Three Lakes Challenge Update!

We did it – and how! So proud to be one of the team of twenty people who took on the challenge of rowing 38 km along the three longest lakes in the Lake District in under 12 hours last week.  We paddled the length of Ullswater in Voyager canoes, Coniston Water in Canadian canoes, and tackled Windermere – England’s largest lake – from the southern tip to the northern end in rowing boats.
voyager canoeWhat a tough but brilliant day, from setting off in the half-light at 6.30 am to find overnight snow had fallen, making The Struggle – the famously steep road linking Ambleside to the Kirkstone Pass – quite a hair-raising challenge for our minibus driver!  Thankfully we got to Glenridding safely and piled into two Voyager canoes to set off to paddle along the length of Ullswater, the calm conditions and  perfect reflections creating a picture postcard backdrop to our efforts.
canoes croppedHaving worked up an appetite it didn’t seem too long until we were back at Brathay enjoying a freshly-cooked breakfast before on to Coniston Water and into rafted Canadian canoes. A sudden blustery head wind and torrential rain had us working hard, but fortunately the storm passed and sunshine and showers – with lovely low rainbows across the lake – accompanied us for the rest of the journey.
Good photo from Tali

The final leg of the journey was the longest, but over three hours of steady rowing in whaler boats brought us from Fell Foot park at the southern tip of Windermere back to Brathay boathouse and a celebratory glass of fizz on the front lawn.

Susie’s aim – to share a unique and unforgettable experience with her family and friends – had been fully realised; it was a day all of us will remember for years to come.  Thanks to teamwork – together with the support of Brathay staff and volunteers – we completed the challenge in just under ten hours. That’s not the only record smashed as originally we hoped to raise £2,000 for CancerCare – yet the total donated has already more than doubled that.  You can still donate to this fantastic local charity here.susie canoe

Susie was able to participate fully in the whole experience thanks to a specially-designed canoe seat to support her back and enable her to paddle and steer throughout the day.  Her courage and good humour were the best motivation we could have to keep going and fulfil her dream.

“. . . and may every dip of your paddle lead you toward a rediscovery of yourself, of your canoeing companions, of the wonders of nature, and of the unmatched physical and spiritual rapture made possible by the humble canoe”.

Celebrating Life

Long time no blog post, but I wanted to let you all know that I shall be taking part in a fantastic fundraising challenge this month.  I will be joining friends to complete the Three Lakes Challenge –  rowing 38 km along the three longest lakes in the Lake District – Windermere, Ullswater and Coniston Water – in under 12 hours.  Our target is to raise £2,000 for CancerCare, a wonderful local charity that offers a wide range of free professional  therapy services, designed to help individuals and their families come to terms with and manage the challenges of a serious health condition. This challenge has been organised by my friend Susie Bate and her family.  In September 2014 (the same week that I was diagnosed with breast cancer) tests showed that Susie had myeloma, a form of cancer affecting the bone marrow.  I was lucky – my surgery and treatment happened very quickly and I was soon on the road to recovery – but Susie’s surgery to remove spinal tumours and her subsequent bone marrow transplant were much more serious and involved lengthy stays in hospital.  Nonetheless as you can see from the photo below nothing wipes the smile from Susie’s face and she continues to be an inspiration to all who know her. How typical that her positive thinking has led her to plan this special Celebration of Life for her family and friends, which will also raise money for an organisation that has helped us both.

Admittedly when a friend first suggested I checked out CancerCare‘s services, I was dubious – I don’t take kindly to illness and would rather avoid it whenever possible.  I secretly thought it might be a bit depressing to be in the company of other people who were or had been ill, and that the organisation might be a bit gloomy.  How wrong I was! CancerCare in Kendal has a lovely bright, airy building with kind, cheerful and welcoming staff.  Before long I was having deliciously relaxing aromatherapy massages with a wonderfully skilled therapist, and have since joined a singing group which meets weekly. Far from taking things too seriously, we have a great laugh together (and home-made cake!)  Under the inspiring guidance of our natural voice teacher David Burbidge – who has a knack of encouraging people to enjoy singing even if they think they can’t – we learn simple harmony songs from around the world and are often amazed at the beautiful sounds that we manage to make together. CancerCare Logo 2014 secondary white blue.1CancerCare offers a raft of other services including counselling, hypnotherapy, Alexander technique and children and young people’s therapies, as well as a range of arts and crafts groups. It has worked with over 22,000 local people affected by cancer and life limiting conditions over the last thirty-odd years, so I’m sure it will have touched the lives of some people reading this. I would so appreciate it if you would visit the JustGiving page which Susie’s daughter Natalia has set up and help us to reach our target.

I’ll let you know how it goes – it’s a while since I did the kind of leisurely paddling which is normally the limit of my exertions! Here’s hoping for some spring sunshine and maybe the glimpse of a kingfisher or two.

‘There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’. – from ‘The Wind in the Willows’


Making a Difference

A reflective post this week to honour the passing of Alice Pyne, aged seventeen, who I wrote about in my post Two Inspiring Blogsites back in June of last year.  Alice achieved more in her short life than most of us ever will, with her national campaign to get everyone in Britain to sign up to the Bone Marrow Donor Register.  She also, with the help of her amazing family, raised tens of thousands of pounds to set up a charity, Alice’s Escapes, to provide free holidays in the Lake District for families with a seriously ill child. She lived up to her motto: ‘One life . . . live it!’

Many young people want to make a difference in the world, even if only to one person – my son has just started writing a blog and his first post was on this very subject – see also Action for Happiness on Why Helping Others Matters.  But to leave a lasting legacy that will benefit thousands of children and adults with life-threatening diseases is inspirational – Alice received a ‘Pride of Britain’ award and she and her sister were both honoured with the British Empire Medal for services to charity.  Alice’s courageous spirit lives on; her sister Milly plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, together with her parents, in memory of Alice – you can sponsor her here.    Continue reading

The Unsung Olympians

Our Olympic stars are getting a lot of well-deserved coverage at the moment and their efforts are truly inspiring.  Whether winning medals or not, the amount of time, effort and dedication put into training for their chosen sports and competing on the world stage seems far beyond the experience of us ordinary mortals.

So now’s a good time to spare a thought for the unsung heroes of physical endeavour – the ones who put their energies into mind-blowing feats in order to raise funds for charity.

A couple of nights ago I went to a camping barn on the wilds of Shap Fell for a fantastic night of live music organised by a local enthusiast.  (I’ve written here before about my love of live music and how it brings people together – the government may think it came up with the Big Society idea but we’ve already got it, alive and well in the pubs, folk clubs and music venues of the Lakes).   Continue reading

Two inspiring blogsites

As a relative newcomer to the world of blogging and Twitter, I’d like to use this week’s post to propose a toast to social media – cheers!  We hear a lot of bad publicity about internet trolls, Facebook bullying and other drawbacks, but maybe not enough about the amazing power of the web to connect people across the world, highlight important issues, and raise money for charities.

One of the blogs I’ve enjoyed recently is NeverSeconds.  If you’re one of the few people who haven’t come across this yet, let me fill you in.  It was set up a couple of months ago by nine-year-old Scottish schoolgirl Martha Payne, who commented on and photographed the school lunches she received each day.  Now, they say a picture tells a thousand words and pretty soon a heck of a lot of people, including TV chef and school dinner champion Jamie Oliver, were visiting Martha’s site and expressing concern about the often inadequate quality and quantity of food in the photos.  Children from all over the world joined the discussion and sent Martha snapshots of their own lunches, and it was fantastic to see youngsters taking such a lively interest in food and nutrition.   Continue reading