Hamentaschen

If you haven’t heard of hamentaschen then I think you are in for a treat. These hamentaschen are triangular soft pastries flavoured with orange and filled with prune butter/ purée. The key thing about hamentaschen is the shape. They can be filled with different things – prunes are traditional, as is a poppy seed or apricot filling. Modern fillings include Nutella and chocolate chips.

Hamentaschen are traditionally made for the Jewish festival of Purim. Purim celebrates the triumph of Queen Esther, who confronted her husband, the King of Persia, when the Jews were threatened with genocide under the direction of an anti Semitic adviser to the King – the wicked Haman. The story is explained well on this archived BBC webpage. Haman is definitely the villain in this story, and the hamentaschen are supposed to represent Haman’s triangular shaped ears – really?! The shape is also said to represent his three cornered hat. Purim is celebrated in March usually – anyway, before Passover. So this is not really the right time of year. However I found a packet of prunes in the cupboard and thought I would make some anyway. They are easy to make and look and taste very good.

The pastry is soft and almost cake like, because it contains eggs and raising agent. You can make the pastry with butter or oil. The oil version is very easy to make and use, and that’s what I did this time.

I found the recipe on this lovely website by Tori Avey. The link will take you to the oil based pastry, but you can find links on the page to the butter version as well as different ideas for fillings.

The whole process was very easy. Even folding the pastry into the triangle shapes was easy! I think the shape, with the filling showing in the middle, is very attractive.

I’ve made these before many years ago and used a prune filling then too. I think next time I will try an apricot filling. In fact I guess you could used any thick jam, as long as it could be contained within the edges of the pastry.

I hope you have fun trying these if you have never made them before! If you have a favourite filling let me know in the comments below.

Morning snack at work!

Type 1 Diabetes – myth busting!

I’m going start by saying straight away that my main source of facts for this post is from the fantastic JDRF website, where you will find a wealth of information about Type 1 diabetes. I have also taken some information from this NHS website. It’s sad that even now, in an age when more information is available than ever before, there is still so little understanding of Type 1 diabetes, and so many misconceptions among the the general population – and unfortunately health care professionals too sometimes.

Myth Number One: being overweight causes diabetes. NO! At least not Type 1 diabetes. Weight loss is actually a common symptom of the onset of Type 1. Type 1 diabetes is an auto immune condition. The body attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, killing them off. Insulin is the key that enables the transfer of glucose into the tissues of the body e.g. muscles and the brain. Unable to produce insulin, the body cannot use the glucose in food for energy. Instead the glucose stays in the bloodstream. Without urgent treatment it can cause a serious, life threatening condition called ketoacidosis. (Diabetic ketoacidosis is often shortened to DKA.)

Other symptoms of Type 1 diabetes include extreme thirst (a result of the high levels of blood glucose); needing to wee a lot (a result of drinking a lot); fatigue (no energy available from the glucose).

I think this idea that somehow it must be your fault for having Type 1 diabetes – because ‘you ate too many sweets’ has to be one of the biggest misconceptions of them all. There is so much in the news nowadays about ‘diabetes’ when what people actually mean is Type TWO diabetes. I am not saying that Type 2 diabetes is always ‘self inflicted’ – it most definitely is not, but IT ISN’T THE SAME THING!!! There is nothing that people with Type 1 did or didn’t do that caused them to get diabetes. They had no more choice in getting Type 1 than you had in choosing your eye colour, your shoe size or your preference for dark chocolate over milk chocolate. It is NOT their fault!

Myth Number Two: people with Type 1 diabetes can’t eat anything sweet or sugary. NO! Nobody, with or without diabetes, should be eating or drinking lots of sweet, sugary food/beverages – but it is ok to have a sweet treat now and then. The difference is that people with Type 1 diabetes will need to adjust the amount of insulin required to cope with the extra glucose in their blood stream.

Myth Number Three: people with Type 1 diabetes mustn’t do too much exercise. NO! Everyone should stay fit and active, as much as they possibly can. Having Type 1 diabetes does not stop many, many people from living very active lives and taking part in many different sports. It will always be a challenge calculating their food intake and insulin requirements, and will probably involve more checking of blood glucose levels but it is perfectly possible to lead an active, sporty life with Type 1 diabetes. Diabetes UK has some great advice here about managing carbs and insulin when exercising.

Ben Coker – and his kit!
(Image from Daily Mail)

Muhammad Ali is a British boxer with Type 1 diabetes. In 2018 he became the first boxer with Type 1 to gain a licence from the British Boxing Board of Control. Rugby international Henry Slade, and footballer Ben Coker both have Type 1 – and it hasn’t put them off a professional sporting life!

Henry Slade
(photo from JDRF)

Myth Number Four: insulin is a cure. NO! Insulin is a treatment – it’s not a cure! Without insulin people with Type 1 diabetes would die, simple as that. At the moment there is no cure for Type 1. Once those cells in the pancreas have gone – they’re gone for good. BUT there are lots of dedicated brilliant people working hard to find a cure for diabetes. You can help by donating to JDRF to help them support even more research projects. One day there WILL be a cure! My fundraising page is here.

November 14th is World Diabetes Day.

Help find a cure for Type 1 diabetes – donate to JDRF via my fundraising page!

Race Report – Grand Union Canal half marathon

Sunday 10th November dawned cold but bright. No rain! As it rained for hours on Saturday this was definitely a bonus. Another bonus was the 10am start which meant that I didn’t have to get up at the crack of sparrow’s fa*t! Instead a relatively leisurely time getting up and ready. Another big bonus was that at the last minute my son Jack decided to come along too.

This run was well organised by Purple Patch. Because the run was point to point they laid on pre booked transport from the finish back to the start before the run. (Another reason for the 10am start probably, although we had organised our own transport.) Picking up our numbers was quick and easy, and Jack was able to enter on the day. And – plenty of toilets! Cowley recreation ground has some big trees in it and they were looking lovely in their autumn colours.

Before the run we held a minute’s silence because it was Remembrance Sunday. I noticed a couple of runners wearing Help for Heroes running tops, and along the canal there were a few flags on boats for Remembrance Day. The run started with a lap of the park and then we were on to the canal towpath heading north towards Watford. Apart from one small road crossing the whole route was off road, on the towpath and then through the park at the other end. The towpath was very wet and muddy most of the way due to the heavy rain on Saturday. I was glad I was wearing my trail shoes.

The towpath goes through some very rural places, which feel like they have hardly changed since the canal was built. At Denham Deep Lock there is a small cafe in the old lock keeper’s cottage, and it easy to imagine yourself back in time. There are lots of pubs and cafes along the towpath, and the smell of breakfast wafted across the path very temptingly! Alongside the canal and nearby are lots of lakes and several rivers, so there is a lot of wetland. The Rickmansworth Aquadrome is managed park/wetland. The lakes were originally gravel pits – gravel was extracted for the building of the original Wembley Stadium in 1923. I am planning to back there for a bit of an explore – it really isn’t far from my home.

It is interesting to see how the canal is used nowadays. There were lots of walkers (and some runners going the other way – tricky when you are facing 450 other runners!) and anglers. There were also some canoeists. I have always thought that would be a nice way to explore the canal. Of course there are lots of boats, some travelling and some moored. Some of the permanent moorings are very well established, with little gardens at the edge of the path, seating and barbecue areas, piles of logs etc. The smells of woodsmoke and frying bacon are definitely part of canal atmosphere.

After splashing through a lots of muddy puddles (I love doing that!) we arrived in Cassiobury Park in Watford. Cassiobury Park was once the country seat of the Earls of Essex. The estate has its roots in the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539, and the house was built in 1546. Sadly it was demolished in 1927. Much of original parkland has been sold for housing development, but the remaining park is very lovely and well used by people for leisure activities.

Going through the park towards the finish was really one of the hardest parts as it was uphill almost all the way! But the marshals were all very encouraging and cheerful – as they had been all the way (thank you marshals and volunteers 😊). And finally the finish line was in sight, with my husband and son there for the final cheer!

Smily happy faces 😊
2:02:27 for me and 1:31:50 for him – a personal best!!! Hurray!

This was a very enjoyable half marathon and has given me ideas for long training runs. Perhaps driving up to Denham or a bit further, and running along the canal or round the country parks up there.

Mud! Jack was caked in it!

As you know (or have guessed by now) I am running to raise money for JDRF. This brilliant charity supports children, adults and families affected by Type 1 diabetes. It also funds some amazing research with the ultimate goal of finding a cure for this autoimmune disease. I have achieved my fundraising target – but if you haven’t yet donated don’t let that put you off 😉 Every little helps! A massive thank you to everyone who has donated already – especially big thank you to my anonymous donors – I honestly don’t know who some of you are – so please accept this very heartfelt thank you.

I like this medal a lot – it really is a memento of the race with the boat across it.

Why am I running 12 half marathons in a year?

I feel that I’ve neglected to write much about the real reason WHY I am running a half marathon every month in 2019. There are lots of reasons, but one main one. I am raising money for a cause dear to my heart. I am running to raise money to help researchers FIND A CURE FOR TYPE ONE DIABETES!! I don’t have Type 1 myself, but people close to me do/did.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition – it’s caused by the body essentially attacking its own cells, destroying the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This leads to a lifelong dependency on injected insulin. It’s what is nowadays termed a long term condition – what that means is that you have it forever. Right now there’s no cure.

One from earlier this year! I loved this run down in Surrey.

When I started writing this blog one of the aims was to raise awareness of what Type One Diabetes is all about. In this I feel I have somewhat failed. I have been sidetracked by cake. And running. Partly this is because I find them easy to write about. Partly it is because I sometimes feel a bit helpless writing about a condition that I don’t have.

Sometimes I actually stop running, and walk instead! In June my friend Michelle and I walked half of the South Downs Way to Eastbourne.

In this post I’m going to point you to just a couple of the great blogs and amazing people out in the Type 1 world. They can enlighten you much better than I can to what it means to have a condition where you are constantly thinking about what you eat, what your blood glucose level is, and what you are going to do in terms of injecting insulin to keep yourself going.

Not only do these amazing people have Type 1, they have demanding jobs AND they manage to write blogs, do podcasts, walk several thousand miles, raising awareness and money along the way.

Recently I listened to a super podcast by the inimitable Miss Jen Grieves, talking to a fellow Type Oner Peter Davies who has had Type 1 since 1958. He spoke about the ‘old days’ of testing sugar in urine using a mini chemistry kit, that only told you approximately what your blood glucose was 4 hours ago. He also talked about the injecting apparatus – re-using and re-sharpening hypodermic needles! Can you believe it? Well I can. Although I don’t remember my dad actually sharpening his needles I certainly remember him re-using them, and storing them in surgical spirits.

My two best sons! They like running, and supporting JDRF too.

Jen Grieves has a wonderful blog, and now several brilliant podcasts. If you are not sure about what living with Type 1 is like, and you don’t know anyone to ask, have a listen to her podcasts – I promise you will learn a lot. I am certainly learning a lot!

Another person I found on social media (Instagram) is Eliza Bartlett. Eliza is an Australian cricketer. She walked over 4,000 miles from southern Italy to Aberdeen in Scotland earlier this year to raise money for JDRF Australia. She did this on her own for virtually the whole way. She has Type 1, and I simply cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to manage her diet and insulin while walking all that way through different countries. She also managed to plan her route to take in several cricket matches, and even played some golf! It was an incredible, inspiring achievement that makes running a mere half marathon every month seem like peanuts! This article in The Cricketer is a great report of her journey.

If you are on Instagram search the hashtag #typeoneawareness. There are lots of people posting about their lives with Type One. If you want to understand just a little about what it’s like take a look.

Another great place to go is the JDRF website – chock full of information in easily understandable form. November is Diabetes Awareness Month. You may think you know about diabetes – but do you really know about Type One diabetes? Check out the quiz!

On Sunday I am running half marathon number 11, and I am really looking forward to it. I won’t have to worry about my blood glucose at the beginning of the run. I won’t have to worry about it half way through. I won’t have to worry about it at the end. Why?Because my pancreas will just deal with converting glucose and glycogen into energy as my muscles need it. I’m lucky. Let’s help JDRF fund the research that will find a cure for Type One.

Please consider donating to my fund raising page here. And a BIG thank you to those friends and family who already have!

Final selfie – also on a walk in Cornwall. I love this coast path, and walked and ran some of it earlier this year.

Cherry-Almond pinwheel cookies

They look really pretty!

Back in the kitchen! While I was in the USA I found a great baking magazine: Taste of Home Holiday Baking. Baking for Christmas is a BIG thing over in the States, and I already have a holiday cookie magazine that I got last time I was there a couple of years ago. I picked this recipe to start off the autumn/winter season of baking (not for Christmas but for Monday – because Monday needs cookies) as one of the ingredients is cherry extract and I happen to have a small bottle of exactly that in the cupboard.

It’s not all cookies – there are some delicious looking pie and cheesecake recipes too…
This one has some great recipes in too.

The recipe can be found online here, so you don’t have to search for the magazine! It was an easy recipe, but somehow took all day. This was because the instructions involved a lot of chilling the dough. This was actually quite convenient as I was somewhat busy yesterday. However chilling it for the time suggested resulted in a dough that was really hard to roll out, and next time I will shorten the chilling times so the dough is a bit softer. The instructions say to roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper. I have to say that this is a great tip – it means that you don’t have to add a lot of flour while rolling out. Waxed paper is not commonly used in the UK but you can buy it on this site. Baking parchment might work well too, although waxed paper is thicker and probably stronger for rolling.

Ready for chilling – but not for too long!

I added a drop of almond essence to the almond portion too just for a little more taste emphasis. I could only find fairly coarse sugar crystals meant for coffee, and they weren’t white, but they worked really well for rolling the dough cylinder in before cutting in to slices. They give a lovely crunch to the cookies.

Sliced and ready to bake. I tried to squish them slightly into a more round shape before baking.

The recipe makes a lot of cookies – estimate 5 dozen – my batch was just short of that but there were plenty. Enough to take some to work, and give away a load too. And still some left for me!

Although this recipe as quite a bit of a fiddle and effort (at least compared to the type baking I usually do) it was definitely worth it in terms of taste and visual impact. They look amazing, and taste good too. The texture is biscuity, chewy and crunchy. You could vary the flavours and colours too.

I managed to get some to Charlotte (aka Chief Taste Tester) and this was her verdict:

“Oh my Emily your swirly biscuits are amazing as soon as I tasted my mouth went to heaven” Well! No higher praise could I possibly ask for.

The recipe page in the magazine version.

Look out for more recipes from my new magazine – I’m sure I will do some more!

Running tales from Ealing – Grand Union Canal (part 1)

Back at home! And out for a lovely autumn run along the canal. I am lucky enough to live near the Grand Union Canal which is a great place for running, walking or cycling. For some reason I tend to run towards Brentford and the river Thames. But today I found myself going the other way, towards Southall. It really wasn’t a conscious decision, my feet just went that way.

My feet took me up the flight of locks today! What a lovely sunny Sunday morning.

There is something about running along waterways that is very good for the mind. It’s very calming. Partly that’s the effect of water and the surrounding trees, and just being in natural surroundings. Partly it’s that there are no decisions to be made about where to go, no roads to cross, it’s just one long path stretching ahead until it’s time to turn around and come back again. However, it doesn’t work if you switch off your brain entirely. It’s an opportunity to engage in mindful running. This became increasingly important as the path got more and more muddy and uneven, with big puddles where pigeons were having a morning bath in the sunshine. I regretted not wearing my trail shoes as I sploshed through another puddle, and nearly slipped on the muddy edges of the next.

Hanwell locks, built in 1792, is a fairly dramatic flight of six locks taking the canal up (or down, depending on your point of view) 53 feet (16 m) in less than half a mile. You can tell it was busy back in the day because there are several lock cottages for the lock keepers along the flight. There’s a long brick wall along the towpath that is the boundary for what was once the Hanwell Asylum (aka Hanwell Pauper and Lunatic Asylum), and is now the home of St Bernard’s Hospital (a mental health hospital). Hanwell Asylum opened in 1831, and was run by pioneers in the humane treatment of mentally ill patients. It had extensive grounds, including market gardens. The patients worked outside a lot of the time as part of the (at the time) almost revolutionary, certainly progressive, treatment. Produce was used within the hospital/ asylum, and was also sent to the outside world. Some of it was sent out via the canal. There was a ‘hole’ in the wall opening onto the towpath, from where goods went in and out of the Asylum.

A little way past the flight of locks are the ‘Three Bridges’ – this is in fact one railway and two bridges.. one is the canal aqueduct, and over the canal is the road bridge – Windmill Lane. The structure was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the famous engineer.

Railway, canal and road bridge. I love this three dimensional intersection of transport links. Even more when I imagine the pedestrians and cyclists also in the mix.

Windmill Lane was named after a windmill that used to be near this spot. JMW Turner lived for a time in Brentford, not far from here, and the Tate has drawings/sketches and paintings of the lock and windmill.

A painting by JMW Turner, (probably) of the Windmill and Lock near Windmill Lane. The bridge is in the background.
(Link here)

Further along the path is Southall. Before the canal was built Southall was a farming village. Once the canal connected it to London and Birmingham the area rapidly became much more industrial. It is still quite industrial along this bit and into Hayes. However there are also some old cottages, and some quite nice new housing developments that look over the canal. The downside of this closeness to ‘civilisation’ is the abundance of litter. It is sad to see so many cans and bottles, plastic bags etc. I had an up close and personal experience of this rubbish dumping this morning when I managed to step on what I thought was a pile of leaves and got a nasty surprise when there was a loud squelch and a wet feeling on my lower leg…

Jeez!! A rotten tomato!! I guess it could have been worse…

One of the famous workshops/businesses set up in Victorian times in Southall (Havelock Road) was the pottery of the Martin brothers. Nowadays it is highly collectible and sells for a lot of money. It is not to everyone’s taste…

A typical Martinware bird container. (photo from Wikipedia)

A landmark visible from the canal is the big Sikh temple (also on Havelock Road…) with its golden dome.

Right in the middle of this picture is the gold dome of the Sikh temple. This boatyard in the foreground is one of several along the canal.
This is at Bulls Bridge, where the Paddington arm branches off towards Northolt, Greenford and onwards to Paddington. I turned back soon after this junction.

It was beautiful morning for a run. The trees are looking very autumnal now, and glow in the sunshine. Next week is my eleventh half marathon – along the Grand Union canal again, but a different bit. I’m looking forward to it as it is a part of the canal that I really don’t know very well, some of it not at all.

Mr and Mrs Swan with their teenage children

Let’s run in Florida!

This week I’ve been staying with friends at their beautiful condo Blu Vue on Okaloosa Island. Situated on the so called ‘Emerald Coast’ one of the best things about this condo is the view. Oh and the proximity to the beach. (Oh and the company of course!) On the Gulf of Mexico in the north west of Florida, the white sandy beach extends east to west for several miles. The blue-green sea laps gently at the shore, soothing the weary mind, and lulling you gently to a state of comatose relaxation. Except when there is a storm when it is more crashy and exciting!

The landscape all around is very flat and sandy. The land of the coastline is separated into ‘islands’, with sea, rivers, lagoons and bayous all around. There is evidence that Fort Walton beach (where we are staying) has been inhabited by humans since 12,000 BC, according to a local history website. After the melting of glaciers the landscape changed and native tribes settled into organised villages, trading pearls, conch shells and fish bones with outsiders for copper, iron and maize. The Spanish invaders in the 16th century probably hastened the extinction of the original tribes (disease and warfare..). For a while the area was settled by Europeans and their descendants, and people travelling to the area for a better life. The main trade in the mid 19th century was fishing, plus lumber and turpentine (derived from the Slash Pine tree).

Slash pine trees
This American oak is 600 years old

The 20th century saw big changes to the area when land was given to the military and several air bases were developed. The nearest is Eglin Air Force Base, and it is fascinating to watch the aircraft flying overhead as you sit on the beach.

The land beyond the sign belongs to the Eglin Air Force base.

Tourism is, of course, another 20th century phenomenon, and is so successful that Florida residents pay no state income tax, as the state makes enough money from people visiting and holidaying. Nowadays the coast is lined with hotels, apartment blocks and restaurants, shopping malls, leisure activities such as golf, go karting etc etc.

Just before sunrise. Several herons like this bit of the beach!

So what is so special about this area that people flock to spend their holidays here? Of course the warm weather is a big part of it. But the main attraction is the beautiful sea, and the white sand. The sand is amazing. It is fine, white and cool to walk on even when the temperature soars above 30 degrees centigrade. It squeaks when you walk on it. It is composed almost entirely of quartz particles so fine that they cannot get any smaller!

The quartz originates from the Appalachian mountains, and was washed into the Gulf 20,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age, down rivers (in particular the Apalachicola River) to the sea. In time the rivers changed course and new material stopped being deposited. Once the material reached the shore the action of the waves and tides weathered the particles and washed out the silty matter leaving behind just the quartz. (If anybody is interested in the geology of Florida here is a link for more information.)

The view over the sea at dawn

Running on sand is hard work. I tend to go out early before it gets too hot, and before the beach is too busy. This week I have been out running twice and for a walk twice. The second run was really hard, my legs were like lead and I had to have several walk breaks. I think it’s just the effort of running on sand tires out your legs. But it is worth it for the sunrise. It is amazing to run right next to the waves, watch the sunrise, look at the birds and try and spot a dolphin.

Sunset. View from the balcony. I love the pink light reflected on the white sand.

The pelicans are incredible birds. They skim so close to the water and then soar above gliding on the air currents with their huge wings spread wide.

Sunrise (plus pelican)

At the water’s edge the sandpipers scurry about, running unceasingly on their little legs, searching constantly for food while keeping an eye on the incoming waves.

The gulls know when there’s food around and like to congregate together

On a lucky day you can see dolphins. The sea has been a little rough at times this week and the dolphins usually only swim by in calmer seas. One morning this week I was lucky enough to see several dolphins swimming past.

It’s not easy getting a photo of the dolphins!

Yesterday there were a lot of jelly fish washed up on the beach. That’s quite off putting in terms of thinking of going for a swim later…😂 Last time I was here I did get stung by jellyfish larvae which was pretty horrible.

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit this beautiful beach. It is very special to see the sun rise at one end, and set in a blaze of glory (on a good evening!) at the other. Thank you Tracy and David for sharing your lovely condo.

Best sunset ever

Look out for American inspired baking posts in the next couple of weeks!

Thanks for reading!

Blueberry-Raspberry Cream Cheese Braid

I thought it was high time for a baking post. However, I am away at the moment staying with friends in their beautiful condo overlooking the Gulf of Mexico on Okaloosa Beach. What to do?! Find an easy recipe, requiring simple, easy to find ingredients and no fancy kitchen equipment. WordPress blogs to the rescue, and a great recipe from Diane’s Kitchen in Ohio. I saw this a few days ago and thought that it would be a nice thing to try.

I added some raspberries to the blueberries because I love that combination. You could use any combo of berries really, blackberries and raspberries would also be tasty I think. The hardest part of this recipe was locating items in an unfamiliar kitchen and working out how to turn the cooker on! I haven’t used a pack of Pillsbury crescent rolls for decades, and the dough is quite stretchy and difficult to fold over neatly. Mind you it was warm and humid this morning so that probably didn’t help. I was worried that blueberry juice would ooze out of the pastry while it was baking, but that didn’t happen at all. I imagine that’s the addition of flour to the berries.

Another hard part was waiting for the braid to cool down before eating it with coffee for a late breakfast, watching the waves crashing on the white sandy beach.

This recipe did not disappoint at all, and everyone loved it. The berries were a beautiful colour and oozingly juicy. Although my braid was not as neat as Diane’s, and the icing was a bit runny it still looked great. And the time/effort: result/taste ratio is definitely a positive one! Thank you very much Diane for a great recipe!

A more authentic Florida dessert would be Key Lime Pie. But that will have to wait until I get home, because a) I’m not going to start making pies on holiday, and b) you can buy a very good Key Lime Pie at the supermarket!

Let’s run in Central Park!

I’m in the Big Apple for a few days, staying just a few blocks from Central Park on the Upper East Side.

Vera Neumann Paints… an apple.
As seen in the wonderful exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design.
I highly recommend a visit if you are in town.

Central Park was created in the 1850’s, opening to the public in 1858. Much of the land was home to approximately 1600 mainly free black people and Irish immigrants, who were evicted in 1855. Many people were involved in the design and construction of the park. According to the Wikipedia article more than 20000 individuals contributed in some way to creating the park. Nowadays much of Central Park looks very natural, but in fact it is landscaped carefully to incorporate woods and lakes, hills and fields. Landscaping was hard work, as the land was rocky and swampy.

Running on the reservoir path early in the morning

The three sections of the park have a different ‘feel’ to them. The southern section has a slightly more formal feel, with wide avenues of trees. It is where the horse drawn carriages congregate to take tourists round parts of the bridle path. The middle section has the reservoir and the pinetum. The northern section feels more like a mini countryside in parts, with hilly bits and rocky outcrops. However it also has the English, Italian and French gardens, which are small formal gardens. The Harlem Meer is also in this section, a natural looking lake.

Beautiful flowers in the French Garden

The Park has gone through its share of ups and downs. Most recently in the 1970’s and 1980’s it was shabby, run down and dangerous. The Central Park Conservancy was created and has transformed the appearance of the park, and also vastly improved its safety record.

View downtown across the reservoir – the reservoir was very calm that morning.

The following paragraph is copied from the official website of Central Park, and I think it reflects an interesting philosophy of civic pride, and a sense of community. Closer to home in Ealing the local anti litter group LAGER-CAN is doing a great job helping involve local residents in keeping the parks clean and attractive.

Central Park’s restorations gradually fostered important social changes in public behavior that returned the sanctity of public space to Central Park and ultimately to New York City at large. The American ideal of a great public park and its importance as a place to model and shape public behavior and enhance the quality of life for all its citizens once again defines the measurement of a great municipality. Toward this goal, the Conservancy was first in its demonstration of zero tolerance for both garbage and graffiti. An immediate call to action came when even the slightest sign of vandalism appeared in the Park — a busted lamppost or broken bench, for example — and became the tipping point that turned public opinion of Central Park from one of dire repulsion to one of deep respect.

This was a couple of years ago – sunrise across the reservoir.

I am lucky enough to be staying only a few blocks from the entrance to the middle section, right by the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Round the reservoir is a path that is only for walkers and runners. It gets mighty busy too! First thing in the morning it is like a mini Parkrun. To help keep things flowing there is a one way system, and everyone is supposed to go anti-clockwise round the path. But there’s always a few rebels who want to do it their way!

Run anti clockwise!

The reservoir track is a great place to see the sunrise, and watch the reflections of the trees and buildings. Birds fly across the water, or settle on the wall that crosses it just below the surface. The rest of the park also offers lovely routes through trees – just on the turn at this time of year – and past flower beds and landscaped areas.

You could almost be in the countryside – if you ignore the roar of traffic and sirens 😂

I’m lucky to be able to run occasionally in this fab park, and I appreciate the work that’s gone into maintaining and improving it in the last 40 years.

Well that’s all for now. Next instalment of holiday running tales soon!

Race report – Wimpole half marathon

It’s a new month! Run number 10 needed to be done, and due to various other commitments it had to be done this weekend! So only a week after Ealing half marathon I set off this morning for the Wimpole half, up in Cambridgeshire. The weather was not promising at 7 o’clock this morning, rain pouring down, and the forecast pretty much more of the same.

The drive up (thank you Simon for driving me up there at such an early hour on a Sunday!) was quick and straightforward. It actually had stopped raining by the time we arrived. There was a nice friendly atmosphere in the race ‘village’, easy number pick up and bag drop, and queues for the loos were fine too (you might think that I’m a bit obsessed by race toilets, but it’s important!).

A bit grey and rainy at the start

Wimpole Hall and estate are owned by the National Trust. It has an interesting history. There is evidence of settlements going back at least 2000 years. As is often the case with these big houses and estates fortunes rise and fall. Owners have poured in cash and rebuilt the house, built up collections of books and manuscripts, landscaped the grounds – only for the next owner to gamble it all away! Now it can be enjoyed by everyone. Today we didn’t visit the house but I would definitely like to go back one day when I’m not running round the estate and see the Hall.

I don’t think I was quite so happy looking at mile 10.

The estate itself is huge, and very varied terrain. We set off at 9.30 and after a mile encountered the first hill, which was very muddy. One poor chap just in front of me managed to slip and get covered in it! Another 12 miles to go all muddy 😦 – I was careful where and how I stepped… And then it started raining. However it didn’t last too long, and the weather actually continued to improve right through the race. There was sunshine by the end!

The muddy hill – it really was a slippy, slidy mudfest.

Apart from some short sections along roads or gravel paths most of the route was cross country, through woods and across fields. There were more hills than I was expecting, and going down the muddy hill was interesting as I picked up huge clods of mud on my shoes! I was glad I was wearing my trail shoes that’s for sure.

Up another hill. The sheep totally ignored us.
And down again – amazing views. Unfortunately we had to come back up this hill!

As usual around mile 9-10 my legs began to really complain. In fact my feet also started sending ‘stop!’ messages to my brain. And then at the next water stop they were handing out gels and jelly babies! It’s amazing how much it (sugar) makes a difference. And the last bit went through the woods which I always love.

Through the woods, and the sun was out!

The support was fantastic considering we were out in the countryside for so much of the time. The marshals were lovely too. And at the end we were given a beautiful medal, and a good chunk of flapjack. However, for about 6 miles I had been thinking about a nice cup of coffee and a big slice of cake from the National Trust cafe. For those who don’t know, National Trust cafes are famous for their cakes. My slice of coconut and lime cake did not disappoint.

Official time 2:12:52 (8/20 in my age category) I’m ok with that! It was muddy, it was hilly, and I took a few photos!
Coffee and cake – just what I needed.

This run was so different from Ealing last week, and confirmed my feeling that trails are the way to go for next year’s running adventures. I just love being out in the countryside. (But Ealing is still really special 🙂 .)

I have a bit of a break now until the next, penultimate, half marathon of 2019 – the Grand Union Canal half marathon on 10th November. And a heads up for December – on Sunday 29th I’m doing the Frozen Phoenix 6 hour timed run where you can do as little as 5.3km right up to however many kilometres you can fit into 6 hours! If you feel like joining in – sign up now! It would be great to see you. Or you can just come along and cheer us on. Happy running everyone!