Thursday, 30 August 2007

Race for Life 2007, Western Park, Leicester

Last year’s Race for Life was at Holme Pierrepont. This year’s event scheduled for 29 July was postponed due to flooding, so we transferred to the event at Leicester. Big mistake. Holme Pierrepont is flat, Western Park is hilly. I don’t do hills. Never has 5 km seemed so long.

We set off with the runners (the walkers set off from a different point) and within 15 seconds my team mates had hared off like whippets. Not me, I settled down into my steady pace – didn’t know what this course had in store. Glad I did as it turned out. Overtaken by dozens of women for first 15 minutes, then it was my turn to overtake all those who were now walking. Tortoise and Hare. This was a grass course, and trailed all round the park. It wasn’t too hot, and despite HUGE black thunder clouds, stayed dry.

My time last year was 39 minutes (on the flat) and I was desperate to beat that, and all looked good until the final 500 metre sign, when ahead of me I saw a steep hill. Did I mentioned I don’t do hills? I finished in 39 minutes and 16 seconds, extremely out of breath and red in the face, but I’d run all the way. Tortoise and Hare. The winner did it in 21 minutes but I wasn’t there to race, I was there to do it – and raised nearly £100 in the process.

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Monday, 27 August 2007

We're all going on a wet holiday

According to the Mail on Sunday this week, "The rain has made it feel more like winter than summer, but surprisingly, the latest holiday figures show that domestic tourism is up on last year. Figures compiled by three leading leisure organisations show that we have continued to go to seaside resorts and cities despite some of the worst weather on record. Domestic holidays account for 80% of Britain's £85 billion-a-year tourism industry, and figures from The Caravan Club, budget hotel chain Travelodge and Merlin Entertainments which owns Madame Tussauds, Alton Towers and the London Eye, suggest that it has still been a good season, with more than 50 million visitors.

The Caravan Club, which represents more than a million caravanners, says August bookings are up 7%. Catherine Ford, Head of Sites Marketing for the Club says 'Our customers enjoy caravanning in all seasons and tour primarily for history and heritage, not sunshine'. Occupancy at Travelodge's seaside hotels, where the company has invested most heavily, are also up 7%. But cities have been the biggest winners with holidaymakers sick of long queues at airports, deciding to holiday at home".

Source: Mail on Sunday Financial Mail, Sunday 26 August 2007.

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Thursday, 23 August 2007

Where did our summer go?

The following article is courtesy of the University of Nottingham. Very thought provoking........

“What is a proper English summer? Should we really expect unfettered sunshine and months spent in the garden with our barbecues? Is it time to admit our climate is variable and the weather is hard to predict? An expert in environmental change at The University of Nottingham says our knowledge is improving exponentially but there is still a long way to go. Teleconnections and feedbacks are critical in determining the operation of the climate system, and the challenge for climate scientists is to understand the nature and scale of past natural variability - only then can we tease out what impact humans have had on the climate system and what the implications might be.

Professor Michelle Clarke, from the School of Geography, points out that in April 2007, the UK Met Office published its summer forecast predicting that we could experience warmer temperatures than normal and warning that “periods of very hot weather” have “implications for people’s health”. It has been warm, she says, but it has also been very wet and the Met Office admits that it could not have predicted the record breaking rainfall in June and July.

Professor Clarke said: “I don’t blame the forecasters for getting it wrong but there is an important lesson here. The climate system is complex and varies at a range of spatial and temporal scales, making predictions very difficult. If we have difficulties predicting the weather for tomorrow, how can we realistically predict future climate? In order to improve our predictive abilities, we need to improve our understanding of how the climate system works and how the feedbacks between the oceans, complex land surfaces and the atmosphere operate”.

We now know that our wet summer was caused by changes in the Pacific. It’s all the fault of La Niña (part of the natural El Niño Southern Oscillation) in which abnormal cooling of Pacific ocean temperatures influences atmospheric circulation systems, deflecting the Atlantic jet stream southwards bringing low pressure systems and rain to us (instead of Iceland). Professor Clarke suggests: “Citizens demonstrating against climate change at power stations and airports this summer could be premature in their concerns, but the residents of Tewkesbury, who are campaigning against new housing developments on their floodplain, have a better case”.

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Friday, 17 August 2007

2007 Northern Motorhome Show, 20 - 23 September

A must-attend event in the AvailablePitch calendar is the Northern Motorcaravan Show, or York Motorhome Show, York Racecourse. We meet up with old friends, make new ones, have a jolly good nose around as many motorhomes as we can, and pick up loads of end-of season deals. Most of our accessories, gadgets and camping paraphernalia have come from York Show. We do love a bargain!

Most years the weather is wonderful, however, 2005 saw very heavy rain the week before. On arrival, we made it to our pitch by keeping rolling, however there were some not-so-lucky motorhomes being towed around the site - how embarassing. So when it rained again last year, we were concerned about getting onto the racecourse, however, there were brilliant portable metal roadways which ensured easy passage to the pitch, so no worries this year, whatever the weather has in store.

The sight of hundreds of rows of thousands of motorhomes, with the odd caravan or trailer tent tent slotted in as you drive into the Racecourse never ceases to amaze us – millions of pounds worth of kit all in one place.

Showers, toilets, fresh and waste water, and rubbish facilities are dotted at regular intervals on the rally fields but don’t let yourself be pitched near these facilities, or you will be disturbed by loud generators 24/7.

Book in advance for a trouble-free arrival, and the friendly marshalls will cheerily wave you straight through to your rectangle of grass for the weekend. Pre-booking closes on Monday 3rd September 2007. We think the best rally area is with the Camping and Caravan Club – it’s centrally located and just a short walk across to the entrance gate – less far to stagger with your many purchases. To camp with friends, you need to arrive together, as pitches cannot be saved. Oh, and look for a landmark to help you find your way back to your motorhome. We pick out a unit nearby sporting an unusual collection of flags.

Dogs are welcome (as long as you do the usual) and exercising them on the racecourse itself makes for an unusual experience. If you are there for the weekend, you have to wear a paper bracelet (like in hospital, but not as tough), which is not replaceable if you tear or lose it – which makes for interesting ablutions! So putting a role of sticky tape on board is a good idea in case of emergency repairs.

We’ll be wearing our AvailablePitch teeshirts, so if you see us, give us a wave. See you there!


Monday, 13 August 2007

The weekend it rained a bit .....

Every year, our gym group have a camping and walking weekend. Last year saw us walking 12 miles vertically uphill over Kinder and way, way beyond. Never again. After 12 months of earache, our Party Leader organised a “flat, easy walk around Monsal Head”. Finding a campsite with availability for 2 motorhomes and 2 tents for the first week of the school holidays was difficult, fortunately, John and Julie at Cottage Farm Caravan Site, Buxton, Derbyshire had vacancies.

We watched severe weather warnings that week and anxiously tracked the forecast. After frantic texts on Friday, we motorhomers decided to go ahead, our Party Leader chickened out of camping on Friday but brought the tent on Saturday in case of an unexpected heatwave, and the rest completely wimped out of the whole weekend – lightweights.

Actually, Buxton missed the bad weather. Yes, we had some rain, but nothing like the deluge seen in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. We watched these disasters in stunned silence on TV Sunday night when we got back.

Cottage Farm Caravan Site is set in a picturesque Peak District location between Bakewell and Buxton, and is a great place to stay for the many attractions, including the Caves at Castleton, Dovedale, and Eyam - The Plague Village, and the charming village of Ashford in the Water (an unfortunate name, given the weather conditions – luckily it did not suffer, although we did see sandbags at the ready).

The campsite has three camping areas – the terraced hardstands, a flat grass area with hook-up for larger tents sheltered underneath trees, and a large open camping field for tents only. The views from the camping field across the surrounding countryside are really lovely with the best views from the hardstand area on the top tier. These pitches are however fairly small, and whilst we were OK in our motorhome, there isn’t a lot of room for awning and car too if you are in a caravan. However, this is a very popular site, and even given the horrendous forecast, when most right-minded people would have locked themselves in at home and waited for the storms to pass, it was almost full.

We parked at Monsal Head, and our walk took over 5 hours – with a pub stop at the Three Stags' Head, at Wardlow Mires, which has an, er, unusual, landlord. There was a roaring coal fire IN THE MIDDLE OF JULY and every time we went in or out of the bar, there were choruses of SHUT THE DOOR!!! What do they do in winter??

The walk, despite being flat, was still very strenuous, the highlight of which was a shortcut up a steep, narrow, disused path thick with nettles and thistles. Think we all overdid it that day, with the exception of our Party Leader, who could run up Kinder in one go and still have energy for a gym workout afterwards.

Next time, think I’ll suggest a gentle stroll along the shores of Ladybower reservoir. Then stand well back ……..

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