23 Sep 2011

A pocketful of conkers

Due to some of the heaviest rainstorms we’ve had for some time, I’ve not been getting out much during the day for a walk – I start off my day fully intending to, but dark clouds always seem to know when you need or want to be outside and gather accordingly. We had to cut our walk short last Sunday as the heavens opened in a spectacular deluge.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

There was clear evidence of recent heavy storms, this mature tree had fallen and done damage to the wall and pavement beneath.

It always happened doing the school run – it’s a known scientific fact that weather worsens as school home time approaches – and you can get very wet walking almost a mile in a downpour. The same force seems to ensure that we have lousy weekend weather and glorious Mondays.

The last hard winter has given rise to a bumper crop of berries and fruits, these are perhaps the biggest hawthorn berries I’ve ever seen, they were like cherries.

I desperately had the need for some fresh air yesterday so decided, as soon as we had a spell of better weather, to just drop what I was doing, put my boots on and grab the camera and what might be a short-lived opportunity. I decided that the break and fresh air would probably do more good than me battling on working. I actually had assorted thinking to do, but didn’t even manage that, I just pottered, taking photos, gawping at the scenery and with a largely empty head. Sometimes that’s just what you need; a bit of mental inactivity can be deceptively productive.

There was a distinctly late-summer feel to the vegetation with everything bursting into seed and fruit.

I must admit that I do get a tad bored of doing the same walks, it’s times like this that I regret not having a car (I’d have to learn to drive first too) and being able to take myself a little further afield, but I also want to walk where I feel safe and comfortable and I do at least have some open countryside within walking distance of my door, so I can’t really complain.

I’ve always had a bit of a fixation with this old gatepost and others like it. I worry that one day it will be gone and replaced with something modern, boring looking and utilitarian.

I normally don’t venture down this route alone, as it’s very quiet (and I’m a pussy), but it just looked – and sounded – too tempting.

I usually stick to known routes on my own that are fairly public and near houses and roads, but the dappled sunshine through the trees and accompanying birdsong tempted me to walk the circular route through the two adjacent villages. It’s much quieter than my usual route and I normally only do it with other people, but it looked that bit more attractive than returning and seeing the same things.

I’m glad that I did, it was the perfect day for it and I was treated to sunlight filtering through the trees (it wasn’t always sunny, it left me a few times and was alarmingly dark to the north), undisturbed fallen conkers to stuff in my pockets and was serenaded by the woodland birds and very little else.

I live in an area that is a combination of industrial and greenbelt – often directly adjoining each other and even where it’s now quiet and no longer worked, the signs of the Victorian heritage are very evident. Even though I’ve shown the prettiest parts of the route, I also have to walk along a main road and through industrial yards to be able to enjoy the nicer green bits.

It was however somewhat breezy, so some of my photographs suffered for it, but you really can’t beat coming home with rosy cheeks, wind-tousled hair, muddy boots and pocketfuls of conkers!

I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a conker fall from a tree, they just appear on the ground, but one of these blighters actually got me hard on the bonce whilst I was gathering others. I did look up sharply, half expecting to see an irritated squirrel taking aim with another.
18 Mar 2011

Mother Nature knows how to cheer us up

I apologise for yet another blog lacking in worthy literary content. I have been working and concentrating on other things recently and need to get back to my usual routine and thought processes and get some of the draft tutorials I have in the works actually finished. So in the short term, I’m going to fob you off with some photographs and hope it serves as a suitable distraction from the lack of actual information.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.
There is a dense patch of tiny tete-a-tete daffodils in the corner of the park – how could that fail to lift your spirits.
I’ve always had the idea that Mother Nature knows everyone is a bit fed up after winter and in need of something cheering and she came up with daffodils. Isn’t she clever?

It was a totally gorgeous spring day today – wall to wall sunshine (well, almost; the scant clouds always seem to know just when I’ve got myself into a preposterous position to take a photograph), deep blue sky and whilst the air was decidedly nippy and the breeze quite brisk, the sun was warm and I could hardly wait today to finish some tasks I needed to, so I could grab my hiking boots and head out for my lunchtime walk.

One thing leads to another – I stepped towards the railings along the river to see if there were any nice views to be had and as I looked carefully where I was standing to prevent me crushing any plants coming through the leaf litter, I saw a little cluster of small brown fungi – the structure of the gills is quite beautiful and clearly arranged in patterns of ascending size – you needed to get low to appreciate the structure, the photograph was taken on the ground. It was only around 25mm (1″) in diameter and the same sort of height. Whilst I’m bending down taking photos, I spotted my gnarled root photo prop.
I believe this fungi to be a Winter Twiglet – Tubaria hiemalis – apparently there are few traditional mushroom shaped fungi this early in the year and it certainly has the gill patterns which would identify the species.

That makes it sound like I scaled some strenuous peak, where in reality I walked a loop to the next village, tickled a cat, threw sticks for a gorgeous auburn coloured boxer dog, caught up on the family gossip with an old friend out tending her horse, took some photos and found a fabulous bit of dried gnarled root for a photo prop. As previously mentioned, I always have a tie handle bag in my pocket for the collection of such treasures. Dangling from my camera bag it must make passers-by wonder where I lost my dog, but I care not.

The house that faces this view is currently up for sale. I’ve looked at it a couple of times when it’s changed hands over the years, but I don’t think my pockets are anything like deep enough.

As I headed back, I got the flashing red icon to indicate that my camera batteries were going. I had spares with me, but didn’t want to bother trying to change them with cold fingers and without my glasses to see which way in they go. I managed to squeak a couple more out of these primroses.

I really should have made more progress on my to do list, but tickling cats, talking to boxers and old friends and sharing my day with pretty fungi, daffodils and primroses was far more agreeable. I can work when it’s dark.What on earth are they doing?

Maybe you can help to educate me – I saw these chickens at a farm shop recently and was perplexed by their actions. There was a dusty hollow in some dry earth in the shadow of a wall and the chickens were taking it in turns to ‘bathe’ in the dust. That much I can comprehend, but after some fluttering action, they would lie perfectly still for a while as though in total ecstasy, with their heads on their side. Then jump up and saunter off, like the white one who was clearly ‘done’.

I was tickled that the white chicken standing has markings on its side like a boot print. I sincerely hope that is is just patterns on the feathers.