Norwich, “a fine city” according to the signs on entering via road. It’s a great place to visit and there’s lots to do. I grew up here but am always discovering new things. Read on for a sneaky tip for visiting the Castle Museum as well as budget lunch options and the best coffee in town.
The Castle Museum
Us Nor-folk just call it The Castle. This imposing Norman structure can be glimpsed almost all the time when wandering in Norwich. It houses everything from artwork to natural history exhibits, Egyptian mummies and changing exhibitions about local history. They’ve recently acquired a landscape by renowned landscapist JMW Turner and are currently displaying a portrait of local boy Lord Horatio Nelson on loan from London’s National Portrait Gallery. With the hefty price tag of nearly £10 a ticket you’ll want to spend the day there. But if you’re short on time there’s a special Twilight Ticket - entry during the last hour before closing is just £2.
Cheap and tasty lunch
Norwich Market is worth a wander even if you’re not hungry. There are stalls selling everything from an Asian supermarket to fruit and veg. But the food stalls are the main draw. There are plenty of vegan options but Falafel and Friends is my favourite. Don’t be fooled by the name, the food is adventurous and unique. Aubergine Schnitzel Burger, Cajun Potatoes and homemade kimchi are all on offer along with bao buns and tofu nuggets. Prices are around £5 per meal and you’ll be stuffed at the end. And make sure to try the black garlic mayo...!
Strangers Coffee - ethical, sustainable and spreading all over Norwich. The beans are sourced from the best places world wide and roasted right here in Norwich. Your life will be better for having drunk a cup. Sit in the window of the Pottergate location to watch the world go by.
Have you got top tips for your hometown? Let me know in the comments, and tag me in your food photos after your visit to the market!
Meeting some strangers in the back of an otherwise empty car park - at night - isn't necessarily how everyone likes to spend their Tuesday evening. But after seeing an open invitation on a Facebook group, my friend Lewis and I were meeting some Dunerunners for a night running workshop.
Neil, a founding member and coach of Dunerunners and a few other members were waiting for us next the lifeboat station in Caister-on-Sea. I grew up in Norfolk but there are still so many places I've never been. The sound of the sea accompanied Neil's explanation about how best to use a head torch and what the session was going to consist of.
TOP TIPS FOR TRAIL RUNNING AT NIGHT
Night is really dark out in the sticks. Down by the lapping waves, where the sand was compacted, my head torch focused my attention on the ground in front. We had a gentle run along the shoreline and heard a seal in the water. When Neil thought we were managing, we ascended into the dunes. Now we ran in single file, the beams of our torches illuminating rabbit holes and marram grass on the narrow, sandy paths. After a little stop for a photo shoot Neil decided to up the pace for the last section. Wider paths but at a faster pace were more of a challenge. I found I had to trust that my feet would find the floor, and if they didn't, it would at least be a soft landing.
At the end of our session (after everyone had attended to their Garmins) we talked through how we'd found it. It seemed mad to run in the dunes at night. But it was amazing! The sound and smell of the sea was in itself invigorating. The constant adjustments that trail running requires make for much more of a full body workout than the repetitive motion of roadrunning. The concentration level required made everything else leave my mind - I couldn't help but be present in the moment. It was also really nice to be trusting someone else to lead the way too.
At the friendly local pub we talked kit, trails, and left with an open invitation to return. I gained a lot of confidence in running with my headtorch and I will definitely be hitting my usual trails at night. And I can't wait to tag along with the Dunerunners for another run again soon. Thank you Neil for having us!
Find out about the Norfolk Dune Runners here. And check out the main page here for events and training sessions around the UK.
Want to have an amazing, music filled summer but you’re on a budget? Love meeting new people? Want to support a great charity? Then you need to volunteer for Oxfam.
Me and Rebekah were volunteers at Womad festival, held at Charlton Park in Wiltshire. This world music festival has a super-chilled vibe with so much to do and see for people of all ages, it was a great first volunteering experience for us. We worked as stewards, we did three 8 hour shifts in exchange for free entrance to the festival, exclusive campsite and meal vouchers.
Our first shift involved patrolling the campsite as festival-goers arrived and pitched their tents. Duties involved smiling, saying hi, checking for open fires, keeping fire lanes clear and trying to find out where the bin liners were. On the hottest day of the year, we clocked up 21kms of walking! Everyone was excited and really appreciated help.
Our second shift was thankfully more stationary. Monitoring the gate to backstage camping involved checking wristbands and opening and closing the gate to authorised vehicles. We had the best spot though - really near one of the stages so we could dance the shift away!
We signed up for a post-festival shift meaning we had two whole days off to enjoy the festival. Meditation session and talk with Gelong Thubten, yoga, tai-chi, poetry, panel discussion, dance workshops and so much music! There’s nothing like being at the front of a crowd watching a performer as captivating as Anna Calvi - Saturday night’s headliner. The food stalls were great too. Indian dosas and vegan churros were the highlights but the wood fired pizza place, and their vegan cheese, was amazing too.
It was impossible to see everything and sometimes it was necessary just to chill at the campsite. The Oxfield had a marquee with boiling water and tea and coffee as well as phone charging. It was nice to sit around chatting with other volunteers. Some veterans of Oxfam have volunteered year after year and had some amazing tales to tell. *Oxfield’s showers were hot, clean and not often busy*
Our final shift involved covering other people’s breaks on various gates, giving directions and then gently suggesting to the last campers that they might like to go home.
“Volunteering is such a good experience. My experiences as a festival volunteer this summer have been really positive. It was a great way to meet new people. You can get into some great discussions about the world, different cultures and ways of thinking. In our role as volunteer stewards we were able to take on the day to day running of parts of the festival and use our people-skills throughout. It was all about helping the festival goers have the best time they could! It was great to be on the other side of a festival and experience it in this way. WOMAD festival was fun, different, exhausting, magical and something I will never forget! I will definitely be trying out a new festival next year.”
I was a bit concerned that the other volunteers would mostly be younger than us, people would come in groups or I wouldn't know what to do. Oxfam provide training, stewarding is mostly common sense and there was an amazing age-range! Some people came alone and others met up with volunteer friends from other festivals - I needn't have worried.
Oxfam raises £1 million over the course of the summer through providing stewards for festivals, enabling them to fund their work around the world. If you want to find out more visit their website here or get in touch by posting a comment below. Summer's not over yet!
Film maker Rob Stewart died trying to change the world. He exposed the huge, illegal and brutal industry surrounding sharks. Shark finning (where the shark’s fins are removed before being dumped back in the water to die slowly) is a multi million dollar industry. Shark meat or cartilage is in a huge number of products without us realising, from canned fish to dog food and cosmetics. Rob’s activism, along with the first Sharkwater film led to 19 countries banning shark finning. Yet the practice still continues illegally.
I went to see Sharkwater Extinction with a bunch of strangers. Girls that Scuba is an online community for women who dive or would like to. It’s not only the place to get information about female dive kit and support from fellow female divers but founder Sarah Richard has created merchandise and a discount card scheme and GTS trips to world famous dive destinations. She also organised this London meet up.
As a scuba diver and environmentally quite aware person I was shocked and surprised that not more of the information in the film Sharkwater Extinction is public knowledge. This powerful film, and the original Sharkwater released in 2006, highlights the complex and widespread nature of the problem. Illegal fishing and bycatch (when sharks or other creatures get caught in nets meant for other fish) are the more obvious problems. But I had no idea that the amount of sea pollution means that shark meat has toxic levels of murcury, and is fed to us in various hidden forms.
I left the film feeling pretty depressed, who wouldn’t? However, chatting with other members of GTS afterwards lifted my spirits. Not only because we shared travel experiences and dive stories, but because we all care. We care about the ocean, the environment, and about ensuring the next generation have something to dive for. And we also care about equal opportunities for women in the dive industry and encouraging girls and women to get certified and discover why we all love diving.
I often feel overwhelmed by the scale of all these problems, but what can I do about it? I can’t make a film and I’m not a marine biologist. We can all make small contributions. Here is a list of what you can do from the Sharkwater website. To make sure you’re not accidentally consuming shark, avoid fish products and non-plant based cosmetics (go vegan guys!) and talk to your friends about it. Rob made amazing progress, we have to continue it.
Have you seen the film? What did you think? What can we do?
I’ve been running in events for ages now. I’ve done trail races, parkruns, coast paths and road races, but they’ve all had something in common - it’s been daylight. Always up for something new I ran Night Trail’s 10k in Thetford Forest. Read on for what I thought and how I did.
Driving into Thetford Forest in the dark was a bit unnerving. I know the general area well but have only ever been in the forest a couple of times before. It’s really, really dark. Following the general flow of people with headtorches, it was easy to pick up my race number and hang around looking for my friends in the over 400 other brightly clad runners. The fact that so many people think running around in the dark is fun was very surprising!
As if by some unspoken message, we drifted over to the start line and were set off in waves. Bobbing torch light and reflective vests soon invaded the forest. As the runners thinned out, it got harder to see without as many other torches about. I was very grateful to the torch my brother had leant me for the occasion. But it wasn’t enough to stop me taking a tumble over a tree root. Quickly hoisted to my feet by a fellow runner I was unscathed. The trails were very dry and softer than landing on tarmac.
The sign posts were very clear but it was very disorienting taking turn after turn in the dark. I could’ve sworn we were on a meandering circuit, but it was actually a single loop. Motivated by not wanting to be alone in the woods, I kept up with the guys in front of me until the water station at 6km. At 7km I had the usual negative thoughts “why am I doing this?” “How on Earth is this a good idea?” “Are me legs going to fall off?” until catching up with a guy that asked if I’d pace him to the finish. So I had to keep going!
Crossing the finish line I was quickly passed a heavy, glowing medal. Running in the dark was fun! It was certainly different to any other race I’d done before. The event was well organised but there were a couple of points that could have been improved: it would have been nice to have an announcement of welcome, look out for each other etc. from the organisers. But more importantly, I wish there had been no plastic bottles. Paper cups of water would have been fine, specially at the end. Next time!
Place: 104th overall 19th female.
Look at this enticing trail! Maybe it's the Forest of Dean. Or the a Cornish bridleway. Nope, it's London. If you enjoyed reading How to adventure in London for Intrepid, then here's a step-by-step guide to exploring my neighbourhood. And if you want company or a tour guide then just send me a message and I'll show you round...
Start: Kew Bridge Station (District line and Overground)
Finish: Hammersmith Station (Piccadilly, District and Hammersmith and City)
Distance: 7 km/4.5 miles approx. 2 hours walking
Refreshments/toilets: No toilets at Kew Bridge but public toilets at Hammersmith. Numerous cafes and pubs near both stations. The Ship Pub near Chiswick Bridge and a couple of riverside pubs in Barnes.
Exit Kew Bridge station towards the river and take care crossing the busy South Circular Road. Grab a coffee and a pre-walk ‘safety wee’ at one of the cafe's or pubs near the station before heading across Kew Bridge. Turn left down a few steps and double back beside the bridge. Take the path next to the playground to join the Thames Path. Turn right and you’re on your way to Hammersmith with the water on your left.
As your feet crunch on the gravelly path, enjoy the little colourful houses and watch out for herons and cormorants on the river. If it's been wet you'll need to practice your puddle jumping skills on this stretch of the path. You’ll soon pass under a railway bridge before eventually coming to Chiswick Bridge. Just beyond The Ship Pub the path can become flooded when the tide is super high.
POSSIBLE DETOUR If you can’t continue ahead, then turn right up the road beside the pub and left to detour round this short section. Follow the road until The White Hart pub in Barnes where you’ll be able to join the Path again.
After Barnes Bridge you could explore Barnes. It's a quaint little village, with independent shops, cafes and pubs to visit.
After Barnes, the path quickly leaves the roadside and seems more secluded once again. Look out for rowers from one of the many boat houses, and you'll be able to see Chiswick Eyot (a tiny river island) nearer the far bank. Shortly after this Hammersmith Bridge will soon come into view. Leave the path directly before the bridge, up the slope, and cross over to the north bank. Turn left for a well-earned pint at the Blue Anchor pub before the short walk to one of Hammersmith's stations, where the bustle of busy London will contrast with the peace and quiet of your walk.
Still feeling energetic? Haven't seen enough pubs? You could walk back to Kew on the north side. It's very different over there - you'll walk past many more houses and marinas and leave the riverside at a couple of points (it's very well signed). Or continue to Putney Bridge - north of the river is again more built up and takes you via Fulham Football Club. South of the river, the path is gravelly until nearer to Putney. Don't worry, there are some pubs in Putney too!
The third annual trail marathon, raising funds for the East Anglian Air Ambulance, uses the former railway line from Norwich to Alysham via Reepham which is now a public footpath and cycle route. About 200 runners assembled in the community centre near the start line, just outside the city centre. What no portaloos?? Real lavatories and somewhere warm to wait were a treat when so many events require queueing in the rain for a temporary toilet. After the race briefing (the highlight of which was “if I see any of you dropping any litter you’ll be disqualified and banned from all future races, it’s discusting”) we had a nervous walk over to the start line. Glorious sunshine made me realise I was overdressed (thanks February), as I made nervous small-talk with my fellow runners (“how many marathons have you done?” “Which parkrun do you go to?”). A lap of Sloughbottom Park is required to make up the distance, but after that it was straight along the gravelly path.
I grew up on the Marriotts Way. Daily dog walks with Bracken the border terrier, bike rides with friends, picking strawberries from the field, and running. Lots of running. As we went past the turn up for my family home, I could spot the roof of the house amidst the trees, and the tower of the church a little further over.
Fields gave way to houses, a few roads to cross and dog walkers to dodge before reaching the old station at Whitwell. The smell of the Diesel engine greeted us, from the little bit of train track that remains here. The half way point! Crowds cheered us through and onwards towards Reepham.
The third quarter of a race is always the hardest for me, fatigue and boredom set in and there’s still so far to go. And the niggle with my knee began to be more than just a niggle. The bright sunshine, other path users and the tail end of the half marathoners were barely registered by my pain-addled brain.
“Only a parkrun to go!” called another struggling runner. My headphones got tangled with my water tube so I ran (jogged/shuffled) the last 5k with only my thoughts for company. “It’ll soon be over - bath, takeaway, beer.” After the hell of the ramp up from the former train tracks to the town of Alysham, the cheering crowds meant I was at least smiling for the photo my mum took. There’s got to be easier ways of getting a tshirt and a medal.
Apart from the actual running part, this was a really enjoyable event. There was a real community feel, it was well organised and a great route. Thank you to the event organisers Positive Steps and all the volunteers, including those from the East Anglian Air Ambulance. And massive kudos for a waste-free event. Maybe just the half next year...
January can be a difficult month. Christmas festivities are long forgotten and wintery routines usually include healthy eating plans and alcohol abstinence. The nights are just starting to get lighter but winter weather is going to continue for a long time yet. There are so many benefits to being active all year round. Along with exercise being good for you in general, there are also the benefits of being outdoors. I heard on BBC Radio 4 the other day that, even on a cloudy day there is 10 times as much light outside than in the average, well-lit office environment. Sunlight and fresh air are biologically and emotionally good for you! I don't want to let the winter stop me having adventures so here are my top tips for staying active in colder weather.
"There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing."
My mum enjoys quoting this at me when I complain about how cold her house is. Annoyingly she's right. In winter weather you can still safely and comfortably get outside if you have the appropriate preparations. And that doesn't mean buying a load of expensive specialist kit. Layers are the key. On a walk on a really chilly day I'll wear:
Layers mean you can rearrange your clothing if you get too warm. I usually intend to start out a little bit too cold because you warm up once you get moving. If you're going on a serious hike in wet weather you'll need some waterproof and comfy walking boots, but if it's pretty dry then trainers and two pairs of socks will do.
When I'm running I wear a long-sleeve top with a short-sleeve one over the top and I like a scuff on my head. It keeps my hair out of my face and my earphones in my ears, only drawback is that I think I look like an elf. I wear the same running leggings whatever the weather but be sure to change promptly when you get back, as you'll cool off very quickly in your sweaty kit.
"Only in the darkness can you see the stars." Martin Luther King Jr
Dark evenings are a problem for those with 9-5 jobs. But there are several ways to negotiate and enjoy those dark evenings.
Get a head torch - don't fight the dark, embrace it! Wear some hi-viz clothing so you can be seen, and a head or chest torch so you can see where to put your feet and enjoy the darkness. Don't forget to look for the stars :)
Urban running or walking - find some quiet streets with street-lighting, it's less creepy than total darkness but make sure to wear some hi-viz clothing anyway. You can even use it as a reason to explore more of your neighbourhood.
Become an early bird - the sun rises at about 8am at the moment but it's light enough by 7:30am. Get in an early jog or cycle before you start your day.
"Rain rain go away, come again another day."
It's amazing how wet weather can bring down my mood. Rain-streaked window panes on a gloomy winter day make me want to never leave the house. However, if the dog needs a walk or my training schedule can't be shifted then I have no option but to get out there. Here's some more wisdom from my mum:
It's never as bad as it seems from inside - this, once again, is true. The sound of rain on a roof is loads worse than the reality of it. Invest in a good waterproof coat and a running'cycling jacket to keep you warm and dry.
Rebellion training - I've written about this before, but you can decide to view your rainy excursion as a character-building challenge.
Don't wear glasses - just as window panes make the weather look worse, glasses do too. They're also pretty dangerous as you can't see a thing when you're cycling in the rain. My prescription isn't too bad, so I just take them off. If contact lenses and laser-eye surgery aren't an option and you're too blind to take your glasses off, then try a baseball cap under the hood of your coat. It helps to keep the rain off a bit.
"But it's cold outside"
The wind is howling, the rain is lashing at the window panes and the trees are bending in the storm. Some days it may be legitimately awful out there. But if you're not getting active outside, there are still plenty of active options available to you.
Don't want to leave your bedroom? - you don't have to. Try a Joe Wicks HIIT video or Yoga with Adriene You just need enough space for a yoga mat (you don't specifically need a mat really), and you don't even need to put shoes on
Just keep swimming - I'm not a gym person, although I've never really tried so maybe I'd like it. But I do enjoy swimming. Find your local pool and go for a splash.
Have a rest day - believe it or not, it's ok to have a day off. If your body is telling you to take it easy then listen to it and don't beat yourself up about not exercising. Enjoy some cosy sofa time and don't feel bad.
"Just do it"
The thought or the look of the outside in winter is almost certainly worse than the reality. Get out there and get active. The worse that will happen is that you'll get wet feet and a cold nose but you'll still feel great for having got out there.
Send me a soggy selfie!!
Hannah the traveller
is a travel and lifestyle blog with focus on running, vegan eating and of course global travel.