A walk in the park

Yesterday was a washout, both literally (I don’t think it stopped raining all day) and metaphorically (as we had to stay in most of the day). I managed to get lots done on the photobook from our visit to Krakow last year but really both Rufus and I were feeling a little stir crazy.

We woke up this morning to more of the same weather and a forecast that said it would be wet all day. Faced with the prospect of another day stuck in the living room, we took an executive decision to go out regardless of the weather. After a second fortifying coffee, I got ready and got Rufus ready and without knowing what the weather was doing, we left the house.

It was raining, a steady, drab, grey rain accompanied by warm, humid air without a breeze to cool us off. The worst kind of rain in my opinion. We headed off to the local park as I hoped there’d be enough trees to give us some form of shelter for much of the walk. I’d forgotten how difficult the parking was and we circumnavigated the park looking for somewhere to stop. Eventually a space appeared and we dived in.

Usually the park is full of dog walkers and wouldn’t be my first choice of venue but my assumption that the rain would put many off was borne out and we had the park pretty much to ourselves. One or two dedicated walkers passed us with cheery smiles which helped in the grey morning. All the dogs we met were older and slower and like their owners, they were at their retirement age. I liked the idea of having somewhere to go for a gentle walk and it reminded me that Rufus is slowing down a little now, as am I.

The bluebells and snowdrops under the trees were still bright and fresh and some of the purples were strikingly deep and rich. The grass was a bright green too, and like the blades in my garden, were growing fast despite a recent cut. Trees were blossoming and despite my use of the the word grey and drab to describe the day, there was a magnificent range of colours in the park to brighten the day up.

Birds were taking advantage of the lack of activity and singing loudly. Several robins crossed out path, used to human activity and not at all concerned by Rufus’ presence. Crows pecked at the ground to lure worms to the surface and blackbirds darted about the tree branches, taking advantage of the new leaf canopy and the shelter it provided.

I’ve been going to Singleton Park for years. It formed a regular route as part of my daily training for treks and I’d often be seen there with camera and telephoto lens snapping away at the squirrels and other wildlife. I remember watching a man trying to coax a bird of prey out of the trees. When I asked, he explained that he’d made the mistake of feeding it before he’d exercised it and now it was sitting in the branches taking a post luncheon siesta. I’ve played gigs in the park as part of bank holiday events, once drowning out the next door ‘Its a Knockout’ event with our excessive volume. Early band publicity photos were taken at the modern stone circle, erected at the beginning of the 20th Century as part of the Eisteddfod celebrations.

Back home, both of us were soaked through to the skin but only one of us got a reward for allowing the other one to towel dry him. Life is unfair sometimes.

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Still in Clyne d too.

In a gap in the cloud in the morning we set off for Clyne woods again. I wasn’t sure when the rain was going to start, so we set off prepared to turn back at any time.

After yesterday’s deluge, the path was even more muddy than I had expected and while I spent time stepping between puddles, ducking under low branches and generally ensuring I didn’t slip off the path into the river, Rufus plodded on completely oblivious to my problems.

Instead of rain, though, the sun broke through the clouds and the leaves and brighten up the little valley. It seemed to stimulate the birds as well as me because their singing increased and I saw a lot more flying around and scouring the ground for grubs and other food. Two blackbirds let Rufus walk right up to them and he was a little surprised and didn’t know what to do. They flew off with Rufus watching but not chasing.

We came across a junction of paths; each one looked as muddy as the next. Next to one of the paths was a cutting into rock and at the end of this was a small cave. The cutting was clearly man made, it seemed as if the cave was too. It didn’t look as if it led anywhere but there was a lot of debris on the floor. Above it, we took a path the led eventually to the fields we were skirting. Not wishing to cut the walk short, we headed back down the the river and followed it around to the tunnel, where we rejoined the cycle path.

On the way back tot he car we were passed by several cyclists, none of whom seemed to have even the simplest bell to warn us that they were coming. With the wind and birds singing, its sometimes hard to hear a bike approaching, and although I had Rufus in the lead because of this, there is still the potential for an accident. Cyclists – get a bell and use it.

We were soon back at the car and still fairly dry. It was time to head home for second breakfast and second coffee.

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Spring-ing

It’s time for cleansing. The sun is out and it inspires change.

No, don’t worry. I haven’t gone all hippy on you (well, no more than usual). I just find that feeling the sun on my face, looking at a cloudless sky and being able to enjoy an early morning without having to wear 17 layers of fleeces triggers some sort of renewal hormone in my brain.

I was out first thing this morning with Rufus and his real owner (I merely rent Rufus, of course, so that I appear to have a friend).  We spent a lovely two hours on the River Tawe, strolling up and down in the warm sunshine, stopping when we felt like it and, of course, throwing lots of stones for Rufus. We were early enough that for much of the time we had the river to ourselves. In the distance, a walking group appeared in a convoy of cars and set off for who knows where. By the time we were back at the car, it was still only just after 11am.

When we got home, I intended to watch the first Grand Prix of the season. I’ve been a motor racing fan for years but have become disillusioned with Formula 1 recently. However, this season promised to be different, as there had been a significant change in the rules resulting in radically different cars. A significant change for me was the prominence of the energy recovery system and the importance it plays in the performance of the car. Inevitably, this technology will filter down to the consumer and that can only be a good thing.

Instead both Rufus and I fell asleep. Not a reflection on the race but on my lack of fitness and Rufus’ tendency to cover 50% more distance than I do on walks.

But once I had surfaced, I felt ready to get on with some Spring stuff. There are two large fir trees in the garden and I’ve been planning to trim them for a while now. They block the afternoon sun and the night sky. So I had been building up to cutting the tops off. I’ve been put off in the past as I tend to leave it too late and they become a nesting place for birds. It seemed like a good idea to do it today.

I managed to trim the first tree and three quarters of the second tree before, to my absolute horror, I spotted a small white egg drop to the floor. It was quickly followed by a second, and the frantic fluttering of a pigeon. There, in one of the branches I had just cut, were the remains of a nest. The eggs were broken, the pigeon panicked and I was gutted. I should have checked before starting off, but in my defence, the trees were a dense mass of thick branches and it was difficult to get to each one.

I stopped, all the enthusiasm gone and as I cleared up, I saw the pigeon circling before it landed on a nearby roof. I took a quick look out from the kitchen, as the clouds rolled in to spoil the evening, and the pigeon was in the remains of the tree. I can’t look any more.

It needed doing. But I should have done it earlier.

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Gardening

I am not a gardener. I don’t know anything about gardening. Gardening to me is cutting back the green stuff until you can see through it to the other green stuff. Gardening is hard work. Particularly when I’m trying to identify the green stuff that might produce colourful flowers that I can photograph, or that might attract insects and butterflies to the end of my macro lens. I have books on green things, books on flying things and books on both, but still the back garden is full of green stuff that all looks the same.

Yesterday I did the first cut of the front lawn. Lawn is a term used merely so that you know what green stuff I’m cutting. My front garden is an adventure playground for cats. I cut the grass merely so that I can see the cats. Today was the first cut for the back garden. Notice I don’t even bother with ‘lawn’ to describe the back garden. If the front garden is an adventure playground, then the back garden is a full on Royal Marines assault course.

I take no pleasure from gardening (as you may have gathered). Gardening hurts. As I type this, a thorn has punctured my left forefinger and it is bleeding. Yesterday, I managed to drive a larger thorn into the index finger of my right hand, which I had to dig out by rooting around with a suitably sterilised pin. It is still painful, especially when I type. (That is the level of dedication I bring to this blog). My back hurts from strimming. My side hurts from various activities to do with strimming. I have scratches and scrapes. My glasses are covered in bits of grass and other green stuff thrown up by the strimmer. I dare not look at my hair as it is probably the refuge for living things disturbed by the strimmer.

I have an apple tree. It actually produces apples which I share with my friends. I used to have a lot of blackberry bushes but I went to war on all things thorny last year and after an intense and by no means one sided campaign, I have reduced them to a mere blemish against the backdrop of green stuff. There’s a tree at the top of the garden that my dad rescued from a ruined farmhouse as a sapling. The farmhouse once belonged to relatives of my mum. The tree, now more than 30 years old, is magnificent and reminds me of my dad. And it’s not green, so that’s okay.

At the top of the garden is a thick growth of bamboo. I like it (it’s only green at the top)  but I have no idea where it comes from. Next door used to keep birds so it could be from the seed (although the birds were kept in an aviary). I have a suspicion that some Japanese soldiers are hiding in there, not realising that the war is over.

I have the occasional special visitor in my garden. A pair of blackbirds return each year to see what I have left them to nest in. I make a point of stopping all major restructuring work when they arrive. I have had foxes several times, including one that decided to sleep under a bush at the top of the garden and another that had a look in at me through the garden window. That was wonderful to see. I had a hedgehog turn up one evening as I was looking through the telescope. It stopped long enough to let me take its portrait and to feed it some dog food (I checked in the internet and that’s what was recommended). So the garden isn’t all bad.

I have followed a friend’s advice and covered a particularly difficult patch of the garden with old carpet and sheets of wood in an attempt to smother the weeds and brambles that grow there. It’s been on for a couple of months now and the brambles have finally stopped struggling. The odd one still manages to poke it’s head between gaps, but they are swiftly taken care of. It’s unsightly, but I’m thinking for the long term. Besides, it makes a change from the endless green

So that, then, is my garden. A challenging, ever changing, green place.

 

 

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