Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Queen of the Glens (Hiking the Ulster Way)

The weather gods offered us a nice hiatus from the recent dreariness on Saturday and we grabbed it with both hands (and paws, Toby was there too). It was too good a day not to hike and boy we crushed those miles like crackers under our feet. The sky was blue, there were but wisps of cloud, and it was the perfect temperature to walk hard but not get sweaty.

It's about time we started to get serious about longer stretches again; something big is coming up at the end of April and we need to be ready.

Glenariff hike - Carrie Gault 2018

Time to cross off some more of the Ulster Way and see an area we thought we knew but didn't. Driving through somewhere is nowhere near the same as walking it and seeing its beauty up close, it's hidden friendly inhabitants and beautiful sense of place. For a start off we were walking from the sea (away from the crazy ducks and geese of the beach car park) and up into the sky in what has been declared as 'The Queen of the Glens' -  Glenariff.

Glenariff hike Viewranger map - Carrie Gault 2018

Waterfoot to Glenarrif Forest Park and back again by way of the lovely Laragh Lodge for a wee pint = 9.5 miles. The terrain being river bank mucky grass path, lots of quiet road and then pine needles under foot (and the reverse). I got to try out my new backpack which is fabulous and fits me perfectly and we both had managed to get great wee breathable windproof jackets in the sales - awesome!

Really this post is just a great way to show how gorgeous our wee country is...

Glenariff hike - Carrie Gault 2018
The start of the walk, behind a housing development
Glenariff hike - Carrie Gault 2018
sheep and the right hand side of the Glen

Glenariff hike - Carrie Gault 2018
How's this for a living room window view :)

Glenariff hike - Carrie Gault 2018
Entering the Forest Park area and the view back (left side of Glen)

Glenariff hike - Carrie Gault 2018
lunch break and the view down to the sea

Glenariff hike - Carrie Gault 2018
returning from whence we came

Glenariff hike - Carrie Gault 2018
idyllic Irish scene and back to the river walk
So there we are - a walk in photos and I know there are a lot here but I have parred back as much as I can. It was a great hike 😊 and I was still able to breathe at the end though I could barely see (shakes fist at double vision!)

Here are the stats but please note they are skewed as we didn't turn the app off over lunch or our cheeky pint.
Glenariff hike Viewranger stats - Carrie Gault 2018
Love and hugs
Carrie x

To discover more about this stunning area click here - - The 9 Glens of Antrim

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Ulster Weavers and the Eden Project

Ulster Weavers has been a well known quality brand name here in N. Ireland for over 100 years. Still a family run business, they create beautiful linen and textiles for the home. They even have the Queen as a customer; she gave them the royal charter in 1995, so it's pretty darn respected.

Recently, Eden Project (I so want to go and visit!) and Ulster Weavers got together to create a new range of quality, sustainable kitchenware, bringing colour and wildlife into the home


'The range has been inspired by the wildlife in the Eden Project biomes, has been manufactured using unbleached cotton. All labels and packaging are printed on FSC card and printed using vegetable inks.'


Ulster Weavers (Eden Project collection) tote bag - Carrie Gault 2018

Their collaboration just launched this month and as a proud N. Irish girl I was very pleased to be asked if I would like to review it. The range comes in cheery pink or turquoise and I am honestly really impressed. The designs are beautiful and my turquoise bag is made of thick cotton and lined inside, has a magnetic button closing, an internal zip and a strong re-enforced box bottom to carry the load - oh and it's cute, oh so cute. It also came in a slinky presentation gauze bag - what a beautiful touch. 


Ulster Weavers (Eden Project collection) tote bag 2 - Carrie Gault 2018



Ulster Weavers (Eden Project collection) TEA TOWEL
Ulster Weavers (Eden Project collection) OVEN MITTS

The prices are reasonable, ranging from £8.50 for a tea towel to £16.50 for a long length apron. 

This gives you a great excuse, if you needed one, to update your kitchen in preparation for SPRING or maybe to give as a Mothers' Day gift.


You can see the whole range here:


Ulster Weavers (Eden Project collection) tote bag and Toby - Carrie Gault 2018
Toby appreciates a good sturdy re-enforced bag bottom :)

I'm hoping to take picnics to our allotment in my bag and bring home bounteous and perfect organic produce home from the plot :) 


Friday, 9 February 2018

Slieve Guillion Forest Park (first visit)

As I sit here typing these very words I can feel Toby glaring at me from his bed; he's just had a bath. We went for a wee hike on Sunday and, well, he does love to pick the muckiest routes = he needed a bath. Ooh, he just looked away from me there and growled quietly, haha.

Andrew and I were caught deep in clinomania on Sunday and though we had meant to get up with the larks and go to Co. Armagh, but we, er, didn't. Such a cosy bed, such heavy eyelids....time passed swiftly and then, boom, it was 10am. Our gear all ready downstairs and our clothes laid out we shoved some breakfast down and out we went.

Only an hour or so away we came to our destination of Slieve Gullion Forest Park. The massive car park was full bar one space for us and on site there was a nice cafe = coffee! We decided that as the park closed at 5pm we couldn't do our desired hike but we could walk up to the mountain and check the terrain for the next time. I had my new camera so we took it easy and Andrew was very patient whilst I grabbed my shots and tried to get comfortable with its settings.

(Sorry, no photos of the fairy village or the giant's liar as it's bloomin' hard to get a shot when there are so many crazy excited kids around! The link above has great pics of that put of the park.)

Remember: click photos to enlarge 😊
Slieve Gullion Forest Park 1 - Carrie Gault 2018
Gorgeously clear and freezing cold little spring/ Andrew and Toby being careful with all the cars around /Cut down tree with moss and ivy

Slieve Gullion Forest Park 2 - Carrie Gault 2018
Tiny but bright lichen/  Rust and old wood with moss = joy/ Cute mass of pine cones

Slieve Gullion Forest Park 3 - Carrie Gault 2018
The view south over County Louth and Dundalk Bay in the distance /  Lonely pine cone

*****
Above was written on Wednesday - it is now Friday morning so I reckon it's time to finish this, and put some photos in, hahaha.

Plus I have a date with Toby again as he needs a hair cut today, he has no idea at present and he is already in a bad mood with all the cars and my David Bowie music stopping him from snoozing. Lucky I have treats and cuddles to offer.

Hugs and love, have a great weekend!
Carrie xx

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Snowdrops have superpowers

I went outside yesterday {sort of} by my own volition and did some clearing up, brushing the deck and clearing away fallen branches and millions of leaves. All due to the power of the Snowdrop clump.

Toby likes to run round to that hidden area of the garden to have a hearty sniff and pretend he's being a good boy and doing his morning pee pees, but yesterday I followed him to make sure he 'went' and THAT is when I saw them.....glowing ethereally in amongst the detritus. They are the happiest part of February, don't you think?

Hours later and with the air a fraction warmer and the sky still bright I was drawn back to them (via my bedroom to put on lots of layers) and tend to them as they justly deserved. Here, friends, is a photo of HOPE, literal hope.


Once I got my photo a massive panic attack had hold of me and that was the day ruined but you know, it was worth it.

Today I look at the meaning of February to me - yes, I'm Northern Irish so the Celtic Imbolc celebration does matter to my soul...I would like to cleanse the earth at the allotment by walking around it with a candle (or traditional flaming torch) but I'm not that much of a hippie. Instead, in my mind I have cleared the site and will consult Andrew on drawing a new plan.

Love and hugs
Carrie

P.S. We have 6 more pots of snowdrops 'Galanthus' for the front garden waiting to be planted.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Soil and clouds

From the dark cold earth to the misty white clouds, the last weekend in January saw the first of our visits to the Allotment and the first hike of the year. What a year we have planned as well! The allotment is going to get some serious loving and our wee legs are going to do some serious walking - my new camera was gifted to me at just the best of times.

With renewed vigour we intend to smash this year of 2018 into shape and make a heck of a lot of good memories while we're at it. Of course there shall be the usual mental health monsters to slay each day but we can do this together and I am not ashamed to fail (now and then). It's the year of learning self care, exploring new places and of the rebirth of our wee plot. The 10th year of plot holding; the 20th year of us being in love.

* That 1st visit *
the plot after 3 months of winter neglect - Carrie Gault
okay, it was very bleak but not too bad looking, right?
It wasn't as horrendous as we had feared - virtually no winter storm damage and the weeds had not succeeded in conquering every last inch of soil. Plus the shed was still there.

We had to plant our garlic and luckily the 'Andrew of November past' had thought ahead and left an area covered over in black membrane = gorgeous weed free soil to plant into.
garlic planting at the allotment - Carrie Gault
back to basics - remember to plant your cloves a good hand span apart and not too deep

I found signs of hope all around our little half plot and here are just three ...
- the glint in Toby's eye (plus he was very good and quiet)
- new buds on the apple trees
- gorgeous red blueberry buds

Toby the dog and some other buds - Carrie Gault

And I was able to harvest leeks too, we have loads that I had forgotten about.

**********
* That 1st hike* 
Sunday started out so bad but there came a little moment in the afternoon where I just had to grab life by the shoulders and take control. I ran upstairs and got dressed; we left the house before I could even think about changing my mind. Off to Ballyboley Forest for a walk, in the rain. We literally drove up and up into the clouds and then walked inside them, it wasn't the most pleasant visit ever.
Ballyboley forest in a cloud - Carrie Gault
a very damp walk indeed and some shocking deforestation (forest service owns this area)
Ballyboley hike stats - Carrie Gault
Andrew has a cool app on his phone that records all our hikes :)

It wasn't a long walk by any means but it was a good start after the holidays and all the sickness and snot we'd suffered. I had not thought clearly in my rush and thus had jeans on which got soaked and left me freezing but other than that we all kept good pace and took photos as well. Toby was just running back and forth all over (he walks at least twice as far as we do) but always came back when called - good boy.

So very glad I managed to get this published before the end of the month - though you can ask Andrew, I have been cussing away at the photo app I have to us - I'm always wanting to be better at everything.

Got your potatoes yet? We got Sharp's Express again - what's you favourite???

Love and hugs
Carrie

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Beach treasure and hallucinations

It wasn't a 'good' mental health day but Andrew managed to get myself and Toby out the door for a mini adventure on Saturday and in the end I was glad :) We went for a drive along the famous Causeway Coastal Route, I really wanted Toby to experience Maggie's favourite beach in Cushendun. Plus we just love the drive, any wonder it's TripAdvisor's highlight for 2018.

On the way we stopped off at Glenarm Castle tearooms. It was the first time I'd been since the extension and the addition of other small businesses. It's a beautiful place to celebrate my leaving the house and I had cake for lunch 🙂. Our food was delicious and we even had a second coffee each (personally I needed it to keep me going, boy I have been constantly exhausted these past weeks).

cake and window - Carrie Gault

I picked the cafe table and instantly got out my new wee camera to have a play around. With views of the kitchen garden right next to me, how could I not? What an idyllic scene and what a lot of gorgeous mulch they had! Tractors were needed - so jealous. I wished we could go out and really have a good poke around but it's not open until St. Patrick's day.

the kitchen garden at Glenarm Castle - Carrie Gault

Onwards to Cushendun and the lovely beach there. I think this is one of my all time favourite wee villages and I love it's beach; we see so many lovely people, friendly dogs and even horses on it. The village also has a resident goat that is usually tied up by the bridge beside a monument erected to all the poor animals that had to be put down due to the foot and mouth disease in 2002. Plus it has a wonderful very old pub - Mary McBrides.

Toby loved the beach, just as I hoped and it was beautifully clean as always, besides the seaweed from the recent big weather. He ran about all over the place and was a very good boy, until the very end when we were walking back to the car, at this point he ran up to a lady and bashed into her leg head first. He is a little crazy sometimes, hahaha.

Cushendun beach and some sea glass - Carrie Gault

We did find some little pieces of sea-glass that we see as treasure, it's always been a fun pursuit. Andrew also found a mysterious plastic animal...a giraffe or maybe a seahorse. We took it home anyway.

On the way home we had chips in the car, all of us - Toby loves a good chip.

As for the hallucinations, well how about these during this week.... Sheep in the street and grazing on the neighbours grass and this, a bumblebee in the back garden! A bumblebee in January and he had pollen on his legs which I can only assume came from the little box hedge flowers.

sheep on the run/ bumblebee - Carrie Gault

We are determined to at least look at the allotment in the flesh this weekend, no matter the weather!

My love and hugs
Carrie

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Hope, Love and Computer gardening

Hello sweet reader; how are you? I fear don't ask enough or maybe ever and that has got to change. My wish is that you are all hopped up warm, maybe with a hot beverage and a loved one near by.

I am sitting here in my living room with my little dog and a decaff coffee (just in case you were wondering) and soaking wet hair - I just did the hardest thing - I just had a shower. When you have depression etc doing anything can literally be a battle and my mental health today is bad. And I mean BAD.

HOPE

Look! - Daffodils are starting to emerge, to poke their brave little shoots up into the world and face the harsh realities of the cold and rain and snow. I think the snowdrops are doing the same but the deck of the tea house was slippy so I didn't risk it. ANYWAY - signs of hope are appearing, birds are singing ever so loudly and thoughts are turning away from the darkness and into the joys of planning, planting and pottering. Even with a blackness eating me up inside, I feel hope.

LOVE

Last week Andrew and I celebrated 20 years of togetherness - something I never dared to hope for. He isn't fed up with little old me, he still loves me as I love him and both of us are looking forward to the next 20 years of adventures! (Light and dark by turn but always love.)

He made a book of photos from those last 20 years and it's adorable, I love it so much I can't describe it. We were meant to be Berlin but had to cancel as he was so ill with the cold but instead we had time in our pjs watching movies and napping; yes napping is one of our favourite things! And we stayed in Bullitt Belfast (a lovely hotel) and drank cocktails and had the best dinner ever and it was fab.

Shout out to Mamma G for looking after Toby!

COMPUTER GARDENING
It's still so very chilly and the weather is dreich and not looking up for the days ahead. So instead of being at the allotment (I wonder if I'll be able to find it - it's been so long, too long) we are looking at past photos, getting inspiration on Pinterest, thinking of what needs done, and even (I am embarrassed to say) playing Gardenscapes, hahaha. Gardenscapes is a silly game on Facebook where I am winning daft challenges to earn stars and then swap them for trades done to my huge garden - I'm on level 114 and it's looking fabulous, though no veg patch yet hahahaha.


Soon though we shall venture there to good old 24a with our garlic and our 'can do attitudes'. This my friend, is our 10th year as allotment holders and we plan to make it a good one :)

Love and Hugs
Carrie

Thursday, 4 January 2018

A new dawn....

I had hopes. They weren't high, they maybe weren't based in reality, but still I had hopes. I have survived another Christmas and here we are in a new year, a brand new and sparkling 2018, first of it's kind.

my bullet journal header for Jan 2018 - Carrie Gault 2018
my hand drawn journal title :)
Already it's a mess; Andrew and I have feeling yucky with a flu-like cold. My mental health is at an all time low. Toby is bored out of his little mind and we're had to cancel our trip to Berlin next week. 😢

Yay isn't this a great start to a new year?


Truly we ought to mark our front door with a big X and keep all other people well away. Oh and it's 5 am; I've been up since 3 am....


.... Ever have a much needed sleep and felt worse for it? Andrew and Toby seem to have bought a one way ticket to Snoozeville but I'm awake and am jealous of them both, I got half an hour there.


Oh, my lovelies this maudlin attitude is not good but to be fair this is a blog of truth so maudlin I am.


BUT
I thought I'd share our Damson gin success (this is only 1 of 3 bottle fulls!) and a super wee book Andrew bought me - 'The Almanac' by Lia Leendertz (available in all awesome bookshops). Both are lovely and will last the whole year, haha.

Damson gin success and an Almanac- Carrie Gault 2018
delicious damson gin (a little goes a long way) and a great wee book

Goals for the year (aside from getting better) are -

* much more hiking (though a trip to the kitchen there almost broke me, haha) as we are going on another long multi day walk. We're doing The Hadrian's Wall Walk this summer.

And

* Allotmenting lots - yes, the hope is a lovely allotment year to also share. Less work - more produce is the key, ummm but how?

**********
Now I return to my blankets and my book. I'm so tired (hence the eye mask) but can't sleep and there is a small dog here looking my attention.

Some essentials to get me through this cold- Carrie Gault 2018
A good book, tissues galore, blankets, eye mask and laptop

love and hugs
Carrie x

Friday, 20 October 2017

101 miles of the Ulster Way

Ott Car Park - Rostrevor

We slept in which wasn't the best start, especially as Andrew had taken the day off work to do this. But such is life and we know our gear so well that it didn't take long to get out the door and on our way. It happened so quickly in fact, I hadn't time to feel nervous.


The Mourne Mountains are an hour away, a distance in which I get sleepy and cosy in my car seat. By the time we get to our starting point I'm not at all ready, mentally or physically - putting on that backpack and starting off is a struggle!
I'm into my stride by the time we've walked past Spelga dam, on the road. Then take a sharp left and down into the wilderness, into sheep territory and a fabulous bridge with a creepy skull! Welcome to Slievenamiskan.


It's slow progress around the base of Slievenamiskan and Hen Mountain, as in the Mournes proper paths are few and far between. The land here is bog and with people, rain and sheep it becomes a waterlogged mess. It's a shame as we hikers end up destroying the land we're here to appreciate by having to make many alternate roots.

The views were nice though - archaeo-hubby pointing out places of importance and horses in fields close by. The sheep were friendly enough and lead us round to the next big gravel path. Boy, this was a long uphill trudge that just seemed never ending and ever more windy. At the top I was wobbly and seeing spots!

Lucky there wasn't much more to go - just the Rowan Tree River to cross and then we hunkered down for lunch.
 With full tummys we went through true bog- as in we had to plot a course and run it! At the base of the coll we were able to take a drink of water and then, up, up, up tackling the rocky, boggy climb; sometimes losing the trail, but always going in the right direction. Getting the to top was a happy moment!

Getting down a big hill that's wet, slippery and mucky with rocks sticking up here and there is not easy but by gum, I did it (with many a helpful hand). Our phones changed to Irish roaming tariffs here - always a little novelty near the border. At last, at the bottom we could rest a moment and take off those gaiters (stinking, slimy things by now).

Then came the easy bit - lovely forest walks. Little birds singing, my usual 10 mile pains kicking in and the sweet bliss of ibuprofen. We walked on into the darkness and then a mile outside Rostrevor, booked a taxi. Celebrated passing the 100 mile mark of our journey with a high five and then had an all important energy boost - Cadbury fudge bars for the win!
We got to the finish in plenty of time :) It was dark (the almost black photo is Andrew, by the light of my head torch. I used the flash on the camera for the last photograph; it was here that the taxi picked us up and took us back to the start and our sweet car.

* Chips on the way home! And another 12miles crushed beneath our feet - yay 🤗

Hugs
Carrie xxx

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Hiking the Ulster Way

Prologue

We set ourselves a challenge this year of 2017 to walk the Ulster Way; at least all the quality sections (which are those not on main roads). For many years we have seen, as I am sure everyone who lives here sees, those innocuous little signs at the sides of roads all over the country and wondered where they went...we wonder (wander?) no longer....
As you know last year saw us somehow stumble into the world of hiking and we have been ensnared in its grip. Andrew has gone right down the outdoor life rabbit hole and loves to wild camp too; I'm a bit more sensible - I love good sturdy walls, a roof and a proper bed with an en-suite..

So way back in our training for the West Highland Way (or half of it if i'm honest) we started these nice long sections of paths, exploring our home. It worked well, as this was the year when we had planned to focus on the hard landscaping of the allotment and thus have more time at the weekends for a bit of both. (By the way - the allotment only has a few beetroots and leeks in it presently).

The ulster way map via https://www.walkni.com - growourown.blogspot.com


The book above by Paddy Dillon is the only one on the topic and even it is 10 years out of date. All hail Mr Dillon though, I appreciate his efforts. The fantastic Walk NI is now the torch carrier of the way and their website is superb - https.www.walkni.com/ulsterway/

The story of our walks so far will be told in a backward way as I really want to celebrate the latest one we did on Thursday past - the one wherein we passed the 100 mile mark. The one which I am still aching from as I sit here on the following Saturday morning; there are muscles aching that I didn't know I had!

I hope you'll enjoy my photo filled stories to come !
Love
Carrie xxx

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

like tears in the rain


Today marks the anniversary of Toby's adoption  - he's been with us a whole year!

I think it's also very apt that it's world mental awareness day for without this bundle of fur, this sock stealer, I have a feeling I wouldn't be here.


Right now he is in his daily daytime position - squished up against me and sleeping away (with one eye open, in case there are strangers outside). He knows I'm a mess - I haven't showered yet and talking is hard and playing is too energetic - yet he loves me anyway. Though to be fair, I'm the only one here and I do gave immeasurable amounts of hugs, kisses and scratches behind those ears. 
Toby loves life, lives it fully and with such enthusiasm but he also knows how to sleep, to rest hard. He never has shame in asking for attention and has no qualms about giving and receiving all the love. He lives in the now, forgives with grace and snores without shame!


He gets me up everyday when all I want is to hide under the duvet. I open the blinds for him to see out and I step into the world (briefly) a few times a day to make sure he, umm, toilets.

He's the glue that holds me together until Andrew comes home from work. And then the fun and giggles can really begin.

**************

I'm just one of many many people out there whose thoughts are turned towards World Mental Health Day today. I sure as heck don't feel good today, but in honour of all those for whom even writing a blog post is just too much - please support those in need.

Be an ear that listens (no judgement!), a shoulder to cry on or a mate that just treats their ill friend just the same. All of which Toby does in his wonderful and unique way xxx

Love
Carrie

#worldmentalhealthday