Now in its 37th year, the Boxing Day Run in Saltwood attracts over 600 mad people that think running around a three mile hilly bog is a good plan the day after Xmas. Some do it for charity, some do it for a giggle, some do it because they have a point to prove to themselves. This year, after watching this run many times, I decided to do it. On Boxing Day 2011, I stood watching the madness as usual, dreaming that I could shift enough weight to give it a go. Well, after dropping seven stone this year it was definitely worth a shot. I was accompanied on this by some friends from work…
Three weeks of heavy rain made this the wettest and muddiest year for a long time and, having never run on anything other than a treadmill or road, I had no idea what to expect. Mud. Lots of mud. Some poo. Lots of poo actually. And water. A river at one point where there used to be a path.
Despite the conditions, this was the most enjoyable run I have done. The atmosphere was great all the way around the course. The decent run-time I hoped for went right out of the window as I had no tactics whatsoever and failed to realise there would be bottlenecks at every gate and stile. Note to self: next year, go off quick and avoid the herd. However, 37:17 with about 8 minutes of stopping in a mud-bath aint too bad for my first attempt at off-road running.
That aside, this was a personal battle for me – to be able to get myself into a decent enough state to do this run and not actually feel tired at the end is very satisfying. To do this as a Vegan makes it even more pleasing. My Dad said he felt very emotional as I ran past towards the finish line, so you can’t ask for more than that… This marked the end of a great year’s transformation in both my body and soul.
Lucky No: 504
A few weeks ago, I joined a running club… This was my first opportunity to wear the Vegan Runners vest! They are Vegan and they run. Perfect.
Even dogs can’t resist watching…
Me, Stano, Sebmeister and Cat – a mixture of nervous tension and the desire to go back to bed.
And we were off…
Dad, waiting expectantly at the finish…
Far less muddy than expected, mainly due to the torrents of water that helped clean me on the way around.
Cat and Sebmeister approaching the finish, after (at least) 3 falls, a shoe-retrieval and a toilet break.
Four very proud people… and no broken legs!
Time to go shower and eat.
Ok, I may have been a bit muddier than previously mentioned.
More stuff for the running scrapbook.
Looking forward to next year already!
(Photos by my Dad, Wife and Me)
For the first time in 45 years, Mum didn’t cook a Xmas dinner on the 25th. Instead, the parents came to ours and ate Vegan. Here is a snapshot of the day… It has all the necessary stuff… family, presents, food and a cat.
So this is Christmas | And what have you done? | Another year over | And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas | I hope you have fun | The near and the dear one | The old and the young
The ‘under tree’ collection this year features a Bride, Groom and Cat.
Not to be left out, the boy had a play, then slept most of the day.
Vegan Roast – the best kind.
Present opening on the new sofa.
Snoozy time in the new arm chairs.
Sneaky bit of The Polar Express…
A science theme to my book presents this year..
Amazingly cool cufflinks!
The bag says it all…
And so does the shirt…
The Big Bang Theory made an appearance too…
And a funky new wallet from Dynomighty…
The Olympic Torch (finally) hit Folkestone today, and right by the office, which was handy. Here are some snaps…
With events of this kind come the sellers of crap…
The Police Bikers did high fives with the spectators. Dangerous if you ask me.
Folkestone needs more green tights.
Unfortunately I can’t work out who this guy is. The BBC site has a list of torch-bearers but, well, I can’t see him. I hope he was genuinely supposed to be there.
Some people loved it. Some hated it. Whatever your feelings, it was a one-off for my lifetime.. probably. All things considered, it was a pleasant distraction from work for a little while.
The people of Maidstone had the chance to show their support for the county town’s troops at this year’s Civic and Freedom Parade on Sunday, May 22nd. Many of the sappers on parade will have seen action in Afghanistan. The parade marks the start of a new Mayor’s year and the troops exercised their right as Freemen of the Borough to march with bayonets fixed, colours flying and drums beating. They were led by the Brigade of Gurkhas Band. In total 150 British Soldiers and Gurkhas took part, made up from 20 Field Squadron, 50 HQ and Support Squadron, 70 Gurkha Field Support Squadron, and the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers Workshop attached to 36 Engineer Regiment.
After the parade had passed the Town Hall, dignitaries, as well as Members of Maidstone Borough Council formed a procession and made their way from the Town Hall to All Saints Church; the Mayor lead the procession in a horse-drawn landau carriage.
If you like flowers, gardens and a gentle stroll, I recommend Hole Park at this time of year. The following is taken from their website, which sums the place up much better than I can…
Tucked away in the Weald of Kent, between the pretty village of Rolvenden and the charming town of Cranbrook, lies Hole Park Gardens which has to be one of the best gardens in Kent. An attractively laid out, privately owned 15 acre garden, Hole Park is often referred to as a hidden gem, and there are plenty of treasures to be found within its walls and hedges.Hole Park has been owned by the Barham family for the past four generations and is set in over 200 acres of superb classic parkland. The colourful gardens enjoy far reaching views over the hills, woods and fields of the picturesque Kentish Weald. They are a skilful mix of formal design and more naturalised planting, giving colour throughout the seasons.
The house, which is a private family home and therefore not open, was largely reconstructed in 1959 and is now little more than a quarter of its previous size. It resembles the house as it used to be before additions in the Elizabethan style were built in 1830.
Unsurprisingly, I took a few photos… so enjoy.
Go and visit. You know it makes sense.
Cheers to the Mother-in-law to be for buying tickets for my Dad to tour White Hart Lane… of course, he needed an aide to help him get there on the train 🙂
Well worth a visit. COYS!
The weather was grim when we visited Offham, which probably goes someway to explaining why it has taken me four months to actually post the photos from this walk. It was wet, gloomy and cold. The walk was unspectacular in so many ways but I resolved to blog the whole book so here goes…
The walk itself is fairly flat and at 4.5 miles isn’t the longest. There are *some* nice bits, though they are few and far between. Be warned, the book is not very clear about the beginning, which probably explains why we walked at least half a mile in the wrong direction.
We also managed to get lost near the end. So, there we are. Not the nicest of walks, but that’s life.
Hmmmm. So much for loads of BBQs this year. It is September and I have only managed two. Such is life. The missus and I popped down to see my folks. Photos attached below. It is clear I will never grow weary of the Hipstamatic app.
Maybe we will squeeze another one in before the weather turns for good and it is dark until March.
It isn’t every day you get to see a bit of secret Britain… especially Cold War Britain. In the grounds of Bracher’s Solicitors in Maidstone there is just such a piece of the hidden Britain – a bunker designed for the monitoring of nuclear explosions and fall-out.
Medwaylines (a website well worth visiting for interesting historical information in Kent) give the following account:
The Royal Observer Corps (ROC) was a civil defence organisation operating in the United Kingdom between 29 October 1925 and 31 December 1995.
In 1925, following a Defence Committee initiative undertaken the previous year, the formation of an RAF command concerning the Air Defence of Great Britain led to the provision of a Raid Reporting System, itself delegated to a sub-committee consisting of representatives from the Air Ministry, Home Office and the General Post Office. This Raid Reporting System was to provide for the visual detection, identification, tracking and reporting of aircraft over Great Britain, and was eventually to become known as the Observer Corps. The Observer Corps was subsequently awarded the title Royal by His Majesty King George VI in April 1941, in recognition of service carried out by Observer Corps personnel during the Battle of Britain.
With the advent of the Cold War, the ROC continued in its primary role of aircraft recognition and reporting, and in 1955 was allocated the additional task of detecting and reporting nuclear explosions and associated fall-out. Between 1958 and 1968 a countrywide building programme resulted in a network of 1,563 underground monitoring posts being built thoughout Britain. It would be necessary for control centres and ROC posts to be occupied for a period of between seven and twenty one days following any nuclear event.
By 1965, thanks to advances in (radar) technology, most roles and responsibilities relating to aircraft had been withdrawn and the ROC assumed the role of fieldforce for the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation, (UKWMO) a role which the ROC continued until the early 1990s and the cessation of the Cold War.
The bunker that forms the study of this blog article was opened in 1960 and provided an air conditioned headquarters to monitor and coordinate information from numerous monitoring stations regarding nuclear fall-out, assimilate all the readings and projections, and pass this onto the relevant Civil Defence authorities.
The bunker is split across three levels. The entrance is above ground, which leads down into a partly submerged level. The lower level is completely underground, providing many feet of protection from potential nuclear fallout. Much of the machinery remains in tact today, though the site is now primarily used as storage – there is evidence that this nuclear-proof filing cabinet is being made more visitor friendly by the removal of the solicitor’s files and IT equipment… which is a very good move in my opinion.
We were given a tour of the building by Group Captain Bryan McCarthy of the Royal Obeserver Corp. He was stationed at the bunker for many years and he provided an entertaining (and detail-packed) run down of how the bunker operated. Whilst much of the ‘day to day’ equipment is no longer there, he managed to describe the set up so precisely that it was easy to imagine what a hive of activity this place was when operational.
Two air locks were in place – one at the main entrance and one at the rear.
British Telecom provided the telephone communications on site and had personnel stationed there all the time. Radio communications were also handled by a dedicated communications team, so the bunker was in constant contact with the outside world.
The next photo shows the hub of the bunker. During it’s operational phase readings from other stations were received and collated here on charts and maps there were constantly updated to show potential fall out zones etc. The pertinent information required included readings on the height at which a bomb detonated, wind speed and wind direction – these were all used to calculate the potential damage. This information could then be used in the even of a detonation to warn and re-route if necessary, incoming allied planes.
Calculations were made regarding the exposure times that were considered to be safe. So, for example, if a bomb detonated near Canterbury charts would be created on when, and for how long, survivors could go out and be exposed to the radiation without harm.
If you have a passing interest in anything historical, the bunker is well worth checking out. To book and find out more information on availability, check out the Maidstone Museum website.
It has been over a year since we last visited Wingham Wildlife Park, but I am pleased to see that the entry price is still the same! It costs just £8.50 for adults which I think is very good value for the amount of animals and birds that are on view. And I do mean on view – unlike other places where the animal can be a small dot on the horizon, you can get up close and personal with most of the inhabitants. Please note that this article does not include any photos of the Prairie Dogs – I am saving those for an article on their own.
I am pleased to have a guest photographer on this blog article. The Missus took some great shots but, as ever, left the editing to me. In fact, it is a 50-50 split – fifteen are mine and fifteen are hers.
I started my previous article on Wingham with a picture of the Black Headed Caique, so it seems fitting to do so again as the cute little fella is still there… and making as much noise as ever. Alas, depsite the sign that clearly says ‘Do Not Pick Up This Bird’, the Chav visitor seems compelled to do so. This time it was the (potential) father of a child called Shanice. Unfortunately Chavs are allowed into Wingham, but maybe in the future they will impose a ban.
The Otters are always good value – especially when it is getting near feeding time.
The Meerkats were their usual playful and cute selves – they seem more popular than ever since the ‘Compare the Meerkat’ campaign. I somehow doubt that any money goes towards Meerkat conservation from that ad campaign, but I like to pretend it does.
If you want action don’t get your hopes up at the Terrapins. They do very little, apart from look quite interesting.
For uber cuteness, look no further than the Marmosets. They are so into visitors! I had a nice game of peek a boo with a little one behind one of the uprights of the enclosure. It made me want to own some, though it has to be said, they stink of pee quite badly.
This Barbary Macaque looked quite mournful.
The Reptile and Tropical houses are still pretty good – a nice variety of things to see.
I rather like Kookaburras.
I think the Racoons are a fairly recent addition, at least I don’t recall seeing them last time but I may well have just walked past without noticing. I find that can happen especially if there is a photo opportunity that catches my eye.
I took the fisheye lens in the hope of catching some odd animal action. I have never tried fisheye chicken and am quite pleased with how it came out.
I was pleased to see that the lake section at the top of the park has quite a few of the more exotic water birds now – and it is always good to see an East African Crowned Crane.
The Ring Tailed Lemur enclosure allows the visitor to walk through and get nice and close to the animals.
Awwwww baby Peacock.
I concluded my previous article with the following:
Wingham Wildlife Park is great. There are loads of facilities to eat and drink with a full menu on offer, at least during the summer months. There are plenty of species to see – and all are listed on their site. The price is good too. At the time of writing the entrance fee for adults is £8.50, which is considerably lower than somewhere like Howletts, which is just up the road. Whilst there may be more exotic speacies on offer there, on the whole you actually see more at Wingham and I certainly felt more engaged there as you are so close to the animals.
I see no reason to conclude this article any other way. Go visit!