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Favourite Walks–Windermere West Shore

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Windermere is my favourite lake, not just because of it’s scenic beauty, surrounding fell views and vibrant atmosphere, but because of it’s practicality.  It’s quick and easy to get to, there’s lots of parking, fantastic cafes to top and tail the walk and endless walking variety.  This post chronicles one of my favourite walks along the north west shore and around to Ambleside and Waterhead.  A walk that’s been much improved recently with long stretches of off-road paths being created for some of the stretches that had previously required walking on narrow roads.  This walk is special because it’s long, but fairly flat (100 flights of stairs according to my fitbit) and has a tremendous variety of views.

I start the walk in Bowness, after breakfast at the always excellent Bowness Cafe (which is opposite the carpark on the main road running through Bowness and Windermere).  Unfortunately this convenient car-park maxes out at a 4 hour stay, so I parked down by the lake and walked up.  Nicely fuelled up I walked along the east shore to the car ferry.  I don’t know what it is about boats, but the ferry is always a treat for me and at 50p for walkers it’s a real bargain and a great way to start the walk and people watch, there’s always a nice mix of walkers, cyclists and drivers of all shapes, sizes and nationalities.

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Off the ferry and I follow the road around before heading north (turn right) following a quiet road with stunning views of the lake to the right and to the left, pasture land leading up to forest.  This stretch of the walk is always a treat for me because it’s here that I used to bring the kids for picnics and swimming, our favourite spot was where the huge tree languished in the lake.

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Here’s a picture of Tess and Ann on the first day that we discovered the tree, about 6 years ago.  We returned many times and lots of the kids friends enjoyed it too.

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Then it’s onto a fantastic forested section of the walk, the paths are great, the trees are huge and it’s still possible to glimpse the lake through them every now and then.  On a sunny day like today it’s hard to beat, all the streaming sunlight and non of the sunburn.

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In common with most of my walks there’s the occasional lust inducing house that I come across, this one has fantastic gardens and it’s own boat house. But then I only need to remember those long winter months and seemingly endless Lakeland rain, that soon brings me back to reality.

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At about mid-day I’m ready for lunch, even though I’ve eaten a big breakfast only a couple of hours ago.  The scene below was mine while I cooled my feet in the lake, dangling from a rocky pier and eating pork pies, cheese and an apple.

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This walk is very easy, because I just follow the signs to Ambleside all the way.  It loops around the headland above, through some more forest and then it’s out into a long stretch of open farm land.  This is the section that’s on all newly created paths that spare the road, and it’s a huge improvement.  I’m a real sucker for views that include farm animals, if you look carefully you can see the cows on the hill in the foreground.  Cows that live like this are the one’s I’m happy to eat!

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The quality of the paths on this whole walk are excellent, rarely muddy, easy to follow and with a little give as the crushed rocks crunch underfoot.  There are quite a few cyclists at the weekends though, but as I’m walking midweek, it’s quiet.

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After another short forested stretch and following a river for a few hundred yards I arrive at Waterhead.  A fantastic break spot that’s a little quieter than Bowness, but not much.  I just get a bottle of water and post a pic to Instagram to let Debbie know that I’m on track.

At this point I’d recommend two options. Get one of the excellent tour boats back along the lake to Bowness, a very relaxing end to the day, or head east, up onto the fells and walk back to Windermere that way.  I was a little too weary for the fells, but it was too early to end the day’s walking so I decided to take the low road back.

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I definitely don’t recommend walking by the road back to Windermere, but on a quiet day like today it was pleasant.  Normally cars and lorries are constantly thundering past.  About 70% of this route is on the path by the road, but the off-road sections are stunning, even the road-side stretches are flanked by great views on both sides.

I was listening to an audio-book and on my own, and as I mentioned it was quiet, so walking by the road turned out just fine.  I stopped off at the gardens shown below, just a mile along the road from Waterhead for a proper break, officially it’s a private hotel garden, but I’ve always felt welcome there.

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Mid way along this stretch there’s the Brockhole Lakeland visitors centre, which has a nice cafe and plenty to do.

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As I mentioned, I’m walking on a path next to a main road, but the views just keep on coming

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I’m not usually one to photograph grave yards, but this one was so picturesque I couldn’t resist.

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Fortunately towards the end of the walk, it’s possible to get off-road again and walk right down by the lake shore.  I really liked this because of all the people playing around in boats that were fun to watch.

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When I returned to Bowness it was like I was on a different planet, when I left it was beautiful and tranquil with just a few hikers making their way, now it was a churning mess of global humanity, the tour buses had descended on the place.  It may be on the global tourist ‘must see’ list, but seeing it this was the tourists really don’t know what they are missing – come early and walk the west coast, or the fells, most of the north east shore is for suckers.

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I’m writing this post in Caffe Nero Lytham, I did the walk yesterday and today I’m going for another of my favourite local walks, around the Brockholes Nature Reserve near Preston.

Favourite Local Walks–The Lytham Loop

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Now that I’m retired I need to watch what I spend and an important part of that is not travelling too far from home for great days out walking.  The ‘Lytham Loop’ is an important part of that strategy, I can cycle to Lytham and do ‘the loop’ and it costs not a penny and is just as satisfying as walks further afield. Although these still play an important part in my life, adding much needed occasional variety. 

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The walk starts at Lytham Green, but before I arrive I need to cycle there, and this cycle track along the sea front is the glorious gateway to Lytham.  Lytham starts when I reach the first area of salt marsh and I will park my bike up here and start the walk along the promenade.  Lytham Green and the fantastic houses that face on to it provide plenty to look at on my left hand side as I walk towards the windmill that’s Lytham’s most famous landmark.

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On my right is the salt marsh and deep water channel, I wish it had sheep on it like the marsh that borders Grange-Over-Sands just up the coast, they would make the view much more interesting. 

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Once I finish with Lytham Green proper it’s down onto the salt marsh for a hundred yards before climbing up onto Lytham’s ‘secret’ green that fronts the millionaires houses.

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This is a much quieter stretch of the walk, but I like it more, in part because of the views of Rivington and the West Yorkshire Fells (where I will be walking next week) in the distance and closer view of the BAE SYSTEMS site at Warton where I spent some of the best years of my life.

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There’s also a great view of some of the most expensive houses in the area, houses that I’m quite content to say I will never be able to afford, but quite like to look at regardless.

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Leaving this part of the promenade it’s then a short walk along roads until I reach the lovely cottage that marks the entrance to Green Drive

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Green Drive provides some much needed shelter on a sunny day like today, it’s a favourite with dog walkers and everyone I meet is very friendly, although I did get into a ‘race’ with one of the ladies from the local Nordic walking club, I won of course!

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Once through Green Drive I then like to walk through Lytham’s fantastic activity park, which is constantly evolving with new attractions.  It really is superb with facilities for all ages, pitches, cafes, gardens, off-road-cycling, skateboarding and a water park and fitness trail.

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Then it’s back in the shade for a lovely section through Witch Wood, a community managed area of natural woodland that borders the railway line.

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Two thirds of the way through Witch Wood I then take a left, over the railway bridge and through Lowther Gardens, Lytham’s second park, which is more ornamental than entertaining.

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Finally I return to The Green and it’s views of the estuary before head back home on my bike, a morning well spent.

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I’m writing up this post at home, sitting at my conservatory desk, after a well earned nap and a long chat with one of my daughters (Tess).  It’s glorious outside and my recliner and a good book beckon!

The Bay Holiday Resort, Near Filey

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I go on holiday about 12 times a year and my favourite, out of season, holiday location is The Bay, just south of Filey Town, but still only a short walk away from it’s wonderful sweeping bay. 

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The Bay looks like a reconstruction of a traditional village, but the whole development is actually made up of individually owned, but mostly centrally managed, holiday homes.  Individuals can buy them, but they can’t live in them year round, they have to be second homes. 

I’ve found that it’s best to ring The Bay directly to book accommodation, avoiding Hoseasons who operate as the web site’s booking agent.  I’ve found by booking direct it’s much easier to make changes if I need to, and to book the specific apartment that I like. The team at The Bay are very flexible, Hoseason’s not so much, or only if you pay extra.

The standard of landscaping and the variety of the architecture gives The Bay a very enchanting feel and the quality of the accommodation is mostly excellent.  They even have lots of Boules courts scattered throughout the development for wiling away the warmer evenings.

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The out of season pricing is particularly attractive and I frequently get a 4 day break in a one bedroomed apartment for less than £160, at £40 a night it competes well with a Premier Inn room, but is much more luxurious and liveable.  They even had some areas of the development that mimic American beach houses, very nice, but too expensive for me and I prefer an upstairs bedroom so I can leave the windows open to keep the room cool.

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Located close to Scarborough, Hull and York, The Bay’s well placed for rainy days, Hull is a particular favourite of mine since we lived there for several years.  It has excellent shopping, cinemas, parks and museums and a fantastic riverside walk along the Humber as well as a marina.

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For sunny days The Bay has it’s own pedestrian beach access, Filey itself is a 30 minute walk along the beach and Scarborough, Bridlington, Robin Hoods Bay and Whitby are all a short car journey.  Scarborough is another favourite of mine, providing lot’s of variety.

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My normal routine is to wake early and walk down to Filey beach, it’s accessed by a long winding footpath, that gets steep towards the end, the path affords spectacular views of the bay and is extremely well landscaped, and even has a small picturesque fishing lake.

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Once on the beach I will walk north towards Filey, although it’s worth noting that when the tide’s high this route can be impassable, so it’s important to check the Tide Tables that are provided in the welcome pack.  Several times I’ve made the walk and had to take off my shoes, roll up my trousers and wade – it’s hard work – and potentially dangerous if the sea’s rough.  When I arrive at Filey, I will switch from the beach to the promenade, which is very traditional and quaint.  At the northern end there’s amusements and fast food, there are excellent free toilets at both ends and in the middle.

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Returning to the beach, I will walk for another 5 minutes, admiring the eroding cliffs, until when reaching the yacht club, I ascend the wooded path to Filey Country Park and it’s excellent cafe, which has a great range of home cooked food.  The staff there start work at 4-5am and bake a great selection, The cafe apparently opens at 6am, but I’ve never been there before 7, it can be a little noisy when the ‘locals’ are in, fishermen and bird watchers mostly, but it’s very friendly.

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If I’m feeling strong I really enjoy taking the cliff top walk from Filey to Scarborough, which provides an endless stream of stunning scenery.  Massive cliffs, powerful seas and amazing bays are hard to beat.

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Most of the bays have beach access and on a sunny day are well worth exploring

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Although I rarely use the entertainment facilities, The Bay does make an attempt to compete with the huge Haven caravan site next door.  It has a pub, a chemist, a cafe, health club with swimming pool and several organised activities. 

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I’ve used the swimming pool and it’s excellent, the Pub is ok and has free Wi-Fi and the chemist is good for emergencies.

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The wild flower meadow and lake are also worth mentioning, because they make for a nice short walk if the tide’s too high to access the beach, or if I don’t fancy the steep climb at night.  The wild flower meadow has high grass, with paths cut through it and has developed a nice feel to it over the years, but I need to take my hay-fever meds!

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There are a few downsides though that are worth noting:

  1. Mobile phone reception is mostly terrible, it’s very difficult to get a decent data signal, if at all
  2. Only a very few of the holiday homes have Wi-Fi, which coupled with the lack of mobile broadband can be very inconvenient, the pub has free Wi-Fi though
  3. The access to the beach is a decent walk and is fairly steep, it’s never been an issue for me though
  4. Walking into Filey is only really practical along the beach and can’t be done if the tide is high, there is a cliff top walk but it’s very overgrown and can only be accessed half way along the beach, where the tarmacked access road goes up to the Primrose Valley caravan site.
  5. There’s no general store on the development, the chemist sells a few household essentials.  I tend to walk around to the shop on the Haven caravan site next door, but it’s a trek.  Filey has a good Tesco supermarket, but it’s a car ride away, there’s also a bus service that runs along the main road.
  6. The kitchen and living space is all open plan in the apartment, the oven smokes badly and the extractor fan is very loud, it makes for noisy cooking!
  7. I’ve discovered that I have an allergy to Rapeseed which grows in the field next to The Bay, which means that May and June are denied to me, but that’s not too much of an issue now that I’m retired because I will be visiting during the off-season anyway.

Finally if you get up early, when the tide has just turned and the beach is quiet you might spot a seal like I did, a young pup racing back to safety!

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Even if you fail to spot any wildlife on the beach, early morning’s are still stunning!

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I’m writing this post in my favourite Caffe Nero in my very own seaside town St Annes On The Sea in July, it’s been raining for the last couple of days so I’m pleased that I’m not paying high season prices to be in Filey, I’m off back in September to enjoy the cooler, hopefully drier, autumn days.

Favourite Walks–Arnside Headland To Silverdale Beach

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We discovered Arnside as a family when we stayed there in a holiday home a few years ago and fell in love with it.  The holiday was curtailed when I collapsed on the bedroom floor and inexplicably went into hypothermic shock and had to be wrapped in sleeping bags for a few hours and taken home, it marked a difficult end to a magical start, but it didn’t put us off. 

We’ve returned many times since and our favourite walk is around the headland to Silverdale and then back over peak of Arnside Knott that looks down over Morecambe Bay to the south and the river Kent’s estuary and the Lake District to the north.

I like to park in the free riverside car park that’s right at the start of the promenade, it get’s a bit water-logged at times, but I’ve never failed to find a spot.  From there it’s a delightful walk along the ‘promenade’ with Arnside village centre to my left and stunning view of the Lake District across the river estuary to my right.

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The walk I follow starts well, as a well maintained concrete path that tracks the estuary bank, after a while it becomes a natural rock path, that’s easy to walk on but uneven and then gradually becomes a more difficult loose rock beach that can be hard on the ankles. It’s worth persevering on the beach though for the views across the estuary (below).  Sometimes when the tide’s in the rock beach is under-water so it’s necessary to find a route up to the wooded path than runs parallel to the beach.

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The essence of the walk is to follow the rocky headland all the way around to Silverdale and depending on how high the tide is, how muddy the beach is and how over-grown the woodland path is you need to find your own way, but on this walk I left the beach once I’ve passed a large area of salt marsh after rounding the headland.  I joined the woodland path just behind the seat pictured below.

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The woodland path affords fantastic views of the heavily eroded rocky limestone cliff face and beach, with stunning views of Morecambe Bay.

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The path also has lovely woodland stretches that provide a welcome break on a sunny day.  Every time I walk along the path I remember my youngest twin girls running through the woods on either side of me playing with walki-talkies, “this is buddy 1, calling buddy 2” it never fails to make me smile, unfortunately they are not with me today, I’m listening to podcasts instead.

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This stretch of the walk is really magical, there’s something especially compelling about rocky cliffs, eroded stones littering an empty beach with stunning views beyond that melts my heart, especially when experienced along with all the memories of past walks with the family, I can’t get enough of it.

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Eventually this phase of the walk comes to an end at Holgates Static Caravan Site, which nestles into the hill side, enjoying these same stunning views.  Every times I walk through this site I feel my wallet straining in my pocket to invest in one, but the desire gradually fades over the following few weeks.

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Leaving the caravan site I took the road towards Silverdale for a short while, and then took the public footpath towards Silverdale that runs through the touring part of Holgates caravan site.  After joining the road again I then passed a few very quaint cottages and followed a dead-end road that led back onto another cliff-side path.

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This path had magnificence views looking back to the cliffs that I’d just walked

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Looking forward from the same point is a tree that I’m always surprised to see still standing tall, one of these days it will be on the beach and a sad reminder of the erosion that’s taking place on all of our coastline.

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The path eventually crosses a field that deposited me in Silverdale Village and I strongly recommend wandering around the village, because it’s extremely quaint.

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Once in the village I turned right back towards the beach and there’s a lovely little car-park where I had lunch with a friend of mine who bought his VW camper, chairs and fridge full of cold drinks!  The view from the car-park is stunning and there’s a nice grassy area for kids to play and lots of rocks and cliffs to explore.

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After lunch I returned through Silverdale and took a random route back, following paths variously signed Arnside Knott and Arnside, coming across an old ruin on the way.

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Then climbing up a woodland path the wound it way to the top of the Knott where I had fantastic views south, down onto the bay and much of the days walk

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Turning around and from about the same spot and looking north I could see the earlier views of the walk, but from the higher vantage.

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The rest of the walk is down-hill following tracks that are signed Arnside and it’s stunning views all the way to the village and my car, which was parked just next to the start of the railway bridge.

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It really is a spectacular day out.  I left my car at about 11am and returned at about 4pm, but I followed an inefficient random route, without a map or GPS, and had a leisurely lunch with Vince en-route.

I’m writing this up in Caffe Nero, the next morning, nursing sore Achilles Tendons and looking forward to brunch in Cleveleys with Debbie, followed by a movie.

Learning To Programme For The Sixth Time

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I came late to programming, being too old to discover it at school, and my first introduction too it didn’t go well.  I was forced into writing assembly code to control a traffic light in electronics class at university, torture.  I soon forgot everything I’d learned, keen to block all knowledge of assembly code from my memory forever. 

My second flirtation with programming came a year later with Fortran, it didn’t go much better.  We were taught the very basics of Fortran and let loose on awful teletype machines.  Editing code was incredibly painful and the results of our efforts uninspiring, but I did feel a little spark of satisfaction inside me when it worked, an ember of interest was lit.

That ember gradually grew inside me for a year or so, until it was bright enough to inspire me to choose to write an educational simulator of a gas turbine, in Pascal, for my final year university project.  I didn’t know any Pascal, to be honest I didn’t really know anything about programming at all, so I had to teach myself from scratch.  This third attempt at learning programming really paid off, I absolutely loved the experience, which was hugely more enjoyable because I got to use a VT240 terminal connected to a VAX mini-computer. Compared to using Fortran on the teletype this was like going from Morse Code to email.  The project was a great success and solidified my intent to work in engineering computing when I graduated.

Unfortunately a year passed before I got my wish and this time it was developing highly complex manufacturing control systems in Modula-2, this was true professional programming, a world apart from that self taught hacking around that I’d previously done. Although Modula-2 is similar to Pascal it’s different enough that I had trash everything I already knew and start from scratch, my forth attempt to learn to programme.  I did ok though, well enough that I was soon managing the team and moving on from programming to architecture/design.

After a few years in management I’d forgotten my Modula-2 and was drawn into my fifth learning experience, WYSIWYG and database programming in Visual basic and what a joy that was.  Modula-2 programming for ‘mission critical’ systems was very formal, complex and constrained.  Visual Basic was the complete opposite, such power, freedom and productivity made me giddy with excitement and I hacked away doing mostly prototyping of ideas that others would productionise, what fun! 

I also came to love the VMS command language DCL which was even more powerful and productive than VB, but not really suitable for serious programming, not that is until we wrote a linker and post-processor for it that added so many improvements that it became an order of magnitude more productive.  It really was a hackers delight and I’ve yearned for tools like VB and DCL to be part of my life ever since, sadly it was not to be.

As I moved ever further into management, architecture and strategy I left programming behind for many years and during that time programming evolved, all my old language knowledge faded in my memory and the languages either disappeared (DCL), went out of fashion (Pascal), or evolved beyond all recognition (VB), it proved too daunting a task to learn a new language, tools and libraries.

Now I’ve retired though, everything’s changed, I now have the time and energy and motivation to get back into programming, an activity that shaped my whole life and provided some of the most rewarding achievements.  But what to learn for my sixth phase of programming? So many choices, what type of apps (web, desktop, mobile), what language (c#, python, ruby …), what tooling (VS Code, Notepad++, Visual Studio). 

I’ve been paralysed by indecision, and lots of distractions (hiking, cycling, gardening).  A few rainy days though and the planets have aligned.  The quality of the RTM release of Windows 10 has convinced me to stay on Windows for my servers, desktop and laptop, the release of Visual Studio 2015 and it’s community edition provides probably the best tooling available for free and Visual Studio also has built in support for my two favoured languages PowerShell (the heir to DCL) and Python (the heir to Pascal).

So I’m all set, I will be playing around with personal automation using PowerShell on my laptop, desktop and servers and I will be playing around with web programming hosted on one of the clouds (for free) in Python and with automation on my iPad also using Python.

I’ve installed Visual Studio Community Edition 2015, which also optionally installs the PowerShell Tools for Visual Studio and the Python tools for Visual Studio, all that remained was to install Python itself and associated libraries, I chose Anaconda 3.4 (recommended by the Visual Studio team).  I will be starting the video tutorials today, finally programming is back in my life!

I’m writing this post in Caffe Nero on my Windows 10 laptop, it’s a dull day today so I will be gardening and learning programming.  Tomorrow I will be out walking with a friend at Brockholes nature reserve (pictured).  Programming for me will be for rainy days!

How I Lost And Found My Fitbit One

I’m always losing my Fitbit one activity tracker.  It normally lives clipped onto my belt, but it gets caught on stuff and yanked off every few months.  Usually I have a good idea of when this might have happened and track it down manually, but yesterday it was really lost.  I had no idea where it could be, so I needed to turn to technology.  This is how I found it.

The first step was to open up the Fitbit app on my iPhone, from the dashboard I tapped on the picture of my One

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to open the following screen.

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From here I could see when my Fitbit last managed to sync with my phone, which told me that I’d lost it somewhere at home.  Next I opened up this screen

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I walked around the house and garden tapping the ‘sync now’ button, until it succeeded.  This meant I was pretty close.  Unfortunately this wasn’t enough of a clue, because it only told me that the Fitbit was somewhere in my garden and the garden was too big to search end to end.  I spent half an hour wandering around trying to find it in all the places I could think of, but failed miserably, I enrolled one of my daughters in the search, no luck.  I went in the bath ‘for inspiration’ (not really) but I did have inspiration, maybe I could track the Bluetooth signal strength?

I downloaded the app LightBlue from the Apple App Store, got out of the bath, and started to wander around the garden in my dressing gown.  This is what I saw:

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At first I clicked the entry for my One (there was also an entry for my Apple TV) and saw this screen:

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and got myself confused, it was the previous screen that I needed, and I also needed my glasses, because it was the tiny graph and number below it that I needed to look at

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The basic idea was then to work in a grid pattern, walking around the garden trying to find the place where the number, –80, in the picture above, was as low as possible.  In my case –95 was about 10 meters away, –75 was a couple of meters away and –50 was half a meter away or even closer.

By now it was dark and I was using the LED light on my phone to illuminate the flower bed and the indicator finally showed –45 and there it was, nestling just below a bush, where it had fallen while I was carrying my garden chair into the last sunny spot in the garden, a few hours earlier.

UPDATE:

a friends pointed out in the comments that you can also set the ‘silent alarm’ for a few minutes in the future, sync with your fitbit as described above, and then listen for the vibration noise.  I did try this, about 10 times, but it didn’t work for me, but it might for you.

I’m tapping out this post in Caffe Nero, thankful that I will have my beloved Fitbit One with me later when I go hiking, feeling nice and smug. Perseverance, yet again, has paid off.

Feedback On My 30 Cafes In 30 Days Challenge

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Well I’ve finished my first retirement challenge, Visiting a Different Cafe Every Day for 30 Days and it worked out well.  When I first thought of this ‘challenge’ I was mostly having a laugh with myself, it’s hardly a challenge to go to cafes and lots of people commented “can I join in”, “that’s my kind of challenge” etc. but it turns out that as the days ticked by an element of challenge did gradually emerge.  It started to be more of a struggle to find a new cafe to go to, I found the need to find a new cafe constrained my plans for the day, I missed going to some of my old favourites.  Overall though it proved to be a good first challenge, it was fairly easy, it prevented me from getting into a retirement rut, it pushed me gently outside of my comfort zone.  There were a few highlights and lessons learned worth mentioning:

  1. My favourite cafe by far remains Caffe Nero, the best atmosphere, top quality food, the comfiest chairs, the best environment for reading and consistently high quality all over the country.  It’s hard to choose between so many great Caffe Neros but how can I not choose my local, just down the street in St Annes.
  2. I really love sitting in window seats and sought them out wherever I went, I found them more than 50% of the time and when I didn’t, I missed them
  3. I re-discovered the joy of good toast (it’s cheap) and was amazed at how variable the quality of such a simple food can be.  The best toast by far was from Berties in Lytham, I went back for seconds and I’m looking forward to going back again once I’ve finished my current whole food from the garden challenge.
  4. The best quality breakfast overall was from Lytham Kitchen
  5. The best bacon and eggs was from Cafe Cove in Cleveleys
  6. The new Costa in Lytham has the air-conditioning set far too high, Paul and I were freezing
  7. I feel most relaxed in the Filey Country Park Cafe, it’s very cosy and friendly and full of locals
  8. I really like The Cloud, free Wi-Fi
  9. Expensive, trendy, cafes often have good food (not always) but provide the worst experience overall, because they are cramped and noisy
  10. I really like being surrounded by natural light and background noise, so much so that one of my favourite experiences was Esquires Cafe right in the centre of the Brunswick shopping centre in Scarborough, all the shoppers chattering resulted in something close to ‘white noise’ and the Wi-Fi was really fast and there was superb lighting, with no reflections, from huge skylights
  11. Supermarket cafes can be really good, I tried Booths in Lytham and Sainsbury’s in Blackpool, both were excellent
  12. Going to one and often two cafes a day, gets expensive, hence the focus on toast!
  13. Early morning is definitely the best time to visit, I like to be first in, to get the best seat

Here are the thirty tweets from each visit, in reverse order:

  1. The Mews Tea Room in Lytham was number 30 in my 30 days, 30 cafes challenge. A nice place for an end of walk rest stop with Paul
  2. Popped into Vincent’s Cafe in Cleveleys number 29 out of 30 on my ‘challenge’. A perfect traditional seaside place
  3. Found myself a nice little corner at Caffe Nero Southport, cafe 28 in my 30 day challenge
  4. After a week away it’s great to be back at Caffe Nero in St Annes number 27 in my 30 day cafe challenge. This is my beloved corner where I wile away many an early morning watching the town wake up & drinking an iced Coke
  5. Esquires in Scarborough cafe number 26 only 4 days & 4 cafes left for this challenge.
  6. Cafe 25 of my 30 day challenge is The Coffee Cup in the centre of Filey really great decoration
  7. Cafe 24 of my challenge is the St Nicholas Cafe precariously perched on Scarborough cliff top doubled in size since my last visit
  8. Filey Country Park Cafe number 23 on my 30 day challenge. I love this place!
  9. Arrived in Bridlington popped into cafe number 22 of my 30 day challenge ‘The Dolphin’, free Wi-Fi friendly & cheap – what more could I ask for
  10. Cafe 21 in my 30 day challenge the Clock House in St Anne’s very quaint & better value than its big brother the Beach Terrace Cafe
  11. Cafe 20 in my 30 day challenge Bakes & Cakes in St Anne’s. Sitting outside for a change
  12. For Cafe number 19 in my challenge I tried out the new Costa in Lytham  with Paul – someone’s got to do it – very nice, although a bit cold
  13. Topped and Tailed today’s walk around Buttermere at Croft House Farm Cafe 18th in my 30 day challenge
  14. Number 17 in my 30 day challenge is Fairhaven Lake Cafe where they always struggle with me ordering just plain, ‘simple’ bacon & eggs for some reason
  15. Blackpool Central Library Cafe is the 16th destination for my 30 day challenge, free magazines, comfy seats, low prices, great art-work and quiet — top spot!
  16. Doing the long route at Rivington rewarded by a bacon barm at the Great House Barn cafe number 15 in my 30 day challenge
  17. Sheltering from the rain at Booths Cafe in Lytham & bagging the 14th cafe in my 30 day challenge
  18. At Cafe Cove for day 13 of the 30 cafes in 30 days challenge hard to beat the view!
  19. Caffe Nero Wheelergate Nottingham had the ‘honour’ of being cafe 12 in the 30 days 30 cafes challenge. Of course I snagged the window seat :-)
  20. Caffe Nero Blackpool on day 11 of the 30 cafes in 30 days challenge
  21. Day 10 of the 30 days 30 cafes challenge down by the Ribble walking with @scoffer12 at the Pavilion cafe basic but good quality
  22. View from the Deckhouse Cafe on day 9 of the 30 days 30 cafes challenge
  23. Day 8 of the 30 day 30 cafes challenge was at the fantastic Bownes Kitchen Cafe, also known as #4 – perfect place for Lakeland brunch
  24. View from the Water’s Edge cafe where I’m enjoying my 7th cafe in my 30 day challenge with Anna
  25. Caffe Nero Lytham provides a great start to day 6 of the 30 day cafe challenge
  26. Rewarding myself after a trip to the tip at Bertie’s Cafe in Lytham day 5 of the 30 day challenge
  27. Brockholes Cafe an excellent place for day 4 in the 30 day challenge
  28. Beach Terrace Cafe 3rd cafe in the 30 day challenge second cafe of the day though after Caffe Nero Lytham
  29. Cafe Chicco at the Solaris centre 2nd cafe in the 30 day challenge after a good catch up with John at Caffe Nero
  30. Lytham Kitchen with @scoffer12 — 1st cafe in the 30 day challenge

It’s probably worth noting that some of the cafes on this list had many repeat visits and other’s didn’t get a mention because they were the second or third cafe of the day.  All told I probably visited 60 cafes in the 30 days, but only 32 unique ones, of which only 30 made the list.

The picture I chose for this post was from Swell Cafe at Robin Hood’s Bay.  It’s very busy and expensive, but has fabulous views from it’s terrace.  Ironically it was my third cafe of the day, so it didn’t make it onto my list, but it made it into this post because it has a superb entry on google maps that allows you to go on a virtual tour of the inside and outside, really impressive.

One Month In–Early Retirement Progress

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I’m just past the one month mark in my retirement and just moving out of the – I’m on holiday – phase and moving into the – rest of my life – phase.  It’s a slightly disconcerting feeling, but a hopeful one.  During the first month I took some concrete steps to test out some thoughts about my retirement plan and they all worked well.  These are the seven areas that I’ve been working on.

Naps

Over the last decade my sleep has gradually degraded, it’s not terrible at 7 hours a night, but it’s assisted by sedative pain killers which impact it’s quality.  I’ve a long term plan to wean myself off these pain killers, but that means reducing my pain levels, which won’t be quick.  In the interim I’ve used an hour a day of my new found free time to take an afternoon nap.  It’s been glorious, I curl up on the sofa in the conservatory and snooze in the warm, it’s a particular treat when it’s sunny.  The naps have definitely contributed to increased energy levels in the afternoon and evening.

Bottom line – afternoon naps have been the biggest, most enjoyable and most unexpected benefit of retirement

Movement

I wanted to push my body harder, to try and toughen it up and improve it’s ability to recover from the minor injuries that are the inevitable result of hiking and cycling more.  This has meant a mix of moving more throughout the day: gardening, housework, doing more cardio in the form of cycling and hill walking and doing longer and more frequent walks.  The result has been much less lower body pain generally, but much more shoulder pain and more Achilles tendon pain.  To help the tendons I’ve been icing them after long walks, massaging them and soaking them in a hot bath and they’ve not got any worse which is hopeful.  My increased shoulder pain is a slight mystery, I backed off any upper body exercises when it started to increase, but it continued to worsen, it could be due to more cycling, or perhaps I just feel it more now that my lower body is essentially pain free. 

Bottom line – my body is coping well with moving more and my pain levels are much improved, but my shoulders – ouch!

Diet

My personal experience is that my body can cope with all sorts of different foods, including low quality junk and processed food.  However I also believe that as I’ve aged my ability to cope declines and that ‘coping’ is not good enough.  I’ve hypothesised that I can significantly improve my health in subtle ways by eating well.  To that end over the last month I’ve gradually transitioned to a much better diet and I’m now at the point where I’m mostly eating organic fruit and veg from the garden, supplemented by nutritionally dense whole foods like nuts, meat and eggs.  To solidify my progress I’ve challenged myself to eat this way for the next 28 days.  It’s going well, I’m feeling MUCH better, I have more energy, even though I’m eating fewer calories, my brain fog is minimal and I’m happier.

Bottom line – I’m proving to myself the benefits and practicality of a whole food, mostly garden grown diet (during the summer)

Challenge

I’ve been understandably worried about stagnating, of slipping into bad habits, filling my time with TV etc.  So far there’s no sign of that, I’ve watched less TV and read fewer books and felt busier in retirement than I did when I was working.  I’ve started in the way I mean to go on though, to challenge myself to live the kind of life I want to lead.  My first challenge, to go to a different cafe every day for 30 days, finishes today and it was a good first choice.  Towards the end it did prove to be a little challenging, but it also stopped me getting into a rut, expanded my horizons and pushed me gently out of my comfort zone.  Declaring it as a public challenge also made me stick to it in a way that I don’t think I would have done if it had been a private promise to myself.

Bottom line – I will definitely be doing more challenges

Socialising

Several years ago, when I was working from home as part of a global team, I almost never saw the people I worked with and only socialised with family in the evening.  It was a very isolating and demoralising time, even though I enjoyed the work I was doing, I learned to hate conference calls.  I wanted to make sure this didn’t happen in retirement, so I’ve made a particular effort to spend time with friends and family during the day at least 3 days a week, in addition to evenings.  It’s worked out really well so far, in fact I’ve spent more quality time with people than I did when I was working.  Time on my own to read, listen to podcasts, listen to books, explore, work on projects is also important, it’s all about balance.

Bottom line – 3 days with people and 4 days on my own seems about right.  bearing in mind that I spend time every morning in cafes with people I know and every evening with family too.

Purpose

For most of my working life my purpose was provided by my work and young family, now I no longer have my work, my children are mostly grown and my wife is working and mostly financially independent.  I need to find a new purpose, or more likely many different purposeful activities.  I’ve started with the basics, fix my health, fix up the house, go on adventures, learn about the world,  it’s gone ok.  I don’t think it makes sense for me to have a single over-arching, all consuming, purpose again given the unpredictability of my health. Better I think to have lots of activities that I can mix and match depending on my health, wealth and the weather that combine to make me feel like I’m living a ‘good life’.

Bottom line – so far I feel I’m living a purposeful life, made up of many activities, not one ‘passion’

Medications

In my first week of retirement I started to aggressively reduce my medications, testing my hypothesis that in retirement, more movement, less stress and better food would ‘fix’ me.  Although it started well, probably assisted by the placebo affect, I was too enthusiastic, my pain levels went through the roof and I had too many withdrawal symptoms.  I quickly put a stop to that idea and decided to take a more measured approach.  First establish solid movement, diet, relaxation and sleep habits, essentially the bed-rock of health; second very gradually start to wean myself off the meds, avoiding being too ‘proud’ to go slow.

Bottom line – my health problems were decades in the making, I can’t fix them in a week

In summary, I’ve made a good start, there’s lots more to do and I’m brimming with ideas.  I’ve tried not to repeat the content of my earlier one week in progress report, which is a useful supplement to this one.

One of the things I’m really enjoying in retirement is having the time and energy to go on longer walks, I’m particularly enjoying doing this with old friends from work.  The photo at the top of this post is of Buttermere, just before Rob and I decided to head up a winding track that lead to Hay Stacks fell, a great day out, one of many.

My Next Challenge – Eat Mostly Food I’ve Grown Myself

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Slightly overlapping with my 30 cafes in 30 days challenge, I’m starting up a new 28 day challenge, the overlap and slightly shorter duration is necessitated by the logistical impossibility of eating garden grown food while on holiday in London with Steph.  Since I’ve only just started growing my own food I need to be fairly lax in my definitions, so here are my rules for ‘food I’ve grown myself’:

  1. Food that I’ve actually grown myself
  2. Foods that I’ve foraged
  3. Food that I am growing myself this year, but have not cropped yet, like apples, pears and potatoes
  4. Food that I’m going to grow myself next year, but didn’t have space for this year, including cucumber and carrots

This means that I will mostly be eating:

  1. Salad vegetables: tomatoes, cucumber, red and green lettuce, radish and tops, beetroot and tops, dandelions and edible flowers
  2. Leafy greens: curly and royal kale, red and green cabbage, brussels sprouts and tops, runner beans
  3. Tubers: carrot and potatoes
  4. Berries: strawberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries
  5. Other fruits: apples and pears

This isn’t a complete balanced diet though so I will be supplementing it with some meat, fish, eggs.  I’m restricting myself to only ‘paleo’ or ‘whole’ foods and further restricting myself to a quantity less than the calories that I’ve burnt through walking, in practice this means about 400 calories a day, enough for a burger or a serving of bacon and eggs.

I’m also allowing myself the odd treat, the most important of which will be dark chocolate rice cakes, I like to eat one of these after each green smoothie (I find they really help with digestion).  So I’m allowing myself three of these a day, provided I ‘earn’ the calories that they contain by cycling.

On days when I do a lot of exercise I will need a little more to eat and this is likely to be a bowl of granola with nuts, seeds and coconut flakes, sweetened with half a dried pear.

This is going to be quite a challenge, especially following hot on the heals of eating out in a cafe every day, still it should be very healthy and will help me shed a few excess pounds in the process.

I’m writing this post in Caffe Nero in Hull, nestled into one of the excellent, single row of window seats that run along the whole length of the place.  I’ve just walked here along the bank of the Humber after starting the day at the country park cafe in Filey.

The 100 Best Walks Challenge – Buttermere And Hay Stacks

One of my first retirement challenges is to complete 100 of the best walks in the UK, as a way to increase my fitness, but also as a way to introduce myself to many areas of the UK that I’ve not visited before.  As my fitness builds I’m going to be starting 100 of the best hikes in parallel, walks being easy and 4-6 miles and hikes being more challenging 6-12 miles.  The 100 best walks and hikes have been pre-determined by books of those names.

This blog posts describes the second of the best walks, which was meant to be an easy stroll around Buttermere, an old favourite, but not much of a challenge. 

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As we strolled through along the shaded lake side paths though Rob and I decided that we needed something more from the walk and since it was only just past lunch time we picked a footpath and started to climb up from the lake. 

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After about 5 minutes of climbing I asked a couple where they were going and they tempted us into doing the Hay Stacks circular walk, which sounded achievable at around 4 hours.  We set off at a good pace leaving the much more seriously attired couple in the dust.

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The climb was gloriously hard work, but well within our capabilities, with just the right amount of well trodden paths and scrambles to make it interesting and of course with superb views. I’ve not climbed many Lakeland Fells yet, something I intend to remedy now that I’m retired, but according to Wainwright Hay Stacks is up there with the best, he said:

for beauty, variety and interesting detail, for sheer fascination and unique individuality, the summit area of Haystacks is supreme. This is in fact the best fell-top of all

After we reached the summit though the walk was only really just beginning as the return to the lake entailed a long winding, unstable, rocky path. Those scrambles that were so much fun coming up were less fun going down and some of the steep tracks took their toll on my toes, Rob (being indestructible) was of course fine.

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Two blister plasters later and all the difficult parts of the walk were over and as we were making our way down the gradual return to the lake I remember saying to Rob:

There’s something about a hike like this that makes me feel a special sort of alive

It’s definitely true that the mix of exertion, accomplishment, adrenaline and endorphins makes a heady mix!

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We glided around the rest of the lake, which looked incredibly peaceful as the wind had dropped and the sun was going down, leaving it glassy smooth.  

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After the only missed turn of the walk we headed directly for the Croft House Farm Cafe which topped and tailed the walk and was the 18th cafe in my ‘30 cafes in 30 days challenge’. 

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Overall it was a great day, with even the 4 hours driving being effortless, traffic free and very enjoyable as I was listening to the fascinating book Sapiens.

The route we followed is shown below:

Hay Stacks with Rob

As usual I’m writing this post up on the following day in Caffe Nero, before another, more relaxed, walk around Fairhaven Lake with Paul.