Sunday, 29 November 2009

Places we saw last summer

We did another section of the Thames Path (see September) and mean to finish it but right now long sections are under water. This is just south of Oxford, we now only have the section north of the city to do.
Today on Radio 4 I heard about The Harrow Way which, set on high chalkland like the Ridgeway, and with views to the south coast, sounds awesome. But....after an extensive google I have come to a bit of a blank. 150 miles of 7000 year old track but not sure if all of it is mapped or signposted. Something to research for next year....

In September our friends took us on a walk along Offa's Dyke from the crooked little church at Cwmyoy where we found this intriguing headstone, and overlooking the ruin of Llanthony Priory . Eric Gill the sculptor and calligrapher lived near here in the 1920's and two headstones he designed are in the churchyard at nearby Capel y Ffin. We wonder if this beautiful grave marker is associated with the artist's family? Spookily, when I got home I found a book waiting on the shelf all about the area we had just walked, including the priory , the artists commune and the church. 'Resistance' by Owen Sheers got very mixed reviews, but if you know the area his poetic descriptions conjure up each scene perfectly. Also in Wales for the August Bank holiday, down near Dolgellau at Penmaenpool we crossed this beautiful old toll bridge on the Mawddach estuary. There is a walk (really good for bikes, buggies and wheelchairs) all the way to Barmouth with breathtaking views, salt marsh flora and birdwatching opportunities. And in the town of Dolgellau, below Cader Idris we took refuge from the torrential rain in this amazing cafe, once an ironmongers and now a purveyor of very fine cakes. Board games are provided for those long, wet afternoons Snowdonia is so famous for... follow the Dolgellau link and click on town trail for more history, including that of this cafe.
Last pic of the summer, we were back in Dorset on Hengistbury Head (see march 09).

And now it is pouring again so I am off to read A Concise Chinese - English Dictionary For Lovers by Xiaolou Guo - easy and unput down able.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Tupping time

Well autumn has definitely begun now. The rain has woken me a few times in the night and even around here there are flooded fields and, for once, full streams. The leaves have not all fallen though, which I think must be a record, and so far most days have been very mild.
I stopped to photograph these ladies in their rain washed coats, bright in the morning sun and ready for tupping. My friend tells me that hers all went to the ram in October and that they will be expecting very early lambs this year - around the end of February, so I hope the winter is kind by then. I love their oversized, wrinkled skins. Rubbing them you can feel their ribs under their wooly jumpers like toddlers squirming under the towel at bathtime. One day, when work ends I would love to raise one in my kitchen. That day when I have a pig in the garden too......

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Bring on the girls!

FISHTANK - weird name for a film and I never quite worked that bit out .......I wasn't going to get seats for this film but the girl at the ticket kiosk said "Jane has just seen it and says it is the best film she has seen this year, so I did. On the night I did a quick google (don't, save that for later) and I would have been put off; I didn't feel I could face 'gritty' on a cold, wet November night, but I had made a date with a girl friend so we went. I confessed on the way so we had a drink first.

We loved the film. There were a few shocks and brilliantly built up suspense and a no holds barred view of Essex life and an absolutely compelling lead. Writer and director Andrea Arnold discovered her real life heroine at a train station "on one platform with her boyfriend on another platform, giving him grief." She says Katie Jarvis is for real. She dominates the camera and drives the narrative; the effect is mesmerising. Whether she is 'acting' or not she won the Edinburgh Festival Film award for Best British Performance this year and Fishtank won the Cannes Jury prize. Just see it!

New favourite website - Saltwater - yummy clothes only a tad too expensive, check it out.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Still Sailing

This was the lake as I left today. Calm.
What I am getting good at: using the sail to steer.
What I have to do now: hike out. Any tips?
Fireworks were good. All anticipation had gone though I have been excited every year for the last almost 50. But it was good; I articulated aloud. And there were magical fire balloon lanterns. So all was well.
Reading The Places In Between by Rory Stewart. Trust me on this one, and if you are single and under 40, follow the link...

Sunday, 1 November 2009


Sailed yesterday and walked in the woods this afternoon, bulgy little camera (blc) in pocket. I am quite happy with this shot, probably the most photographed spot in Ashridge but especially for Miss Whistle. Earlier we had forayed for sweet chestnuts, now roasted and eaten. Wild food always tastes good; on Friday it was overripe-to-perfect damsons and the blackberries are only just over after an epic season as autumn went on and on. Found some pretty pink mushrooms which look to be Russula Nitida as described and 'most commonly found in birch woods'. They looked quite tasty but my book is a bit ambiguous 'The best way to decide whether or not Russula is edible is to taste a small piece of the uncooked flesh. Only those with a mild or bland taste should be used.' Or not!

My other taste of autumn is Russet apples. I have loved them since I was a child and most especially since I read Little Women, aged 10. You might remember that Jo used to munch them in her writing den in the attic, which gave them huge kudos for me. My other favourite apples were both grown in our garden at home - Beauty of Bath and Coxes Orange Pippins - so first loves really. On stories, my sister reminded me of my great love for pomegranites which I had a real fad for as a teenager, completely based on the story of Persephone in the underworld. So this was my tea today - the Marmite rice cakes are very tasty and very good for you and virtually no calories at all!