About Me

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

Saturday, 31 March 2012


 Yesterday I mentioned going walking stick hunting (but at least I don't have to be on horseback or shoot them). I was after a specific type of wood and a few weeks ago found just the place, a lane with loads of blackthorn hedging. The sloe provider for those who like to soak the fruit in gin for Christmas, but I was after straight lengths.

Not as easy to find as one might first think having looked at a potential length from all angles only to find what seemed suitable actually has an odd kink or an unkindly bend in it, though the pale one on the left looks promising. On the right of that one is believe it or not, a large bramble (not good stick material).
But over the last weeks I have managed to add some other new woods to my potential stick curing collection, including apple and wigelia and this evening was given three lengths of beautiful rosewood to take home, where I have rowan, hazel, oak and holly curing, so ... an interesting year ahead.
As someone who started their life in the metallic world of aircraft engineering I started working with wood later in life and just love the different scents that come from various species of trees. I am also fascinated by the way wood deteriorates, forming interesting shapes as it rots away to return to the earth >>>
Over the years I have gathered all sorts of strange shapes, some of which are destined for heads of my sticks. I am not a traditionalist and don't want to do rams-horn heads or carved animals, I like my sticks to be natural, even with the odd curve or bend that makes the stick unique in a natural way.
But some man made finds on a walk amuse me like these two ...

They were in an area that had been partially burnt out and were wrapped in by now, charred newspaper. Call me soft if you like but I rescued them and they are travelling back home with me tomorrow, when they will be cleaned up and put somewhere ... where? I'm not quite sure yet, but they will find a better home than being dumped in some old fen dyke!.They'll appear here again!
Meanwhile ... farewell to the fenland flats  ...
and watch out for Welsh lambs appearing in Dafad's days ahead!

Friday, 30 March 2012


   For those of you that follow the weather forecast, you will know there is a South/East.
North/West divide in the weather patterns at the moment and for those of you that follow Dafads ramblings you will have read about the dryness of this area, the bread basket of England! Well, the way things are going here, the windmills that have appeared on various posts won't have much grain to grind the way things are going.
Returning from a hunt today for potential walking sticks from a long hedge full of blackthorn bushes I saw this farmer spraying his field. I have to say that walking with two sticks (freshly cropped) felt a bit odd and I was a bit worried that he would stop me and ask me what I was doing with two (obviously not cured) lengths of wood, but he was too busy attending to his fields. He was at least considerate enough to stop spraying as the mad mutt and I passed him, the he moved on. I guess not too many people walk Border Collies around here! Anyways I got a nod and a wave as Ffin and I walked past and the potential walking sticks have arrived safely back with me ready for curing back home. The bark is a wonderful mahogany red and I look forward to seeing what I can make of them. I am also taking home an apple wood and a Wygela to add to my collection of different wood species. 
One tree that rarely grows straight-ish wood is a Sycamore, even when young, but this tree next door is like Hyde Park Corner. The amount of birds that voice their opinion from the lofty heights of this beauty are amazing, but with the very dry weather forecast one has to wonder how much a tall tree like this needs to drink from the roots to survive the year ahead. So ... it's not just the arable acres here that will suffer, but ordinary household gardens.
I've yet to see a potential sycamore stick but who knows, maybe one day, but not from this queen of the potential desert!
The nice thing is that Dad now regularly uses one of my walking sticks instead of a zimmer frame. He's doing well blessims ... and winning the battle. Huzzar!

Thursday, 29 March 2012


  Yesterday I left you with a closed door ... now if I rephrase an old song ... "Two wheels off my wagon and I'm still grinding along" ...
Well, how about only two sails on an old windmill? And yes, it is still grinding flour which is sold to local bakers.

Built in 1726, Downfields which was also known as Pollards Mill, is another smock mill. Apparently the name derives from old workers and their smocks! This mill was rebuilt in 1890 after a storm and became a tower mill. Recycling the machinery explains the odd shape of it. It was originally from what I can glean a four sailed mill, but these two sails still power the mill efficiently enough, driving three pairs of stones and a dresser.

An early photograph on the website (Soham on line) shows it with four sails and a horse drawn team, now ... sadly it is surrounded by a modern housing estate and as you can see a children s play area. (Read the sign ... what are "Assistant Dogs"?)

My dog assists me all the time, but I'm not blind, yet!

I think my mad mutt is more an insistent than an obedient one at times, but gratefully he has recovered from his stolen cheese overdose last Saturday (not that it has stopped him showing interest in goats or sheeps, or ... blue cheeses, will he never learn?)

Heading back I noticed the local windmill had it's sails turned in such a way that I could capture the four sail version, which as you know from a previous post, still works thanks to the committed band of restorers. Next year, she will be 200 years old and still milling flour too! Sadly very few of the water pump mills for the Fens are still in existence, though one on Wicken Nature Reserve (owned by the National Trust) still survives. Sadly, "The Trust" has turned Wicken Fen into more of a "Fun & Theme Park" than a serious Nature Reserve and consequently several species are transferring to quieter, better run areas of the local area. At least windmills don't migrate!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


  One of the wonderful things about this lovely spell of warm 'summery weather' (despite the arid days) is that every morning when I take the dogs out for a border patrol around the garden there is something new to see. Out of the grass tiny new flowers appear as if almost planted there overnight, like these dainty white violets hiding in the grass >>>

The speed at which new leaves and blossoms appear at the moment, is almost like time lapse photography.
When I walked around the garden this morning these white daffodils were just buds until they had had a few hours in the sun then they opened wide as if to say to the passing bees ... "Look inside!"
And what bee could resist that invitation?
Later in the day on the way back from the local garage to get a newspaper I also noticed another white flower ... one of my favourites ...
I had gone on a small detour to visit a special sight locally, when I espied this wonderful magnolia against what has been a blue sky all day.
I had parked up to see what may seem a rather unusual local building that can be seen for miles around, is still working and producing the same product it has for many years, but ... until I have done some more research, I am going to keep you in suspense as to what it is and what you can buy from there ... so until then, the door is closed ... 
Have you guessed what it is yet?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


  As I write this on a very warm, late March evening, there is a finger nail moon above and a scattering of stars that look like shiny seeds, scattered in the dark compost of the night.
  All this good weather has had me pottering slowly around the garden tidying up ... before I head back home to Wales this coming weekend. I was however not alone and had my three hinderences (helpers) all in their own way amusing me with their antics. Jilly and Ffin got the scent of something hung up in the branches of one of the apple trees. Even then Ffin could not decide wether or not to drop his tennis ball ... but little golden girl had sussed out the scent was above her head and tried her best to reach the bird feeder above her head, unsuccessfully but not after much unrewarded effort on her part.

 Millie meanwhile gave up the hunt and just decided to stay out in the warm sun with me, her glossy coat just gleaming as she sniffed the breezes and took it easy soaking in the late Spring sunshine.
Ffin also gave up the fruitless game of bird food hunting and went exploring a bush for another lost tennis ball ...
 ... after all that summery heat, weeding & trimming, I am a shadow of my former self!!

Sunday, 25 March 2012


  This being Sunday, I thought I would take you to a church with me to share some of the photo's I took just four days ago in Burwell. I had actually gone for a Docs appointment but after that, had time to spare, so explored a little round this fascinating place with heaps of history attached to it. Had the mad mutt with me so took him along a local footpath to give him some exercise and see some of the countryside. We found the site of an old roman villa and a the grass covered curves of a castle moat, part of which was watery so Ffin went paddling. Then, we explored St Mary's Church, a beautiful 15th century building built by the builders of who erected Kings College Chapel, Cambridge
and surrounded as you can see, by a lovely peaceful graveyard. One of the things I love about it is that unlike so many churchyards today, real plants are allowed to be planted in the graves and surrounding them. In the spring sunshine the whole place was a haven of peace, but as always one notices sad inscriptions on the reverse of some of the stones ... 

Reading up in a book on local history, this story is sad not only due to the fact that it was during a puppet show, but that the number of people who died included the pupeteer, his wife & daughter. The wrong man was blamed and it wasn't until over 40 years later, a man on his death bed made a confession to relatives that it was he, who as a young man with a grudge against the ostler, had set fire to the barn, not realising that the barn door was locked at the time. What a sad tale.
Then there was this intriguing, inscription-less, sad little humanoid, moss overgrown figure on top of a boxed stonegrave. Another loss of a loved one. >>>
But as I wandered nearer to the main street, a sign caught my eye, needless to say I had to go and have a chat to the butcher and ended up buying local lamb, cured bacon, & sausages very tasty! But one final intrigue awaited me as I headed to the local Post Office ... now ... how did a small alleyway get that name? I've asked around but as yet no answers, it leads towards the church, which makes one wonder just how the name came to be permanently remembered? The mind boggles at that one!
Anyway back to my real Sunday when In the summery spring sunshine I was pruning the apple trees in the orchard and have an apple-wood walking stick now curing!

Saturday, 24 March 2012


   This was taken under a bridge as heavy farm traffic reverberated above my head
Well I'm going back to ten days ago for this post when we explored a short walk along 
the towpath alongside part of the River Cam where this houseboat is permanently moored (yes I said houseboat) people really do live on this and have done for some time now. It's quite a sight to see the ducks and swans visit around it, obviously in hope of extra food. If it were not for the fact that the bridge in the background carries a lot of heavy traffic, I imagine it could be quite a peaceful place to be with all the varying fen light.
The way the evening start of the sunset highlighted these trees with their roots in the watery side of the river was just lovely and one almost expected to see Ratty or Mole poddling around the river bank. The only sounds were that of the water birds as they took flight along the waters edge.
Then through the trees an unexpected splash of colour glowing in the deepening sky light.
Someone obviously cares for this old boathouse. I wonder what craft they use to go up and down the river, it has a modern sort of Swallows and Amazons feel about it, the sort of place where one could have youthful adventures and imagine Captain Flint on the houseboat up by the bridge. All around were the flat arable fields with geese honking and mallard laughing at duck style jokes and a few moorhens circumnavigating through the reeds     which quite intrigued the dog who only knows the ducks on the local village pond. On the nights I take him out, he always says hello to them and they quietly quack at him.
However, last night he did something even more unusual for him and when shut in the kitchen with the two girls ... took a whole box of cheese selection from the table. I went in to find various cheese wrappers and three guilty faces! This morning it was obvious he had had a lions share of the spoils because he was not at all well and had to be taken to the vets. Luckily the dachshunds were as bouncy as usual but it was a dog with a very tender stomach that entered the surgery and having been suitably medicated, returned home for a much less adventurous afternoon with just boiled chicken for a light evening meal.
On the way to buy the chook meat I drove across some commons land and unlike oor home grazing rights for sheep, this area has cattle and horses grazing and this sign ... 
and with that, it's time to turn the clocks forward to British Summertime!

Friday, 23 March 2012


   Well I've been going on a bit about Spring beginning even before the official date but yesterday as I was lamb sitting, the lawns got mown and it has given a whole new aspect of neatness to the garden. What with that and all the somewhat late pruning that has been going on, it's all starting to come together ready for the clocks going forward tomorrow night. Yes it's time for our body clocks to get severely confused yet again!
Next thing we know it will be summer, (The Olympics) and not that I'm wishing the year away but it does seem to be speeding by, or is that just an age thing where time seems to accelerate (though not to Hadron Collider velocity) thank goodness! How does Dr Who's body clock cope when he whizzes around the vast expanses of Universe at mega speeds.?

Meanwhile back on earth (our time) the mad mutt pretends to be a small part of the scenery and a porcelain frog contemplates why there are no lilly leaves or a pond in his vicinity, just sunshine shy hyacinths.
As for the bird activity in the gardens here it has been amazing to listen to the early morning  "Avian F.M" starting the day and then watch the variety of species going through their spring courtship, searching for suitable nesting sites and of course trying to find food to keep their energy levels high. Some even trying to prise seeds from the remaining cones.
I think ... the pine larder has been emptied.
But Dad reached another milestone in improvement today and not only drove to the loval town but also went shopping, the staff in the store were delighted to see him back!
So our larder is restocked and towd man much happier!

Thursday, 22 March 2012


    It's that time of year again when lambing begins and sadly problems occur. No, for the sake of readers of my blog, this is not the dreaded Schmallenburg Virus, this is simply a ewe giving birth to triplets. A ewe can normally only cope with twins and if no other ewe can take on a stranger ... the weakest of three has to be bottle fed and ... often this is a success.
but the lamb then sees the source of food as it's mother. In this case the mother is a male (hence the big boots) and the ram lamb as seen here is trying to find a teat (not much luck from a mans knees!)
<<< but this little critter is under four days old, so what does it know, those knees are associated with a bottle feed four times a day at the moment. But then this newly born got introduced to me as I was gardening & ... explored ...
"No ... ivy is not a good source of food and probably poisonous!"
Undeterred he carried on exploring these strange, sheepless surroundings including meeting my collie (who was not amused and saw the young feller as a threat to Ffin playing with a tennis ball) . So young feller decided to explore some more, looking for a food source, anything but grass it seemed and then tired, settled down on the path and ... fell fast asleep ...
I carried on gardening, keeping an eye out for possible altercations, but the mad mutt just sniffed the dozing wee man and carried on playing chase the ball. But then, something in the air got the snoozy wee  lamb sniffing the breeze ... "What is that scent?" 

And so, off he went to try and explore some more ... this time the wider expanses of the bigger garden area where he got very adventurous and became very playful. It was a sight to see ... three days old and full of the sense of adventure 

and it seems ... a bit of a poser for a mere three day old. Mebbe it's the Badger Face, Texel cross that has given him explorative genes.
I think the Texel gene won through with this young lad!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


  Now ... if any of you thought my photo's were O.K. let me introduce you a newly made friend who recently emailed some photographs. He has a much better camera than mine (A Nikon) but like me has an eye for the unusual ... we very recently witnessed an old organ being dismantled and both of us took photographs. When we compared them we had chosen very similar   close ups of the detail
Chris, like me has an eye for the strangeness of  things and when he sent me some photographs, it was lovely to see what he had caught on his camera, so I promised him a guest slot on my blog. So here it is. This one of some old fishing rope caught and frayed by wind, sea and rain >>>

<<< I just love the second, with the sea eroded wood of an old groyne matching the pebbles of the beach in the background. I am sure if I visited the same place I would have taken a shot from a similar angle. As readers of my blog will already know, the mad mutt and I love the sea and seeing these made me yearn for the coastline of Wales & all the places that we've explored.
Ffin loves pebble beaches and the sea and is loathe to leave it when I finally decide we need to head homewards.
Here the best wash he gets is in the River Cam, but it makes his coat dust free and shiny. I just get very wet feet!
But here is the last of Chris's photographs for today, my favourite ... it almost looks like the underside of a mushroom!
So ... thank you Chris for sharing those with me .

Tuesday, 20 March 2012


  Yes. officially today marks the first day of spring ... I think Mother Nature has had a different view of it this year and has swung into donning her spring robes early.
I heard a cuckoo adding it's voice to the dawn chorus yesterday and this morning. I have been seeing peacock and also yellow brimstone butterflies for a few weeks now and all sorts of bees, including this red tailed one visiting the mahonia this morning which was sunny and bright and dry! So that had me out in the garden looking for the latest stars in "The spring is sprung fest"

<<< Like these Pixie Irises, only a few inches tall but their blue colour is amazingly bright and all around other areas of the garden a whole palette of colours is quietly, gently emerging it's just really wonderful. But ... the forecast of drought hangs over the arable farmers heads here, with possibly disastrous consequences for the quality of crops in the months to come. With that and the Schmallenburg Virus that may effect livestock farmers, this could be another very tough year for our locally, home grown food producers.  A dire situation for so many people in the year ahead.

But "Carpe dieum" (Seize the day) I went on a wander with the mad mutt today and explored Burwell a local village full of very ancient history going right back to the past and the sight of an old Roman villa where I found these primroses  healthily blooming >>>
and I wondered ... "Did the romans see these lovely spring flowers too?"