Monday 9th to Friday 13th September 2019
I felt a frizzon of excitement as we turned into the drive of Northern Bootcamp. Caroline had picked up Gillian and I at Berwick station after our train journey from Leeds. It was noon on a sunny autumn day and camp, and surroundings at Golden Hill, looked just as we had left it a year ago – except of course for the addition of The Dome work-out area in the field, that we were yet to experience.
The rest of the group arrived at about the same time and Caroline quickly allocated rooms. There were two new faces – Alison, Doreen’s friend had travelled down from Pitlochry, and Jill, Jenny’s friend had travelled up with her from Ilkley. Brenda was due to arrive the following day. So the group thus far assembled were Doreen, Alison, Angela, Gillian, Rose, Jenny and Jill.
Carla had been busy preparing our lunch – a black bean spaghetti concoction, which we collected from the kitchen and ate together around a large dining table. We peeled off, one at a time to be weighed and measured by Caroline, then gathered in the car park suitably dressed in exercise gear for the short journey in the van down to Bamburgh beach. Here we entertained dog walkers and the like with a ‘walking for buttons’ exercise. This entails walking or running back and forth, for a given length of time, between stakes placed at measured intervals and collecting buttons from a bag at each stake then returning them to your own slot in a box at the start. It’s clever. Each stake contains buttons of a different colour, so at the end it’s easy to calculate how far each person has actually walked/run. It’s a good starter exercise session and soon had us warmed up with raised heart rates. We then returned to camp for our mid-afternoon snack of Chocolate Orange Balls, which sound naughty, but nothing you are given to eat at bootcamp is unhealthy and even the nutritional value of the snacks is very carefully calculated.
Strength exercises came next on the outdoor astro-turf area, which soon had us panting and the muscles crying out. It was a strenuous session but the accompanying birdsong and the warm sun on our backs helped to keep our spirits up – as did Caroline’s encouraging cajoling. Before we knew it, it was time to break for a short rest before dinner. Well, rest perhaps not, as we mostly used this time to unpack and make ourselves at home in our rooms. For dinner Carla presented us with a delicious mushroom pate starter followed by beef casserole, all washed down with lashings of water and fruit tea. After a couple of hours of cheery banter and catching-up we were ready to turn in by 9.00, having all been up pretty early for our journey to Northern Bootcamp.
Our alarm clocks sprung us into life at 6.30am this morning for a pre-breakfast workout on Bamburgh Castle Green, which also houses the village cricket pitch. It was a dewy morning so most of us chose to work on the asphalt paths rather than the grass. After the ever-necessary warm-up and a walked circuit of the green, our task was to walk or run for a total of 15 minutes at a slow, faster, fastest pace between three measured points. Then came the cool-down of a second circuit of the green before we returned to the van for transport back to camp. Breakfast was well worth waiting for and we tucked in (slowly – make it last) to pancakes with berries and yoghurt, and the biggest treat of every day, a mug of tea or coffee – the only caffeine fix allowed each day. Boy did we enjoy that daily treat!
After breakfast we were shepherded off by Tony into the magnificent gym area housed in The Dome, the huge poly-tunnel shaped canvas structure in the field that we had spotted the previous day, which had sprouted up since last year. Tony put us through our paces using various strength improving machines and equipment. The idea here was to keep our muscles fit and healthy for as long as ever possible as we grow older. I would have preferred it however, if he hadn’t kept reminding us that we would need to be able to lift ourselves out of a chair, and out of bed, and up from the floor after a fall, as we grow into old age! Does he not know that I am still a teenager!! Exercises over we made our way back to the kitchen where Carla handed us each our mid-morning snack of a pear and 5 cashew nuts, and of course, a glass of water. During snack time Brenda arrived to join our happy band. We now had our full crew.
Thus, nourished it was back to the Dome where Tony had yet more strength boosting exercises to exhaust us with. These entailed the use of glute or resistance bands (not unlike enormous rubber bands) designed to give extra resistance when exercising arms and legs. Contortions such as waddling like penguins sent chuckles round the room when we weren’t in deep concentration working our weary muscles.
Lunch was a delicious chicken broth with root vegetables and pearl barley. I shall certainly be giving that a go when I get home. This ultra-tasty soup had us quickly fired up and ready for the planned afternoon activity of a walk over the dunes of Ross Steads to Ross Sands. Vast and deserted as usual, the stunning views from this bay stretch from Bamburgh Castle in the south to Lindisfarne Castle in the north. The sand is soft and golden and the sun was hot. No wonder the local naturists would like to call it their own. Some walked and some paddled along the shore some distance, then back to the Steads, almost believing we were on some far-off desert island much nearer the equator than Northumberland! After a tasty snack, we made our way back across the dunes chatting companionably till we got to the van.
Once back at camp there was just enough time for a cup of fruit tea in the sunny garden then showers before a dinner of salmon teriyaki. After which Dan gave a presentation detailing his unbelievable solo Paddle of Britain (using inland waters from top to toe). A challenge undertaken earlier this year, when he raised £25,000 for The Royal British Legion. One must admire his fortitude. The rest of the evening we spent gradually, in turn, dozing off to an episode of Midsummer Murders, after which we dragged ourselves back to wakefulness to turn in at 10.00pm.
The roll call was at 6.00am this morning to give time to down a quick fruit tea before meeting Caroline at The Ocean Club in Seahouses where we were due a pre-breakfast pool workout. The pool there is lovely, and we had it to ourselves. We worked hard to Caroline’s encouragement, ably assisted by Fern and Rowan, her delightful young children, who were supposed to be doing homework before school, but found demonstrating moves to ‘old ladies’ (sorry Doreen and Alison) from the pool side much more entertaining!
We had been promised poached eggs for breakfast but rather expected it to be a poached egg and no toast. However, we were delighted to be presented with two eggs, each nestling on avocado slices, though the toast was one thin slice of toasted rye bread – surprisingly tasty it was too, but somewhat hard on the teeth! Next came a nutrition session to encourage us to make some slight tweeks towards a healthier diet. Caroline made it all sound so logical and easy – time will no doubt tell…
Having worked our brains for half an hour, it was time to work our bodies again, so we trooped outside into the sunshine to be taught a ‘Ten Minute Hit’ exercise routine, needing no specialised equipment and easy to use at home each day. Demonstration over, we then practiced all the moves for the next three quarters of an hour, till snack time (a satsuma and five almonds). It’s amazing how a boost of tasty sustenance fires one up for more exercise. This time, suspended from strapping secured to a rig, not unlike a section of scaffolding. Encouraged by the ever-energetic Caroline, we contorted our already aching bodies, stretching every ounce of our muscle system, till it squealed.
We certainly earned our lunch of buckwheat risotto, a wholesome and creamily delicious concoction of buckwheat and vegetables. This is another I shall be trying at home!
This afternoon we had the enormous pleasure of a six-mile beach hike to Seahouses. The pace was swift and the views stunning, with the ever-imposing silhouette of Bamburgh castle to guide us on our way – at least for the first half. The sky was clear blue with just a trace of fluffy white scudding clouds being buffeted along by a brisk, but not cold, breeze. No wonder Uncle Richard loved this place so much. I could feel his presence all the way. At the end of the walk Dan scooped us up in the van and returned us to camp.
We had just enough time to down a fruit tea in the sunshine before Carla served us our dinner of asparagus spears wrapped in parma ham on a rice cake, followed by Northern Bootcamp style fish pie with celeriac and broccoli. We mulled over it for some time, it was too good to rush.
We were treated to a lie in (of sorts) this morning as Caroline wasn’t due to arrive until 7.30am. As usual her timing was bang on and we piled into the van to be taken to a secluded spot for some up- and-down-the-hill running/power walking. Not just running/walking but timed, measured and at various paces and gradients. And we did just that again and again and again. The best bit for me was the woodpecker at the top of the hill enjoying his breakfast from a huge sycamore tree. Tap, tap, tap… Caroline then drove the van back and we walked home. We had certainly earned our breakfast of energy giving Bootcamp muesli with banana milk.
We were indoors for our mid-morning session as it involved some floor work and resistance bands to make the exercises more effective for muscle build-up. Again these routines were suitable to be repeated at home as no elaborate equipment was required except resistance bands which are readily available and cheap over the internet. We worked extremely hard to perfect every move and get the most out of the session. So much so that we over-ran and were late with our fruit and nut snack but were allowed plenty of time to rest whilst Caroline and Dan set up the equipment for our next session outside on the field, for which Dan was our trainer. Now this was challenging. The section of the field we were using consists of a steep bank. At the bottom of which we rhythmically lifted weights above our heads and down repeatedly, whilst our partner sprinted up the bank and back. Then we swapped roles. Many times, until we were exhausted and pleading to stop.
Whilst Dan worked with us Caroline was preparing a tasty lunch of quinoa risotto with roasted vegetables and feta, which certainly hit the spot. And then came the special treat we had been promised at breakfast time – kayaking in Beadnell Bay! The sunny morning had turned into an overcast and drizzly afternoon, but nobody cared a jot! We had all hoped to kayak but didn’t expect it to be offered. Once at the water we shared the hauling of the kayaks across the beach and split into pairs. Gillian and I soon had the paddling motion sussed, though did a fair bit of circling correction! This was fun, we made the most of every minute and were sorry when Caroline called us in. And then calamity! I ended up in the drink up to my neck, as I overbalanced getting out of the kayak. Soaked to the skin (in civies not wet suit) but loving every minute. What a laugh! I dripped all the way home. But first we had to haul the kayaks back up the beach and return them to the trailer. Back at camp my shower and change was essential, but not before downing a hot drink and a snack of banana bread.
Our pre-breakfast workout was a half hour power walk along Bamburgh beach (15 minutes south then 15 minutes north), the imposing Bamburgh Castle overlooking us from high above.
Dan then drove us back to camp for a Bootcamp style full English (bacon, scrambled egg, beans, tomato, mushroom and toasted rye bread) and, of course, our daily ration of coffee or tea. Then followed a final weigh and measure for each camper, which brought smiles all round!
The week has passed amazingly quickly, and we’ve enjoyed each other’s company, worked hard, learned to eat more cannily and laughed a lot.
It’s time to leave Northern Bootcamp with grateful thanks to Caroline, Dan, Tony and Carla. Here’s to the next time!
To learn more about Northern Bootcamp private and group camps, please contact email@example.com or call Leanne for a friendly chat on 01668 260076, where she can answer all your questions and queries.