Breathe

Breathe

Remember to breathe. It is after all, the secret of life.”

— Gregory Maguire.


This is the first post on my new blog. It is also the most basic, easiest and quickest way to relax. If you read only one of my blogs, if you remember only one thing, only one word; then let “breathe” be it.

Yes we are breathing all the time without needing to think about it. Yet do you know that for most day to day activities; we are only using about 20% of our lung capacity. Which means any sudden shock or threat may feel a lot worse; simply because your brain and nervous system does not have enough oxygen. Your heart rate increases and things can get worse and worse!

Yet remember to breathe and breathe deep and everything seems to magically seem better. You do not have to be in the safety of your bed or favourite chair; you can do it commuting to work, waiting in a stressful queue, or dealing with others who are using all their breath to berate you.

Personally, I breathe in through my nostrils until they start to tingle and my chest stops filling against my diaphragm; whilst letting thoughts cross my mind. Then as I breathe out through my nose; those same thoughts now seem only to be good and calm.


Yet, I am not medically trained professional; for safe advice, here is a link to the website of the English health service: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/ways-relieve-stress/

The mission of this website is not for me to make money and massage a deluded and vain ego. It is to help others as well as myself. Yes, everything on this website is for me if no one else; simply in order to relax.

I hope you remember everyday in every way; to breathe deep and relax.



Run to relax

Find some decent trainers, a quiet path and time every few days to go for a short run. In just a few weeks, you will be running further and longer; you will be running to relax.

Where it all began for me: The Avenue at Monkton Farleigh, near Bath

I took up running this year as a way to keep fit in the long dark evenings of the English winter. I normally keep fit by riding my bike; yet starting and finishing work in the dark has meant that I would be riding in the dark after work. Although I could obviously use bike lights to show the way through the dark; I sadly feel unsafe cycling on the busy roads near my house. So deciding to taking up running was the only logical option for me.

Dusting off a pair of older trainers; my running life began in early autumn. Thinking of a few quiet places I could run on the drive home from work. I remember that first evening, like the slow kid on a school sports day; I tied my shoes laces and locked the car. Climbing over a stile, I was met with the view of the long avenue in the photograph above.

Conscious that I was out of shape; aware that someone might be watching; expectations of the coming pain; I started walking faster and faster. A fast walk became a jog, a jog became a run and I was there! I laughed as I was doing the seemingly impossible; I laughed at the freedom and the speeds I could reach. Drinking in the air for all its oxygen as I constantly changed my untrained pace. After what seemed forever; I slowed to a walk to recover and catch my breath. I looked around to see the distant I had covered; it could not have been more than a 100 metres!

Yet I had took the first steps and I knew that the only way was forward.


Routes and running shoes

When you first start running; your choice of training routes is the key to success, enjoyment and relaxation. Local running clubs choose to run around the estate where I live; probably because it is flat pavement and well lit with streetlights. However, I prefer to run on grass or muddy trails because I believe this helps cushion the impact on my knees.

I prefer routes far away from roads as well. This to not only avoid the danger of vehicles and their pollution but the stress of worrying about crossing roads or giving way to other pedestrians and obstacles. In addition, to make running for interesting; I always try to run a different route every time. This helps the distance feel shorter as I concentrate on the differing landscape.

If you feel conscious about your appearance; then wait until dusk, when there are a fewer people outside. Or use a map to find remote footpaths or find a friend who is willing to go running with you.


Eucles and the runners of the Sahara are able to run in bare foot; soldiers are trained to run in boots; yet we are lucky to be able to choose well designed comfy running shoes. If you are new to running and not sure if it is for you; then you can find cheaper running shoes for about £20 in shops like Sports Direct. Yet, use Google to research the vast choice of shoes available and choose a pair to fit your budget, style and foot size of course.

I started running with a pair of Adidas that I had already bought as a pair of casual shoes. Although the trainers have a well cushioned sole with tread by Continental rubber; they have a small toe box for my wide feet. They are well made, with quality materials; yet within just a few months of running in them, I can see signs of wear.

My muddy and wet feet in a pair of Adidas Terrex 330; https://www.adidas.co.uk/terrex-trail_running

Discipline, goals and just doing it

So in just a few months I have gone from not being able to run for a bus; to running ten kilometres. I started off with the target of five kilometres. I have found Strava to be very helpful because you can keep a record of your times over chosen distances. In the beginning I would walk more than I could run to recover; my pace was too fast and my arms flapped like a drunk ostrich.

Yet with the discipline of running at least twice a week; my stamina has grown. I can now run five kilometres without needing to stop once to rest. My pace is slowly increasing every time. I have learnt that a gentle swing of the arms helps the legs and body weight on to the next step. I have seen new places in my local area; in my need for new routes.

A favourite spot for me.

I weigh just over 100 kilograms; so I am happy with my new fitness. Yet I am aware of my limitations and know I need to protect my joints as I am past the age of forty. If I run fast one week yet slower the next time; I am not worried, for I know I am exercising the same. My goals are to reduce weight through dieting as my running strength increases. I have a dream that I can one day do a Olympic length triathlon; not for competition or praise but just to know I am at a standard of fitness that will help me enjoy this life.

So go on; get out there too and just do it. Enjoy it, relax and run.

Running into the night

Writing a relaxing blog

To paraphrase Lennon and McCartney: ‘there is nothing you can write; that has not been wrote. There is nothing you can do that cannot be done’So stop worrying and start writing a blog that helps you relax into a peace of the mind. Knowing your limitations It is too easy to focus on your message, […]

Castles in the Sky

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Start Point stroll

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Writing a relaxing blog

To paraphrase Lennon and McCartney: ‘there is nothing you can write; that has not been wrote. There is nothing you can do that cannot be done’
So stop worrying and start writing a blog that helps you relax into a peace of the mind.

A picture from my own favourite blog about walking out under a full moon: Moon walk

Knowing your limitations

San Antoni reservoir, Tremp, Catalunya

It is too easy to focus on your message, your opinion, your point of view; that you forget and struggle to write the simplest words. If you are trying to describe a subject that is too big, technical or obscure; then break the subject into easy sections and save something for the next blog!

My blog focuses on ways to relax as well as rides and walks that I have enjoyed over the years. I know I will never become rich from Amazon associate links or Google ad-sense because my subject is not so interesting to many people. Yet I am rich in a history of memories of beautiful days out in nature; that I can remember when my day is not so relaxing. Just the other day, whilst driving to work in the sub zero temperatures of a English winter; I thought back to one balmy bike ride in the warm autumn sun of Catalunya: Around the Sant Antoni Reservoir, Tremp


Remember how to write

An excerpt from Politics and the English Language by George Orwell

I feel we spend so long writing boring emails at work or abbreviated messages on WhatsApp; that many us have forgotten how easy writing really can be. Do not become weighted down by ponderous prose; use fancy words or worry about placing that comma or semi-colon. Just enjoy writing every word as if you had just learnt it!

In his short essay: Politics and the English Language; George Orwell explains some brilliantly simple rules of writing that I try to adhere to myself. Yet, at the end of the day; just enjoy your writing as much as the subject or passion you are focused on.


Know your audience

Remember your audience and their attention span and enjoy writing like the child you still are!

Alfred Hitchcock once said: “Always make the audience suffer as much as possible”. So, unless your blog is about horror; try to make the audience happier and more interested with every word, sentence and blog.

Some blogs may cover very specific subjects; from science and medicine to easier subjects about hobbies and cooking. So do not get despondent, if you only have one view per day on your blog about a rare disease. If your words help just one person down the line; then your blog has been worth all the time and thought.

Unless you are writing a blog about how to find gold at the end of the rainbow or you can prophesise next weeks lottery numbers; you may not have a large subscriber base. Yet if you can sell tea to China or ice to the Inuit’s; then congratulations, I would like to hear about your tales too. So do not worry about the money, the subscribers or the likes; just relax and write what you want.

What is more, if you are lost for words; then turn off the computer. Do not sit there for hours staring at a blank page. Set yourself a time limit of an hour or even less and just write away. Peace.


Run to relax

Find some decent trainers, a quiet path and time every few days to go for a short run. In just a few weeks, you will be running further and longer; you will be running to relax. I took up running this year as a way to keep fit in the long dark evenings of the […]

Growing flowers to relax

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Turn Blue Monday into True Monday!

The third Monday in January is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year! Let me explain why it is actually the most exciting third Monday in January! “Blue is the colour of the skyIn the mornin’, when we riseIn the mornin’, when we riseThat’s the time, that’s the timeI love the best…” […]

Castles in the Sky

Clouds at sunset in Wiltshire

Back on the route to relax

Hello everyone; it has been a while! I hope you are all well. I have been busy with work and the day to day chores of life. Yet I hope to focus once again on this website and finding and sharing ways to relax. Whilst I prepare other pages and posts; I would like to share this photo of a great cloud formation I spotted on a cold autumn day. It reminded me of a poem by Atticus:

𝑪𝒂𝒔𝒕𝒍𝒆 𝒊𝒏 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝒔𝒌𝒚
Last night I had a dream
I built a castle with my hands
and put you in it.
But you grew wings
and flew away
and my castle crumbled.
Next day
you returned
and sat amongst the ruins
and told me a secret
of why birds must fly
And so I built you a castle in the sky.

What poems and songs enter your mind as you walk along? I hope you are all well and feeling relaxed.
Peace


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Moon walk

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Start Point stroll

Looking back at Start Point lighthouse

Start Point

If you go down to the sea in Devon; past the bright lights of Torquay and the fishing boats of Brixham. Then on past the safety of the River Dart and long Slapton Sands; you will arrive at the prominent headland of Start Point.

Clearly visible from many a mile to seaward; thanks to its brilliant white lighthouse. Necessary for the long line of jagged rocks that reach almost four miles out to sea which give this headland its name. With the name Start deriving from the old Saxon word: ‘Steart’; which means: tail.

Too many mariners have sadly lost their lives on these rocks; working hard to feed the nation. So today I feel lucky as I relax on my landlubbers stroll.



Getting to the Start

Views of Start Bay from the clifftop car park

Getting to Start Point from landward seems just as difficult if you think too much about the windy narrow lanes of Devon. Driving from Totnes, it will still take almost a hour to safely navigate the roads to the small car park. From the main road to Kingswear and Salcombe; look for signs to Start Point. Taking care and remembering every passing place; you will soon arrive at a grassy car park. From here, I could see as far as Exmouth in Lyme Bay to the east and to the west the big blue Atlantic ocean.


Down to the Lighthouse

Walking down the access road to the lighthouse

Like a scene from a classic seafaring yarn; the smooth access road, curved down and around to the lighthouse of Start Point. I was blessed with clear sunny skies and a gentle breeze; birds playfully soared and sang above, the waves lapped the shore and yachts glided gracefully out on the shimmering sea.

Yet the lighthouse is an indication that this place is not always so welcoming to passing mariners. Start Point is a headland; where two tidal streams can meet over a jagged underwater ridge that runs four miles out to sea. In the ‘Great Blizzard’ of 1891; 52 souls lost their lives on these rocks. In another storm; a brave local farmer rescued four men by lowering himself down over the unforgiving rocky cliffs. All sorts of cargo have been lost here too; from tonnes of tea from India to ancient Islamic gold. Luckily, these days, with the invention of radar and GPS; these tragedies are less common.

I stopped for a few minutes and marvelled at the construction of the lighthouse and its brilliant white painted walls and outbuildings lit that shone in the summer sun. It is possible to stay here, at Start Point lighthouse; a great idea anytime of year. To enjoy and gain inspiration from the relaxing sunny summer days or to bear witness to the powerful winter storms. Here is a link to the the official website; to find out more: https://startpointdevon.co.uk/
To see the accommodation availability at the adjoining cottages; look here: https://www.ruralretreats.co.uk/england/devon-holiday-cottages/beacon-cottage_dv066


Seal watching at Pear Tree Point

The coastal path down to Pear Tree Point

Retracing my steps back up the access road for about two hundred metres; I arrived at a signpost for the long distance coastal path. It stated it was 168 miles to Poole going east and a whopping 462 miles around the Cornish Peninsula to Minehead on the Bristol Channel! Turning left and up and over a small bluff; a gentle path led us west and into the sun.

From here we could take in more views of: the lighthouse; the treacherous shore and Blackstone Rock; the seals at Pear Tree Point and the wide open sea. The path dropped gradually down to the sea at the next ridge known as Pear Tree Point. I am no psychologist or medical man, yet it seems to have uninterrupted views stretching to the horizon; frees the mind of barriers both inside and out. With less in my way, I did not feel alone; my mind felt open and more relaxed. All the same, I kept my eyes on any trip hazards and took care whilst climbing down a large rocky step in the path.

Pear Tree Point is a great spot to swim, snorkel and see seals!



Reaching a pebbly beach at the shore line; I soon noticed numerous seals bobbing about in the water. Some seemed to be playing whilst others lazed on the rocks. A couple of kids with wetsuits, flippers and snorkels swam out and the seals met them with a friendly curiosity. I wondered what they thought of us; coming into their watery world in strange clothing?


Mattiscombe Sands

Mattiscombe Sands

It was relaxing watching the seals relax on this warm summers day. They must use tremendous energy chasing after fish in the strong currents; yet here it seemed their best skill was taking it really easy. Although I could sit on the soft grass or smooth pebbles all day; I knew that just around the corner was the sandy beach of Mattiscombe Sands. Taking care on a short but steep path near a recent landslide; I soon arrived at this beautiful beach.

Although this was late summer, this beach was not crowded; probably due to the difficult access. So finding a space to sit down was easy and took off my walking boots. I massaged my feet by rubbing them through the sand and looked out on the sun-kissed sea. A sea so warm; that it was possible to swim in for a short while. I thought I do not need the Caribbean or the Mediterranean when I can relax here in Devon.

As the sun began to set; it was a short climb through a meadow to get back to the car. Do not worry about spending money and time; travelling to far flung places. Stay and relax in merry old England.

“This is the life lads”; relaxing on a sunny sandy beach

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Growing flowers to relax


Letting nature back in

Most of us have gardens, balconies, paths and driveways; which can be filled too easily with concrete or paving slabs that are not natural and relaxing to the eye. Gathering a few flower pots and filling them with colourful flowers can brighten up seemingly drab and boring places in our homes. Which will give us focus nurturing them as well as the reward of seeing their bright blooms.

I should have posted this blog way back in the spring; when it is time to plant seeds for them to bloom throughout the summer. However, now is the time to collect seeds for next year; as most flowers loose their petals and get ready for the first autumn chills. So hopefully I can use this time to also plant the idea of growing flowers to relax in you too; all ready for a new years growth.


Choosing your flower seeds, pots and location

Deciding which flowers to grow was an easy decision for me; a variety of bright colours and plenty of pollen to help the poor bees. A quick google search soon led me to many: variety seed packs with a range of prices. After reading many well written reviews on Amazon; I settled on this pack from prontoseed.co.uk

With twenty four different varieties at a cost of just £10.99; I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the pictures of what would grow with my dedication. From the humble Poppy, the majestic Marigold and the cheerful Candytuft to the forever happy Sunflower; seeds of many bright flowers of varying shapes and sizes to plant and nurture.

I found a few old flower pots from years past in the shed and decided to buy a few more to have enough space to plant all these beautiful flowers. I bought big terracotta coloured plastic pots in DIY stores at a reasonable price and then bought a couple of more expensive pots from garden centres. The packet of wild seeds will normally tell you how much bare earth you need in square metres. So I placed all the pots together until I had approximately the right area.

For soil to fill the pots; I googled top soil and compost. On the Wickes website; I saw a deal for four 25 litre bags of soil for £10. Whilst I was there, I spotted a big 50 litre bag of compost with four months feed; for just £4.

After a long day at work, when the cold March rain had finally relented; I filled the pots with a mixture of the soil and compost. After re reading the planting instructions on the seed packets; I carefully sowed the seeds.


Growing pains

After sowing the seeds; I put growing flowers to the back of mind as I would not expect to see any shoots for at least a week. Everyday, I would come home from work and check to see the pots were well watered; yet the almost constant drizzle was doing this for me. However, glancing out the window one evening; I saw small lumps of soil and compost strewn on the ground around the pots. I realised that this was the work of small birds looking for worms in the bare earth. So finding an old piece of wire netting; I placed it over the pots to prevent them reaching the soil below.

Although I had sowed the seeds in late March; hard overnight frosts are normal in southern England. So every evening I would cover the wire net with old bedsheets and curtains to form a cosy cover for the fragile flower seeds. Then early every morning before work; I would walk out and take off the blankets so they could enjoy the precious hours of early spring daylight.


First growth

As the sun warmed the earth enough to stop the overnight frosts and the constant drizzle stopped like a ethereal fixed tap; the first signs of fragile new life pushed their way up through the soil. Just seeing these young shoots break the surface put a smile on my face and filled me with contentment. Yes I had done a little work to make this happen; yet the shear strength and determination of mother nature to make new life is always something that will amaze me.


Sit back and watch the flowers grow

So as the temperatures increased both day and night through April; I saw rapid growth in the once bare flower pots. I remembered to water the plants everyday before going to work and would come home to find almost miracle like daily growth. The first flowers to appear were the: Forget-me-nots. Yet they were soon followed by the Alyssum and Cornflower.

Through April and May it seemed everyday new flowers would bloom. Every imaginable colour and shade of petal were put on display by these proud plants. So everyday after coming home from work that could be stressful; I would instantly relax when I set eyes on this little oasis of floral delights.

… and when autumn comes

now as I write in late August; I look out on the same garden and see the next season starting to arrive. The apple tree in the corner cannot hold its fruit anymore, the blackberries are full and ripe and a cool wind has returned from the north. Most of the flower heads have now dropped their petals and turned into seed heads. Yet I am not sad as I collect seeds for next years blossoms. I have enjoyed this summer with the help of these floral friends and look forward to seeing them all again next year.

Check out my other pages on how to relax at home: Relaxing at home

Yet like our flowery friends; relax and smile in the winter winds and shine on


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Turn Blue Monday into True Monday!

The third Monday in January is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year! Let me explain why it is actually the most exciting third Monday in January!


With blue skies and a warm blue jacket; how can a cold Monday in January ever be blue?
“Blue is the colour of the sky
In the mornin’, when we rise
In the mornin’, when we rise
That’s the time, that’s the time
I love the best…” –
Colours by Donovan

Stop the rot!

The fallacy that the third Monday in January is the most depressing day in the year; is simply a lie. Conjured up by depraved souls in the travel industry, to make you believe that by booking a package holiday in the upcoming summer; your struggles with the long cold dark nights of January will magically disappear! Yet you, I and common sense know that is complete nonsense! Any day of the year can be depressing for rightful reasons. Yet never ever let anyone or anything make you believe you are sad or wrong! Onwards and upwards; brave souls! Let us make the most of this Monday and everyday after that!


Early to bed, early to rise; makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise!

Blue is the colour of the sky on a bright beautiful morning!

The day before ‘Blue Monday’ is Funday; I mean Sunday! Go for a walk in the fresh air with your nearest and dearest and just relax into nature. Turn off your phone and listen to the birds and the wind in the trees. Make and take a picnic and enjoy the taste off a fresh ham sandwich after you have grown hungry from a bracing walk in a northerly breeze.

Then get home and run a warm bubbly bath and appreciate just being warm and then clean! Put your feet up after a hearty dinner; have a beer or a glass of wine and maybe a dram to ease the muscles and mind. Yet do not stay up too late watching some depressing documentary or tragic serial of a serial killer! Head early to bed for maybe a chapter of a interesting book. Then turn off the lights and wish yourself a goodnight.

So when the alarm goes at some ungodly hour; you jump out of bed full of life and power! Save time and money later in the day; by eating a big breakfast before you leave the house. Queueing in a bakery or café to buy breakfast; is not only expensive and time consuming, but maybe stressful too as you try to choose and chew with strangers in full view! Skip to work or just drive; with a pack lunch that you made the night before and along with the right frame of mind, your day can only be kind!


No work, no money or honey?

The sun shines for us all; go out and meet it!

Have you lost your job or even worse; you are in a job you do not enjoy? Well make this the Monday you change everything! Tell your boss the truth; tell the customers they are not right; as a result you can tell the truth from here on and out!

You are out of money after spending all your hard earned cash on material things? The things that you were told would you make you happy by the made up girl on the advert? Well you cannot grow a straight row of potatoes with a overpriced car; you cannot keep warm in that thin silk shirt and you cannot clean the dirt whilst holding that overpriced phone in your hand.

No; today is the day you run, jump and fly away from the rat race way of thinking! People who think you are crazy are actually in awe; the friends by the whirlpool were just there for the fair weather and the you’ll soon meet the greatest person ever: the true you!

Unlucky in love; lonely, beaten, cheated on and left in the gutter? Or with someone who does not appreciate you? Well today is the day you leave them far behind in the shadows of your mind. Love yourself, appreciate yourself, respect yourself; you are the greatest! Do you think you are walking alone? You are not; surrounded by good thoughts and feelings, you are on top of the world! Appreciate your family and true friends; for they have stood by you through thick and thin!


‘The sweet is never as sweet; without the sour’

Without the dark; there can be no light

There are rightful reasons to feel depressed and low. Bereavement, losing a lover or just too much stress from a unhealthy job. It is easy for me to write here; yet try to see everything in perspective. Remember the good times and remember they are with you in spirit. You cannot turn back the clock; yet try to show them you are making the most of the present day! What is more; grieve and learn about loss in your own sweet time. If friends become impatient with your sadness; then grieve alone until you feel happy again.

As for stress from work or man made things in the present moment? Simply leave them in the present moment and they will soon be the past.

If you find you are struggling and becoming stressed; it is best to simply focus on your breathing. Read my first blogs to perfect the technique: Breathe and Breathing techniques to relax


‘Carpe diem’

A sunny Monday morning in the Spanish Pyrenees

So do not listen to the naysayers, doom mongers or saccharine social media. Make the most of this Monday and everyday. Enjoy it, use it and make the most of it! Learn, work hard, exercise and eat well. Fear nothing but fear itself; and you will climb any: ‘mountains of the mind’.


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Berghaus ‘Expeditor Ridge 2.0’ walking boots review

A long term review of a comfortable but sturdy boot from Berghaus; the Berghaus Expeditor Ridge 2.0

*Read to the end for a update after one more year. My opinion has changed on the quality.

My Berghaus Expeditor Ridge 2.0

A reputation built on miles of family walks

On the edge of the Ordesa Canyon, Spain. Wearing worn out army boots but using the huge Berghaus Trailhead rucksack

My parents and then my siblings and I; have been keen walkers for the last fifty years. From: Sunday walks; to autumn half term breaks in the Lake District; to hikes further afield in the Alps and Pyrenees. Having to find boots for our nine pairs of feet has been a expensive task for our parents over the years. So after wasting money on trying poor quality alternatives; a brand we have always returned to is Berghaus.

To find out more about this classic British brand and help support the UK economy; checkout their own website here: https://www.berghaus.com/berghaus-history.html

With one of their latest designs being called the ‘Expeditor Ridge’; we had little difficulty in deciding what to buy. There is another boot by Berghaus; named: ‘Expeditor Trek’. Which has suede uppers for hiking in warmer and more humid places; yet here in a English winter, the Expeditor Ridge is the right choice.

Hiking in the Spanish Pyrenees

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy the Berghaus Expeditor Ridge 2.0 boots.

Please be aware, that I may earn a small commission from any qualifying purchases.


Design and fit

Note the low back to aid the natural movement of the ankle

The Expeditor boot is lightweight at only 1020 grams per pair; so they certainly wont slow your pace. With an upper made from scuff resistant leather and AQ water resistant lining; you will remain comfortable what ever the weather. I have walked for over six hours in the pouring rains of the Lake District: Wast Water; and for over four hours in the snows of the Pyrenees: Ibon de Gorgutes and Puerto de Glera; yet my toes remained warm and dry throughout

The ankle support is well designed, with your malleoli being enclosed and protected; yet not restricted even with the laces drawn tight. The rear of the ankle support is lower to help the ankle flex as you walk forward. It is possible for small stones to enter the boot here; yet this is rare and are easily removed with the simple lace system.

There is a high level of grip thanks to the OPTI-STUD sole; that has given me the confidence to walk on icy paths and steps.

The neutral grey colours of the boot mean you can wear them anywhere you need; without feeling like a high coloured advert for a sports company. With the smooth smart lines of the boot making them respectable enough to enter any bar or restaurant on a cold winters night.


Sizing

A perfect boot for my imperfect feet!

Like most people my feet are actually different sizes! My right foot is just smaller than a UK size 10 (EU size 44.5) and the left is just under a UK size 9.5 (EU size 44)! Yet due to the need to wear thick thermal socks for winter walking; my boots are a UK size 10.5 (EU size 45).

On top of this, my feet are really wide in relation to their length! So much so; I have split newer shoes where they just could not keep my fat feet from flattening out!

Yet with even thinner socks; these boots do not fill loose or unwieldy like a clown shoe! They truly hold the foot like a hand in a glove by allowing the natural movement of the foot without pressurising certain points like the ankle, heel or the big toe and small toe mounds.

To compare, I made the mistake of once using cheap army surplus boot. The cut was much higher up the leg with long laces. So I once made the mistake of tying the laces around my leg to lose the length; which resulted in blisters on both sides of my legs where the boot rubbed as it flexed against my swelling muscles. Not to mention the various blisters on the heel and toes of my foot as it flopped about in what was apparently the right size for me!

Over a year of wear without tear

Note: the loose stitching that can go no further and the scuffs on the toe

So I have worn these boots almost every Sunday to walk in the English countryside; as well as weeks hiking in France and Spain. Not to mention countless wet and cold days; where I have worn them to work, shops and friends houses. So as I write, my pair of Berghaus Expeditors are now approximately 14 months old and still looking fresh!

The toe box is scuffed from walking through rough terrain; yet has not broken weakened the leather. On the top of the little toe mound, where the toe box meets the sole; the stitching is starting to come away. Yet no water is able to ingress and the boots structure is maintained by the rest of the stitching across the top of the boot.

Yet the heel of the foot is hardly worn, the laces have not even started to fray and the insole is still cushioning my foot from the terrors of ‘terra firma’.

Note the worn tread on the outside of the left boot

I wonder when I will have to buy them again?

Walking through knee deep snow in the Spanish Pyrenees: Ibon de Gorgutes and Puerto de Glera

So to answer the question on your mind? ‘Yes’! I would buy them again too! Yet the paradox of buying such a well made boot such as this one from Berghaus; is that they last so long, you do not know when they need to be replaced! In three, four, five years; will newer models be this good? With new environmental laws and events out of our control; maybe we will be lucky to have this quality in the future? My mother has had a pair of Berghaus boots that have lasted over ten years; so who knows when?

Yet for now, I always feel confident to walk anywhere in these boots and that is all that really matters. From a whole day in the rain, hours in knee deep snow or just rough terrain in high summer; I have always felt happy in these boots. The £95 to £110 price tag is still a lot of money to must; yet compare it to any other boot or shoe and then realise how long they will last and you are on to a winner for many years to come.

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy the Berghaus Expeditor Ridge 2.0 boots.

Please be aware, that I may earn a small commission from any qualifying purchases.

My Berhaus Expeditor Ridge boots keeping me warm an dry on the hills around Wast Water; Cumbria. Wast Water

December 2021 update

The glue has failed completely on the sole of the right boot

Almost a year has passed since this review and sadly the quality of the Berghaus boot has come to light. The glue has given way between the upper fabric of the right toe box where it meets the sole on the inside of the shoe. In addition, the stitching on the outside of right boot has failed; to the extent that water easily enters the boot. This leaves me with a wet foot; on the gentlest of walks without puddles.

So I would no longer recommend these boots. It seems Berghaus have fallen for the same mentality of so many brands; by having their clothing made in the far East by cheap labour. Where the focus is not on quality and longevity but aesthetics and a low price.

When I was barely a teenager; my parents found the money to buy me a pair of walking boots for the many school trips and camps in the cold and wet English countryside. They were too big when I first had them because they knew I would have room to grow into them and last me for many years. I was still wearing them ten years later when I was leaving university. I will now buy from this brand again; after such a sad experience with Berghaus. The name of this brand: Lomer. They are Italian and you can find out for yourself here: http://www.lomer.it/en-UK/

I hope you are all able to enjoy a relaxing walk in warm comfortable boots. Happy walking.

Note the failed stitching

Breathing techniques to relax

Following on from my first post; I thought it would be great to highlight breathing techniques in order to relax. All you need is your lungs and a few moments to focus on your chosen technique. You do not have to be in a relaxing environment. For in a way, it is good to test […]

Breathe

“Remember to breathe. It is after all, the secret of life.” — Gregory Maguire. This is the first post on my new blog. It is also the most basic, easiest and quickest way to relax. If you read only one of my blogs, if you remember only one thing, only one word; then let “breathe” […]

Reading to Ride: Cycling books that have inspired me to keep on riding.

Lockdown and the cold weather make it hard to get outside; yet get inspired with these books and maps that have inspired me to get back on the bike.


Links to my own rides that have come from reading these books.


1. ‘The Great Bicycle Adventure’ and ‘Clear Waters Rising’ by Nicholas Crane

I first encountered Nicholas Crane on a BBC television series about the joy of walking. With the presenter, he was walking part of a long distance route he had previously undertaken. From Cape Finisterre on the Atlantic coast of Spain, to Istanbul in Turkey; he walked almost always in mountain ranges that linked to make one long route. He wrote a book on this epic walk; called: ‘Clear Waters Rising’.

In the television programme he was walking a section through the Spanish Pyrenees. Which introduced our family to the valley of Benasque; where I have enjoyed many holidays and countless bike rides in the picturesque Pyrenees. Please check out my website for my own routes; yet, here is a link to a ride in this wonderous place: Autumn in the Pyrenees (Benasque Valley)

I saw this television programme when I was still a teenager; full of dreams of travelling the world and exploring new places by bike. So after reading ‘Clear Waters Rising’; I noticed the author had written other tales of adventure. One of the most interesting is detailed in the aptly named: ‘Great Bicycle Adventure’.

Along with his cousin, way back in the late eighties; Nicholas rides to the point on the earths surface that is furthest from any sea or ocean. It was a amazing read for a younger me and the philosophy of riding anywhere has stuck with me.

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy the aforementioned books.

Please be aware; I will make a small commission from any qualifying purchases.


2. ‘Cycling home from Siberia’ by Rob Lilwall

On a old fashioned mountain bike called ‘Alanis’; this dude cycled over 35,000 miles from Siberia to London. Riding through a bitter Russian winter that the locals thought was suicide. The sweltering heat of the far East and Australia and cold of Tibet. The peaceful Afghanistan and Iran of 2004 and back across Europe. With the patience of a saint and the humility of a pauper; he describes a journey that few of us could even comprehend. A must for any cycling enthusiasts’ reading list; read and enjoy the world by bike.

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy the aforementioned books.

Please be aware; I will make a small commission from any qualifying purchases.


3. ‘Moods of future joys’ and ‘Thunder and Sunshine’ by Alastair Humphreys

Rob Lilwall did not set out alone from Siberia; he began the ride by joining up with Alastair Humphreys. An amazing chap; who had already cycled through: Europe, the length of Africa and the Americas and crossed the Bering Sea to get to Magadan in eastern Russia!
Yet after braving the cold of a Russian winter; they fell out, but then parted on good terms, to go their separate ways home. Read all about Alastair Humphreys odyssey in these two books:

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy the aforementioned books.

Please be aware; I will make a small commission from any qualifying purchases.


4. ‘Lost Lanes’ by Jack Thurston

A bit closer to home is a series of books by Jack Thurston. Well researched, well written and with stunning photographs; Mr Thurston describes 36 routes in each regional based book of Great Britain. Having grown bored and tired of my regular rides in the local area; this book gave me inspiration to try new routes that are not too far from home. Find the one for your area and try for yourself:

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy the aforementioned books.

Please be aware; I will make a small commission from any qualifying purchases.


Places I have ridden; solely through reading about them first!


5. ‘It’s Not About the Bike’ by Lance Armstrong

After the truth came to light; this guy has been made a pariah for what was a sport wide problem. Yet like when you believed in Father Christmas as a child; cast your mind back to when Lance was everyone’s hero. Brutal attacks on the Tourmalet, epic TT battles with Ullrich and that off-roading on a road bike to avoid poor Beloki.
If you remember Lance Armstrong as a: serial drug abuser, perjurer and bully; you must also remember he made an incredible recovery from testicular cancer in his younger years. His confidence and positive outlook have certainly inspired me to keep cycling. In this book, he describes the early years and his battle with cancer.

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy the aforementioned book.
Please be aware; I will make a small commission from any qualifying purchases.


6. ‘Mountain High: Europe’s 50 Greatest Cycle Climbs’ by Daniel Friebe

This brilliant book was bought for me by my dear mother way back in 2011 for Christmas. Crammed with fifty climbs all over Europe; it is perfect inspiration for a holiday adventure. I personally flew to the Italian Dolomites; to ride the legendary Sella Ronda after reading about this far flung ride.
Before the internet age; every route description comes with a helpful diagram of gradients and directions. Along with a well researched description and stunning full page photos. Put down your Garmin, Strava or mobile phone and pick this book up for a classic route to ride.

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy the aforementioned book.
Please be aware; I will make a small commission from any qualifying purchases.


7. ‘The Man who cycled the World’ by Mark Beaumont

The mild mannered Mark Beaumont is now famous for his supported record breaking achievements. Yet back when he started this ride, he was unknown and sometimes alone on our big wide world. Read this classic account of a round the world ride. With honest descriptions of emotions as well as places and people; this is heart-warming easy read for a cold winter night.

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy the aforementioned book.
Please be aware; I will make a small commission from any qualifying purchases.


8. Ordnance Survey maps

Although not strictly a book that you can read; OS maps have brought me so much joy and inspiration over the years. Being brought up in a age before the internet, smart phones and GPS; knowing the way to go has always come from reading a map. Studying the route of the little pink dashed and dotted lines; that represent bridleways and footpaths that criss cross Great Britain is great fun. Linking up places of interest, knowing where paths go and looking for safer off-road cycling routes causes me to study our world renowned maps for sometimes hours on end! The original pink covered maps cover a wider area; with the orange covered maps giving greater detail of a smaller area. Buy your local map and find the way!

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy Ordnance Survey maps.
Please be aware; I will make a small commission from any qualifying purchases.


9. ‘Big Mile Cycling’ by Sean Conway

A thrilling read from the flame haired ultra distance rider, runner and swimmer: Sean Conway. Describing an attempt to ride across Europe from Portugal to Russia in record time; this ‘thriller’ is hard to put down. In addition he considers the sport of ultra distance cycling as well as remembering fallen friends.

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy the aforementioned book.
Please be aware; I will make a small commission from any qualifying purchases.


10. ‘Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France’ by Max Leonard

No book recommendation list could not be complete without this brilliant book about the ‘Lanterne Rouge’. The name meaning red light in French; was given to the last rider in the Tour de France, to acknowledge his position in the rear. The author recounts tales of: daring, doping, debauchery and other others; to highlight how life is not just about winning. For highlighting human failings that have helped me stay realistic and relaxed in my riding; I recommend this book above all others. ‘Allez, allez et au revoir; salut’!

Here is a link to Amazon; where you can buy the aforementioned book.
Please be aware; I will make a small commission from any qualifying purchases.



Moon walk

A moon walk under the setting sun, to climb the green hills of home; then greet the Full Strawberry Moon of July.








Take a walk into the night to see the light

Inspiration for the moon walk

You do not need to be an astronaut to do a moon walk.

Being happiest and most relaxed whilst out in nature; I came to realise I was missing out on the darker half of nature, when I pulled the curtains one night.

Unexpectedly seeing a full moon, I thought that if I go outside when I should be coming in; I will get to appreciate natures beauty when us diurnal animals are fast asleep.

A full moon rise over bearded barley

The route and plan

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To fully appreciate the moon rise; I chose to walk somewhere close to home but far enough away from civilization and its houses and street lights. Near to me, overlooking the Wiltshire town of Westbury; lies an escarpment of the great Salisbury plain. This place was recommended by a friend who also appreciates nature; so was happy to join me in search for the full moon. If you are scared of the dark; check out a day walk in the same area: Westbury White Horse

Driving up the escarpment to save our legs; we parked near the White Horse, an outline of a horse carved into the chalk hillside. Leaving the cars we walked away from the road and another source of light pollution. Walking for just ten minutes we were soon out in the chalk meadows with the only source of light coming from the setting sun.

Walking into the dark

The Terminator

A view south and west in the ‘Terminator’

This magical time in the day when the sun is setting and the darkness creeps over the land; is known as: ‘The Terminator’. A constantly moving line between night and day; which travels at a 1,000 miles per hour over the equator but slows towards the poles. It is fascinating to think, that with: a supersonic jet you could fly out of the night; or if on the pole, walk back into the day. To find out more and read a better explanation; check out Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terminator_(solar)

Note the concentric circles in the field; visible in the brilliant low light

I find it is so refreshing as well as relaxing to be out walking at this time of day. Birds call out their territories and warn of emerging predators whilst foxes and bats call out good morning; the low angle of the sun brings out every colour of the landscape and the sky can be painted every shade of red. See the photo of above and note the concentric circles in the field that can only be seen in a low light. Is it the remains and earthworks of an earlier settlement?

Corn fields waving goodnight to the sun

The Thunder moon of July

Moon rise!

After comically failing to view the Strawberry Moon of June; due to a thunderstorm blowing in just as the moon was about to rise. I fought off the fatigue of a long day to stay out to see the Thunder moon in July. Yet as we walked out over the meadows; a cool breeze started to grow and threatening clouds sped above us. Yet, we remained positive and kept scanning the eastern horizon for a first glimpse of the rising moon. My friend and I had a light hearted arguement and then wager on exactly where the moon would rise over the horizon. With us both agreeing it would be due east but not agreeing on which way was east! To find out more about the moons calendar and rise and setting time where you are; check out this helpful website: https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/phases/

The twelve moons of the year; from which we get the word month, have their own names. The native American Indian names for the moon are still used now and conjure wonderful images in the minds eye; especially if you too are watching the moon rise like those brave men many moons ago. I have given you the names for the moons of June and July; find out the other ten for yourself or make up your own!

When we had almost felt like giving up and bowing out gracefully to the cold, cloud and dark; a orange smudge appeared on the horizon. Within a minute the smudge had turned into a semi circle of cool light then a hazy soft orb. It climbed in to the sky quickly at first; then slowing as the angle of its orbit changed from my point of view.

Spellbound by the sight, we looked on for a while; then tried to take a few photos with a cheap digital camera and our mobile phones. To take quality photos of the moon; expensive lenses are needed as well as many settings of a well made camera. You can try with your phone or camera; check out this great website for some top tips: https://www.lightstalking.com/how-to-photograph-the-moon/

Yet don’t forget to record with your own eyes, this wonderful feat of nature in our universe.

My humble cameras effort to capture what you should see with your own eyes on a moon walk!

Take a walk into the night to see the light

So find out for yourself where and when the full moon next rises near you. Choose a safe but remote location to avoid light pollution from houses, street lights and cars. Take a lover or just a friend, take warm clothes even it is warm in the evening sun, take a picnic or even a barbecue, maybe take a tipple but definitely take a torch and means of navigation.

Then get out there and enjoy the darker but light side of the world. Feel the power and magnetism of our nearest universal neighbour, breathe the fresh night air, take care in the dark but then relax into the moonlight.

Moon walk

Northwave Origin MTB shoe review

A long term review of the Northwave Origin mountain bike shoe














Durable, comfortable, clever and style from Northwave


The need for a mountain bike shoe

If you are new to cross country mountain biking; you will have come to realise that you need the stiff sole of a road cycling shoe but the ability to walk maybe long distances over unrideable terrain.

The ‘Origin’ shoe by the Italian manufacturer: Northwave; is reasonably priced yet well made and very comfortable. Here I give my thoughts after a year of use.

Intelligent Italian design

Building on the mandatory need for a stiff sole with tread; Northwave have included a couple of features that make this shoe a decent choice.

For a start, they have flared the tongue; to relieve skin pressure on the front of your ankle.

Then there is the simplicity and comfort in using three Velcro straps. Fancy dials or ratchet straps; can and do, fail and break.

Have you ever heard of Velcro suddenly failing?

Look at the Italian design on the tongue!

Continuous comfort

In these shoes I have completed several rides; over 50 miles in distance and eight hours in duration. Not once did these shoes cause me any discomfort. The deep foam inner sole, venting over the toes, a well thought ankle collar and ergonomic padding; let my feet avoid the same suffering of other parts of my body.

Happy ankles at any angle!
I got sole!

Wear but no tear

I have owned these shoes for approximately a year. I have ridden over 1,400 miles in them. I have walked on rough and broken ground on many occasions; once walking up a 33% gradient in the unforgiving Spanish Pyrenees. I have scuffed the soles on countless occasions by not finding the cleat on the first, second and third time! Yet they seem as good as new to me. With double stitching, Velcro straps, a hard tread and care; I think these shoes will last many years.

Tougher shoes than a packhorse!

I would recommend and I will buy again

So these shoes are priced at £85 to £100 on Amazon and other reputable websites. If you are a keen cyclist; I think they are a worthy investment to further enjoy your passion.

I have only ever bought my cycling shoes from Northwave in the past fifteen years; all three pairs of them! The first pair, are about ten years old and worn; yet they are still going strong! After buying the fancy pair pictured above last year; I gave the old ones to my brother who is only just getting into cycling as a great way to keep fit. My other older pair, are Gore-Tex winter boots; which I switched to in the colder six months of the English weather. By having a summer and winter pair of cycling shoes; you stay comfortable whatever the temperature and double the life of your shoes.

The Velcro straps will not fail high on a mountain pass, the padding and sole will keep you comfortable wherever and the Italian styling will give you a fashionable air when you get there!

As for sizing; they fit my wide feet very well, without being tight or loose. Here is a link to the Northwave website; so you can check your size and check their other cool clothing:
https://www.northwave.com/

Here is an Amazon link to buy the current edition of these shoes as well as a similar design:
Please note: “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”


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