Thoughts while walking


The gym is good for lifting weights and gaining muscle tone, but I do so prefer walking. I know that if I want to keep walking I have to strengthen my core and my back and that’s why I go to the gym, still, outside is just better.

I wonder again, how I ended up living for so long in a big city. First Munich and now Birmingham and at times, I get anxious that I will end up living in Birmingham until I die. It is a stupid thing to get anxious about but I do. People will say to me, then just move. As if it was so easy. Maybe it is easy, but I don’t find it easy and that’s the same thing.

I love watching the magpies gathering material for their nests. They are not bothered about anyone’s presence, they just get on with it. I wonder if that couple is repairing an existing nest or if they built it from scratch. Then I notice another couple in the next tree. Are they good neighbours? Magpies certainly seem to hang out in groups. You either see one (sorrow) or 4 (a girl).

This dog that walks with me and is not my dog is cute. An Irish setter, he runs ahead of me and then runs back to me. I pretend for a moment that he is mine, no owner in sight anyway. He does his business next to some daffodils and since I always have poo bags in my coat pocket, I pick it up. The owner comes suddenly in view and thanks me, but does not offer to take the poo bag. Oh well, the next bin is only round the next bend.

Dogless now, I look across the golf course and wonder how it looked when the Abbey was still there and this was just parkland. I wish it was just parkland. I have nothing against golfers per se, but is it really necessary for golf courses to be everywhere. I know the Park Trust where I live earn a big chunk of their income through green fees, but once again I wonder if there could not be another way. I think about this every time I walk past the golf course, which is normally three to four times a week. Asthma permitting.

I spot a parakeet. They are relatively new here. Immigrants and like so many of us immigrants people either find them interesting or concerning. Competing for food and nesting sites with birds and bats. However, others say that parakeets are easy prey for sparrowhawks and the like, so a great food source themselves. And we certainly now have birds of prey in the woods. And we don’t really know yet, what the long term impact of those parakeets will be.

The willow is starting to go green. Always the first one. I love that tree and in the child’s most maddest Harry Potter phase, she would shout: Here is the weeping willow. And then swiftly demand an ice cream because it is next to the park cafe.

I see that the rhododendron has been cut back. My husband loathes the rhododendron and I guess he has a point, apart from the time it blooms, it does not look that appealing in hedges and parklands. It is an invasive species and still classed as foreign despite the fact that it has been in the UK since the middle of the 18th century. It takes a long time to become British. I don’t like it because unlike other plants, it is toxic to animals and produces absolutely no food for any species. Even the pollen contains toxins. I am no botanist or anything like that, but facts like that find me and stay with me and then I randomly spurt them out, even just in my thoughts.  These facts are just as hard to get rid of as the rhododendron, tiny seeds and roots that can sprout new plants/thoughts anywhere. Such is my brain. Maybe that is why I don’t hate the plant as much as my husband does, I feel a certain kinship with it.

I walk mainly to wake up. The insomnia has been with me for over two weeks now. It shifted this week from the “being awake for hours at night” to the “wake up every half an hour and then go back to sleep” type. Not sure which type I hate more. Really does not matter because either way, I am tired, exhausted. It’s 7.45 and I have been walking for half an hour. It’s cold and humid this morning. I look for my inhaler, that moment of panic when I cannot immediately find it. There it is. I inhale and look across the big green area and watch dogs and owners. Dogs running. Owners standing. I decide to take another loop through a different area of the park. Not quite awake enough yet, to go home and work. I am not quite sure how I will manage to work at all today, my brain is so tired.

When the kid was a baby, a health visitor once said: sleep begets sleep. And I am trying to use her advice on myself, implementing that daily nap again. Hoping it will improve night time sleep. Yesterday, I had that nap at 10am. 30 minutes. I hope I can stick around until 1pm today. And that I will feel less guilty about taking a nap.

This loop takes me to the site where the old Abbey once was. I wish I could have seen it. I love a Gothic mansion and the Abbey was Gothic perfection.  Got torn down in the 50ies. It is a shame, but I guess, it was a bit like a plaster being ripped off. Better than watching the slow decline of so many amazing buildings in Birmingham and the Black Country.

It’s time to go home. Do some work. Drink more tea. And coffee. Happy Friday.


Finally outside

Since Christmas, we struggled with viral illness, my asthma got pretty out of control and most weekends and weeks were spent inside since one or all of us were in varying degrees of being under the weather.  This was – to put it mildly – not much fun.

Yesterday was the first day this year that all of us felt well and we finally went outside. Not a big adventure, but as my daughter put it: The wind was blowing around our heads. And sometimes that is all that you need.

We went to Croome, a National Trust place in Worcestershire, mainly because the husband wanted to look at the landscape painting exhibition they have on and also, I quite like visiting Croome at various times in the year. I followed the development of Croome since the house was purchased in 2007 and became part of the National Trust. It has become interlinked with all the memories of the kid growing up (she was born at the end of 2006) and we have visited that place countless times over the last 12 years.

It has been fun to see how the National Trust develops a place for access. Now, I do know that a lot of criticism is thrown at the Trust in how they do things, but personally, I appreciate that they maintain these places and not everything becomes luxury flats for rich people. And yes, a lot more should and can be done in exhibits to show where the money for these houses (mostly slave trade) came from, after all: for some people to be idle in luxury, loads of people have to suffer. Still, I enjoyed witnessing the changes at Croome, the re-establishing of parkland, more access and longer walks opening, the house opening and different exhibitions being held.

A spring day many moons ago

As we walk through the grounds, my mind wanders back: Here at the Greenhouse, the kid and I had a picnic when she was three on a super blustery day when I just had to get out of the house (my motto for parenting has always been: if in doubt, go out) and it ended up with her not wanting to leave that greenhouse, we stayed ages in there and since it was an average autumn day, we were the only people pretty much on the entire estate, something that sadly never happens these days anymore. Croome has become super popular. I also think back to outings with friends that now live far away and how we shared chocolate cookies at the viewing bench and well, enjoyed the view. All those pinecones we collected and painted back home. How each year, there seem to be more snowdrops, multiplying like all the visitors that now flock to visit.

Still, there are still places where you can be almost alone, the longer walks are not done by the crowds, like most places, the car park and tea room are the busiest places here. In my mind, I split National Trust visitors into three categories. The ones who come for the tearoom (nothing wrong with that, we like cake, too). The ones who want to tick the house of a list and come in their Sunday best. And then those who make a day of it, bring a picnic and explore every inch.

We fall into the latter category. We no longer go as frequently as we did when the kid was younger, but we still like to go now and then and when we holiday somewhere in the UK (which we do a lot), we like to visit new to us places. But mostly, these days, the National Trust just makes me nostalgic. I can honestly say that the local to me National Trust places (Croome, Hanbury Hall, Clent Hills, Kinver Edge, Wightwick Manor etc. etc.) were brilliant for us when the kid was growing up. And I realise my privilege here, not everyone can afford membership or even have the means for getting to these places, which I acknowledge, but for me this was just brilliant. A day out to a National Trust place was always a good one for us, we came home mucky, tired, all picnicked out. Thanks to the fact that I can take additional children with us, many of the kid’s friends joined in the fun during school holidays over the years. Some of them had never been to a place like this. So many memories are linked to these places, memories of all seasons, in the rain, in the wind, in the glorious sunshine that we occasionally get. Making dens, exploring…

Now that the kid is 12, we explore differently for the most part, so going to a National Trust place is no longer the thing we think of first. She can hike longer distances and we like to find routes where we will encounter few people but lots of nature. Before you get jealous of the hiking kid though: She will complain, too. She is 12 and as much as she likes exploring, she also complains about the length, adverse weather, the wrong snacks, not enough breaks.

What a meandering ramble this post is. I think I shall leave it here, clearly our visit to Croome has got me thinking many thoughts. This is another reason why I like going outside: It gives my brain fodder and stops it from looping in the same spiral (which is usually only downward).IMG_3335 (1)

Dreaming of adventures

It’s been a bleurgh January, despite us visiting Alpacas at Lucky Tails Farm near Kingsbury (which is just lovely and yes the picture shows a llama and not an alpaca, but who cares if both are awesome) and despite dip-dyeing paper and despite baking and making hygge with cosy fires and tons of reading. January does not like me.


It’s February now and the holiday to Scotland is imminent. I am excited, especially since we decided to take the train from the Midlands to Inverness. That is definitely one of the bucket list.

But it’s still 7 weeks or so before we head off, so some interim adventures are needed. I love these little Pocket Mountain Walking Books so much, we had one for Perthshire, last year we had one for the Cairngorms and for Dumfries and we have bought the one for the Wester Ross.

And I may, have bought one for the Cotswolds and the Wye Valley, because these areas are accessible on day trips from where we live.

image1 (1)

Today over lunch, I flipped through the pages and made a plan of which walk we want to do first and finally settled on Belas Knapp and Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds. Any walk that takes in both a neolithic burial site and a castle is pretty much a winner. I love that it gives you a rough map and a really good walk description (but I also always use my OS map app to plot the route, too).

There is also a lovely shorter walk (6.5 km) that starts in Broadway but quickly leaves it behind exploring smaller neighbouring villages as Broadway can become very, very busy indeed.