30 June 2024

Last Tuesday Evening fell race

I had done two of the series, in Penmaenmawr and in Nant Peris (#4 and #5 of the series), but then I had a long break. There was one race that went up and down such a steep hill (y Garn near Rhydd Du) I didn’t fancy it. Uphill maybe, but not downhill! 

Then I hurt my knees in a road race, and the next race was too far away for me. Then I travelled to the Netherlands. Three more races missed. When I got back  I was still sparing my knees. And then I went to Finland. So I missed most! But after Finland I could just catch the last race, in Llanberis. A short one. 

I registered, realised I had forgot to bring my £2 entry from the car, went back, and went to the start. There was no hurry! The juniors were racing first, so we didn’t start at the given time of 7 pm. But that’s ok.

At the start

Also at the start, looking the other way 

When we were ready to start we started up the road! Quite uncharacteristically. From the road we turned off onto a good track. And between that track and another road was a steep descent over a tiny path. I had to step aside a few time to let fast people past! 

Pretty views early on

At the top; byic by the organisation

Race with obstacles 

We ended with an uphill sprint in a field to the finish. It had been fun! And quite doable for rubbish fell runners. At the finish I chatted a bit with my colleague Ali, who tends to volunteer at these races. I was being a bit eaten by midges, and figured I had fed the insect population enough in Finland. So I went back to my bag, and then the car, and then home. 

I will sure register again next year! I am a crap fell runner, but this sure is fun. Maybe I will even get a bit less rubbish with more practice! And now the focus is on the Snowdonia Trail 10k and the Caernarfon half marathon…

29 June 2024

Neuadd Ogwen gets doors!

The work on Neuadd Ogwen had been going on for ages! It had started in December 2021. The part of the work I was most interested in was the building of a porch for reasons of sound insulation. That process wasn’t straightforward, but in late October 2023 there was a porch. Not a finished one; it didn’t have stairs, doors, or render. As doors there were just bits of plywood put in position, so very sound-insulating this was not. The stairs appeared in November. 

I heard through the grapevine the doors had been long ordered, but would take a while. And the rendering was waiting for the doors.

One fine day in June there were sounds outside the house. And when I had a look I saw there were very substantial doors leaning against the walls, surrounded by workmen complaining about how heavy they were. Stuff was happening! And in two days they had installed them all. 

Doors appearing 

Installed! Almost.

Really finished 

An added bonus for me was that they had built a little platform to get the door of the loading bay in position. And when they would be done, that would be redundant. So that was more firewood for me! I got so much from that project over the years…


The workmen said the plasterers would come the week after. It looks like the work is about to be finished at last! And then the concerts would be so much quieter! 

28 June 2024

The quest for good bread

I had bought a state of the art bread machine because I really like fresh bread, and I am a bit picky in how I want it. And all was well for about a year. Until it wasn't.

For some reason, my bread came out very flat. I hadn't changed anything about the settings! Nor was I using unusual ingredients. But, of course, ingredients can change over time. I suspected it had something to do with the bread improver I was using. That was past its "best before" date. Would that be the culprit? 

The next loaf I made was without the bread improver. Still not the sort of loaf I am supposed to get! So I needed to look for another explanation. My next hypothesis was the white flour. I had noticed it was a bit lumpy. It is not supposed to be lumpy! It wasn’t old. But my experiment is very slow. It takes me three days to eat a loaf, so I can not experiment very fast. But I made up my mind to buy a bag of strong white flour in a different shop, and see if that would solve it. That had to wait until after my Finland adventure, though.

In the meantime I had bread I did not enjoy. That is not good. I normally absolutely love it when it is fresh bread day. But now, what the machine produced is not even as good as factory bread. Unsatisfactory!

The day of my return I bought white flour, and the day after I had good bread again. This makes me think it was at least largely the white flour! I cannot exclude that changing the whole wheat flour would improve things even further, but for now at least I am satisfied with my bread. I am relieved! Bread is important to me. And now I have some 2 kg of white flour I need to find a different destination for. I foresee quiche on the menu…

Bread-shaped bread again, quite unlike the flat stuff I had to suffer for a while and which I forgot to take a picture of 

27 June 2024


There was no rest for the wicked when I got back from Finland! The Sunday after, the cave rescue team would have its AGM. Initially I would be home by Friday, but my flight back was cancelled, so I wasn't back until Saturday evening. And I hadn't prepared. I think the call for reports came in when I was already in Finland.

When I got home I snuggled the cat, had a shower, and went to bed. The next day I would have to prepare on the spot! Luckily, the meeting didn't start until 3 pm. We traditionally have a training session first, and then the meeting in the afternoon. That meant I could use the morning for my report, and some other paperwork I had to do. And after lunch I would have to start on the 1.5 hour drive east to the headquarters of North East Wales search and rescue.

The training session in the morning would be first aid, and that isn't very popular with the team members. So it wasn't busy. A lot of people had skipped! But I felt the need to physically be there, in spite of the bad timing and the long drive.

The driveway of NEWSAR base

The main things we did were agree on changes to our constitution, which was almost 30 years old by now, and voting in a new committee. With changes to the constitution we could have a bigger committee. The newest post is a wellbeing officer. These are en vogue these days, with the current attention to mental health. I am glad we will have one! And there was even someone who had volunteered for the post. I stood again for membership secretary. And was voted in. 

When it was done I accepted the way back. I had accidentally asked my satnav to take me over the A55, which is not what I wanted, so I had a slightly erratic drive home. And that’s that done for another year! I hope it will be a quiet year for our team. And that the wellbeing officer will have literally nothing to do. One can hope! 

26 June 2024

Verdict on the cat sitter

It is a bit weird to trust your house and your cat to complete stranger for a week! But I had faith it would be okay. So what was it like when it really happened?

It did provide some extra travel stress; I had to make sure my house was ready for it while also preparing for my trip. I think I did an OK job; Sheryl the cat sitter gave me full marks in her review of my host performance.

While I was in Finland I got some cat pictures. I really loved the one where the cat is lying snugly in the comfortable chair in the conservatory, and Sheryl's hand is petting her. The cat looked so content!

When I got back the cat seemed quite relaxed. That was exactly what I had been hoping for! She was still glad to see me. And the house was cleaner than it had been when I had left it. Sheryl has gone overboard! It was kind of her, but I also felt a bit guilty.

The washbasin was clean when I left, but I’m sure it wasn’t THIS clean…

Were there any drawbacks? Well, some items were not exactly in the same place as they normally are, but everything was easy to find. The house smelled a bit unusual. I think Sheryl had used some cleaning agent I don't use. But that's so trivial. I really can't complain!

I would really do this again! It feels so much better to know that there is someone to keep your pet company when you are travelling. And there are barely any disadvantages. And I might just contact Sheryl directly if I go away again. I know she's good, I know the cat likes her, and she likes my place. What’s not to like? 

25 June 2024

Running myself back from an injury

Barely more than a week after my physiotherapy appointment I would head to Finland. And I imagined I would have time there to do my exercises. I also hoped I could start building up the running again. After seeing the physiotherapist, I had only run during my duathlon. After that, my exercise had only been my bicycle commute. So I hoped I could calmly build it back up. I had the impression from the map that the area around our cabin had some big gravel roads, and very few paths. But that was okay; I decided to just bring my road shoes.

On my travel day, neither running nor physiotherapy happened. That happens if you get up at stupid o'clock and end the day on a train! But once we reached the cabin things started to work out like I had imagined them.

I know my sister also does exercises, but she is less inclined to all do them first thing in the morning. But we were not in a hurry! So I could just fit all my exercises in before we would leave for our hikes. I had also added a stretch on my own initiative. I told my sister that if she thought the cabin was haunted, she was probably just hearing my agonised wailing trying to get my old ligaments to stretch.

From the first day in the cabin I also indeed started to build up my running again. My plan has been to start with a 4 km run, and then add another kilometre every time. But my first run went so well it was already 5 km, on the local gravel road. And my knees felt good! The next one was 6 km, some of which on a path. Still good. Then almost 7 km, back on the gravel road, as it had been raining. And the last evening when we had the cabin I ran 10 km. The full distance of my upcoming race (a trail 10k I had also done last year). And my knees were still happy! I felt confident I was ready for that race already. And it wasn't even July yet!

The driveway to our cabin: always the start of my runs

The path, probably a gravel road that wasn’t maintained anymore 

Wide views from the nearby hill (and there is a reindeer bum in this pic)

In Helsinki I did two further runs. One before dinner, when I just ran away from my sister's house for 2 miles, and then ran back a bit faster. And the last run was before breakfast. I am always slow when I haven't had food yet! But I was glad to get that out of the way, when I knew I would be spending a lot of time sitting on my arse in metal tubes of various description for the rest of the day. 

Urban beach near where my sister lives

View from a bridge over the water

Decorative house along the way

I know I tend to push it harder when I'm doing a race and I have to bear that in mind; the problem started when I was pushing things. But my upcoming race is a trail race, and also only 10 km. I think I will be alright! But I have faith I will be able to build it up all the way to half Marathon level again in September. And if I can, I am really back in business. Watch this space!

24 June 2024

Last day in Lapland, and back to Helsinki

Our last day in Lapland we felt a bit melancholy. After breakfast we finished cleaning the cabin, packed our stuff, and left our paradisiacal abode. I could even imagine us going back! I could imagine it would be lovely in autumn as well, when you can go mushroom picking, and warm up by the wood fire. This was really the sort of holiday accommodation we both really love.

We brought the keys back, and then did another walk in the gorge we had visited before; then we had been in the middle, and this time we picked the western end of it. Our navigation was a bit off; we didn't quite walk the route we had intended, but it was beautiful anyway. One thing I wasn't happy with was the mosquitoes. I was still absolutely peppered with mosquito bites from earlier days, and the bastards were after me again. My sister is so Finnish she is not really affected by them anymore. But I sure am!

A ‘laavu’ by the unintended Koivuköngäs waterfall

When we got back to the car I grabbed my dry socks and shoes from the boot, and sat in the driver’s seat to change into them. I did not want to do this outdoors. And I also didn't want to get out of the car to put my rather smelly boots in the boot. And I unequivocally requested we next visit the café we had been in before, for a coffee break. There wouldn't be any mosquitoes in there! I really wanted to be somewhere without them, and while wearing dry socks. And my sister was OK with that.

The next location was some loop with several options. When we got to the starting point I was so happy to see there weren't many mosquitoes there! And I was resigned to have gone back into my soaking socks and boots.

The first part of the walk wasn't even that beautiful. And we could only do half the loop, for reasons of time constraints. The way back was more beautiful. And the weather had improved. And it still was very low on mosquitoes. So our very last walk ended pretty good! But by the time we got back to the car we had to make our way back to Rovaniemi. We had a rental car to bring back, and a train to catch.

An unsuccessful viewing tower on Hopianulkki hill

Heading back to the car for the last time 

In Rovaniemi we had dinner in the railway station’s restaurant. I went for a pizza with smoked reindeer and blue cheese, because why not. After that we filled the tank and did some last shopping, and then got into the train. I was glad to shower half an inch of mosquito repellent off me! And some sweat. And soon after it was bedtime. 

In Helsinki we went to my sister’s place. I had actually never been since she moved there; she generally prefers to come to Wales! It is a beautiful place. I had seen it a lot on video but it is different in real life. The first thing I did was hang my offensive boots and socks in the garden. And after a while we went out again to team up with her weekend child and his father: Miro and Jiri. I hadn’t seen them since my dad’s 80th birthday! Jiri had hardly changed, but Miro had more than doubled his age since then, so he was as good as unrecognisable. 

We first went to their place, but after that we went to the woods and then the sports park to invent some pentathlon. I won the pinecone pétanque! And Miro the stick throwing. And we all scored full points on the beam exercise. 

When dinner became a consideration we went our separate ways. My sister cooked another meal while I ran, but this time I cleaned up in a shower afterwards. And we had one last night to talk about life.

Looking back at the Helsinki skyline from Killingholma

The next day I flew back. It had been a great holiday! Maybe I had cursed the mosquitoes from time to time, but otherwise Finland had been kind to me. Thank you Finland! And thank you sister! 

23 June 2024

Two trails with one starting point

After our ski resort adventure we wanted something quieter. And my sister found a loop not too far away that looked like it would fit the bill. So we went! And it was clear from when we got out of the car it was rather mosquito-infested. But also very beautiful. 

We had read a warning that the path wasn’t maintained; that seemed to apply to the infrastructure that takes you over water and swamp, and also the markings. Soon we found out that was true. On the swampy stretches, you tend to get ‘duck boards’; two parallel wooden beams on sleepers. If you don’t maintain them they rot through and break. And grow slippery algae to boot. And they had. Some bits were challenging! And I got wet feet. 

Whoever had said there was room for improvement regarding maintenance wasn’t kidding 

Pretty mushrooms 

Interesting duck boards

Decorative stump

High ground

View on merging rivers 

The markings were fine, as they were elsewhere. You just follow dots of paint on trees. I was impressed with how you can rely on that! Very reassuring, as getting lost in endless Lapland could be uncomfortable. Although you often get 4G, so your phone can often get you out of that. But I am only too aware that reliance on phones can be a bad idea…

We didn’t see a soul, and it was very beautiful. Exactly what we wanted! It was a great day. And I did my running and swimming thing afterwards. What a day. 

We had enjoyed this so much we did it again the next day. There was a trail going in the other direction from the road. And that had had some maintenance! Some of the duck boards were brand new. Others not so much, though. And again we didn’t see a soul. And we only had to really search for the route once. This location was quite the find. It was another great day! With the usual rituals. 

The tiny path

You can’t hike Finland without skirting lakes

Walking a ridge-what would have created it? 

Lovely weather

How the routes are marked where there is a rare junction

By then our trip was approaching the end, so after dinner we started cleaning the cabin. That would make things more efficient in the morning. We would still have a full day, but without access to the cabin after noon. It had been our last day having dinner outside with a view over the lake…

22 June 2024

Gorge and ski area

Hiking in Lapland is different from hiking in Wales. In Wales you probably want to just stare at a map and design a route from all the possible paths. Lapland doesn’t have the population density for that. There are very few paths! So you are probably best off finding a signposted route. If there is a path, it’s probably because there is something so special somebody made such a route. There aren’t many around. 

We relied on these established routes. The second day we chose one in a nearby canyon; not sure what is was called but is was just a bit SE of our lake. That was beautiful! We did a loop and extended it a bit on one side. We even saw the remains of another log chute in the river. This clearly had been logging terrain for a while!

A waterfall and some snow on the canyon wall

The landscape above the canyon 

Some badly maintained infrastructure 

The landscape in the canyon 

The mosquitoes here were quite bad. We sprayed liberally with insect repellent, but it was still a bad idea to stand still. As long as you keep walking it was ok. Luckily we found a picnic table at the top of the gorge where there was such a breeze the mosquitoes mainly stayed away. And we also had the murder machine with us. So we had lunch in comfort.

I had also brought a good bara brith and birthday candles. It was already three days after my sister’s birthday, but this was the earliest suitable opportunity to bring them out. It was festive! 

After our walk we did what would be routine: we went back, I went for a run and a swim, and then we had dinner. Another successful day!

The next day we wanted to go to a nearby national park, and find a route there. And we found a circular one by a ski centre: Iso Syöte. We figured the bit by the ski centre would probably be ugly, but we had high hopes for the rest. Unfortunately we hadn’t noticed on the map that this route was also indicated as a cycling route. So it was very paved! And busy by Finnish standards. For neither of us, this was the favourite day. But one learns. And we were home so late I skipped my run. But the swim was good…

Making lunch the Finnish way

The path was a bit over-engineered to our liking 

Some swampy terrain 

Hike selfie

Here the path was inoffensive 

A cabin along the way where we (read: I) could briefly hide from the mosquitoes 

21 June 2024

Nature trail and cabin

We had reached the middle of Finnish nowhere, but a touristic bit. There was an amazing log chute (disused), and people had clearly decided to make a feature of it. There was a nature trail that started and ended there, and there was a cafe, and a shed that was carrying the grand name of museum. 

We decided to have lunch in the cafe first. We had lovely salmon soup. Then we set off on the trail. My sister suggested doing it twice: once clockwise, once anti-clockwise. It was a short trail, and otherwise it would be a bit unsubstantial. But it was beautiful! And there was quite some history too, like some Second World War trenches.

The cute cafe at Uittoränni

The log chute at Auttiköngäs

The log chute from another angle

We got to a viewing tower on a hill, and while we were in it, it started raining. That changed things. We waited for the worst to pass, and then walked back to the cafe. No second loop needed after all! We admired the museum with its logging-associated objects, and then went back to the cafe for tea and cake. 

The trail

Sister selfie in the viewing tower

Some old trailers near the museum

When we were done we went to pick up the cabin keys, and then went to the actual cabin, on the shore of Auttijärvi, near the village of Autti. About an hour east of Rovaniemi. It was gorgeous! And bigger than I had guessed from the pictures. We wouldn’t get in each other’s way there. Except in the kitchen. That was just a gas stove in the vestibule of barely more than one square meter. That would be a bit tight…

We also checked the sauna building, and the well near it. That was our water supply. And there was a little building that was wood store at the front and loo at the back. And from the sauna, a steep path went down to the lake. That was our bath! It was beautiful. There also was a rowing boat at our disposal. 

The cabin (with some of my damp/smelly kit already hanging over the railing)

The interior (after we’d made ourselves at home)

We unpacked our bags and made the beds. And I figured there was time to go for a run. I only wanted to go some 4 km. I had to slowly build it back up after having run my knees into the ground in May. I had not managed to run any distance without knee problems since, but now I had started my physiotherapy exercises. It went well!

After my run I went for my first swim in the lake. It was lovely! And then I was ready for dinner. My sister had offered to cook every night. And then I claimed the dishes. That worked well! I suggested to bring the mosquitoes-chasing-away-device (colloquially known as the murder machine) and have dinner outside. The suggestion was accepted! It was absolutely lovely. We were sitting in the fresh air, with a view over the lake, and you couldn’t hear any sound made by humans other than us. I felt the post-run-and-swim glow and had a beer. And my sister cooks well. Bliss! 

That night my sister blocked the windows (she likes to sleep in the dark, which you have to bring yourself in Lapland in June) and we went to bed. First successful day done!