'I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out 'til sundown, for going out, I found was really going in.' John Muir

I've seen the top of Everest (from a long way off), smelled the breath of a whale (from way too close) and lived on a boat in Greece (for a few years), but I continue to experience some of my most precious moments right outside my backdoor.

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Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Tuesday's Treasure


In winter things can look grey and boring but if you look, there are always splashes of colour to be found in the landscape.
These photos were taken on an old industrial site near where I live. 
As I was taking them, I could hear the call of a nuthatch, loud enough to make the frosted leaves tremble.
The metallic call of a great tit smashed through the freezing air, like a hammer on ice.
In contrast, the whistle of a bullfinch seemed soft and fuzzy, like the edges of these teasels.
Wrap up warm, go outside and look for treasure...

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Doorstep Epiphany!

Another adventure close to home...

Gladstone's Library, Hawarden, Flintshire.
I know it’s only 7th Jan but yesterday I did possibly the coolest thing I’ve done this year (it may well end up being the coolest thing I do all year).  All it took was a twenty minute drive, a flash of my passport and a glimpse of my address on a heating oil bill. 

I walked into the high-vaulted, Hogwarty room as the glow from January’s amber light licked at the Gothic windows, seeping in through leaded panes, making the oak beams glow and igniting work-smoothed, wooden desks.  Dust motes danced in those slices of amber light the way I was bursting to, but somehow I suppressed my excitement and watched the receptionist’s lips mouthing instructions.
Her animated eyebrows said more than her paper-thin library whisper and the pages being turned upstairs in the gallery shouted down to me. I wanted to yell, ‘Ok, Ok, just show me where to sign!’ And I wanted to pirouette over the wonderful, creaky floor boards, hang on to the honeyed-rope handrails, pull myself up the ridiculously quaint spiral stairs and twirl with the dust motes through that soft amber light to a desk that was glowing just like the Tardis before it leaves on an epic adventure and begin to write my life, for I had the feeling, it was just about to start!

One of many 'Tardis' desks, waiting for adventure...
Joining Gladstone’s Library as a Reader was easy and FREE.  It’s a magical, peaceful, contemplative place with fabulous food and great coffee and you can even stay the night!
There are all sorts of events coming up from an invitation to 'gather round the hearth' with writers and poets, to the annual Gladfest event, craft fairs, interesting talks and tours and you can even learn Greek in a week!

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Another Doorstep Adventure

With a flask of coffee and the last of the Christmas Stilton we set off to roam the ramparts of one of the largest hillforts in Wales.  Penycloddiau is about a 10 minute drive away.

The Offa's Dyke National Trail passes through the fort, over rounded hills, past a bronze age burial mound and a half frozen pond that may have provided the Iron Age residents of this high fort with water.  The deep ditches and banks that kept livestock in and invaders out are still clearly visible.

Today, us and a couple of Ravens were the only invaders.  The great black birds, glossy in the low winter sun, dropped their heavy 'kronks' like molten iron into the heather. 

Two and a half thousand years ago people lived and worked up here in thatched roundhouses.  Perhaps they took time out to admire the view across to Snowdonia as we did today, picking out the rare summit view of mighty Yr Wyddfa, the dinosaur back of Tryffan and the great bulk of Cadair Idris?

If you take your mobile phone (not very iron-age I know) you can dial 01745 222 123 when you get near one of four numbered posts and hear the voice of a hillfort resident telling you what life was like for the iron age folk who lived up here.
Or find out more about this and the other hillforts in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the web site.


Looking Back towards Moel Famau

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Snow Senses

Happy New Year!

In winter I like to give my senses a bit of an airing, I mean really focus on each of them, not just sight. I shut my eyes and sniff and taste and touch.  Being out in the snow is generally not an olfactory experience but if I try hard enough, there's always something to make my nostrils twitch. 

The chacker-chack-chack of fieldfares in wind-bent hawthorn, 
the crunch of footsteps in ice-crusted snow,
the heavy kronk of a tumbling raven,
the pebble-tapping clicks of a stonechat.


Wood smoke from the chimneys of thick-walled miner’s cottages,
sweet, wet hay scattered for foraging sheep and ponies.


The prickle of gorse when I try to pull myself up a steep slope for the best coffee stop view,
the hot plastic cup from my flask warming my hands,
sticky cake crumbs on my lips,
icy wind against my cheeks.


Hot, sweet coffee,
chocolate cake,
a lemon-ice taste in my mouth from a gulp of mountain air.

Black raven in a blue sky, sheep splashed with either red or purple paint, one lamb or two?
Yellow gorse flowers shining on the hillside,
watery-orange sun slipping below the whale-back-mound of Moel Arthur.