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.


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.

Urban Wildlife

20140112_124358It isn’t the greatest wildlife photo in the world; not wishing to loose the opportunity, I used my mobile phone rather than run and search for a proper camera.

We often see foxes at night.

This is our first full daylight fox. He (or she?) was quite relaxed and in apparently good condition, enjoying the cold wind and a good look around the alley way and back gardens.

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Happy Days

DSC_0593Don’t you just love it to wake up and night and a need to pee when it is only just 45 minutes prior to the regular alarm time?

Don’t you just love it to lie awake for the next five minutes and ponder whether to follow nature’s call, thus reducing the remaining sleep time to 35 minutes by the time you’re back in bed, or try, and fail to, doze for the remaining 40 minutes?

Don’t you just love it when you give up, mentally quoting one of the late Amy Winehouse’s finest lines: Fuck it! you tell yourself. You call the night a day and get up, do what nature demands, then what the dentist demands, then take a shower, get dressed, step downstairs to make an extra-large and extra-strong coffee.

Don’t you just love it when the newspaper hasn’t arrived yet?

Don’t you just love it when your favourite breakfast radio presenter is on holidays again, and somebody else tries to be cheerful with the microphone?

Don’t you just love it when the kitchen clock informs you reliably that your sleepy eyes misread the bedside alarm clock. It’s 4:20 in the morning, and now that you made yourself wake up, there really is no point in reverting the process and going back to bed again.

Happy days.


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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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Free Range

DSC_0562The National Trust, among others, is campaigning to make children leave their gaming consoles behind, reconnect with nature and explore the great outdoors. Fear of restrictive legislation, fast cars and stranger danger means that modern parents tend to limit their children’s freedom to roam, however.

I wonder if anxiety, technology and modern legislation produces a society which breeds its own offspring with less free range space per child than what we consider fit for a free range pig. Turns out that there are no minimum space requirements for a free range pig according to Wikipedia, so there’s hope for mankind.

Tristan, who lives in the great seaside town of Plymouth, is reported to take his first ever dip and snorkelling experience in the sea. At age 18. Go, Tristan!

They should all have joined the Boy Scouts and Gird Guides.

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Dark Thoughts

DSC_0221Of course, I knew it was coming. I saw it coming all along, little by little, day by day. Today, however, was the first day I had to get out of bed in pitch black darkness. Not a bright and beautiful morning, not a silvery morning, not even a decent shade of grey. Just black.

Maybe the streetlight round the corner is broken, too, but I find it all pretty depressing.

It won’t be long until the heating comes on, beginning with a small bathroom boost in the early morning and, little by little, winter creeps upon us.


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Adriatic Ups and Downs

DSC_0684We had always dismissed the effect of the tide in the Mediterranean Sea. Considering 12m tides in St Malo or 11m ones near Weston-Super-Mare, and considering the Mediterranean Sea in comparison, let alone the Adriatic Sea in particular, let alone a relatively small bay on the Croatian coast, let alone a relatively small bay on the Croatian coast which opens to the North. Surely, considering all this, there can be no tide worth mentioning in the Mediterranean Sea.

However, if you imagine yourself in a small sit-on-top plastic kayak in the middle of a relatively small bay on the Croatian coast (which opens to the North) while the practically non-existent tide comes in, and if you consider the fact that this bay is approximately 60km long and 5km wide, even an inch or two of tidal difference amount to a lot of water, particularly so if you paddle against the incoming tide and strong winds.

T’was good fun. We crossed from Starigrad-Paklenica over to the island of Pag on a dead calm sea (a ~3.5km distance, an “open sea” paddle of ~45 minutes for us), and enjoyed a secluded empty beach with grains of sand the size of a newborn’s head, our picnic lunch and a swim in absolutely stunningly clear waters. Our return was at the time of the aforementioned tidal currents, so we worked ourselves against the elements for a while, then made a tack and rode the currents back home, taking the waves at a 30..45 degree angle – just as much as we dared before the boat would tip over.

Even though the distance travelled on the return must have been longer (on account of the tacking), I don’t think the return crossing took any longer than the outbound paddle.

On other occasions, we observed up to 0.3m of tidal difference (it reaches almost 0.4m in Split). I never knew, or realized.


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Stepping Off Terra Firma

whirlpool (in the riover Rhine, not the Thames) How many times did we walk by the river, enjoying the water and the nature, while staying on dry land? I know. Many, many, many times. It’s simply astonishing.

Prompted by Alice Roberts‘ TV programme on Wild Swimming, we have finally made it off good old terra firma this past weekend. Together with good friends, we set out to the river just upstream of Tilehurst (west of Reading), where we hired two 16′ canoes and paddled in peace for the day.

Oh, and yes, we did take a dip, and it was beautiful. The water was much nicer than expected, and not half as cold as feared. We had armed ourselves with short wetsuits for some extra warmth, which we were grateful for, and enjoyed a lovely little swim. Sadly no photographic evidence, ‘coz we all were in the water. You’ll have to take my word for it.

You haven’t seen or read the last of this yet.
Wild Waters of Britain, here we come!


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To Soar Like an Eagle

Neither eagle, chicken nor turkey. An Emu.

Welcome back. You come at the right time, because I have an important question for your:

It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you’re surrounded by turkeys, they say, and I guess it is true. But, does it apply to chickens, too?

Chickens kept for meat or egg production have some of their wing feathers clipped. Subject to the clipping, this prevents take-off, or makes flight very lopsided, thus preventing flight. Now, what if you don’t clip the wing feathers? Like, a chicken might escape, find a like-minded cockerel, lay fertilised eggs, and then what? Would the offspring learn to fly and soar like an eagle?

Chickens are pretty large birds with pretty small wings, so I guess it wouldn’t be a very elegant sight, maybe more a turkey-style flapping up into the nearest tree, and a slowed-down gliding type of fall back to the ground in the morning.

(And no, I haven’t been watching too much Chicken Run, but I have been looking after the neighbours chickens.)


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Nature Challenge

San Francisco On my various trips to California over the years, I was threatened by wildfire on several occasions. The fire never got really close. I have been in several earthquakes, but none caused more harm than tipping over a rubbish bin, fortunately.

I was now almost grounded by a volcano. Almost grounded, because my regularly scheduled return flight just happened to be the second flight operated by United Airlines that made it out of San Francisco for a direct flight to London.

They took not the usual arched route over Greenland and Iceland, but a straight easterly route across the US, then straight for Ireland, then home. This brought a lot of turbulences over the Rockies, but had it not been for the excitement of the last couple of days, it would just have been a normal, boring, return flight. They hadn’t even put up a decent riot scene at the airport, only a few people who seemed to be on standby.

I was just very lucky that my flight never got cancelled, and I never had to join the end of the queue. Sometimes, a little luck is all one needs.


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In Defiance

Defiance (Detail, lowres)I went through a small number of experiments with paintings of a very depressed mood. All but one ended up unfinished and abandoned, but they might have helped me out of a painter’s block (chiefly caused by focussing on too many other things, so it’s more painter’s neglect than block), and a somewhat depressed spirit. (The surviving one is still work in progress, by the way.)

Here’s one that I started, enjoyed, and completed during last week. You might find it depressing to see a foul weather scene being painted during some of the finest days the 2009 summer had to offer, but honestly, a clear blue sky doesn’t offer much excitement, in painting terms.

Click here, or the tiny detail shown here, to see the complete picture. I should add that my camera struggles to resolve the subtle nuances in colour and tone of an oil painting, and often struggles to focus well. You should come around and take a look at the real thing.

In Defiance.
Oil on canvas, 24×36″ (60x90cm).
August 2009


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