blog

from island to island

Sunday Walk: Froghall Wharf & Harston Woods

This week’s walk was around Froghall Wharf  which is in the Churnet Valley, at the end of the Caldon Canal. It wasn’t so much the canal and wharf we were interested in, but the surrounding woodlands. The wharf itself was busy at 11am, not surprising since it’s a pretty spot with picnic tables, two parking areas, and toilet facilities, plus Hetty’s Tea Shop (which we didn’t sample). I liked the look of the circular walk up and around the wharf, and we weren’t disappointed. Crossing the canal, we went up the valley past ancient iron ore workings. ‘Look for conical depressions’ Dez read out from the map, and Liam warped that into ‘chronical depression’… so questions #5 and 6 of the day were all about depression. There were a lot of questions today. We missed the right turn down to the little lake, but after backtracking we found it (no signs!) and went down past the lake then back up onto a ridge and a beautiful woodland glad. Another small bridge took us up to farmland, where we followed the fence and hit the track which lead to the main road down from Foxt. Passing a dead sheep fired up more questions, and it wasn’t long before even my patience faded, and I told Dez the next 10 questions were all hers. We curtained the official route by taking the track down next to New Cottages which lead through Harston woods down to the old railway track, and on back to the car park. Details: 1hr 20 minutes 2.75 miles Climb about 400 feet   Tips: There are 3 ‘marked’ routes around...

Sunday Walk: Dimmingsdale & Croxden

Dimmingsdale was possibly one of the muddiest walks we’ve done, but has potential so we’ll be back when it’s drier. Fine meal at the Rambler’s Retreat afterwards (sorry about the muddy shoes, guys!). Croxden Abbey was a delight – atmospheric, massive and very...

Making use of an old smartphone

I’m always thinking of how to use an old device. When you’ve given old phones to son and family, how else can they be used? And then in a eureka moment, I hit upon a perfect use, at least if you’re a cyclist. So here’s a recipe for re-purposing an old smartphone into a smart cycling computer. Get a bike phone holder. I tried a couple, and this one is perfect, at least in dry conditions! Take you old phone and install Strava, Google Fit, or similar. Set it up with your home wi-fi, and connect before you set off. Also install DigitalHud from the Play store – it’s a great way to get live ‘movement’ data as you’re cycling. And Bob is your uncle – a smart, no-hassle odometer for your cycling!...

Quick & Easy PPC Tips

I’m a big fan of a focused PPC campaign. Focused on conversions. Here’s are some tips to achieve that. Always remember that the beauty of Adwords PPC over other channels is that you are reaching potential customers at the exact point at which they are making a decision to buy a product like yours.  Or at least starting to think about it. Always use negative keywords. Review the Search Terms used to show your ads. What keywords are being used that do NOT relate to your product? You’ll probably be surprised at keywords that slip in that lead to keyword combinations that bear no relation to your product. Lose them. Always look at your keyword Quality Score. Regardless of the impact it might have on your  bids, it’s such a good indicator of the relevance of a particular keyword to your campaign (and landing page). If the QS is 5 or below, do something: lose the keyword, or work it into your page somehow – Page Title, body of the page, just somewhere it can be seen by the system.  If the keyword doesn’t match the page,  people aren’t going to convert, let alone click. Utilise Sitelink Extensions – they’re such a good way to enhance the ad.  For free. You can find more PPC tips at...

Liam on ballet

We’re reading a Horrid Henry story where he’s doing ballet, so I say “hey, maybe you should try that?” Liam say “Ballet’s for girls.” “Some boys do ballet,” I said. “I’m not the sort of boy who does ballet,” was his...

Sunday Walk: Laddersedge Country Park, Leek

A little different this one – mostly along side  what seems like a stream but is I believe a canal feeder canal on one side and Leek golf club on the other. Still, pleasant enough. Where it gets a little interesting is when you cross the stream and climb up into the woods – there’s a beautiful woodland  (lots of bluebells in Spring!). Parking is either on the left or lower down the hill on the right. Both are signposted off the A53 south of Leek. More details to...

Sunday Walk: Deep Hayes Country Park, Leek

And what a hidden gem this one is! We drove right past it going to last week’s walk at Laddersedge. It’s a little south of Leek, off the A53 Stoke road. Turn right into the park just after the canal bridge, and there’s a spacious car park at the visitor’s centre by the lower pond. Good choice of walks, which are signed by the usual posts painted various colours. We circled the lake and crossed via the ‘stepping stones’, then down to the canal side walk.  All in all a good walk, especially enjoyed by Liam because it wasn’t too far or too...

Sunset bike ride

Caught this sunset on my evening bike ride behind Biddulph Grange Garden yesterday, on what might be one of the last, post-work twilight rides. Goodbye summer, it’s been...

Tumbleweed Connection, Sussex

It was my favourite album as a teenager, and it still stands the test of time. But on idly reviewing the album on Wikipedia today, one thing struck me now that didn’t 40 years ago. The album cover photo, which at the time seemed so evocative of the American West, is so clearly England. Bluebell Railway in Sussex in fact. The ‘Daily Telegraph’ advert is the giveaway. (Photo from...

A Ride around Shutlingsloe

Started at The Hanging Gate pub. Up the hill a little, then left onto a steeper bit.  Passing a stone cross on the left, get to the top and then it’s downhill. Only don’t do as I did, and take a left halfway down – it just goes to a farm!   Instead, continue downhill past a couple of old quarries-turned-carparks, then left into the valley that is Wildboarclough. It’s a great, gentle climb alongside the stream (what is the headwaters of the River Dane, lower down). Then it’s a sharp left and a very steep climb up towards the Chapel. At the top, you can go down on the road into the forest, or left on the bridleway. I went left, and down into Macc Forest. I kept left, down and up, and came out on to the road above Ridgegate Reservoir that heads back up towards the Hanging Gate. Total time: 1hr 15 total distance: 9 miles...

Best Analytics Metrics for 2016, Part I

I’m often asked what are the key Metrics to look at within the wealth of data that Google Analytics offers. My answer is this: anything, so long as you drill down to some more meaningful level. For instance, of course Bounce Rate is a fairly useful indicator of how engaging a page is – but not particularly for your site overall. So a good, indeed essential, use of BR is say at the Landing Page Report level. Better still, refine that report to view high traffic pages that have a BR of say over 50%, and straight away you have a hit list of pages you should look at with a view to reducing BR and pulling visitors further into your site. After all, you’ve done something right to acquire the traffic, maximise it (by adding a clear Call To...

Always Segment!

Custom or advanced segments give you the real insights within Analytics.  Off the shelf reports are fair starting points, but every business is unique, so one of the key building blocks for good GA are segments. For instance, image how better the insights will be from the Landing Page Report if you segment by Demographics and/or device… Or picture the power of a segment that refines your E-Commerce goals by Traffic Source! As always, the GA Gallery is a great repository of segments that can be adapted to you particular...

“Because I don’t like them”

So it’s Liam’s birthday party. Someone asks “Why are there no girls here?” Liam “Because I don’t like girls.” And everyone went...

Grammatically Ambivalent

I love the way kids are ambivalent. They can happily tell you one thing in one breath, then the oppositie in the next. So I’m asking Liam about his Afterschool afternoon, and what he had to eat. “Cheese sandwich. But it had cucumbers on it. So I asked the dinner lady to take it off.” What did she say? “Nothing. She said ‘Just eat it'”. And: Liam: “There were other kids there in uniforms like mine.” Me: “So they were in red sweaters?” “Yes. They were...

Cornwall

From our recent trip to Cornwall. On the sea wall at...

And I would cycle 1,000 miles…

And I have! I’ve just clocked up the 1,000 miles mark for 2015, almost all done on my commute to & from work. Because I don’t care for riding in the dark, I limit my commuting to BST, so yesterday saw, I think, my list commute for the year. And courtesy of a cool site called the Strava Multiple Ride Mapper here’s a map of the year’s...