Introducing Running the Summits!

So….one or two people have been asking me

“what’s your next challenge?

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Well, I cant deny I had been thinking about a few ideas for a new, challenging adventure. The #3PeAksRun was a run into the unknown in the sense that i had no idea if my body would hold up to such intense multi day running and, indeed, just two days in I was almost convinced that it wouldn’t. But one of the points of this challenge was to push myself to see if I could go beyond what I thought I could do. More than one person suggested that I couldn’t pull it off but we never know what we are capable of unless we give it a go.

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With that in mind I plan to attempt a bigger, tougher trial by mountain this summer –

Running the Summits – A jog over 180 English Mountains

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(an attempt to summit every mountain in England as defined by the HEWITT classification of a mountain in England, Wales and Ireland)

It’s quite a leap from 3 mountains to 180 so this will be a real monster of a challenge and I dont mind admitting I’m channelling the fear on this one. Our diminutive mountains may lack a little in stature but they certainly pack the punch of far loftier peaks in terms of challenge. Even in summer conditions our mountains can possess huge difficulties with terrain, weather conditions and navigation. When I summited each of the 3PeAks, the conditions were far from ‘summerlike’, each one shrouded in mist and cloud and I struggled through poor visibility, high winds, rain and hail – imagine that 180 times!

I hope to raise further funds for the phenomenal work of our Mountain Rescue Teams and Search and Rescue Dog Association England as well as the double award winning volunteer manned charity, Fix the Fells. Though Mountain Rescue Team members would never refer to themselves as heroes the work they do must certainly be described as heroic not to mention the huge amount of commitment and sacrifice they make and the unwavering support from their families, friends and colleagues in order for them to carry out this work, and all for no financial reward. These highly skilled volunteers involved in Search and Rescue are called to a myriad of situations – lost, injured or disoriented walkers, climbers or runners, school groups, missing children, vulnerable people suffering from mental illness and depression, avalanche victims, flood or weather related rescue or downed aircraft to name but a few and the teams have certainly had a very busy winter.

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What can YOU do to help?
Support my mountainous challenge by donating to these charities at

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Vicariously share the journey with me 

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I look forward to seeing you on the trail ( virtual or actual)
Tina 😁 👣

‘3PeAks’ Patch, the Pudding Puppy’s Grand Cake Tour

So, a few of you might have noticed, little Patch likes cake…….alot!!! (nothing to do with me, honest…can’t stand the stuff personally! I am certainly never one to equate my Strava calorie count literally into the difference between a slice of shortbread and a double helping of sticky toffee pudding…..nope, not me!)

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Impossible to choose…Rainbow Cake? Coconut & Lime? Courgette & Avocado…really?

Patch began his tour in Wales with a traditional offering of a fine slice of Bara Brith…pretty good run fuel really and delicious with lashings of butter (or so i’ve heard) …and the local Welsh Cakes from Betws y Coed are worth a detour any day of the week!

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Upping the stakes on the next cake break Patch went for this delectable slice of coffee and walnut….his argument being fair once again…nuts are healthy run fuel, there’s fruit on the side and coffee has great ‘perky up’ qualities for any endurance event..fair point well made there, Patch!

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Already in England it was soon time for more cake trials and alongside Esthwaite Water in the Lake District a slice of Lemon soaked Drizzle Cake came highly recommended! Aside from the fact we were outside getting a good dose of fresh air with our dining Patch was effusive about the health benefits of Lemons……something about its many nourishing elements like vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin A,vitamin E, folate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, copper, calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus and protein………ALRIGHT Patch, just eat the cake already!!!

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Al fresco caking…watch those ducks Patch, they heard about the lemony health benefits!

Still in ‘Lakeland Cakeland’ we were doubling up on the cake days with this little slice…..a soft, chewy Cherry and Coconut Slice….proper lush! ‘Nuff said!

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Sadly for Patch there were times when I just had no time or appetite for cake (impossible to believe, I know) despite the tempting choices for ever on offer!

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Sorry Patch, we just popped in for a water top up!….wait a minute, Honeycomb Golden Nougat Cheesecake……!

Soon we had made it to Scotland with so many traditional delicious, sweet delicacies… shortbread, tablet, cranachan, clootie dumpling, dundee cake, tipsy laird, irn bru and deep fried mars bars!! Patches choice at the start of the West Highland Way was this gooey, zesty Orange, Ginger Whisky Cake…however, I was completely addicted to the homemade wheaten bread… definitely a taste sensation, and I had to keep returning for more. I would have probably taken some away for later if it wasn’t likely to become a bag of crumbs in my pack, not to mention I had just collected another supply parcel from the post office and my pack weight had bulged by another 1.7kg already! Maybe we needed to start cutting down on the cake?

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Incredible, homemade wheaten bread at the Tea Cosy Cafe, Milngavie…i need the recipe!

With every cake tour extravaganza there has to be an element of judging favourites. This little number at the St Mocha Coffee Shop in Balmaha was a clear winner for Patch and I….. Cinder Toffee & Scottish Tablet Cake…. need i say more?

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The King of Cakes…

Of course this journey was not all about cake. Flapjack was my main fuel of choice and along with a very generous donation of the little oaty treats from the generous guys over at Graze.com many people brought me some homemade varieties to top up the stores on route. Clear stand outs were a wonderfully sticky traybake variation pack with nuts from @SARDAEnglands Val and Brian and a perfect classic recipe plain flapjack from Ellen Cattanach…..thank you soooo much.

 

Sadly our days of burning 6000 calories are now at an end so the cake consumption has to be reined in, but they will all long be remembered…

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A rare moment when Patch is NOT eating cake!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the cake pics even if you didn’t get to tuck into the goodies themselves.  #3PeAksRun is supporting outdoor volunteer charities. If you can spare the PRICE OF A SLICE please donate to Mountain Rescue Teams HERE

 

Patch, step away from the giant mushroom…..that is NOT a cake!!

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Hopeless….

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Reflections…

Returning home, after a good scrub, some clean clothes, a giant dinner of comfort food and finally putting my feet up I can only now begin to digest the experience of the last 19 days and 18 hours!

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People have suggested I must be feeling ecstatic, euphoric, celebratory and proud but to be honest I am currently feeling a strange sense of calm – an inner peace almost with the relief that I reached my goal and completed the challenge, tinged with a little melancholy that despite the comfort of a warm, dry, cosy bed right now I am no longer on the trail, no longer immersed in the simple act of just keeping moving forward. And despite the foibles of what the weather has been throwing at me I already miss being at its mercy and breathing those deep lungfuls of fresh air.

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Big weather ahead!

Don’t get me wrong I am very much enjoying this reflective mood, the whole journey has been such a whirlwind of activity that it is lovely now to just stop and relive each day in my mind.

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Serene moments up in the clouds!

It does seem like a very long time ago when I was bounding up Snowdon feeling very energetic and strong, I remember wishing that I would feel in such good shape every day but just two long days later I was so exhausted and creaking, my feet red, rubbed and blistered, the worry that I might not be up to this challenge sneaked into the corner of my mind. In the evenings I could barely walk and waking up was even worse but slowly, gradually, my body seemed to get with the programme and each day I began to feel stronger. I still hobbled about like an old woman in the morning but I knew that so long as I didn’t make any sudden movements and made sure  to warm up slowly, soon the engine would be humming and I could complete another day on the trail. I also attributed this recovery to the practice of a good, long stretching sesh at the end of each day and the speedy intake of some protein, generally in the form of a shake and/or protein bar kindly supplied to me by the guys at Clif Bar and MountainFuel.co.uk , thanks guys – life savers! I think I have eaten more protein in the last two weeks than I normally would in about 6 months! I’m also quite impressed with my newly defined quads!

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Hmmmmm…chocolate or strawberry, chocolate or strawberry….?

Day by day was quite a rollercoaster and I never really knew when I set off how the day would pan out, sometimes easier, sometimes tough. At times my backpack would feel comfy and light and at other times I would be swearing profusely at the very same pack and kicking it unceremoniously into the undergrowth. Some days I chatted with lots of different people , occasional days I actually saw no one at all.

Bivvys, Bothies and Bunkhouses!

Towards the final days my legs started to rebel with shin splints, unusual spreading aches, sore tendons and tender heels which created a whole new challenge for my mind – to handle the frustration and fear of being thwarted at such a late stage. I was also a bit suspicious that somehow these physical manifestations may have been directly linked psychologically to the fact that I was so near the end, my mind and body now conspiring against me….ggrrrr!

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Times of trail running pristine perfection!

Even on the final morning I was unsure if I would complete the challenge or have to be satisfied with a ‘2andAhalfPeAksRun’ ( which just doesn’t have the same ring to it does it?!) given the daunting weather conditions on Ben Nevis but I decided to set off and see how far I could get. In the end the fact that I was super over prepared ( gps, back up gps, two maps, compass, recent Mountain skills training course fresh in my mind (thanks Carol Emmons) and even the correct bearings to find the way off the summit in total whiteout!) gave me the confidence to keep plodding on through the brutally buffeting wind and lashing rain slicing like shards of glass against my cheeks, divining each cairn shrouded in the swirling cloud to reach the very top which was a genuinely exhaltant, if cold and wet, moment.

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Jubilant spirits heading into Glencoe!

The highest mountain in Britain reached all the way on foot from the highest mountain in Wales with a little evening jog over the highest English mountain on route….the ‘3PeAksRun’ in the bag! All that remained was to get down off this majestic wintery rock without breaking my ankle and we could call it a wrap! (I did slip over three times on the wet rocks of the descent, my trail shoes by now split, worn almost smooth and held together with some gaffa tape…not advisable!)

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Bleak summits!

A wee soggy traildog, Patch, and I made it to the warmth and welcome of Glen Nevis Youth Hostel wet, tired, hungry and dirty but very very content….the perfect end to any adventure!

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One soppy Patch Puppy ( he’d definitely be shivering if he had a central nervous system!)

One of the best parts of this adventure has been the incredible people I have met or been in touch with along the way. I have been so touched by the kindness and support of those who have come out to meet me, run along with me, brought flapjack or cake or posted endless encouragement via the social media pages. Your support, encouragement and advice has brightened dull days and motivated me throughout. I met many lovely people along the way too who despite being in the midst of their own adventures took my challenge to heart.

Although this was technically an ‘ unsupported’ challenge in that I was without a support crew to take care of logistics and be on hand along the way I have actually received massive amounts of support by all those who have followed and shared this adventure and I bow to you all with a huge THANK YOU and boundless gratitude.

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Patch having a bit of Search Dog bonding time with the lovely Tess!

Massive Thank Yous toos! to everyone who has donated so far to the Mountain Rescue Teams, Search and Rescue Dog Association England and FixtheFells whom the #3PeAksRun is supporting. I am now over two thirds of the way to my fundraising target and will continue to try to reach it ( My fourth mountain, if you will!). Please help if you can by donating a little here at my VirginMoneyGivingPage

EVERY PENNY DONATED GOES DIRECTLY TO THESE WORTHY CAUSES!

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Patch and I are now enjoying some serious shut eye…..see you later 👣🐾

 

 

Countdown Is On!

Only 1 day to go til the start of my (in the words of BBC Radio Lancashire)  ‘totally bonkers’ 3PeAksRun!! 

So with hours to go to my monster Challenge with a capital ‘C’, how am i feeling? Ready? Prepared?
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Weather forecast for August in Britain…..check👍
I am not an athlete, really,  just your average, everyday, person( OK,with a slightly unconventional lifestyle, its true) and a below average runner its fair to say, though i know some of you are saying ‘yeah yeah, sure you are’ but honestly, its true!
Ultra Running and challenges such as this though are about endurance and if theres one thing i do well its endurance. i.e the sheer stubborn – mindedness to just keep going! When it hurts, when its miserable, when you’re too hot, too cold, hungry, tired or can’t really breath I can just keep moving. Fool…you might say…and you’d probably be right!
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Kit, good to go…..how am I supposed to run with that lot!! Can you spot my mobile physio…. tennis ball Dave?
Physical readiness?  I have a sore hip, little niggle in my right achilles ( thats a totally new one) , very tight left calf ( not sure what it’s problem is) and sitting in the back of my mind the omnipresent fear of shinsplints, particularly those born of the dreaded ‘stress fracture’ possibility (hereforeafter referred as ‘that which must not be named’) Coupled with the fact that i struggle to climb up four steps if I need the loo in the middle of the night onboard the boat i have to wonder if i am really cutout for this!….oh, and half a toenail came off a couple of days ago which is now really sore!!
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Accommodation sorted…..check 👍 
Fortunately, i believe ( or just naively convince myself) that these last minute irritations are mostly just a figment of my over active imagination trying to convince me to just crawl into the duvet with a selection of chocolate bars and watch Netflix for the next three weeks…..how unadventurous my brain can be at times! Come on head, get with the program!
Talking of super tasty sweet treats check out the amazing selection of energy goodies the generous people over at Clif Bars have sent me….i’ll be way too energized to be crawling under any duvets after that lot!!
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Energy in abundance….I notice ‘3Peaks’ Patch is snaffling my crunchy peanut butter favourites! 
Then, there are the crazy flapjack loving folk at Graze .com who have very generously provided me with enough flapjack to get me all the way from Wales to Ben Nevis! Brilliant!!
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Hmmm….once again, Patch is guarding my favourites – honeycomb flapjacks….there’s going to be trouble! 

 

So, in less than 24 hours I’ll be off to Wales to face my first summit, the mighty Snowdon…..Follow on Facebook at 3PeAksRun – The Long Way Up to track my progress
and see what Patch gets up to!👍👣🐾
Remember, you can support the amazing charities I am running for
by donating a little if you can.
Thank you 👣🐾

 

so…… just need a nice soak in the bath and an early night……*#$!@ it’s already after 11pm! #hownottoprepareformonsterchallenge

‘Bonkers’ 3PeAksRun on the BBC!

Well i was very lucky this week to be contacted by not one but two BBC Radio Stations. BBC Radio Cumbria and BBC Radio Lancashire both invited me to chat about my imminent 3PeAksRun live on their Breakfast Shows.

Though completely terrified of saying something incredibly stupid live on air the presenters were very friendly and wished me well, even though they thought i was completely bonkers taking on this humongous challenge!

I will be jogging on through both of these regions in the next couple of weeks and hope to pop into the studios to say hi again ( now i am an experienced interviewee, of course😉)

If you missed it you can still catch the interview – just click OnAirHere . Scroll to 2hr24mins (or, if you have some free time,enjoy the entire Breakfast Show – choice is yours)

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Introducing 3PeAks Patch

After my incredible weekend amongst the inspiring folk at the Search and Rescue Dog Association England I felt a fair scoop of ‘enviousness’ of the owners and handlers of such fabulous dogs and the incredible bonds between them. But as much as i love our furry friends my lifestyle – splitting my time between life on a boat and living in a ‘nano campervan’ is totally non-conducive to responsible dog ownership!

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Then I discovered Patch . My new ‘trail runners best friend’ – an extremely low maintenance pet substitute mascot with aspirations to become a Search and Rescue Dog trainee….hmmm, good luck with that, Patch!

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3PeAks Patch….potential Search Dog trainee?….hmmmm

This miniscule traildog is not without his charms, he has already proven quite a hit around the boat and is about to get into all kinds of mischief,  i can tell.

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Overdoing it on the post run treats!

Little Patch will be joining me on my 3PeAksRun Challenge,  and weighing in at 36 grams (less than a small flapjack) I have agreed to find him a comfy spot on my backpack as his tiny legs will struggle to keep up…even with me! (and even if he could actually move them!?)

You can use the follow buttons below to keep up with Patch’s (and my) adventures and see what trouble he gets himself into. He may look clean and smart now but just wait til he gets to the top of Snowdon!

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My new traildog buddy…3PeAks Patch

Paws on the Moors

20170723_153937So, after dragging a spade up a mountain with the intrepid Fix the Fells crew what new adventures could be in store on a weekend with Search and Rescue Dog Association, SARDA England? Well, a good bit of rolling about in the bracken as it turned out!!

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Brrrr….glad I joined a summer training meet!

Eager to learn about the work of SARDA England I recently joined the team on a National Training meet in the beautiful countryside of Northumberland. And if I thought it was a long journey from the Lancashire coast, spare a thought for the Dartmoor team who travelled all the way from Plymouth! But commitment and dedication knows no bounds to this (in their own words) eclectic, ‘dog mad’ group who are all unpaid volunteers, giving their time and courage to help others who become lost, injured, trapped or go missing.

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Exuberant young Search Dog, Angus kept us all on our toes

As a National Training meet, there were many handlers and dogs from all over the country and all at various stages of their training – from puppies starting out their journey with obedience training and socialising to graded, operational dogs keeping their skills refreshed. Making the grade as a Search Dog is a long process with a lot of work, but one which is thoroughly enjoyed by dogs, handlers and trainers alike. Though not without frustrating moments – one young dog fluffed a skills test when the examiners were watching but then went on to complete it perfectly when the score sheets were put aside! I’m sure we can all relate! But that is what these weekends are all about – an opportunity to learn and practise in new and different environments, share information and knowledge, as well as the opportunity for a good catchup with fellow SARDA members over a pint at the local pub.

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Search Dog Shola keen to show off her skills

The social scene was fantastic. Accommodations were ‘back to basics’ with team members laying out sleeping bags on the floor of the village hall, pitching tents on the front lawn or sharing a campervan with a lively collie or two. We patiently queued for the showers each day with towels and toothbrushes in hand. No airs and graces here! Each morning there was a bustle of brews and bacon butties aplenty kindly cooked up by Val, Brian, Kath and Ian to get everyone’s day off to a great start. Then there was a quick team brief before ‘deployment’ to the hills for the various training activities.

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Search Dogs train for around two years before reaching operational status and there are no guarantees. A handler must have already been a fully trained and operational member of a Mountain Rescue Team for a minimum of a year before beginning the process of training with their dog and it is recommended to start at the puppy stage as some of the obedience training is specific to Search and Rescue work and the pups also have to quickly learn to quell their interest in livestock – not good practice on a live search for the dog to go hareing off after a sheep! A ‘stock test’ is one of the first assessments they will have.

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Early training days…

Then follows several stages of training and assessment to develop the skills required to be an effective Search Dog, and its not just about the dogs – handlers learn many skills relating to how to determine search areas and carry out effective searches as well as how train and get the best from their dog – this is totally a team effort!

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Handlers Ian, Mark, Paul, John and Bill with newly graded Search Dogs Ollie, Abbie, Flo, Shola and Angus

It is a huge commitment and prospective handlers also have to accept the fact that not all dogs make the grade. Some might not be suited to the work, not retain enough interest or simply not reach the standard required to pass the final assessment and these guys accept that its possible their dog might not become a working colleague but simply remain a loyal and faithful friend. And the team are certainly mad about their dogs! No where else have I witnessed 6 foot plus, burly men leaping about in the undergrowth and whooping like a child to reward their hard working four legged friends!

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Young trainee Wynn taking a breather

Training involves alot of ‘play’ for dogs and handlers alike. SARDA trainers explain..

All of our training is undertaken with praise and rewards for the dog. Some are happy to work for their squeaky toy while others prefer food!

The training encourages the dogs hunting instinct and they use ‘air scenting’ to find their ‘prey’ i.e. a prone human. No matter how much you scrub in the shower with YlangYlang and Jojoba or douse on the aftershave a dog can detect your human scent (almost literally) a mile away. Depending on the breed they can smell up to 100,000 times more effectively than we can, can pick up scents 14 metres underground and can even smell human fingerprints that are a week old. That said, after Saturday nights’ barbecue I think the dogs were most enjoying the smell of sausages and steak that was eminating from everyone’s pores!

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Search Dog Tess has just picked up the scent of last nights sausages!

Of course,  for all this searching to be successful the dogs need somebody to find and this is where the kind, volunteer ‘dogsbodies’ come in. And on Sunday morning  I was excited to get a opportunity to join in. Suitably lathered up in Avon ‘Skin so Soft’ to keep those pesky midges at bay, four of us ‘bodies’ were led to our individual hiding places in the woods. I struck gold as my patch was right next to a huge covering of wild bilberry so I had a fresh fruit buffet on tap. Shuffling down into my bivvy bag and camouflaging myself with bits of bracken I was also happy to discover that the forest floor was extremely comfortable. The trainers kept us informed via radio as to what was happening and as each dog began its test we were all routing for them to do well. As a dogsbody your simple task is to shuffle down into the undergrowth, blend in behind a rock or maybe perch up a tree if you are blessed with that kind of agility, and then wait. There can indeed be a good bit of waiting so some snacks, a hot flask and a book of crosswords might come in handy. As a respite from all the relaxing in your bivvy with a good book, every so often one of the dogs will find you, perhaps letting you know with a sloppy lick, then ‘indicating’ to their handler and leading them to your position. If the dog is still in the earlier stages of training then its your job to make a big fuss ( you are in fact, highly encouraged to ‘ham’ up this part as much as physically possible!) and reward your ‘rescuer’ with his or her favourite toy, for which they go completely bonkers….and I mean, seriously, bonkers.  ( Not disimilar to my own reaction when unexpectedly faced with a giant slice of cake….for example)

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Dogsbody John having a tug of war game with Search Dog Blitz

The role of a ‘Body’ is invaluable to the training and volunteers are often found amongst family, friends and potential handlers but there’s always a need for fresh dogsbodies. No specific skills are required, perhaps a penchant for playing hide and seek and a willingness to leap about, play tug of war with exuberant canines and generally make a bit of a fool of yourself. A DogsBodies’ safety is paramount and you are issued with a radio to keep in contact with trainers who will allocate and monitor your position and even keep a tag with your name on to make doubly sure no one gets left behind when the hide and seek is up! If this sounds much more like the kind of weekend activity you’d like to have a bash at every month or so instead of wandering around Sainsburys complaining about the price of bananas yet again check out the link below for more info and how to get involved.

 

At the end of a long day in the outdoors there is always time for some well earned R&R in the local pub while the dogs take a nap back at base, dreaming about their favourite toy, no doubt. Handlers, trainers and dogsbodies alike certainly enjoy a lively bit of banter and story swapping.

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Search Dog ‘Ollie the Collie’ taking his preferred style of chill out time

This kick back time is also very important I think as the work they do can be very demanding and stressful at times and yet, outside all the tall tales of training mishaps the team are very modest about what they do and the people they have helped in live search situations.

I was very privileged to be able spend time with these amazing folk and their dogs. It was a fantastic weekend with lots going on and plenty of laughs. They were a super positive and welcoming crowd who had me very quickly initiated into leaping through the heather, calling and waving chew toys over my head without self conciousness (well, not too much, anyway)! The dedication of the team is also very inspiring. There is a lot of work involved, not only through the training but also after becoming operational. Being on call at all hours of the day and night, going out on a search in sometimes very harsh conditions as well as keeping the dogs skills and fitness up is all in addition to the regular daily responsibilities of work and family life for these generous individuals who recieve no income for their commitment and sacrifice. These people are truly passionate about what they do and I applaude them all. Please, please support them by donating a little at Sponsor 3PeAksRun

Search Dogs can be used in many situations and quite often in urban environments to locate vunerable or elderly people with mental health difficulties, or people who have gone missing in emotional circumstances. You never know when you or a family member may need their help.

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Handler Bill Batson with experienced Search Dog, Glenn

At SARDA England there are currently 33 graded dogs and handlers on the callout list and a further 15 in training with 20 supporting dogsbodies. Please help me support their selfless work by sponsoring my 3PeAksRun at virginmoneygiving.com/3PeAksRun.

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If you are curious about becoming a dogsbody find out more at SARDA Dogsbodies  # getinvolved 

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this blog. Happy trails😁 And dont forget… #getoutside

See you soon👣

 

 

 

Spades and Brooms on mountain summits!

Always an advocate of trying new experiences, summiting a Lakeland Fell hauling a spade and broom along was certainly a first for me on my recent day with a team of Fix the Fells volunteers..all in a days work for these guys!ftf colour cmyk

Just an hour before our prearranged meeting time, I peeked out of my soggy tent to see nothing of the nearby fells but swirling grey cloud and sheets of rain. Keener to stay snuggled up in my toasty warm sleeping bag than try to extricate myself from my tiny one-man tent onto the sodden grass beyond I wondered what the cutoff level of discomfort might be for the Fix the Fells team to decide to hang up their gaiters and retreat to the warm and and cosy interior of the village pub or cafe for copious amounts of hot tea and homemade cake uttering promises of returning to the fells just as soon as the sun was shining again , everyone was volunteering for this after all! But it turns out, these are no fairweather fell goers, rather, a hardy bunch of outdoorsy folk whose attitude to our fickle British weather is that if the National Park Rangers went out in all conditions then so would they!

Repairing and maintaining our ancient network of mountain paths is an all-weather task. A combination of millions of pairs of walking boots, the weather and gradient means erosion is a constant problem. Our path work reduces erosion scars and also helps protect the ecology and archaeological heritage of our beautiful landscape.

Fix the Fells are celebrating 10 years of volunteering, a decade of dedication. In fact, their level of commitment and dedication humbled me more than once during that day.

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Introductions made, I took custody of my ‘on loan’ trusty spade and broom, unsure of what exactly what exactly I was supposed to do with them, and along with the team headed up the path towards a brooding Place Fell. Our mission for the day was glamorously referred to as a ‘drain run’. Spade and brush in hand I was a little confused but all was soon expertly explained. The drains along the paths help the water continue on a natural course rather than using the path itself as a quick route downhill, damaging the path and causing further erosion or even washing away the path completely in heavy rain. Volunteers completed 493 ‘drain run’ days last year carrying out minor maintenance and repairs and clearing debris.

We soon arrived at the first drain and it became immediately apparent to me that this was more technical than I had initially imagined. It certainly didn’t seem in any way obvious to my untrained eye if, where and what might need doing to maintain a happy drain. But as the day went on and the number of drain encounters chalked up I gradually began to understand how to identify the problems and how to remedy them, doing a very fine job of clearing out a very clogged, muddy and smelly drain by the end of the day ( if i do say so myself!)

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Other maintenance tasks on our day in the hills involved picking up litter and cleaning pitching. (the large stones and rock slabs that make up sections of path and/or steps) Keeping this clear of loose rocks, stones and debris makes it much safer and easier to walk on and therefore more inviting than the surrounding ground which helps to reduce and prevent erosion. This was something my obsessive inclination for cleaning could really get enthusiatic about and my designated pitching was certainly very vigorously brushed to a standard at which you might be able to eat your rehydrate, boil in the bag dinner off it.

Volunteering with Fix the Fells is not all about getting wet and muddy though. Hard work but lots of fun it is a wonderful and productive way to spend a day in the hills with a group of diverse yet like minded people seeing parts of the Lake District you may never have been before and giving something back to the outdoor environment we all love and enjoy. The pace and work was always steady, there was always time scheduled in to stop for a brew and picnic lunch and as i worked and spoke with a different group member throughout the day I also realised it is a wonderful opportunity to make and catch up with fellow volunteer friends as well as meet new people. The volunteer group on any particular day can include regular volunteers who have been involved for several years to new recruits still working through their training program or complete first timers like myself staring at a drain with a somewhat confused look on their face. The pool of volunteers indeed spans all ages and backgrounds with a wealth of experience in a variety of outdoors pursuits from keen walkers to outdoor instructors, National Trust Wardens, National Park Rangers and Mountain Rescue Team members.

Anyone interested in volunteering with Fix the Fells has an opportunity to go along for some ‘taster days’ , similar to the day I spent, to meet other volunteers and discover what the work involves. After this, comprehensive training is provided in the practical skills of path maintenance, first aid and navigation as well as training in the whats, whys and hows of carrying out the various work required. A minimum annual commitment of 12 days volunteering is required but many volunteers far exceed this, some out on the fells more than once a week in all seasons. Car parking permits and a travel allowance within the national park is also provided to minimise costs to the volunteer and all training is included. It is also a fantastic opportunity to learn many new skills working with National Trust Wardens and National Park Rangers.

One of the most valuable and perhaps often overlooked aspects of the teams work that day to me was simply their presence on the fells. Many walkers commented and asked what they were doing and thanked them for their efforts. I felt this was invaluable for raising awareness and encouraging responsible behaviour outdoors – I think someone is far less likely to discard that sweet wrapper or cut that corner in the path when they witness volunteers giving their time to pick up litter and work on the paths in all weathers and with enthusiasm and positivity, and have an opportunity to learn why the work they do is important and necessary. Fix the Fells volunteers are definitely great ambassadors for the outdoors and inspire and encourage us all to be more appreciative and protective of our precious and beautiful, great outdoors!

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The fantastic team I had the privilage to spend the day with. And the sun finally came out just in time to enjoy a well earned cuppa! A huge thank you to volunteers David, Wendy, Steven, Chris, Mim, Ann, Andy and Claire for welcoming me so well. You guys rock!

If you want to find out more or are interested in becoming a volunteer for Fix the Fells you can find more about what’s involved HERE or contact them at info@fixthefells.co.uk

Happy Trails!

How else can you help?  Sponsor my 3PeAksRun here and support their work!

 

 

New Puppy Recruits!

This month saw the welcome of some super cute recruits to SARDA England! New, potential future Search and Rescue Dogs attended their first national training meets. And it was ‘awwws’ and paws all around!

 

But after all the puppy cuddling its down to serious business. Puppy training initially involves socialising, basic obedience and familiarisation with stock animals. But as they progress SARDA England’s search dogs are trained to ‘Air Scent’, this means they do not as a general rule track the missing person.

The dogs will react to a human scent being blown towards them by the wind or air currents. In bad conditions a dog can cover large areas of ground in the search for a missing person.

The dog is very sensitive to any human scent it finds and will immediately follow that scent to where a human is located. It will then indicate to its handler to let them know it has had a ‘Find’

How do the trainers gain the dogs interest to become search dogs?

 

All of our training is undertaken with praise and rewards for the dog. Some are happy to work for their squeaky toy while others prefer food!

 

Search and Rescue dogs don’t only work on the fells and mountains. Dogs help to search for missing people in a variety of circumstances.

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Just a few days before Christmas in Cornwall, search dog Blitz found a missing 51year old woman in critical condition in deep undergrowth after spending two cold nights outside. She was treated by rescuers before being passed to the ambulance service.

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Please can you spare the price of a chew toy to support the invaluable training of these incredible future life savers?

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 Please support the work of SARDA England by donating at virginmoneygiving.com/3PeAksRun

 

Thank you 🐾