Planting trees


According to an old chinese proverb, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

That proverb resonated strongly last week as G and I were sat drinking coffee at what is rapidly becoming our favourite coffee shop in Devon, the Porthole. It’s a favourite because, not only do they serve delicious coffee, the enamel mugs are insulated so you don’t burn your hands on them. Magic!

heat proof enamel :o)

Anyway, that’s not why we were waxing lyrical about Chinese proverbs. The reason was because we were ear wagging on a conversation the couple next to us were having. It followed the general lines of ‘we’d love to live here, why can’t we live here, we have too many reasons not to move’. We fell into conversation with them naturally and had the opportunity to learn of their circumstances. They were living in Bristol and had a huge mortgage and lots of (self imposed) responsibilities. The time was never really right of course, but primarily they acknowledged they were scared of the unknown. Yet their passion for the place was tangible and the desire to relocate sounded real enough.

I get it, I really do and I wonder how many people right now are stuck in places because they are scared of change.

A few days later an e-mail popped into my inbox. It was from Alastair Humphreys – the chap who I was talking about a little while ago – the adventurer who was looking at different ways of injecting adventure into life.

One particular line in the email struck home, “being relaxed about the destination but clear about your direction will give you more purpose and confidence to explore, dream and discover.”

The message was consistent with James Clear and his preference for building habits rather than setting goals. So it seems that our determination to spend more time outdoors and move more, rather than set some elaborate (and probably unrealistic at this time) goal of losing gazillions of weight in a year or entering events in the hope they’ll motivate you to get fitter and lose weight. A thought particularly pertinant when we consider we’re heading off to Lanzarote next week to support at the Ironman.

Our initial focus on ‘moving more’ is proving to be easy to achieve so far. Everything here is so beautiful and more importantly accessible. There is space to breathe and even when the weather is not so good and the wind is blowing strong enough to clear your sinuses out, you can’t help but feel invigorated when you get back.

Our reasons for planting the tree were health related. Both physical and mental. I’d tried to plant trees many times before but on reflection, I think the reasons for planting were confused. Now, they are easy to identify; to spend more time outdoors and live more simply and so the tree is growing marvellously.

Small steps, big strides

I hinted in the last blog post that I had qualified as a personal trainer. And it’s true. I have, so recently qualified that the certificate is still in the post.

It was a long time coming. I first started the qualification in 2007. I was still a copper in the Met at the time. I got so close, completing all the modules other than the final level then I opened ‘Run to Live’ and never found the time (or the energy) to complete it.

I’m still not sure what the long term goal will be – although I will look for a couple of clients – possibly ‘virtually’ as I’m still working full time at the moment. But, the personal satisfaction of drawing the line has been immense indeed.

Actually, to be honest, my first client is me (no pressure there then). Grant and I got our heads together and wrote a rough plan. It’s more ‘back of a fag packet’ than ‘preparation for final assessment’ but it’s a route map we can follow.

The first eight weeks is called ‘Just move’. With a desk job I really enjoy and a natural inclination to be lazy, I’ve often found that I can log less than 1000 steps in a day. So, the next two months will focus on finding fun ways to move and nothing more complex than that. Happily, with a relocation to Devon, we’ve had lots of opportuntity to explore the area. Once the computer is switched off at 4pm, we’ve hopped onto the bikes to cycle to the coffee shop on the coast or headed to the beach for a walk. We’ve opted to ride out on the local cycle trails to find new areas and enjoyed walks on Exmoor to bag a few more Trig points.

Trig point – Winsford Hill with panoramic views across to Wales and Dartmoor

We’re learning a lot about the nature of the area, especially not to assume things. Heading out with the OS explorer map to follow cycle routes, we ended up on the South West Coast path on cycle route 27. It was barely a footpath, never mind a cycle route. Thank goodness we had the cyclocross bikes and a sense of humour at that point. It certainly improved our bike handling skills. But not as much as the journey back. Getting lost and being reluctant to cycle the long way back we found a short cut along a bridle way. It was basically a 1:4 climb over a hill along a very muddy and rutted footpath. Bikes on shoulders for two miles before we reached the road on the other side. The first six miles back from Woolacombe took us nearly an hour and a half. At least we got a whole body workout that day!

Woolacombe bay

The key thing at the moment is that I’m having fun and not putting any pressure on myself. Just finding time to rediscover my mojo.

Day 1, Week 1

Northam Burrows

A few months ago, Grant my husband and I had attended an evening with Alistair Humpreys. The evening was called ‘A night of adventure’, a lecture evening featuring a number of people who had basically temporarily headed off on adventures. It was fascinating, mostly because all of the speakers, without exception, were ‘normal’. One chap spent the weekend collecting Scottish Munros, another had walked across the Eurasian Steppes. Most of the adventures were done on a shoestring and had started because their originators had grown tired of waiting for the ‘right time’. It made me realise that we are all able to experience adventure and they don’t need to be journeys to the ends of the earth.

I recently received an e-mail from Alistair. The subject line was intriguing. ‘Would you like to live more adventurously’ it cried. Well ‘yes’ I thought, ‘I really would’. So I signed up. It was easy, you can do so here.

It turns out Alistair was offering a way to experience adventure in every day life. It had been triggered by the fact he had recently got married and now had a family, which of course had curtailed his ability to just head off and cycle round the world. Having responsibility did not diminish his desire to occasionally step off the sheep trail and go and do something different. These series of e-mails was designed to encourage us to go off and have our own adventures.

Without spoiling the plot, Alistair encourages us, when planning adventures, to consider our own barriers. Mine is easy. I am clinically obese. That is despite being a (newly) qualified personal trainer and despite having a lifelong passion in sport and being active. I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t own the fact that being overweight does hamper my ability to do things and it’s definitely getting worse the older I get. So, now is my time to recognise that there will never be a ‘right time’.

The time is now.