Nature – she persists

It is easy to look at a winter landscape and think that all has gone – nature is dead and cold. To think that there is nothing to see and nothing happening.

If you look though there is so much to see. The absence of leaves and flowers reveals the bones of the natural world. A tree in Spring leaf is a glorious, uplifting sight, but a tree in winter reveals the full beauty of its form.


The way a collection of twigs, branches, roots and stem make a spectacular, strong whole. All of it coming from one small seed – an everyday miracle. Even the buffeting the tree takes over time adds to its beauty. This tree grows 1,000 feet above sea level subject to regular south-westerly winds, resulting in a lopsided growth echoing the wind.

img_0131Looking at the winter tree reveals the patterns of the bark, moss and lichens growing in harmony  and any history of damage accumulated over its life.

And, of course, hidden within the tree is all the means of growth and the next burst of life patiently waiting for the moment to start. Suddenly a closer look shows a flush of coral, pink or even purple at the ends of every twig with a swelling bud beginning the annual cycle of growth. This happens much sooner than you would think whilst winter still seems to have the world in its grasp.

But that is the great thing with nature – she persists!


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Planting flowers

I like many people I see lots of memes on social media these days. One in particular struck me as very pertinent at the beginning of this year.

Two people are chatting whilst one of  them is gardening. The watcher asks why the gardener is so optimistic about 2017. What do they think it will bring? The gardener replies that they are expecting it to bring flowers. “But why” the watcher asks. “Because I’m planting flowers.” the gardener replies.

Now I’m not being too literal here, but it gave me a prod to go out and plant flowers, of whatever type, rather than sit back and worry about what 2017 will bring.















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Goodbye 2016 – not sorry to see you go.

2016 was not a good year. Apart from all the grim and ghastly things happening in the news, that seemed to rock the foundations of the type of society I thought I lived in and promised more un-nerving and disturbing events in 2017, personally it took its toll.

Starting early on Christmas Day 2015 with the sudden death of a beloved aunt I have said farewell to six members of family or personal friends. I know I’m getting older, but it seems too many, too quickly. Then there were the unending procession of public figures from my formative years.

I’ve been struggling with how to keep on picking myself up and believing in the future – “the arc of history tending towards good” as President Obama phrases it (roughly).

In times of doubt I have turned, as so many before, to the natural world. At its most basic, the sun will rise tomorrow, the year will move on and plants will come into bud and flower. I’m lucky to live in an area with a species rich wildlife – there’s lots of it.

Last year I had given up putting food out for the birds as I seemed to be mainly feeding the local squirrel population and, believe me, they needed no further encouragement. So I put a really squirrel proof bird feeder on my Christmas list and I’m delighted to say that Christmas Day brought two offerings. One is a swanky pole with hooks hanging off it with real, hi-tech squirrel proof feeders, They have metal shutters that come down over the food if a squirrel tries to clamber down to it and then springs back when the pest gives up. It took the birds less than half an hour to find the food when I first put it out. And not a squirrel in sight – so far.

The other offering is a clear plastic feeder that you attach to a window with suckers. I have put it on the second floor and it took a few days for the birds to find it. I was woken this morning by an odd thumping sound. Grumpily I assumed the racket was caused by a squirrel. Hilariously it transpired to be a great tit helping itself to a black sunflower seed. It was a very determined bird – standing inside the food hopper it was bashing the seed against the rim, that it was supposed to be standing on, with all its might trying to crack the hard husk and get to the kernel inside. In order to get into the right position it had its rear end wedged right up against the clear back of the feeder. First time I’ve ever been mooned by a bird!

Well if nature can still deliver a laugh to start the day how can I not take the hint. So let’s keep on keeping on and trying to build the sort of world that we want. No-one ever said it would be easy or plain-sailing!


The road goes on….

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Owl baby 2105

We’ve had our own owl baby again this year. I am told, by those that know these sort of things, that it is a tawny owl baby and jolly noisy it is too.

We have plenty of tawny owls around here, so it is no surprise that they have been breeding and I’m delighted that it has been successful – so far. A couple of months ago I started hearing a rusty creaking sound in the trees during the evenings. Over the past few weeks it has gradually resolved into a more recognisable “Kee-wick” though it still has a way to go before it turns into the true adult sound.

It can be quite startling when I go out with Rocky at night to hear this loud, creaky screech very close to the house, but I’ve gradually got  used to it so don’t jump quite so high. Like all fledglings our owl baby can be very persistent and will sit and call for it’s parents to feed it for hours during the night.

One night, when returning home late, I found it sitting on the drive looking a bit bemused about the world. It was at the base of a large tree and turning it’s head to an improbable degree.  As it didn’t seem to know what a car was it stayed where it was as I sat and watched it and then very slowly moved closer and closer. Eventually it had the sense to take off clumsily, nearly blundering into the hedge, but just clearing it and making it into a tree.

I was worried that the recent heavy rain might have  caused it problems, but late last night when the rain finally cleared I heard that unmistakable creaky “kee-wick” again. Owl baby 2015 is nearly grown up!

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Dartmoor goes to the seaside for a good cause

It’s not every Tuesday afternoon in the summer holidays that we go to Salcombe. Nor is it every time that we visit Salcombe that we keep bumping in to friends and neighbours from Dartmoor.

This Tuesday, 4th August 2015, was a bit special though. Everywhere we looked, by the waterfront in Salcombe, was someone we knew – the local farmer, his wife and three children were on the harbour wall, the vicar was at the back of a large crowd, friends were rattling collecting buckets. The reason for all this activity was the end of an epic journey.

In December 2012 a local  man, Luke Rainey, died from a brain tumour at the age of 54. He had been a keen sailor and his son, Tom, decided to do something to raise money towards earlier detection of brain tumours to help improve detection rates.

Tom and his friend Lawrence Walters set out from New York in May this year aiming to become the youngest team to successfully row the North Atlantic and raise money as they rowed. They had a torrid time, with massive challenges, as you can see below.

This Tuesday, after 93 days at sea, they completed their journey, landing in Salcombe, where Tom and his family had spent many happy hours sailing so we all went to welcome them home. I have never seen anything like it! Every space on the riverside was crammed with people; a massive flotilla of small boats and kayaks had gone out to the mouth of the river to welcome them and Salcombe was heaving like it has never heaved before.



Somewhere in the middle of all those boats was a small, indomitable boat and it’s crew of two. As they drew alongside the crowded harbour wall they waved and celebrated.



You may just be able to see two tousled heads in amongst the family and media that welcomed them onto the pontoon. Champagne was consumed, along with a longed-for bacon butty and a cup of tea!!



If you would like to donate to their JustGiving fund for The Brain Tumour Charity then click here and follow the link.

Our little corner of Dartmoor is recovering from all the excitement now, but I think it will take a few more days for Tom and Lawrence to recover from their exertions! Plenty of bacon butties and cups of tea, not to mention many hours of sleep, will be required.

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Good grief – I’m back!

Dear Blog,

I know you have  been much neglected – can it really be December since I last posted? I hope you are still talking to me. I’ve been really busy – honest.

Lots has been happening.  There was a tearful, on both sides, trip to Heathrow in early January to see my daughter off on a 3 month volunteering stint in India. For a first time travelling overseas on your own, it was quite an adventurous choice. Then there was a much more cheerful trip back to Heathrow in April to collect her.

Only a few days after she got to India I had the pleasure of letting her know that she had got an offer of a place at a rather prestigious university – not bad for a state school, bog-standard comprehensive kid.

Rocky and I have been continuing our regular stomps around Dartmoor, visiting lots of favourite haunts and finding a few new ones. We also had the pleasure of meeting some fellow Dartmoor tweeters at a litter pick in the Dart Valley. The pleasure was meeting them, not having to pick up litter that other people thought it was OK to leave scattered around a beautiful, natural site. Ironically they probably came because it was a beautiful, natural site.

We’ve watched the year unfold with snowdrops followed by wild daffodils and then the bluebells, which were magnificent this year. Now even the foxgloves are pretty much finished, but there looks to be a bumper crop of blackberries for this year, if the bramble flowers all come to fruition.

There was local excitement one morning when a bough off a large tree blocked the lane for several days, but luckily it has two entrances so we could still get out. In the end the impending bin day encouraged the chainsaws to get to work at double quick speed.

The daughter is now working in a local hostelry, to help fund the prestigious university, so Rocky and I are getting regular walks in further afield after essential taxi duties. A dog has to be taken to Hound Tor, so here are some pictures from a recent trip there. It should have been renamed Outdoor Ed Tor that day. There must have been over 6 different school groups there, ranging from primary to what looked like Sixth Form. It was wonderful to see so many young people outdoors getting to grips with the natural environment. The climbing parties certainly involved some firm grips as well!











Well, Dear Blog, I promise to make more of an effort and not to leave it so long next time.

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Happy Christmas Dartmoor Smile

Cor! The Boxing Day weather up here is horrible enough to drive a wall to drink!


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A long way from Dartmoor

When I was very young, 5 or 6, my dad would sometimes take me outside in the dark Devon countryside to look at the velvety dark night sky. He showed me the Milky Way, talked about stars and planets, pointed out the constellations and helped me to learn to love the dark. Well, that dark. Bedtime without a night-light was a different matter then.

Since then I’ve looked at stars in both hemispheres. I’ve watched the Swift-Tuttle comet grow and brighten in the sky till I could see it’s tail, whilst my baby son slept. I’ve grown to love Orion, seeing his reassuring presence stride across the night sky whilst anchored in a deserted bay on an earthquake ravaged Greek island. I see him night after night in the Dartmoor sky, over the garden wall, behind the bushes and over a Tor. I’ve lain on my back and watched shooting stars in the summer as a teenager and as the taxi-driver of a group of giggling teenagers and one bemused dog.

And then, today, mankind landed a robot probe called Philae on a comet so that we can understand more about the world beyond our little planet and about the history of our little planet. As I looked up at the sky tonight somewhere out there, a very, very long way from Dartmoor, a bit of humankind’s imagination and ingenuity was trying very hard to cling on to a lump of ice and rock hurtling through space. Good luck, Philae, and greetings from another lump of rock called Dartmoor.

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Dartmoor Smile 2

I am reminded, following a comment on my previous and ludicrously long ago posting, that I haven’t shown you the finished wall.


The farmer who created it says that if he makes one person a day smile as they drive passed it, then he will be a happy man. So come on then – keep your eyes peeled and your lips ready to twitch! These Dartmoor farmers are a surprising bunch. Who knew there was a stone artist lurking beneath that rugged exterior.



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A Dartmoor smile

I’ve recently been passing a field gateway on the Widecombe road that is being widened, presumably to allow larger tractors and other equipment into the field. Now stone gateposts have been put in and a small stretch of wall rebuilt. Today’s surprise was spotting that the new wall has a smile built in to it!


The full effect is still a bit hidden by a trailer, but it is definitely a smile. This has set me to wondering – are there any other smiles hidden in Dartmoor’s walls underneath the brambles?

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