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Mandy Spry 6th June 1961 – 9th October 2017

In the pub! With a pint of Landlord.

At 20 Mandy was drop dead gorgeous, and that didn’t change. I first met Mandy in Staveley Road in Bradford along with Bee and Deb. Mandy lived nearby in Ivanhoe Road and they were all students at Bradford Uni. The early 80s, Bradford was dark and wet, living under the shadow of the Yorkshire ripper with a curfew on women which we rallied against. We spent our time lolling about on sofas without legs, rushing into taxis to go to pubs and clubs – the Bavaria, Manningham and Oak Lane pubs, ingesting dodgy substances and dancing our socks off all night, literally on more than one occasion. Mandy had bleached blonde hair, black leather jacket, DMs and skin tight stripey trousers on her long long legs. An absolute stunner with an obsession for Stevie Nicks!

Pengorof, Rhandirmwyn

Backdrop of Simple Minds, Talking Heads, Queen and David Bowie, the Human League, Clint Eastwood and General Saint, the Specials, the Selecter, the Beat, UB40 as well as Fleetwood Mac.

Mandy moved to Brixton, we chased her latest heartthrobs at the Ace of Clubs, slept on her futon, worried about the bullet hole in the window.

Mandy supported me as I left a disastrous relationship, with mud bath therapy at Weston-super-Mare, not in a spa, just by the sea with real mud. I got together with Chris and Mandy joined us for parties in Wales. Chris and I motorbiked to Coombe Martin and we met up with Mandy and her mum, Anne. After dark we went high above the sea and barbecued mackerel we’d caught that day, so good, and drunk again. Mandy went from working with Dale Spender to restoring and creating furniture in Leeds and then to ranging the countryside and becoming a bat expert. There were times when we drifted from each other but then really reconnected about 17 years ago. It was never a friendship that meant we had to be in each other’s pockets but one that could be picked up and continued from where we had left off.

Mandy, Annette and Ros settled into West Hey Head Farm, Mandy left countryside services in Leeds and trained to do remedial massage. As I was getting into hiking and mountaineering, Mandy got into first river kayaking and then sea kayaking. We pursued our outdoor passions and shared our adventures over walks which always included a pub meal and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord. The Top Brink was a regular venue, along with the Robin Hood in Cragg Vale, and the Robin Hood in Pecket Well long before Mandy moved there.

Helping me with belaying to get through my Mountain Leader award

After Mandy’s first occurrence of cancer, she asked me to walk with her to help build up her strength. We walked a lot at Hardcastle Crags, with Heddy, and it worked. We walked in everything, often in the dark. I loved that she didn’t let the weather stop her. And so we continued, all through the recurrence and the treatments. We walked round Withens Clough reservoir in the dark, the only time I ever saw her very angry about the cards she had been played. She had just been told she had a year to live. Well she outdid that prophesy and outdid it in style, deciding what she wanted to do with her time, who she wanted in her life and organising her affairs.

At mine and Carol’s wedding reception 2008

I feel privileged to have had a part in Mandy’s life, that she trusted me and had a clear picture of what she wanted me to do. She always listened very well and came up with constructive ideas of how to approach problems, in a safe place where we could share our fears and tears. Her support stretched over our interwoven lives over a great long time. She was so loving and generous with her time for me when my soulmate Chris (one of the donkey care team) was dying.  One of the things Mandy said then was that people who were dying totally had the right to choose what they do in the limited time they have left. It seems such an obvious thing to say but at that time of Chris’s illness it was a major issue. Mandy knew then that she would be doing this for herself in the not so distant future. She was very aware of her own mortality and wanting to get the most out of the time she had.

Mandy gave me so much, from her knowledge of plants and the natural world, her remedial massage skills, her practical skills, but most of all, her unconditional love and support. Paddle on, my love.

Dignity in Dying

 

 

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Northumberland October 2017

We had a week in Longframlington at the end of October. It was a bit hard because C wasn’t very well. So much so that we missed the first day of our holiday. We took the A19 because the A1 was at a standstill.

We spent an afternoon looking at old churches which was fun. There are only a very few that I find truly make me feel at peace. Went to Whalton, Meldon and Bolam. It was so dark in Bolam church we had to use torches to look round.

One day was a trip to Morpeth for a few shops and then a very short walk at Druridge Bay so we could see the sea in the twilight.

Another day we went to Bamburgh and Seahouses and Budle Bay, going home a long way round via Wooler.

Whilst Carol dialysed, I went to Rothbury and hiked on the hills to look at the pre WW1 training trenches. They are quite distinctive but were more shallow than I expected from the photo I’d seen. I navigated to a 6 fig grid reference which was fun.

The other dialysis day, we had a look into Felton church which almost appears not to have a roof as you walk up to it. I went to Darden Lough to complete a walk we’d failed to finish. It wasn’t that great, annoying underfoot, the path was little used and the heather sort of grabbed my trouser bottoms and twirled them until they were really tight on my calves!! But there was a gorgeous sunset to reward me for my efforts.

We had 2 meals out, at the Northumberland Arms in Felton. Both our main courses were too sweet. Mine was beef with a jus. We also ate at the Anglers’ Arms about 10 minutes from the cottage. Straightforward pub food but relaxing because a straightforward pub.

On the way home we stopped off at Corbridge. Then routed ourselves to Blanchland just because I like it there and wanted to see it again. I drove back on the A68 because I hadn’t been on it before.

Whalton
Meldon
Bolam at dusk
Bolam
Lovely faces at Whalton
Druridge Bay
Some old duffer
Rothbury trenches
Rothbury trenches
I have no idea, made me think of toast
Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh with Lindisfarne in the background
Budle Bay
Felton
Darden Lough

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Post ODP Knighton

Saturday 7th October

I got out of the George and Dragon but left my big bag there to collect later.

Disappointing coffee in cafe across the road whilst I waited for the Offa’s Dyke Centre to open at 10.

It did and I had a very nice cup of coffee which you can buy from the Offa’s Dyke Association. Not cheap though.

Had a good look round and then walked a little of the path northwards, including some ODP stones to say about Sir John Hunt (of Everest fame) opening it ….

Collected bag, dragged it to the station, it felt much heavier than when I started out. Uneventful train journeys home. Manchester was busy thanks to sport so I waited a long time for the tram.

My trip was arranged by Celtic Trails who did a good job, clear information, all the luggage transfers worked. All the B&Bs were very good but the pubs were crap. I’ve told them all this and hopefully next time when I do the northern section, I can avoid the pubs apart from when I’m drinking the beer.

Ways to raise money for amyloidosis research:

My JustGiving page

UCL Amyloidosis Research Fund

I believe strongly in our right to choose how we die and support Dignity in Dying.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Todmorden circuit (and Calderdale Way section) 23rd July 2017

Cath and I started from Kava Kafe in Tod. We went along the Burnley Road, into the graveyard, into Centre Vale Park and then off up the Calderdale Way rising steeply with views over the town with almost no buildings in sight despite it being just a few hundred metres away, just lots of greenery. We stayed on the Calderdale Way until Whirlaw where we shifted onto the Todmorden Centenary Way. The Calderdale Way goes in much the same direction but takes a lower route. We stayed up, passing the stone face below Windy Harbour. The Tod Cent Way is an old packhorse route with clear stone facings on one side. We crossed Hey Head Lane and continued to the next minor road which we walked along and then turned down Matthew Lane. This has a part with a sheer drop which is quite exciting. We trotted down to the main Halifax Road, along for a short stretch and then took the road to Harvelin Park so we could get onto the canal towpath. Back to Kava for refreshments.

Stoodley Pike
Cath
No selfie stick!

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

ODP 5 Longtown to Hay-on-Wye

Weds Oct 4th

The Crown was a bit rubbish to say the least, disorganised breakfast but they gave me 2 huge poached eggs.

I decided to take the low route to Hay on Wye because of high winds which would be extra high up at 700m. I passed the Mountain Rescue station and asked them for the best route. The guy said I’d made a “good call” re the high winds.

I did 4 miles along the quiet road until I got to a picnic site. No table. Then walked for miles along an old drovers’ track. Some of it was fine, some grassy, some paved, some muddy, many fords to cross, trees to clamber over and under. It was mostly under walked so hard going as not kept in good condition but would be a lovely walk on a fine day.

It started off fine but became much cooler and very wet by the time I got to where I needed to cut across to the ODP. Not for long but enough to require all the gear. The way ahead was completely obscured by mist.

I got the compass out and took a bearing to get me to the ODP. I was bob on but it was good to see the old acorn which told me I was back on the National Trail. It’s nice when the nav techniques work.

Then a 4 mile breeze down to Hay on Wye. Got some nice sandwiches for the next day from the Granary, last visited a long time ago with Chris.

Across the bridge to my B&B called The Start. So much nicer than the pub B&B. Hot bath and out to town to Tomatitos tapas bar for tortilla, meatballs and gratinada de verdura de temporada. 2 halves of Butty Bach. Excellent.

About 12 miles today. Total 53.

Ways to raise money for amyloidosis research:

My JustGiving page

UCL Amyloidosis Research Fund

I believe strongly in our right to choose how we die and support Dignity in Dying.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

ODP 4 Llangattock Lingoed to Longtown

Tues Oct 3rd

A lie in and a later start. Boiled egg for breakfast. Went and looked at the white church. Peaceful. Set off about 10. Had to go through 2 fields of cows before I’d even done 2 miles to Pandy. Crossed the busy road then the river Honddu then the railway line. A train appeared very suddenly but I’m still here. I managed to avoid another field of cows by adding a hundred metres on the road. Steady ascent from the road to Hatterrall Ridge. It was cold in the wind up there but good ridge walk with fabulous 360 views of the Black Mountains.

This was a much shorter day so I bimbled along. Saw Jem at one point. Met a woman ML doing a reccy. Then lunch out of wind in an old quarry. Off the hill down to Longtown. This took longer than I expected. I got to the Crown just after 3.30. There seems to be a pub b&b thing which is about 20 years behind the main b&b sector which is generally very good. So no cake and tea welcome. The welcome was a chalk board notice telling me my room number.

The shower fitting fell off and I couldn’t get it back so had a bath which is first in several years and it was quite nice. Very hot water.

Spinach and chick pea curry in the bar. Ok but that’s all. Half of Otter bitter and then a Butty Bach both good.

About 9 miles. Total 40.5 miles.

Llangattock Lingoed church, I liked this church a lot
Variation on the signage
Skirrid
Hatterall Ridge
I did
Back along the ridge
Lots of lovely fungi
Forward along the ridge
Ways to raise money for amyloidosis research:

My JustGiving page

UCL Amyloidosis Research Fund

I believe strongly in our right to choose how we die and support Dignity in Dying.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

ODP 3 Lower Redbrook to Llangattock Lingoed

Mon Oct 2nd

Breakfast was good. All fresh and local and organic. I had wild boar sausage.

Left at 9. Briefly walked and chatted to nice man walking his dog. First stop The Kymin which is National Trust, a naval memorial and folly. Into and out of Monmouth passing M&S Food and Waitrose. Up through forest and rang Carol by accident but was good as was feeling so low. Even though it was longer, today’s walk was faster. Fewer gloomy ancient woods, more agricultural land. Only had to walk through one field of cows and they behaved themselves. Passed the site of Grace Dieu ruined monastery but no sign of it. There was a field of white cows I didn’t have to walk through, phew, some of them had horns. Stopped for lunch in a field of sheep. Saw more squirrels, 2 pigs, lots of sugar beet, several foolish dogs. And cows and sheep of course. Hardly saw any people after Monmouth apart from a few dog walkers and farmers. Passed a church and wanted to go in but it was locked.

The last stretch was hard but arrived White Castle at 5 to 4. I rang Karen as did have a signal after all. Quick look at the very large castle then K picked me up and drove me to the Old Rectory in Llangattock Lingoed. Tiny village with pub, the Hunters Moon, a white church and the rectory. This B&B almost as good as last night’s. K gave me tea and cake. Chatted to fellow walker who is also doing the ODP. To pub, very friendly, a bit like when I was a teenager in the Half Moon in Hepworth. Half of Monty’s Offa beer, ok. Butternut squash, feta, filo parcel with fresh vegetables, rice and chips, all excellent. Half of HPA. Then 2 more whilst chatting to Jem.

14.5 miles today. Total 31.5 miles.

The Kymin
Nice piggies
Bridge gatehouse at Monmouth, apparently the only one left in the British Isles
The White Castle and moat
Inner keep
Llangattock Lingoed church
Ways to raise money for amyloidosis research:

My JustGiving page

UCL Amyloidosis Research Fund

I believe strongly in our right to choose how we die and support Dignity in Dying.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

ODP 2 Chepstow to Lower Redbrook

Sun Oct 1st

Breakfast was ok but not fabulous. They only have a grade 1 for food hygiene, this is terrible and worried me. Left at 8.45. The route went through a lot of ancient woodland and followed the dyke and the bank for large parts of the way. At times it was so very dark in the woods. It was also hot and humid and I was soaked from early on.

I saw Tintern Abbey from up high and from the Devil’s Pulpit. Got to Brockweir at midday. I’d planned to get a drink at the community cafe but it didn’t seem to exist anymore so ended up in the not very welcoming pub. There was no point in going back up the hill so I took the low road along the river. Had to walk through some bullocks which was ok. Then to Bigsweir.

It didn’t rain but the air was wet. Not enough to wear an anorak. The last section down to Redbrook was very slippery. I felt like I spent a lot of time either hot and humid in the woods or hot and humid and soggy by the River Wye.

Finally got to Inglewood House at 4pm so 7.25 hours. Lovely and clean and welcoming. Tea and cake. Hot shower. To pub where I sat with fellow guests Cynthia and Rod. They were very sweet. I had a roast beef dinner and a beer but it wasn’t that great, not hot enough. C and R gave me hugs back at the B&B.

Over 14 miles today.

Total miles 17.

Nice mansion on the outskirts of Chepstow
Donkey Lane
Tintern Abbey
Redbrook at last
Tintern from the Devil’s Pulpit
Ways to raise money for amyloidosis research:

My JustGiving page

UCL Amyloidosis Research Fund

I believe strongly in our right to choose how we die and support Dignity in Dying.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

ODP 7 Kington to Knighton

Friday 6th October

Nice breakfast from Silvia who is a young East German. She’s 36. Told her of my trips to East Germany in the 70s. She was only 7 when Bruce played East Berlin so she missed that epic show: Chimes of Freedom. This gig was just a few days later than the first Bruce gig Chris and I went to.

Left at 9.15 to go up to the golf course. Soon joined by my 8 new friends. Walked with them all day.

3 significant hills. Gorgeous day, blue skies and warmed up. We were all a bit surprised by elderly woman driving like lunatic. She had a very cold look on her face, she managed not to mow us down but then immediately drove out onto a bigger road without looking and missed a car by inches. Clearly a story there but I really hope she got stopped. My dad would have said “another candidate for the cold meat counter”.

Past Evenjobb, Dolley Green, big climb up Hawthorn Hill. Then down to Knighton. We all went to the Knighton Hotel for tea and cake. Just don’t. No suggestion of service or even inclination towards such a thing.

Said goodbye and hugs with all the 8. They were off to the station to return to York to arrive quite late.

I made sure the Offa’s Dyke centre would be open in the morning then checked into the George and Dragon. More rubbish service so no did not want to eat there. Went and got a sandwich from Spar.

Total about 80 miles.

Ox bow
The actual dyke
The actual bank
The gang of 8
I really was there!
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

ODP 6 Hay-on-Wye to Kington

Thursday 5th October

Left at 9.40. Big hug from lovely Liz, my host. Soon started leap frogging with the group of 8 from the day before. They are 4 midwives and their husbands from York and they know a woman I work with. Kath, Geoff, Sue, Dave, June, Nick, Michelle, Steve.

First stop Newchurch where I went in the church and ate stale biscuits but gave them a donation as they have a nice honesty box tea coffee setup. Jem went in but maybe he didn’t see me as never said hello. I had my head in map and only saw him as he went in the church.

Up onto Disgwylfa Hill, I’ve walked this with Carol, lovely ridge walk, lovely weather, sunny and bright.

Into Gladestry. I thought the 8 were ahead of me but it turned out they’d gone to another honesty tea and coffee in the church there so they were actually behind me.

Onto Hergest Ridge. Met a Catalan man and talked a little about the fight for freedom. Later on I met his English companion who had a a bad leg. I tried to give her painkillers to no avail! There was a dead pony and its pony friend was standing next to it completely still. This had me in pieces.

Down to Kington and Castle Hill House, best B&B so far. Immaculate, nicely done up old house with interesting detail and well resourced fittings. All the new bath, shower, bed very comfortable. Nice pieces of genuine period furniture. Young couple who have clearly worked very hard.

Into town to the Oxford Arms, my 8 new pals invited me to eat with them so I did. Open mic night in the room behind so I sang along a bit.

About 14.5 miles today. Nick’s gadget said more. Total 67.

Another ridge
Newchurch
Newchurch
Disgwylfa Hill
Hergest Ridge
Monkey Puzzles on Hergest Ridge, visible for miles

Ways to raise money for amyloidosis research:

My JustGiving page

UCL Amyloidosis Research Fund

I believe strongly in our right to choose how we die and support Dignity in Dying.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS