Brief Encounter with Garway Hill   12 comments

A local walk to fill a gap in an otherwise pretty soggy few days. TBF’s sister was staying with us and TJS was staying overnight at a friends near Garway Hill after a party. What better than to combine a taxi ride to pick him up with a local walk between the showers.

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There were stormy clouds on the horizon and they were heading straight for us.

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Lets just say we finished the walk rather more briskly than we wanted to!

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We made it back to the car before the rain but on the drive home the heavens opened and biblical rain fell. There were small-scale local floods. Just as well we didn’t dither on the summit

Posted August 1, 2017 by surfnslide in Local Walks, Walking

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Post Work Wander   10 comments

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I’m quite taken with the idea of heading our for a walk late Friday after tea. Me and TJS had a go last week but the weather let us down and we copped the only cloudy and damp spell of the weekend. Tonight was much better with a beautiful warm summers evening up on Ysgyryd Fawr. I’ve blogged this walk many times so just I’ll just let the photos do the talking this time

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Marvellous. We even had a cheeky beer on the top 🙂

Posted July 14, 2017 by surfnslide in Black Mountains, Wales, Walking

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Back with a Splash   14 comments

The enforced break is over and I’m back in action. Knee op went well and after a couple of weeks R&R I’m starting to head outdoors once more. A bike ride around the Forest of Dean and a short walk with TJS on a gloomy Friday evening proved I’m fit and able.

Time for some outdoor fun but there is more to life than boots and bikes. A long standing plan to kayak the river Wye having done many trips on French rivers. Having two cars makes this much easier and the Wye is very much the local. A route from Kerne Bridge via Symonds Yat and Monmouth to Redbrook was the plan

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Its a fine a leisurely way to spend a day. A little too leisurely as it turns out

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We passed by Welsh Bicknor YH and I rekindled memories of a stay there in my teens for a school history trip. We had to walk over the bridge in the photo below with all our stuff including food (which from memory consisted of many tins of beans). I was surprised to see the bridge in a very dangerous state and clearly closed. Its a very long walk in to the hostel at the moment

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A little further on near Yat Rock we pulled up for lunch (and a Funster snooze)

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Back on the river it began to dawn on me that it was quite a long way between Kerne Bridge and Redbrook. A very long way.

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I’ve become used to the relatively swift flow of rivers like the Tarn and the Dordogne in France. The Wye is like a lake in comparison so rather than letting the river do the work, we had to paddle pretty much the whole way

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Past the tourist haven of Symonds Yat and a short portage around the rapids. We should have just gone down on the water as they aren’t especially tough – a good deal easier than dragging a 3 person kayak 300 yards over slippery rocks

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Onwards through the Wye gorge and under the bouncy bridge at the Biblins campsite

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Its a very pretty stretch and very quiet. By this time however we were all feeling that we’d had enough of the river!

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The stretch to Monmouth seemed to take an eternity but at least the crowds had gathered to cheer us through – well they might have been there for the rowing regatta but I’ll take whatever I can get

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I was excited to pass under the bridge at Monmouth – seeing as I drive over a couple of times most days on my way to and from work.

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Its a mightily impressive structure

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At last we were on the home straight (after an involuntary dip trying to push the kayak over a shallow section)

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Finally the bridge at Redbrook came into view and we were done

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The pub on the opposite bank looked mighty tempting for a beer until I realised it was after 6pm and we’d been paddling for over 6 hours! Time to go home for tea 🙂

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A long day, probably too long – lesson learned – but great fun and a surprisingly tough workout that my arms are only just recovering from.

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Turns out it was almost 16 miles – hell of long way to paddle but easy on the knees at least

Wild Camping – The Next Generation   17 comments

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The delights of Wild Camping are not always obvious to the younger members of the family. We’ve been hatching a plan for a couple of years to get more of the kids involved after Mark took A out on a couple of trips and me, TJS, the Hardman and his eldest did the same last year

To coordinate a weekend is easier said than done so we just picked a date and agreed to decide closer to the time to see if was a goer.

Right on cue the forecast was really poor. I almost bailed out, not fancying spending a weekend in the rain with grumpy kids. However it was said kids who convinced me I was the grumpy one and we decided to give it a go. We had planned a trip to upper Eskdale but the weather looked truly awful so we plumped on a less ambitious route into the Howgills.

The Saturday morning was as horrid as the forecast, several hours of ceaseless rain had us lounging about Mark’s place while he filled us up with a nourishing soup. We headed out anyway and as luck would have it got delayed by a traffic jam on the M6 long enough for the rain to have pretty much stopped by the time we parked up. All packed and ready to go we headed for the hills

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The original plan had been to walk up Carlingill Beck. Its a superb valley and has possible camp spots at the far end. The wet weather had the streams in spate though and crossing them would have been a challenge. We changed tack and headed up and around the head of Carlingill by going over Linghaw and picking up an interesting looking traversing path high above the waterfalls at the head of the valley

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The horses kept us company clearly waiting for us to disappear so they could get up to mischief, more of this later

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Considering how poor the forecast had been the weather wasn’t all that bad. It had stopped raining and whilst it was windy, the cloud lifted a bit and we had views of a sort

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We easily picked up the high level traversing path and what a find (thanks to Mark). Even in gloomy weather it was a real delight, easy, yet elevated high above the deep cleft of Carlingill Beck

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We even had a few glimpses of sunshine on the valley below

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The path cut across the top of the dramatic Black Force

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The kids seemed in great spirits and were enjoying the challenge of the walk into the wilds

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There were even steam crossings to delight and amuse for young and old alike

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It was just a short walk from there to Blakethwaite Bottom, our intended pitch, having read favourable reviews online as a great spot. It was seriously windy and exposed but we found a great spot on the far side sheltered enough to make sitting outside the tents quite pleasent.

The Hardman had a new tent to try out, an enormous 3 -person Vango affair, in a discrete scarlet colour

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I lent Mark my large Lightwave 3 person tent for him and two of his dangerous offspring. He was very taken with it. So taken I’ve lent it to him long term as his kids are really taking to the wild camping and this tent really hits that 3 person spot. I don’t have much use for it any more (TJS prefers to sleep solo when there’s the three of us – I snore apparently as well) and I’d much rather see it in use than under my bed gathering dust

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We had a really enjoyable time cooking tea, messing about and having a laugh. The kids seemed to really enjoy themselves and being outdoors with a trio of middle-aged grey hikers

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We even had some brief sunny spells and decided to take an evening walk up Uldale Head

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It was brutally steep and when crested the top, amazingly windy.

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We had a few fleeting views but the real fun was had from surfing in the wind. The smiles on the faces below tell how much we all enjoyed being kids. We also discovered that turning cagoules inside out made a fairly effective parachute to drag us around the summit. I forgot to take photos alas

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It had been cracking day, all the better for the fact we hadn’t expected to get much out of it other than a soaking and long periods sat in the tent. In the event we only went under canvas when it was time for bed after an improvised game of Petanques with rocks, many brews of tea and lots of biscuits

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We woke the next morning with company. A small gathering of wild horses and ponies on our doorstep. A bacon breakfast got the day off to a grand start

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Soon there was celebrity death-match between some cows and the horses. The cows won and spent an age just stood close by looking at us curiously, nudging each other out the way for a closer look. Very comical. I’ve had a few run ins with cows recently but these were harmless if a little disconcerting but soon dispersed with a little encouragement

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We didn’t want to hang around as the forecast was for strengthening winds and rain in the afternoon. We packed up and headed back down but were hit by the only bad weather of the weekend. We walked straight into a cold deluge that had us all soaked within seconds and for a short period it was deeply unpleasent. It stopped soon enough though and apart from a few short sprinkles we stayed dry the rest of the day

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We dropped back down to Carlingill Beck by the side of Black Force. An impressive ravine and extremely steep so we took our time. Again I think the kids enjoyed the challenge and the rain hadn’t doused their spirits in any way

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We had a brief lunch by the river and embraced the challenge of a couple of river crossings

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The walk along Carlingill Beck is superb and provided a fitting finish to what was a superb if short trip out to the wilds

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I wasn’t sure how the kids would take to a wild camp in less than perfect conditions but they were all superb company. My abiding memory of the weekend was smiles and laughter. They took everything in their stride and were a pleasure to be with from start to finish. For me, there was a real sense of pride that they enjoyed it far more than I hoped and seemed to share in the simple pleasures of just being out in the mountains. Their youthful enthusiasm was infectious and I hope we can do this on a much more regular basis. Cracking stuff. If only those pesky ponies I mentioned hadn’t sheltered by my car and barged into it, denting the front wing, the little pests. Still that’s why we have insurance I guess

 

That brings my blog back up to date. I’m out of action for a few weeks having just had some minor surgery on my left knee. All went well and healing nicely so blog service will be resumed in a couple of weeks

Something a bit different   13 comments

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From our home the obvious direction for walks is westwards towards the Black Mountains, Brecon Beacons and the rest of Wales. A couple of weekends back TJF had a dance event in Gloucester that lasted most of the day so me and TBF decided to try a walk in the fringes of the Cotswolds. Only a mile or so from where the dancing was happening was Robinswood Hill Country Park. It’s very prominent feature when driving up and down the M5, with its extensive dry ski slope. It’s always looked like a good viewpoint, so we parked at the base and started our trek from there

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And indeed the views from the top at 198m were excellent. It’s quite a lofty, elevated and isolated hill that the views seem disproportionately expansive

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I love views down over cityscapes and this one was excellent. The cathedral standing proud over the city

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A short walk along the summit ridge and we came to a fine view-point over the spread of the Severn estuary and down to both of the bridges, just visible in the haze

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We had the novel experience of walking over a motorway as part of a walk. I was about to say it was the first time I’d walked over a Motorway but then I remembered I used to walk over the M5 on my way to West Brom games when I was a kid and also to the Cinema in Quinton in Birmingham so not such a good fact really

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We were following the Wysis Way that thinks the Wye to the Thames. I’d been worried that paths would be overgrown and poorly signposted but apart from a couple of spots all was good

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We passed this odd-looking gate/tower affair in the middle of nowhere that just seemed to lead into a field. Clearly of some religious significance based on the inscription

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We were heading for Painswick Beacon, an obvious high point on the edge of the Cotswolds

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I think the Cotswolds are massively over-rated as scenic area. Most of the central area is huge arable farms with lots of villages named Tweeness-under-the-Water and such like, always thronged with tourists and a £5 car park. However along the edges that overlook the Severn Valley the views are impressive and elevated

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TBF found a bench to sit on (you can see here in the middle of the photo below) while I went to the top

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As I crested the summit I was surprised to find a Golf Course with a Tee right on the summit. I never expected that. It looked a very fine course

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I wandered back down to TBF and we had lunch and cup of tea before we t=retraced our steps back to the car and collected TJF

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The map below shows the route but the OS mapping software threw a fit halfway round so I can confirm we didn’t walk in a dead straight line from Painswick Beacon to Robinswod hill, but you get the idea. About 10 or 11 miles in total I reckon

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Always nice to try something different

Takin’ it Easy   14 comments

Early summer has become a time of added pressure for the family over the past couple of years and will continue for a few years yet. As the junior members face up to GCSE’s and A-Levels, May and June are a time of revision and exams. TJS is now mid-A-Level and when he’s off to University the cycle begins again for TJF. The May Spring Bank Holiday was always a main holiday for us but for now we have to be content with weekend breaks that while a good chance to get away normally involve camping and all the hassle that goes with it.

We are therefore lucky indeed to have my good friend Mark, his better half and their kids who invited us up to stay for the weekend. As always it was superb time of walks, play, good fun and laughs aplenty. Just the ticket to break up the school pressures and for me, personally to wind down and just enjoy simpler pleasures

The weather seemed set fair but alas the glorious drive up in broad sunshine on the Friday was a farewell wave (or two fingers up, take your pick) from our fickle British summer.

Saturday was hot and humid and with a forecast of heavy thundery showers on the way. Time to take advantage of the joy of Silverdale with one of its many fine short walks.

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We went down to the cove where some sat and enjoyed the last of the warm sun, while me and the DBs explored the smelly beach caves

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From there we went across the Lots, a lovely open meadow overlooking Morecambe Bay and one of my favourite spots in these parts. We missed the best of the Orchids that flower here so compensated with a windy game of frisbee

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Alas the weather intervened and stopped outdoor play. A succession of heavy thunderstorms and its accompanying electric light show filled the rest of the day.

Sunday looked much better and we had a plan. A walk with a pub for lunch was in order. We had designs on a couple of spots but, rather unsurprisingly, most were fully booked with it being a Sunday on a BH weekend.

No matter, we had a resrve plan that included Garden Centres, cafes and a supermarket as a fail safe. Mark had a walk planned that ticked numerous boxes. After a visit to the Mill at Beetham (and an unsuccessful visit to the Garden Centre Cafe – packed out) we headed to Milnthorpe via Dallam Deer Park

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I like Deer Parks, something about their manicured pastures and woodland, here with some views to the Peaks of the Yorkshire Dales

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And of course Deer, although a little reticent and distant (the specks under the trees in the middle distance)

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Lunch was now becoming a matter of priority. We came across the Bulls Head in Milnthorpe. It wasn’t much to look at either inside or out, all flashing fruit machines and pool tables. We were assured the food was good so gave it a go. What a find, the menu was extensive, the food excellent and staff friendly and capable, coping well with a party of nine arriving mid afternoon expecting top fed unannounced. The prices were reasonable and we all left with happy burps and distended stomachs. Time to work off some of that acquired fat

We walked back through the edge of the deer park along the river Bela. It was exceedingly fine and under a warm sun the walk was a delight

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The river broadens and the path follows it out across the floodplain to where it joins the Kent

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Time for more contrasts as we headed back inland with a short climb up Haverbrack.

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The views across the Kent estuary to the distant Lake District fells was grand

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Even the butterflies looked happy

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Fairy steps was next on the tick list. A narrow passage with some old nonsense about fairies coming and giving you a blessing or doing the ironing for you or some-such if you manage to climb up without touching the sides. Here is Mark having a valiant attempt

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The kids making it look easy

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TBF seeming to enjoy the challenge

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After a pause on the top it was back down through the woods to the car, crossing this magnificent spread of buttercups on the way

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A fine walk and not an unsubstantial 6 miles in the end (a long way with a gang of restless kids I can tell you)

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Mark had suggested we could walk back to the house and collect the car later. Seemed like a good idea in principle but when we reached the car the moment had gone. A much better idea was a late evening walk to the Pepper Pot.

On the way Mark showed us a Woodpecker nest he’d watched the previous week. We were sure the chicks would have flown by now but after a couple minutes one of the youngsters popped his head out and started squawking to be fed – boy are Woodpecker chicks noisy. We could hear the parents in the distance but they never appeared, clearly waiting for us to move before they returned

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As always the view from the top was superb and we sat watching the light fade in peace and quiet before returning in near darkness through the woods. A quite excellent day

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Monday was a washout but only in weather terms. Heavy rain kept us indoors but spirits were high as we filled the day playing a variety of board games of which the Silverdale gang have many. It was in its own way as fine a day as the previous one and it was with a heavy heart that we ate heartily again and bid our hosts farewell

A top notch weekend and as always a huge message of thanks to Mark and the family for putting us up and feeding us like kings and queens. We are an active family, a little too absorbed with doing stuff every minute of every day of holiday for our own good. Sometimes I forget that there is as much pleasure from timeless easy-paced wanders, games, play and just great company. I sometimes return from a holiday fulfilled yet needing a break to recover. A weekend in Silverdale sees me return fulfilled and relaxed in equal measure and isn’t that what a holiday should be

On Yer Bike – The Camel Trail   15 comments

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A walk on the moors, a walk on the coast, a play in the sea. We needed something else to entertain us on the last day. Some cycling was in order. The Camel Trail runs for 17 miles along the estuary and inland towards the fringes of Bodmin Moor. That would do nicely, we hired bikes, packed a picnic and headed off

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Its a supremely easy and flat ride, busy and very popular with families. There are wide and expansive views across the estuary

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After passing through Wadebridge the character changes and it becomes a wooded trail. Much quieter and in fact for large stretches, deserted

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At the far end near Wenfordbridge we came across this rather nice meadow by the river and had tea, crab sandwiches and cake. Very refined

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And then back the same way rather than a trip through the lanes. To be honest the inland stretch was a bit samey, just long stretches through the trees with not much in the way of views. I think a road return would have added some variety but there is a lot to be said for traffic free cycling

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We returned along the estuary for more fine views and and ever increasing soreness of backside (a problem I find when I don’t have any cause to ride out of the saddle on a longer ride)

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A 34 mile trip took the weekends outdoor distance covered to almost 50 miles. Not bad

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Just a final stroll through Padstow and a quiet sit on the harbour to finish off a superb weekend

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Getting older has its benefits, lets just hope I have plenty more Cornwall weekends left in me! 🙂

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