Singlers Marsh

We had another glorious winter day. The weather was bitter cold and breezy again, but the skies were clear and blue and it seemed a perfect day to get out in the fresh air again with the camera. I love being outdoors and amongst nature: I find it so healthy and refreshing and it always raises my spirits. Rob and I are always eager to explore local places and new walks with our cocker spaniel, Ted.

When I first moved to this area, I used to come down to Singlers Marsh in Old Welwyn to walk my old staffy bull terrier. She used to love diving in and out of the water and collecting rocks and stones.

It’s been many years since I’ve walked down there, but every time Rob and I visit Old Welwyn, I keep saying we must take a look down by the river again and explore with Ted.

It seemed the perfect day and Old Welwyn is only 5 minutes away from us. I’m still trying to build up my walking capacity and as it was freezing cold, I didn’t want to be venturing too far away. I also knew that the first part of the walk was lovely and level, which is a great help with my breathing.

Singlers Marsh is a wet meadow adjacent to the River Mimram on the northern edge of Old Welwyn in Hertfordshire. The marsh comprises a section of important chalk river and lowland flood meadows. It was quite waterlogged in places being mid winter and I was glad I had my wellingtons on. The grassland, willow scrub and mature trees attract a wide range of wildlife, especially plants of wet meadows, insects and birds including summer visiting ones.

It was a very blustery day and the cold and wind inhibit my breathing quite a bit at the moment, but I managed to walk along the flat ground and follow the first section of the walk and back again. Then we drove on into Old Welwyn village and stopped at one of the pubs there to warm up with a hot dinner – the White Hart.

A lovely look out and we’ll definitely be back to see those spring and summer flowers and hopefully in warmer and less windy weather.  With plenty more physio over the next month or two, I’m hoping I’ll be able to walk further and explore a little more.

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Views at Gosmore

We happened upon this beautiful place some time ago, when we  arranged to meet a dog sitter, who was going to look after Ted our cocker spaniel while we went away on holiday. She wanted us to walk our dogs together to see if they got on well with each other before she had Ted come to stay with her. She arranged to meet us here at Gosmore.

Gosmore is a hamlet situated very near to the town of Hitchin in Hertfordshire. We pass the signs for Gosmore every time we drive into Hitchin, but we had no idea from the road side what beautiful and stunning countryside lay behind the lovely village houses there.

All you need to do is turn in to Gosmore at the large roundabout where the Three Moorhens pub is situated on the outskirts of Hitchin and then turn into Brick Kiln Lane. On this road, you can easily park up and there are a couple of small lanes that lead you out between the houses and onto the pathways of the stunning countryside.

You can walk in all directions along bridleways and pathways through stunning Hertfordshire countryside. Here are just a few photographs of the countryside views on a glorious and cold January day. The countryside is stunning at all times of year. Visit in June when the fields look beautiful full of red poppies and wildflowers. We will definitely be back then.

Take a look…

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A Little Wander Around Preston Village

A few weeks now into January and it was wonderful to wake up to brilliant sunshine and blue skies at long last. A bright, crisp, bitter cold and clear day.  We decided to take a drive around the local countryside and take a few photographs here and there. We’re often busy and wrapped up in our daily comings and goings and sometimes forget what is just under our own noses and in the hum drum of our regular routines stop seeing what is there is to be appreciated.

We visited a pretty village called Preston (Hertfordshire) and stopped to take some photographs. Preston is a small village roughly 3 miles near to Hitchin and 300 miles north of London. The village dates back to at least 1086, when it was mentioned in the ‘Hundred’, also known as the ‘Half Hundred of Hiz (referring to Hitchen and mentioned in the Doomesday Book). There’s a thriving village pub, the Red Lion, which is the first community owned pub in Britain.

Take a look around…

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Interesting village monument

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Picturesque homes and cottages

 

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Traditional village phone booth and post box
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Bare winter trees on the village green
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More pretty homes
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Pretty village green with the Red Lion pub in prime position

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January Days

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The days have been so grey and miserable during January so far, not very uplifting after all the glitz and fun of the festive season, but we have had an odd day where the sunshine did try and put in an appearance.

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Last Wednesday afternoon, the day brightened up after a very misty and wet start, so trying to make the most of it while it lasted, we ventured to one of our local parks, Fairlands Valley Park in Stevenage. I had my camera in tow, which felt very uplifting, as it seems such a long time since I’ve been out and about enjoying my photography.

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We enjoyed spotting all the wildlife – the gulls, ducks, geese, swans, coots and moorhens and more.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves in the milder sunshine too. As we wandered around the lake, there was a threatening black cloud over in the distance, but the breeze was holding it off and it felt a much warmer day with a little sun shining down on us at long last.  Almost a pale promise of spring beckoning.

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I love all the redwoods down by the lake and at this time of year they stand out at their best and especially with the golden afternoon light flooding down on them.

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All was really pleasant and we headed around the lake towards the cafe. It felt warm enough to sit out and have a cuppa outside, as we were all wrapped up in warm coats and the usual hats, scarves and gloves for this time of year. We had Ted our dog with us and baby Freddie was sleeping soundly in his pram, so we needed to be outdoors. I enjoy sitting outside and looking at the views in the fresh air anyway, even in january.

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Unfortunately the wind started to blow in a new direction and the usual January big dark clouds seemed to lower down on us. Suddenly it felt very cold again and rain was in the air, so we skipped the afternoon tea and carried on our walk, managing to get home and dry before the heavy downpour began.

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It was lovely to see and feel the sun though, and enjoy a pleasant January walk. At home, I’d left a joint of pork slowly cooking ready for dinner. Nothing like hearty warming food on these cold winter days and the aromas of it cooking when you walk   back into the house from the cold and grey. Hot pulled pork, served on warm buttered ciabatta  bread with slow cooked winter veggies – delicious…

January Beginnings

Happy New Year to each and every one of you. I think everyone will be well underway trying to stick determinedly to those ‘New Year’ resolutions now that we are well into January.

For me, I have ‘New Year’ hopes rather than resolutions. 2017 was a very difficult year health wise, probably one of my most trying yet. I started 2017 with losing some of my lung function due to episodes of rejection in my lungs and then I lost more as the year progressed following bouts of pneumonia and flu.

It was the year I had to face the fact that my transplanted lungs weren’t functioning as well as they did in those first few years after transplant. It was a hard thing to deal with, to suddenly be facing those pre-transplant fears and ill health experiences all over again for a second time around. From the post transplant euphoria, I felt like I’d been brought back to earth with a big  bang at times.

Autumn brought more problems with chest infections, norovirus and adverse reactions to drugs, coupled with stomach problems causing lung damage too. A planned stomach fundoplication operation had to be cancelled over and over as my health was too fragile. I’m still waiting for that to go ahead yet.

The year finished as it had gone on, with a stay in hospital due to another chest infection and then another bout of norovirus in between Christmas and New Year. It felt as though my health had driven a lot of what I was able to do or not do during the last year.

At the same time I’ve felt very positive, because with every incident I’ve managed to bounce back and feel better and although my lung function has fallen dangerously low at times, somehow or another I’ve managed to improve it and bring it back to nearly 50%. That’s only half of what it used to be, but it’s enough to manage with and the outcome could have been far worse. It’s a massive positive.

I’m forever thankful that I’ve managed to keep my lung function stable and that in between all these bouts of being unwell, I’ve been able to enjoy life and precious family time and have had so much wonderful support from friends.

Now we’ve arrived in January, I’m thankful and pleased I’ve managed to start another New Year feeling brighter and better again.

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Back walking in the park

With a New Year comes renewed hope. Hope that I can put all these infections behind me once and for all or at least for a while and hope that I still may be able to improve my strength and lung function and feel healthier.

At the start of the New Year, I returned to my Transplant Clinic for more tests and to see my consultant and we came up with a plan to try and kick start my health again and try and reduce the amount of infections I’ve been having to deal with.

The plan involves reducing my immunosuppression, which has been high since I experienced the acute rejection episodes. Immunosuppression that’s too high can cause infection and infection can lead to rejection. Immunosuppression that’s too low can also cause rejection, so it’s all about finding the correct balance again.

My consultant also suggested various vitamin supplements, which may help support me in becoming stronger, as all the series of infections has left me very vulnerable and weak to catching more. Most importantly, we came up with a physio plan too: physio always being a big part of recovery and the transplant process.

So with a new year and a new plan of medication, vitamin supplements and physio now well underway, I’m feeling very optimistic and full hope for this coming year. Like many others this January, I’ll be working hard on my exercises. For me, it’s on doctor’s orders and isn’t the typical ‘New Year’s Resolution’.

I’m working on a programme of gentle yoga and walking exercises with the aim of increasing my activity as I become stronger. It’s nothing new to me and they are activities I’ve tried to do over and over but I’ve kept being stopped in my tracks by infection before I could get myself strong enough. It hasn’t really been for the want of trying. It’s a little like when I worked on regaining my strength following transplant now and my consultant thinks if I can have a good run at all this, then my lungs may become even stronger and my breathlessness could ease a little.

My New Year hope is that I can have a clear run at building my health and strength back up properly and then I believe with that will come the chance to move forward this year with new experiences and new adventures. I’m off to a good start now and hope there will be plenty of them.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and adventurous 2018 and hello and happy January!

Snow, Christmas Lights and Blue Lights

It all started with a snow day.

I always love the snow, especially now when I don’t work any more and don’t have to feel forced to drive in it or venture out. It was quite lovely to wake to heavy snowfall on a Sunday morning; it meant most people didn’t have to drive or go out unnecessarily and families could enjoy and have fun in snow properly together.

The garden was transformed to a sea of white and there’s nothing like treading in untouched snow, making those first footprints and tracks. The park and pathways behind us looked beautiful too. It was the weekend, early December and we were putting up our Christmas lights and decorations; everything felt Christmas perfect with the snowy backdrop.

I’d caught a cold over a week ago though and found I couldn’t breathe if I tried to venture out in it. I’d thought I’d been doing well and all was under control, but the cold left me gasping and I couldn’t catch my breath back when I started to lose it. I knew I had to stay indoors, keep warm and rest. I knew things were deteriorating though – that horrible feeling when you know with lungs that already don’t function at the best of times, that you are going to need some extra help.

I sought advice, doubled some medications and hoped I’d wake up to a better day. Monday morning and it was formally declared as a ‘snow day’. Roads were icy and dangerous and the snow and sleet were heavy. We phoned for an emergency doctor’s appointment, as things had become much worse. As I tried to get ready to go for this, my breathing was slipping and slipping downhill. Somehow Rob bundled me in the car, after having to spend half an hour digging it out of snow and clearing the drive.

We arrived at the doctor’s surgery and managed to park outside. I managed to climb out of the car, but the cold took my breath and Rob had to leave me clinging on a wall, while he retrieved the wheelchair from the car. Somehow he managed to put me in it and manoeuvre it through the snow and ice and we eventually arrived inside covered in drops of snow and sleet and dripping wet.

Then our wonderful NHS went into action.

Two doctors and the practice nurse helped me, I was put on oxygen and a nebuliser, then paramedics swiftly arrived and took over. From the sparkly Christmas lights and beautiful white snow of the day before, we went to blue lights and sirens as the ambulance ploughed through the slush and sleet of a grim grey day.  Like the staff at the doctor’s, they gave me first class care and were kind and reassuring.

The same again once I arrived at hospital, a team waiting for me and three people working on me straight away, as I was rushed in a side room – everyone kind and helpful as they worked. Then calm and relief as my breathing began to stabilise. Then I was taken to the respiratory ward, another side room and more wonderful care for eight days while they treated me and looked after me, liaised with my transplant team and left no stone unturned until they had me fully stable and well enough for home.

Then it was a visit to Papworth, my transplant centre, for more tests and checks, just to be sure everything was going in the right direction. Once again, more first class care, with back up over the holiday period and more checks for early new year planned.

Now I’m home and well enough to enjoy Christmas with my family and it’s all thanks to those numerous NHS staff who helped me with such expertise, care and total dedication to make me better.

I cannot thank them enough and all the kindness each and everyone one of them showed me while I went through what felt like a traumatic experience. Another ‘snow’ story on the family list – we have a few of them. They’re usually about being stuck in ‘snow’ traffic jams for hours on end, having to abandon cars and walk for miles to get home – that sort of thing. This one will be another to remember and smile about one day…

I’ve had so much care from the NHS this year and they’ve kept me bouncing back each time. I just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who works for the NHS to help us all stay well and healthy. Many of the NHS staff will be working hard and saving lives over Christmas, so here’s wishing that they manage to enjoy some peaceful and lovely time with their friends and families too during this festive period.

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Now it’s Christmas Eve and I’m so pleased and relieved to be home and feeling that all is much better again. I want to thank everyone who has followed my blogs this year and given me encouragement and support through all the ups and downs with my health.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year.

 

 

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Winter Skies

We’re well into December now and when we’ve been out and about recently it’s become noticably colder and the days are definitely becoming much shorter. Some days have just been grey, dismal and cold, but on many days I cannot help but notice how beautiful and magnificent the sky can look at this time of year. I suppose we’re having later sunrises and earlier sunsets with more extreme and changeable weather conditions from gales and rain to calmer sunny days with frosts and this week we’ve even had snow. The changeable skies become much more poignant at this time of year.

I’m never so sure when it comes to defining ‘winter time’. The astronomical winter season is defined by the tilt of the earth in relation to the sun, making the winter solstice officially starting on December 21/22nd. The meteorological winter begins on the 1st December, as the seasons are split into four periods of three months each, winter being defined as December, January and February. I think I’m inclined to go along with the meteorological theories, I always think of December being winter time and this year, the temperatures definitely did take a dive on the December 1st and we’ve already had a fall of snow. January and February always still feel like winter to me also.

The sky seems more noticeable at this time of year, the landscapes are more barren and as we usually wake up to the sunrises and see the dusk fall in the late afternoon, I think the shorter days enable us to appreciate the daylight we have.