After the joys of Kenton’s visit and filming with the BBC One Show, we were all on a high. And John O’Groats felt like a next-door-neighbour. But we weren’t quite there. Not quite.
We were catching two tides a day. One in the early morning. Resting in the middle. One in the evening. The problem was that we were crossing an enormous bay in between Dublin and Newcastle (in Ireland not England) and it was totally slack, without current. Sean was feeling pretty flu-like and sick. Jellyfish were in their hundreds in the evening. We weren’t sleeping very well. Things weren’t too easy. Why hadn’t Kenton experienced this?! And on top of that, we had to be in Newcastle to do a live broadcast to the BBC One Show. And we were days away. So we made the decision to motor there, just to make sure we didn’t miss it. But that meant we would have to go backwards once it was all over.
Newcastle. Newcastle. Newcastle. Not only did we do an Outside Broadcast with the BBC One Show which went spectacularly. (Conway pulled it out the bag. Even David Walliams said ‘It’s actually quite annoying’ in response to Sean’s challenge). We were also put up in the Slieve Donard Hotel. In the big dog suites. With use of the spa, pool and all. We went out for curries to celebrate and things were looking up again.
It was good we had lots of energy because we then had to attempt the journey backwards to the bay of doom. Jez fought against strong currents to get there but we just didn’t make it so anchored at Kilkeel for the night. On day 47 we finally made it after 5pm. Jez had barely left the captain seat for two days. And the ginger started getting the miles in. Just our luck, gale warnings were issued on the radio. So we had to hide in Kilkeel, attached to the immense fishing boats (I quite fancy the fishermen) (Jez quite fancies the boats).
While we hid from the storms, which didn’t seem to come, I decided to cause some extra drama and dropped our team wallet in the harbour. I was angelically climbing up the ladder to go and buy breakfast and I heard a little splash. No louder than a goldfish. After nearly squashing myself in between the boats and using every contraption around, a very kind man got into full diving gear and went hunting for it. No luck. I was in the bad books. I’ve decided I will be known on this trip for getting sea sick and losing the wallet. Oh dear. On the plus side we were given beautiful fresh fish, which was filleted for us. And our laundry was done. And we were given lifts to the shops. God people are nice.
The next few days were my favourite explorations over this side of the Irish Sea. With the discovery of brown lemonade with Jez in Annalong. I swam with Sean and phosphorescene (terrified) at 2am in the freezing cold. Finally crossed the slack bay. Visited Killough where some kids thought we were pirates. They raised flags to scare us away. And we left at the same time. So they sent letters to their town informing everyone of their triumph. Brilliant. We made friends in Annalong.
On day 53 we saw Scotland. At around the same time, the yacht battery went bust. And then amazing Simon and Simon came to the rescue. The only two people in the water (on SUP and kayak) and the only car on the beach, had a battery, jump leads and all. Legends. The next few days we raced to get to Scotland. We started crossing over to mainland early. With jellyfish stings up Sean’s nose. Cold cold cold water. Porpoises all around us. Strange eddys in the water and random rushes of waves. We made it 12 miles from Scotland. We could practically touch it.
But ten forced rest days arrived. The expedition was meant to be finished by now. So Jez had to go to London to start his new job in the school as the nutty professor. Owain had some days off with his family and then went home to work from there. I went to Cumbria to see my boyfriend who I had been away from for two months, but only had two days because we were considering crossing to Scotland unsupported – luckily that didn’t happen.
We are two thirds of the way through Swimming Britain in distance. And time. Bring on Scotland.
My only idea of Ireland was four leaf clovers, leprechauns, Guinness and ‘top of the morning to you’. I would advise you not to mention some of these things to your Irish friends when you first meet them.
Rosslare was my first Irish experience. And it is essentially a ferry terminal. After the crossing from Wales, we spent a couple of days drinking Guinness, washing our clothes, sleeping, eating, trying to show our ID to the local police and attempting to speak in an Irish accent. We also spent an extra day hiding from tornadoes that were expected, after we attempted to get back in the water.
Unfortunately we were still 18 miles off the coast. The current was pulling us further north and so we had kept going away from land. We experienced every type of wave. With huge rollers. Small choppy waves. Side waves. Big waves. Medium waves. Small waves. And with no land marks. I was getting irritated with being away from land. But by Arklow, we were in sight of Ireland itself. And boy was I happy.
We were swimming two tides a day with phosphoresce and jellyfish all around us at night. The weather was cold. Sean was feeling tired and demotivated after days at sea. The yacht got caught on a lobster pot. We anchored out at sea and spent most of the night sleeping on the floor. We were wearing cold, damp wetsuits. We were feeling pretty tired.
And then. Sean’s friend/ professional swimmer, Kent Kirkwood arrived. And gave the ginger a real nudge up the bottom. We were on day 38 of the expedition and the next few days were idyllic. Strong currents. Beautiful weather. Perfectly flat. Calm anchorage. It was almost embarrassing. Kent is going to go back to South Africa and tell all his friends how easy it was?! But it was amazing to have a new burst of energy for Sean and we did our biggest miles on these days. All while being tourists in Ireland with Dublin and Hauth en route. Kent slept on a wee-covered floor and became part of the team. I became a mother to two children. And Kent was my favourite. Sorry Sean.
Just so we wouldn’t get post-visitor blues after Kent’s visit, Owain (PR god) had arranged for the BBC One Show to spend the morning with us. I managed to head butt the boat, get wiped out by waves and sound posher than I normally do. We were all buzzing. Little did we know the days ahead we going to be quite so tough. Obviously we didn’t know. But you’ll just have to find out from my next blog what happened next…
I actually think I understand what Christopher Columbus felt the first time he spotted America. Ok. Well that is a slight exaggeration but crossing the Irish Sea made me feel on the same level somewhat.
Ocean crossings have been the toughest part of this trip for me. No sight of land. Constant sailing as you’re unable to anchor, which means shifts through the night to make sure you don’t crash into a ship. Considering I left my glasses at home, my watch was slightly unnerving. Especially considering I’m scared of the water, things are splashing around, it’s cold and raining, and I can’t actually see what direction the monster ferry is going (these ferries take 7 1/2 miles to stop after that press the emergency stop button just to give you some scale on their enormity). On top of that, I seem to have no in-built compass. Maybe that’s because I’m a girl. But when I’m heading north and the tide is pulling me south and I can’t tell whether I’m going round in circles, the whole process can get quite irritating.
We experienced days at sea with no sleep, huge waves, dreaded hair, torrential rain and steaming ships while dolphins jumped around us, phosphorescence glowed in the night and all the while, I could have been paddling in circles. Once we were 18 miles from Irish land, we decided to try and motor to shore for some sleep and food. Jez settled in for a eight hour sail and the Irish Sea decided to show us what she was made of. The wind picked up. The boat was flying. And all the stuff in it. As were we. The kayak capsized off the back and stared sinking. ‘Friday While’ started flooding. Water was filling up from the bottom of the boat. The wind tore the sail slightly. The table fell off. The bit of wood that holds the mast snapped (Jez will love my technical chat). So by the time we reached Ireland we were tired, wet and covered in bruises.
But we made it.
I had been planning a trip to Ireland in November this year. I was going to fly to Dublin. Eat and drink my way round the city. Fly home. And say I had been to Ireland. Instead I kayaked here with one crazy eyed skipper at the helm, one bearded PR guru and one ginger weirdo. And we were about to kayak up the whole coast. Hello Ireland.
Over a year ago, I started bonding with ginger adventurer, Dave Cornthwaite. This started a life-changing chain of events. From reviewing his book, Date. To stand-up paddle boarding 1001 miles down the Missouri River as the blogger on his support team as he swam it. To being crew captain on fellow ginger, Sean Conway‘s Lands End to John O’Groats swim.
And in that space of time, Cornthwaite has completed the Missouri swim, whizzed around Europe on an Eliptigo and whacked out yet another book.
Six years after quitting a job in order to chase his passions, Dave Cornthwaite hit a crossroads: one way, consistency, and the other, adventure. Driven by a promise never to get caught up in the rat race again, his life became a resolution to travelling slow, appreciating life by moments, welcoming the kindness of strangers and embracing as many new opportunities as possible.
From the relative solitude of a 3000 mile sailing voyage across the Pacific to a dangerous yet soul-enriching ride through the American South on a unique four-wheeled Bikecar, Dave’s determination, grit and indomitable humour is matched by candid storytelling that will have you selling all your stuff and rethinking your priorities before heading out in search of a life changing adventure.
And this is all wrapped up in a damn cute love story. I am even in love with the super lovely Emily Penn. So if you’re a sucker for a happy ending in the world of adventure and love, then get your mitts on his book here.
Back with a bang. Blurry from the weekend. Jez was up at 2am to get us back to Hartland Quay to dump the ginger in the water and start the crossing to Lundy. This was going to be a week in the open ocean, where we wouldn’t be able to anchor; so that means constant sailing through the night. We had barely started and I was already falling asleep in the kayak. I actually started sleep talking. I know. Worrying.
We were being pushed in every single direction. This was one of my most irritating days on the expedition. I was navigating using a compass but we were almost going round in circles. There was nothing I could do. Nothing I could aim for. I just had to follow Jez but we were being drifted so far away from him. The tide then changed and we hadn’t made the point we needed to so that we could use it. We finally called it a day and head for Lundy. An island with only 28 residents, filled with puffins and seals, that has been owned by Kings and pirates, costs £5 to step onto, with a little local tavern that we settled into.
The next few days were filled with tankers, odd tides, the open ocean, boiling hot weather, seals, sailing the boat through the night, lots of custard creams, puffins, calm seas and the sighting of Wales. On day 21 of the expedition, we were finally whizzing along the Welsh headland. And after a day of headlands we were suddenly crossing Milford Haven shipping channel. At this moment, 100’s of birds flew around Sean and me as we paddled across. Previously before that, Sean and I got uncontrollable hysterics. And previously before that we had put my paddle in the sky for a feed. Jez was livid. The one moment on the whole trip we just needed to keep going, Sean was being slow. Luckily Jez has immaculately timed it and while Owain peered through a set of binoculars, we missed two tankers with perfect timing.
We celebrated the Welsh arrival with cake and bubbly. The following days saw caves, ship wrecks and rumours of a Maco shark in the area. And then Jack Sound. A perilous channel with strong currents and rocky obstacles. This was our final task before steak in St. David’s. Bring on two days of rest. Rare meat. Onion rings. Beers. Interviews with Simply Swim. Cathedrals. Ice cream. Errands. Shopping. And Haribo re-stock.
And a major route change. We would now be leaving the Welsh coast and heading for… Ireland. Bring on the Lucky Charms, leprechauns and four leaf clovers. So we are now sitting above ‘Friday While’, waiting to board and to venture back to Jack Sound. And the next leg of our journey.
We will be in the open ocean for the next five days. And will report back on the other end.
Let the journey continue.
Everyone in the world loves kittens, cookies and dolphins. Well actually everyone but me. Kittens kind of freak me out. And dolphins terrify me. Yup they actually terrify me. I know. I guess it’s the fin like presence that reminds me of a shark. It’s the sudden appearance on the water that scares the shit out of me. So I am still getting used to their presence in the water. Anyway back to the point.
From Newquay, the expedition changed. We were all getting into a routine and actually eating a normal amount. When you are supporting someone, their needs are first. You forget to eat and drink and the team were starting to actually look after themselves as well.
From this point on, we were on an endurance adventure. The perfect balance between endurance and adventure with an early and late tide. We moored in idyllic coves, cooked marshmallows on campfires, filmed, swam, photographed, kayaked, visited King Arthur’s castle, caught fish, built campfires, fixed the rib, played crazy golf, swam more, explored secret coves, collected items for the hoarder, swam in private pools.
On day 12, we reached Hartland Quay from Welcome Mouth (yes it is actually called that?!). After some cider and pork scratchings in a very cool fisherman’s pub, we headed to the beach to cook our fish and marshmallows on a fire. After we were full and ready for bed, we got ready to leave and realised, we were going nowhere. Camping on a beach sounds idyllic and it is when you have more than some netting to use as a blanket. Owain’s shoes melted underneath. My jacket was covered in burn holes as we practically slept in the fire. But while I was freezing, I loved it. How often do city slickers get to eat their freshly caught fish on the fire, washed down with some wine and marshmallows and then curl up in front of the fire with Medusa’s hair for a blanket? Not often. And that’s exactly what we did.
After our beach antics, we reached Clovelly. A pedestrian only village. The perfect location for a cult. Privately owned, this little cobbled place is perched on a hill and can only be reached by foot or boat. And it was the perfect end point before a weekend off. What we were going to do without each other for three days, was a scary thought. But off we went. Filled with cream teas and cider.
We are getting into the swing of things. Getting the ‘child’ ready at every moment of the day is a full-time job. I feel like a mother in training. He bleets when he wants something. I pick up after him. I wash his urine covered clothes. I’m joking. (sort of) He’s a very well behaved child but I am in training. And I kept the baby monitor with me at all times over the weekend.
If you’re scared of snakes, you don’t ask for one for your birthday and call it Bob. If you’re scared of the dark, you probably sleep with the light on. And if you’re scared of hugging, you probably dodge that bullet wherever you can. Well I’m scared of the water. And again this summer, I have decided to support a ginger nutter as he attempts to swim a ridiculous distance. Last summer, I stand-up paddle boarded 1001 miles down the Missouri River supporting Dave Cornthwaite as he swam the distance for CoppaFeel breast cancer awareness charity. A year later, I am sitting on a little yacht called Friday While, as I kayak Lands End to John O’Groats supporting Sean Conway as he attempts to become the first person to swim the distance for WarChild UK.
Sean Conway (middle). Ginger. Swimmer. Cries like a baby for food, drinks and massages. Penchant for wearing very little pants.
Owain Wyn –Jones (left). PR god. Dab hand at photography, filming and running the in-house café. Very good at bumping his head on the boat and carrying heavy things.
Jez Fielden (right). Skipper. King of the ship, lord of all beach explorations and the man who finishes everything, especially coffee and Haribo.
Now let’s get back to the beginning. Sunday 30th June. Our start date. Despite a cloudy sky, a delayed skipper and inconvenient tides, Sean swam and I kayaked, with the tide, from Sennen Cove back to Lands End to start the epic adventure. This took 30 minutes. And the return journey took 2 ½ hours. With our friends and family on the rocks. Dolphins jumping around us. We made it back. Speedo kit intact. And a realisation of how immense this challenge was going to be.
Day two is blurred with two words. Sea. Sickness. I have no words to explain how I felt this day. When you are sea sick on holiday, you can lie in a pool of your own vomit and feel sorry for yourself. But when you’re on expedition, as crew captain, you need to man up. Which is hard when you are completely and utterly unable to move. So in between vomits and with sick in my hair, I attempted to prepare protein shakes, get into a wetsuit and kayak alongside Sean. With Owain and Sean puking next to me (Jez is an ocean man) and tides working against us, we decided to pack it in and find our sea legs.
Day three brought us a new start. And a drugged up haze of sea sickness tablets and ginger biscuits. With black clouds in the sky, Sean and I headed back to Sennen for the last time. A BBC Radio interview kicked off the toughest day of the whole expedition. By which point I had already vomited flapjack out of my nose. The wind blew. The rain fell. And we spent six hours in the water with close to no water or food. The tide changed and we were unable to get round Pendeen Lighthouse headland. Finally Sean clambered out over the rocks and I beached a little further down where we buried the kayak and bumped into a very sweaty BBC cameraman who did a segment on us in which I sound very posh, state how lovely it is to see the coastline from this angle and talk about niggles. I have still not lived this down.
Day four put us on two countryside buses to get to the start line and another big session in the water for Sean and me. We made it to St Ives. With huge thanks to Simon and Innes. Without their food and support, these days would have been a lot harder.
I must note at this point, that I suddenly realised (thanks to Jez and Owain for allowing me to attempt it) that I would be kayaking Lands End to John O’Groats, which compared to Conway’s feat is nought. But it looks like I will be the first chick to do it. And while my sea kayaking was getting quite good, my beach landings were close to horrendous. My wipe-outs were slowly and impressively becoming known up the coast. But my muscles were starting to rival the lads.
St Ives to Newquay was a blur of team logistics going wrong, big beaches, massive swells, hitch hiking, amazing people like Beth, the chocolate cake family and Kate and Steve Robarts .
The Robarts took us under their wing. Gave us food and beds for two nights. And a world of wisdom. From this point forward, the expedition was set to change. ‘Niggles’ had been ironed out. We were one unit again. And ready to prove everyone wrong and take this expedition the whole way to bonnie Scotland. My kayaking skills were improving, I had seen dolphins, seals, incredible hidden beaches, nudist hangouts and given a lot of hugs. And while I spend almost 90% of my time terrified of the water that I hate and love all at the same time, let the expedition continue.
Agyness Deyn, Elle Macpherson Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jo Wood are just some of the celebrities who love Detox Kitchen. They love the taste. They love how it makes them feel. And they love the daily surprise of a detox box of delights, delivered fresh to their door.For founder Lily Simpson, making good food healthy (and vice versa) is a mission that began with regular childhood raids of her family herb garden, and developed as she travelled and tasted the best of Sri Lanka, Thailand and Morocco. I managed to catch her in between my daily burger and chocolate bar to talk food, epsom salts and world domination.
Tell us about The Detox Kitchen. Where did the idea come from? Where did it all start? Over a packet of nuts and a pint… sorry, organic tea?
The idea simply came from a friend who had tried other delivery services and knew I was running my own catering company at the time so asked if I could create some tasty food for her. I researched delivery companies for a few weeks and launched within the month. It is a very popular concept in the US and the UK only had a few competitors, so I thought I would give it a go. I knew I could create delicious detox food so I set up and website and went from there.
Where did you expect/ hope it would go? Did you expect it to go as well as this?
I honestly had no idea where it would go. I had a very loose business plan but was looking at the first few months as a ‘test period’. I didn’t invest any money into the buisness and only decided to get a £10k business loan once I knew there was potential to grow. Within a few weeks, after really positive feedback, I knew I had created a good product that people in London wanted.
Hardest parts about setting it up?
Having to do everything on my own. It is incredibly tiring both mentally and physically, you can never switch off but that is all part of running your own company. The highs are incredibly high and the rewards are amazing, but the lows are pretty low…the 3am starts in the first few months were pretty low to say the least!
How did it feel hiring your first employees?!
I found it really hard to delegate anything which is obviously frustrating for staff who want to show you what they can do. I have learnt to let go a lot over the last year and as our team has grown it has been a real benefit. I just let the team come up with ideas and recipes, their creativity keeps the product interesting.
You’re now in Harvey Nichols which is amazing. Where would be your next ideal spot?
In my head I would have a café in Paris and New York. In reality I would love to open a deli in Maida Vale, its my favorite area of London.
See anything odd when delivering bags in the middle of the night?
I have seen more foxes than you would believe, honestly, they are every where. That’s why we send out a fox-proof box!
I also saw a friend once at 4am walking rather drunkly down bayswater road…they will remain anonymous!
How did you get the celeb factor?
A bit of luck, a lot of pestering and an amazing product…obvs!
Who would be your ideal customer?
Favourite item in the goodie bag?
Lipstick or chocolate
I don’t have a fav supplement but I am a massive fan of popping some epsom salts in my bath and doing a bit of body brushing!
What is your signature dish outside of the Detox Kitchen?
Mums Roast Chicken with yorkshire puds
Nigella Lawson (fit) and Rick Stein (legend)
Favourite places to buy organic goods in London?
Organic Grocers in Maida Vale on Clifton Road. There is also a great new veg shop there too called Clifton Grocers. Wholefoods is always a good call too!
Favourite city in the world for food?
Ouch, that’s hard. I have three I think. Paris, Bangkok and Kerela.
What news have you got for the rest of the year?
We just got a book deal, very exciting. Cant believe Ill be writing a book. We are also launching a new delivery service in the next few months…will tell all soon!
What’s your dream future for the business? A little shop in Islington? Worldwide domination?
I think I want to keep it all fairly localised, so a shop in London and maybe a detox supermarket.
One year ago. Almost to the day. I realised I was about to stand-up paddle board 1001 miles down the Missouri River having never paddle boarded before, supporting Dave Cornthwaite who was swimming the distance.
In came Active360 to the rescue. Paul Hyman who had trained the rest of the team, took me out for an hour taster class with my brother. And I was set.
One year on. I am about to kayak 1000 miles supporting Sean Conway (yes another ginger) as he attempts to become the first person to swim Lands End to John O’Groats. All for War Child UK. And guess what. I have never kayaked before.
So off to Kew Bridge I went. For an hour session of basic paddle strokes and emergency recoveries.
And hopefully I will be set.
Watch this space.
If you know me or read my blogs, you will know that I’m a burger enthusiastic. I search London for burgers. And I love them. All of them.
So I was very excited to finally check out Bar Boulud at the Mandarin Oriental this week.
And I just have one word to say.
I’m not a fan of stiff white napkins, awkward silences and having your chair pulled out for you. And while I had heard the burgers were good, I was worried it might be a bit like this.
It wasn’t at all.
A relaxed vibe but with seriously impressive waiters. Cracking menu. Delicious wine. I was even tempted by the £16,000 bottle of red.
A little gem from New York, this is worth a visit. Good burgers. Old school service with a chilled twist.