Sankey Valley Walk

Today has been a lovely day in the Lysons household, despite the fact that my lovely husband M, is really not very well. He has in fact had a lingering coughy/cold thing for the last 3 weeks and this weekend the cough is doing it’s best to interfere with all our best laid plans.

However, after a little day of rest yesterday, we decided to get out and about today and go for a walk. We were toying with the idea of having a walk around Carr Mill Dam, but then we saw a tweet from our local councillor who was out along the Sankey Canal in Newton-le-Willows filming with a Google 360 camera and we had a change of mind.

We have lived in N-le-W for a couple of years and have ventured along the canal before, but not for a while. So we thought, why not?! We parked here:

There is a postcode on Google Maps, but we found that this didn’t work very well. BUT, if you use the postcode WA12 8RA  and that should take you close enough to pick up the brown sign which should point your right at the car park.

The car park is without facilities, but is free and right next to the very pretty and recently renovated bridge over the canal:

A photo posted by Jeanie Bell (@jeaniebeanieb) on

So we crossed over the bridge and walked as far as we could to the right, and even made it past the Nine Arches bridge. It was lovely to see all the paths much wider and settled since the last time we went and we had the most brilliant little walk. It was bloody FREEZING and we both had to wrap up, but I think I have said before, never the wrong weather, only the wrong clothes!

Anyway, we ended up walking a couple of miles:

and finished the day with a toastie at Costa Coffee. Brilliant.

So if you are looking for a little walk, I can really recommend the canal walk. Large paths and free parking, what more could you need? A little local jewel.
G x

I’m Lactose Intolerant

I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome more than 10 years ago and have struggled with it all that time. I’ve developed some pretty good coping strategies as I blogged about a little while ago >>here<<.

But there has been a change for me over the last few weeks when after eating fairly healthily I went to Astley Park in Chorley, where in the cafe I had a cup of tea. When I poured the milk, I mentioned to M that I thought it was full fat, but drank it anyway. Within an hour of us getting home I was running to the loo, very poorly. A similar thing happened to me a while ago when I went to Tarn Hows and was poorly – the route cause of that was some scrambled eggs I had eaten earlier in the day that, unbeknownst to me, had cream in them.

So after a visit to my GP this morning, we agreed that I am probably lactose intolerant. She said that there is no definitive test for adults, so the best thing to do with my symptoms is to cut out milk and cheese and things and hope that things improve.

So, if anyone has any suggestions or things for me to try, then I would love your help. My main concern is tea as I just LOVE having a cup of tea whilst we are out and about. Does this mean I will have to start to carry a mini bottle of soy milk around with me for extra terrestrial brews?

It’s a new world for me. Today is Day 1. I will let you know how I get on.

G x

I joined the Women’s Institute!!


I have pondered joining the WI for a little while as one started up in Haydock, where I used to live. It was a few years ago and for reasons I can no longer remember I just never got around to going. But I thought about it.

But my lovely friend Tilly sent me a message before Christmas to say that there was a WI starting up in N-le-W and did I fancy going. Now as it turned out I was working for the very first get together, so I had to say a sad no. However, utter joy as the real formation meeting was held last night at St Patrick’s social club and we decided to go along. I don’t mind telling you I was a bit nervous and put a shout out on Twitter to see if anyone else I knew was going, and lo and behold – there were a couple of the lovely ladies of Newton that were planning to go along.

Twitter has been a wonderful thing for me as it’s introduced me to a lovely community of people who have been just so welcoming and helpful.

So with the knowledge that there would be a few friendly faces, Tilly and I rocked up to be immediately greeted by such happy, smiling faces. We paid our fee and sat down on a table with one of the lovely ladies I sometimes talk to on Twitter. There ended up being a table of 7 of us and I  had a fab night. There was cake, a daft table game and lots of friendly chatter. The most splendiferous Cllr Jeanie Bell gave us an inspirational speech, which was both shocking and uplifting in equal measures.

She talked about many things, but in particular she talked about us being role models for the young girls in our town and I couldn’t agree more. Working with young people for a job and especially in St Helens, I would much rather people looked at the kind deeds, volunteering, strength and hard work that goes on by the women around them than anything else.

But back to the meeting. It started around 7:15ish and finished around 9pm. It went SO quick and it seems like they have lots planned for us over the next 12 months. I can’t wait.

G x

p.s. at the end of the meeting, the girls around my table all quietly admitted that we had been nervous about coming along…. but by that time, we sort of felt in it together, what a relief…..

Interview Series | Kick-Ass Women: Philippa Clare


Philippa Clare – LEGEND!

I hope you managed to catch the 1st in this interview series that I begun in December, where I get to interview some of the most amazing women that I either admire from afar, love up close or just straight up fan-girl over. I have only really met Philippa once when she came up from London to speak at a work conference I arranged. But that one meeting was immense, unbeknownst to Philippa as she really had a huge impact on me and I immediately developed a girl-crush on her. You see, Philippa is a kick-ass women who embodies “just do it”  – but I will let her tell you:

Hi so firstly could you tell everyone a bit about yourself (day job, special interests etc)

Hello – I currently run a national Partnership between Help for Heroes and The Prince’s Trust. It means that day to day, I work alongside wounded, injured or sick (WIS) service personnel and veterans. This Partnership support them into opportunities at the Trust if they want to work with young people; H4H provides funding for training and a short term salary. I spend a lot of time travelling around the UK, either meeting new WIS candidates or presenting at military bases and recovery centres so key people are aware of this opportunity and can help refer WIS to me. What I tend to find is that this opportunity is magic both for the WIS and the young people – our young learners look up to the WIS and are inspired by their achievements in adversity, and the WIS get a boost to their own recoveries by being able to have a positive influence in someone else’s life. It’s a mutually powerful and reinforcing cycle!

Beyond work, I love getting out and about doing different things. So from singing with the City of London Choir, to cycling, climbing, hiking, wild-camping and sailing etc, I try to create lots of opportunities – opportunities for trying new things, meeting new people, and testing my abilities and resilience.

A couple of examples would be: I found recently that anyone can kayak on the Thames – Westminster Boating Base offers this for £8 on a Monday evening and you can float around for hours (where can you do anything for £8?!); I took some mates and it was completely ace, really interesting to see London from that perspective, on the water at dusk.

On another occasion I had a weekend that I’d kept free for an adventure… none of my mates turned out to be free but what I’ve learnt works for me is not to wait around for other people, but to crack on and do stuff. Mates then join if they can, or I probably meet new people along the way. So with a 48 hour window to fill, I devised a plan to escape London, roughly using a “Time vs Cost vs Purpose” outline to help identify options. I chose a trip to the Malverns (Time = no more than 2 hours travel; Cost = no more than £80; Purpose = hiking, camping, good views, and fresh air). 48hrs later, I had walked 18miles; wildcamped in the mouth of a cave, with amazing views of distant fireworks, bats flying overhead, listening to owls in the trees around; and, with a mug of hot coffee in hand, seen the sun rise (it was honestly like a movie, the sun really did throw its golden rays on the horizon and they crept closer until all the hills around seemed alight with colour!) Brilliant.

I know you have been involved in the Invictus Games and now Help for Heroes, could you share with us how you got involved in military charities and what this means to you.

I was lucky when I was a kid – I grew up toddling around warships, running around parade squares on military bases, and I went to a military boarding school on the east coast (we had to march everywhere and where old military uniforms for “divisions” on Sundays); also both my parents served in the Royal Navy. Probably some of that stuff shaped my affinity to the Armed Forces!

I love that the Services demand of you to be the best you can be, and to put others before yourself. There is something about individuals who have signed up for that, been achieving that, and then find that taken from them when they acquire a physical or mental health injury. The Invictus Games is amazing, it affords these men and women the opportunity to re-challenge themselves, to celebrate achievements in adversity and re-define their own futures by accepting their injury and carrying on regardless. I loved working with the competitors during the inaugural 2014 Games; their banter was epic (limbs were regularly stolen, hidden or tampered with!) and their camaraderie so inspirational.

When I saw this Partnership job vacancy online, I was so keen to put my hat in the ring; it echoed everything I believed in, everything I wanted to support and it bridged two incredible national charities. It is such a privilege to work in this role. I get to support the Trust, helping young people make the best of their lives and overcome challenges. And I get to support H4H, helping WIS make the best of their lives and overcome challenges. It’s different ends of the same spectrum – and they meet in the middle to gain the fundamentals of what most people really want (besides perhaps unending wealth) – a sense of personal value, a defined purpose, and feeling part of a community.

I know you are also involved in other charitable work, including a Sailing project, what drives you to get involved & make that difference?

Very selfishly – I find it interesting, I enjoy giving back to others and I learn a lot at the same time. Probably not winning any altruism awards there!

It’s important to me to keep creating opportunities. Think I mentioned this earlier and it relates to wellbeing and resilience. In seeking new activities, people and challenges, you expand your social circle, you grow your sphere of experience and you surely cannot help but improve and develop personal strengths. And those strengths may be technical (tangible skills like sailing, cooking, engineering etc) or they may be more broad (coping with change, handling challenging behaviour etc). Either way, by giving back to others, you’re also giving to yourself. As we all know, but at various stages sometimes forget, people are at the heart of life – nevermind money, bills, things, jobs etc – it’s relationships and human interaction that strengthens (or weakens) our wellbeing. So by investing your time, experience and passion in others, you are investing in yourself, too. A big “NB” of course, is that it’s necessary and healthy to balance this altruism with genuine selfishness! You’ve got to do stuff that works for you, you cannot always give back or help or do good: it is a balance. Probably the most obvious thing in the world but I’ve only really identified that for myself recently. 

What do you enjoy most about working with Veterans?

I really respect the values that the military demands of its women and men so, generally, it’s great to work alongside people who feel the same. There’s also a familiarity for me about the military way of life – training, deployment, banter, behaviour, routine etc – that means I can more or less empathise with their backgrounds whilst also understanding civilian life, and the differences in transitioning from one to the other. Perhaps as well, it’s that the outlook on life of the veterans I work with is so deliberately positive, so can-do and selfless, despite everything, that it’s just hugely inspiring to be around them. 

What are you most proud of?

Just over a year ago I was given the opportunity to create something new. When the Trust signed its boat over to Turn to Starboard (a charity that sails WIS veterans, operating from Falmouth), in the contract was a statement referring to an overlap of use of the boat, enabling PT young people to sail onboard her still for a period of time. I’m not entirely sure why I got the gig, but people knew I like sailing and I work with WIS! So since August 2015, I’ve worked with Turn to Starboard to set up a Course onboard “Spirit of Falmouth”. Broadly speaking it’s a sailing course – we have 6 WIS and 6 PT young people onboard “Spirit” for 6 days; we sail around Falmouth and they all literally learn the ropes, learn about charts, navigation, putting sails up and down, etc.

More than that, though, it’s about individuals overcoming physical injuries, mental health injuries, confidence challenges, dramas at home and more. Each WIS is buddied with a PT young person during the week and they complete activities together at the start and end of the day; they also work in a Watch system to sail the boat, to cook and clean; and we all eat together in the evening, review the day and chat about hopes/fears/achievements. Candidates learn new skills onboard, meet new people, see new views and just …take a breath. Together, they increase their resilience, joy and motivation. We’ve seen some wonderful, lasting outcomes – a PT young person was so motivated he got a job once he went home; a WIS candidate said it had given him a new lease of life. And lots more. At present I recruit candidates, brief them, support them in joining the boat, meet them onboard, shape the content of the course, co-deliver the course, and provide post-course support, signposting to other opportunities and organising reunions when possible. We have run 6 course so far – and it’s been epic. Such a privilege to get to work with so many inspiring people!

What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Uh, tricky – loads of challenges, but a couple stand out.

On a personal level, this would probably be setting decent and healthy work-life boundaries! I get caught up in my job; I’m lucky that it’s great. But it’s still key to crack on with stuff that is for me, and attach a value to doing not very much at all or doing stuff just because I like it not because it has some wider benefit. 

Professionally, it would be how to work as constructively as possible with a huge range of people – from PT young people; WIS; colleagues; external partners etc. I have my ways of working and my plans/goals etc but they hold no value if I can’t communicate what I mean or want effectively, or to bring others onboard by speaking to their ways of working; it’s an ongoing learning curve : D

Do you feel any extra pressure as a woman in your personal or professional life?

I am so passionate about the achievements of women. About figures historically, and those today pushing boundaries and forcing an imbedded patriarchy to change – or at the very least, think about changing.

I feel pressure on myself to be the best I can be all the time; to play any part possible in endeavours that will help change for the better how women are viewed and treated both personally and professionally. It is an anathema to me how equality of women’s lives to men’s lives has ever – ever – been an issue. It’s illogical, it’s based on straightforward lies, it’s just indefensibly wrong. But what, at a wider level is about power, gets boiled down to stereotypes. So we end up with the whole pink/blue; princess/pirate nonsense. Even now, in adult life, outdoor kit and training kit is all coloured for gender. It’s not at the same end of the spectrum as wage-gap, domestic violence, laws on maternity leave etc but it’s endemic and infuriating all the same!

So do I feel any extra pressure as a woman? I don’t know about ‘extra’ but I definitely feel pressure. I am hyper aware that society tells us ‘x, y, z’; that religion says ‘x & y’; that history teaches us ‘x’ but that it’s on each of us now, today to continue making a difference. We need to support other women, check ourselves on our own preconceptions and judgements, and generally be the best we can be by not ever standing for negativity based on gender. 

If you could spend 1 whole day with someone who inspires you, who would it be?

I take huge inspiration from Freya Stark. Born in 1893, she lived a fierce, interesting and varied life for just over 100 years. She wrote many books, but the one that most captured me about her own life is called “A Passionate Nomad”. I’d definitely recommend it! She travelled in Arabia to places a westerner had never been before – let alone a woman; she learnt several languages; was recognised by the Royal Geographical Society; and her skills were requested by the Foreign Office during the war. She travelled a lot on camelback and stayed with local tribes, recording this work and more via many essays. By all accounts, she was tough, determined, interesting, bright and no-nonsense. I would definitely aspire to those qualities and would love to spend a day with her!

WOW – what an amazing interview, thanks so much Philippa for taking part. I doff my cap to you – you amazing lady!!

G x

Tarn Hows

featfI am lucky enough to be married to man who knows The Lake District better than most. His family took him up to Cumbria throughout his childhood and since I have known him, I have learned to love it just as much as he does.

Just over a year ago he introduced me to a beautiful spot near Ambleside called Tarn Hows, here:

and we visited again last weekend. From Newton-le-Willows it’s just short of a 2 hour drive which sees us travelling through the most stunning Cumbrian countryside. When we arrived there was a car park, national trust information and loos (v important as it turned out).

A “Tarn” is defined as a “Small Mountain Lake” and this one is just set in a somewhat fairytale, dreamlike landscape that almost doesn’t feel real. The walk around the Tarn is approximately 2.5 miles and we took the decision to have a gently meander rather than a route march and to drink in the beauty that surrounded us.

This post is about to get quite photo heavy, but I am sure you can cope…

We had such an amazingly relaxing time walk around the quiet countryside, everywhere we turned we had another amazing view, well worth the drive. In fact it was SO good that we are seriously considering getting National Trust memberships which I believe means free entry into NT properties and parking.

Of course our day wasn’t 100% successful as as we were due to leave the Tarn, I started to feel unwell – cue us being stuck in the car park whilst I spent a good hour running backwards and forwards to the loo 🙁 I have blogged before that I have chronic IBS and boy oh boy, when it’s bad it’s BAD! After some investigations, it turns out the scrambled eggs I had for breakfast at our gorgeous local cafe had (unbeknownst to me) had cream added and I am hugelly intolerant. Sad times. Still, I will know next time!

Eventually though, things settled down and we made our way home via a little stop in Ambleside. How beautiful. All in all though, a thoroughly beautiful day – I can highly recommend it!

G x

Going to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party!

First of all, let me just tell you that the whole day was a complete WOW and next to my Wedding Day and buying my house, then it’s the most amazing thing that I have ever done. Let me talk you through it.

Firstly, there was my invitation..

So this is VERY exciting! I think my mum would have been very proud! @princestrust #partofpt

A photo posted by Gill Lysons ? (@gilliblogs) on

I think this was beautiful and I am definitely going to have it framed. The garden party was hosted by Prince Charles to help celebrate 40 years of The Prince’s Trust. The dress code was very clearly set out in a guidance booklet which came with the invite. It went something like this:

Men: Lounge Suites
Ladies: Day dresses. No strapless. Nothing above the knee. All straps must be at least 1″ wide. Hats/Fascinators optional with a recommendation for flat or wedge heel shoes as we would have a “long day on our feet”.

We we were also told in the guidance that we would need both photo ID and another address form of ID in case the police needed to see it. As it turned out, on the gate, the police just checked my admittance card and my photo ID. Note: Oh yes, the invitation was for me to keep and I actually also got another admittance card which I handed in on entrance. Ace.

We were told that the timeline was as follows:

  • 2:00pm – Guests could start to queue up
  • 3:00pm – The garden party would start and guests would be admitted
  • 3:30pm –  Afternoon Tea would be served
  • 4:00pm – HRH The Prince of Wales would arrive and greet guests
  • 5:30pm – HRH would depart
  • 6:00pm – The National Anthem would play and the garden party would be over.

I have to say that it ran almost to time, with the slight exception that HRH was still in the Tea tent at gone 6!

Anyway, before that I wanted to share with you some highlights. As we went through the gates I spotted Neil, one of our volunteers taking a picture of his wife in the space between the famous front gates and the palace itself. I asked him if he wanted me to take a picture of both of them. As I took his phone, a lovely police women with a very large machine gun walked up to me shaking her head. She didn’t say a word, but just glared at me. I said meekly “no photos?” she again she shook her head at me. I apologised profusely but did laugh to myself as I gave Neil his phone back!

As we walked through the main centre arch at the front of Buckingham Palace, I found myself in a huge rectangular courtyard which I have seen SO many times on the TV. It’s the place from where Princess Diana got into her carriage to get married in 1981, where Queen Elizabeth II has greeted 12 Prime Ministers and also Michelle and Barack Obama when they visited and guess what.. .I walked up those exact steps where over the years dignitaries, heads of state, Kings, Queens and all manor of world figures have stood! I only WISH I had a photo, but after the run in with AK47, I thought best not to… but that would change soon enough..

The whole afternoon was filled with hugs and happy faces as all the guests where either staff, PT volunteers, some PT young ambassador and the of course many many many Celebrity Ambassadors!! Some of which I will name for you now:

  • Damian Lewis
  • Helen McCrory
  • Fearne cotton
  • Ronnie wood
  • Phillip Schofield
  • Holly Willoby
  • Rio Ferdinand
  • Jermaine Dafoe
  • Felicity Kendal
  • Jerry hall
  • Rupert Murdoch
  • Tony Hadley
  • Brian May
  • Joan Collins
  • Ben Kingsley
  • Simon Rimmer
  • Julie Etchingham
  • John Culshaw
  • Pixie Lott
  • Cerys Matthews
  • Alison hammond for ‘This Morning’
  • Martin Clunes
  • Geri Halliwell
  • Emma Bunton

My head was literally on a swivel the whole afternoon as I kept spotting people from work who I knew and then intermingled with us “normals” there were people off the telly! It was like celebrity bingo! Cue the sneaky pic of Damien Lewis from Homeland!


Of course there was afternoon tea, which came in the form of a HUGE tea tent for which we (in the most British way possible) queued up for. We then had a choice of the most delicate finger sandwiches (ham & tomato, cream cheese & smoked salmon) and then an array of petit four.


I picked 2 x ham sandwiches, carrot cake, Battenberg and fruit cake. ALL DELICIOUS!!!!! I had water first and then went back for Buckingham Palace tea. I mean….. how could I not?? I can confirm too, that even the tea was divine.

When HRH came out at 4pm, there were some lovely suited gentleman that sort of marshalled the guests into a tunnel and The Prince walked down the cleared area talking to some pre-selected guest and then he started to break ranks and talk to the people who, by this time, were snapping photos left, right and centre!  He did of course have his “close protection” making a semi-circle around him, but even they were fairly unobtrusive. I did get fairly close to him, even if I didn’t get to shake his hand, and he seemed just charming. img_0697

After he had greeted everyone, he took HIS afternoon tea in the Royal Tea tent and he was then joined by all the VIPs until his exit after 6:00pm. When he was hobnobbing, the two ladies I was with and I went for a walk around the palace gardens. I have seen some of them before when I visited the palace in maybe 2011 when M & I did paid tour. Even so, they were still stunning and I felt like I was in the middle of a part of history.

We stayed until 6:10pm waiting for HRH to exit the tea tent, but there was no sign. I had a train to catch and so we unfortunately we had to leave before he did re-appear – but to be honest, we were done in!

Finally, I know what you are thinking… what did you wear… well here you go:

Also, its worth noting that M treated me to a 1st class train ticket for the journey back and it was BRILL!!! Loads more room, free dinner and drinks and definitely a lovely way to end the day.

I loved it and was proud of myself for working for such a worthwhile charity. I am a lucky girl and this is a day I will never forget.

G x