Having volunteered with Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity for a few months, sorting donations, helping with English lessons and going on trips, I was keen to volunteer overseas. As I speak French, Calais was the obvious choice, and I booked in with Care 4 Calais in January for a fortnight in August. During lockdown, I put it out of my mind, but as restrictions lifted in May, I made some enquiries and booked my crossing on Le Shuttle.

You can post on the Care 4 Calais volunteer chat Facebook group to see if any other volunteers are thinking of travelling at the same time. This is how I met Jen, who lived near DRS and who travelled out and back with me. We said hello face to face a couple of times, and each collected generous donations of items of the Care 4 Calais list here.


Donations from friends and neighbours – thanks to members of Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity, Derwent Valley Orienteers, Sue Macfarlane and others

What follows is from the diary I kept in Calais, and is quite factual. I don’t know much about the politics underlying what is termed ‘the refugee crisis’. The situation is extremely sad and desperate for many people, and we can do a little to help in a practical way and show that not everyone wants to be part of our government’s hostile environment.

Thursday 6th August – Travel to Calais

Jen and I agreed to meet at DRS at 10:30 and had lots of volunteers to load donations of sleeping bags and three ‘tube sacks’ of men’s clothing into the car, which was filled to the top. Because of the weight and the rear-view mirror being unusable, I drove no faster than 60mph all the way to Folkestone, where we arrived at 4:15 for our 5:20 Shuttle crossing.

loading Berlingo

DRS volunteers loading the car with donations of clothing and sleeping bags

In France I had a minor panic as GoogleMaps wouldn’t work, so I phoned Dave who told me how to fix this in my phone settings. Ten minutes later we were at our Airbnb in Rue Auber, 1km from the old centre of Calais. That evening we walked into town and ate at Le Coq d’Or on Place des Armes.

Friday 7th August – Distribution at Calais BP, site of the former Jungle

We found a boulangerie and had baguette with cheese or jam for breakfast and drove to the C4C Warehouse at Bleriot Plage for 10am. The arrival drill is:

  • Wash hands outside
  • Check in on the tablet
  • Put on a white C4C gilet
  • Listen to the morning briefing, where everyone is assigned a job.

Several volunteers helped Jen and I unload the car onto the pallets for donations awaiting sorting at the entrance to the warehouse.

Jen at warehouse

Incoming donations are unloaded onto pallets at the warehouse entrance, before being sorted for storage

I worked in a team of 5 volunteers to sort men’s coats for Saturday’s distribution at a site called Afghan Hospital where there are about 250 men and boys sleeping rough in the woods. The idea was to give out thick coats to use as a cover when sleeping, or a thin coat if preferred. With the police evictions, coats are more portable than sleeping bags.

kitchen sink

Out of this tiny kitchen came …


… many hearty lunches for volunteers!

Lunch – always prepared by volunteers in the small portacabin kitchen – was salad baguettes with hummus. The briefing for the afternoon’s distribution followed, we would be at a closed-down BP garage near the former Calais Jungle site, giving aid to Sudanese asylum seekers. Before we leave the warehouse, we must put on our PPE, which consists of British Airways pyjamas (navy cotton jersey, easy to wash) and two masks. As first-aider I also needed to pull back my hair, ensure my phone is fully charged and pack some essentials into a bumbag. We were included in a the volunteer WhatsApp group, and Beccy sent out the location of the distribution, so that the drivers can follow this on their SatNav. It’s not always possible to remain in convoy, with the multitude of roundabouts in the suburbs of Calais!

I can’t remember what was being given out that day – possibly coats – but the distribution must be carefully managed, as well as socially distanced. For this, we use small sports cones on the ground, spaced at 2 metres. The queue is monitored by about 4 volunteers to make sure nobody pushes in or queues twice. The coats are given out from the back of the van, and people are given a choice between 2 coats. If they don’t like either of them, a third and final one is offered.

After the distribution, Care 4 Calais offer several essential services, many of which were reduced during lockdown. These are the main opportunities for volunteers and asylum seekers to interact, as the distributions can be quite tense. Services include:

phone charging via a generator
bike maintenance,
– facilitation of hair cutting (3 chairs, shears, scissors, brushes and mirrors; asylum seekers cut each other’s hair)
hot drinks and squash
children’s play
sewing – mending clothes and supplying patches for tents
first aid, and
games: cricket, handball or football.

As a retired nurse, I was to be on first aid, so had to top-up the crates used by the previous first aider with more bandages, etc. I was a little nervous, as you never quite know what injuries you’ll need to treat. But as an orienteering coach, I’d kept my first aid qualification up to date, so that gave my confidence a boost.

Underlying all the services is the opportunity to chat and interact with the asylum seekers. This shows interest and helps them practise their English, or French, as well as learning more about each other’s culture. It’s the most important part of what Care 4 Calais do. Merely giving out aid without interaction reinforces the asylum seekers’ status as victims. Adding dialogue transforms this into a conversation between equals. ‘Services’ is where this interaction happens naturally and often at some length.

That said, providing first aid was quite a hectic 2 hours for me – mainly treating lower-leg sores, which is quite time-consuming as the worse ones  need to be thoroughly washed and dried, iodine gauze cut to size and applied, covered with a non-adhesive dressing for padding before applying a roll-bandage to keep the whole thing in place. The less ulcerating sores (simple cuts and blisters) could be treated with antiseptic gel and a plaster or hydrocolloid patch (Compeed equivalent). There were also cases of insect bites and sunburn.

I was just working on a groundsheet with a couple of camping chairs, and didn’t think to take things like a rubbish bin, so everything was a bit chaotic – but at least it left room for improvement!

hygiene station

Decontamination station!

Back at the warehouse, we washed our hands before washing everything down in soapy water and letting it dry in the sun. Then we removed our PPE which was put into bin-liners to go in the overworked C4C washing machine. Only when we are wearing our own clothes can we go back into the warehouse, where we have a cuppa and debrief, in which we discussed what went well, what didn’t and how it can be improved. Normally we finish at about 6pm.

Saturday 8th August – Afghan Hospital

boxed coats

We finished prepping our coats: S, M, L, XL in both thick and thin to a total of 250 for the afternoon’s distro. After a hot lunch of ratatouille we listened to the briefing, and I asked if I could have a helper on first aid, and travel to the distribution site in my own car, so I could take more supplies and work out of the boot. This was fine, and I had room for 3 passengers. Clemmie was my helper and did a great job of opening the various dressings while I applied them. This is a real help from both a speed point of view, as well as infection control. It means that the first aider applying the dressings (dirty end) is not rummaging through the clean supplies. We treated about 20 gentlemen, mainly with leg ulcers and sunburn.

Clemmie on first aid

Sunday 9th August – Dunkerque

I left at 7am for a run and came back with our breakfast baguette. At the warehouse, I prepared the first aid kit for the afternoon’s visit to the Kurdish camp at Dunkerque, where there are families totalling about 100 people camping in the woods. I took sanitary towels, condoms, nappies, baby food etc as well as the usual kit, and Eleanor was my helper. She spoke to a lady with a 2 month old baby who thought she might be pregnant again, and was able to give her a pregnancy test.

Monday 10th August – Eritrean Camp at Calais BMX

Today we were doing distro at 2 sites:

  • BMX for 100 Eritrean young men
  • Old Lidl for 7 Afghani teenagers

First aid would be for the larger group, the Eritreans. Having a car meant that I could run various errands like taking volunteers to the railway station, which is what I did this morning for Griselda, there meeting C4C founder Clare Mosely who handed over a purse belonging to a French lady that a teenage asylum seeker had handed in. I took it to Andy (the warehouse manager), and we found the lady’s address on her permis de conduire. Griselda’s train was cancelled so I had to take her to Fréthun Station out of town near the Eurotunnel. I drove back via Coquelles where I stopped at a newsagent and pharmacy to buy some magazines and French equivalent Bonjela for mouth ulcers.


Tunnel boring equipment at a roundabout in Coquelles. Didn’t see anything like this in Kent!

The Eritrean camp looked very orderly, with tents in the shade of some small trees and 5 gallon water containers in a neat row. None of the Eritreans had leg ulcers, and I was told by another volunteer that it was because they didn’t fight amongst each other. Their soccer skills were amazing, considering they were wearing flip-flops.

BMX yellow tarp

Today we had a makeshift table, chairs for the patient, and even a rubbish bin. Basic housekeeping can go a long way!

The distribution today was of joggers or jeans. The team had boxed up 100 pairs of trousers in assorted sizes (mainly varieties of small). The Eritreans formed a socially-distanced line, standing by the cones we’d placed 2m apart. About 10 volunteers are needed to monitor the line and hand out the donated items in a fair and dignified manner. Line management requires concentration, a good memory, tact and firmness to spot and deal with people who jump the queue or join a second time. There are a series of hand signals to use for speedy long-distance communication:

  • Arm raised with thumb and forefinger in O position: good, ready to start
  • Arms raised above head, forearms crossed: there’s a problem
  • Arms raised, hands doing winding motion: reel it in, i.e. evacuate quickly. This may be used if a fight breaks out, although I never saw one in the two weeks.

Once a person reaches second place in the line, they are asked if they want jogging bottoms or jeans, and this info is passed to the volunteer in the van who is opening the boxes. When they’re at the front of the line, our volunteer holds up two pairs of trousers, and they can choose one. If they don’t like either, one is swapped out for a different pair and they are encouraged to choose one. If neither pair still suits, they’re given a third and final option.

There was reggae music playing at the distro, so it made it difficult to hear what people were saying, but we muddled through. One boy came to me with an extremely red left eye. I had no eyedrops, so I agreed to come back with some at 9am the following morning. Fortunately, I built up a small shopping list for other people in the morning, so I wouldn’t be seeing the boy on my own. Also, there were women in the camp, so I’d be able to bring a supply of sanitary towels.

I showed the boy with the red eye how to play noughts and crosses as well as squares. He told me he’s been in Germany for three years before coming to Calais, and that it was his dream to go to Liverpool and train to be a nurse. His name is S.

naughts n crosses

Other patients today came with blisters and fungal cuts between their toes for which I applied Sudocrem. We try and give out enough cream and dressings so that patients can re-dress their wounds a couple of days later.

Siddi and Clare

Clare Mosely with Siddi – happy with his rowing blisters covered.

During debrief, I was called to Clare’s car to treat a gentleman called Siddi who had blisters from rowing across the Channel. Hydrocolloid plasters to the rescue once again. I later learnt that Siddi had, on another occasion, jumped overboard to prevent the boat from sinking.

Clare Mosely is the founder of Care 4 Calais. A former accountant from Liverpool, she was moved to volunteer in September 2015 and has remained in Calais since then.

Tuesday 11th August – Litter pick at Old Lidl and an afternoon in the warehouse

Today was an early start so I could get to the pharmacy for 8am to buy eyedrops. I’d assembled the other items to take to the Eritrean camp from the warehouse the evening before: moisturiser, insect repellent, condoms, elastic for a repair and S’s eye drops. I’d also got a Michael Morpurgo novel for S to read to practise his English.

The meet-up was successful and I applied S’s eyedrops and gave him instructions for applying them himself. I was at the warehouse just before 10am.

On Tuesdays, the distribution is normally at Brussels, but two Red Cross volunteers recently tested positive for Covid 19, so the distribution there was suspended for 2 weeks, pending review.

Yesterday the group who went on distro to Old Lidl reported that the asylum seekers there had moved on (or maybe even crossed the Channel to England) and that the site needed cleaning. Armed with rakes, heavy duty gloves and bin bags, about 12 of us went along in the minibus, driven by Simon from London. We did quite a good job, filling 27 bin liners, which we left by the council van for their workers to remove. Rakes were useful, as much had been trodden into the sandy ground. We cleared plastic cups, masks, hand sanitiser bottles, remains of tents, and bags of fermenting baguettes that made my stomach heave.

We were going to take before- and after- photos, but as Jen pointed out, this could be used by some media to make the asylum seekers look bad.

After a lovely hot lunch of pasta with tomatoes and olives, we were assigned various jobs in the warehouse. Some things can be very time-consuming, such as checking that tents have all the correct parts and carrying out any repairs that are needed. I was topping up the first aid kit, then moved onto making up food packs. We finished at 5:15 and had a lovely swim in the sea, at Blériot Plage just across from the campsite. Louis Blériot had made the first cross-Channel flight from there in 1909.

beach with Ciaran

Unwinding at Blériot Plage, just across the road from the C4C warehouse

Bleriot minument

Monument to Louis Blériot’s cross-Channel flight, 25 July 1909

Wednesday 12th August – Food-pack distribution at Afghan Hospital

Today we assembled about 500 large food packs of meals for 4 people. I found boxes of vitamin tablets with expiry dates later in the month, so we boxed up 250 of them to give out with the food packs. Out-of-date food and medicine – although likely to be fine – can’t be given as aid as it gives the wrong message. I was pleased that the vitamins were being given out, as micronutrients are important for would healing.

food pack and me

These food packs provided meals for 4 people for 3 nights and cost roughly €10

Thursday 13th August – Dunkerque

I made a diversion to Auchan on the way to the warehouse to buy some French novels. At the morning briefing, we heard that the police had evicted the Dunkerque camp during the night, bulldozing some of the trees where their tents were pitched. Today was our day to visit, so I packed lots of mother and baby items, including a travel cot.

Because of the eviction, some volunteers were assigned to looking in the forest for any dispersed Kurdish asylum seekers. However, when we arrived on site, some were there waiting for us, and put the message out to their friends that we’d arrived.

Eleanor sought out the lady to whom she’d given the pregnancy test, and the result was positive. Thoughtfully, Eleanor had bought her some antenatal vitamins with her own money.

On first-aid duty I was helped by Henry and Jemima. We treated lots of people with foot problems and insect bites, for which we give out ointment and antihistamines. A Pakistani gentleman translated for us. Later he showed us photos of his homeland in the beautiful Swat Valley in the Himalayas. The travel cot was gratefully received.

travel cot

It’s so heartbreaking that police evict the asylum seekers so often. I’m not sure how many days the family would have been able to use this cot before the next eviction.

Friday 14th August – Distribution at Calais BP

Calais BP is the site of the former Jungle camp, disbanded in October 2016 and home to some 7000 asylum seekers. Now there are about 80 Africans there, from Sudan, Ethiopia, Chad and Niger.

The distribution was of tarps and blankets. The tarps are attached to fences by the road where the asylum seekers try to sleep. Even in August, the rain storms are heavy, and these would have provided only meagre shelter.

Calais BP tarp

Distribution of tarps and blankets at Calais BP, with police are looming the background

Saturday 15th August – Day off

Eleanor and I met at my Airbnb at 10:30, then drove to Sangatte to start our 11km run along the coast to Wissant via Cap Blanc Nez. It was a bit misty, but good conditions for running.

At Wissant we had a nice lunch at a restaurant, then eventually managed to find the beach and walked 9km back to Sangatte, as the tide was just out far enough.

Wissant run garmin

Eleanor on the beach

Eleanor walking back towards Calais, with Cap Blanc Nez

After a quick shower, we me some of the other volunteers at the beach, after their shift. Jemima was off for a short break in Paris. She had a swim with the others, and then I drove her to Fréthun Station.

At the Airbnb, I had a jam baguette (fine after my steak lunch) and walked to the Family Pub where I was lucky to meet the Dutch couple who founded FAST – First Aid Support Team. They met in Calais, and are now married. C4C allow them use of a container on their site for free. Normally a container would cost €1100 to buy with €1 a day in ground rent.

Jonathan kindly walked Anne and I back to my flat, and Anne stayed the night.

Sunday 16th August – Distribution at Dunkerque

I made Anne some porridge and had an opportunity to look at the war graves – both French and Commonwealth – at the Calais Sud Cimetière near Anne’s Airbnb while she collected her things for the shift.

commonwealth war graves

Commonwealth war graves at Calais South Cemetery

French war graves

French war graves at the same cemetery

Now that Noleen from FAST was doing first-aid, I was free to do other warehouse duties, so I pegged the washing on the line, mopped the kitchen floor, then helped Anne do the hot drinks prep for the mini-visit to BP this morning with just hot drinks and phone charging. The hot drinks are “pre-cupped” into coffee, green tea, black tea and chocolate, then fixed with masking tape. An empty cup is added to protect the top drink – as I found to my cost, when the granules in my top cup stuck to the tape!

 Later we finished making up 100 male hygiene packs with Sophie, Flora and Isaac. I knew Dave and Zoë were passing at 1pm to get the Shuttle, so I asked if it was ok for them to drop in for a tour. This was nice as they were able to see the warehouse and meet Jen quickly.


Meeting Dave and Zoe briefly (got to get those logos showing properly)!

We left for Dunkerque at 2pm. I did hot drinks and then some scaled-down first-aid with the kit that was in the minibus. One gentleman with lower leg sores I treated the previous week with paraffin gauze and bandages was now much better and only needed 4 hydrocolloid patches – impressive healing, but he is young and mobile.

There was a heavy thunder storm, so I treated another couple of people who had blisters under the cover of my car boot. Fortunately a volunteer was on hand to pull a tarpaulin over the 100 phone charger pallet powered by our generator.

phone charging 16 Aug

Phone charging in a rain storm – 10 x 10-socket chargers attached to a pallet and powered by a generator

Anne came for tea and we had omelette and pasta, then I dropped her off at hers and had an early night.

Monday 17th August – Distribution at BMX

Got to the warehouse at 9:40, hung out the washing and helped prepare the hot drinks for the afternoon’s distro. Then I packed the car for first aid at BMX, where there are men, women and teenagers, so I needed to include condoms and sanitary towels.

I spent some time washing plastic bottles and finding matching lids so that they can be used for filling with cooking oil as part of a food-pack. Items are re-used many times at Care 4 Calais, and little is wasted. Having said that, going to the déchetterie or tip was a job assigned to two volunteers every other day. I missed this outing, but I was delighted when Finn asked me to “take me to Decathlon, and step on it” for bike parts at about noon, and took the opportunity to buy myself some sports-glasses straps. Unfortunately I got two speeding tickets when I got home – both from separate runs to Dunkerque (note to self).

Sophie cooked an amazing lunch of dahl, rice, spinach leaves and melon, then we donned our PPE and drove to BMX. There were sudden heavy showers, so once again the tarpaulin was needed for the pallet with all the phone chargers!

I did first-aid “largely foot care and small wounds healing wonderfully under the circumstances” I wrote in my diary. I spoke to Safi – an Afghan refugee who was in the Jungle in 2016 – and Shona, who work for the Refugee Youth Service. They had a table set up with games, and here I met S again (the teenager from the week before, to whom I gave the eyedrops). His eye was now pale pink, and he’d been reading bits of the Michael Morpurgo novel Kensuke’s Kingdom. I left him my phone number and sent him a Friend request on Facebook.

The distro today was of jumpers (120) and I was on line monitoring. Any problems were soon sorted by retired-teacher and warehouse-manager Andy. I leant my phone charger to an asylum seeker called Philomon, and he returned it to me 10 minutes before we left.

Tuesday 18th August – Warehouse day instead of going to Brussels

Today was a day of shopping for and making-up of food packs. The first job was splitting 10kg bags of red lentils. A pint-capacity Sports Direct mug filled to the brim holds 500g, which need to be bagged to go in the food pack. It was a messy job, carried out on a tarpaulin on the cold warehouse floor, but the repetitiveness made it feel quite meditative.

In addition to the lentils, the packs contained:

1 litre cooking oil
2 tins tomatoes
Tuna, large tin
Halal chicken, tin
2 tins chick peas
500g pasta or rice
5 onions
1 garlic bulb
50 tea bags
200g sugar
1 litre UHT milk
Salt, spices
4 oranges

The food pack feeds 4 people, I thought it was for one meal (and quite generous), but I later learnt it was for three meals. I guess one day the protein component would be pulses, the next tuna and then chicken. The only way that would have provided adequate calories (for 12 adult main meals) would have been to use every last bit of the cooking oil. I can’t comment about the other nutrients – but compromises have to be made as each pack costs just €10, and all C4C’s funding is through donations.

food pack with Anne

It was a massive team effort to assemble these food packs – worth €10 each, and intended to provide 3 hot meals for 4 people

Finn and I went to Auchan to buy 522 oranges and 160 bulbs of garlic for the packs. The oranges came in 3kg nets, each containing 14 oranges. I emptied the shelf then asked a staff member for 27 more bags (37 bags in total). All the staff were really helpful, but the bill for the oranges alone was €259.

oranges and garlic

Garlic bulbs (pretty huge in France), and oranges, sterile until peeled. Expensive – but an important component of the food packs

The packs were arranged in rows on the warehouse floor, item by item, and, when complete, were bagged up, with the heaviest items on the bottom.

Finn made paella for lunch and we loaded the food packs in the afternoon and we had an early finish at 5pm. We went to the beach, and I was able to explore one or two of the graffitied WWII bunkers. I dropped a car load of sandy volunteers at The Family Pub, then drove the car back to my flat where I met Eleanor and we walked back into town. Had coq au vin with chips for €16, then we went to the Betterave bar round the corner for Ciaran’s birthday and played Rummikub. Anne slept at my flat again.


One of many hundreds of bunkers that formed part of Hitler’s ‘Atlantic Wall’ built between 1942 and 1944


Wednesday 19th August – Morning off, then Afghan Hospital

I collected Alex from her Airbnb near the railway station and we had a look round the book section of Auchan and a coffee before meeting Jen. Then we went to Le Channel Arts Centre and bookshop in a former abattoir, before attempting to visit the Auberge des Migrants (another aid charity). Unfortunately I took the wrong exit at a roundabout, and we ended up on the peage for Paris, unable to turn round for 17km, and then having to pay a €4.50 toll! We said a quick hello at the Auberge and got some info about their working hours, then went back to the warehouse for a lunch of tomato baguette.

le channel

Le Channel – performance space and arts centre in a former abattoir. But all that was open during lockdown was the bookshop.

Andy broke the news to us that the body of a Sudanese asylum seeker had been washed ashore at Sangatte early that morning. He had been trying to cross the Channel on a small boat at night with a friend, who was rescued and was now in hospital in Calais. Tears were shed, as we paused for a minute to reflect on the young man’s bravery and dignity.

In the afternoon, we were distributing the food packs we’d made up yesterday. The asylum seekers had to line up in groups of 4, so we had to be strict when they arrived in 2s or 3s and merge some groups. Sports mini-cones on the ground were useful markers.

I helped Sarah with sewing, mending the coat of an Afghan boy. Coats often fail under the arm, and it seems that this had happened before because the boy insisted in threading my needle with four strands of cotton, instead of the usual two. He had wristbands in the colours of the Afghan flag (red, green and black), and we practised the English words for them. Another asylum seeker called Moro brought Sarah and I a coffee, which was really thoughtful and much appreciated.

coat mending boy with wrist bands

This boy from Afghanistan was keen to have the under-arm rip in his coat mended, while we practised the English names for the colours of the Afghan flag on his wrist bands

This gave me the idea to procure a coffee for Noleen, busy on first-aid, who also appreciated it! I was then called back to sewing, as a queue had formed. An Ethiopian gentleman needed some trousers hemming – a lengthy job when sewing by hand. They were very high-quality shower-repellent fleece-lined trousers, and he was keen to have them altered. We pinned them to the correct length and started sewing and chatting. His English was excellent and he told me he had worked in marketing in Addis Ababa. He left Ethiopia in 2005 (we never ask why), and came through Niger, Libya and Italy. His friend had a physics degree and worked as a bus driver for Ethiopian Airlines. By now it was raining torrentially and we’d retreated to sew under the boot of my car, me hemming the right leg and the marketer hemming the left one!

trousers Addis Ababa

Taking up trousers for a gentleman from Addis Ababa who had worked in marketing

Back at the warehouse, I’d made the mistake of leaving my clothes outside in a bag, and they were sodden, so I had to but a shirt from the C4C charity shop – a corner of the warehouse where clothes not appropriate for asylum seekers are sold. Some clothes aren’t appropriate for the weather conditions, or are too conspicuous to the police. These can be sold to volunteers to raise much-needed funds.

charity shop

Clothes not suitable for asylum seekers, or that might raise more cash, are available for volunteers to buy

Because of the continuing rain, I dropped a couple of volunteers off on my way back to the flat, cooked, then later went to Eleanor’s Airbnb for a night in with a few of us plus Jonathan and his guitar.

Thursday 20th August – Dunkerque

Today was my last day in Calais, and Jen and I wanted to be able to say our goodbyes as well as getting some French groceries to take home, not least wine. At the 10am briefing, I offered to shop for and prepare lunch. This would allow me to complete at least the food part of my grocery shop at the same time at Auchan.

We were on a tight schedule as Dunkerque is a 35 minute drive from the warehouse, and a vigil had been arranged at 18:30 on Rue Royale for the teenager who had drowned the previous morning. Andy therefore asked me to make a quick cold lunch of baguettes.

I asked 2 or 3 people what their favourite filling was, and made a shopping list. There’s just one C4C credit card, and it was out with the group doing the Thursday BP mini-visit. By 11:00, I realised I was running out of time to shop and prep the meal, so I decided to use my credit card, which meant that I could include family shopping too.

I took a pile of bags for life to separate the C4C lunch and my personal items. Tim told me that the 6 new arrivals that day were all omnivores, so it would be good to include some ham, as well as the usual cheese and salad.

I found most things and got back for 12:00, recruiting Eleanor and Vanessa as my prep assistants, while I arranged the table and labelled the vegan food. Unfortunately, I left 2 bags of tomatoes I’d payed for at the checkout, so had to apologise to everyone for this!

Swift on the heels of lunch was distro briefing and task allocation. The distro was 120 large food packs. I volunteered to help Rebecca from Taiwan on sewing as I always enjoy this role. We quickly donned our PPE and leapt into our allocated vehicles.

We arrived at the country park in Dunkerque, where the migrants were camping in the trees. A week ago, their part of the woods had been felled and bulldozed by the French authorities, and the families – some with babies – lost everything. It was a sunny day, unlike our last distro there on Sunday in torrential rain.

Rebecca and I set out our stall on the grass in a little patch of shade by a small tree, putting the 2 sewing kits on display so people would know what we could do. Many of the ladies also like to pick up a mini sewing kit to use later.

A lot of the fabric patches were soaked from the storm Sunday, so we put them in the sun to dry. We soon had a customer, a Kurdish gentleman from Iran, who asked us to convert a fleece tube into a hat, by sewing a straight seam across the top. This was a nice easy job for Rebecca, so I got her started, then continued to dry and turn over the fabric patches, eventually emptying the whole box and giving it a clean.

sewing Dunkerque

Sewing in the sun at Dunkerque on our last day

We chatted to the owner of the new hat, and the conversation turned to where I was from, to which I replied Derby. After a few mispronunciations, he said “Ah, Durby County!” I knew we’d connected, thanks to the global lingua franca that is football. He asked if matches had resumed post-pandemic, and I was able to explain that they had, but with recorded audience sounds instead of a live crowd (I do listen with half an ear when my husband talks about football).

An hour later, our patches were dry and Rebecca had done a great job on the hat. I showed her the unravel-proof finishing stitch my mum taught me, and we gave it to our gentleman, who was very pleased and elbow bumped each of us. Rebecca chatted to a Kurdish chap with a beard while he carried out his own sartorial repair. 

We left early so we could attend the 6:30 vigil of the young man who had drowned. There was a silence, and some speakers including an asylum seeker from the Sudanese community. About 200 people were there, in a large circle in Place d’Armes. It was nice to see some Calais residents attending, as well as volunteers from the NGOs. Across the road, we could hear the French police chatting and laughing throughout, as well as videoing, which we’d been asked not to do.

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed my first stint of volunteering overseas. Parts of the experience were heartbreaking, but at other times our afternoon distributions felt like a holiday, meeting friends from around the world, watching them play football and smelling food cooking on the barbeque. But even in August, the weather was getting cold, and conditions must have been miserable sleeping rough with very little equipment. I hope to go back to Calais in January, so if you have any old camping gear or warm clothes, I’m happy to collect them. Or you can give financially here. Thank you!

Two of the asylum seekers I met in Calais made it to the UK while I was still in quarantine. I visited each of them in September. The Home Office has placed them in hotels, and they are trying as best they can to access English classes and stay motivated in these difficult times. I hope they both get leave to remain here.

Continue Reading »

This isn’t a running post! I’ve had a health problem for 16 years (since my 2nd pregnancy) that hasn’t been diagnosed, despite numerous scans and visits to gastro consultants and neurologists. I can’t be the only person with these symptoms, so I thought I’d write a blog post in hope of finding either an explanation or a fellow sufferer!

I was 6 or 7 months pregnant when the first attack came on. The main symptom was nausea such that I was unable to eat for 2 days. The fasting seemed to cure it, and I could then eat normally. I had one further attack during the pregnancy, and one when our daughter was 6 months old. Each time, fasting for 2 days was the only way to end the nausea.

Then nothing for 9 years. We were on holiday in Sardinia in 2010 when it struck again. The nausea felt identical so I fasted and it went. This time I had episodic attacks at home afterwards, so I started keeping a food diary. When I’m ill I can generally carry on doing what I’m doing (apart from being a bit sleepier than usual), and the longer into the fast I get, the better I feel.

I paid privately to have allergy testing, but nothing was detected.

In January 2012 I came across York Laboratories who diagnose food intolerances using a simple finger-prick test, where you send a blood sample through the post, which is then analysed for IgG antibodies against a a range of food and drink. The results looked like this, and correlated amazingly well with the food diary I had kept for 2 years.

York Test 2012

My York Laboratories IgG antibody test results. I had a further test in autumn 2014 and can now eat kidney beans, but remain intolerant to most of the other food and drinks listed

Bizarrely, the day I got my results, I’d had chilli con carne (kidney beans, right at the top of the list) for lunch and fell asleep on a course that afternoon. York Test’s advice was to cut out the foods scoring a 3 for 9 months, those scoring 2 for 6 months and those scoring 1 for 3 months. You get 2 x 30 minute phone calls with one of their nutritionists included in the £300 you pay for the test.

This worked with kidney beans, although I’m still careful not to have chilli 2 days in a row. Milk was much more difficult to eliminate as it’s present in a lot of baked goods in the UK, as whey powder, lecithin, skimmed milk powder etc. Obviously butter and cheese were out too, which meant the only pastry products I could buy were pork pies and certain steak pies, where the pastry is made with lard or vegetable margarine rather than butter. I immediately switched to soya milk, which I prefer over the other milk substitutes. Together with sunflower margarine Vitalite, soya milk makes wonderful cakes and pancake batter!

Yeast was a major headache as this is present on the surface of dried fruit and in tropical fruit. The only fruit I eat is a couple of small oranges 3 or 4 times a week. Also I had to cut out sugar as yeasts can only work in the presence of sugar. So I tried a sugar-free diet for 3 months, no wine or beer either (I did drink gin and whisky in small amounts).

I was much better for about 18 months, but when I tried reintroducing milk and yeast (very slowly as per York Test guidelines) I became ill again. So I’ve resigned myself to sticking to the dairy-free and yeast-free diet.

In the last couple of years I’ve had more attacks and they’ve been different in that I’ve had to stop all fluids during the fast. I can’t even swallow water after cleaning my teeth. I find having to go without water for 60 hours quite worrying, but my GP assured me there has been no permanent damage to my kidneys.

It takes a good few weeks to return to normal fluid intake, and I start with glucose or lemonade. Plain water instantly gives me pain in the sinus under my left eye. It’s not until 3 weeks after an attack that I can take plain water.

Low-level eye pain has been present for 10 years now and gets worse during attacks of nausea. It’s a useful little barometer in that it starts to hurt when I have too much water for the stage of recovery relative to an attack. If I’m going for a run, I can normally manage 500ml water on that day.

I’ve had some treatment along the way, but the following drugs haven’t helped: Omeprazole, Buccastem (anti-nausea drug that you put between your gum and teeth) and Amitriptyline. The only thing that I can do is to stick rigidly to the diet.

Being dairy- and yeast-free is easy at home, but going out for lunch can be difficult. Lunch menus often centre on bread and paninis, which are out of the question. A baked potato with tuna mayo or baked beans is fine, as is an all-day breakfast!

Evening meals in restaurants are better. Steak and chips is a favourite, ditto fish and chips. I always avoid mashed potato as it’s likely to contain milk and butter. Having chips with everything must make me look really unhealthy! Salad Nicoise is another option, but you need to make sure it’s not sabotaged with grated cheese or croutons.

Eating out abroad is difficult, and I take the precaution of writing my intolerances in the native language and showing it to the waiter, asking which dishes are suitable for me. My family are very patient with all this!

If any readers can shed light on these issues, or have similar symptoms, please get in touch! I think the doctors I’ve seen think it’s psychological, but the symptoms come on within seconds of having the particular food in my mouth, so I don’t think it can be.


soya favourites

Yeast- and dairy-free staples. Even pitta and naan breads contain yeast, while the wraps have sodium bicarbonate as the raising agent. The ice-cream is amazing – the whole family love it!

As a nurse, I worked with patients with Crohn’s disease. Along with ulcerative colitis, this is an inflammatory condition of the bowel, which can be debilitating for sufferers. Patrick (one of my patients) told me a story. He had been asked “If there’s one thing you could change about your body, what would it be?” Patrick said, “I’d like perfect eyesight,” not to be free of Crohn’s. He said that having Crohn’s had taught him a lot about himself. Although the condition is painful and, at times, embarrassing, Patrick wouldn’t change it.

It’s only now that I have come to understand what Patrick meant. Since acquiring the intolerances, I’ve learnt so much about food, about my own body, and about problem-solving that it really is part of who I am. I’ve learnt a lot, too, from other people with dairy intolerance. For instance, did you know that the only biscuits that are dairy-free are ginger nuts and bourbon creams? But it’s still worth checking these biscuits in case some rogue whey powder or lecithin sneaks in!

Unfortunately incidence of food intolerances are rising, and there is much that medical professionals do not know. The pragmatic way forward is simply to stick to a diet that suits you.



Limestone pavement cake

It’s about time I did another Yorkshire cake post, even though the Leeds Uni cake proved to be unlucky in the end. I got a flash of inspiration at the recent Airenteers Dales Weekend – grey clints from mouldable grey icing, flooded afterwards with green glacé icing for the grass in the grykes – easy!

no icingI did double quantity of my dairy-free chocolate mayonnaise cake. This nicely fills a 24 x 34cm baking tray and gives enough for the cliff layer and to cut off the burnt edges. The stile is made from the olive picks that come with our Graze boxes (and a lot of superglue)!

The cliff-face was textured with the imprint of a bracelet.

braceletI made the limestone blocks in mainly rectangular shapes, but started with a triangle formation, so that there was some randomness. I put a thin layer of butter icing to hold them in place, then piped the green into the gaps afterwards. You could put the rocks directly onto the green icing, but you would need to have made them all first, otherwise the icing would dry.


Dave with mapThe wall was held together with butter icing, and finished with an authentic layer of coping stones. I butchered some old maps to cover up the edges and found a Playmobil man that looked a bit like Dave and even made him a tiny map!

All together it took about 4 hours, and I have to say, I didn’t have the energy to add candles after all that. Happy Birthday Dave … I could have numbered one of the controls 54, but it was getting late!


finished cake from front

finished cake from above


We last ran this race in 2014 and found it quite tough, so this year we acted our age and entered the Short class, as a pair. This was 14.5km straight line distance, with a worrying 1350 metres of climb – the height of Ben Nevis! The forecast was double raindrops all day and Buttermere was looking inviting …

general view

But on the upside, the Start was in a huge barn!


Dave at Start

Off we trotted at 9:01, a few hundred metres up to map-issue, manned by my brother who got some good pics!

up to map issue

leaving map issue

The first leg was up the side of Robinson, via any one of three compulsory crossing-points on the ridge, and down to the checkpoint on a stream bend in Little Dale, 45 mins. Then it was over Hindscarth, flanking Dale Head to the SW, the checkpoint a tarn on High Scawdell, a hill (or rather, a flank of Dale Head) that I’d not been on before. It was unpleasantly wet and windy on the descent to Honister, but not too cold fortunately!


No 3 (the southern tip of the trace) involved the traverse of a boulder field below Raven Crag – twice, as the optimum route to No 4 involved a dog-leg. The traverse below Grey Knotts seemed to take ages, but it was an easy checkpoint at the junction of the path and an abandoned tram line (2 hrs 44 mins total).

altitude graphOur strategy to No 5 (south end of Blackbeck Tarn) was to contour then climb, as the GPS trace above doesn’t show the crags that were on our race map. We took a bit of a duff –but safe – route choice to No 6 via the tourist path over Haystacks, which was quite rocky, so we lost a bit of time here, as some rivals got to Scarth Gap before us. Then it was a quick descent back to Gatesgarth Farm, finishing in 4 hrs and 8 mins. Actual distance was 19.4 km (compared with 14.5 straight line) and 1347m climb (exactly as advertised). Altitude profile above, showing the dip at 2 hrs when we crossed the road at the top of Honister Pass.

Podium Catering had set up in the barn for the post-race meal of chilli n taco – most welcome!! John got another photo of us …


We’d had a good day out on our Short course, but we heard when we downloaded that runners on Long and Medium had been called in from a manned half-way checkpoint due to the bad weather. Some speedy folks managed to finish before the decision had been taken, Results here.

On the way home, my brother texted that we were 3rd in the pairs class and had won a voucher for Pete Bland Sports : ) A big thanks to the race organisers, especially all those taking numbers at the checkpoints in all that rain. We’ll be back next year – Short is just right!

This was my first trip away with Belper Harriers. The race was harder than expected, but we had a cracking weekend!

Rachel organised this as a girls trip, and booked Alnwick Youth Hostel for about 20 of us – the early risers for the Marathon & Ultra races in one dorm and those for the Half and 10k in another couple of dorms.


With Wendy, after Registration at Bamburgh Castle

It’s an A–B race, with everyone finishing at Bamburgh Castle early–mid afternoon. So the start times are staggered, the Ultra starting at 8:20, the Marathon at 9:30 – you get the idea. We had to drive to register at Bamburgh and get bussed back to the Start. Registration was in the old stables & we collected our number, dibber and whatever variety of Cliff Bar that took our fancy.


Good thing we were allowed an extra layer for the bus as it was pelting it down during the pre-briefing … and when we got to the Start, one of the feather banners snapped in the wind!


Briefing before the bus to the Start at Alnwick Castle. Fortunately this was the worse weather of the day!

I wished Wendy good luck and off we went. The first 6 miles or so were thru fields, tracks and minor roads down to the coast at Alnmouth – quite fiddly but well signed. From Lovers’ Lane there’s a lovely terrace of pastel coloured ‘Balamory’ houses, then you hit the coast. It’s a good feeling, as it’s here that you embark on the race proper.

Several sections were along the beach and I ran in the water every now and again to nip any blisters in the bud. The exits from each beach sections were marked with a feather banner – which  always seemed to be getting smaller rather than bigger  :O

The 2nd checkpoint (12.9 miles) was a mile so south of Craster and I got there in 1:59. Jelly Babies, bananas and crisps were the standard fayre – but you had to get the crisps opened for you otherwise it would be salty confetti, it was so windy!

Next highlight was spotting the Harriers bobble hats at the Half Marathon Start. They were just taking a group photo when I ran through! Soon they overtook me tho, on fresh legs.


Harriers Hat Half-marathon Start! Photo: Lizzy Nay

The romantically ruined Dunstanburgh Castle was next, then another long beach to Checkpoint 3 at 19 miles. The next miles to CP 4 at 25 miles were the worse and I was contemplating opting for the Marathon instead of the 35 mile Ultra, but when I got to the checkpoint, the thought that I only had 11 more miles to do gave me a second wind!

Seahouses was pretty. The last beach was long, and – worse – doing the Ultra you had to loop past Bamburg Castle and run along it twice. But at least I felt on the home straight by now & got a fantastic cheers from Rachel, Claire & other Harriers at the Finish.


The Finish at Bamburgh Castle. Photo: Lizzy Nay

The loop continued along the coast across a golf course with views of Lindisfarne Castle (apt: oldies will remember the band’s 1978 single, Run for Home), then turned inland on minor roads and finally repeating the last mile of beach. The thought of a sub-7 hour time kept me pushing, but in the end it was 7:02. I was pretty delighted with this, especially after finding the 2nd Female Vet 50 had done 7:04!


Happy to have stopped running! Photo (and duvet jacket): Claire Sheldon

Claire met me at the Finish with cake ‘n’ crisps and lent me her duvet jacket. I watched a few finishers climb up to the castle, then drove back to the YH for a shower ‘n’ chill before a great meal at Lilburns’ in Alnwick where the anti-inflammatory Pinot Grigio flowed!

Here’s a link to the EnduranceLife Coastal Trail Series events. My Women’s over 50 prize was a £10 voucher for entry into another race. I see this one scored 2/5 for difficulty and all the others are harder … so maybe not, but I’m glad I did it!

Come along to No 28 on January 2nd and try Urban orienteering! For those of you who’d like to know a little bit more about the Belper map, I’ve written this post. Read it, and I guarantee it’ll save you 5 or 10 minutes on Jan 2nd if you’re new to orienteering ; )


Poster for the Belper Urban race – the course is just a made-up example to give an idea of how orienteering works in a town. The green is private land, which you cannot cross, so the distances on Urban courses are always 20-30% longer than advertised!

Orienteering came to the UK from Sweden in the 1960s, so the first thing to say about ‘O’ maps is that the symbols are international. Top-end orienteers compete world wide, and even recreational orienteers will often plan a holiday around a multi-day event in an exotic location. I’ve orienteered in the four Scandinavian countries, France, Hungary, Switzerland, Lithuania, the USA, Australia and New Zealand!

In O maps, use of colour is counter-intuitive, as we map runability, not what’s actually on the ground.  This helps orienteers make route-choice decisions: is it quicker to run though forest with brambles, or go three sides of a square, but along a path? So there’s a continuum from white through to dark green, with white being runable forest, light green denser forest (we call it ‘forest walk’) to dark green ‘forest fight’ – rhododendrons, gorse, holly or felled trees where you have to crawl under or climb over the trunks. Don’t go there if at all possible!

Open land (grass) is mapped as yellow and again there’s a continuum of this to white, so that a few scattered trees on grass is mapped as yellow with regular white spots, in something we call ROST (rough open with scattered trees). Are you enjoying the lingo so far?!


St Peter’s Church Yard, showing the rough open scattered trees (ROST) symbol. The white round the edge is continuous trees.

You can see that there’s quite a lot here that’s open to interpretation, and although I’ve been orienteering for 27 years, I would find mapping a forest just too daunting.

In 2001 our club Derwent Valley Orienteers (and all 120 O clubs in the UK) were unable to hold competitions on many of our countryside areas due to sanctions to control the foot and mouth outbreak. So orienteers began mapping towns and cities to hold events there.

Urban orienteering offers the same challenges of planning and executing a route while running at speed that normal orienteering poses. Orienteering has been compared to playing chess while sprinting, and mistakes are made because oxygen debt builds up when you are running too fast and misinterpret the map.

This year I’ve done Urban races in Edinburgh, Whitby, Grimsby, Manchester, Liverpool and Todmorden. I’m quite evangelistic about the excitement of Urban, and got it in The Guardian Weekend Magazine’s Body: How I Work It column in September. The journalist did a great job, as did the photographer, who was jetting off to LA to shoot will.i.am two days after my photoshoot! Does anyone recognise where the photo was taken?

DVO has mapped Chesterfield, Matlock, Wirksworth, Ripley and Ashbourne for Urban orienteering. Our best non-urban areas are Eyam Moor, Birchen Edge, Stanton Moor, Chinley Churn (photos from our September event), Crich Chase and Shining Cliff Woods (we have an event there 29th January 2017). We have a lot more areas mapped, but these latter are of such a technical standard they would pull orienteers from all over the country. Lower down the scale we have a number of parks and grounds of National Trust properties, which are great for beginners.


This poster shows areas where DVO has held events in 2016. I’m working on one for 2017 now!

I’ve lived in Belper for 20 years and offered to map it for the club’s annual New Year Urban event (2nd January 2017). I find Urban racing much easier than forest running as buildings are either there, or not there. There’s nothing half-way about a building, whereas with contours we have a half-contour symbol called a form line, which looks like a contour, but is dashed. Contours are mapped at 5 metre intervals, and the form line is used for prominent features not big enough to merit a contour.

So Urban mapping is largely a case of tracing streets and buildings from a base map, using a CAD package called, yes, you’ve guessed it, O-CAD. The only skills needed are persistence and attention to detail, as even the curb edges are mapped, as well as things like islands at road crossings.

I started the map in January 2016 and had a couple of O-CAD lessons from Mike, DVO’s mapping supremo. The scale of an Urban orienteering map is 1:5000. Compare this to the OS Explorer maps at 1:25000 and you can see that it’s a lot more detailed. A square km on Explorer is 4cm x 4cm, but on an Urban O map it’s 20cm x 20cm. Every building is shown remarkably clearly. Grass verges are mapped, as are individual trees in town streets.

The first job was to trace the buildings, which took a couple of weeks. The next step required more thought. Remember I said that conventional orienteering map symbols represent runability? The Urban symbol set represents permissability. Private land (gardens etc.) are shown as olive green and public tarmac’d areas as pale brown. Grass is yellow, runable forest is white, as in forest O.


The Clusters, Christ Church, Belper Library, Green Lane and Mill Street

You can see Belper Library at the bottom left, above. Each tree at the front is shown, the grass behind is shown as yellow, with the trees as white. The single tree on the lawn is shown as a small green dot (trunk circumference less than 30cm). Of course it’s a bigger green dot for larger trees, like the oak just showing on the southern tip of The Triangle. You can see Long Row playground marked with the pink out-of-bounds symbol, rather than olive green. This is because it’s useful to show for navigation purposes, even tho you can’t cross it.

Walls and fences have two symbols depending on whether they are crossable or uncrossable. Not physically crossable, note, but whether or not you are allowed to cross them! Yes, it’s confusing and, yes, people do get disqualified (58 people were disqualified for crossing out-of-bounds wild-flower meadows at the British Sprint Championships at the Olympic Park this year; not me tho, I got 3rd place in my age group!). Anyway these are the rules and the sport must be fair.

So once all the buildings are traced onto the map, the next step is the boundaries of the private land, shown in olive. Technically this should be an uncrossable wall or fence, but because you’re not allowed to cross olive, adding a bold black line around it would be overkill (the map looks less cluttered if only essential or helpful symbols are used). So we use the thin black line that denotes a ‘step or edge of paved area’. The uncrossable wall symbol is used round the railway in the Clusters extract above, and uncrossable fence is used at the edge of the football pitch.

Next come the outlines of the roads and pavements, and this is done with Google Street View open on another laptop. It’s a very time consuming job to get the curves nice and smooth! Then there’s adding the colour, which can be done quickly if it’s simply a case of filling in a closed area, but often it isn’t that simple.

All told, I must have spent about 300 hours on the map, spread over 6 months. During the last 2 months I was checking the map on the ground, scrawling amendments onto a tracing paper overlay and taking photos, and then amending it on the computer. When I handed the file back to Mike in June, I felt like I’d got my life back, and I’m very grateful for all the hours he’s put in this autumn checking things.

Not all his changes are things I’ve missed, however! New features do appear, cases in point being the new B&M/Aldi store and the trim trail up on the Parks.

Once working version of the map is available, I started planning the seven courses that we’ll offer on January 2nd. The longest course, Men’s Open (for men age 21-34) will be 7.5 km with roughly 25 checkpoints, and the shortest will be for Juniors under 12, maybe 2 km, with about 15 checkpoints. We use a program called PurplePen for this, and I’ll discuss the courses in detail with the race controller, who will suggest improvements and advise on safety. For instance, the two longest courses will likely go into the River Gardens, so to avoid people running across the A6, I’ll have a timed-out crossing at some pedestrian lights, with checkpoints either side. Electronic timing means that the time taken to cross can easily be deducted.

The Belper event is on January 2nd from No 28 The Market Place, and everyone will start at 11am (this ‘mass start’ is quite unusual in orienteering, but we always use it at our New Year events because it means you have longer to put out all the checkpoints in the morning, and people are generally back by 12 or 1pm).

You can see what events we have coming up on our Facebook page (go on, have a look & give us a Like!), or on the Fixtures tab of the DVO website. British Orienteering have a great Guide for Newcomers and I love the fact that our sport needs its own dictionary! Do you know what a re-entrant is?!

Entry to the Belper Urban costs just £3.50 for Courses 6 and 7, which have been planned for Juniors, families and Adult Beginners.

The longer courses cost £8 to enter on the day (£7 if you enter online before Dec 28th, see link below), still £3.50 for Juniors/Students. The event is part of the UK Urban League, in which orienteers compete against others in their age group. We have an online entry system as there’ll be more competitors from further afield.


The Market Place area, from where the event will start. In the top right, the Nag’s Head kindly allowed me to map their beer garden! And I’ve got permission from Belper Town Council to put a checkpoint or two in the Memorial Gardens (bottom left). I’ve had to ask Mike to add the Prominent tree symbol for the Christmas tree!

Memory Lane Cards is branching into Tube map birthday and wedding anniversary cards this year. I’ve only been Grazing for 4 years, and don’t have an unlimited supply of snack boxes. So I’ve concentrated on 17th to 24th birthdays (I think it’s a bit sad when your card no longer celebrates your age, apart from 18 and 21), and 16th to 25th wedding anniversaries.


These little cards are just 75p each, or £1.50 with p&p

The idea first came to me when making a card for my in-laws’ 54th anniversary, so do let me know if you’d like to order a card not in my range as I can easily make one (and personalise it with the date of the wedding).


Wedding anniversary cards are £1.50, or £2.25 with p&p

It’s a tad awkward to get a lot of anniversaries into the Graze box format, so I decided to make panels for bottle bags, as these are longer (& double sided)! I considered selling the finished bags, but decided that upcycling was central to my mission, hence the DIY kits. Plus it’s cheaper.


I’m not sure where Bingo Lingo came from, but it has that same nostalgic feel as the Tube map. And the 1 to 90 sequence has some interesting allusions. Some calls are obvious rhymes or references to life events, such as Dancing Queen and Old Age Pension (sadly no longer 65 these days). Others have more obscure origins; Doctor’s orders (9), for instance, refers to Pill Number 9 in the Army, which was for constipation. Wikipedia states that Dirty Gertie is a reference to Gertrude, the nickname for a bronze statue of a naked woman, installed in Finchley in 1927 by Daily Mail and Mirror founder Lord Rothermere.


Most people have old bottle bags kicking around at home; if not, it’s a trip to Morrisons. The finished article looks like this:


And finally, here’s a Wordle card I made of some of my favourite places in Belper:

Belper Wordle.png

The Wordle card is 75p. Suggestions welcome for a Wordle card of your town!


This is a 20 mile linear race along most of the gritstone edges of the Peak District, organised by Edale Mountain Rescue Team. The route starts at Fairholmes (between Derwent and Ladybower Reservoirs) and finishes at the Robin Hood pub just east of Baslow.

Busses are arranged to get you back to your car at Fairholmes, but we’d had to travel in two cars as I needed to go to Manchester straight after the race, so I dropped my car at the Robin Hood and jumped in with Dave and Ned to go up the the start – all the time thinking “I’ve got to run all this to get back!”

After a midgey start, I realised my water bottle was leaking badly, so drank all I had before any more was lost! The 1000ft climb up to Derwent Edge wasn’t (quite) as bad as I expected, and I was up at Checkpoint 1 at 35 mins. This was the only significant climb in the race and it was great to run down along the slabs past all the tors. We then swung east towards the second checkpoint at Moscar Lodge, before crossing over onto Stanage.


Even this long section whizzed by (I’m quite seasoned to maintaining flat speed after my 2 Glasgow-Edinburgh canal races!) and I got to the Fiddler’s Elbow Checkpoint at exactly 2 hours into the race, stopping briefly to guzzle some jelly babies and water.

The track just below Burbage was another gentle descent, but I did start to tire going through Longshaw and along Froggatt and Curbar. At this point, the end was near, and it was nice to get a cheer from clubmates Paul and Roger near Wellington’s Monument. A final uphill push up to the bottom of Birchen, and then down through the bracken to the Robin Hood, where we were issued with our free drink voucher, and, more to the point, finished running!


Post-race rehydration!

I met Dave and Ned and got my pint, happy with my time of 3 hours 38 – especially as this took the pressure off my airport trip later in the day. There was a great atmosphere at the end, as well as during the race, as it was nice to say ‘hi’ to all the walkers who had started before us. Dave was pretty impressed that some do a climb on all of the edges (adding distance and climb) and still finish before he did!

The locations for my ready-made cards (£2 each, plus £1 if postage is needed) are shown on the map. But – from Oban down to Bude – I’m always adding new places as I make more cards!


Please click Order Form if you would like to order a customised card, based on a specific UK location (these are £5, but extra cards the same are £2 each – the main work is capturing the images of the old maps). Or, if you prefer, you can leave the typography and colour scheme to me and just email the post code or street address.

Just a quick preview of some of the reservoir cards. Others in this series are Rudyard Water, Kinder Reservoir (1899) and Fernilee Reservoir in the Goyt Valley (1938). Finished in 1798, Rudyard Water is one of the oldest reservoirs in the country. It was constructed to feed the Caldon Canal, which is a Staffordshire branch of the Trent-Mersey Canal. I couldn’t find any maps from before the reservoir, but it made a nice card anyway as the 1950s map has the working railway, which is now a footpath.

reservoir Carsington

Carsington (constructed 1980s) is our local reservoir and a favourite place to walk, run or cycle.

reservoir Ladybower.png

What a lot of us think of as Ladybower Reservoir in the Peak District is in fact three reservoirs: Howden (1901-12), Derwent (1902-14) and Ladybower (1935-43).

reservoir Haweswater.png

One problem with using my usual GrazeBox mounts for the reservoir maps is that they aren’t quite big enough to explore properly all the now-submerged hamlets on the 1890s maps, so I’ve upscaled on this card I made of Haweswater for my father who lives in the Lake District!

Dam construction began in 1929 and farms and houses were demolished. Bodies in the churchyard had to be exhumed and moved to Shap. The church was dismantled and the stone was used in the dam. There must be so many stories to tell with these reservoirs …

I’ve been saving the boxes from my Graze snacks for 4 years now, thinking of giving them to the local Scouts or Guides for crafts. But in August 2014, I had a eureka moment, when thinking what birthday card to make for my father-in-law, a retired Geography teacher and author!

I knew of the National Library of Scotland website as a source of old maps as I’d been researching my family tree and trying to locate addresses from nineteenth century census records. So I thought, four maps of the village of Corfe Castle, where my father-in-law now lives, and this was my first card.


Each card takes about an hour to make and shows a 2km2 area of map across about 120 years. It’s often fascinating to watch farmland change into suburbs, as happened in this card, made for a friend who grew up in Sheffield!


This card of Dawlish, in Devon, is the first one I’ve done of a coastal town…


Others in the coastal series are Blackpool, Lytham, Fleetwood, Southport and Formby (west coast), as well as Skegness, Whitby, Scarborough, Bridlington and Robin Hood’s Bay (east coast).

…and I’ve made lots centred on parts of Belper that are going to be stocked in the Belper North Mill Museum gift shop, selling at £2.

snowy belper

The cards will be plain, but there’s a small ‘Mappy Birthday!’ and ‘Mappy Christmas!’ tag included in the packaging so you can use them for either occasion!

What Cathy Read Next...

For book lovers everywhere

Two feet & two wheels

Wandering but not lost!

The Brockbank Family of Hawkshead

Exploring Brockbank family history in Cumbria

Graham and Val go Coast to Coast

Seattle to Boston - this time, it's personal.

Fight the Good Fight

Voices of faith From the First and second world wars

Sal's Mapping Blog

Making Urban Orienteering Maps for Derwent Valley Orienteers

The Armers of Lancashire

Exploring the Armer family tree

God knows what...

An irreverent look through the worlds of religion, anthropology, psychology and skepticism


follow our adventures in ultrarunning!

Streets Have No Name

A Blog for All and None


music / films / literature / life in general

Relentless Tenacity

Preparing for the journey

leg it

Preparing for the journey

Ultra Runner Girl

Writing about running, war zones, and everything in between

Sal's Ultra Blog

Preparing for the journey