We Did It!

After a week of storms and a dismal journey through torrential rain on Good Friday the weather prospects for our climb were pretty dire. The forecast had changed daily but never to anything promising. So it was with some trepidation that I opened the curtains of our room in Rydal, near Lake Windermere, on Saturday morning, and couldn’t have been more surprised to see blue sky and sunshine!

Our plan was to climb Pike O’ Blisco, a nearby Lakeland Fell, to raise money for the animal refuge Wildlives (more details about our campaign here). A short drive to Old Dungeon Ghyll and we were at the start of our climb, with our goal in sight.

At 705m tall, Pike O’ Blisco is a pretty energetic hike. We began by following the road, a steep but pleasant stroll.

Before long, however, we left the road and started to ascend the lower slopes. As these got steeper the path became like a staircase – a seemingly endless one!

  

    

The Lakeland Fells are generally quite gentle in climbing terms, and there’s not a huge amount of technicality involved. The main things to remember are to take a few provisions, especially water, as even on a cooler day you sweat a lot and could easily become dehydrated, and – crucially – be sure to wear the right footwear. If you only buy one piece of technical outdoor clothing make it a pair of walking boots, or at least boots with a good grip. We witnessed the perils of inappropriate footwear the next day when we climbed another fell called Red Screes and passed someone who was completely stuck and unable to get down – a distressing situation to be in! You should also, if you’re being really sensible, take an OS map and a compass (we had them although the day was so clear we didn’t actually use them).

By now, to our great amazement, the weather was warm, and we were shedding layers at every stop. But all the exertion was certainly rewarded by some incredible views across the Langdale valley.

As we neared the top the terrain became more rocky and some scrambling was called for – not easy with quivering legs from the effort of an hour of walking upstairs! However, for an 11 year old this part of the day was simply an adventure playground writ large. Look at her go!

  

    

It took me a little while longer to scramble my way to the top but I made it! We were all triumphant, although if this photo’s anything to go by, too weary to actually look it.

  

We chose Pike O’ Blisco for our climb because it’s perfect for novice climbers – not too difficult, but varied and demanding enough to make it a challenge. I think it’s wonderful how almost every part of this rugged landscape – not just the fells, but also the valleys, waterfalls, tarns, crags and becks – have acquired names, presumably over the centuries and passed down by people who needed them to navigate the terrain. If you look at the OS map this area is a mass of intriguing, romantic, poetic names – Crinkle Crags, Thunacar Knott, Adam-a-Cove, Hell Gill Pike, Great Horse Crag. Just like the dry stone walls that weave everywhere, they’re like an echo of past inhabitants that help give the landscape its unique character.

Of course, getting to the top of a mountain is only half the story. The descent can be the most difficult part; you’re already tired, and it’s an effort to stop your weight from propelling you wildly down the slope. It also doesn’t help if, like me, you’re cursed with poor balance! With a sense that almost every step could end in calamity I found the mental effort of just trying to stay upright exhausting. Whereas my two climbing buddies, each of whom has a hobby where a key feature is balance, (windsurfing and roller skating respectively), practically ran down the mountain. I’d never thought before about balance as a skill that can be cultivated – there’s not much call for it in knitting!

  

So, It took longer and was harder (and hotter!) than expected but by mid-afternoon we’d completed our Climb for Chequers challenge. Here we are enjoying another essential part of any climb – refreshments in the pub at the end. This is the Hiker’s Bar at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, the start and end of many a good adventure. Thanks so much to everyone who sponsored us!

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Climb for Chequers

If you’ve visited my blog previously then you may remember the injured owl we rescued last year.

P1000794Chequers, as we named him, was nursed back to health by Wildlives, a fantastic wildlife refuge based in Thorrington in Essex. Run from owner Rosie’s home and staffed by volunteers, this centre cares for wild animals that are injured as a direct result of their encounters with our world. Every year hundreds of animals are brought in by members of the public, the RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations, to be looked after until they’re well enough to be released, but despite the demand for its services Wildlives receives no external funding and its only income is from donations, topped up when needed from owner Rosie’s savings.

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It’s long been our plan to raise some money for Wildlives to support their incredible efforts, and this weekend we’re finally doing so! Tomorrow we head to the Lake District and on Saturday (hopefully – weather permitting!) we’ll be doing a sponsored mountain-climb. Being complete amateurs in this field (there’s not much scope for mountaineering when you live in Essex!) we’ve chosen to climb Pike O’Blisco, a peak that’s reputably not too difficult, but still has an element of challenge. And unlike many English fells it has the distinction of looking like a proper mountain.

pikeoblisco_bigWe’ve really enjoyed preparing for this event, becoming regulars in the outdoor store as we stocked up on technical layers and sensible footwear. But although we’re (hopefully) prepared for anything we’re nevertheless hoping for some good Spring weather – not the snow and gales of the previous week! Whatever nature throws at us it’s all in a good cause, and over £250 has already been donated to our fundraising page on Just Giving – something to sustain us if the going gets tough!

 

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Coming together

I’m still ploughing on with the huge editorial project I’ve been working on since last October (although the end is nigh!) but I’ve managed to squeeze in a small amount of knitting. Last weekend I finished the neckband on my Victory sweater.
Image I still have the sleeves to do. They shouldn’t take too long to knit, but because I’ve adjusted the body significantly I first need to rewrite the pattern. Unfortunately these are set-in sleeves, and I must admit I find the whole science of sleeve caps and ‘armsyce’ quite befuddling. However, there are numerous indepth tutorials online, including this incredible feature-length one from Knitty, in which I intend to immerse myself before knitting a dummy sleeve cap, just to make sure it fits!

Last weekend, numerous lucky knitters in the UK attended Edinburgh Yarn Fest, an amazing event by all accounts, but those of us who couldn’t go contented ourselves with #bedinburghyarnfest! We stayed home, we wore pyjamas, we made tea and we shared our knitting progress on twitter and instagram. It was great fun! I shall definitely be attending next year – unless I’m able to make it up to Scotland of course.

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Photo pick: Feb 2015

Grayson HouseLast weekend I drove a few miles north to take a look at an unusual art project that’s currently under construction. Called A House For Essex, this chapel-like building was designed by artist Grayson Perry in collaboration with architecture practice FAT. As regular visitors to this blog will know, I’m a fan of the inimitable Grayson, and even named some gloves I designed in his honour! I would love to see inside the finished house when, as planned, it’s filled with the artist’s tapestries and pots, plus decorative timberwork and mosaic floors, along with curious features like a bath that offers ‘an unusual location from which to observe visitors in the hallway.’ It will eventually open to the public, but as a holiday let.

It’s situated at the end of a lane overlooking the River Stour, on the outskirts of a tiny village called Wrabness in North Essex. Wrabness on a grey February day is about as cheerful as it sounds, but I’m sure when there are leaves on the trees and the sun shines on that water it’s all very different.

Essex provides not just the location for the house but also the artistic concept. All the artworks both inside and out are inspired by ‘the history and psyche of Essex’,  expressed through the life of a fictional character called Julie, the supposed previous occupant. Clues about Julie’s life and times are spread throughout the house, allowing visitors to deduce details of her life story. Here are a few more photos of the outside:

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DSC_0183 DSC_0179I think there’s something charming and niave (in the best artistic sense) about this piece of contemporary architecture, and I also like the way it uses the colours of the surrounding landscape to tone in whilst at the same time presenting something striking that stops you in your tracks. The tiles do slightly remind me of a Victorian toilet (!), but that aside I think the house is a whimsical gem and can’t wait to see photos of the inside.

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Win Your Own Yarn!

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Just wanted to let you know about an exciting competition with which I’m involved. Have you ever dreamed of knitting something in a very particular shade – the rich purple of a Quality Street wrapper, the vivid orange of the chicken tikka masala at your local tandoori, the pastel blue of Aunt Mabel’s Hillman Imp – but just not been able to find a yarn to match it? Well, those generous folks at Stylecraft Yarns are offering you the chance to create your very own shade of Stylecraft Special DK. Simply send in your suggestion by post or by email, providing an example of the colour, and your shade could be on the production line in time for launch at the Knitting & Stitching Show this autumn!

This seems like a great idea, and what’s particularly exciting for me is that, along with eminent bloggers Lucy from Attic 24 and Phil from The Twisted Yarn, I’ve been asked to be one of the judges! The three of us will be perusing all the entries and working with the Stylecraft team to choose a shortlist of ten, which will then be put to the public vote. Once the winner is chosen, Stylecraft will be able to replicate the exact shade using a state-of-the-art gadget called a Capsure – I’m not quite sure what it is, but in a knitter’s version of alchemy it seems it can take any ordinary object and reproduce its colour, which can then become a brand new shade of yarn – wow!

As well as creating their own unique shade, the winner will receive 100 balls of yarn, plus VIP entry to the Knitting & Stitching Show. The runners up will each get a fabulous goody bag. Details for where to send your entries can all be found here. I can’t wait to see what fabulous suggestions you come up with!

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Progress!

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I’ve caught up! My first eight #lksecretgarden knitalong squares are complete. In their different ways they’ve all been interesting to knit, particularly the knotted cable square (top left and bottom right) which involved using two cable needles at the same time. The twisted pyramid square (the other purple one) also presented some challenges with lots of twisted stitches. The next two squares, which went on sale yesterday, look comparatively easy, so I’m hoping progress will be quicker from now on.

 

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Talking Shop

I spent a few days this last week working at the Craft, Hobby & Stitch trade show at the Birmingham NEC. Every February the great and the good from the crafting world gather together at this show to exhibit their wares and talk business, although in a far less businessy way than in many other walks of life! It’s a friendly, inspiring show. The two hours-plus in the van on the way up afforded some enjoyable knitting time.

IMG_1257-1 Just as well, because once we arrived it was all hands on deck. A jumble of tables and bubble wrap needed to be transformed into something approaching a stand.

IMG_1258-0Much ripping of plastic and careful placement of Velcro ensued, and within three hours we had this! IMG_1276-0Everyone works really hard at these shows, and there were some amazing stands. I didn’t take many photos as I was busy talking to retailers about Yarn Shop Day, but to give you a flavour this is the wonderful sheep, courtesy of British yarn brand Woolyknit, who greeted visitors at the entrance.IMG_1282-1

And here’s her sister on the Woolyknit stand, surrounded by much UK produced loveliness.IMG_1288-1From the other side of the pond came yarns from Creative World of Crafts, including Lily Sugar n’ Cream, Bernat and Caron, drawing the crowds with their amazing Medieval display, all 100% knitted (sorry for the dodgy pic).

tent There were also lovely stands from the likes of Erika Knight, Intercontinental Yarns, The Fibre Company and West Yorkshire Spinners, all of whom were new to the show. It was great to see their wares, but my main reason for being there was to talk to visiting retailers about Yarn Shop Day. Our annual celebration of bricks-and-mortar stores takes place on 2nd May this year, and we have over 100 shops on board already. There’s still plenty of time to sign up, so if you’re in the UK and you’re visiting a local yarn shop any time soon why not ask them if they’re taking part? And if they’d like some more information, just direct them our way!

Yarn Shop Day 2015

 

 

 

 

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