I’m not ready Christmas this early in the year, but I have had some questions about gift vouchers so here are the options available in case you like to get organised in advance.
Massage gift vouchers & packages:
Regular massage offers many benefits including reduced pain, improved mobility, stress-reduction, better sleep and a sense of general well-being. Giving the gift of massage will definitely improve your popularity!
I have three options available for sports massage vouchers –
I have created a 4 session package which is great for someone who has an on-going soft tissue concern, where an initial course of several treatments within a shorter space of time will help to reduce symptoms.
This voucher will give the recipient four treatments over the course of 10-weeks, taken at intervals to suit their schedule, and it will earn you a whole lot of brownie points! If you are buying this as a Christmas gift, the voucher can be dated to start from 6th January 2020
I also offer a 10 session package which can be a gift voucher for someone else, or a gift to yourself! I have a special offer available when one of these options is purchased by 29th November, giving 11 sessions instead of 10 at no extra charge.
If you are buying it as a Christmas gift it can be dated to start from 6th January 2020; if you are nearing the end of a current block of 10 sessions, the start date can be amended to follow-on immediately afterwards, so that you can still take advantage of the 11 for 10 price.
I can also set up a gift voucher for any specific amount to be off-set against future treatments. Please get in touch to arrange this bespoke option.
Personal training packages:
I have recently introduced a 10 session package for personal training and this can also be purchased as a gift voucher. Please make sure your recipient will appreciate your gift before purchasing! Please get in touch to discuss and purchase this bespoke option.
Please let me know if you have any questions at all about any of the voucher options or packages available Jx
We are half way through November so I thought I’d add a quick update on the tmf 60 x 60 challenge and check-in with how you’re going with creating new exercise habits.
How are you doing?
If you have you managed to do 60 reps every day this month you are already well on the way towards creating new exercise habits. All these small changes really do add up to a much bigger whole, even if they don’t feel like much right now. Getting into the habit of adding some movement into your day is a great place to start. Of course, you can add more reps later on if you want to or when time allows, but just being here, right now, doing this one little thing everyday is awesome!
If you didn’t start yet, or if you started and stopped again its all good – because every single day we have the chance to start-over. The challenge of this challenge is not actually the exercise itself – the priority is creating a new habit. It doesn’t matter when you start to create that habit – it only matters that you start. It’s never too late to start. Why not decide to start today and see what happens…?
In need of inspiration?
In case you’re out of ideas or need some inspiration to keep you going, I thought I’d share my 60 reps so far. [I have a brain that is easily bored so I like to change the equipment every time. I realise that not everyone has a range of different fitness equipment to hand, but all of these can be improvised to suit what you have available]
Squats have featured several times – usually when I am short on time because they are quick and easy to do anywhere (including in the lounge while I’m watching ER!) They are also easy to vary by changing the position of your feet, the depth of your squat & the speed of the movement
Push-ups and shoulder bridges
Lunges – again easy to do anywhere & easy vary by changing the direction of the lunge
Shoulder exercises – I used dumb-bells for this one and did 6 different moves x 10 reps each (narrow shoulder press, bent over row, front raise, side raise, wide shoulder press & bent over fly)
Burpees, triceps & chest press (full disclosure: I was aiming for 60 burpees but 20 was enough so I added in some upper body moves instead!)
TRX squats & lunges
Step up, knee lift, step down – I used a fairly high step for this (you could use your second stair or a sturdy chair)
Triceps exercises using a weight
Barbell exercises – I loved this one because it took me back to the days when I taught Body Pump (bent over row, clean and press, deadlift, triceps extension, chest press & triceps press)
Chest & triceps – another barbell workout this time just focusing on upper body (chest press, triceps press, triceps extension, triceps pull-over)
I hope that helps to give you some new ideas, but remember that you don’t need to make it complicated. If you only do 60 squats every day for 60 days you will be creating a positive change in your body which will take you through the end of 2019 and into the next decade with stronger legs!
Find out more about the tmf 60 x 60 challenge here
I am hereby throwing down the tmf 60 x 60 challenge in a bid to keep you [me!] motivated to move more for the last 60 days of the year/decade! If you’re reading this on Friday 1st November you have exactly 60 days left (allowing a day off for Christmas). If you’re starting a bit later that’s ok – it’s better to start late than not at all.
Recently (or more accurately for at least the whole of this year!) I have struggled to motivate myself into doing any regular exercise, other than daily walking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete couch-potato – fitness is my business after all so I am active most days. I think nothing of walking 20 miles at the weekends and I do feel relatively strong and fit-ish. Just not as strong and fit-ish as I used to/would like to feel…
In an attempt to motivate myself, I have set myself the goal of doing 60 reps of something every day for the last 60 days of the year #tmf60x60. I would really love it if you could join me and it doesn’t cost you anything other than your commitment!
I’ve called it a ‘challenge’ but more than challenging you [me] physically, I hope this inspires you [me] to get more active over the next 60 days, and that it helps you [me] to build good daily exercise habits to carry over into the next decade. If your [my] body feels fitter, leaner, stronger &/or more flexible by 31st December as a result that’s an added bonus!
You can choose whether you do the same reps of the same exercises every day or whether you mix and match according to your mood; you might do 10 reps each of 6 different exercises or you might do 60 reps of one exercise; you might do your reps all in one go or spread them out over the day – really you can make this whatever you want it to be but now is the time to commit!
I tried it out this morning and it took me less than 5 minutes so that’s the ‘no time’ excuse knocked on the head. I’m planning to vary my 60 reps (easily bored!) and I will try to get them done before I start my day, but you can shape it to fit your lifestyle. If you have kids why not get them joining in to?
Click on the link below to read more and see some simple exercise suggestions from me. You can print this off to refer back to whenever you need ideas:
The Hundred is probably one of the most classic Pilates mat work exercises and one that we often include in class.
Here is a short video to walk/talk you through the key stages in preparing for the exercise and how to make it best suited to your body by adding in various progressions or regressions.
As with any exercise (Pilates or otherwise) the key factor is your ability to manage intra-abdominal pressure. When this pressure is not well-managed, we place undue load onto the pelvic floor muscles, and/or excess load into the abdominal wall. The potential issues from repeatedly exercising without effectively managing intra-abdominal pressure include:
a weakened pelvic floor, which over time will contribute to continence issues
a weakened/lengthened/protruding abdominal wall
changes to posture which can contribute to low back pain, hip pain, neck & shoulder pain, etc.
When performing the Hundred, try to stay mindful of what is happening in your body so that you can make suitable adaptations to improve the effectiveness of the exercise for you. For example:
move your legs one at a time rather than both together (you’ll see this is what I do in the video)
leave your head and shoulders on the floor instead of adding the abdominal curl
support your head on a cushion or with one hand
only hold one leg off the floor, instead of both
work with bent legs rather than extending them to the ceiling
hold the position for fewer breaths instead of the full ten breaths
Remember that you are aiming to feel your abdominal muscles working more than any other muscles in the body – if your neck is hurting or your legs are holding on tight, take it as a sign that your abdominal muscles are not able to effectively cope with what is being asked of them. When this happens, rest and start again when you’re ready, using a regression to keep the work in your tummy muscles. Sometimes, less is more!
I hope the video helps you to get your head around the preparation stages and get more from the Hundred as an exercise. Please ask if you have any questions at all Jx
(PS if you are new to exercise, recently post-natal or have any doubts about whether this exercise is suitable for you at this time, please seek appropriate advice from your medical practitioner or a qualified fitness professional)
This month I’m sharing some simple home workouts with you to keep you moving in between classes.
The moves can each be adapted to suit your body and fit the equipment and time you have available to you. My goal is that anybody can do these workouts but of course, if you have any health concerns please check with your medical practitioner before under-taking any new exercise routine.
Week 1 – 1st October:
This one is super-simple –
squat & shoulder press
bent over row
deadlift & upright row/front raise
Do as many reps & sets as you choose, vary the order if you like, substitute other exercises if you need to. Aim to do these moves every day of the week if you can!
I did 1 set of 10 reps each on the first day; on the next day I did two sets of 10 reps each; on the third day I literally didn’t have a moment when I wasn’t working or prepping for work; today is day four and I haven’t done it yet but I’m aiming for four sets when I do…it’s not perfect but it’s better than not trying at all.
Week 2 – 8th October:
This week it’s a really effective format borrowed from Metabolic Effect – an up-chain workout. The idea is to sequence together several exercises and then add an extra rep for one or two of the exercises each round. To make it even more effective, go with a dumb-bell weight that challenges you…
I chose the following exercises for this up-chain workout, but feel free to change them to suit you (those marked with the * are my up-chained moves):
lunge & biceps curl
biceps curl and shoulder press*
bent over reverse flye
Last week I aimed to do the workout every day, but work overtook me and I managed only three days out of seven. So far this week I’ve managed one, but there’s still time to fit in a few more. My mindset is that anything is better than nothing so I’m not going to be upset if I miss a few along the way…
Week 3 – 15th October:
This week I have chosen four Pilates-inspired floor-based exercises, with options to add equipment for extra ooomph… It’s a slightly longer video so that I could include more detail on each exercise. Once you have nailed each move, you can put them together as a floor-based core workout or add them onto the end of another workout.
Week 4 – 24th October
This week I’ve put together a simple upper body workout using dumb-bells. It’s six upper body exercises and then some optional squats to give your arms a rest ready for your next set!
As always, change any moves that don’t feel comfortable for you and vary the number of sets & repetitions to suit.
Please let me know how you get on & ask if you have any questions at all.
& don’t forget to send me a photo of you doing your workout for a chance to win #goldstaraward1
I’ve had several really interesting conversations this week about weight loss, hormones, wellness, men(!) and life in general! It got me thinking about my top 5 wellness tips, so I decided to share.
weight loss has come up in conversation with clients a few times this week following some recent coverage in the news. Last week James Corden spoke out against ‘fat-shaming’ on his show (see it here if you missed what he had to say) and earlier this week the topic of obesity hit the news, with psychologists calling for a change in the language used by health professionals. We all know that weight loss can be a complex issue. We eat for many reasons apart from needing to satisfy hunger, and making changes to long-term habits is never easy to start with. However, here are some simple strategies that might be helpful if you are struggling to get started:
switching to a smaller plate helps to reduce portion sizes – your body will only take a few days to adjust to smaller meals
avoiding foods and drinks which contain artificial/zero calorie sweeteners will help to adjust your palate, so that you gradually stop wanting sweet foods
taking more time to chew each mouthful of food not only slows down the rate at which you eat but also promotes better gut health
swapping out energy-dense foods for less energy-dense options will reduce overall calorie intake – eg. replace some of your pasta with an extra portion of vegetables
making choices, rather than denying yourself everything, will help you to create new habits which are more easily sustainable – eg. choose a glass of wine or a pudding, not both; share a piece of cake rather than having a whole piece
focusing on one strategy at a time, and getting good at it before you add another, is sometimes easier than making lots of changes all at once
hormones have been fairly high on my agenda recently and several female clients have chatted with me this week about their own situation. Until I needed some hormonal support myself, I had no idea how complicated it can be finding the right guidance. I am very fortunate that my GP practice has a gynaecology specialist available (only 2 hours per fortnight, but still better than not at all) but I know that option isn’t always available. My advice would be to keep asking for help until you get what you need! If your surgery doesn’t have a specialist on site, ask for a referral. And keep asking until you feel you have everything you need. And go back if things change (which they will!) None of us need to put up with feeling ‘less-than’ just because our bodies are changing, and there are so many potential options out there. In particular, if you need help with pelvic floor issues book yourself an appointment with a Women’s Health Physio who will be able to advise you in much more depth than your GP. You may need to pay privately for this, but there is help available if you need it.
wellness is a generic term covering a whole multitude of health & well being-related issues but one thing that came up for me recently is how much I have been judging myself. Over the past 3-4 years I have been experiencing some anxiety symptoms in certain situations. Without realising it, I have been running an internal dialogue on repeat, telling myself how stupid/weak/silly/pathetic/blahblahblah I am for having these feelings… And then last week someone suggested that maybe I could just accept the feelings for what they are (a small part of where I am in life right now) instead of giving the feelings all of my focus and attention. And a week later I already feel different about the anxiety. It may still rise up but I’m not searching it out or expecting it. And when it comes, I think I’ll be better able to let it go by me. I am not those feelings. I just have those feelings sometimes. And that feels ok. Maybe you have a negative conversation looping around your head too? Maybe you could let them go a bit by accepting them as a small part of a much bigger and more glorious you…
men have been a source of much chat this week too! I have absolutely no tips about men at all – not for nothing am I a very single person!! And I don’t want to spark a sexist debate, because there are always two sides to every situation. And I know that not all men are the same. BUT I will say to the women reading this: don’t let anyone stop you shining your light…none of us need to feel ‘lesser’ so that someone else can feel ‘more’. For any men reading this, the same applies. Let’s all just be great at being us & keep shining!
life in general – this is a big area to cover in one bullet point but here goes:
On Saturday I attended a beautiful sound bath (with Sharon of Cosmic Healing) in celebration of the autumn Equinox. The focus was on gathering in the energy we had enjoyed over the summer months, in readiness for the shorter days & longer nights ahead.
I have been to a few sound baths with Sharon, but this was for me the most relaxing yet. I think my soul felt truly ready to gather itself in and I feel much more settled since the weekend. There have been some unexpected feelings of anxiety for me of late, but I feel that I turned a corner this weekend. I feel that I was able to gather in a positive energy, wrapping it around me like a blanket. And at the same time, I felt that I was letting go of some of the jangly, nerviness I have been noticing. I know it might sound a bit ‘out-there’ but I really felt something shift – and I liked it!
As well as gathering in my personal energy, I have been literally gathering in everything I can find in the hedgerows! I had a weekend of jam-stirring.
On Saturday I noticed some gorgeous rose hips on a local walk. Determined that there must be something good to be done with them, I found a recipe for rose hip and apple jelly, and set to work. An hour later I had filled one (clean!) dog poop bag with rose hips and another with windfall eating apples. A few hours later I was chopping and cooking and straining the juice, ready to create the most beautiful jewel-bright jelly…
On Sunday it was the turn of the dark fruits – blackberry and damsons. I have been gathering these in over the past weeks and freezing them until I was ready to jam. I just love the colour:
And a final word on letting go, because sometimes I think it is even more important than gathering in:
Wishing you a fabulous autumn – lots of gathering & just the right amount of letting go Jx
I started my new massage course a few weeks ago and as part of my training I need to record 36 log-book hours of massage treatments by 10th January 2020. I have decided to offer these at the reduced price so that I can hopefully encourage as many different bodies onto my couch as possible (see details below)
36 for £36:
Each week, I will have three appointments available at this reduced price. There is no difference in the level of treatment you will receive, but you’ll pay £36 instead of the usual price (a saving of up to £29). In return I’ll simply require you to sign my logbook, to confirm you had a treatment with me.
Please let me know if you would like to book one of my 36 for £36 appointments and I’ll let you know how to book.
(t&c: offer is restricted to one reduced price treatment per person; offer available on 60-minute appointments only; there are a maximum of three £36 bookings available per week; offer is open to existing and new massage clients; treatments are based in Cranbrook; I am fully qualified and insured to offer clinical massage)
Also, I made a decision this week to only use unscented massage mediums from now on:
While I was on my course, I had a reaction to one of the essential oils in a massage wax. It made me feel nauseous, disrupted my sleep and triggered some anxiety symptoms in me, even though everyone else in the room loved it.
It served as a reminder that we are all so different in what we like or don’t like, and in how we react to different products. I have since restocked with massage waxes which do not include any essential oils. I now have three solid unscented waxes (all have a beeswax base & no chemical additives, one also has no nut oils), and an organic grapeseed oil (nut-free & vegan) so you have plenty of choice (and no essential oils) when you come for your treatment.
Obviously I’ve been walking pretty much all my life, and I walk the dog every day, but I’m a relative newbie to full-day-walking and have just completed my first long distance walk. To start with I was a bit self-conscious about buying walking ‘gear’ – I felt like an imposter – but over recent months I’ve started to see the benefits of having the right kit.
One of the things I knew I wanted to try was walking or trekking poles. I had previously enjoyed some Nordic Walking sessions from a fitness perspective, and was keen to feel walking as a whole-body (and a mind-body) process, rather than just being all about my legs and buttock muscles. Luckily I have a trekking friend who kindly lent me her poles for a prolonged amount of time while I was training, and I acquired my own poles just before I set off to walk the South Downs Way.
Over the course of a week filled with some long & challenging walks, I weighed up the pros and cons of walking poles as I see them. These are my thoughts as a walker (carrying an 11-12kg pack over 8 continuous days), but also as a fitness professional and massage therapist with a good anatomical knowledge-base and a sound understanding of posture & movement. These observations are not scientifically tested, and you may not agree with all of them, and I’m OK with that because you can write your own blog if you want to!!!
using poles creates less muscle tension in the legs and buttocks because the body is working as a more integrated system, which incorporates more core & upper body engagement. I got back from eight days walking an average of 18 miles a day with no aches and pains at all in any part of my body and I think the poles are largely responsible for that
there is less load on the hip and knee joints, because the impact is absorbed through four points of contact (rather than two) and comes into the body via the deeper core (postural) muscles and then to the limbs of the upper and lower body
walking poles remind me to walk with a tall, open posture which means that all the systems in the body (muscles, connective tissue, joints & circulatory system) are in the optimal position to work well with each other
the poles give extra drive on uphill sections and added stability/deceleration on downhill sections, enabling the body to maintain this open, upright posture even when the walking becomes more challenging
as someone who experiences vertigo, I found that walking poles gave me a greater sense of connection to the earth on high and exposed areas, and they especially gave me the confidence to stand, catch my breath & enjoy the view when my brain was yelling at me to keep moving in case I fell!
even without vertigo, I feel that walking poles give a feeling of confidence in relation to balance in general, and particularly on loose scree or where there is a noticeable camber – they don’t take away or reduce your body’s natural ability to balance, but I think they definitely enhance it
I find that the rhythm of walking with poles is quite meditative – it actually helps me to get into a smooth striding pattern and also helps me notice if I’m not walking evenly on each leg
although not something I can personally vouch for, I understand that using walking poles can help to reduce oedema (swelling) in the hands and forearms over prolonged walks, which makes sense because they keep the arms active rather than passive
walking poles are also great for bashing nettles, moving brambles out of the way, testing the depth of streams, checking the stability of stepping stones, propping up lightweight canopies and redirecting spiders & caterpillars that are descending from the trees and floating across your path …
I had to wrack my brain for these as there really aren’t many negatives – here’s what I came up with:
poles are another thing to carry in your kit (even though they don’t weigh much) and if you find yourself not using them for long stretches of your walk I guess that could become annoying (although my preferred poles have found a genius way around this)
if you’re walking a dog on a lead it is much harder to get the benefit from walking poles – you can make do with one pole but I think many of the benefits are lost in this instance; I tend to stow them when the dog is on his lead and use them while he is running free, but will also look into a lead for the dog which goes around my waist so that I can keep poling …
they can become a potential trip hazard… more than once, on tired legs, I have almost caught myself on one of my poles, but it is usually a case of not focusing on what I’m doing at the time
it is harder (but not impossible) to check a map/phone/watch, blow your nose or eat a snack while walking with poles in your hands – I get round this by either stopping and resting my poles against a fence or tree or by tucking them under one arm (like an army sergeant!) while I walk, until my hands are free again
using poles can leave your hands & forearms more exposed to the weather conditions (sun, rain or snow) but sunscreen, sleeves & gloves will obviously help you to get around this issue
Which poles are best?
There is a wide range of walking poles available to buy, to suit different needs and different budgets, and I don’t pretend to have tried them all by any means! I have however tried two different styles and have found a firm favourite.
Most poles have a foam, upright grip with a webbing wrist strap. With this style of pole, you slide your hand through and over the strap, and rest your wrist onto it whilst lightly holding the handle. As you walk your grip stays light and you keep the weight of your wrist on the strap.
I used this style of pole for nearly all of my training and had only one problem with them – on longer walks (bearing in mind that it was spring so I wasn’t wearing gloves) I would start to find that the strap irritated the heel of my hand and my wrist and this would gradually niggle me more and more as the walk continued. On a positive note, there are many brands that offer this style of pole and they are easily found in outdoor shops so you can have a try before spending your money.
Once I started researching my options, I saw lots of positive reviews for Pacerpoles but wasn’t entirely convinced that they would be better, until I tried them. They arrived a few days before I set off on my first long distance walk and I was slightly anxious whether I would get to grips (no pun intended!) with the slightly different technique in time. On the third practice day I felt much more confident with them, but in hindsight I realise that actually I didn’t fully find my rhythm with them until a couple of days into my walk. And then there was no going back!
These Physiotherapist-designed poles have a unique moulded handle which is fantastic. Pacerpoles rely on the angled, shaped handle rather than a webbing wrist strap, and as a result they feel really light to hold and much more comfortable.
The handle is held between the thumb and first finger and the heel of the hand then comes to rest on the ledge of the handle as you move forward. The idea is to move from the elbow, lifting and lowering the forearm with each step, rather than swinging forward from the shoulder. It is hard to describe the movement but once you try Pacerpoles you’ll get it!
I honestly believe that I couldn’t have walked the South Downs Way without poles and I firmly believe that Pacerpoles were the best choice for me.
There were sections that were so steep (up and down), and sections that were so windswept, that I would not have felt safe walking without my Pacerpoles. Even more importantly though was the fact that I never got tired heavy legs – even on days when I felt mentally fatigued and close to exhaustion, my legs never struggled. My pack was heavier than I would have liked (about 12kg with enough water for a full day) but my posture still felt great. Every time I put my poles in my hands I remembered to ‘walk tall’ so they acted as a great prompt as well as a physical support.
Is it ‘cheating’ to use poles?
A few months ago, I had a conversation with someone who said she would never use walking poles because she liked to feel that she was using the strength of her own body for balance and support. She suggested that for her it would feel like ‘cheating’ to rely on poles.
This conversation was a real turning point for me early in my training, when I was still undecided about using poles, because it had me really pay attention to what difference (if any) they made.
I honestly believe that poles help me to walk further (and faster) without any muscle or joint pain. I can feel that my core muscles are providing me with stability and that my leg muscles are then able to work efficiently without any tension. I also no longer feel a long-term persistent niggle in the attachment point of my left hamstrings. (I hadn’t realised that this had stopped being an issue, until it cropped up again when I walked without poles one day after having used them for several weeks)
My goal when working with my fitness & pilates clients is to have them experience movement which is generated from their core and then outwards into their peripheral limbs, without holding tension in any area of the body. Using the core muscles as the base for stability, allows the arms and legs to move more freely, and so it seems natural & obvious to bring this principle to my walking as well. I think this is where Pacerpoles make the difference.
Anything that helps the body move well is definitely not cheating in my eyes! I don’t think using poles is cheating any more than wearing walking boots or waterproof clothing is cheating…it’s just sensible.
My body simply feels stronger and more efficient when I’m walking with poles. I walked a total of 146 miles over eight days, with a pack, at an average pace of about 2.6 mph, and didn’t feel the need to stretch out my legs more than once in that time. I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have been true if I’d been walking without Pacerpoles.
Of course we are all different so I will leave you to make up your own mind about what equipment to use for day- or long-distance walking. But if you are a regular walker and you haven’t tried walking poles, I would suggest that you borrow a pair (preferably not mine because I will be using them!) to see how you get on…you might be surprised at the results.
If you want to read more about my adventure on the South Downs Way, start here with my notes from day 1
[In the spirit of openness, I want to let you know that I was gifted my Pacerpoles, for which I am truly grateful. However, in writing this post, I have been entirely honest in my appraisal of them and other walking poles. If anything, I have been more analytical in my assessment of them, to satisfy myself that my views have not been unduly swayed as a result]
I never listen to music, audio books or podcasts while walking because I just love the connection with all the sounds in nature and the chance to let my mind gently process thoughts as I go. I have to admit though, that before I set off to walk the South Downs Way, I did wonder if eight days alone with my thoughts would drive me mad!!
I started to notice what I was thinking about while I walked and there were definitely some recurrent themes:
1) Not surprisingly I thought about my Mum a lot, still processing my grief for her and trying to understand the huge shifts in my family since she died. I think that her life outside her career was quite ‘small’ which is not intended as a criticism of her choices, but more an observation that she perhaps wasn’t a brave woman and never sought adventure. I honestly don’t know if this was her choice or just how life turned out for her. Realising this about her over the past 18 months, has made me very determined to not live small – I do want to have adventures, I like to feel challenged, I’m ok with feeling a bit uncomfortable or scared (within reason!) and when my time comes, I want to know that I have lived before I die. I thought about this probably every day as I walked – in fact, I’ve probably thought about it every day since she died. I didn’t reach any earth-shattering conclusions about how I’m going to live a bigger life, but I definitely made a bigger commitment to doing so…
2) I thought every day about vegetarian food!! I was astounded how difficult it was to find good vegetarian food options along the South Downs Way. Admittedly I don’t eat out very often at home so maybe it is the same in pubs everywhere, but the lack of choice or the lack of simple meals was really bizarre. Even shops didn’t seem to stock vegetarian sandwiches, which isn’t exactly hard! One shop had eight sandwich options, all of which included meat or fish. Unbelievable!! One pub had the choice of potato & aubergine curry, vegetable chilli or teriyaki salad – ie. two versions of sloppy spicy stuff or the most disgusting salad imaginable (I know, because that’s what I ordered and it was truly vile). I will happily admit that I’m a tad fussy about food, but a range of options isn’t difficult – something spicy, something bland, something with pastry, something light, something traditional, something exotic… exactly the same as you could reasonably expect for non-vegetarian options. And my biggest gripe was this: if you are a pub serving a (meat) burger in a bun, with fries and salad, why on earth can’t you keep veggie burgers in the freezer and offer a vegetarian version of the same thing??? You already have the other elements of the dish, there is nothing extra to make and zero wastage – so SIMPLE!!! There were of course some exceptions along the way, but they were few and far between and the lack of good nutrition made a significant impact on me. If you’re a pub on the SDW, please add a veggie burger option to your menu…
3) I also wondered every day why the ‘downs’ are called ‘downs’ when clearly they are higher up than nearly everything else and when walking it seemed that I spent far more time going up than down!! I Googled it when I got home…apparently the name comes from the Old English/Gaelic/Welsh name for a hill or hill fort – ‘dun’. So now you know…
4) Whilst walking, I was surprised to see so few other walkers (it was mostly cyclists) and then it occurred to me that there were even fewer women. I felt like I had entered an alternate universe – a giant boys playground! I did see women walking their dogs but it took until day 4 to see another woman hefting a backpack. There were sometimes female cyclists, but always in the minority amongst a pack of male riders. Is it just that women generally don’t want this kind of adventure or perhaps were they at home enabling the men to enjoy a few days of testosterone-fuelled escapism?? I honestly don’t know the answer but as a lone-walking woman I would just say to other women that the South Downs Way is too beautiful not to get out & enjoy, that it never felt anything other than safe and that adventures are not just for the boys. We need to even-up the numbers ladies – let your men stay at home while you go out to play!
5) My final ponderance came after a great meal in a pub, which was then sadly followed by one of the worst chocolate brownies I’ve eaten…why is it so hard to find a really good, made-for-you chocolate brownie? I’m not the best at baking by any means but I think I can make an ok brownie. It’s not really rocket-science after all… The one in question was too light and sponge-cakey, with no chocolate chunks (or actually any real chocolate at all) and it tasted a bit plastic and burnt. I think it is true of chocolate brownies perhaps more than any other cake-thing, that they so often look really tempting, but nearly always fail to deliver – and yet I can’t seem to stop myself trying them out. But not any more! I hereby swear that I will not eat another chocolate brownie unless I know that it has been home-made (not necessarily by me) and has real chocolate incorporated beneath it’s soft delicate crust…
So there you have my top five thoughts-while-walking. You probably didn’t even want to know what they were, but if you’ve read this far, you do anyway – and at least you now know why the ‘downs’ are called ‘downs’ Jx