Hascombe Standing Stones

“Does anyone know anything about the Hascombe standing stones?” It was an unanswered post on a local FaceBook page that sparked my curiosity.

I live not far from Hascombe and was somewhat surprised that I had never heard of them. A quick internet search revealed little more information than I already had. I wrote it down on my list of places to visit and two years later it was time to check it off that list.

The forecast was that the sleet would stop mid-morning. I set off, nonethewiser as to my exact destination but with the assumption that a stone circle would be fairly easy to spot. Has combe Hill is the site of an Iron Age fort. To the untrained eye this means some uneven, grassed areas.



Views of the South Downs


From the top of the hill, there are amazing views in all directions, even on a grey December day. By the time you get to the top of the hill your blood is pumping and the weather is no longer your primary  concern.

There was no sign of a stone circle. I don’t like to feel defeated and although I had enjoyed the walk exploring the woods, stumbling across sculpted seating and just being wowed by the Surrey Hills; I was disappointed not to have found the stones.



Grains by Tom Nicholson Smith


On Day 2 of my now, self-titled “Quest”, after some careful research I had found some clues and set off again.  It had been raining heavily for most of the month and there was a lot of mud. I pretty much started off by walking up a stream.

I was on the right track, but feeling despondent: still no sign. Maybe they weren’t there and the lack of information was because it was actually a hoax. As these thoughts filled my head, I crested a hill and there they were. It seemed impossible that they were so well hidden from pretty much every view of and from the hill. What a special place. I continued my route, delighted that my rusty navigation skills got me back to my starting point.


Hascombe Stone Circle

The Hascombe standing stones aren’t prehistoric. They were erected in the late 1990s by the modern order of Druids and even without the history it’s well worth an explore. To me it feels like a magical place whether that’s because of the history, the natural landscape or the spirits celebrated by the Druids.


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3000 miles: The Finale

It took about a month before I fully admitted my 3000 miles challenge to myself, but nevertheless I as committed from the start. Committed to recording my miles that is, rather than to anything special to achieve them. Even though 3000 miles is a long way, 12 months is a long time too, right?

I had been accepted to join a volunteer project team for Cricket Without Boundaries and I was going to be asking people to donate to support the work that they do in HIV prevention, cricket development and generally promoting the wider benefits of sport to encourage positive behaviour changes in sub-Saharan Africa. In order to do this, I needed something big enough to inspire and interest people to encourage them to consider donating.

To punctuate my journey (3000 miles was my target because it roughly correlates to the distance between London and an unspecified point in sub-Saharan Africa) and to act as a hook for fundraising I entered some events, but the majority of my miles were achieved going about my daily business.

These are some highlights:

The Fox Ultra: 60km of trails around Guildford in the Surrey Hills. The furthest distance I’ve ever run.

Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon: what it says on the tin – if only I’d read the tin before signing up – running up a mountain but fortuitously in glorious sunshine.

parkrun: a constant in my calendar every week whether trying to run fast, deliberately running slow, in fancy dress or as a celebration.

Uganda: I took my running abroad this year training in both France and Spain but my highlight was running with a backdrop of the Rwenzori mountains.


Walking into town – discovering new routes and using it to create some headspace in my day

My traditional “Twixtmas” exploration of the local countryside led me to finding the stone circle and some new running routes for next year.

A meandering exploration of the footpaths and bridle paths in the Surrey Hills – my first off-road cycling adventure and one of my longest cycle rides ever.

What I’ve learnt:

I’m not a cyclist. I had anticipated that I would become a hardy, all-weather cyclist but it turns out that I remain a fair weather rider. I’ve developed an appreciation for my two-wheeled steed, but I like having my feet on the ground.

Our bodies are fragile. I succumbed to a back injury making any sort of movement limited for three weeks. I can do more to care for and nurture my body, but there’s always going to be a time when limits are reached and you have to stop.

Conflicting goals can make things harder, even when they seem to support each other. I had my miles to do but I also wanted to train for specific events. These do not necessarily go together. For me, less is more for optimal performance.

Being outside is good. Even when I didn’t want to, I would try to do 1 mile knowing this would take me at longest 20 minutes, at quickest 8 minutes. No matter the time of day or the weather I always felt better for this.

What next?

I’m looking forward to not counting my miles, to being able to enjoy the activity when and where I want to do it.

I want to commit to outside everyday – ideally an hour – if I can

I want to get back to other activities – you may find me back on the cricket pitch, or out on horseback. There will probably be less running and more exploring.

And what of my volunteering effort? I have raised a little over £1000 which is valuable funding for local Ambassadors to sustain the effort and support other local coaches in using cricket to reinforce messages about HIV prevention.


I’m continuing to help CWB with information for new volunteers. If you’re interested in volunteering – do get in touch, I would love to help you decide to do it. I can’t tell you what you’ll learn and experience but it will be positive for you, for the children you coach and in making the world a better place.

My fundraising page will be open for a short while longer, so if you would like to support CWB it’s an easy way to do it. I would like to thank my friends and family who have supported me through donations and through keeping me motivated for my challenge. Thank you also to my running and cycling buddies who have helped me get out the door and make things fun.


The final stats:

Total mileage: 2316

Total miles running: 1024

Total miles walking: 729

Total miles cycling: 563

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Tallinn: positively surprising

Arriving for breakfast and the receptionist stood to attention and offered me a little bow. I’m not in Japan, but in Estonia – positively surprising as the tourist board describes it, and indeed I find it is.

Tallinn was European City of Culture in 2011 and Estonia is now president of the Council of the European Union. The country welcomes more tourists than its population every year – which may explain why in the capital city public transport is free to residents.  Although you may not need to use it because the city is small – everything is 10 minutes apart, including the tram from the airport to the city centre.

There are two parts to the city – the UNESCO world heritage site of the Old Town and everything outside the walls.  Within the Old Town there are a lot of cobbles, many churches and quite a few hills. Its pretty in all directions from the pastel coloured buildings to the red roofs and spires of various shapes and sizes.  The Town Square provides a useful navigation point. En route to my hotel I went past the KGB prison cells, a number of cosy looking cafes, bars and restaurants and a good proportion of souvenir shops.  Along Pikk Street there are also a number of historical buildings with useful information boards outside in both Estonian and English.


Food and drink is important in an Estonian winter. We started one evening in the Beer House micro-brewery. We followed this at Pegasus restaurant where, on the surface the menu consisted standard food, but digging deeper into the menu you find yourself experiencing a mixture of uniquely Estonian tastes – the tangy sea buckthornberry being one. We finished our meal with a dessert that grandma would make: rye cream jelly with a cranberry sauce.

Our waitress said that Estonian food would make us feel fulfilled and it certainly did; enough to face the cold air on the walk home.  The following evening was just as good – starting with speciality, home-baked bread and continuing with reasonably-priced, high-quality food. The service everywhere is exceptional.



Even in November, when it’s cold by UK standards, it’s well worth a visit. The Old Town is beautiful and contrasts with the modern city. Walking around is reward in itself, but if you need more the gastronomy speaks for itself and you won’t be disappointed.

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Uganda – known as the Pearl of Africa. A beautiful surprise when you’re not expecting it? Well, Uganda is certainly beautiful and unexpected. More than the views, it’s the people that make Uganda what you might expect from Africa through a shy smile, infectious laughter and terrible time keeping.


If there was ever a greater contrast, then Africa is it. From the bustling, busy towns and cities to the peace of the countryside. Although it’s never quiet. The wildlife is bigger, more colourful and definitely louder than at home. I was travelling in south western Uganda where giant cranes are commonplace and fish eagles rule the roost in the National Parks.

Lake Mburo18

Aside from the Parks, the attraction of Africa is just being there. You don’t find so many tourist attractions and it’s a mission and a half to even find a postcard. But sit a while on the corner of the cross-roads in Kasese and you will not be bored. Between the boda-boda and the bicycles there are vehicles of every size and shape carrying not only people, but animals, bananas and even furniture. You won’t be hurried on if you’re lingering over your samosa and krest, but as soon as you look as if you might have finished, the table will be cleared before you know it. The towns have a way of nestling in to the hills. They provide a flash of red and yellow against the dark greens of the hills and mountains.


Whilst you may think that every shop is the same, you have to explore them and find out which supermarket sells the crispy crisps and where they may be a bakery hidden in the back. I spent half an hour on a scavenger hunt for postcards. Each shop I tried had none, but gave me a clue to where to try next. Alas, postcards were finished in Kasese and it was by chance in a hotel two stops on in our trip that I found the only decent postcards in the region.

If you want to get away from it, then Uganda has some perfect hideaways and there are numerous opportunities for hiking – as long as you don’ mind hills. you will be distracted from your usual routine and if you can visit a school, you will end up feeling like a super-hero when you try and leave.

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I’m feeling that tension. The way you feel when someone says that one thing that you know isn’t true, but it seems to be common belief:

‘Nothing much happens in August. Most people are on holiday or taking time off.’


A common misbelief in my world. Admittedly August is quieter in terms of the normal routine, but that shouldn’t mean it should be a month of slacking off.

I like to use this idea as a way to get ahead, to take advantage of this time whilst others are holidaying. It’s my birthday month, so that could be a reason why I always feel the need to be active – mentally or physically – to increase momentum as time ticks over from one year to the next. And moving into my next year I can remind myself of the big challenge that is creeping closer – working on a Cricket Without Boundaries project in Uganda

This year, August was  was good for action – not too hot and not too cold. There’s been some rain, but not as much as I usually note and I feel as if I’ve finally got into the swing of regularly reaching my target number of miles. Although it’s not been quite how I expected – no super long cycle rides, but a regular input of commuting, making the effort to walk or run into town and turning the legs over in one way or another every day.

As a result I’ve done more miles this month than any other, however it’s not been as easy as hindsight would suggest. It’s been a big see-saw of “yes, I can do this” to “no this is a ridiculous challenge why am I bothering” with a smattering of “I can’t do too much, I need to manage my marathon training”. And at the end of the month my greater project has got me through. I’m closer to being on track, with a third of the year still to go. The donations have been slowly but steadily coming through and I’m grateful for each of them.

With a month to go until arrival in Uganda, I’m finding out more about the country, the social norms that people live with and are disadvantaged by and the state of the health of the population. 1.5million Ugandans live with HIV, with women, girls and young people being at greater risk of infection. There’s a lack of awareness about the condition – transmission and prevention – and this increases the stigma associated with it. Infected individuals often suffer from social exclusion, poor treatment at school and difficulty in receiving medical treatment. By using cricket to empower young people to understand more about HIV and to support positive behaviours, Cricket without Boundaries, goes some way to creating a change in both individuals and communities. The project provides information and understanding of the facts of HIV where children can learn together in a way that doesn’t discriminate by gender or condition, or even by skill level in a sport that is accessible to all.

It may seem like a crazy combination, but it works – over 250,000 children can verify that – and my contribution seems small against the problem, but it’s important nonetheless and every time I may think about slacking off my miles I know that with your help I can make a difference.

I’ve set myself the challenge of running, walking and cycling 3000 miles this year to raise funds for Cricket without Boundaries. If you are able to support and encourage me for this by making a donation, it’s easiest to do so online here.


Total mileage: 1685

Total run: 767 miles

Total cycle: 421 miles

Total walk: 497 miles

August totals: 347miles (132 run /136 cycle /79 walk)

In my virtual journey, I’m towards the bottom of Libya


Still to come – New Forest Marathon; as much running as I can in Uganda

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I don’t like cricket…. I love it

I write this a few weeks after England have been crowned cricket world champions. The nation is surprised as this is both front and back page headlines because, this year, the world champions are women. The final between India and England was played to a full house at Lords and the media coverage across the world was unprecedented.

The growth of women’s cricket, and of this tournament in particular has begun to provide a greater number of role models for girls and women to get involved in a sport. I imagine that previously, cricket wasn’t even on the radar for so many. It’s too soon to measure the impact, but that India was in the final could change the lives of so many girls in that country alone by giving recognition to a sport that, I believe, anyone can play. It’s been estimated that 126 million people in India watched that cricket match.


World Champions (Photo: Getty Images)

Cricket is traditionally a male preserve and for a long time, the game was skewed towards the gentlemen of society. However, as the male sport grew it demonstrated its accessibility through being able to mix a team of “amateurs” and “professionals” (or Gentlemen and Players) – where status was determined by background rather than skill level, but enabling a mixing of different parts of society.

From seeing my local women’s team grow over the last couple of years, the pattern seems familiar.  The stalwarts are the ladies with cricket in the family – either from fathers, or husbands or brothers or sons who play – who have spent many an hour at the cricket club and decided that they would give it a go. These ladies brought friends along, who brought more friends along until there was a critical mass that attracted new players who had no previous interest in the game. And genuinely anyone can play. It can be a matter of days between signing up, attending a practice session and playing in a match. And you can genuinely play your part in the team, it’s not just about making up the numbers. I’m not sure that there are many sports that this can apply to.

I know from my niece’s experience that youth cricket is growing for girls as well. With mixed teams, and the sport being offered to all at school, this can’t help but grow the cricketing community at all levels. And it is a community – games tend to be on the long side and there’s always a cup of tea or a glass of beer to be drunk after a match, not to mention the half-time tea break which can be anything from traditional cake and sandwiches to a fabulous offering of Indian tapas. And for the youngsters, training sessions seem to be paired with BBQs: good for the players and the parents.

So what? Why am I telling you about all of this? What does it mean for you? Well, if you’re female it will benefit you in many ways to get involved in sport. As I learnt from Anna Kessel’s book Eat, Sweat Play, women with sports backgrounds are more likely to reach the top of the career ladder. Apart from the obvious team-work skills, sport can help you learn how to win, lose, succeed and fail. One of the more important aspects is the resilience that you learn: the ability to bounce back from setbacks of any size. And cricket, in my experience is an easy entry point to sport.

The impact of more women participating in sport can surely only be positive. It could be a starting point for equality in all sections of society, from a reduction in the pay-gap to a reconsideration of body image and gender stereotypes, And that’s in this country, or the western world. If we expand it to India, where the impact of one cricket match will be huge, or perhaps to Africa where the starting point is low, to say the least.

And that’s why I’m writing. There are too many children in Africa who don’t get to play sport. They don’t get to enjoy it, and they don’t get to benefit from it – both girls and boys. Cricket without Boundaries is a small charity that provides cricket development in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Working with the National Cricket Associations in each country, two week project teams help the development of grass roots cricket through coaching basic skills in schools and communities. In addition to enabling the community in playing cricket and encouraging inclusivity, the charity also deliver life changing health and social messages through cricket most notably about HIV and FGM. Ambassadors continue the in country work between project blocks to maintain the momentum. Take Uganda for example, where HIV rates dropped, but since 2013 it is reported that rates are increasing with 83,000 new infections in 2015. No matter the absolute numbers, it is safe to say that the majority of the population is infected or affected by HIV. Through cricket, messages about prevention, testing and challenging the stigma of HIV are delivered.  And what better way to demonstrate the importance of cricket – life changing. Life saving. And helping all to live a happier healthier life, men and women, boys and girls,wherever you are in the world.

I’ve been inspired to write this article to help in my fundraising to support all the work of Cricket without Boundaries and your donation will be gratefully received. It’s easy to donate online here.

More stories and updates about my fundraising are here.

Eat Sweat Play. How sport can change our lives, Anna Kessel

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“We must be nearly there” I said with a chuckle as I switched the windscreen wipers up a notch to cope with the harder rain. The view across the lake and down the valley was momentarily blurred. Still smiling on the outside my heart was sinking just a little bit on the inside as I found myself resigning to a wet weekend. We turned right and went up. The skies cleared and I switched the windscreen wipers off.  There was no comment in the car, desperate not to tempt fate.

We arrived at the campsite above the town of Llanberis – the adventure capital of Snowdonia – and set to putting the tents up with utmost efficiency for fear of another passing shower. And then a pause, a breath. Freshly brewed tea and a seat in the sun admiring the view of Padarn lake. What could be better?

But this was not meant to be a relaxing weekend. It was the weekend of the Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon (and marathon and 10K). The clouds did reappear so it seemed the right time to collect race numbers and see what was going on in town. The most common conversation seemed to be along the lines of “…but you’ll be back a long time before me…” There were lots of hardy looking folk about, looking fit and ready for the race the next day.

The town is cute. With colourfully painted buildings, narrow streets and a relaxed vibe. Nestled in the valley it is surrounded by mountains which are green, but also grey and violet. The sunset view had the clouds rolling down from the top against a pink sky.

We found a restaurant a little way out of town – still within walking distance, but not quite as busy as anywhere in the town centre. A calorie laden dinner primed me for a great night’s sleep.  We were staying in the quietest campsite ever (or maybe it was our chosen location in the campsite – deliberately slightly inaccessible). Despite it being a working farm, even the animals were quiet. Everytime I woke up I was convinced I could hear rain. I was making it up and woke up to clear skies and that view. I did see a pig wandering about in a neighbouring field, but the campsite was still quietly going about its business. Peaceful. Green. Refreshing. I lit the stove for more tea, breakfast and then a wander down the hill to the start area.

The start area was on the football field and was a lot busier than it had been the day before. It was a contrast to the rest of town, which was on a usual Sunday morning pace. After each wave of runners were set off, and the crowds thinned out to find coffee and refreshments, the field was turned from a collecting pen into a smart finish area.

The weather was good all day and after the race, finishers could enjoy the sun, watching others complete their race and enjoying a more informed view of the Dinorwic quarry –  once the second largest slate quarry in the world and now home to the Welsh national slate museum.  There wasn’t time to pop into the museum during the run, but I’m sure it would be an interesting visit on another day.

Although Snowdonia is known for its outdoor activities, there are several indoor activities too. But even if you prepare for the worst, if you take the chance to embrace the elements, you may be rewarded with views to die for that include the sun reflecting off the lake. And there’s nothing better than waking up on the hill and spending the day exploring on foot -you’ll learn about the environment and yourself.


View from the campsite

I was in Snowdon to run the Snowdonia Trail Half Marathon – you can read about my experience here. I ran it to raise funds for Cricket without Boundaries. Please consider making a donation here .

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