My living room now contains, amongst other things, enough tents to start my own branch of Go Outdoors, several packets of teabags, some random socks and two guitars.

So was it a successful weekend? I think so, as despite all the obstacles and problems we overcame them and still managed to enjoy ourselves and fit in plenty of laughter. I’m looking forward to the next three expedition weekends and to doing my BELA. Once I’ve done that, I’ll feel a lot more confident to start working towards my actual walking group leader’s qualification.

Climbing, archery and bad internet

There’s a lot going on at the moment.

So, what have I been up to? Quite a bit actually. Let’s start with archery.

The man at the archery club where I was going to take my Duke of Edinburgh students has let me down so I’m feeling rather miffed about it. I’d told him in my initial email before the summer holidays that it would be Friday afternoons from about 12.30. After several emails in which he’s sounded as though it might happen at the last moment he told me they can only do courses on Tuesday evenings. Arrgh.


After some frantic hunting for another activity I’ve come up with climbing. It all sounds very positive. The club can fit us in at the times we require. The students can gain their level 1 and 2 qualifications in indoor climbing and it costs slightly less than the archery. Only problem now is whether or not school will give me the funding for it. I don’t see what the problem is as I only need the money I would have had anyway for archery, but for some reason no-one will confirm with me whether I can go ahead and book or not.


Although I won’t be doing the climbing myself I’m sure to pick up plenty of tips for when I do get round to trying this for myself. I’ve put it on my list of things to do as some of my friends are climbers and seem quite obsessed with it. I thought I should give it a go to see what’s so exciting about it. Personally I’ve always preferred to walk and get from one place to another rather than hanging about (literally!) in the same place all day. But I know I shouldn’t dismiss something without trying, hence it’s on my list.


I’ve also been looking into doing my level 3 Basic Expedition Leader Award as this will be useful both for when I’m working on the Duke of Edinburgh expeditions and for when I get around to doing my Walking Group Leaders’ qualification. The course runs over four weekends and costs £325. As it’s work related school would pay for this so of course I’m very keen to do it. The course runs twice a year, once in the autumn and once in the early spring. The autumn course would be best for me, but it’s full. I’ve looked at the dates for the spring course and it looks as though I’ll be unable to do two of the four weekends. I’ll have to try to move things around a bit, but as some of them are holiday things and as working in a school I have to take my holidays at fixed times, it won’t be that easy.


Duke of Edinburgh issues aside, I’ve also been starting to think seriously about my own business. Ultimately I want to own my own hostel and I have very specific ideas about what I want. But now isn’t a good time economically to start that type of business and also it would need a lot of financial input upfront. As I don’t have any track record in running my own business I’d find it difficult to get backing for something like that. So I need to start with something that is cheaper, easier to make a turnover in the beginning and ideally is something I already know quite a bit about.  I’m thinking sandwich shops / coffee shops. Having worked in this kind of business for years when I was travelling and a student it’s the thing I know best. I’m starting to look around at businesses for sale to get an idea of prices and locations. I’m not in a position to do anything about it at the moment, but at least I’ve made a start.


I’ve downloaded a few books on coffee shops, sandwich shops and small business start-ups on to my Kindle. My knowledge is out-of-date and legislation and so on does change so I thought I’d better read up. By downloading the books I’ll also use my Kindle more effectively as I can use the tools for highlighting and annotating and so on, rather than just reading. This means I’ll be getting to know how to use one of my new pieces of technology and working towards achieving one of my 2012 twelve targets at the same time as reading up on businesses.


Another of my 2012 targets that I’m working on at the moment is reading 10 of the books from the BBC Big Read list. At the beginning of the year I set myself the target of reading ten books from the list thinking this would be easily achievable, but we’re now three quarters of the way into the year and I haven’t read any. I realise I need to get a move on if I still want to achieve this goal and so I’ve started reading Arthur Ransome’s Swallow and Amazons.


I’ve also been working on my book database. I’ve catalogued my books up to the letter ‘C’ and already have almost 1100 entries on my database. I knew this would be a mammoth task when I started it, so I’m not setting myself a deadline. It does feel good to be getting on with it though.


The other thing that’s taking my time at the moment is trying to get all my write-ups from over the summer transferred onto my blog. I found using my tablet whilst I was in the Hebrides a good way to get every typed up straight away, rather than hand writing and then typing up later, but I struggled to find internet access. In Shetland there’s lots of free wi-fi and I was expecting it to be the same in the Outer Hebrides. So I have all these posts that I wrote at the time but was unable to publish. I have lots of photos to upload too and really it should be quite straightforward and quick, but my internet keeps playing up and stopping and because I have a rubbish internet company I’m struggling to get it fixed. This means that often when I do have the time and motivation to sit down and starting getting things updated the internet lets me down. As I do manage to upload my posts I’m backdating them to when I originally wrote them otherwise it’ll just be too confusing for me when I look back over them.


Duke of Edinburgh and other stuff

Things are coming together nicely.

I’m officially on the Duke of Edinburgh team at school. This is something I’ve been wanting to be involved with for a while, but it’s never worked out before. I’d like to get some experience on it as I think it will be interesting and fun to do, but also very useful for what I want to do in the future. I never got the opportunity to take part in it when I was younger, so now I’ll take part vicariously through my students. It was a bit touch and go for a while as to whether I could be part of the team or not – it all depended on student numbers. But as we have at least 80 students signed up we’re actually under rather than over staffed.

I need to offer a couple of activities I can work on with the students, so I’m looking at doing web design and archery. I haven’t done anything about getting my own website since I finished the web design course over a year ago, so if I have to start teaching the basics of it, this will get me back into it.

As for the archery, it’s something I’ve been keen to learn how to do ever since I had a go more than 10 years ago whilst on holiday in Ireland. A few times I’ve emailed a local archery club but never had a response. Whilst researching this for the Duke of Edinburgh group I found another club that isn’t too far away. It took them a while, but they have got back to me. The course they’re offering might be a bit too expensive but I have been given a few options. Hopefully we’ll be able to go ahead with it and then not only will my students get to take part in an activity and learn a skill they probably wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to do, but I’ll get to do it for free and in work time – how’s that for a cunning plan?!

At the meeting after school this afternoon, it was mentioned that it would be a good idea for someone to do a course for Duke of Edinburgh expedition leaders. I seem to be the most likely candidate for this. The course, which I know nothing about yet, is apparently one step down from the walking group leader’s qualification so this would be VERY useful for me.

Because I’m also teaching humanities this year (someone must have slipped up when they put my timetable together – this is getting me precariously close to teaching the subject I’m actually qualified to teach rather than a range of random subjects I know nothing about), I’ll probably get to go on a lot of the trips. This is also something I want to get more experience in as I feel it will be relevant and useful in the future.

All of sudden, I feel much more positive about this year!

First Aid

A basic first aid course with the Red Cross.

I’ve spent the last two evenings at the Red Cross training centre with a couple of colleagues doing a basic first aid course. School has paid for it (bonus!) as it means I can teach first aid skills to my Health and Social Care students in the new year. The course included bits of everything and was quite a lot to take in. I’ll have to do a bit of reading up as well, before I feel confident to either practise first aid or teach it.

This level of course is not meant to make me an expert so there was no formal assessment. At some point I’ll need to do the specialist outdoors first aid course for my walking group leader’s qualification. This is a full weekend course with assessments and is quite expensive. I’d hate to fail it and now feel more confident that I won’t because I now have basic knowledge and skills and won’t be starting it cold.

Doing the course meant I had two very long days and feel completely knackered, but it seems well worth it.

First Aid

I’m doing a basic first aid course with the Red Cross.

If I’m to do the training to become a walking group leader, I first need to have a relevant first aid qualification. The one I need is a bit different and a bit more involved than the bog standard one, as a first aid necessitating incident in the middle of nowhere, well out of mobile phone reception range, is a whole lot different to being in an a situation where you can expect an ambulance within 10 minutes.

There are weekend courses I can do for this in the Peak District and at some point I’ll get round to doing one. However, in the meantime I’m about to do a first aid course for school. This is a basic course over two evenings and will qualify me not only as a basic first aider, but will also allow me to teach first aid to some of my students. All good practice for when I come to do the big one.

The course I’m doing next month is offered by the Red Cross and is only about £37. But as an added bonus, school are paying, so it’s not costing me anything!


I’m planning a half-term trip to Exmoor and want to start walking the South West Coast Path from the beginning.

The weekend after next is the start of half term. I’m planning to drive down to Exmoor to spend the week walking. Usually when I go to the south west I feel as though I have to go as far as possible and always end up down near Land’s End. But this time I thought I’d stop and see some of the places I usually speed past.

I’ve found a cheap but nice sounding campsite near Porlock. So I’ll use that as a base and walk some of the South West Coast Path. I’ve walked some of the Cornish bits before, but this time I’ll start from the beginning and walk from Minehead. I’m hoping to spend about four days walking on the coastal path. As the walks are linear I’ll be partly reliant on public transport and this limits me quite a lot. I’d like to leave my car at the end of the walk and get the bus back to the beginning so I’m not clock watching towards the end of the day. But, because of bus times, this would mean that on some walks I’d only be able to start walking in the afternoon. So I think four days will be enough of juggling bus timetables and on the other days I’ll do circular walks on Exmoor itself. 

I’ll have to remember to write up my walks each night for my log, as this week will ensure I get one of my three areas of the country covered for my walking group leader’s qualification. It’ll also be a good test for my dodgy knees to see how they hold up to a week’s walking. I’d like to walk a long distance path in the summer so I need to know how physically possible that’s likely to be. 

I’ve researched and printed out my walks for the week, so all I need to do now is book the campsite and pack.  

Duke of Edinburgh Award

Why I don’t want to go camping and walking this weekend.

The Duke of Edinburgh group from school have their camping and walking training expedition this weekend. It’s something I’ve been keen to get involved in ever since I’ve been a teacher but has never happened. As soon as the call went out for staff to help out this weekend I volunteered. Then I didn’t hear anything. I had been looking forward to it and it will be really useful for me to be involved in this as it could be relevant to my future plans (so I wasn’t volunteering just to be altruistic!) …

… then just before Easter I got the chance to do a free post-grad course that is relevant to my teaching and could widen my options later on. Great, except the one day Saturday school clashes with the Duke of Edinburgh weekend. I thought I could still manage both if I went straight to the campsite from college on the Saturday evening. At least I’d still get to spend the night camping and be involved with the walks and orienteering on the Sunday. But now I have so many other things to do, I’m actually hoping everyone has forgotten that I volunteered and I can spend my Sunday catching up on other things instead. Things like marking, doing my homework for web design, reading and planning for my uni assignment, gardening, ironing, cleaning, sorting through paperwork, and so on.

Not as exciting or as much fun, but I’ll feel a lot better to have it done. Especially as I’m planning to go down to Exmoor the following weekend for the half term week. I really need to get my life under control then I can relax and enjoy my free time.

Hathersage Walk

A circular walk from Hathersage

Jean, the mother of a friend from Kent, has just spent the weekend with me. She wanted to see a bit of Manchester, but most of all she wanted to do a walk from Hathersage as she missed out on a trip there with her walking group earlier in the year. We planned to do the walk on Saturday, but changed it to Sunday when we saw the weather report. This turned out to be the right decision as we got a wonderful day, whereas on Saturday it had rained heavily for most of the day.

One of the tasks on my list is to get my walking group leader’s qualification. I would like to start on this fairly soon and to do it I need to log walks I have done in 3 different areas of the country. The Peak District will definitely be my main area as this is my regular stomping ground. I haven’t walked for months though. Firstly because I’ve been incredibly busy and secondly because I had an accident involving a car and a house that put me out of action for a while. So as it was my first time walking seriously in a few months we didn’t choose a particularly strenuous walk.

We started off parking in Hathersage and buying sandwiches (oven bottom muffins) and eccles cakes in the local bakery to have for our lunch. Jean was surprised to see signs on the local pubs and cafes saying ‘muddy boots and dogs welcome’. Muddy boots and dogs are usually not at all welcome in Kent!

Our walk took us across fields to join up with the River Derwent, which we then followed for a while. Our walk book did a slightly bigger loop, but this would have taken us away from the river and it was so nice walking along the bank it would have been a shame not to. We walked through a wood alongside the river with bluebells to one side of the path and wild garlic to the other. This meant lots of stops for photos and to munch on the wild garlic flowers. We crossed at the stepping stones and had fun taking more photos as we jumped across them.

We then headed up away from the river. When we came across a field of cows with a sign telling us we could buy ice cream from these very cows we felt obliged to take the slight detour involved to get to Thorpe Farm, home of Hope Valley ice cream. Well, it would be rude not to wouldn’t it? Especially when they’d gone to all the trouble of putting signs up. So after choosing our cow we strolled down to the farm. The ice cream (or hot chocolate if it’s a cold day) is made on the farm with milk from the cows. What a great example of diversification! After enjoying a very large cone of panacotta, chocolate and coffee ice cream it was with heavy legs we set off again. Really, it seemed to have gone straight to my legs. 

We continued walking to get to the northern most point of our walk which was near Green’s House. A local artist called Lyn Littlewood has a studio here and she had signs up saying she was open. I last did this particular walk 7 years ago with Louise, Jean’s daughter. We called in the gallery then and Lou bought a painting for which we later had to call back to collect with the car. It was only when I went in the gallery this time that I realised she only actually opens her studio one weekend a year. What a coincidence that both times I’ve done the walk it’s been when she’s been open! The garden was also open so after a look around the studio we walked round the garden so I could pinch ideas for my own tiny yard and garden.

When we left Green’s House the walk headed south more or less in a straight line all the way back to Hathersage. When we stopped to look behind us we could see the magnificent Stanage Edge outlined against the horizon. We dropped into a wood and found a well-placed bench by a foot bridge where two small, but speedy streams joined. The whole area was full of bluebells and dappled by the sun. And we had it all to ourselves. We knew we wouldn’t find a better place to have lunch so stopped to eat our oven bottoms.

As we continued our walk we passed more of the halls thought to have belonged to the Eyre family. We’d seen some earlier on in the walk too. This was the family from whom Charlotte Bronte borrowed the name for her most famous character and novel. They owned seven halls – they’d had to buy them for their children. No-one’s exactly sure which seven they are now, but they have a pretty good idea. Although these halls are nice and fit in with the area we did pass one on our right that can only be described as a monstrosity. It was a collection of over manicured gardens, precisely placed over-large Italian style vases, a long (very long) drive with horse head sculptures on the over-large gates … everything stood out like a sore thumb and was a total blot on the landscape. The only thing that could be said to be good about it, is that it is a good example of how money can’t buy taste! 

Rant over …

Towards the end of our walk we called in at Hathersage Church to have a look at Little John’s grave and to have a cup of tea and a slice (ok, a wedge) of victoria sponge. There are quite a few Robin Hood connections in the area, the Little John grave being just one of them. It’s thought feasible (if he existed at all) as in 1784 when the grave was opened a thigh bone that could only have belonged to a man over 7 feet tall was found. 

This was our final stop and after our cake we walked back into Hathersage and to the car. We’d walked just under 7 miles and it had taken us 6.5 hours! This was because of all our stops. We’d had a great day though and felt like we’d done much more than just a walk.