Foragers At Work

IMG_20150918_123103-cNot bad for a 90 minute lunchtime foraging quickie: 2.5 kg deep red rose hips, a very large bag of apples and a bag of golden ripe pears, all courtesy of Elthorne Rough.


Track vs Route

a map

(C) OpenStreetMap contributors

I am a self-confessed GPS aficionado. Didn’t care for GPS for years on ground of having a very good map reading wife by my side, but one day, we started using Google Navigation in the car. We upgraded to a entry-level Tom-tom (on grounds of the more accurate GPS unit and no need for data connection), and I am now walking the surface of this planet with a Garmin eTrex 30 mobile GPS unit in hand.

I love it, and hate everything that comes with it or, more to the point, hate everything that fails to come with it.

Garmin assumes users already know all about GPS navigation. For example, they do not consider details such as the difference between a route and a track worth explaining. The Garmin software didn’t find my approval, and I am delighted to find a selection of independent offerings. At some point, I thought I had found my home in, until I discovered that their exported routes are actually tracks.

So, what is a route, what is a track?

A route is a set of waypoints between start and end of a journey. The waypoints help the routing system to choose between alternative routes, and offer milestones for the trip. The point is that the GPS navigation system finds its own way from one waypoint to the other, and it can guide you along the way: turn right in 50 meters, make a u-turn when possible, take the 3rd exit.

A track, by contrast, is a very dense collection of waypoints. The system can draw a line from one waypoint to the other, and it can show you where you are relative to the track, but it cannot guide you along the track or back onto the track if you lost it.

A track is a record of where you (or where somebody else) has been in the past, a route is a navigable instruction for future trips.

The closest I could find is the well-made site. Ignore the mediocre Ordinance Survey map display and plan your route with Google maps, and then export a route. This actually exports a route, not a track. This route will have way too many waypoints however. The GPS device only handles a few waypoints per route. You can ask the software to cut the number of waypoints. It’s just too bad that one cannot decide which waypoint enters the exported route; this is the result of an algorithm over which the user has no control.

I enjoy exploring all this free software, but would absolutely love to pay a reasonable price for a good route planning software for hiking and cycling. Frustratingly such software doesn’t seem to exist. Suggestions, anyone?

Orchard News

DSC_0212While a certain local community orchard is in full bloom, we joined 100000 others (possibly more) and made our way to RHS Wisley Gardens this May Bank Holiday, where the fruit trees, rhododendron and much more are in full bloom and stunningly glorious.

While we parked in overflow car park 5 on the other side of Wisley village, most people gathered in the central areas and around picnic areas and the restaurants, while we enjoyed a perfectly peaceful afternoon in the remaining parts of those magnificent gardens.

Here are some pictures.

My Painting Hero

DSC_0509.JPGFor once we managed to view the John Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London before the last day, and I am very glad that we did. Even though, or maybe because we had to book a ticket for timed entry (we chose 14:00), there was no queuing and a very relaxed atmosphere.

And every one of his paintings well worth a good look, and another one.

I like his loose stroke for the out-of-focus parts, the background and the frilly bits of the sitters clothes, and I adore his confidence with tonal painting. Just superb.

Go and see the Singer Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery if you are in London.

Almonds In Bloom

DSC_0414We arrived a week late and some of the almonds were already nearing the end of the bloom, and had been beaten about by heavy rain and hailstorm a few days earlier. However, seeing the entire area covered in white and pink blossom rather than the usual lush yet boring rows of wine is quite something.

Almost every house, street and road, every front garden and hillside is covered in the delicate flowers.

Check it out! Die Pfalz is always worth a visit.

We Flew

DSC_0086We “flew” the Emirates Airline last Sunday. For those unfamiliar with one of the attractions more recently added to London, I’m talking about this Emirates Air Line: a cable car between North Greenwich on the south bank of the river Thames and the Royal Docks on the other side. It crosses the Thames where it is pretty wide, between the Isle of Dogs (the heart of London’s Docklands), offering spectacular views of the Docklands on one side and the Thames Barrier on the other.

The service is great, affordable for a one-off (£3.30 on an Oyster pay-as-you-go), the cabins feel very safe, and the views are fantastic. The only downside is that the ride is over all too quickly.

Oh, and maybe the fact that it really leads to nowhere. A lot of development potential remains on the Royal Docks. It isn’t all wasteland, but we ended up taking the tube to the next point of urban civilization (Canary Wharf).

For a nice day one on a nice weather day in London, highly recommended.

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The Great Ouse

DSC_0512This river is cursed, I think. We tried to paddle a stretch of the Great Ouse and couldn’t find a suitable launch place (but went for a lovely swim in the Great Ouse instead). Technical difficulties such as a puncture prevented successful paddling on the next attempt. This time, we actually made it onto the water near Huntington, and enjoyed approximately 40 minutes of post-lunch upstream paddling until the weather very decidedly turned against us.

Gosh, what a lovely river, meandering through lush countryside, with villages which are groomed to perfection – probably with an insane amount of money.

Very lovely though. We shall come back, maybe for a short weekend in spring next year.

(The “river” depicted here shows the mouth of the Salcombe Estuary, another very pretty place well worth returning to.)


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An Amazing Book to Watch

DSCF2763Today, I am recommending that you go watch this book if you can: The Book of Mormon. Funny and packed with energy, this is one of the best musicals I have ever seen.

No, I do not recommend that you read the book by the same name, but the musical, thou shalt go and watch.

(Picture taken in Utah, which is the closest I could come to Salt Lake City.)

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A Greek Tragedy

Sydney Opera House by nightIt’s called the Opera, but since it seems to have gone out of production quicker than in, it’s more like a Greek tragedy to me. I seem unable to even contemplate the purchase of one. One of these, I mean:,18.

How brilliant is that? A beautifully designed luxury Klappkarr’n with most advantages of a caravan, but still some of the I-am-free-under-the-sky feeling of a tent. I am guessing that the price tag would have been quite excessive; judging by their marketing pictures, the whole thing is made to very high standards.

I am now contemplating a visit to the Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC, Birmingham. Maybe not this October and maybe not for purchase this year, and maybe not exactly a klappkarr’n designed by Axel Enthoven, but there is no harm in dreaming, and performing a reality-check, is there?


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DSC_040716 days, many Airmiles and many a bruise in the bum later, after several in-flight meals of questionable quality and several movies we wouldn’t have watched otherwise, we’re back from Rarotonga.

Fotos are now online and available right here:

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A Fine Buck

DSC_1665It’s rare to see so much snow in London, so we enjoyed watching some Great Tits on our cat and squirrel safe bird feeder, and made it out to Richmond Park. Very large number of families with children were enjoying themselves with plastic and makeshift sledges, and a good time was had by all.

Funny how the slopes, particularly a very busy slope near the Kingston Gate, looked as if the scene could have stood model for a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

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Not The Right Message

DSC_0567The good wife ruled that we should spend a short break in the Chilterns, and as our luck would have it, she chose the first rain-free weekend since memory. We took the train to Oxford, and followed the national cycling route 5 to Banbury. Too bad that it doesn’t use the Oxford Canal tow path much, but a nice route. A curry and a Bed & Breakfast later, we’re on our way to Stratford-upon-Avon, still along route 5. Signage wasn’t very good and the route was pretty rough in places, but landscape and groomed villages of very affluent “country folk” were nice enough to compensate. I think there were more Jaguar than John Deere vehicles in many of these places.

The most frustrating part were the trains though. The National Rail inquiry service told us that we had to change in Slough on our way out. Luckily, we figured out that the train we were on went straight through to Oxford, changing as advised would have gotten us there five minutes later, with the added hassle of the change.

Given how ill-prepared British trains are for cyclists, we were lucky to find space for our bikes, and nearby seats, so we were glad not to change trains. Almost £20 per person, sold by an unhelpful and unfriendly ticket agent at the station.

The same spiel on our way back from Stratford: the ticket agent didn’t want to talk to us, only hesitantly surrendered information under thread of torture, and definitely though it beneath himself to help us choosing a route into Ealing. Another £20 per person (on a super-saver ticket!) and an amazing 2 hours later on a slow-moving train bound for London Marylebone, we alighted at Wembley Stadium and cycled the remaining 5 miles through suburbia, rather than going all the way into town, cross to London Paddington and come out on a different train (and additional ticket cost).

They really make no detectable effort to promote the use of local trains. Expensive tickets, unappealing schedules, hard-to-come-by and even incorrect time table and connection information, unfriendly and unhelpful staff, slow moving trains – we should emigrate to Germany, were we did similar trips for €20 (covering a group up to five people in a vast area, all day, with amble cycle storage in every train). I get tears in my eyes when I think of it.

Here, we pay £20 per person and journey, are made to block the doors with our bikes due to the absence of any other space, and take over 2 hours from A to B on a journey which would have taken 1 hour 46 minutes by car, according to Google.

Clearly, this isn’t sending quite the right message, is it?

At least the Service Information Board at Oxford station did. Click the image for enlargement.


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