Thank you to Newbury College for taking this photo. I don't often get photos of me at events, so this was really cool to have.
London underground train at Great Portland Street.
I wonder how many more underground and train station signs I can collect as photos over the year? That seems like a challenge to me.
I had to walk across a big bridge over a road to get to the hotel. It was nice to see things from up here.
My bed was really big and the hotel room was very nice.
All set for the talk to students. Time for a walk before everyone arrives.
The college building was really lovely, especially inside. Nice and bright and just the kind of place that makes you feel excited about learning.
A very big thank you to the college for taking this photo and sending it to me. This was taken after my first talk of the day.
At the back of the college was a lovely walk that went past this pond. It was a bit drizzly with the weather but I really enjoyed exploring the local nature.
There were lots of new buds now that spring has arrived and they looked quite magical covered in rain drops.
I'm glad I was wearing my hiking boots. It was a bit boggy by the pond and in the moss. The colours were so pretty though. I can't believe all the different places in the world that my feet have been to and all the miles they must have walked in my lifetime so far. I wonder where they will take me to next?
Some of the trees were just coming into blossom.
I was a bit surprised to find these leaves still on the tree. How did they not get blown off over Autumn or Winter?
I have a bit of a passion for lichen. I love all the different colours, patterns, and shapes it comes in. It seems to be able to grow anywhere and is such an important part of the food chain and ecosystem.
Another railway sign to add to my photo collection. I wonder if I will ever be back here again? Or which station I will visit next? Do you think it might be possible to visit every single station in a lifetime?
I love seeing these kinds of train. It makes me wonder what goods they are carrying and where they might be going to and from. Do you think they might have new cars from a factory, or food for a supermarket? How about letters and parcels?
Not too far from Newbury, I spotted this Amazon distribution centre by the side of the railway near a place called Theale. It made me quite excited because my Bertram Bile books get distributed and printed from Amazon before they get delivered to people's homes all around the world. Can you imagine what it must be like to be a book that gets printed and then sent by train to anywhere in the world? I wonder how many of my books will pass through Theale?
Well I've certainly had a busy couple of days, and wonderful days they were too. I had the privilege of being invited to Newbury College in the county of Berkshire to be their keynote speaker for an event promoting careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths).
I always love the opportunity to travel to new places, to make new friends, to encourage others to consider STEM careers, but this visit was also special for another reason.
Had the pleasure of meeting @sarahrowssolo yesterday. She came as a STEM ambassador to speak to our students. Extremely motivational public speaker, would thoroughly recommend! Good luck with your next challenge and the @oceansproject. You’ve inspired us all!
You see, I was born at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading in 1975, and then we lived on a vineyard in Hampstead Norreys, before moving to Newbury. We didn't live there for very long, as my dad got a job with Capability Brown when I was about 4 or 5 years old and we moved to Dorset. But the few memories I do have are very happy ones. Mainly from time with my childminder at her house in Newbury with her 10-11 year old children, and she also taught me to read, took me to museums, and we saw one of the first high speed trains in Britain! So I have a lot to thank her for as many of those interests began in Newbury and have stayed with me ever since.
My only other memory of Newbury is when we moved into our house, and the old owners gave me a toy to play with on the stairs. It had a string on the back that you could pull, and then the toy made a funny noise. That sound fascinated me because I could see that it was created by drawing air through a little compartment. But I wasn't allowed to break the toy to see inside.
I also remember playing hide and seek around the house with my nan, who lived close by in Wallingford, and when I couldn't find her anywhere, I decided that the only place I hadn't looked, was inside the dustbin in our yard. So that's where I looked next, and that is where I got stung by a wasp for the first time in my life! Only when she heard my cries did my nan appear, so I did find her in the end. I expect she had probably gone to help my parents unpack and settle us into our new house!!
I was really excited to visit Newbury again, and I got the train from the Lake District where I live now, and changed trains when we arrived at London Euston.
It was quite a shock to me, because when I left home it was just above 1C air temperature, but in London the weather was warm and sunny and 12C. It seemed like summer and I almost wished I had put on my shorts! You see, that's the problem when you are an ice swimmer like me, because you have lots of extra fat layers and your body gets quite used to being in cold water, so whenever the temperature goes above 5C it starts to feel quite tropical!
It was a pleasant enough journey, and I quite enjoyed looking out of the window and all the new places, especially as I haven't really been on a train around Berkshire for a very long time! Usually I take the same train most of the time, so nothing seems unexpected or new, and when I see new places, it is always much more fun.
We soon arrived in Newbury, and since it was such nice weather, and the hotel was only 1.5 miles away, I decided to walk with my backpack, and at least get a little bit of exercise in.
The walk was on a little bit of a slope and by the motorway, and because I live in the countryside now, everything seemed very dirty and the cars were all so fast, so that was a bit strange for me. But I still enjoyed my walk and being outside in the fresh air after being on a stuffy train all day.
By the time I arrived at the Premier Inn hotel which had been booked for me, I was very hot and sweaty, and I was feeling very unfit because I haven't done any proper walks for a while. That is definitely one of the downsides to swimming over winter, because you don't swim as far as you do in the summer, and you want to make sure you have plenty of fat layers to keep you warm in the icy water, but it does make it harder work when you walk. I think I will need to do a lot more fitness work in the gym or swimming pool when I get back home!
The hotel was very easy to find, and was really close to the college for my talk in the morning, and to a retail outlet that had lots of shops and places to eat, so I grabbed some food, had a nice long bath, and then did some writing for my next Bertram Bile book, before going to bed.
At home I usually sleep on the floor and sleep with the window open, so it was very strange to sleep on a big bed and to not be able to open the window in the hotel. But I felt like a Princess what with the big bath, lovely white towels, and a huge bed and a television (I don't have one of those at home either, but once I get a home of my own and stop moving I might get one again).
I never sleep as well as I do at home, but I still slept well, and what with the clocks going forward a few days before, I was awake at six in the morning, had a nice long shower, and headed to the hotel restaurant for breakfast.
I was super excited for breakfast because one of my friends from the hospital where I used to work in Reading was going to stop by after her night shift and join me for breakfast. She lives in Newbury and I haven't seen her for about 7 years, maybe even longer, because I was living abroad or living far away. The last time I saw her we were taking a group away for their Duke of Edinburgh's expedition, so I couldn't wait to catch up with her.
It was just as well that we need meet up, because I realised that I had not brought my coat or an umbrella and it had started to rain a bit, so it was a very nice treat to get a lift in a car, as I don't go in cars very often (I usually travel everywhere by bus or train).
When I arrived at the college, I was greeted and shown where the presentation room was, and it didn't take long to set up my talk. Since I had some free time before the students arrived, I took a little walk outside in the fresh air to wake myself up a bit after a lovely breakfast and because it had stopped raining heavily, I went for a walk.
I couldn't believe my luck, when I found myself by a little pond at the back of the college, and there were lots of pretty blossoms and birds on the water, and birds singing. I soon found myself lost in my own little world, and taking pictures of all the lovely colours of nature around me.
I had a really lovely day and gave two talks with lunch in between talks, and a visit to the library to meet the librarian. I even got to draw the winning raffle ticket for the Easter Egg competition and had my picture taken! I met lots of really great people, and it wasn't long before I was headed back home to the Lake District. I fell asleep for much of the journey as I always get tired after my talks, but I did manage to watch a little bit of a film called Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was streaming on Virgin Trains' 'Beam' app. I wonder where my travels will take me next, or who I will meet on my way?