A Morning Routine you might like to copy (or not)!

Still not quite my old self, I wake up at 6am.

Spend some time

On deep meditation and various kitchen tasks etc.,

Contemplating my indigestion – caused, I think, by drinking a large glass of lemon water followed by two even larger cups of Yorkshire tea…

The sun has come out – such a relief after the cold weather and incessant rain and winds we were experiencing recently.

I can hear Mr B (blackbird) in the garden, calling for his breakfast

Mrs B joins in the chorus from further along the fence

I dig out a couple of blueberries from the fridge. Warm them up by placing them in a little dish on top of my teacup.

Continue preparing breakfast

Muesli for me; ‘Buggy Nibbles’ for Mr and Mrs B… plus the odd raisin or two.

Blackbird with Blueberry 2021

——————————–

Creep around outside the back door for quite some time, trying without success to get photos – hoping the birds won’t notice what I am doing.

Of course, they do, and disappear.

Indoors again. It is such a lovely day I decide to do some washing.Upstairs to fetch load of washing. By the time I get back, Mr B is demanding more breakfast –

Things go quiet.

OK – I will sit here on the garden bench and I will not move until I have got at least one decent photo of Mr B. (That’s when I have figured out how the ** camera works).

Mr and Mrs B come along to their food area once again for second breakfast. I am sitting motionless. I have slowly and carefully got the phone camera at the perfect angle and focus.

Unfortunately I lose concentration and cross my legs just at the critical moment – sending Mrs B running up the path as fast as her little legs can go. Mr B gives me a dirty look for frightening his wife.

I give up.

Upstairs again, I do about 30 mins of qigong practice

I come down for my own breakfast, but suddenly remember there was a  load of compost in bins, tin baths and buckets that all needed drying out – now is the ideal time.  I had accidentally allowed the baths and buckets to get seriously flooded with rainwater, thinking the boards I had balanced across the top were enough to stop this from happening.

Heave bins of compost into the sun. Also the 2 blueberry bushes in containers, that I had been protecting from the wind behind garden furniture (ever-hopeful).

Rescue a bunch of worms that fell out of the bottom of the containers.

In the kitchen, the washing cycle in the machine has now finished. Decide I might as well hang it all out to dry in the sun before finally coming indoors for my breakfast.

——————–

Mrs B, terrified of the washing, takes a nose dive into our once-beautiful clematis arch where the happy couple have built their nest…. I am waiting for chicks!

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Sunshine – home dry – Lockdown

A year of lockdowns seems to have greatly narrowed my horizons,
and had a strange effect on my state of mind…

After breakfast  daffodills, verge
Brighter today
Sun shining. Cold and breezy.
Gas man cometh.
Walk to pharmacy for A’s meds.

 

Crisp cold sunshine
Along Fore Street, people are out jogging
Crocuses and daffodil spears are pushing up
through the soil of the flower beds.
New life growing out of death.
I like the way nature is allowed a certain amount of freedom here, here along the old stone-walled verge
of the street

I like the friendly mix of ‘nature and culture’

Back home, Mr B is perched waiting for me on the railings and has brought along all the sparrows – making rather a lot of noise.
I have run out of grapes, but tell him I am expecting a delivery tomorrow. Meanwhile a wood pigeon is munching away at our once lovely clematis arch.

 

Hand wash A’s jersey, and put outside to dry in the fresh sunny breeze

Go up to the top of the house (two flights of stairs), sit down at my computer, and see through the window that it has started to hail.

Go back down again, out into the wind and the hail and the sleet, and bring in washing.

Make myself a nice hot drink and think about lunch.

Chimney man cometh, closely followed by the window cleaner.

Chimney man dismantles the gas fire, and requires old sheets to protect the carpet. I can only find an old tablecloth, so go out again (now raining) and fetch several old duvet covers from my shed (studio).

Then out into the cold wet street (though now sunny again) to confirm payment details with window cleaner – fortunately, missing the worst of a hosepipe spray of cold water from above as I step through the front door.

 

Return just in time to hear the chimney man giving A a rather alarming quote for the work that needs doing…  A is not feeling very well.

Sit down quietly with a nice glass of Australian Merlot.

 

blackbird

Mr B.

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The Insects

   “The latest scientific research shows that insects are dying out up to eight times faster than larger animals with 41 per cent of insect species facing extinction.” This is what I read on Eventbrite’s announcement for an online event that took place about a week ago.

The event was organised and hosted by Moor Meadows, a Dartmoor-based community group devoted to restoring and creating flower-rich grasslands on every scale.

I was intrigued. I had been hearing for quite some time (on news media etc.) about the alarming, ever-increasing decline of insects in our world –particularly of concerns about pollinators and other beneficial insects that are becoming extinct. So, I registered for what turned out to be a fascinating online presentation: ‘The Garden Jungle, how to save our insects’ by Prof Dave Goulson .

I am writing this purely from the perspective of an ordinary UK resident in Devon as, apart from a few nasty experiences in other countries – I know almost nothing about foreign insects (actually, nothing very much about our own either). What I do know is: insects, of course, are an essential part of our planet’s food chain; they are crucially important pollinators, and utterly necessary in terms of biodiversity.

Apart from their usefulness, the beauty and character of many of our insects, such as butterflies, bees and dragonflies is of huge value in itself – lifting our spirits and helping us to remember that life is fundamentally good and abundant.

It seemed important for me to learn a bit more about what is going on.

Photo by Shelly Pence on Unsplash

Dave Goulson is an eminent bee expert and author, and founder of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. He is Professor of Biology (Evolution, Behaviour and Environment) at the University of Sussex.

It was good to listen to his clear and accurate account of the insect situation, and what we might do about it.

He began by reminding us we are creating a number of serious inter-related problems here on our planet, such as climate change, which tends to get the most attention.  One of these problems is that of wildlife species disappearing fast.

It is known by science that we are in the middle of what we call the 6th mass extinction: species, large and small, are going the fastest for 65 million years, the time of the dinosaurs. The dinosaurs went extinct because of a meteor crash: this time the cause is us humans and our predatory behaviour. Dave reckoned that on average, about one species an hour is going (which is most likely to be an insect).

Why are they declining?
There are many reasons for this, including loss of habitat, which is the main cause, together with the widespread use of pesticides and insecticides.

Loss of wildflower meadows has had a massive impact upon insects, not to mention other life-supporting systems. Research shows that we have lost at least 97% of our flower meadows since the 1930’s. Here’s a 2018 article from The Independent, and there are many similar reports online.

We have lost our flower meadows to widespread arable monoculture and so-called ‘improved grassland’. Much bigger fields, growing mechanisation, and increased use of chemicals for the sole purpose of killing insects – all of these aspects are major contributing factors towards our sad loss.

Why is it so important if insects disappear?
Well, it is important because if they were to vanish, the planet would be in deep trouble, as insects are involved in almost every ecological process (meaning that if they all vanished, the Earth’s vital processes would simply stop).

Of the many helpful functions of insects, the best-known is as pollinators – they pollinate not only wildflowers, but also ¾ of our food crops that we find in supermarkets. As Dave said: We need to look after the insects. The truth is: if they were not here, millions of people would probably starve to death.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

Clearly, we need to change way we grow food. Our mainstream methods are unsustainable. They generate greenhouse gas emissions, are responsible for much soil erosion, and are the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss.  

What can we do to turn things around?
Dreadful though things appear at the moment, Dave explained, it is completely possible for all of us to make even the smallest of changes to the way we tend our gardens and outdoor spaces. Ways that would help the insects recover and begin to reverse the downward trend. There is a huge number of gardens all over the country, which could become a network of small insect habitats.

We can be careful about what we plant or use in the garden. We can allow our gardens to run a little bit wild, let the grass and weeds grow a bit, and plant flowers that attract butterflies, bees, or other insects.  This will not only provide a welcome resting place for these creatures but give us much sensory pleasure and satisfaction that flat green lawns and concrete paving cannot provide.

It is easy to search online for books and websites on attracting butterflies and other beneficial insects to our gardens – including Dave’s own most recent book, “Gardening for Bumblebees”on choosing the best varieties of plants and herbs. Everyone can do something, even if we only have a window box or a few plant pots at our disposal. 

Then there are the council-run areas like parks, cemeteries, verges that could be planted with areas of wildflowers. Many people are already giving nature a helping hand in places like these.

Dave gave us a few tips on managing these public grassy areas. Rather than just allow it all to go wild, show that it is being responsibly managed by defining a particular area of interest where wildflowers are allowed to grow, or by perhaps mowing a visitors’ pathway through the middle of that area.

There are lots of great pictures and information about plants and wildlife from the many Nature, and wildlife organisations, such as Moor Meadows.   There is some very useful information from the Tarka Country Trust: ‘Wildflower Verges – Getting Started’ and there is also the Road Verge Campaign run by Plantlife.

Importantly, of course, there are the Wildlife Trusts.

Currently, there is considerable alarm concerning the government’s decision to allow the ‘temporary’ re-introduction of highly poisonous neonicotinoid pesticides, that are known to kill bees, whether or not they feed off the plants that have been sprayed. You can find some more details about it on this page from Devon Wildlife Trust: https://www.devonwildlifetrust.org/news/bad-news-bees-government-reverses-ban-bee-killing-neonicotinoids .

The Wildlife Trust’s Petition is on this page too, requesting the government to reconsider their decision. Other organisations also have similar petitions, including Petition Parliament: https://petition.parliament.uk/.  It goes without saying, that the more petitions that are signed, the better!

Photo by Venkata Suresh on Unsplash

My blog post here has just skimmed over the surface of Dave’s talk. I hope it will arouse your interest in finding out more.

It pleases me to imagine a new ‘grassroots’ movement slowly but inexorably growing underground – to be known as Reclaim the Streets for Plants and Insects.  This would be a quiet army of gardeners meeting in potting sheds and allotments throughout the country, working unobtrusively on grass verges, roundabouts and other council-run areas, nurturing and encouraging wild plants to flourish once again for the benefit of all of life.

Not forgetting the petitions… Given what we have learned about the causes and potential consequences of our rapidly declining insect population, the petitions are vitally important, and I am certainly signing all that I come across. Here’s hoping we get an appropriate and intelligent response from the government authorities.

For further information:

As well as his range of fascinating books, Dave Goulson has many videos on YouTube on bees and other insects, biodiversity, flowers, food crops, and why insects are dying out.

Moor Meadows will soon be hosting a talk on the importance of flower-rich grasslands. All their events are announced on their website.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decline_in_insect_populations  – Decline in Insect Populations
This Wikipedia page has good information, and an easy to navigate List of Contents.

 

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Celebrating National Tree Week… in a small, but significant way.

Fired up by David Attenborough talks and BBC Podcasts all about trees and National Tree Weekmy idea was  to find ‘a tree a day’ in different local woodland areas, and study and blog about them for the whole of the Week.  Unfortunately, the idea very soon went for a burton when I realised a)how unfit I had become during this year of isolations and lockdowns, and b)how much else I had to do this week.

So this is an account of what actually happened: some words and pictures of a short walk from my house down towards the Torridge Estuary, down a steep muddy track, that is fringed with trees and scrub and brambles and ancient overgrown hedges.

Here, the branches of the trees meet and tangle overhead, forming a dense protective roof, giving a sense of a safe, secluded tunnel.  Like so many of the old tracks round here, this one makes me feel like a small creature, scuttling and foraging between the built-up areas. On one side of the wooded fringe lie gentle green hills and  fields sometimes used for grazing.  The other side, thankfully,  screens the walker off from sprawling housing development, and the sound of road traffic in the distance.

I left the house, as empty-handed as possible: with small jotter and pen and pencil, and my phone, complete with useful apps, including the Woodland Trust’s Tree App (you will find it on their Search Page)… I have used this app before – sometimes successfully managing to identify a particular tree – but sometimes not, and I end up without the foggiest idea what I have been looking at. But it is fun, and for sure, gives me an increased appreciation of nature’s amazing processes.

The only other thing I stuffed into my pocket was a supermarket bag for gathering up anything I fancied taking home…

At the start of the track I was drawn as if by a magnet to a massively complex network of bare branches against the grey sky – a peaceful feeling of connection and familiarity: a feeling of the same life-force flowing through my inner systems as through the branches of the trees.

But there was no chance of identifying anything whatsoever from this tangled and intricate network…. And that is when my grandiose idea finally bit the dust.

I suppose (I tell myself), I am really more interested in the invisible, underlying energies at play,  and the philosophical aspects of walking among the trees, than in analysing and labelling. This is perfectly true of course. Yet I am also aware that both practical and philosophical approaches are needed for a full understanding of anything.

So – I set off with the attitude ‘let’s see what I can notice and learn here…’.

Most noticeably, a huge variety of plant life, and copious ivy and other creepers clinging to trunks and branches everywhere.

A pervading protective stillness; small birds chattering quietly up above.

A nearby blackbird chirping hopefully as I passed.

Subtle shifts in temperature; shifts in distant traffic sound as I move from place to place; rain nearly beginning to fall.

Berries. A scattering of dead oak leaves on the muddy path, which drew my attention to the tree in question.

Having to watch my step very carefully on the steep muddy, stony path (I have already broken my thumb once on terrain such as this).

Hundreds of deep boot-prints that had churned up the ground, leaving a narrow strip of grass right down the centre of the track, where boots never trod.

Old dead branches that had been moved out of the way, to one side of the track.

A little patch of fungus growing right in the path of all those boots.

One bright berry planted in a deep footprint.

All this told me how life’s cycles and processes are continually at work, even in the dead of winter.

I neared a little gateway, that leads to a bench where people can sit and look down over the river.

As I squeezed through, the tiniest robin redbreast I have ever seen came scuttling up to me, and stopped right at the edge of my foot, gazing up to me with bright wistful little eyes. I felt dreadful, like a mean monster because I had completely forgotten to bring some bird food in my pocket.

I did not want to frighten the bird by attempting to take a photo – so I backed off and went home.


 At the time of writing, the BBC programme ‘Podcast Radio Hour, Trees & Forests: Podcasts for National Tree Week’ is still available for listening and downloading – but I don’t know for how long.

Also, if you were wondering what I took home in my supermarket bag after my walk – I grabbed a handful of mud, as I thought it might come in handy…

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Breathing Space

I am very happy to have one of my photos of ‘Breathing Space’ featured in the 2021 calendar of ‘Environmental Art: Contemporary Art in the Natural World’.  It is published by Amber Lotus Publishing in USA.

You may have seen this image (or parts of it) in various places, as I tend to use it in my profiles or as my avatar. It comes from a series of work that is still ongoing….

artwork by Linda Gordon
‘Breathing Space’ my original artwork.

 Amber Lotus produce earth-friedly material, such as calendars, greetings cards, journals and colouring books featuring a diverse range of artists and authors. They offset their carbon footprint by planting trees.  To date, they have had over a million trees planted!

If you would like to purchase the calendar, or find out more about their products and activities, you can explore their website here: Amber Lotus Publishing.

Here’s the front of their Environmental Art Calendar 2021.

cover of calendar

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Drifting

A thick even layer of grey cloud

is falling gently as rain all around

sounding like one of those recordings

designed to soothe and relax and send one drifting off to sleep.

I run up to the top window to watch the rainbow:

a double rainbow emerging, stretching bright across my field of vision

and growing in intensity.

Meanwhile, the fumes from a neighbour’s boiler drift upwards into the air,

as a solitary gull wings its way across the empty sky.

Sky slowly almost imperceptibly becoming lighter

until I can pick out the shapes of white clouds drifting against the grey.

More birds start to fly around, and I hear tweeting noises.

Then the sun appears.

Written & photographed early in the morning,

whilst I drink my first cup of tea of the day.

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Pulse of Life

As the tide recedes

People appear down below in the distance, relaxing on emerging sand

Dogs, set free, run helter-skelter along the whole length of the beach

High above, I lie back on sea-worn pebbles –

Gazing up at the vast soft blue sky

Put a large stone under my neck to take the weight of my head

Slow down my breath to breathe in time with the waves

Here, close to the ground

The ocean rhythms are muffled and indistinct

I feel the strong beat of my heart underneath the camera balanced on my chest.

Then, sitting up, cool breeze ruffling my hair

I feel the rhythm of the airwaves, the pulses within my body –

Whilst my heart thumps inside my chest insistently.

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Climate and Ecological Crisis

Climate and Ecological Crisis? What’s all the Fuss about?’ A week or so ago, I attended this sobering online talk by David Ramsden, MBE, an inspiring speaker who has worked in nature conservation for over 30 years. The talk was organised and hosted by the Barnstaple and District Local Group of the Devon Wildlife Trust. It was designed as an introduction to the whole subject, for all of us who were unclear about the many interlocking aspects of this issue, and wanted more information.

David spelt out in an interesting and readily understandable manner just how serious is the situation today regarding our environment and our continuing life on earth… and crucially, that time is not on our side. It made such a deep impression on me that it got me digging up my dear old blog again, and dusting it off, ready for a new lease of life.

Serious? Running out of time? What exactly IS all this fuss about? It is certainly terrible and upsetting to hear of wildfires sweeping across vast swathes of land; or of hurricanes, melting Polar icecaps or devastating floods, but surely this sort of thing, horrible though it is, has always been going on, hasn’t it… as a natural part of living on this planet?

Winter Storm-hurricane: from all-free-download.com

David began by explaining that Earth is only habitable because of its balanced climate, which is dependent upon ecological systems, such as land, water, and the air that we breathe. The crucial factor here, from what I can see, is balance, without which we are in deep trouble. Then, going into more specific detail, he showed us some alarming and verifiable data concerning all of these inescapably inter-related systems.

He spoke first of fossil fuels, which when burnt, release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air. We know CO2 is a greenhouse gas, i.e. it traps solar radiation bouncing off the earth surface and acts like a greenhouse, thus warming the air. The earth’s air has warmed by about 1.10 C. This may not sound much, but in fact, it has devastating knock-on effects, causing storms, floods, droughts, heatwaves, wildfires, and ocean acidification in many parts of the planet.

In addition, the Arctic temperature has risen a great deal more than the rest of the planet, causing irregular shifts in the Jet Stream, resulting in even more extreme weather – as well as causing Polar ice to melt, resulting inevitably in rising sea levels, more floods…

CO2 is also a major contributor to air pollution. We have probably seen those images online of terribly polluted cities, and we know that air pollution kills thousands of people every year and shortens the life-expectancy of many more.

It sounds to me as though there is something not quite right going on here.

Science tells us today that carbon dioxide levels are much higher now than at any other time during the last 800,000 years. Not only that, but the speed that levels are rising is phenomenal. The diagram below shows fluctuating levels over the millennia, with a top level of 300ppm (parts per million), to suddenly shoot up to 415ppm in the last 50 years or so.  That is 100 times faster than the previous natural increases – which makes it pretty clear that the dramatic rise can only have been caused by human activity.

Photo: climate.nasa.gov/climate_resources
(None of the images in this post are from David’s talk, but from the internet or other source, and are appropriately credited).

Scientific research now clearly predicts that changes in temperature and sea levels will accelerate in alignment with the rapidly increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. In the worst-case scenario, and following scientific projections, it is almost certain that most life on earth would be wiped out by the end of the century. It is essential for us to be carbon neutral by then. Unfortunately, from our current position, this looks impossible to achieve.

The 2015 Paris Agreement was a great step forward in reducing carbon emissions – but is nowhere near stringent enough. In fact, the most recent data shows that we are firmly placed upon the worst-case scenario trajectory (top of the chart). We need to achieve carbon neutral in order to limit global warming to 2 degrees or less (bottom of chart).

chart

from: ourworldindata.org

I am not planning to go into any more detail here about all the profoundly important aspects of the climate crisis covered in David’s talk… There is a full previous version of the talk available on YouTube, where we can learn and reflect quietly upon the issues involved and think about possible action.

As he talked and with each new image or diagram, I realised more and more the fact that what we are facing now is a global emergency of immense proportions, caused undoubtedly by human behaviour. Two important factors amongst the many seem to be fast-growing populations and gross over-consumption prevalent in our materialistic culture. We cannot avoid the unpalatable facts any longer. Time is not on our side, and humanity needs to make massive changes in lifestyle as a matter of extreme urgency. This is the conclusion I reached, given the data and irrefutable scientific evidence that David produced.

       Photo: jasperwilde -unsplash.com

You may have noticed there are many people all over the internet, who would have us believe there are two sides to the story and it just depends how we look at it. This is not true. It is, of course, what they want us to believe, and David advised us to avoid the ‘deniers’ on the web. A good resource for gaining real knowledge about climate change is www.skepticalscience.com.

Things look bad for us. But even at this late stage, we, as human beings, have amazing inner resources to transform and turn things around: to create a vibrant and peaceful life on earth for us and all of earth’s lifeforms. A massive task lies ahead of us.

David gave us a few ideas about what we, as ordinary members of the public can do to change the situation. Even quite small actions will help to make a big difference. We can write to our MP’s for instance… and perhaps lobby them, and remind them that their job is to protect the public.  A good first step for finding out what is happening in Parliament is the website: www.theyworkforyou.com.

By putting in your postcode, you will connect with a page relating to your local MP.  Then you can research this MP’s Parliamentary voting record, and figure out his/her attitudes relating to relevant issues: fossil fuels, for example, or transport, or agricultural practices and the food industry, health, proliferating housing developments… and not forgetting the wildlife: just where are the declining numbers of living creatures and plants supposed to go? (Some of this was not necessarily in David’s talk – they are just my personal gripes).

We can talk about the situation with our friends, say, in relation to wildlife – how certain favourite birds or butterflies don’t seem to be around these days. Or talk about the weather (always a favourite topic of conversation round here) – and changing weather patterns.

Finally, to cut down on our gross over-consumption and waste of the earth’s  depleting resources, David gave some practical suggestions, which I am sure many of us are already doing, including:
Give up meat-eating
Buy local and organic
Don’t buy fashion items
Don’t buy unnecessary consumer goods.

For some reason,  a memory from my youth, many years ago, just popped into my head – memory of a passing remark by a teacher at school, that has somehow stuck with me ever since…  “We interfere with the balance of nature at our peril”.

He was right.

     Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

I am grateful for the opportuntity to see David Ramsden’s talk, which helped me gain a clear picture of the crisis now facing us. Even though I have only touched briefly on the talk, I hope it is enough to convey just how serious our situation is, and that it will arouse interest in looking deeper.

On YouTube you can find the full version of his previous talk: ‘Climate and Ecological Crisis… Version 8’. (The one we watched last week was Version 9, which was slightly updated).  On the Version 8 video – as you go along, you can pick out written references on the screen, to find further information and sources.

And below the video are a couple of helpful links giving useful practical information and possible action steps.

 

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Rising Tide: A Weekend with Extinction Rebellion

detail of group artwork

detail of group artwork

I had been invited to lead a land art workshop using natural materials at The Rising Tide Festival, organised and hosted by Extinction Rebellion South West. It all happened last month over a perfect weekend in late summer sunshine, in the beautiful surroundings of Tapeley Park overlooking the Torridge Estuary, North Devon.

The whole Festival was characterised by fun and relaxation, underpinned by some important and serious talks: some covering aspects of the gathering climate and ecological crisis we are facing; others giving guidance on how best to bring about change, and on the role of XR.

You can read my full original post here, on ClimateCultures – creative conversations for the Anthropocene, –  from the time I arrived when I had no idea what to expect, to the final poignant moments of the Festival’s closing ceremony.

Procession setting off for the closing ceremony in the woods.

procession setting off for the closing ceremony in the woods.

ClimateCultures is a place where artists, researchers and curators connect, to share and discuss their responses to environmental changes, and perhaps point new ways forward through an unsettling, uncertain, rapidly changing world.

If you would like to receive their monthly Newsletter, sign up here – where you can also become a member and write for the blog.

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Fleeting Impressions: Knowing my Place

Over the last month or so, I have been making little explorations around my home ground. Not going very far afield.

6.7.18
BUCKS VALLEY WOODS – hoverflies
After the long, dry, sunny summer: flowers, birds, butterflies, verdant greenery – I come once again to the quiet woods. Despite human encroachment, there is still deep peace here among the trees.

faint trickling of water… occasional small bird sounds…
the high pitched whining of thousands of tiny hoverflies, sparkling and shining gold in the dappled sunlight.

The Woods

13.7.18
NORTHAM BURROWS – skylarks
A leisurely morning walking across the Burrows, organised by the North Devon AONB.
Enjoying life all around, from the tiniest little white shells to the blue skies and wide expansive views across the Atlantic.

Evening Primrose

across the grassland
skylarks rising and dropping down
as I walked towards the group meeting place

 

moths

snails, spiders

hydrobia

Ragwort

Lady’s Bedstraw

Burnet moths on ragwort

skylarks
as I walked back out of the Burrows, and home.

14.7.18
NORTHAM BURROWS – little white crabs
As I arrived at the Burrows, the first drops of fine cool rain began to fall. I knew it would not come to much, and after a while, blue skies and sunshine appeared once again. It grew gradually hotter.

A lady accosted me, wanting to walk with me because she thought she might be getting followed. Personally, I prefer to be alone, but happily walked along for a while, offering well-meaning, but I think, unwanted advice about joining some of the group activities organised from the Visitor Centre. Eventually I realised the lady was heading off rapidly in a different direction, and I didn’t follow her.

I couldn’t find the tiny hydrobia shells that were here yesterday. I wandered up and down the beach, gathering ideas for artwork – but didn’t feel like embarking on anything substantial.

I made a quick assemblage: Little White Crabs, intending it to be the first part of a larger collection.

I regretted not being able to spend the last month or so coming here, when I could have worked quietly  during all that hot summer weather in relative solitude. But now the tides are getting high at my usual visiting times, and next week the schools break up for their summer holiday…

Skylarks still singing. All is well.

16.7.18
ABBOTSHAM – seaweed
A beach survey organised by Coastwise for The Shore Thing project.

Amazed to see a beautiful chough in a field as we walked along  along the Coast Path from Westward Ho! to Abbotsham. Then a scramble down the stony beach, where we used quadrats to estimate the percentages present of an astonishing variety of marine life.

This was the first time I had taken part, and i had not much idea what I was doing. My mind was mostly taken up with trying to keep my balance on the seaweed-covered rocks, and with trying to memorise and recognise the different forms of marine life, and the multitude of small creatures we discovered. I was captivated by this insight into a whole miniature universe, and it led directly to my recent nature artwork with cockle shells: Landing Place – and indeed to ideas for a forthcoming photographic project.

So beautiful, poised and elegant – even with my rubbish photo taken quick with my phone.


31.7.18
NORTHAM BURROWS – Samphire
Cut a bit of samphire and took it home for dinner. Delicious, nutritious, hot with pepper and butter.

The Burrows looked so different in the early evening sunlight. I have been here in the evening before- but normally I would tend to come during the morning. Today, in this warm evening air, there seemed a quite different atmosphere – almost foreign. It was strange to see all the shadows going the ‘wrong’ way – not at all matching the familiar images I had fixed in my mind.

I usually avoid coming here much during the holiday season, not because I have anything against visitors and dogs in general, but because I find it all too distracting from my main focus on the natural surroundings, and my creative responses.

As a matter of fact, I hardly went to Northam Burrows at all last year, largely because it was a year of dark skies and rain (unlike this year when we have enjoyed a long summer heatwave) – but also because I remembered vividly an earlier encounter with two women and their dog:

Out taking photos, I sat down on the beach to rest, took off my shoes and sat gazing out to sea. The beach was completely empty, apart from two tiny figures and a dog appearing far away to my left.  It seemed the figures were making a line straight towards me – and I wondered why on earth, with an entire empty beach to walk in, they had to aim in my direction. Eventually, the dog raced ahead, came up to me, making a bit of a nuisance of itself, and obviously wanted me to play. I firmly encouraged it to clear off,  but it just lay down behind me, leaning against my back.

At last, the two women caught up and passed close by, and as the dog got up to leave, it left me a parting gift, by pee’ing on my bare feet…

Sheep on samphire at Northam Burrows

7.8.18
PENHILL POINT by FREMINGTON QUAY – Buzzard
A lovely evening walk with local members of the Devon Wildlife Trust

A buzzard drifted slowly over our heads as we approached the Taw estuary.
Again, a familiar landscape, seen in the evening, an unfamiliar time for me – when the low light and the different position of the sun gave me a whole new perspective on the scene.

And a palpable sense of recent human history: importing and exporting, ceramics,  lime burning, agriculture… and signs of the old railway that used to run along here over a century ago. (It has now become the Tarka Trail, a pleasant walking and cycle path through the Devon landscape).

Sea Lavender

Sea Purslane (plants able to tolerate saltwater conditions,  I learned were called halophytes).
Rock Samphire
Blue sky – fast moving cloud
The dark silhouette of the old wrecked boat against the fading light
Crumbling stonework of the old lime kiln
Peace of the wide water

 

11.8.18
Woodland at ROSEMOOR- Tarka
Another fabulous walk with the Devon Wildlife Trust

First we passed a larch plantation that had been felled and cleared, partly because of disease and partly to encourage the growth of native British trees. It was interesting to see the stage it was at: recently planted young birch, and other saplings whose seeds had been long buried underground, growing up through the bracken.

A nice little butterfly

We passed an old quarry, and I was fascinated to observe the sandstone and shale layers sloping steeply downwards, and to mentally relate this to other local areas I knew, and to hear why road subsidence could sometimes occur when built across folded rock layers such as this.

We crossed the stone bridge of the old canal, which used to serve now derelict lime kilns along the River Torridge, and also connect leats to mills at Town Mills (now Orford Mill), Torrington, Weare Giffard… Many local places were mentioned. Names I first encountered after reading Henry Williamson’s powerful novel ‘Tarka the Otter’ in my youth when I barely knew Devon existed. Names still vivid in my memory and imagination today, many years later, after coming to live here around 12 years ago.

We paused at the Dark Weir by Darkham Woods, where Tarka’s final hunt began. After walking for some time through woodland tracks, looking closely at the land and wildlife, and remembering this story,  I thought that Henry Williamson must have known this land as intimately as an otter or any wild animal.

Gazing down at the river flowing over the weir, I was reminded once again how inextricably entwined we are with the natural world all around.

 

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