Rannerdale Bluebells

Before we reach the end of May, the month of bluebells, here’s some more bluebell pictures…

Stepping into what’s known as this secret valley at Rannerdale when the bluebells are in bloom, is like stepping into the Garden of Eden or a Secret Garden. On a sunny day with the bluebells at their fullest, it’s a feast for all the senses – stunning views, heavenly scent and neverending sweeps and swathes of blue across the fells.

It’s a different scene to the one we would normally conjure up when thinking of bluebells – no shady woodlands or trees about to burst into leaf, just acres of English bluebells growing in profusion across the open valley and fells.

The bluebells have a story, according to local folklore, the bluebells are said to have sprung from the spilt blood of slain Norman warriors. The valley was a location where after the Norman invasion of 1066, Britons ambushed and defeated the Norman army at the Battle of Rannerdale. It’s difficult to imagine war raging in such a peaceful, beautiful and tranquil place.

Rannerdale Knotts is a stunning location, with bluebells aside, there are far reaching views over Crummock Water and towards Buttermere and Loweswater.

A Restful Easter

We enjoyed a lovely time this Easter, savouring some very special moments with family.

I wanted Easter to feel extra special after what’s felt like months of starting, stopping and restarting and stopping again with my health. Feeling so well again and having had a good clinic and now having some respite from the stomach operation, I just wanted to make the most of life and put some of the health related stresses behind us.

Also, casting my mind back to last Easter, when I was just out of hospital and still too unwell to enjoy it properly, it felt especially important to make the most of this Easter, live life to the full and try and become even more healthier.

With this in mind, we treated ourselves to a lovely few days on the North Norfolk coast, renting a house there and Sarah, Oli and baby Freddie joined us, which was lovely. North Norfolk is a favourite place of ours. We enjoy the walking, the spectacular beaches, countryside and wildlife, and in between all the exploring there’s plenty of good pubs and cafes to relax in too.

It’s a very dog friendly place, so we always bring Ted and Alfie with us and get lots of enjoyment from trying out different walks with them. Many of the pubs and cafes allow dogs inside too, so we can keep them with us when we want to eat out or go for coffee, which all adds to the fun.

We enjoyed some beautiful sunshine and explored both new places and favourite places we’d visited before. I especially enjoyed being out and about again with my camera in such stunning places and I found being by the seaside and in the countryside very uplifting and motivating with all fresh air and extra walking – all adding to improving my health hopefully.

One very special moment was seeing Freddie toddling on the beach for the first time at Brancaster in his first pair of tiny wellingtons. He loved it and both the dogs loved running free alongside him. We had a lovely Sunday lunch afterwards with the dogs sleeping at our feet and Freddie in his high chair tucking hungrily into his food. Simple pleasures, but very special ones.

Thornham village where we stayed had a good dog friendly pub – The Orange Tree – they even had a menu board especially for dogs. It also had a great deli with a dog friendly cafe, so on some days we found ourselves just enjoying some local coastal walks around the salt marshes and then either popping into the pub or deli for meals or drinks on our way round. Again, simple pleasures, but all very relaxing.

Following our lovely and relaxing Norfolk trip, it was time to enjoy Easter weekend. We weren’t so lucky with the weather, but that didn’t really matter so much, as we had a full house on Easter Sunday and Monday, with everyone stopping round. On Easter Saturday, we had a lovely day cooking and preparing food and we enjoyed a lovely family meal and Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday and a very relaxing and lazy Easter Monday.

Now we’ve reached April, I’m really hoping for some WARM and sunny weather and getting back out in the garden again.

Here are a few Easter pics…

February and So Far, So Good

It’s nearing the end of February and I feel I’ve managed to do so much this year, getting out and about and trying to make up for all the lost time during the autumn months when my health wasn’t at its best.

I’ve enjoyed much precious time with family and friends, meals out and trips to the theatre and celebrating some of those annual routines on the early year calendar like Burns Night, Pancake day and Valentines Day amongst lots of other activities.We also managed to escape to the Lakes for a few days, where we enjoyed some beautiful sunshine and bright, crisp winter weather.

Then there’s been just very simple things to enjoy such as walks in the park with Ted, looking after my grandson Freddie and having him stay over and just seeing and enjoying those first signs of springs – the first snowdrops pushing through and bloooming and now crocuses and early flowering daffodils.

It feels lovely to be well enough again to do so many things both ordinary and special ones and I always feel a new appreciation in the times when my health feels better, especially after the difficult runs.

There’s been more hospital too – my clinics are still monthly, which have gone well and I’m pleased my transplant team are keeping a close eye on me after all the problems with infection and the big changes in my medication. All three of my immunosuppression drugs were halved in dose, which has made me feel much better and brighter and some of the horrible side effects that come with them have begun to recede. That’s been an unexpected bonus, as I’d just become used to living with them over last year.

I still managed to pick up another infection at the beginning of this month though, but luckily going to clinic regularly, we managed to nip it in the bud with another course of antibiotics. It’s a huge improvement over the continuous infections before Christmas. They also did extra heart tests at clinic to make sure there aren’t any new problems there that may be contributing to my breathlessness. Luckily, these were all satisfactory, so the big focus is still on trying to make my lungs stronger.

To this end, I’ve been managing to keep up the exercise regime and have successfully increased my daily walking  It doesn’t come easy, as I become breathless if I walk at a ‘normal’ pace and if I try and sustain my walking. I try and choose walks that are reasonably flat and that have benches or cafes somewhere along the route to rest and get my breath back.

Over a day though, it can be surprising how much you can do if you try and move around regularly and add in a short walk, obviously pacing it out in between resting. Not having the oxygen running through your lungs efficiently can make you very tired, so rest is as important as the exercise to me. I’ve also been keeping up the yoga, just gentle stretching, bending and breathing exercises together with following a programme of exercises for Pulmonary Rehabilitation.

I do think that the exercising together with my drug changes has made a big difference to my fitness and I feel much stronger for it. Last week I was at the University College Hospital London, to start the process again for the Fundoplication operation. It’s a stomach operation I need to prevent further rejection and damage to my lungs and unfortunately it had to be cancelled several times due to me being too unwell. I’ve another visit for a pre-op assessment yet and then fingers crossed, the surgery should go ahead and I’ll be able to put this behind me soon and hopefully carry on getting stronger and even improve my lung function a little more.

These first months of the year have gone well. So far, so good…

Photos below taken at Brockhole Visitor Centre, by Lake Windermere on our recent visit to the Lake District

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Snowdrops, Swans and Sizergh

Early February and another gorgeous day, so we decided to take a look around Sizergh, a National Trust Estate in Cumbria. We visit here often and in all seasons. It always looks so different during each season and varying weather.

Today we were pleasantly rewarded with the sight of first snowdrops and aconites enjoying the winter sunshine and bursting into bloom. There’s always something special about seeing clusters of snowdrops when we’re still in winter time: there’s a sudden brightness after all the cold, dark and dull days. The bright yellow of the aconites look like they reflect the sun in the sky too: they almost sing out that we’re approaching warmer, longer days. That spring is nearing.

The grounds looked beautiful as we approached the castle this morning. We had a walk through the fields belonging to the estate.

On our way around we spotted the first snowdrops, basking in the sunshine, in full bloom.

Much to our delight, we came across a snowdrop walk in the woodlands… and we found aconites on the woody slopes too!

Then out of the woodlands and down by the pond, we spotted a few more things…

Beautiful views towards the castle, dark winter trees and water silhouetted against the bright blue skies.

Willows bursting into bloom: another sign that spring is near and this scene will look so much different on our next visit.

And then the swans, busy feeding hungrily in the freezing cold waters, which had been coated in layers of thin ice earlier.

The pathway led us back into the lovely countryside again and then of course, we had to finish off with the obligatory hot drinks at the cafe to warm ourselves up again.

Welcome February

It’s been a fabulous start to February with the most glorious sunny weather in the Lake District. Perfect for a day visiting favourite places, walking the dog and taking photos. Perfect for enjoying nature, sunshine and healthy fresh air.

A walk with Ted in Cartmel followed by coffee in the village…

Then a drive and picnic on the west side of Coniston Water followed by another walk with Ted. The lake was as still as a mill pond, the sunshine bathing down on the lake.

Perfect for a swim – well for cocker spaniels, swans, ducks and geese anyway!

The ‘Old Man Coniston’ even had a lovely dusting of snow.

Next up, we couldn’t drive this far without a sneaky peak up to Tarn Hows. This was so still and quiet today, stunning as always and like a picture post card.

Finally, we were just in time to catch the sunset at Sandside – always so beautiful to see.

All in all a stunning Lake District day, a perfect one for me.

What’s your perfect day?

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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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!