Have a read of my blog

I’ve had my own Manchester United blog, United Faithful, for ten years now. On there you can find match reports, news, opinions, features and just about anything else I fancy writing about. Feel free to head over there and have a read. Below you can find some further blog posts about what else I’ve been up to this year. As you can see, I have been busy going to games, going hiking and attending airshows.

Train in Blocks

Train In Blocks started in 2021 as an affordable, easy to use online and mobile start up App for Personal Trainers. In a very crowded and competitive market, Train In Blocks (‘TIB’) championed themselves on providing a cost effective service, allowing users to optimize their workflow with a simple fitness plan structure.

I was approached in early 2022 with co-founders Mikey and Joe looking for a professional standard copywriter for four blog posts a month. Joe had spoken to Mikey and together they decided I was their man.

Being a bit of a fitness buff myself, I was looking forward to combining my knowledge and interest of the fitness world with my copywriting skills and blogging ability. I knew a bit about fitness and the Personal Training industry but this had never crossed over into my work.

There were four of us on the team: Mikey and Joe to do the coding and run the website, app and subscriptions, Hannah to take control of the marketing, social media and advertising, and myself to be in charge of keeping the blog updated.

We had monthly Discord meetings where we would decide a plan for each week, including blog content and deadlines. One of the main things I learned throughout the process was the importance of SEO. I had done this a little at university but this was a steep learning curve when applied to the industry. As already mentioned, with there being so many fitness apps and Personal Training software already in the market, it was particularly important to make sure Train In Blocks stood out. We had to be bigger and better than our competitors.

We used Yoast to improve SEO on each blog post and came up with a list of keywords and hashtags to improve readability and our prominence in search engines.

I produced 28 blog posts in total for TIB over a six month period, starting in January 2022 (in fact almost a year ago to the day) up until we unfortunately closed down in July 2022.

Our content was very varied: we produced blog posts for specific days such as Pancake Day, World Refill Day and Mother’s Day but also came up with industry-specific copy geared towards fitness ideas and tips for PTs. We also decided to have a table of contents on selected blog posts so readers could skip ahead to a specific area of interest if need be.

You can see a list of our blog posts here.

My personal favourite was the interview we did with Sean Wilson. I went to university with Sean but when a career in Sport Journalism did not work out, he became a personal trainer, working out of his garage when the UK was plunged into lockdown.

Sean was more than happy to speak to us – not only did it give us the chance to gain an insight from a knowledgeable and passionate industry expert, but it also gave him the chance to promote his service and his burgeoning career as a PT. It was mutually beneficial and went down a storm with the rest of our team. Joe picked out the best soundbites and dotted them around in quotation boxes throughout the piece to add to the copy’s aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Sean offered some ‘golden nuggets’ for his fellow pros and gave us a brilliant interview which we recorded on Zoom to use for our social media content. It was a large project but one which was very well received. It really gave us credibility and provided information we never would have thought of otherwise.

Hot on the heels of that interview, we did another with our esteemed co-founder Mikey. Mikey used to work as a coach but then became a coder, going on to set up TIB. You can read Mikey’s thoughts here:

Mikey gave us a very different perspective from Sean as he talked about the journey to set up Train In Blocks, how to become a better PT, the future and the intricacies of running a business.

Other posts included a Wimbledon-themed set (no pun intended) of workouts and five ways to incorporate mindfulness into your fitness regime when Britain baked under a heatwave at the height of last summer.

Sadly, Train In Blocks is no longer in being. The website remains up as a testament to our journey and what we achieved, but the business is no longer active having closed down in August 2022. Mikey didn’t have the time to continue running it and the competitive nature of the industry certainly didn’t help matters.

I really enjoyed my time working for the company, I learned loads and picked up many transferrable skills I will carry with me to my next project.

A (demi) fine jewellery project

Happy New Year everyone. As the country settles into the post-festive comedown and back to a semblance of normality, I thought I’d share a little professional update as we’ve been quiet for a while.

On the final day of November 2022, I was approached by my friend and colleague Joe (the very same Joe whom set up this site actually) with a proposition.
Could I put together a 3,000 word blog post on the topic of lab created, synthetic diamonds? The client was Creatiste, a relatively new jewellery company specialising in a sustainable, eco-friendly and cost effective alternative to naturally mined diamonds. They wanted a copywriter to promote their business, their USP and their ethos. Joe had set up their website and entrusted me with this copywriting job.

As you can imagine for a happily single man in my early 30s, my knowledge of the nuances of jewellery were (and still are) non-existent. But I can turn my hand to anything when it comes to writing and I really enjoy embracing new challenges and stepping out my comfort zone. Here, I was as far outside of that as it is perhaps possible to be. Although there was no deadline per se, I aimed for a completion date of Christmas and to strike a balance between a great piece of blog writing which wasn’t too time consuming.

The first phase involved setting out the structure of the article. We had to decide what specific areas to cover and how many words should be given over to each bit of the blog post.

The five main sections were:

  • What are Lab Grown Diamonds?
  • How are Lab Grown Diamonds made?
  • How are Lab Grown Diamonds Certified and Graded?
  • Mining vs lab created gemstones
  • Simulated vs lab grown diamonds?

Having looked at other competitor sites, we noticed many of these, such as Brilliant Earth and Anabela Chan, had a Q&A and a ‘Gemstones Glossary’ to explain some of the jargon and lesser known terms which you come across in the jewellery/gemstone industry. It would also allow for us to expand upon many of the themes mentioned in the main body of the blog post.

I didn’t need to be a jewellery expert or a gemstone guru to be able to write tight, engaging and professional copy for this project. Having found some other similar sites to use for inspiration, it was simply a case of researching the topic, collating everything I learned then making this information readable. The key is making it look and sound as though you know what you’re talking about even if you have no prior knowledge of the topic or subject matter. Although my background is in the world of sports reporting, it was an interesting challenge to be able to turn my hand to something I’ve never done before.

When I graduated back in 2019, I never thought I would be researching and writing about demi-fine jewellery as part of my day job, but there you go. It’s where my career has taken me and I wouldn’t change it for anything.

We decided to ask Mehreen, co-founder of Creatiste along with her sister Maha, to introduce the piece in the form of an interview. We felt this would add a sense of personality, bring a different voice to the article and hopefully take the reader on a journey. Mehreen was only too happy to oblige and gave a fascinating insight into how it all started, a great explanation on their ethos and what the future holds for the company. Her take on things really added a different perspective and provided a strong opening gambit for us to go into the more intricate and technical details.

Projects like this one are great strings to my bow, evidence I can turn my hand to anything as required and still produce excellent work even when it’s not a topic I’m familiar with.

One of the best things in freelance work is the variety involved – no day is the same, you never know what you will be working on and you’re broadening your horizons all the time.

Eastbourne ‘Airbourne’ 2022

Our second air display of the summer was one much closer to home as we headed 30 miles down the coast to Britain’s sunniest place, Eastbourne. Brighton’s bustling cousin is home to the world’s biggest seafront airshow, Airbourne, a superb seaside show but one faced with an uncertain future.

With rumours swirling of this being Eastbourne’s last ever Airbourne due to spiralling costs and economic concerns, and £400,000 needed to keep the show going, it was perhaps understandable the flying display would suffer. Mainly through the loss of the display’s star turn, the headline act, the crowd puller. Although we had already seen the Belgian Air Force F-16 strutting it’s superb stuff at RIAT, it’s late withdrawal from Eastbourne was a huge shame. The loss of the F-16 two days before the show was due to a combination of last minute paperwork glitches and logistical challenges.

However, none of these challenges diminshed four excellent days of aerial entertainment. The Thursday and Friday are almost like preview days, building up to the largest programme of displays over the weekend. We went on Sunday, with the display opened shortly after lunch by a solo sequence from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Spitfire (the Lancaster got a bird strike en route and the Hurricane was also unserviceable).

Several seaside show favourites featured heavily throughout the afternoon and into the early evening. The Army’s parachute regiment display team, The Tigers, caught the eye with their dramatic descent on to the beach with a combination of soloists and some neatly choreographed canopy work.

The Tigers FFT (Photo: Chelsea Gibson)

Equally impressive were Eastbourne regulars Aerosuperbatics Wingwalkers – serviceability issues meant only a solo routine on the first two days but they were back up to full strength by the weekend. It was great to see this popular team back in full working order following a mishap down in Bournemouth the previous year.

More smoke and aerobatics came from Rich Goodwin and his simply sensational Pitts S-2S Special. Rich pushed the tiny and highly modified aerobatic craft to its absolute limit and again enthralled with his full array of tumbles, knife edge passes, spins, stall turns and his piece de resistance ‘The Tower of Power.’

Locally based aviation legend Rod Dean lowered the tempo and the wow factor but a man who has flown over 50 types of aircraft gave a very elegant and precise demonstration in his Redhill-based Slingsby T-67 Firefly.
There were, as ever, a nice selection of vintage warbirds in the Eastbourne display. The throaty roar of the Rolls Royce P-51D Mustang was one of the highlights of Sunday’s programme, with another civilian operated aircraft, John Romain in his Spitfire PRXI, appearing on the Saturday.

Another highlight for me was the rare sight of the Hawker Fury FB11 as Andy Durston put on a tremendous demonstration of power and agility in the mighty piston engined fighter on its Eastbourne debut.

There were some lovely classic jets featured in the flying, too. Ian Brett displayed the BAC Strikemaster Mk.82 on all four days and Kenneth Aarksvila ensured Eastbourne was an international event with the ever popular Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-15 UTI complete with music and Soviet markings.

The biggest participation, however, came from closer to home with all of the RAF’s traditional display aspects on show. As already mentioned, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight were bereft of the Lanc and the Hurricane on Sunday, but their Spitfire was lovely to see and was joined by all of the home favourites. The Chinook turned in it’s ever popular solo routine as well as a really unusual and never-seen-before link up with the four Extra 300s of the Blades Aerobatic Team to promote the RAF Benevolent Fund. Sunday’s display also featured a rare airshow appearance by an RAF-Benson based Puma HC2 helicopter which conducted a solitary flypast along the crowd line. A shame it was so brief, but it was a welcome addition from an aircraft I’ve never seen before.

Photo: Chelsea Gibson

The Blades, in turn, put on their always exciting aerobatic four-ship routine before the Red Arrows gave Eastbourne a welcome boost with their seven ship display on all four days. The Typhoon FGR4 brought a captivated seafront to a standstill with a typically thunderous performance to close the show in loud and dramatic style on Sunday.

Photo: Chelsea Gibson

It would be churlish to compare Airbourne with RIAT – they are two completely different shows with two completely different budgets and type of audience. But Eastbourne was a very enjoyable day out and as the show most local to me it makes a cheap day out (the display itself is free) and it isn’t far to travel.

As the dust settled on another brilliant four days on the Sussex coasts, with record breaking crowds and an entertaining and varied flying programme, there came some good news. The show would indeed return for 2023 for it’s 30th year – I, for one, cannot wait!

Royal International Air Tattoo 2022

They say good things come to those who wait and that was certainly the case in 2022. After a three-year, pandemic-enforced hiatus, the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) returned to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire.
Having bought tickets for the world’s biggest military airshow in 2020, only to be thwarted by the restrictions implemented by Covid, we tried again in 2022 and, this time, nothing was going to stop us.

I had been to RIAT only once before, but I was eight then and don’t remember it. This time, now as a fully- fledged airshow enthusiast and self-confessed ‘av geek’  with a love for the fast, loud and modern jets, I could barely contain my excitement as the weeks, days and hours ticked down to Saturday, 16 July.

It was an early 7am start from my friend’s house in Southampton and a 90-minute drive via the A34 and the M3 to arrive at Fairford on a swelteringly hot July day: absolutely perfect conditions for an airshow at the height of the British summer.

There were very long queues to get into the car park but, having done so, we entered the showground just as the marathon eight hour flying display kicked off. First up; a rip-roaring routine from the Italian Air Force Eurofighter F-2000A Typhoon.  

I won’t run through every single display here: with a programme stretching from 9.45am right through until 6pm and featuring 30 different types; we’ll be here all day. Instead, I will pick out my highlights and discuss the aircraft I enjoyed the most.

Undoubtedly one of the most unusual aircraft ever seen at an airshow caught the eye early on: the public display debut of the Airbus A-330-743L “Beluga” with test pilot Anthony Flynn at the controls. The giant transporter gave some very impressive passes before a dramatic rolling departure into the gin clear blue skies.

But for me the undoubted star of the RIAT flying display came right at the end in the early evening light. Having presented a very entertaining combination alongside the Swiss Air Force PC-7 team, Captain Yannick ‘Fonsi’  Zanata wowed the Fairford spectators with a loud and breathtaking solo routine of power, agility and precision in the F/A 18C Hornet.

Joining the Hornet were a string of other first-class solo jet displays. Another Hornet came from the Spanish, whilst the F-16 was twice represented impressively with the Belgian Air Force F-16AM and the Zeus Demo Team from Greece in the ‘C’ variant of the legendary fighter jet.
The RAF were, as ever, out in force, with contributions from Flight Lieutenant Adam O’Hare in the Eurofighter Typhoon and Steedman Display sword winner for best display by a UK participant courtesy of Flt Lt Matty Smythe and the Chinook. The Red Arrows and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are ever presents at every major UK show and RIAT was no exception. The RAF’s latest frontline fighter also featured in the display with a brief – but no less impressive – low pass and hover demonstration as Fairford was shaken to its core by the raw power and noise of the F-35B Lightning II.

RAF Chinook display

Two of the best sequences came from the Hungarians with two vastly contrasting appearances in the flying. Their SAAB JAS-39C Gripen solo display (one of two in the programme), flown by Captain David Szentrendei, proved a worthy winner of the Paul Bowen trophy for best individual jet display and came complete with an eye-catching ‘dump and burn.’ However, it was the Hungarian Mil Mi-24P Hind helicopter which also caught the eye with a very spirited and energetic routine which used pretty much all of the crowd line.

Other helicopter displays included the mighty NH90 tactical transport helicopter from Germany and an impressive two-ship performance from the Czechs in the shape of their battle hardened combat rotary wing MiL Mi-35 Hind and Mi-171Sh Hip. The pair put on a fearsome demonstration of their combat capabilities – a rare treat from a display never before seen at RIAT.

Another outstanding set piece role demonstration came courtesy of the Austrians and another award-winning display. This involved the now sadly rare, but once familiar, sight of a Lockheed C-130K Hercules together with a pair of Eurofighter EF2000 Typhoons. The C-130K played the role of an unresponsive aircraft in friendly airspace with the Typhoons scrambled to intercept, identify and escort the rogue aircraft to a safe landing at Fairford. Once the C-130K had touched down, the pair of Typhoons took centre stage…and how! The Fairford crowd were captivated and held completely in thrall as the two Typhoons put on a superb sequence of close air combat one on one manouevres. This was certainly up there as one of my favourite displays of the event and combined the rare sight of the Herc with the wonderful sound of not one but two modern fighter jets at the same time!

Considering one of the themes of this year’s RIAT was the 75th Anniversary of the USAF, it was disappointing to see only one aircraft from ‘across the pond’ feature in the flying. The tilt rotor, V/STOL Bell Boeing CV-22B Osprey from RAF Mildenhall was a welcome addition, but the last minute cancellation of a pair of Boeing B-52H Stratofortress aircraft – which would have been the first time I’ve seen one flying – was a shame. Overall, the USAF support didn’t match the hype bestowed upon it by enthusiasts. We were looking forward to seeing the B52s but safety must come first and there’s always another year.

More colour and panache came from the Frecce Tricolori of the Italian Air Force, mainstays of RIAT as they filled the Cotswold skies with their high energy syncronicity and the green, white and red of the Italian national flag. The four Extra 300s of The Royal Jordanian Falcons provided a nice contrast to the backdrop of heavy military metal.

By far the best of the foreign display teams, though, was the headline act of RIAT 2022: the much anticipated return of the Republic of Korea Air Force’s Black Eagles, last seen here in 2012. The Red Arrows become staid and dated and you see them so often their undoubted skill becomes all too achingly familiar. The eight KAI T-50B Golden Eagle fighter/trainers used by this excellent team provided not only the novelty factor but also something modern, vibrant and very slick. The team’s exceptional performance concluded when they used their smoke to paint their nation’s national symbol, the Taegeuk, in the skies over Fairford, and landed back in front of an awestruck crowd to a loud standing ovation. It was no surprise to see the Black Eagles team win not one, but two awards – the King Hussein Memorial Sword for best Overall Flying Demonstration and the Friends of RIAT’s As the Crow Flies trophy for best Overall Flying Demonstration.

A brilliant day was had by all at the UK’s premier military aviation event. We had an easy journey home and arrived back in Southampton shortly after 9.30pm having stopped for dinner en route. A day which will live long in the memory and a long-awaited item to tick off the bucket list. Maybe Yeovilton next year?

ROKAF Black Eagles

UEFA Women’s Euro 2022: England vs Germany

For all the talk of Gareth Southgate, Harry Kane, Phil Foden et al, there was a tinge of irony amidst the glory as Sarina Wiegmann and her heroic pride of Lionesses finally ended the nation’s wait for footballing immortality.

On the eve of the men’s World Cup in Qatar, what better time to look back at that glorious, historic day in July when – in front of a record crowd for a women’s game in England – football did, indeed, come home. Unheralded but yet inspirational to millions, England’s Women team won the European Championship on home turf for the first piece of silverware by an England senior team since that day in 1966.

I had attended three games during the tournament – Norway versus Northern Ireland in Southampton and two of England’s matches at Brighton – the astonishing 8-0 against Norway and the 2-1 extra-time triumph over the Spaniards as belief and momentum began to grow.

Unbeknownest to me, anyone in attendance at any game at either St Mary’s or The Amex entered a prize draw to win free tickets to the final: an unbelievable occasion no matter the teams involved but England vs Germany? At Wembley? For free? Quite simply, a once in a lifetime experience. As you have probably already worked out by now, I was lucky enough to be there.

I was on my way to the aforemention quarter-final when I got the phone call I was one of the lucky winners – so at that stage, although an England vs Germany final was widely predicted, it was far from certain.

The dream final duly materialised and my rugby-mad brother in law, merely only a casual footy fan, needed no persuasion at all to be my guest of honour up in the gods at Wembley. Favourites England, the home nation riding the crest of a wave and unbeaten under the elite management of Wiegmann, versus Germany. The eight-time winners with a flawless 100% record in European Championship finals. For Wiegmann, England’s Dutch coach appointed in 2021, her tenure had been building inexorably towards this moment. She had won the last tournament when in charge of her native Netherlands and was striving to become the first manager to ever win back-to-back Euros with two different countries.

The showpiece final was billed as a deserving denouement to a record-breaking competition between the two best sides in the competition. The biggest crowd in the history of a men or women’s Euros, 87,192, were certainly given their money’s worth.

Perhaps England’s destiny was just meant to be: the Germans talismanic striker and top scorer, hotshot Alexandra Popp, was ruled out of the match having picked up an injury moments before kick-off. Despite that setback, Germany were made of stern stuff and managed to recover from substitute Ella Toone’s opener to equalise though Lina Magull and set up a frantic finale.

That paved the way for extra-time with the dreaded ‘p’ word at the forefront of everyone’s minds. After all, we know how it usually ends when England face the Germans penalty prowess from twelve yards…

But there was to be a final, golden-tinged twist in the topsy turvy tale ten minutes from time. Substitute Chloe Kelly, two months on from her return after an ACL injury, poked home from a corner to spark wild celebrations as Wembley erupted.

Kelly waited for confirmation of the goal as she took off her shirt and whirled it around her head, while being lifted by her team-mates in iconic scenes which will be replayed for years.

That knocked the stuffing out of the Germans as Wiegmann’s England managed the game superbly, counting down the clock by keeping the ball in the corner and winning fouls and set pieces.

The scenes were starkly contrasting at full-time: with tears of joy and jubilation from the heroic Lionesses and even the usually stony faced and stoic Wiegmann. The Germans, beaten in a European final for the first time, did not linger long on one of the greatest nights in English sport.

Captain Leah Williamson raised the trophy into the air against the backdrop of signature soundtrack ‘Sweet Caroline’ as English finally scratched their 56-year itch – and how sweet, how very, very sweet, it was.

What an unbelievable day at Wembley, roaring the Lionesses on to Euro glory on a night when history was rewritten.

Over to the men now…

NI, Mournes&T’Dales – September 22′

What a trip this was! It had been a year hence since my hiking cohorts in the SMG (Stedfast Mountain Group) had first teased the idea of a trip to Northern Ireland. Specifically, the Mourne Mountains, a granite-topped mountain range in County Down in the south east of the island nation.

The trip was first touted in December 2021 and, from that small seed, the garden began to grow. My auntie had taken part in the prestigious mountain marathon race out there the previous year. None of us apart from her had been there before and thus she agreed to organise a return visit and throw it open to us in the SMG.

My ears pricked up and my interest was instantly tickled. Having been to Wales, Scotland, the Peak District and the Lakes, the wild and rugged beauty of Northern Ireland lay as yet undiscovered – until now.

Let me explain how my club works: We have a yearly programme of events and hikes – whether that be day meets, weekend meets or two-week trips. Once the calendar is agreed (which usually happens at our AGM), we then decide which meets we want to go on. Numbers vary and each meet has one of our members in charge, responsible for organising the trip and communicating plans with everyone else.

With Northern Ireland settled on, there would be seven of us in attendance: myself, my auntie Maggie, John, David, Phil and his wife Hillary and Stephen ‘Satch’ Millen to act as transport manager and chaffeur.

So the scene was set: I would catch the train up to Skipton in North Yorkshire to meet my auntie. We would then drive down to Birkenhead the following day (31st August) for the overnight, eight-hour crossing to Belfast. John and the Phillarys were quite literally in the same boat as us, with the others to arrive on a separate ferry from Cairnryan on the Scottish coast. We would then all meet up at base camp, Tollymore Forest Park, during the afternoon.

After arrival into Belfast at stupid o’clock, we stopped for breakfast before the hour’s drive down to the quaint coastal town of Newcastle, nestled beneath the dark, dripping precipice of the Mournes Massif, checking in and setting up camp

With Phil and Hillary staying in a nearby B&B, the gang was back together and we planned our day one adventure: the assault on Slieve Donard (Donairt’s mountain): Northern Ireland’s highest and the undoubted zenith of our trip.

Slieve Donard

Starting out at the mysteriously named Bloody Bridge – which, legend has it, was the sight of a massacre during the 1641 rebellion here – we followed the river via the Bog of Donard to the Mourne Wall. This was a truly remarkable and unforgettable sight, towering 5ft high and stretching across 22 miles, constructed of granite to enclose a catchment area of the Silent Valley, preventing contamination for Belfast’s water supply.

Now heading directly for Donard, we walked up alongside the wall on a very steep section of the path to arrive at the summit. Dry and warm but unfortunately a think bank of clag meant we had no views but I’m reliably informed it is stunning. This became a recurring theme throughout our ten days in the mountains so a return visit is definitely in order to take in the scenery!

Slieve Donard summit

Descent route back down past the Wall before we dropped through the valley to Glen River through forest and woodland to Newcastle town centre where Satch picked us up.

Total time: Six and a half hours (distance: 10km/6 miles)

Slieve Commedagh

After a day’s breather exploring Belfast on a very wet and windy Saturday, conditions improved significantly for an attempt on Donard’s ‘little brother’ Slieve Commedagh (765m/2516ft). Followed the previous Friday’s descent route up from Newcastle to Glen River through woodland to the Mourne Wall. Turned right to climb steeply, skirting the Wall, before the path levelled off and then climbed again to a flot topped ridge for another 200m to the summit.

Much like the Donard day, conditions were dry but the clag persisted so zero visibility and views – swirling winds and very overcast… we saw absolutely nothing which was such a shame!

Slieve Donard from Commedagh

Phil and Hillary took a different descent route as they dropped off back down a direct path into town where they had left their car. Mags, Johnny Has, David and myself continued along the ridge as we endeavoured to return to base. Dropped sharply off the east side of the peak through a steep section of boggy and grassy marshland to a dry stone wall. Picked up a path which we then followed via a pretty forest route back to Tollymore and our tents – 8 miles and five hours. To cap off a brilliant day, United beat Arsenal 3-1 to inflict the Gunners first (and so far, only) league loss of the season. Boom!

Slieve Commedagh descent route

Slieve Binnian

With the UK gripped by the events in Westminster with Boris out and Liz Truss in, we set out on another challenge of our own: the rocky and unique topography of Slieve Binnian – aptly translated as Peak of the Little Horns.
The ascent was steep, muddy and famous for its fascinating rock formations as you can see, in evidence far more here than anywhere else we went to.

We started our route from the car park at the wonderfully named Carrick Little to pick up a farm track which followed a slight incline to a gate. The path fords a broad stream up to the now familiar sight of the Mourne Wall, a constant and reassuring presence wherever we turn.
This we followed up to the steep final section, leaving the Wall behind to be faced with a wall of granite and the rocky outcrops of the North Tor. From here, it was a small but tricky scrambling section up to one of the two highest points on the summit of Slieve Binnian (747m) and a short walk to the other. Absolutely blowing a hooly!

Rock formations, Slieve Binnian

Descent via Blue Lough where we finally got some views over to Slieve Commedagh and the Silent Valley! Incredible rock outcrops and shapes! Distance 11km and six hours total time.
Returned to Carrick Little to the news the nation had a new leader (yet another one) as Liz Truss begins her ultimately ill-fated 44-day tenure as Prime Minister.
Last day for Satch and David P. Mags, John and I did the “Brandy Pad” walk the next day as the weather prevented a ‘hill day’ so we walked through the mountains rather than over them. This was a route used by smugglers to bring in expensive goods such as tobacco and alcohol to avoid paying tax on them before they were sent out elsewhere. This was a linear route linking Trassey Track and Bloody Bridge via the Brandy Pad taking in the majesty of the Mournes (although, once again, frustratingly we didn’t see anything).

And so, that brought to an end a simply epic ten days of fantastic walking, brilliant company and many a laugh despite the far from ideal conditions. We solemnly decamped and spent the next day in Belfast before our return overnight crossing back to Birkenhead. Devouring a pre-departure curry and pint, the only Wetherspoons in Northern Ireland was stunned into a shocked silence when we heard the news of the death of HM The Queen at the ripe old age of 96.

Having arrived back in England to a ten day period of national mourning for our monarch, I spent the weekend with my auntie where we went to the Dales and did Great Knoutberry Hill before I returned home to Sussex on Monday 12 September. Farewell, NI, it’s been a blast!