Monday, 29 August 2016

Best summer ever!

What an amazing summer it has been.

Not just in terms of the weather or the things I've done and places I've been - but in the way that I've done them.

I've broken out of an early middle-aged rut which was in serious danger of developing into terminal couch potato syndrome into a new outdoors lifestyle. How has this happened? Well a number of reasons really.

Just moving to Kingsmere was a start. The open air and space made a huge difference. An increasingly positive mental attitude also helped. And I could name any number of other little things. Things like the kids both learning to ride their bikes without stabilisers and their growing independence - all of these things make a huge difference. There are other things too. I haven't been to the gym for years - it's impractical when looking after children full time which in itself is also very exhausting. Now we have the outside gyms on Kingsmere - perfect for me! I can go down there with the kids on our bikes and do a work out en route. When they go back to school I can be down there every day.

We've also been out and about doing all sorts of other things. Stuff that could fill half a dozen blog entries but that in itself is an issue. I'm spending so much time out doing things that I don't have any time to write about them. We've had trips out and about to Bourton-on-the-Water and other such places. I've taken the kids for their first experience of golf - watching me play as appallingly as ever around Kirtlington's 9 hole short course. Not that I've been deterred by that - I am considering becoming a member.

We've also been out exploring public footpaths and bridleways, all round Bicester and Oxford and the list goes on and on. I don't have time to document even a quarter of what we've done.

Day out in Oxford - one of many gorgeous days we've had this summer.

For years I've lamented that I haven't made the most of the summer - I certainly can't say that this year!

And now here we are in the final week, here in The Lake District. This is our second week away this summer having visited Tenby in July.

We got here on Friday and have already had three superb days. On Saturday we visited Cartmel for the races. This track is quite unlike any other I have ever been to. The racing is low fare stuff, you certainly wouldn't see a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner here, but the atmosphere is amazing. It's a tiny track, almost woven into the fabric of the village and when the races are on (only a few days each summer) the tiny village turns into one huge festival. Unlike most courses, everything is inside the track - not just the usual stuff you find at a racetrack but a big fairground, caravans and pitches where anyone can roll up and have a picnic, bring their own booze, have a barbecue, anything goes. It is just one big party. That party spills over into the village which is rammed with people. The village itself is impossibly lovely, with pubs, architecture and some amazing shops, including a cheese shop, microbrewery and other selling Cartmel's famous sticky toffee puddings. The local farming community is also woven into the village and there are fields of sheep encroaching almost right into the centre.

After the races we went into the village and into a pub garden where there was a band on and a barbecue and it was pretty much just about perfect.

Whether you like racing or not, Cartmel is definitely worth a visit - if you don't like racing, well it is only on for around eight days a year between May and August.

After racing Ollie and Jamie decided to play horsey and jockey!

On Sunday we visited Kendal for the afternoon, a lovely town. We finished off with a Sunday dinner at Romney's, a restaurant I found on Trip Advisor and it was absolutely awesome. I had already had the most amazing meal at another restaurant on Friday night and after these meals it struck me more than ever how much better a pub restaurant is if it is independently owned and run by someone who genuinely cares about their business than some formulaic chain run by some charmless managers. These two meals and the people who served them really show up the likes of Hungry Horse, Toby Carvery, Brewers Fayre for the shoddy places they are. It's just little things really - like being personally greeted by and chatted to by the owners, or eating chips that have been hand cut and cooked from real potatoes rather than coming from a catering sized bag of bland frozen chips. I could list more but do I really need to?

This picture doesn't really do it justice - it was huge for a start (that's a large
knife and fork on the right). Everything on this plate tasted amazing! 
It puts the likes of certain "pubs" I could mention in Bicester to shame!

I'd go so far to say that I am going to vow that from now on I am going to avoid ALL chains when eating out unless there's no alternative.

Today? A trip on the Ravenglass and Eskdale steam railway and a walk up into the hills to see a waterfall and the views. Another simply awesome day! We sat in the first open air carriage behind the guard and he was very entertaining. They are all volunteers and do it for the love of it.

Another train passes as we head towards Dalegarth station.

The walk itself was amazing. I understand that the weather is pretty lousy in this part of the world more often than not but we've been blessed with three beautifully sunny and warm days. The views from up in the mountains were against a backdrop of perfectly clear blue skies.

On our way down back from the waterfall - with the mountains in the background.

We have a few days left here (watch this space), but I'm painfully aware that September is looming. I want to bury my head in the sand and believe that this summer will go on forever, but the best I can do is carry forward the new found energy it has given me into the colder months and keep up the good work I have started. I have not felt this physically or mentally fit for years.

Jason