Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Owls in Newark Today

Kilton raptor rescue visited the town centre, in Halloween get up, and brought some beautiful raptors once again for us to enjoy.

Today's birds were mainly owls, and a glorious collection they were too.

Some form of long eared owl, I think

Tawny owl?

OK, I'm not an owl. I'm a buzzard

Grey scopps owl. Don't touch his mouse

Barn owl

Great grey owl, with his dish face enhancing hearing, he can hear a mouse's heartbeat

Snowy owl

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

From Nowhere came the Newark Sun

This morning was just beautiful. I woke to a glacier blue clear sky, and trees rustling with the wind. I figured it would be chilly - it was pre 9am - and got my windproof jacket on.

Within 5 minutes of running, I was sweltered and had to tie the wretched thing around my waist like a playground urchin.

It was beautiful. I did the tour of the two lakes before heading to the sconce for tea. It was so warm, red admirals and peacocks were flying, and under the Trent bridge, I was delighted to encounter a migrant hawker.

I tried fruitlessly to get it to alight on my finger. Naive, and pointless.

I think today was all about the light. A low sun makes for beautiful images.

Sun dappled cemetery

The path ahead

Hello Mr squirrel

Sunlit Balderton Lake

Stunning colours on the N64 cycle path

Marina bridge

Very tired red tailed bumblebee queen. Note the mite

Watched from across the Devon

Honey bees were out on the library lavender

Sun worshipping harlequin ladybird

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Autumn Colours of Beacon Hill Reserve

My run today took me through a Beacon Hill park that has changed colour. No more purple thistle and scabious, pink and violet buddleia, or ghostly yellow lady's bedstraw.

It is the time for red gold and green; not Karma Chameleons or Rastafarians, but berries, leaves and lush grass. Autumn is well upon us, but beauty is still found.

Cheeky garden primrose

Greens and browns

A richness of berries

Old thistle

Woodland path

Reclaimed by nature

Old man's beard

Sunday, 26 October 2014

My Adventure Run to Kelham Hill

In my off-shifts these days I always like to have an adventure or two if I can. Today it was either a run up Kelham Hill, or a run around the River Witham at Barnby.

It was a late decision. I only made it as I left my house and turned left instead of right.

The run to Kelham is a dreary slog along a road under repair. The stench of tar was clogging my nose and the pitch blackened the soles of my shoes. It was a relief to get to the village and head out the back past the old post office with its charming ghost signage.

The route passes the I'll fated turn off for Southwell , it's just after that that the road curves round and begins to go up. Its gradual for a few metres, but it quickly kicks up to 15 percent plus.

It carries on like this for about 800m before flattening out at Kelham Hill farm.

Seagulls and crows rode the breeze up here, and small groups of starling were making a tentative attempt to murmurate. I went a little way further, but after 7km I turned round, disappointed in the lack of good views, and fieldfare or redwing in the fields.

Hills are so much easier to go down, no?

Eventually I turned off on to a bridleway at the back of Kelham, finding a little pond with a bird screen. All new territory for me. This is the point of the adventure!

I ran back through the village, split secondly tempted by the idea of a pint at The Fox before taking to the ugly path that heads for the sugar factory.

The path may have been ugly, but the buzzard watching me from a post was not, and keeping its distance ahead of me, a kestrel hunted along the field margins, bladed wings diverting the cutting wind around themselves. The kestrel makes flying look easy even on the worst of days; it's supreme control and speed must be the envy of all feathered friends.

All this, under skies straight from a Turner painting.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

A History of Tourette's

This post was actually written as one of the header pages for the blog, but I felt it could do with a wider reading, so here it is.


"What is going on with my body?" I'd never ask myself as a child, as a parental scolding voice, or gorping child, would point out my flailing arms and legs or frantically rubbing hands.

"Talking to yourself again?" the stepfather would ask, as I continued a two hour session of playing imaginary cricket with a tree with live commentary thrown in.

I would shrug dfensively, say as always that I couldn't help it, and get on with the (part sub-conscious) job of developing an eccentric personality as a cover for all these strange behaviours.

So my life continued, being bright but always struggling in exams due to inability to write fast enough, enjoying chemistry theory but hating the lab classes as I was too slow and clumsy to set up my apparatus, and too obsessive about the results, often too restless to settle down to homework.

But I made it through school with good A Levels, although they should have been better, and went to Exeter University where the nightmare of chemistry practicals caused me to give up the subject and become a Classicist at the end of my first year instead.

Round about then, things started getting difficult...hardcore obsessions, contamination compulsions, sleeping problems, inability to concentrate. Again I didn't know what was going on, but it was causing a great deal of distress.

Luckily I read "An Anthropologist on Mars" by Oliver Sacks in the University bookshop, and it was his piece on a surgeon with Tourette's Syndrome that unlocked all the doors, and enabled me to get the diagnosis.

Things seemed better wasn't my fault anymore.

Obviously, it's never that straightforward. But my interest in nature, running and cycling has helped enormously. One of the main things I like to do with this blog is try and impress upon people how benficial even a slight interest in their local environment can be to their physical and mental wellbeing.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Gale Force Running

I was avoiding the weather yesterday...sat in the library studying World War 1 aviation while the hale tried to batter the grass of the earth, curling under the duvet while watching the new neighbours' gardening stuff being blown all over my own little postage stamp of a yard.

In the end I felt guilty. Goddamit, I would force myself out, and try and do a 5km at any rate!

The howling North-Westerly did not make it easy. Any thoughts of blitzing round my "original" short course - essentially a triangular circuit via Northgate Station and the Navigation Inn - in less than 23 minutes quickly went out the window as my first few forward strides resulted in me going nowehere, looking like a third division mime artist.

When I did get going, I found that my Aldi running jacket far more suitable to windier weather and lower temperatures; it did actually seem pretty windproof, and the "support socks" are ok as well, although this is probably due to them being artifical rather than cotton. I did take so long to catch onto that rule.

There were no insects on view, unsurpsingly, and the few birds tended to be gulls hanging gracefully in the breeze, making my own untattractive struggles seem utterly futile.

Dead leaves occasionally whipped my face, but I didn't care. As long as my hands aren't cold and my feet aren't wet, I enjoy the challenge of exercising in bad weather. The fast moving air feels refreshing on your face, and there is a sense of determined purpose you don't often get from fair weather exercising. It is free. It is freedom.

I want more.

Monday, 20 October 2014

First Autumnal Run of Autumn

Headed out on the Hawton-Farndon-Newark running route today for the first time in a while on a cold morning . This gave me an opportunity to try out my 2013 issue Aldi running top (£6.99 my fellow spendthrifts), which as expected isn't near breathable enough, but does keep the rain out. At least it isn't my cag in a bag, and it does dry out quickly enough inside and out.

The rain set in about halfway round, on the meadow reach of the river. On previous runs, the sky would be alive with hirundids, and butterflies and flowers would decorate the hedgerows and margins. No longer. We are at the time of year where a thousand shades of green dominates the countryside, and the mute swans have moved onto the land to munch the vegetation.

Mallard drakes are now resplendent in their post eclipse plumage, bottle green heads proud and lustrous once again. Workers have cleared large areas of himalayan balsam, and the Willow Holt tracks are now slippery with mud once again. The skies are a mottled grey, and the wind gusts through the willows.

However mild it is, this is definitely autumn once again.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Trip to Saltmarsh-Theddleford Dunes

A rare trip further afield today, as I managed to hitch a ride to the Lincolnshire coast and enjoy a long walk in sea air.

Or rather I was dumped by my parents while they went for a sit at Sutton on Sea, while I, abandoned in a land I did not now, tried to make my way across to them.

My walk started at Rimac, the curiously industrially named area of Saltmarsh-Theddlethorpe Dunes where a ship of that title was wrecked in the 1800s. The walk to the sea - seemingly 5 miles out at this point, was not recommended by a passer by, and so I instead set off among the dunes, past little ponds and odd little clumps of late flowers amidst the hawthorn and brutally spiny sea buckthorn.

The notice boards said insect life was in short supply now, and indeed I only saw a couple of red admirals and a small tortoiseshell, but there were a lot of common darters still on the wing. Above me three echelons of pink footed geese sailed high overhead emitting their honks, much higher pitched than the canada geese calls I'm used to. But there weren't many birds in the dunes, aside from a few birds popping out of the long grass to make no headway into the strong wind - meadow pipits possibly.

The route was occasionally difficult, but it was a fabulous day for walking.

Eventually, past Theddlethorpe, the dune path runs out and you are forced out on to to marshy margins of the beach. Initially the golden sands are a long way off, but eventually the marshy margins run out and you find yourself on a vast sandy expanse peppered with the odd black backed gull (sadly, no wading birds), and with a flood tide limit of crushed razor shells and plastic human detritus, a problem that seemed to increase as I neared Mablethorpe.

Eventually I baled out of the beach, and found myself at a real "Kiss me quick, squeeze me slowly" part of Mablethorpe North End. This, however, was nothing compared to the town centre, which was Skegness like in its awfulness. Luckily we just drove through there.

We made our way to Huttoft, where a solitary pale wader skimmed the waves - a sanderling possibly - and I rescued a stranded, flapping whiting, before rewarding myself with an utterly superior mint choc chip 99!

What a splendid day!

Rimic info board

The salt marsh

Sea Buckthorn, as eaten by Ray Mears

Viper bugloss - what a fab name for a plant

Pretty in pink (but unknown)


A high dune

Marsh creek

Female common darter

Further along

Warning of possible sudden death

Strip of golden sand

Stubble burning

Sandy expanse

WW2 pill box

Crook Bank board

Razer shells

Pretty shell, Huttoft

Another pill box

Looking back on my footprints

Mablethorpe North End

The horrors of Mablethorpe

Scott Mills on Strictly dropped his shell

The whiting I rescued

Razor shell

Chilled out fishing

Fishing in front of the huge offshore wind farm