On Sunday Adeline and I concluded the first 14 week ‘Creative Conversations’ programme. For me, bringing together a group of amazing people to discover and rediscover their creative self has been a truly magical journey. It’s not the first time I’ve hosted an online group coaching programme, but it is the first time we’ve created one based on the book ‘The Artist Way’ by Julia Cameron. It’s been a real highlight of my year so far and I’ve truly looked forward to our Sunday evenings together.
Finding your tribe
With people from England, France, Slovenia and Lanzarote, including native South African and Australians, each participant has had their own journey and their own individual, unique experience. Having observed the group, the transformation and growth week-on-week has been beautiful to see. From the first week on Sunday 6th February where we made initial introductions, talked everyone through the programme, provided some insight into how the following weeks would unfold, and what was expected of them – to the final completion on Sunday 8th May – it’s been magical.
For these programmes to flourish it’s important to create a solid foundation of trust and confidentiality. Our aim is to build an environment and safe space where people are fully seen and heard, and are happy to express what’s showing up for them each week. Therefore, at the start of each call we remind everyone of our guiding principles, to be of service to themselves and others, to share openly and succinctly as this benefits the group, and to observe confidentiality at all times. We find this approach encourages everyone to be open and creates a platform of mutual trust and respect.
From a quiet, often timid start, the calls develop to express a full range of emotions – including happiness, sadness, anger, fear, resentment, love, compassion, and much more. From tears to laughter, what’s incredible about these emotions is if we are able to sit with them, and not resolve our tension, they create a map. When we pause, get curious, take time to play and listen to our internal whisper, we are able to raise our awareness, notice synchronicities that have previously gone by unnoticed, and step into a more creative way of being. Fore we are of course Human Beings, not Human Doings.
Thank you for being you
It is of course possible to undertake this programme solo, but what I do wholeheartedly believe is that participating in these programmes as a group, and having the courage to show up – and share experiences with others, takes our learning and awareness to levels not felt or known before. Some weeks we feel great, some weeks we feel tension, some weeks we don’t want to show up, and some weeks we’re emotional – what I want to convey is we welcome everyone and encourage everyone to show up as they are.
To everyone who joined us – I would like to send you all a big heartfelt THANK YOU – as it’s you who have made this possible.
So what’s next?
Introducing The Four Agreements
Several people in our group mentioned that they would miss our Sunday evening Creative Conversations and in truth, I will miss them too. In response to their question – ‘So, what’s next?’ we have devised a short 6-week programme that will start on Sunday 22nd May and finish on Sunday 26th June. In the weeks approaching summer we will introduce a book called ‘The Four Agreements’ by author Don Miguel Ruiz. Coupled with the four agreements noted in the book, you will participate in group meditations, discuss what’s landed and triggered you, take away a piece of homework each week, feel the benefit of experimenting with a variety of experiential tools we will introduce along the way – each of which you’ll be able to take into your life once the programme is complete. Plus, you’ll meet other like-minded people who have an interest in personal development and living a more creative, intuitive life.
To ask questions and discover more about how to get involved, do drop me or Adeline an email. Spaces are limited as we want to ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate and benefit fully.
The four agreements provide a powerful code of conduct that can help you transform rapidly. If you’re looking to get curious, develop your awareness, challenge yourself, and how you think, this course will most likely interest you. There’s real joy in sharing experiences and learning together.
It’s the third or fourth week in a row I’ve been to the doctors, every three days, to have my feet checked… This was back in the early 1990’s… I didn’t know what it was or what was causing it. My GP at the time didn’t understand it either. Thankfully, after a few weeks of having my feet syringed, she sent me for tests at Queen’s Medical Centre (QMC) in Nottingham where I was at Uni at the time. At QMC they took a skin sample from my right toe, examined it, and shortly after I found out I had a genetic skin condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa (Simplex), or EB (S) for short.
I have blisters on my feet, sometimes 10 or more on each foot, and sometimes on top of each other, and they keep on coming. They are painful, they come from nowhere, and they are not only on my feet! Depending on the clothes I wear and fabrics I choose, tiny little ones, sometime bigger ones, will pop up on my body, hands, chest, anywhere. You see, any slight rubbing results in a blister, often numerous ones under my skin.
Open conversations – anything goes
We talk about all sorts when we ride our bikes – family, friendships, health, travel, literally anything goes – and on this occasion we were talking about drinking alcohol. I mentioned that whilst I enjoy having a drink, and I like the taste of alcohol, my body doesn’t seem to like it very much. Then I shared that I’m pretty sure drinking alcohol aggravated the genetic skin condition I was diagnosed with in my early 20’s (which is when I was at Uni where the alcohol flowed).
I’m sharing this story now because whilst on a cycling trip with some girlfriends in Girona, through my friend Tricia, I learnt about someone else who has EB (S). In my lifetime, outside my family, he’s the first person I’ve ever heard of in my network who has EB (six degrees of separation – in this case less). Moreover, after some WhatsApp messages, I discover I’m the first person he’s ever heard of in his lifetime that has EB (S). It’s not a topic that comes up often and it’s not something I generally talk about, but it is something that’s painful and over the years, has been a challenge to manage. Thankfully I’m getting pretty good at it now. Plus, I have the ‘Simplex’ version so it’s the least severe.
What is Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB)?
I describe it as not having glue between my layers of skin, so when there’s friction, it blisters easily. The NHS, research and support charity Debra, and Wikipedia describe EB as follows…
“Epidermolysis bullosa (EB) is the name for a group of rare inherited skin disorders that cause the skin to become very fragile. Any trauma or friction to the skin can cause painful blisters.” Discover more HERE.
“Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) is a painful genetic skin blistering condition with no cure. Find out about different types of EB, causes, symptoms and treatments.” Discover more HERE.
“Epidermolysis bullosa (EB) is a group of rare medical conditions that result in easy blistering of the skin and mucous membranes. Blisters occur with minor trauma or friction and are painful. Its severity can range from mild to fatal. Those with mild cases may not develop symptoms until they start to crawl or walk.” Discover more HERE.
In March 2004, Channel 4 made a moving documentary about Jonny Kennedy, ‘An extraordinary man with a terrible condition – Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) – which means his skin literally falls off at the slightest touch’. I recall watching this emotional documentary, feeling shocked, and also very lucky to have the mild version as it’s manageable.
My strategies and tactics for managing EB (S)
Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve discovered many strategies and tactics for managing my EB. I’ve also discovered many brands, fabrics and products that make every day manageable.
For cycling – my top five tips to avoid blisters
I cycle a lot, often multi-days rides. And yes, I’ve had very painful blisters there too. BUT (pardon the pun) there are many ways to make cycling achievable. It is about prevention, not cure. Here’s my top 5 tips…
Shorts – Get a pair with a good pad, ideally a chamois for long distance. My preferred brand is Stolen Goat as these shorts are amazingly comfortable, the seams are in the right places, there’s no horrible plastic at the bottom of the legs, and the fit is brilliant.
Chamois Cream – In the UK I buy a product called Chamois Butt’r (pH HER), a pH balanced anti-chafe cream for women. I put it on before every ride, directly onto my skin, not the chamois (that’s my personal preference).
Leg / Knee Warmers – These are a brilliant piece of kit, however make sure to get these with minimal seams and minimal rubber (avoid the pairs that have a line of rubber at the bottom to keep them in place on your shin, they are blister makers).
Sports Bra – If you are blessed with a chest, get a shock absorber. They keep them in place whilst being kind to your skin. Avoid anything tight that will pinch your skin.
Gloves / Mittens – I wear gloves or mittens all year round when I cycle to protect my skin. I tend to stick with Castelli, they are made well, good fabrics, and often have a little bit of padding to make it more comfortable by absorbing some impact over any bumps, on and off road.
For everyday – my top three brands that make my life more comfortable
1 – FitFlop
Without them knowing it, this brand has saved my feet and my sense of humour on many occasions. Without this brand I don’t know what I’d wear on my feet. Via my LAKES cycling shoes, this is the only brand that goes on Potter Trotters.
Why? It’s the Wobbleboard Technology. Over the years they’ve launched new sole technology to suit different customers. For me, the wobbleboard technology has been a game changer. Again, through trial and error, I’ve worked out that this is the product that works for me – in spring, summer, autumn and winter – flipflops, shoes and boots. Discover more HERE.
2 – Freya
Yes, I’m talking about underwear, bra’s to be precise.
Why? For women our underwear is important and it has to be numerous things – comfortable, feminine, pretty, come in lots of colours (white, beige, black being the basics, and colourful too – who doesn’t love wearing something fun, fresh and funky? Freya achieve everything, the underwire is in the right place and it provides support where you need it, they’re well made, and the fabrics are super soft and kind to my skin. They as make great swimwear too! Discover more HERE.
3 – BAM
Now I’m talking about socks, the super soft, sustainable kind.
Why? This product is another revelation… super soft, amazing array of colours and choice, fun and funky designs, a product for every day wear! They are more expensive than other brands, yet they are worth every penny. If you have to be on your feet all day, these are a must to have happy feet at the end of the day. Discover more HERE.
Living with EB (S)
Having EB (S) doesn’t rule my life, but it does impact what I choose to do and what I choose to wear on a daily basis. THANKFULLY it’s automatic thinking now so I don’t notice it so much. I’m luckily that I am able to exercise as it’s something I enjoy. I can’t do gym classes as I get blisters doing burpies and the bleep test, and I can’t run because that’s too much impact and friction on my feet (that’s a blessing really as I’ve never been a fan of running #silverlining).
For exercise, I ride my bike (slowly), I walk (short distances), I swim (bob about in the water doing my own kind of swim stroke, I would never make it across the channel), and do yoga (not so bendy these days so there’s room for improvement) – all of these activities I love.
What gets to me most is the low-level pain, it is tiring, can make me short tempered and it can make me go quiet, when what I’d really like it to do is ‘stop’.
Thankfully, as I get older it seems to be getting less painful, perhaps I’m becoming a master of managing it? Either way, if someone reading this has EB (S), I hope some of what I’ve shared is useful.
Photo – My feet in the New Forest, Pink Toes in my FitFlops
Train tickets purchased… rental bikes ordered and paid for… AirBnB booked… bag packed (yup, one small trolly dolly for ten days), passport in hand – and I’m ready for the off!
For one reason or another, March was a pretty weird, stressful, and unusual month (take your pick of those words, they all fit the situation). I’m not going to go into that here as it’s not the topic I want to share. What I do want to talk about is the excitement of going on a new adventure and to a new destination, to me never explored before.
Two trains, no planes, and one automobile
Leaving the office in Leicester Square to get to St. Pancras International launched the start of our train journey from the UK to Spain, and before I knew it, I was with Tricia, Alison and Ruth on the Eurostar whizzing through the countryside on our way to Paris. The train is such an amazing way to travel, so much to see, people to watch, imaginary stories to make up about their lives and where they are going, to entertain us on our way. With a gin and tonic in hand, and much chatter, the time passed quickly. Before we know it we were enjoying another tipple in a bar in France!
After a welcome sleep at our hotel, we split into two; Ruth and me opting for a taxi to get across Paris, Alison and Tricia choosing to walk to the Gare du Lyon, before regrouping for breakfast and stage two of our journey from Paris to Girona. I hadn’t realised that France had implemented a ban on short haul flights, encouraging travellers out of the sky and onto the SNCF – perhaps that’s why it was full to the brim?
As I write, me and Tricia are watching the virtual realtime map as we approach the French / Spanish border. It’s not only been lovely to catch up and chat, but also brilliant to see the countryside change as we’ve gone through Nimes, Montpellier, and now the mountains are emerging on the horizon.
This trip will be different to others, as we’ve organised it ourselves – well, in reality Alison has done most of the heavy lifting, suggesting the idea of going to Girona in the first place, finding the AirBnB, and much more. So, what’s different about this trip? The first four days we’ll be having two wheeled adventures on our road bikes, followed by a further four days off road on gravel. With routes sourced through friends and fellow adventurers, we have approximately 40 to choose from. I love this kind of adventure, when there’s a bit of a plan and structure in place, but in reality, the days evolve as does the exploring of new territory.
I’ve heard that Girona has many coffee bars… and I love fresh coffee but it doesn’t seem to like me… but that’s not going to stop me sampling some deliciousness. Let’s hope the caffeine headaches don’t last for too long!
The Stats – My distance on two wheels
598km in total, road and gravel
7,750 metres climbed, road and gravel
Those numbers may not be huge but they tell a story of travel, adventure, giggles and much fun!
Favourite days in the saddle
In truth I’d say all of them, but if I had to pick two…
Our ride to the coast where we saw some of the Volta a Catalunya. The scenery is just incredible, the variety endless over the rolling hills and down to the sea. Great company and chat too! Pushing our timing a little having been stopped by the rolling road closures for the race, we eventually made it back to base before sundown.
This ride was titled ‘So much fun’. True to its name, the route was properly out in the wilds. It was like being a kid again, flying through the trees, off the beaten track, over sand, rocks, tree roots, little bumps, big downhills, a few 20% sections up to navigate, this route had it all! Me and Maria added a few extra KMs going around Banyoles lake, then caught up with Alison and Ruth for the wooded section flying up and down some paths and tracks in the trees.
I’d happily go back and do both of these rides again, and many more for that matter.
Tasty treats to fuel the fire
Hands down, the three things that pop into my head are the seafood pizza at the coast. Totally by chance we found a restaurant overlooking the sea, quite a wonderful location. And all this before we had the surprise of watching the pros in the Volta a Catalunya.
Second were the cakes at La Fabrica. Nestled in the cobbled streets of old Girona this place is utterly amazing, the cakes are out of this world, and the food is super tasty – perhaps made even more delicious after a five hour ride in the rain when you’ve skipped lunch, and need to replenish the stocks before you face-plant on the pavement. In all seriousness, I highly recommend this café, it tickles and pleasures to all the senses.
Third were the prawns me and Alison ate on our last gravel day. Me and Helen found this restaurant in the middle of nowhere the day before, I’d eaten a packet of crisps and a chocolate croissant (which was utterly divine) and drank a coke, before we raced the clock back to Girona to get Helen’s bike back to the shop for 5pm – but that’s another story of all together, skipping lunch whilst riding is not wise but does cause hilarity and much resourcefulness. Thankfully, with a minute on our side, our mission was complete and we finished with a fabulous Aperol Aperitz in the Placa de la Independencia, taking in the sunshine – happy days!
It feels like I’ve been away from home for a long time. In fact, ten days is a long time. We’ve made the most of every minute, hunted out new adventures, taken on new challenges, and discovered new ground – whilst also learning new things about each other, be that bike skills, family history, dance moves, and a host of other quirks to entertain and keep us smiling.
Whether on road or gravel, it has been incredible to cycle through the rolling Girona hills and see the snow-capped Pyrenean mountains in the background… they are in complete contrast to the red poppies and other fauna flowers dancing in the wind and spring blossom popping out on the trees.
This week has thrown everything at us… wind, drizzle, biblical rain, and finally some very welcome sunshine!! The geography here is vast and makes me realise – again – how on top of each other we are in the UK. Of course, most capital cities like London and Paris are busy. In contrast, it’s been great to have ten days away, with the majority spent outside in nature, in fresh air, in the elements, with friends who share a love of the great outdoors making memories to treasure.
Now on our train journey home, we are rolling out of Girona on the TGV towards Perpignan… to the left I can see the snow-capped mountains of Andorra. Funny to think that whilst we’ve been cycling, only a matter of a few kilometres away people are skiing and enjoying the mountains in a completely different way. It seems they spark joy all times of the year for many people – I know they do for me.
A big THANK YOU for all the giggles you gorgeous group of gravel girls ❤️
Alison (Dexy), Ruth (Root), Claire (Lady M), Maria (Magic Doctor), Tricia (Wordle Queen), Helen (Sharpie), Karen (Kamikazi)!
There is nothing finer in life than finding your tribe and meeting people that just make your heart sing.
The term The Three Amigas was born on Friday 13th in 2020, when me, Claire and Zoe arrived in Barcelona for a long weekend. Initially the group was more but due to the uncertainty around ‘you know what’ and travel restrictions coming into play, understandably some decided not to travel and to stay at home. However, even with all the daily changes happening at the time, I’m still so happy I made the decision to go as we had the best, most crazy, laughter fuelled 48 hours ever!
I travelled to Barcelona the week after International Women’s Day. That year I was training for a long-distance cycling event, due to take place on Good Friday called the York Arrow (440km, from London to York, inside 29 hours). As part of my training plan my cycling coach Jasmijn Muller, had put the Amesbury Amble in our diaries to ride Sunday 8th March – International Women’s Day. For her it was a walk in the park as she’s super-sonic, for me it was a fun, incredible and super hard day in the saddle. At 315km, and just shy of 3,000 metres of climbing, it was a long day – made harder by the headwind! So, after that, I was really looking forward to chilling and relaxing with my girlfriends in a city I’d never travelled to or explored before.
And as for pedal adventuress this year, I won’t be cycling 315km, but I will be joining an International Women’s Day Zwift session at 6pm (GMT) hosted by Natalie Cresswick, where there will be many Bella Velo ladies joining.
So why am I writing about Barcelona? Well, in truth, I’m not. But if that trip hadn’t happened, it’s very unlikely that Claire, Zoe and I would have got together two years later for a week in Lanzarote. And it’s fair to say, as expected, we laughed, cried, walked, talked, danced, drank, ate and hit repeat – for a full seven days!
Old school friends, we’ve known each-other for over 30 years having been to middle school together. It’s strange to realise a few decades on, that from the worst school years of my life, I gained two of the most amazing friends. There’s a saying about friendship – ‘Reason, Season, Lifetime’ – these wonderful ladies are most certainly ‘Lifetime’.
Having been together on Friday 13th March 2020 – yes, the day before Barcelona went into lockdown – two years on and with the travel restrictions easing, it was great to BE together once again.
Making memories in Lanzarote was brilliant… we threw ourselves into an Afro Dance class (I won’t be taking to the stage any time soon as my body doesn’t want to do what my mind is telling it), went to some really incredible beaches for walks with Zoe’s dog Jax, relaxed at the spa (I’ve not been to one of those for as long as I can remember), and generally had a really relaxing, fun time BEING together. We crowned Wednesday the new party night, dancing and singing like loons until 3am – I’ve not let rip like that in such a long time. Doing some weird and wonky dance moves and singing at the top of our voices… it felt fantastic!!
The three amigas
This year, for me, the three amigas has a second meaning as it captures three wonderful international women in my life. Meet Claire, Zoe and Adeline.
• Claire, native English, living in France • Zoe, native English, living in Lanzarote • Adeline, native French, living in England
Creativity, caring, compassionate – Claire
Claire I’ve known since I was 5 years old. We have some really cute photos of when we were little dressed up as sunflowers – wearing green tights and a long sleeve top with giant yellow petals surrounding our faces. From amateur dramatics as little ones, to middle school, art college, then university in Nottingham where we both studied Textile Design – our paths continued to cross. So much so, I’m godmother to her youngest son Erwan, who’s one of the most adorable, handsome young men you’ll ever meet. I feel truly blessed to have Claire in my life. Always there unconditionally. During good times and tough ones too, we scoop each-other up, give each other strength, and laugh A LOT along the way.
Zeal, zest, zealous – Zoe
Zoe and I met at middle school and we were in the same group of friends. Growing up, the main thing I remember about Zoe was how funny she was and that she was always laughing, always up to mischief and having a giggle. In our late teens there were crazy fancy dress parties with the most incredible outfits made from what we had at home. Her life took her to Lanzarote and our paths drifted – for anyone reading this, if you’re in the land of Lava, do take the time to visit her restaurants – La Cantina (serves the most amazing food and wine) and Esquina (100% Vegan, serves delicious Soul Bowls). You can see Zoe’s creative flair in the styling of both restaurants, in the interior and the menu as she created both. Thankfully our paths reconnected in Barcelona, and more recently we spent a week together in Lanzarote – me, Claire and Zoe.
Audacious, amazing, adventurous – Adeline
Otherwise known to her friends as Adelicious, Adeline and I met about six years ago through coaching at Natural Success and from that point on our paths have continued to merge. We share a love of being arty and creative, plus have a passion for adventure and personal growth. Last summer, with a group of friends, we celebrated her 40th birthday in France where we enjoyed incredible local food, swimming in the pool, sounding in 11th century abbeys, singing in carpool karaoke (minus the celeb), and many other special moments. Bringing our passions together, we are now hosting a group called ‘Creative Conversations’, a 14-week programme to support people who are looking to discover and recover their creative self, following the book The Artist Way, authored by Julia Cameron. Both Claire and Zoe, along with 12 others are participating in the programme.
Celebrating friendship and magic
Why am I’m celebrating these three beautiful women? Well, that is easy, it’s because they are incredible women and incredible friends. It amazes me how many years can pass in a friendship where sometimes there is little and in some cases no contact, yet the bond is still there. Perhaps it’s because we’ve shared some pivotal moments together, or maybe it’s because there’s an invisible thread that’s never going to break – whatever happens – or how far apart we are geographically in the world. I think it’s magic, in all senses of the word. Magical that we bring out the best in each other, magical that we challenge each other, magical that we listen to each other, magical that we are there for each other unconditionally, and that when together, we talk, laugh, dance and sing like no one is watching.
It was 15 or possibly more years ago that I first became aware of the book ‘The Artist Way’ by Julia Cameron. Designed as a 12-week programme, The Artist Way is a course in discovering and recovering your creative self.
The first time I read this book and actively participated in the programme I was in my early 30’s and for some reason I recall feeling a little embarrassed about talking about it. Why? I have no idea… perhaps because of what I thought people may think of me. First time round I read the book solo, diligently reading the chapters week-on-week, and doing the suggested tasks and exercises. Flicking back through the pages, I recall enjoying the process but understand now that I wasn’t fully involved or truly committed to the process.
Fast forward to September 2021 and I get the ‘whisper’ to check my bookshelf, look for this book again, and flick through the pages – I guess hoping for inspiration to strike and it did.
On reflection, I’m sure reading this book and doing the programme solo did create some shifts in me and in how I did things back then. Yet I recall wondering about the power of sharing the experience with a friend or with a like-minded buddy, creating a group with whom I’d be able to bounce ideas around with, share synchronicities, highlight and discuss resistance to certain exercises, and what ‘doing the work’ was creating for me.
Moments of synchronicity
It’s funny that I now spot moments of synchronicity every day. It’s actually strange to think there were so many before but I was blissfully unaware of them. Having heard and acknowledged the ‘whisper’ and found the book in my lounge, I messaged my friend Adeline who I’d been on holiday with in August – the ‘All of you is welcome‘ retreat – and asked her if she’d heard of the book, and if she had, would she consider doing The Artist Way together.
I love the way the book is described on the back cover…
The Artist’s Way helps to demystify the creative process by making it part of your daily life. It tackles your self-doubts, self-criticism and worries about time, money and the support to pursue your creative dream. It has already helped thousands of people to uncover their hidden talents – it can help you, too.
This was back at the end of September, and in the first weeks of October she’d ordered the book, felt similarly inspired to dive into the programme, and so our joint adventure of ‘The Artist Way’ commenced.
Moments of inspiration
Throughout the book, in every chapter, Julia Cameron highlights several quotes. Some resonated more than others. Here’s a selection of those that really caught my attention.
“No amount of skilful invention can replace the essential element of imagination.” – Edward Hopper
“Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things.” – Edgar Degas
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” – Anais Nin
“Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.” – Linus Pauling
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein
“With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.” – Keshavan Nair
“Chance is always powerful. Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” – Ovid
The power of sharing
If you’re reading this article, you may be wondering ‘Why is she sharing all of this?’. And the answer to that is having gained so much from doing The Artist’s Way a second time, and sharing the experience with Adeline, some of our friends have been asking about what we’re doing as they’ve recognised changes in us, a transformation if you will, in the past few months.
Many people in my friendship groups are interested in personal development, in challenging the norm, experimenting with new structures, and like to try on new behaviours that serve them better than previously held patterns, learnt from years of unconscious conditioning from those around us.
The Artist’s Way gives a fresh perspective. So, in response to friends asking if we’d do the programme again with then, we – myself and Adeline, will join them in supporting and exploring their journey as the new year unfolds.
In real terms, what this means is we’ll host a weekly check-in for those interested in doing The Artist’s Way and are looking to gain from the support and energy working in a group brings. We won’t be offering any advice, but we will hold the space for you to explore and discuss what you’re learning so that what you take away, truly lands and makes a difference in your daily life.
Join our weekly check-in
If you’re keen to find out more drop me and Adeline an email. We plan to start the weekly check-ins on Sunday 6th February, 60 minutes in duration online, 6-7pm GMT, and we’ll host them for 14 weeks. Why 14 weeks? We’ll use week 1 to frame up and make introductions so everyone feels comfortable in the group, weeks 2 – 13 will be for the 12-week programme – each week has a theme and topic as you’ll discover when you purchase and start reading The Artist Way, and in week 14 we’ll do a completion – a process we’ve learnt from our coaching endeavours at Natural Success. This process helps to concretise what’s been learnt and what you want to carry forwards.
A new adventure and refreshed creative ‘you’ await in the wings – take a leap of faith and join us on a journey of creative discovery and recovery.
If you’re looking to do things differently in 2022 and have a desire to be more creative in all areas of your life, we would love you to join us! There’s real joy in sharing experiences and learning together.
Every year in December Pantone announce their ‘Colour of the Year’ for the forthcoming 12 months. This year, breaking with tradition, they have created a totally new colour called Very Peri, ‘a new Pantone colour whose courageous presence encourages personal inventiveness and creativity’.
From a global perspective, in the last two years we have all experienced huge changes in our work lives, our personal lives, how we operate in our homes and what we want our spaces to create for us. What seems to be becoming ever more present is the capacity and ability for colour to communicate, to connect, and elicit subtle yet extremely powerful changes in our behaviour.
What the experts say…
It was interesting to see the article shared by Pantone announcing the Colour of the Year and to read what Laurie Pressmen, Vice President of the Pantone Colour Institute said about Very Peri…
“The Pantone Colour of the Year reflects what is taking place in our global culture, expressing what people are looking for that colour can hope to answer”.
Executive chairman of the Pantone Colour Institute says…
“As we move into a world of unprecedented change, the selection of PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri brings a novel perspective and vision of the trusted and beloved blue colour family, encompassing the qualities of the blues, yet at the same time with its violet red undertone, PANTONE 17-3938 Very Peri displays a spritely, joyous attitude and dynamic presence that encourages creativity and imaginative expressions.”
There are many influences that go into shaping the selection made for the Pantone Colour of the Year from art collections, travel destinations, artists and fashion, to believe it or not, sporting events and technology – who would have thought the latter would even be considered in the process. But it’s technology and digital in particular that have played a huge part in enabling new ways of working in these times, as well as enable the birth of several new entrepreneurial business, both large and small. And especially at a time when people are considering their life choices and how they want to transform and evolve in the year ahead.
The influencing qualities of Very Peri
Looking at the positive effects of this slightly lavender – lilac colour, we can make a connection with spirituality, self-awareness, composure and wisdom. For many our priorities have changed in the past 24 months and colour has the capacity to support our wellbeing and in helping people in making more changes in the 12 months ahead.
Picking up on the positive effects of light blue it’s fair to suggest that Very Peri will encourage and create feelings of calm and serenity. Moreover, blue is a psychological primary colour and affects us mentally, and will often help to give us clarity of thought.
Carrying both positive and negative traits, colour affects us all in ways many would not readily be aware of or even consider. In fact, it affects how we behave more than we realise, as well as influencing those around us in our immediate vicinity. Yet whilst colour subtly shifts and influences our behaviour, our choices, and what’s happening subconsciously around us, we all will relate to colour differently – through personal, cultural and psychological associations.
Colour, emotion and action
In addition to trend forecasts, and consultation with global brands, I believe it’s the psychology of colour that plays the most influential role in choosing the ‘Colour of the Year’ and changing our emotions. It’s what people feel, it’s how they connect with colour that drives change, that drives new behaviours, that causes people to make new, different choices that are more in alignment with their true authentic selves.
At a time when people need serenity and calm, coupled with inspiration and creativity, perhaps Very Peri will be the colour that creates emotions that people can’t ignore – turning these emotions into action. Perhaps this colour will inspire the change that people want to see in many areas of their lives – not only personally and in their work life – but in now they connect with themselves and others – mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
For me, I find Very Peri calming and centring. It may not be the colour I’d choose to paint my kitchen and dining room as it may suppress my appetite (not necessarily a bad thing after Christmas), but it would possibly be a good choice for a bedroom or a space I wanted to just ‘be’ or to meditate to encourage awareness and allow whispers of wisdom to appear.
This Autumn I wanted to strike out and go on another Vinnie Adventure before Winter truly arrived. Over the summer various friends had been up to Cumbria, the Peak District and into the Lakes and I began to feel the beginnings of a plan being hatched.
Being fuelled by the attraction of discovering new places and walking on new ground – well for me at least – I found myself checking out some new spots around Windermere. A big lover of my name-sake Miss Beatrix Potter, there was a natural pull to visit Hill Top and remind myself of all the ground breaking things this extraordinary lady did in her time. Back then women were not championed in carving their own path, they were expected to stay home, choose a husband and marry ‘well’ (whatever that means), and fall into what society expected of them. But Miss Potter was different – she had a love of nature, drawing, and painting, and she had a vivid imagination that conjured up the most amazing stories like ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’, ‘The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck’, ‘The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin’ and many more.
If it was not for Potters imagination, her following her passion, and writing her wonderful books that I loved as a child – we may not have been able to enjoy the Lake District as we are able to today. She preserved the landscape, the geography of the land, and in doing so, has enabled thousands, in fact more like millions of people to enjoy this luscious, mountainous, and adventurous part of our country.
So, whilst many politicians are busy knocking the great out of Great Britain, I wanted to experience something that is truly great about Britain – and for me, that’s the landscape in the Lake District.
Borrowdale and Honister Pass – exploring new territory
The last time I was in the Lakes was about seven or eight years ago over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Back then I’d joined a lovely guy I was dating at the time on a walking weekend near Windermere and we’d all stayed in a beautiful youth hostel. For this autumnal trip it was the middle of November, and it was a particularly soggy week, so I got online to check out which YHAs naturally caught my attention as I figured I may want alternative accommodation to Vinnie – my van. It was Borrowdale YHA that immediately jumped out and caught my attention. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it initially, but on arrival I think it was its remoteness as it literally is in the middle of nowhere, and only a few kilometres from Honister Pass – a cheeky little number I had in mind to cycle over.
Following my motto of ‘seize the day’ on arrival I took the decision to get into my lycra and set off on a two-wheeled adventure. Typical of me, I’d read a little (but not enough to put me off). So, 5 km into my ride I found myself going up Honister Pass! For those that don’t know, this is a long drag of a hill, that ramps fairly swiftly up to 25% and more. Laying as flat as possible over my handlebars to stop my front wheel bouncing off the tarmac as I continued to ride, I soon rose through the mist and arrived at the summit of the climb. Even in the wet, soggy, grey mist it was a beautiful, panoramic view.
What also became quickly apparent was the acute drop the other side! Not only was it narrow, wet and slippery, it was 26% and more, but this time downhill. Too steep to whizz down without touching my brakes, and watching the time as I wanted to get back to Borrowdale YHA before nightfall, I slowly set off with my brakes musically echoing around the hills.
My cycle ride took me all around the rolling lanes and after 60km or so I cycled through Keswick and then back to my home for the evening. As the rain drilled down and wind whirled through the trees, I was relieved and pleased that I’d had the foresight to book myself a little wooden cabin. Nestled in the green entrance to Borrowdale these basic yet cosy pods sleep two, they have no running water or the convenience of a loo, but they are warm, comfortable and quiet which made me feel more up close and personal with Mother Nature. Not only that, I was able to enjoy the heat of a roaring log fire in the communal area of the hostel and chat with fellow adventurers before I retired for the evening, and to what turned into a 12-hour sleep.
Friendship, laughter and play – a hat-trick of happiness!
Going up ‘North’ also gave me the opportunity to catch up with a couple of lovely girlfriends I’ve known for many years but have not seen for some time. At the beginning of my trip, I caught up with Fiona. I met Fi, at University in Nottingham where we were both studying Textile Design – Fi focused on construction in ‘knit’, and I focused on surface pattern in ‘print’. We studied together for three years and also lived together for two and a half years. In that time, we made hundreds of amazing memories, laughed lots, skied lots, drank lots, and danced lots. This time round it was a little calmer as our time was quite compact and it was wonderful to sit down for dinner, catch up on many of the incredible life events that have happened in the time we’d not connected, and it felt like no time had lapsed at all.
On the tail end of my trip, I caught up with Heather, a fabulous and vivacious young lady that I met doing my one and only ski season in 1999-2000. Both finding ourselves in Courchevel 1850, in the Haute Savoire region in France, we worked for different ski companies, yet we bonded over drinks and playing games in the Jump Bar, chatting about boys that had caught our attention, and enjoyed many swooshes down the slopes over our five months in our snow bubble. In the 21 years that have passed we’ve lived in different places, worked different jobs, enjoyed several beach adventures on the south coast, and now I’m getting to join her husband and her family of three wonderful boys in the gorgeous home in countryside. From collecting the boys from school and walking in the woods, to creating pirate ships out of lounge room furniture and exploring new villages – it was a blissful, whistle stop tour and I loved every second.
What was wonderful about seeing both of these brilliant ladies was that it seemed like only yesterday since I’d seen them last. There’s a saying I heard, I can’t remember when, but it’s about friendship – it’s either for a reason, a season, or a lifetime – I’m very happy to say that both Fi and Heather are ‘lifetime’.
The seasons are changing, a new chapter awaits!
As we pass the winter solstice – the day with the fewest hours of daylight – we move into a new chapter. With everyday there will be a glow on the horizon as the days slowly lengthen and we move towards the new year, then springtime. I did have plans to watch the solstice sunrise but for one reason or another (Covid) I was unable to be outside. So, as the new year begins to unfold, I’ll be making an extra special effort to enjoy many a sunrise – be that near my home in south London, or further afield on more adventures in Vinnie. I’m excited to see what the new year has in store for me.
No doubt there will be much laughter, love and enjoyment of this beautiful journey we call ‘life’. Let also the new year be a celebration of doing things differently and carving my own path.
‘IF’ – The poem in the slate
This state stone has the word ‘IF’ carved into it, it’s located at the top of Honister Pass. For those that don’t know, ‘IF’ is a famous poem by Rudyard Kipling. The slate captures the first two sections only, so I’ve captured the full poem below.
If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, But make allowance for their doubting too; If you can wait and not be tired by waiting, Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies, Or being hated, don’t give way to hating, And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master, If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim; If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same; If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss, And lose, and start again at your beginnings And never breathe a word about your loss; If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; If you can fill the unforgiving minute With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
For years I’ve wanted to go away on a multi-day solo adventure but for some reason I’ve never plucked up the courage. I don’t know why as I’ve travelled around the world to hundreds of amazing destinations with friends and joined several group cycling holidays to many a mountain range, yet a proper ‘solo, on my own’ trip has eluded me.
Why? I don’t know as I’m very happy in my own company. In the back of my mind perhaps I’ve always wondered what if I get bored or lonely, and “Will people think I’m strange?” so that’s stopped me from putting any ideas into action. However, in September 2020 (the crazy year when it all went a bit bonkers), I brought a VW campervan who I’ve named ‘Vinnie’. 12 months ago, I made a promise to myself that by the close of September 2021 I’d have gone on a solo multi-day trip with me, myself and I in Vinnie.
Initially I had planned to drive down to the South of France for my friend Adeline’s 40th birthday celebrations, followed by a few days in the Southern Alps enjoying the mountain air before I drove back to home. But all the travel restrictions put me off, so my van adventure across France will have to happen sometime in 2022. Having been gifted a rather fabulous book authored by Martin Dorey titled ‘TAKE THE SLOW ROAD’ which talks about inspirational journeys round France by Camper Van and Motorhome, the world is my shrimp (as my mother would say).
For now, the Cornish coast was calling! And I discovered a place called Mylor Harbour… not only was it stunning, the campsite was wonderful and the village had one of the most incredible seafood restaurants right on the harbour where I met a friend for a drink and watched the sunset. It was here I decided to treat myself so some local seafood delights and I wasn’t disappointed.
Sculpture and art beckon
The inspiration for me taking a trip to Cornwall stems from 25 years ago when I was at Uni in Nottingham studying Textile Design. In my third and final year I discovered and felt rather spell bound by the work of Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, so much so my drawing and painting were driven by their genius.
For those that don’t know, the Barbara Hepworth Museum is located in St. Ives, way down the peninsula in Cornwall where the mining industry thrived many moons ago. Upon the arrival of Hepworth in St. Ives the town really began to transform into an artist mecca. Over the years she was heavily involved in championing the creative industries which attracted huge talent to the area. Now in St. Ives there’s a thriving community of artists, potters, painters, jewellers and other creatives who get their inspiration from nature – just as Hepworth herself did.
Traditionally when I think of a museum a big, grand, and cavernous building is conjured up in my head, however the museum in Cornwall was quite the opposite. On arrival I discovered a small building, a tiny house in fact, with a fantastic studio space and perfectly formed garden where many of her sculptures are now homed. It felt quite special to be in the space where she spent many years creating some of her most well-known, world-famous sculptures. In the garden the pieces are preserved loving by a team of specialists who honour the material the pieces are created from, with the aim of maintaining them for art lovers to enjoy and admire for decades to come.
Nature is the inspiration
I’ve always been inspired by nature. The contours of the land, edges of lakes, curves of pebbles on the beach, the sculptural nature of flowers and petals, rugged spikes in the mountains, and the vast majesty of the Stawamus Chief which is located along highway 101 British Columbia, Canada between Vancouver and Whistler Village, at 700m in height it overlooks the nearby waters of Howe Sound. A little fact – second to Ayres Rock, the Stawamus Chief is second biggest monolith in the world.
In the garden of the museum there are many sculptures and what I love about them most is how they change in the light. The day I was there it was a feast between grey skies, showers and a sneaky peak of sunshine. But when the sun comes out it creates some wonderful contrasting light and the sculptures kind of frame each other as you walk around them and see them from a different perspective.
When I first discovered Hepworth some 20 years ago, I didn’t appreciate just how big an impact she had made on me, and so many people before me. She really was quite a formidable woman – leading the charge, striking forward and carving new ground, no pun intended, yet years on her sculptures are still utterly mesmerising. Her creations are timeless, sensuous, and beautifully modern.
Discovering Cornish Ports – Making it up as I go along
Whilst down in Cornwall I look the opportunity to explore some coastal paths on foot which was stunning, but ended up covering more ground by bike. One thing I remember from my childhood from visiting St. Agnes, Perranporth, and many other beaches is how pretty the coast is and how typically Cornish the coves and tiny ports are. After a long night of rain, I’d decided to check into an AirBnB in Portscatho where a met a lovely couple and their family. And once again I fell in love with the Cornish coastline. When bathed in sunshine it shines even brighter. Whilst keeping the sea on my right I made up a route as I went along… turning left, turning right, going down wonky narrow lanes to be greeted by curvaceous cove after cove, beautiful village after beautiful village, the rugged landscape just rolled on and on.
My ride took me from Portscatho across the Roseland Heritage coast to Portloe, Portholland, Penare, Gorran Haven, Portmellon, Mevigissey (where I had the most amazing piece of cod for lunch and chatted to some lovely ladies on their holiday), through Tregiskey, Pentewan and up to St. Austell before I meandered through some more 17% and 1:5 hills en route back to Portscatho. Next time I’m down there I’ll have to make up some more routes and see where I end up.
The cycle ride I discovered when heading out of Mylor was pretty stunning too and it was definitely a novel thing to do to have to catch a ferry from Flushing to Falmouth only 3km in. I do like the sense of surprise when doing something unplanned and new, and also chatting to the people I meet en route, always lots of interesting characters with often funny and entertaining stories to share.
New adventures on the horizon
My next opportunity to embrace a solo adventure is in mid-November. As much as I’d love some winter sun, I’m also feeling myself drawn to staying nearer to home – perhaps the Lake District or the Brecon Beacons… time will tell but the ideas are flowing. Wherever I choose to go I know mountains will be a feature, and hopefully some blue skies and sunshine.
There’s nothing like spending time with amazing people – especially whilst in Provence!
This August I did something I’ve not done in a very long time… I went on holiday with a group of friends and left my bike at home and it was bloody lovely! After the antics of cycling to Wales and back for the Glaudax on the Snowdonia Tour in early June and doing the Pennine Rally in mid-June my mind and body were longing for a proper break, to switch off, and to relax. And what better way to do it than in Provence in France – fabulous rose, champagne, food, beaches not too far away and a huge amount of laughter and fun.
Thoughts become things…
It was in late June I was thinking I’d like to go on a retreat, to do some yoga, eat healthy food, chill under the rays of the sun, and generally take a proper break, ideally taking in and exploring a new part of the world.
It must have been a week later that my friend Adeline chose to celebrate her 40th birthday in France and invite some of her closest friends – from all corners of the world – along from the adventure. Little did I know at the time that I’d be effectively going on a retreat and discovering some truly beautiful places in and around Provence.
It’s a fabulous feeling to be able to go abroad, to mix with old and new friends, and take a break from my daily routine. Let’s face it, the last year or so has been plain weird, so after much juggling with paper work, booking of tests, checking of travel guidelines, and sourcing flights, I managed to pack my trolly dolly and get to Gatwick. I’m not going to lie, I did find the last few days leading up to going way a bit stressful – “Did I have the right paperwork?”, “Had I understood everything correctly?”, and “Was I going to actually get on the plane and land in Nice?” Thankfully the reality was a big resounding ‘yes’.
Adeline had spent weeks preparing for her big celebration. What I hadn’t appreciated until I arrived is that she was hosting the week to create a template to build future retreats in her native home country – France. There’s a beauty in being part of someone’s creation, to see them shine, being immersed in the moment, and to truly share the experience as our time together unfolded.
Over the last 20 years I’ve been to France many times. Paris initially as a proper tourist, and in more recent years heading to the mountains – both the Alps and the Pyrenees. The latter tips have included me arriving with a bike and doing a variety of multi day rides such as The Raid Alpine which goes across the Alps from Nice to Geneva, the Raid Pyrenean that goes from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and cycling in Provence up Mont Ventoux and through the Verdon Gorge (or Gorge du Verdon as the locals say). Whilst I do love being in the mountains and the sense of adventure, it was brilliant to discover some new places in France and see a completely different perspective.
Our first evening brought together Adeline’s friends from around the world – England, France, Sardinia, Mexico, South Africa, Italy, America… all to celebrate a beautiful souls milestone birthday. We ate (fabulous BBQ), we drank (rose – lots of it), played games (Uno – if you’ve not got it, get it, it’s hilarious but be warned it does bring out people’s competitive side), we laughed (about anything and everything), and talked until the early hours (no subject was off the table). I always find it fascinating how wherever I am geographically in the world, within a matter of hours it becomes ‘home’.
Throughout the week I discovered and experienced many new things…
Plage de Pampelonne – We visited Pampelonne beach near Ramatuelle and ended up on the nudist section – if you’ve not done it before I’d highly recommend a nude swim in the sea, it’s fun and really liberating.
Group Heart Meditation – Embracing the theme of water… at the gorgeous villa we jumped in the pool, formed a circle and did a ‘group heart meditation’ – this is something some of us experienced for the first time on Soul Safari in Africa a few years ago, but it was the first time we’d done this in water lead by the lovely Enrico.
Abbaye du Thoronet – We visited the Abbaye du Thoronet, a former Cistercian abbey built in the late twelth and early thirteenth century, now restored as a museum. Some-how we managed to get invited into a group sounding in the main chapel and the architectural acoustics were incredible. After you’ve finished making the sound it continues and echos around the chambers for quite a few seconds – it was really quite grounding and magical as you can feel the sound vibrating through your body.
Sillans de Cascade – Invited by the forest, we took the opportunity to walk to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in France, the Sillans de Cascade. Nestled in a magnificent vibrant green setting, the village of Sillans de Cascade is located on the edge of the Verdon National Park, 20 minutes south of Lake Sainte-Croix. On arrival we were greeted by another wonder of Mother nature… for anyone who’s into yoga, Chakras and making the appropriate sound for each chakra as they relate to an area in your body – the waterfall was an idylicc location to make the ’heart’ sound, amplified literally by the energy and vibe of our group, and the chamber created by nature.
There were so many other beautiful experiences I’ve not mentioned… watching Adeline as she landed from her paraglide, taking pedalos down the Gorge do Verdon, exploring St. Tropez and enjoying delicious food, singing Kareoke like we were centre stage at The O2 Arena (that was hilarious and will make me smile for years to come), and many meals together… I could go on.
I’m sure the word ‘refuel’ means many different things to different people. This summer, for me it was the opportunity to spend time with amazing friends and to make some new ones. It really, really was lovely to be in a group, to share conversations, food, laughter, games, and some downtime chilling poolside and on the sand.
Over the last 18 months I’ve had a strong, growing desire to spend more time in nature. It has the swift ability to light up all of my sense… smelling the fresh sea air, feeling the bouyant salty sea as it enables me to float and feeling the warmth of the sun, the taste of cold crisp dry Provence rose, seeing the tale end of the vast south alps mountain range in the distance as I drove into Nice, and touching the sand as it slips through my fingers on the beach. It felt like I’d been away for weeks – not days – and it felt great to return home ‘full’ in every sense of the word.
It’s time to party!
Now a 40th birthday party is not complete without the obligatory fancy-dress request. However, in the lead up to our adventure I managed to miss the memo of ‘80s Miami Vice’ for the big party night! How? I don’t know… What matters is I managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat and make a pretty funky outfit from what we had available to me. Helped by Jayne for bringing a sensational eye shadow set – the order of the evening was ‘go big, or go home’. Needless to say, another memorable evening of giggles and fun followed.
And what happens on tour, stays on tour.
Until next time…
I don’t think it will be the last time this group of rather fabulous people get together – in fact we caught up virtually this weekend to have a chat and share what we’ve been up to since returning to our respective homes. In the months and years to come I’m sure Adeline will be hosting some more retreats… I’m keeping my fingers crossed I get to join a few more.
If you fancy connecting with Adeline and reading more about our trip do feel free to follow her on Instagram, I’m sure she’ll be posting more info about potential up and coming retreats in France during 2022 and beyond.
‘Rough with the smooth’ means you have to accept the bad or unpleasant things in a situation as well as the good things.
Who knew that June would be such an epic adventure into the unknown: With a love for nature, mountains and the great outdoors… when I was asked by Alison Dex to take a last-minute place in the inaugural Pennine Rally organised by Rapha – a self-supported adventurous pedal that goes mostly off-road from Edinburgh to Manchester, 15th to 19th June 2021 – I naturally said “yes” then promptly thought about the logistics of making it happen! But happen it did…
Our adventure begins
Generally speaking, I’m more creative than a numbers or stats person, but when it comes to long distance cycling the numbers stack up. For all the stats lovers out there, this will give you an idea of what The Pennine Rally equates to when it comes to digits, from the start in the Gamma Transport Division café in Edinburgh, to the finish at the Rapha store in Manchester.
For me personally The Pennine Rally translates to:
I was intrigued by the coincidence and repetition of the number 4141 so googled their meaning: • Number 1 – Helps you discover yourself. It represents personal growth., personal strength, success, goals and ambitions. It also represents new opportunities, a fresh start, a new phase, and a positive attitude.
• Number 4 – Carries the vibrations that symbolise spirituality and balance in life. It helps you understand and appreciate the importance of inner peace. It emphasises that these two concepts, spirituality, and balance, are very significant in your life. Helps you turn goals into reality – through hard work and determination you have an opportunity to make your life better.
• Number 41 – Live a genuine and authentic life.
I was a bit blown away at how these numbers and their meanings resonated with my feelings and thoughts towards the challenge completed. I do strongly believe in balance in life and for me, spending time in nature creates that. Moreover, participating in these rides really does take me outside my comfort zone, they do require a positive attitude and a high degree of resilience – without these attributes I’d not make the finish line.
A sneaky peak inside each day
Me and my pedal partner in crime agreed that photo stops were an essential part of capturing our journey so throughout the ride we took lots of photos – I’ll do my best to share a couple from each day in the hope that they convey some of the experience we shared together.
Day 1: Edinburgh to Selkirk
• 86.33 km and 1,706 metres climbed
Today in five words… excited, smiles, rocks, headwind, laughter.
I’m now beginning to understand the description given on the Rapha website when they said “Only the hardy need apply”…
In five words the day has been incredible, adventurous, hilly, windy, brutal. The hills are relentless… everyone walking (I’m not the only one) and the headwind is something else.
The scenery is utterly breath-taking… endless rolling green hills that keep on giving, steadily rolling into the distance. The people are super friendly. The vibe set this morning in Edinburgh was one of friendly, informative, helpful and fun. All encouraging each other as we reach the top of the climbs and chatting along the way.
This evening we enjoyed a fish and chip supper – local Eyemouth catch – followed by homemade apple pie and custard. My tummy needed a feed!
Today in five words… forest, moss, remote, breath-taking, fun.
In just under 12 hours we’ve ridden from Selkirk to Hadrian’s Wall… it’s been a rather mental day on two wheels! A complete mix of terrain from logging trails, mud paths, cuttings through the trees, forests with millions of pine needles and beds of spongy moss, and lots and lots of hills.
One tumble for me coming through a 4-inch gully and thankfully a soft landing in the grassy peat where I met a few black squidgy slugs. No damage done.
This evening we stayed at YHA The Sill. A very welcome lasagne with garlic bread followed by sponge pudding and custard… delicious. Clothes washed and having a spin in the tumble dryer.
We’ve burned through so many calories it’s impossible to consume. A few cokes, one coffee, two Snickers, one bar, one gel, two sandwiches… porridge and a full English for breakie… so I’ve had a good go!
Painkillers and a big sleep, in preparation for tomorrow.
Day 3: Bardon Mill to Keld
• 107.72 km with 1,552 metres climbed
Today in five words… beautiful, scenic, pine needles, cuckoo, wild garlic.
It’s been another rather epic day in the saddle… more variety of terrain, country lanes, disused railways tracks, gravel, rocks, headwind, tailwind, hills and a few more hills.
Being able to see so many remote parts of our wonderful country is something quite special. The expanse of the views, epic viaducts, the sense of space, the smell of wild garlic, everything is so green, the birdsong is so varied too – cuckoo, warblers, I’m turning into a twitcher! Yesterday we enjoyed the smell of pine needles, the forest floor and fresh cut wood – every day is different.
This evening we dined and stay in a lovely place called the Bunkbarn – a very welcome sight it was too! We’ve been warmly welcomed and served a delicious dinner with a glass of red.
Big shout out to my co-pilot @alisondex – we’re still smiling and we’re rocking this!!
Two days to go until we celebrate in Manchester.
Day 4: Keld to Gisburn
• 109.98 km with 2,302 metres climbed
Today in five words… brutal, epic, fatigue, hills, wept.
Another monster day, lots of 25% climbs, lots of walking, epic views, feeling privileged to see so many beautiful remote spots and hidden gems.
Brilliant seeing the @rapha_uk van out on the road… great for coffee, coke, Tunnock cakes, pretzels and chat with other riders – helps to keep the spirits up and to exchange lots of lost and found flip flops en route.
Arriving and having a warm welcome at the Foxhill Barn B&B was fabulous, just what we needed, now for sleep.
Day 5: Gisburn to Manchester
• 83.49 km with 1,557 metres climbed
Today in five words… cobbles, smiles, hills, memories, happy.
I was slightly hesitant starting our fifth and final day, and also somewhat relieved as my body was feeling a little beaten up. However, once riding it didn’t too long to warm up as the 25% plus hills came thick and fast. To keep myself going I often focus on four pedal revolutions then have a little celebration to myself – then hit repeat. Four is an achievable number that’s totally replicable. Alison adopted my crazy method for keeping our legs going – it really does work!
As we climbed and pushed our bikes up the hills, clambered over rocks and navigated a gazillion gate ways, we slowly reached an old cobbled roman road along the ridge as we approached Manchester. It was magnificent seeing the city get closer and closer. Having completed all of the climbing for the day in the first 50 km, the final 30km rewarded us with the gentle, flat canal path as we meandered into town. A rather fitting end to complete the rally along the canal as it mirrored the start in Edinburgh.
The end has arrived… our epic off-road adventure from Edinburgh to Manchester is complete. The sun has shone, the sky is blue, the cheers on arrival at the Rapha store were just brilliant and to see so many smiling welcoming faces. The beer and arancini were delicious too – followed by rose and pizza to celebrate our pretty special achievement.
@outdoorprovisions – you mapped out a truly fantastic route… twists and turns, full range of every terrain going – cobbles, canal paths, rocky ascents and descents, grass verges, and everything in between.
A team effort – “Thank you”
A massive thank you to Alice Fowles for letting me have your place. I know you’d much rather have ridden with Alison as planned, but your help in transferring your place to me and your continued support throughout the event was incredible and much needed to keep our morale high – you were with us in spirit for the entire journey and adventure.
Getting to the start line was took some serious plate spinning and help, particularly by my friend and super star mechanic Rohan Dubash – without you pulling out all the stops to service and practically rebuild my bike (a Pearson gravel bike called Rough with the Smooth) there’s no way I’d have made it from start to finish. The hills were punishing, the off-road was utterly mental, and throughout the entire ride I had no punctures or mechanicals!
To my pedal partner in crime Alison Dex, you are a total legend! And together we have achieved something quite extraordinary! Before we started you shared with me some priorities, passed to you by our friend and fellow rider Helen Sharp, they were…
Have fun and remain friends
Get to the finish
Finish within the timeframe set
We scored 100% and with beaming smiles too!
At the moment I’m struggling to find the words that convey what we’ve just achieved – perhaps it’ll sink in over the coming days. One thing I am sure of is how proud I am of you, of me, the Bella Velo riding crew, and everyone else we shared the experience and the adventure with along the way.
Right from the outset, the vibe set by organiser and UK activation manager Louis Van Kleeff, Rapha, for The Pennine Rally was chilled, friendly, collaborative and fun. It’s a tough balance to strike yet he struck it perfectly. Of the 80 rider places available it was fantastic to have parity with 40 places being allocated to women and 40 for men – it’s not often you see this in cycling events so a great example for rides to come, I hope.
There’s a whisper in the air
Usually, when I finish a multiday ride, I say to myself “never again”, yet thoughts and ideas for the new adventures are already beginning to form, particularly something of the off-road self-supported variety. I did have plans to ride the King Alfred Way this summer so perhaps that’ll be next to share with friends who share my love of nature, cycling and the great outdoors.
Let’s see where the next chapter takes me. Who fancies coming along for the ride?