Barefootin’

The little café at Murlough

The little café at Murlough

One good thing about being unemployed in the summer is the freedom to come and go as you please. You’re not cooped up in an office or a department store where there’s no sunlight. If it’s raining, too bad.

But the past three days have been just what a summer’s day should be, hot and sunny. And I’ve been using those days as best I know how, to slap on the sunblock and get out and enjoy the sunshine!

In fact, not only have I been taking maximum advantage of the summer, I’ve visited a new beach. Murlough Beach stretches from the Murlough Nature Reserve near Dundrum all the way down to Newcastle. The first time I visited this beach was on August 8th where I decided to cool off my feet after a walk all the way from Downpatrick. Then I jumped back on the bus home.

Yesterday, however, I went further. If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to get my energy levels up to maximum it’s a summer’s day in the countryside and the beach. So I used that energy to walk along the beach, in and out of the surf, all the way to the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle. And when I reached Newcastle I walked all the way back. Nothing unusual about that, but I was barefoot the whole time, from when I reached the beach at Murlough caravan park to Newcastle.

I got into the habit of being barefoot on the beach at Tyrella. You don’t have to worry about sand in your shoes and you can walk through rock pools and the surf with total impunity. I put my shoes back on at Newcastle and had a walk about the town, but when I got back to the beach the shoes came off again and I didn’t bother putting them back on until I reached the asphalt path back onto the main road.

Now, according to Google Maps, the distance via the A2 from the Murlough Caravan Park to Newcastle is 3.04km, but the route I took along the beach is shorter, 2.5km or so. So, 2.5km there and 2.5km back adds up to a full five kilometres, give or take a few hundred metres. And that is the longest distance I’ve ever walked barefoot in one day. And my feet are none the worse for it.

I think I’ll make a pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick in County Mayo, and I just might be one of the pilgrims crazy enough to do it barefoot…

…though I’m not promising anything.

All around Lecale

The little corner of County Down known as Lecale is recognised as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and during the last six days I’ve been able to see why. And I’ve been taking the maximum advantage of this spell of good weather while I’m at it.

On Thursday, as I reported in a previous entry, I walked from Downpatrick to Tyrella Beach and back.

On Friday I took the bus to Ardglass and walked to Ballyhornan and back. I took the path known as the Lecale Way, a path along the coast that is totally free of cars. I also took a lengthy walk along the beach in the surf,

On Saturday I walked to Inch Abbey and I had a nice lunch al fresco at Bon Appetit, a café and restaurant on the Belfast Road.

On Sunday I walked up to Raholp and climbed up Slieve Patrick.

On Monday I took a long walk down the Old Course Road, down Ballyclander Road, back round onto Milltown Road, Bright Road, Carrowbane Road, then back up the Ballynoe Road to Downpatrick.

And today I took a bus to Ballykinler and revisited Tyrella Beach and took another long walk in the surf. I really wanted to visit it again before this present hot spell of weather ends.

Oh, and I don’t know if it’s the salt water or the effect of walking on sand in salt water, but the rough skin I had on my feet is mostly gone.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: sunshine, I love you!

To the beach and back

Downpatrick, Thursday, 24 May 2012, 3:15pm

I’m not here to offer any explanation or apology about why I haven’t posted for so long. I’m here to tell you what a magnificent day I’ve had so far.

Perhaps the most unusual thing about today is that I got up just before 6:00 this morning. Unless it’s Sunday I’m seldom up before 10:00am. And then, don’t you know, since I had nothing planned for the day and the weather showed no sign of clouding over, I decided to take a walk. And what a walk it turned out to be, all the way from Downpatrick to Tyrella Beach. The countryside is beautiful enough at any time of the day, come rain or shine, but early in a sunny morning in late spring, early summer is when it’s at its best!

After about twelve kilometres of walking I reached the A2, Minerstown Road, I came at last to Tyrella beach. And it was here that I did something I haven’t done since a visit to Portsmouth in September 1995. I took my shoes off and walked about barefoot in the surf.

I’ve been up for more than nine hours and walked twenty-four kilometres (my estimate – Google Maps is being updated, apparently) and I should be worn out by now, but I’m not. We still have six hours of daylight left and I’m not going to waste any of it sitting in a library in front of a computer. I’m going to slap on some more sun block and get back out into the sun.

Sunshine, I love you!

Sunshine, I love you!

Yes, I know I’ve said this before, but I just have to say it again. Tuesday and Wednesday were everything a summer’s day should be, hot and sunny and not a cloud in the sky. And I took full advantage of the sunner weather. On Tuesday I took a walk up to Inch Abbey and then took a further walk up towards Annacloy, went south via Woodgrange, Drumcullan, round to Bonecastle then back home.

Wednesday’s trip took me south, down to Tyrella Beach via Ballynoe and Marshallstown. And if you’re wondering where all those places are or you think I’m making them up, look closely at an Ordnance Survey map of Downpatrick.

By the way, I got sunburn, even though I made a point of plastering myself with sunblock. The sunblock must have come off with the sweat I was working up.

Can it get any better?

I’m back in the Chilterns again. The weather forecast told me it would be a clear, sunny day so I decided today would be just right for a trip out to Buckinghamshire.

And, by jove, I’m just glad I got up at 5:30 this morning, even though I’d only been asleep for about four hours. For the first time in months I’ve seen at first hand the beauty of the Chilterns in the morning. I’ve been through Chesham, the Lee, Ballinger and now Wendover.

Just one fly in the ointment: I took a detour round the woods above Wendover. They’re everything I’ve come to expect in a wooded area in these parts. But the recent rain has turned parts of the paths into a quagmire. I was too busy trying to avoid them and coming a cropper on my bike to appreciate the woods.

Anyway, I’m bound to see more of the countryside as the day goes on.

Wendover

Sunshine, I love you!

Pity it was so cold but today and yesterday the sun was shining as brilliantly and as beautifully as it could at this time of year. Wednesday will be Groundhog Day which for me marks the first stage towards spring. Roll on, spring!

On a more prosaic note, I had a blowout this afternoon. I had set out on my bike, hoping to take full advantage of the sunny weather, and I hadn’t gone fore than 300 metres when I found the back wheel wasn’t rolling like it should. But seconds later, BANG! And within a further two seconds the back tyre was completely deflated. Well, I’ve had punctures in the past, more than I care to remember, but this is the first time I’ve had a tyre burst like a latex balloon. Well, all that did was set me back £4.99 for a new inner tube, an hour to replace the tyre and I was off again…

Mr Blue Sky

Sun is shining in the sky
There’s not a cloud in sight
It’s stopped raining
Everybody’s up today
And today is the day we’ve waited for

Running down the avenue
See how the sun shines brightly
In the city
On the streets where once was pity
Mr Blue Sky is shining once again

Mr Blue Sky,
Please tell us why
You had to hide away for so long
Where did we go wrong…

Today is proof positive that November isn’t all gloom and decay.