Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts

Enjoying walking the dog by the river Adur

As the spring weather is here, I'm making more of an effort to get out and about, I'm also nagging myself to blog more!

I am still 'iffy' about using my stick when I walk - despite falling an impressive 3 times last week - because I worry it makes me look old. Obviously I don't worry that I'll look a prat if I fall over.

So a plea to other mildly disabled or wobbly folk - and to stick suppliers everywhere - what's a good stick to use that will still look cool? Feel free to let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter (links in the sidebar)

Anyway - on with the walk. Mr TS and I decided to take her ladyship Fizz the border terrier for a stroll along the River Adur. We only walked from the airport at Shoreham as far as the first car park but it was a nice meander, the weather was lovely as were the views and Fizz enjoyed herself.

Lancing College
Lancing College

dog walking by a river
Fizz, mistress of all she surveys

dog watching another dog while out on a walk
The mix of excitement and disappointment when a dog you want to play with is separated from you by a deep stream
 Despite the lack of rain and the ground looking parched, Fizz, of course, managed to run through the gloopy silt and mud minutes before getting back to the car.

On the whole though it's a good walk for dogs, minimal livestock on the west side of the river, and good views so that if there are sheep you have plenty of time to get the dog back on a lead. No roads nearby and a river for getting muddy in. Not too many walkers but enough to be friendly and enough dogs that Fizz had a nice play too.

dry parched soil
Dry April

Have you been out walking lately? 

Festivals Full of Food

As a festival lover I've mentioned before that it's not all mud, tents and music. There are all sorts of festivals and one of the best must surely be a festival of Food!

sausage rolls  at a festival market

Even if you are dieting there is joy to be found at a food festival, outside, breathing in the glorious British weather (hopefully sunny and warm, though one never know!) and gazing at the glory of fine local and not so local foods. The chance to discover new goodies, to buy for an impromptu picnic, or something more special. And then there are recipe ideas and demonstrations, competitions and all manner of cakes!

Bring the outdoors indoors with Cuckooland themed bedroom furniture and accessories

I rarely share this sort of thing, but seriously how cute is this 'outdoors indoors' kids room design from Cuckoo land? I just adore it! I need to find an excuse to get the bearskin rug!

“Set up camp in the mountains!”

 Teepee Bed, £399

Clockwise from top left:
Henry Bear Rug, £89.95
Finlay Fox Rug, £55.95

Outdoor Food on Friday - 9th October - Sloe Gin

Fabulous foraging! I love free food - who doesn't! Free food tastes better than any other kind except maybe food you grew or picked yourself. So just imagine the joy of free hand picked food!

Foraging is something that can be taken to extremes but I'm a fairly lazy forager. I'm the sort of mum that will pack some empty tupperware on an autumn walk in case we spot black berries, but I'm not usually keen enough to bring the car to a halt on an A road and climb on the car roof to pick apples growing among the trees on the verge (ok I did that once). Sloes are a very British thing to flavour gin with though and while I don't actually make my own gin (there are limits!) it is nice to have something you have (almost) made free. I buy the cheapest gin the supermarket has to offer. And then I pick my sloes.

Don't try this unless you are sure of what you are picking. A sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn, they have white flowers in the spring (spot them then and make a note where to return to!)The small tree or large bush will usually be growing in a mixed hedgerow, there are thorns on a blackthorn (the clue is in the name!) so take care. The fruits are small, about the size of a small olive, and black but with a blue 'bloom' to them which will wipe off with a damp finger. If you bite into one the flesh is greenish purple and will strip the moisture from your mouth! They are very bitter!
Take the sloes home and wash them, remove any bugs, weevils etc, find some empty glass bottles (it's tough but you may have to drink the contents to empty them) or mason style jars. I then prick over every sloe with a pin (yes really) to help the juices flow.

Half fill a bottle with sloes, cover them with sugar, fill the bottle with gin. Close the bottle and pop it into a dark cupboard. Give it a shake every week but otherwise ignore it for at least 6 months, the pips of the sloe, in common with peaches, damsons and other 'stone' fruits, contain cyanide and while I have never had an issue, even after steeping them for years, it's advisable to take them out after 6 months for this reason*.  You can add more sugar if the original sugar dissolves in the first week.

When it has achieved a dark red colour (it will, you will even see the red leaking out of the holes you made in the sloes at the start) and all the sugar is dissolved, you should carefully strain it into a glass bottle for storage and serving.

Drink responsibly! Sloe gin is great on it's own, with tonic or as a base for cocktails.

Have you been up to no good this week? Foraging, cooking or eating outside? Have a great camping recipe to share? Now's your chance! Please link up your blog post below.

You can grab a badge for your blog too! Just copy and paste the code from the box below
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*All stoned fruit contain minute amounts of hydrogen cyanide and after lengthy submerssion in gin this cyanide begins to leach into the drink imparting the bitter almond flavour. However this generally happens only after a long period of time and the good news is that this type of cyanide is not in anyway harmful. However in an attempt to mimic these effects some people started adding almond essence to their sloe gin to copy the flavour of their friends who had left their Sloe gin under the stairs for longer than expected. ref Foxdenton Sloe Gin

Off road cycling in Wales

CTC Cymru, Open MTB, Welsh Cycling and British Cycling have applauded the Welsh Government’s proposal to adopt similar rules on access to the countryside as those enjoyed in Scotland.

Currently in Wales the Rights of Way system is based upon recorded historic use of routes instead of suitability. As a result, cyclists have rights to use just 21% of the network, with permission to ride along narrow rocky sheep tracks on steep ground but denied access to thousands of miles of public footpaths lying on metalled farm and forest roads. As a walker I can see how frustrating this is, some tracks are so wide two cars can pass each other on them! It seems rather silly to deny cyclists access.

In Scotland, following the Land Reform Act 2003, it is very different. Scotland enjoys ‘presumed access’. This means there is a presumption of “responsible access”, subject to exemptions laid out in the Outdoor Access Code (eg forestry operations). Consequently, Scottish off-road and leisure cycle tourism are booming and contribute between £236.2m and £358m a year.

Recent research indicates that outdoor activity in Wales contributes to nearly 10% of the Welsh tourist economy. The group argues that changes to countryside access within Wales could dramatically increase this figure, thereby offering more social, transport, recreational and health benefits for both residents and visitors to the country.

Tom Hutton, Snowdonia based mountain bike journalist and guide, speaking on behalf of Open MTB said:
“I don’t think we can exaggerate what an amazing opportunity for mountain biking this is. A change in access laws in Wales could potentially open 1000s of kilometres of currently out of bounds trails.
“It would put Wales back up there with Scotland as one of the best off road destinations in the world, and at the same time, would increase take up of the sport and local participation. It would also potentially pave the way for future changes in England. 

I realise some walkers would be nervous as there are always some inconsiderate cyclists out and about, but I can't help but think they probably don't obey the rules anyway and this would enable responsible bikers much better access.

Consultaion on this has now finished, but keep up to date at  


Outdoor food on Friday - October 2nd - foraging

Autumn is upon us! It’s October and I have fallen behind with my blog posts due to slacking but also time, I seem to be always on the go! Grabbing 5 minutes to tweet is not so hard, but finding a chunk of time, an hour or so to blog seems almost impossible.

The long lazy days of summer festivals seems far away. But I’ve seen a few blogs in the last few weeks where people have been cooking and eating not only food cooked outside but food they have been picking and gathering with their own fair (or muddy) hands.

Earlier in September I picked both apples and pears from the trees in our garden and made some crumble and also some apple pancakes, both delicious. Does hand picked food really taste better or do we imagine that?

I haven’t made sloe gin for several years but that’s another fine foraging food idea (gin is a food right?). I haven’t even managed to pick any blackberries this year, always good to give an apple pie some extra colour and also great in cakes. We have a gooseberry bush in the garden so we had gooseberries though.

Have you been foraging? Have you eaten anything that you picked yourself this autumn? I draw the line at fungi as I don’t know enough about them to be 100% sure – but berries I’m quite clued up on. And for those less adventurous there are always ‘pick your own’ style farms and orchards.

Do link up your blog posts of recipes, outdoor eating and food foraging. I’d love to see what you’ve been up to. Grab the badge code too!

(Next week – slow gin recipe and the perils of making your own booze)
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Wasps. Why do we hate them?

Wasps haven't been as numerous this year as other years and I for one am grateful for that. I know that all creatures have their place in the food chain, and that destroying every wasp on the planet would be bad, but it's pretty hard to love a wasp.

In the spring they are industrious little gits, bringing up the wasp babies and catching and eating many a caterpillar and maggot, helping the gardener (though causing many butterfly tears no doubt as yet another baby is carried off to the paper house of death)

Photo Copyright: viktor2013 / 123RF Stock Photo 

In the summer they potter about looking for fruit and as the year progresses they become the total pain in the arses we all know and hate. Inebriated on fermented apple, and searching for a fight like the angry drunks they are, they waiver about the place indecisively looking for places to land. Drawn as they are to meat (I once watched amazed as one tried and almost succeeded to fly off with a piece of steak twice its own size as I relaxed outside a pub one lunch time) and to alcohol and of course anything sweet and any small child within 100 yards, they are a real annoyance.

I have decided that while it's the sting that worries us, and the fact they seem keener to sting that a bee does, it's their indecisive nature that is the real problem.

"Just drink the coke and leave!" we scream, but no, the wasp bumbles incessantly around the lip of the can, will it go in? will it stay on the lid? will it just fly about forever??

"Just make up your mind wasp! We have loads of food, take some and leave!" but no, of course it will weave about in front of your face, threatening to alight on your fork and then at the last minute heading for your glass...

While we, grown humans, flail about, squealing and shrieking, failing majestically to do anything other than look ridiculous.

And that is why I hate wasps. The stupid wiggly flight path, the inability to decide where to go and what to do next.

And not just because they sting you, though that too. Sometimes if you are really unlucky, they might even kill you. I've been stung once. I have had the dubious joy of a wasps' nest in the loft of my house, and this year I've killed several while camping, using only a spatula...

What are your thoughts on wasps? Love them as a stripey part of nature? or hate the yellow horrors? Do let me know of your wasp experiences.

Tuesday Tip - The best position

Well it's late but I'm sneaking in a Tuesday tip! I apologise for the lack of posts - I've been under canvas and enjoying myself (so I'm not *that* sorry) at various festivals - posts about them to come!

But Today's Tuesday Tip is all about positioning. When pitching a tent there are obvious things to try for such as a flat level area (at a festival this is often not possible and at Camp Bestival we camped on the side of a hill - ensuring we slept with the foot of our beds down the hill), I also favour not camping in a gully if there is even a chance of rain (or the chance of a leaking portable toilet at a festival!) yet not on the very top of a hill either as that can be a windy spot and there is always the thought of storms and lightning...

On a hill
Trees are another thing to steer safe of, try to pitch in the lee of a hedge or trees but not so close they can be blown on top of you or a stray branch could fall and damage the tent or you! At Wilderness Festival the Health and Safety team moved us out from the edges of an Oak tree as they thought we were still in the 'danger zone'
Near a tree, not under a tree

But however careful you are to position your tent carefully there is always the chance of the unexpected, this last weekend at Wilderness Festival this unexpected thing was ... flying ants! A secret and otherwise silent ants nest (luckily only of harmless black ants) erupted on a hot afternoon with a million flying queen ants and their many minions INSIDE our tent! A hilarious (now, not at the time) half an hour of emptying the tent, pouring boiling water on the nest (sorry ants) and generally panicking and tidying resulted in a tent once again fit for habitation.
Safe inside again

So, today's tip - position your tent safely, but always expect the unexpected!

Happy camping.

Red Kites

Only 20 years ago I had to travel to Wales to see red kites.

A majestic looking bird that feeds mainly on carrion and was once common all over London, and other cities where refuse was to be found! After years of persecution they had become extinct in England.

Then in 1989 and over the next few years 90 birds were reintroduced to England from Spanish stock. The birds were released in the Chilterns, and initially placed into wooden release pens on the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire border before being set free. The first successful breeding in the Chilterns took place in 1992, and since then numbers have steadily increased to approximately 400/500 breeding pairs. If you drive the M40 you will see red kites.

Other reintroduction programs continue but all are in the midlands and north of England and Scotland.

So I was thrilled to see a red kite on my way to work this morning. I live on the South coast and although we have lots of buzzards now, I’ve never seen a red kite this far south. I was so excited that I stopped the car and took some (pretty bad) photos! It was an exciting start to the morning and I shall be watching out in future and no longer assuming a large bird of prey is a buzzard, it would be lovely if red kites are breeding here in Sussex.

Find out more about the red kite at the RSPB Website

The centipede, the fairies and the deadnettles

My walk in the bluebells woods reminded me of a story from my childhood, something my grandfather told me on our walks in the woods years ago.

Long ago when the world was far less complicated than it is today the fairies were up to mischief. The fair folk have always loved tricks and they love to cause trouble so it should come as no surprise that they took great delight in teasing the centipede.

The centipede struggled each morning to put on all of his shoes, it took him until nearly lunchtime to even be ready to go out for morning tea with his lady friend, what with sorting all the shoes and lacing them all onto his little feet. So the fairies thought it was terribly funny to hide his shoes!

They hid them at first all over his little centipede house, but later they went as far as the stream, making the poor centipede have to walk all in the damp mud in his stocking feet! They were such bad fairies, and how they giggled when they watched him from behind the bluebells.

One particular morning the centipede woke after staying up late to polish each and every shoe, he wanted to look especially smart because he planned to ask his lady love to marry him, only to find all his shoes gone! Oh those fairies, they had gone too far this time, it took him until after noon to find all the shoes and some were so muddy he had to clean them all over again.


He was hot and bothered when he finally met his love. Luckily she was a very sweet natured centipede herself, and she accepted his proposal to be married, (even though in his haste he had put at least two shoes on the wrong feet). She also told him how to stop the fairies’ tricks.

“Hide your shoes yourself!” she told him, “pop a pair or two of your shoes under each dead nettle flower, the dead nettles look like stinging nettles but they don’t sting! The fairies are so silly they won’t know that, and they will be far to afraid of being stung to look for your shoes there!”

white deadnettle
White Deadnettle
And so that is what he did, and do you know it worked! The centipedes went on to have many children and grandchildren and they told them all their secret.

Story of why there are shoes in the white deadnettle flowers
White Deadnettle...with shoes!
If you don’t believe me you have only to peep inside the White Deadnettle flowers to see, there will be the centipede’s best shoes, hidden away from those bad fairies.

A walk in the English countryside

I don't know where you live, but here Monday started with gorgeous weather. As it is spring and I live relatively close to woodland, my husband and I decided to talk a walk in the woods to look at the bluebells. We were not disappointed. It was a perfect morning, lovely lighting through dappled trees, bird song, and spring flowers.

We saw so many flowers that I have made a list to give you an idea of what you look for if you go out in the next few weeks. If you have children (and maybe even if you don't) an I-Spy or other spotter book can make a walk fun, definitely grab yourself some sort of identification book, you can borrow them free from libraries as well as buying them. Or take a picture of each flower you see (I took quite a few) and use the internet to identify them when you get home. There is charming folklore about many English plants (more of that in later posts)

So here is my walk in pictures...

And we saw a huge long list of flowers too, many of which I photographed. Including:
Stitchwort, primroses, bluebells, white deadnettle, crosswort, bugle, cuckoo pint, herb robert, red campion, dog violets, anemone, wood sorrel, dandelions, daisies, yellow archangel, lady's smock, wood spurge, gorse, forget me nots, and yellow pimpernel.

white deadnettle
White deadnettle

wild forget me nots
wild forget me nots

bugle wild flower
Herb Robert
Herb Robert

cuckoo pint
Cuckoo pint

lady's smock wild flower
Lady's smock


fern frond
Fern Frond

english woodland bluebells

gorse flowers

crosswort yellow flower

yellow pimpernel
Yellow pimpernel

stitchwort flowers

Nature on your doorstep

A small post today. I don’t seem to be out and about much despite the lovely spring weather. But I have had the joy of a lot of wildlife in the garden. We have regular visitors of the usual small birds to the bird feeders, robins (we have one that has learned to hover to get at the seeds), green finches, a variety of tits and also more sparrows than I’ve seen in a while. The ‘less than neat’ borders in the garden attract the ‘rummagers’ of the bird world, so we have blackbirds and the occasional thrush.

The robin gets into the undergrowth too, and some plump wood pigeons patrol our lawn. The bid baths (various odd water filled objects, with and without stones in for the smaller birds to perch on) have been popular with even a large crow having a splashy bath in the week. I have seen fewer magpies around lately, but they may be nesting. We have two or three jays visiting regularly though so we are still a popular garden with the corvids.

 The squirrels are still enjoying their allocated feeder and seem happy to leave the bird feeders alone as long as we keep their feeder (next to the kitchen window) full of peanuts. The way the squirrels press their little hands and faces to the window when the peanuts run out is hilarious, it’s as though they are both checking we are OK while also being slightly annoyed, I can almost hear the “hello!? Anyone there? The nuts have run out!”

We also have a variety of foxes that turn up for table scraps and food that DH puts out each night. They used to visit even when we had the dogs but now that the terriers are gone the foxes are even bolder. They are happy to come right up to the back door for food, sitting waiting in the middle of the lawn watching my husband fill the bowl. You can see how quickly canines could be tamed. I realise many people see foxes as vermin, but I have to admire their tenacity and flexibility in a world taken over by humans, roads and buildings.

So not many nature walks recently – but quite a lot of wildlife watching while doing the washing up! I’m hoping to go and look at the bluebells in the local woods this weekend, though it will feel strange to be up there without the dogs.

Night night, sleep tight - Camping sleep mats review

For a long time I have searched for the perfect comfy night's sleep when camping. As I'm in my 50s the simple thin foam mat favo...