About Me

My photo
An itinerant observer and thinker about life in general, sharing some moments of wandering and wonderment.

Monday, 31 October 2011


  It's that time of year again folks! Things have been turned widdershins, which means ...
to go counterclockwise, or in a direction which is opposite to the normal ... considered to be unlucky in ye olde Britain as it meant going against the natural course of the sun. Maybe that's why I feel as if my biorythms are "All to clock!" The dog is certainly confused by the time change and keeps looking at me quizzically, but how do I explain this to him?
  Tonight is Halloween, the end of the summer and there are pumpkins everywhere ...

and what recipes do we turn to, in order to use up all the gouged out insides of these huge vegetables? Pumpkin pie, soup or roast the chunks, mash them, so many choices to make.
 How many different types of spooky faces can we  create in that tough outer skin ...
then illuminate them with candles within ...
  But then one just has to look behind the above scene, to see who created these faces ...

Sunday, 30 October 2011


  Seeing as tomorrow is All Hallows Eve I thought it was rather an apt day to introduce some strange and mysterious creatures that inhabit some of the woodland areas around where I live. Quiet watchers in amongst the trees ... where unless one looks carefully, one might not see them, they stay silent and still ... eyes not blinking as they stare at the intruding stranger ... me ...
 Trees, fascinate me and most especially the beautiful beeches. These matriarchs of the woods are just wonderful beings with great characters. Walking in spring when their leaves are a pale, translucent green is a delightful sign that spring is beginning. Their thick, dark summer canopies that provide welcome shade on a hot sunny day to sheep with heavy wool fleece and then as autumn approaches, those magnificent gold and bronze colours in sunlight, so soon followed by multi-coloured drifts of leaves that swirl in the mischievous breezes and the joy of walking through deep drifts of tobacco scented, deep heaps of them. Something the dog loves to dive into ...

But he is not one of the strange creatures I am alluding to, though some find his tri-merle colouration rather odd.
No, the creatures I am going to show you are all to be found in local beech trees ...
now ... we have a multitude of wild rabbits locally but hares have not been seen here for a long time and then I found this one ... 

Isn't it wonderful? But there are others too that I have found on my walkabouts ... which definitely do not seem to be native inhabitants ... Indian or African elephant child ...

                         And if you think that is strange ... how about this Egyptian head ...

                                 and yet another head, more alien than say a native dragon ...

but, if one has the childish imagination to see, then this dragon of the woods seems real ...

Draig Coed, or Wood Dragon is one of my favourite finds. He keeps a weather beaten eye
over the cwm beneath him and all the grazing sheep that pass him by on a daily basis.

Saturday, 29 October 2011


 Yesterday evening, I witnessed a wonderful sight ... 
Walking the dog in the evening sun, up the road which you can see in the photo below ...
I noticed that every single fence post top was covered in fine cobwebs
but what was even more spectacular, was that all the pasture land and I mean all of it, seemed to be draped with a fine gossamer sheen of webs, that in the evening sunlight, just reflected back the lowering suns rays, as one might witness looking across a verdant sea.
The whole field was just dancing with shimmering, silken strands surrounding the sheep.

Sadly despite many attempts, the camera just could not capture all the webs that covered every foot of grass across the whole pasture. Looking closely there must have been millions of tiny young spiders creating this silken scene. It was just absolutely magical!


  Yes, it's that time of year when not only the young spooks get let loose to "trick or treat" us but we have to remember to change the faces of clocks by an hour and our own body clocks get disorientated. This is something that the dog simply does not understand and he looks at me quizzically when his food bowl is not filled when he feels it should be or that his lead does not appear when he is ready to go out and check the days latest news and ... the boss isn't showing any signs of heading in that direction. Disappointed sighs ensue.

  There's been much discussion recently about removing this twice yearly blip in our lives.
Do we stay in constant GMT or do we have to put up with  GMT/BST that is the debatable question and around here that sounds more like a discussion about agricultural diseases.

 Now for a few interesting facts ... GMT, Greenwich Meantime, was first established in London in 1675 and was initially for maritime use, but the first time zone in the world was started in Britain on Dec 1st 1847, however it did not become legal time across the whole of Britain until just over 100 years later, on August 3rd 1880. The reason for this 'one time for all' was due to the need to synchronise railway time tables across a nation which until then had relied on the sun to calculate the local mean time, LMT. For example, Manchester was eight minutes behind London, Penzance twenty behind; the further the distance, the greater the time difference. This caused much confusion to passengers, understandably, because time tables could not be successfully implemented up and down the country.
  Interestingly, the term "passing the time of day" goes back to coach and horse travel, when the coachmen on main routes from London carried chronometers with London time and at each stop where there was a town clock, this was a good way of maintaining some synchronicity with the city. Old British clocks often had two minute hands, one for local time the other for GMT. Also coaches carried the latest city news and passed the time of day discussing various topics as horses were changed and refreshments partaken.
  BST (daylight saving time) was established by the British Summertime act of 1916. Just to further confuse the issue, in 1968 they experimented for three years with another BST, British Standard Time which kept our clocks one hour ahead of GMT for the whole year. Confused? I sure am!    
It has been a bone of contention ever since and not one my dog is willing to chew over.

  Now some followers of my blog have asked when I am going to introduce my mad mutt,
so now is as good a time as any, to illustrate his best, questioning look ...
"You've done what?!"
"Yes, I'm going to change the clocks ... like it or not!"
"After all ... who's Boss?"

Thursday, 27 October 2011


As I wander about, I am constantly aware, not just of the greater vista but also the small details near my feet and am fascinated by some of the unusual things that catch my eye.
I just love the way that nature it seems, has almost arranged miniature still life cameos, which if drawn might seem rather abstract if not absurd. Here are some of my favourites 

                                   So often it's the small details that make a walk memorable.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


  Last night we were blanketed in white fog that buffered the normal night sounds,
I took the dog out for him to have the last sniffs of the night along the lane to check out the latest on Dog-blog and for him to post a comment. It was eerily quiet, more suited to that of the forthcoming Halloween evening. Just as I was thinking that thought, in the trees above me, came a haunting "kee-wick ... kee-wick" .. the lilting call of a hunting Tawny Owl.
  The jackdaws were quiet last night, unusual for them. They roost on a very tall tree in the old quarry behind me and seem able to natter the night away as though the dark hours are not for sleeping. What on earth do talk about? 
 Over the last months I've given this much thought as I've observed them and their antics.
  They start their day early, chat-nattering in their council canopy. I can imagine them discussing the state of the human economy and laughing out loudly that they don't have such complicated problems. It seems as if, for them at least ... life is just one big adventure.
   Not being seasonal migrants they listened to the swallows debating "Shall we go, or stay a little longer?" and scoffed at such stupidity, "Fancy, flying all that way and not eating!"
They've also listened to the owls hunting in the dark and laughed at such a hard way to get a meal; and as for those humans carrying heavy bags of shopping, "How ridiculous!"
But they have slightly envied the posh racing pigeons in their cosy cots, getting high quality food, but there again they, get locked in before sunset and are released long after dawn. The same applies to those dumb clucking chickens in their fenced in run, who don't even fly! How degrading is that for a bird?
  So, from their tall tree, they rain down insults to the cooped and cotted, throughout all hours of the day and night. Creating taunting jokes and chuckling self gratifyingly.
   At a time of morning, suitable to them they stretch their wings and raucously begin their day. Flying fast along the streets at speed and perching briefly on various roof tops to see if the bipeds beneath have thrown out scraps of bread, then after swooping down to scare the drivers silly with their mocking agility they rejoin their mates who cheekily cheer from the chimney pots.
  But having had enough human humiliating fun, they form wings and squadrons and go off hunting in the great open spaces for a day of aerobatic battles and feasting and on the wide expanses of moorland and in the local farmers fields up on the mountain.
Here they taunt the rooks and crows with their wing turns and barrel rolls, showing off their agility and muttering obscenities at snooty magpies. Daring each other to swagger jauntily up close to sheep and cattle, then almost losing their balance with laughter as one of their mates nearly gets swiped by a heavy hoof or a swishing tail. 
                                               Life to them is just one continual game.

   As day light dims ... having had an adventurous time away, they join together for their big aerial display at the sunset end of the day. Showing off their team co-ordination as they form dark, swift moving clouds against the light-fading skies, coming in to roost, creating a loud clattering racket. Then they take off again to do a few more circuits just for fun and basically because they don't have to be in for tea and because they can.
 All this they will noisily discuss for hours, well into the deep-dim light of darkness. Boasting and bragging laughingly to the now cooped up chickens and pigeons beneath their home in the quarry; reminding me of the drunks coming home late from the pubs.
                                                              Is that it for the night? 
No! What starts them off I don't know, maybe a foraging fox or the owls out for a midnight feast, but they start up jack-nattering all over again. Somehow I don't think they are discussing the mental gymnastics of quantum physics or contemplating such vast and as yet unanswerable questions as "Where does the universe end?"    Maybe I'm wrong.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


After a night of rain. this morning was clear and bright, hardly a cloud in the sky ...

Monday, 24 October 2011


   I mentioned in my previous entry, how much I love autumn and another reason for that is that it is, that this is the main season for the appearance of strange and wonderful forms pushing up through the earth amongst grasses, woodland and forestry. 
Magical, mysterious and some may find them rather scary, seemingly alien little beings ... yet many are edible!
  Yes, it's a time to go foraying for fungi. For those that know exactly which are safe to eat, this is the time of year when one can enjoy additions to meals that are far tastier than those farm grown mushrooms found on the supermarket shelves all year round. 
  To be fair we have over the years become more used to seeing other species such as shitake, chestnut & oyster mushrooms which have become more readily acceptable and available here in U.K, due to a multitude of television programmes over the years about chefs, both professional and amateur. Mostly those specimens are commercially farmed.
  Though packets of dried porcini can be added to ones shopping basket, the pleasure of the real thing in ones gathering basket is just an extra special pleasure of the autumnal harvest, though as in the case of Agaricus macrosporous, it is to be found around July time
Agaricus macrosporus.
 Here on this page I want to take you on a small but rather special  virtual foray which is only made possible due to the most fantastic illustrations painted by one extremely talented mycological artist who sadly passed away a year ago today. 
  Ray Cowell's patience in painting these delicate and wonderful watercolour portraits of fungi, was just incredible and the rewards for her keenly observant eye and painstaking attention to even the tiniest detail, bring the specimens she painted to life. 
                     So much so that one could almost reach out and pick them ... 
in the case of The Common Morrel below, they're to be found in Springtime.

  The Common Morrel.  Morchella esculenta

The Chanterelle. Cantherellus cibarius.
 The Wood Blewit.  Lepista nuda.

   The Blewit.  Lepista saeva.

     The Cep.  Boletus edulis.

Following her death, her husband Eric Cowell, honoured her wishes and donated the whole of her mycological studies (well over 250 paintings) to The Royal Horticultural Society Library at Kew, where they are currently being catalogued as an invaluable addition to their collection, as are many of the rare mycological books she collected. 
                                  These are just nine images of her wonderful body of work. 
                                       She is greatly missed by so many who knew her.
For further information on her technique, google Kew Blogs, Ray Cowell's Illustrations. Kew have already displayed some of her work in the reading room, an exhibition that received a great deal of interest. Her mycological artwork is thought to be the best in the world and her talent is now available for those who visit Kew to go and see. Please do. 

Horn of plenty. Craterellus cornucopiodes.

The Horse mushroom. Agaricus arvensis.

But Ray did not only illustrate edible specimens as in this group of Fly Agarics.
The Fly Agaric. Amanita muscaria.

Sunday, 23 October 2011


  This is my favourite season for many reasons. I just love the changing colours as the green from the plants chlorophyll production reduces and enables their pallete of other pigments to basically, show off! A bit like the chorus waiting in the wings, this is their turn to hit the stage and display, before finally disrobing in their grand finale or as others call it The Fall ..(not something you would see on a West End production!)
  It really is a wonderful time of the year, it's harvest time in the hedgerows, time to stock up with free goodies in larder and freezer. It's so satisfying returning from walks with fruits, berries, nuts and mushrooms and to know that in winter ahead, one will be well fed.
Though this autumn in the west has not been as abundant, due mainly to much wetness!
  I never cease to get pleasure from the dramatic way the landscape changes as autumn unfolds and the scents in the air alter. Sounds such as the dull thud of conkers as they hit the deep carpet of leaves beneath the horse chestnut trees. Watching the leaves on a light breeze, slowly, floating down like parachutes in a display team and the sycamore seeds that perform an aerial ballet, when they spin, twist and turn. It really is quite magical.

  This year the hawthorn trees have excelled themselves. Everywhere I look, there are bright red beacons in the hedgerows with really plump, shining berries. Now ... if the old country folk lore be true, this means we are in for yet another harsh winter and those berries will seem like ruby beads against the satin white of the snow.
  Everyone has been talking about the weather this year (even more so than us Brits are so renowned for!) but it has indeed been a strange year, with the weather almost splitting our islands in half, as the West & North got seemingly perpetual rainfall whilst the East & South suffered from drought. All of which caused different problems for all the farmers, growers and gardeners across the whole country. In the south eastern areas, many of the farmers (at great expense) were artificially irrigating their arid, arable crops, and yet for the fruit growers, apples ripened up to a month early, producing a glut of good  fruit.
  Here, sloes which are traditionally picked after the first frost, have grown as plump and juicy as damsons, in fact some folk I know have already started their sloe gin! ... "Hic!"

  It has been a very jumbled up year in so very many ways. I was eating wild strawberries, raspberries and blackberries in September ... in the same handful ... weird! 
  But one of the saddest things for me, has been the severe lack of bees. Over the last few years I have definitely identified over ten species as I've explored the moorland and yet this year when out with the dog, I have often returned home without seeing a single bee.  Even when the foxgloves and thistles were in full bloom, which would normally be so buzzingly busy, I rarely saw any bees at all. This indicates that (in our area at least) it is not only the honey bee that is in a state of crisis. There was also a severe lack of different butterflies and moths this year, one can only hope that this is an unusual blip, from which we will recover.
  However, having mentioned thistles, I had a rare find in July, which as I write still has two very late flowers on it, whilst other thistles around it have long turned brown.
  The Musk Thistle is a sturdy and rather grand plant. I've only found it in one place so far
It has the most beautiful, seemingly cobweb laced rosettes ...
Also known as the Drooping Thistle as the heavy heavy heads later bend with the weight,
these late flowers also attracted quite a few bees, such as this White Tailed nectar seeker ...
  Just looking at that photograph, has reminded me of how few, clear blue, sunny skies we have had over the course of this year. But ... whatever the weather, there is always something which gives one pleasure in this small area of a much vaster planet.
  In hindsight, we have been incredibly lucky, we have not been devastated by monsoons, tornado's or hurricanes. We are blessed with our temperamental yet temperate climate!
Motto for the day ... take pleasure from the smallest of moments!

Saturday, 22 October 2011


What a lovely morning, cloud and blue skies, sun smiley and fresh ... for that read breezy!
  It's the kind of weather the dog just loves for going across the moors keen-nosing the scents, white tail feathers flying behind him as he bounds through the heather. Today he disturbed two grouse, the other day four lapwings. I mention this because these two species are not a common sight in this area, but we are lucky in that we have hundreds of skylarks, so in the spring and summer the commons are full of burbling, trilling song.
  This July I had a very lucky find, a skylark flew out from almost under my feet and looking down I only just spotted the well camouflaged nest with four tiny, deep brown mottled eggs. Using my mobile phone I took a very quick photograph ... stood back and watched her return ...

Over the following week I kept a daily record of the progress, dashing in and out with the camera to take quick photo then standing well back to make sure the parent returned.
Feathers or grass? The first chick had just hatched ... 

Then on the next day all four had hatched and one was obviously hungry ...

The day after,  not to be out done by his siblings, they too wanted a share of the action ...

These were sunny, dry July days, but two grey days of cold drizzle made photography too difficult, when the sun returned so did I, they had lost their pale punk look and were feathering nicely ...

Two days later Mum, as skylarks do quite naturally to avoid predation, moved them on ...

And so an empty nest was all that was left, but it was a wonderful week caught on camera 
and apparently a very rare opportunity, so it is lovely to be able to share it with others.

 I wonder if next year, some of the skylark song I hear will come from any of those four?
                                                     It's a nice thought to end with.

Friday, 21 October 2011


Let me just say ...  
this blog is not going to be all about sheep but living where I do they are an almost daily part of my life and I post this item because, in no particular order ...  ... a) it amuses me, 
b) I think it's inventive and fun, c) it's recycling a waste product ... 

If you don't believe me check them out, they make lots of other associated products too. Apparently they are running short of supplies!
Which leads me to wonder about other sources ... no ... let's not go there
What where you thinking ... I was thinking of elephants!


  Here in the quiet of the morning, it can become easy to forget there is a world of turmoil and change out there, as world leaders are overthrown, global weather patterns are causing disruption and chaos and were it not for the modern inventions of super-fast world wide and satellite communications we would be blissfully unaware of it all, just plodding along in comparative ignorance of all but that which is close to us in our daily interaction with our surroundings. Looking carefully, there is just so much to be noticed.
 Compared to the world chaos, the visitor may see scenes of rural idyll, peace and harmony here on these wonderful Welsh hills ... not much seemingly happening ... 
as sheep quietly graze the days away ...
  Here on the mountain it's deceptively active, it's tupping time. Most of the sheep have been gathered in from the commons where they've run free all over the summer months and the rams who have been in the in-bye fields are starting to swagger and sway in anticipation of fathering the next generation. The farmers markets have been hectic over the last months with ram, ewe and lamb sales as they prepare to improve their flocks with new breeding lines. All the ewes are being checked over for their health and treated against pests and diseases, it's a busy time of year because next years income depends on good animal husbandry now and in all the many months to come. 
  It's been reported in the news that meat and wool market prices are high, which they are, but following on from a poor arable harvest year, feed as well as hay and straw prices have also risen like the tide to re-balance the market advantages.
  The moorland now has time to recover from months of grazing. The heather now past it's best is fading into the autumnal back ground after a brilliant blaze of purple display and without the white french-knots of sheep on the patchwork of the heath it looks rather bare.   The trees in their autumnal glory are rapidly losing their leaves which swirl in kaleidoscope craziness like battered butterflies. It's all beginning to look rather bare as the now biting icy winds whip across the tops; winter is approaching at speed it seems.
  And across the seas in another sheep producing land, New Zealand ... yes sadly our Rugby team was only just beaten into fourth place by the Australians, 21 - 18. Hence the hills are hushed as disappointed fans quietly resume their day with much post match discussion.
  Still "Always look on the bright side of life" we have the Six Nations ahead next year!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Welcome to Dafad's Days

Welcome to Dafad's Days. 
Dafad in Welsh simply means sheep and like a sheep I am prone to wandering where I will, exploring the area around where I live, which gives me much food ... for thought.
  I am a slow, observant wanderer, taking pleasure in my surroundings as I traverse many trails and enjoying how the changes of the seasons effect not just the wide vistas of this wonderful Welsh hill country but often in the more minute details. 
  Past my best in human years, yet a toddler as a blogger and as I am more mutton than lamb ... all this is so new to me and more daunting than ascending any of our many hills! But, how else to share with others some of the moments caught on camera or the thoughts that meander in the mind? 
  I was inspired by a shepherd in Northumberland whose blog is a delight. A living book of her experiences, written with down to earth humour and with wonderful photography, it is always a joy to read the latest chapter and see life from another angle..
Check out Shepherd's Blog on Tarset.co.uk 

  This is a learning curve for sharing thoughts and moments on a techno-page rather than just jotted down the old fashioned way of pen and paper. It all seems rather strange, this brave new world of the blog (such an odd word in itself) I'm more used to leaving my hoof prints in peaty bogs!
  No doubt mistakes will be made along the way, frustrations as one struggles with techno-speak & seemingly jumbled jargon, ah but ... pastures new to graze.
                                      So ... here we go ... the start of another adventure ...