Monthly Archives: January 2012

It was raining, so I went out anyway…


There’s a maxim amongst hardy-optimistic-outdoor types that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.  I suspect it hales from Scandinavia or somewhere the elements are very sure of their identity.

We are blessed with a temperate climate here in the UK which spoils us with a whole wealth of atmospheric conditions; from sudden, thunderous summer showers to silent, misty, dew-dappled mornings.  Each of them with their own merits.   It then astounds me that the majority of people I speak with during my working day will make a negative comment about the weather if it is anything other than 18 degrees and sunny.

In chatting with one lady I reminisced that last winter, some roads were impassible, schools closed, buses cancelled (my poor husband had to take the remaining 10 miles of his journey home by foot) and there was mild panic-buying of bread and milk all because of the snow.  By comparison this January has been positively tropical.

“Still, we might get some of the white fluffy stuff in February”  I cheerfully added.

“Oh don’t say that.”

“It’s lovely to look at though, through a  window, with a warm hug of hot chocolate on the go isn’t it?”

“Oh no.  I don’t even like to look at it. I hate the thought that I might have to go out in it and fall over.”


What do you say, to someone that’s become so disconnected from the natural world that they can’t even bring themselves to observe it?  You don’t say “There’s no such thing as bad weather…”

I didn’t, but the words were battering on the inside of my teeth, hammering to be let out.  I swallowed them and resolved to go exploring on my next day off.

Today was Explorday and it bore exciting weather; rain frantically racing across the fields in sheets, the wind whipping the wind chimes against the guttering.  The only thing stood between me and adventure was appropriate clothing.  Over the years I’ve learned that it’s easier to cool down when outside than warm up, (it’s all to do with Newton’s second law of thermodynamics for all you physics and Professor Brian Cox fans) so I often tend to over-egg the pudding when it comes to layers.  Firstly base layer.  Thermals are seldom sexy but mighty effective at keeping you warm without adding bulk.  Next waterproof trousers and old skate t-shirt, one pair of thickish socks then jacket and boots.  My boots are possibly my most treasured piece of kit.  After years of searching and being told that no boots exist that will keep your feet super warm AND dry, I found a pair of North Face snow boots.  I adore them.

I then grabbed a map, a flask of tea and some nibbles and headed over to Wandlebury Country Park

In it sits Wandlebury Ring, the remains of an Iron Age Hill Fort.  I’ve never really explored this area although it ticks all my boxes .  The whole site sits within the The Gog Magog Hills or the Magog Downs,  a series of chalk hills that rise to the southwest of Cambridge.

Gog and Magog are said to be  two giants, the protectors of London (who sometimes take part in the Lord Mayor’s Show, here they are with their makers who are not your average basket weavers.)

The hills are said to be the metamorphosis of the giants after they were rejected by the nymph Granta (the river Cam which runs through Cambridge) Utterly fascinating.

Completely beautiful…

Sadly not much remains of the fort except a truly enormous circular ditch and bank, easily 10ft deep in some places, where ancient yews and beeches cling to the chalky inclines.

Slow fingers grip the earth deep…

It has to be said that the most exciting of the weather occurred whilst I was still at home.  Here the air was busy going about it’s daily chores; rustling leaves, dispersing seeds, gently nudging clouds along, but it wasn’t … well it was safe enough to have a rootle around underneath some very tall, very old trees.

There was just enough mizzley dankness to justify the waterproofs though.  Hurrah!

Some of the trees were spectacular, but I had a strange sense of not being alone…

Ancient tracks worn smooth by noctural paws.  The badger paths follow the curves of the land, adding to the the beauty of the place.  There is a Roman road nearby, it is straight, functional and less pleasing to the eye. Hmmmm

Then from around the corner, a tiny, wonky grain store.  It sits on brick pillars to deter rats and mice, but it reminded me of Baba Yaga’s hut.  Her dwelling sits atop a pair of chicken legs in the woodland of Russian folk tales… more of her and her child-eating ways another time.

One day my hands will be this deeply furrowed, my cheeks this weather ravaged, my bones this fragile, my heart this full of quiet tales.

One day..




It was roughly 10.30pm on a warm evening last May, Tash and I had just returned from swooning at Johnny Depp at the local cinema to celebrate my birthday.  Infact no celebratory excuse was needed,  my birthday was just a co-incidence you see this was practice.  As a married and an about-to-be-married woman, we were seasoned swooners.  It’s not something you can do well in the throws of youth.

Under the sulphur-orange glow of the street light we made our way down her driveway and paused to find the front door key.


“Hello mate, where are you?”

Working at The Arc (Animal Rescue Charity)  Tash battled not bring work home with her.  This meant not filling her home with abandoned puppies and unwanted rabbits.  However one vaguely psychotic but utterly adorable kitten had beaten her into submission.  Bo would often sit in the darkness beneath the Volvo and swipe at my ankles as I passed by.


“Come on mate it’s late, you need to come in now”

A big furry face peered cautiously from round the back of a back wheel, with even bigger, desperate eyes.


“Ah Tash, it’s not Bo, come see.”

“Oh, that’s my stray”

“Your stray?”

“Yeah he turned up here asking for food about three months ago.  I put food down for him hoping he’d stick around and I’d be able to get him into work, to get him checked out, but he just ate and left.  It’s odd actually I’d been to the cinema that night too”

He was in a bad state then and a worse one now.  A long haired cat, he was full of dreads, huge clumps of matted fur.  A tentative stroke along his back felt like like running your hand along iron railings; all ribs and spine.

He smelt terrible too.

None the less he was up for fuss, lots of strokes infact while Tash served up a dish of tasty treats.  He attacked the bowl with the ferocity you would expect of an animal that hadn’t eaten properly in months, and the second.

Tash, dear Tash is a woman of astounding determindness which at times can leave me a little frightened.

“Right, I’m not letting him get away again.  We’ve got to get him to the centre and sorted out.  I’ll go get a cat crate.  Keep your eye on him”


Lots of sniffing and some purring later and he amazingly had let me pick him up.

The crate arrived, as did the elbow-length leather gauntlets.

It was then that we discovered that dinner had given him renewed vigor, this cat was not happy about being stuffed into a plastic box.  Some time later, after the lid was secure and Tash had got her breath back I rang home to let Leaf  know I was going to be late back and the spitting, hissing, furry reason why.


“What the?”


So unhappy at being in the crate, so violently terrified, that this poor, emaciated moggy was making the crate jump along the floor.    The only way to get him to The Arc was in my car and there was no way I was prepared to run the risk of him breaking the brittle plastic catches whilst I was at the wheel.

So into a metal dog cage went the cat-carrier and cat. He was taken, Hannibal Lecter-style, to the sanctuary under the veil of darkness.

Days came and went.  I couldn’t stop thinking of him. Deep inside me the magpie child who picked up abandoned trinkets from the floor was shouting  “HE BELONGS WITH YOU! HE’S YOUR TREASURE”

Leaf and I visited the noble beast who had become known as Dylan.  After much deep, heart-searching discussion;

“Can we keep him?”


We set the wheels in motion to bring him home.

Everything about him was big; big paws, big eyes, big head, big poo and over time he began to put on weight and forge a friendship with Moog, the first feline member of our family.

                                                                     Here’s Moog, looking beautiful as she usually does.

Tash gave us some sage advice regarding how to introduce him to the house which worked fantastically.  Over time he adopted the name Noggin after the wonderous Oliver Postgate’s sagas of Noggin The Nog, a gentle Viking King.  It’s  also the English term for a carved wooden drinking cup.  (One day I will succeed in carving one of these and will share the process with you)

All this happened 8 months ago.  Now, he is very much my boy, he’ll tolerate Leaf’s lap, but only until mine is available, he sits in the kitchen when I’m cooking and enjoys walking the field edge with Moog and I.  But mostly he loves curling up in warm places, not hurrying over anything and softly snoozing.  I like to think he’s pushing the memory of last years’ winter out to sea for a true Viking burial.

Tea in the Wood


Today was the ultimate combination of some of my most favourite things;

  • Bimbling in the woods
  • Tea
  • Warm sausage rolls
  • My fella..

This Wintertide brought many smiles, full bellies and wonderous gifts to our little cottage.  Thanks to my gorgeous family one of those gifts was a Kelly Kettle and another was a Gelert Folding  Toaster.   A Kelly Kettle is an ingenious system, which enables you to boil water in a ridiculously short amount of time using pretty much whatever combustible fuel you have to hand.  Apparently dry camel dung works really well if you happen to be in a Sudanese desert, silver birch twigs if it’s a damp Essex woodland.

In a bid to shake off the cobwebs of excess that had gathered about us, we took our new treasures off to a local wood to try them out.

No-one had told the hazel that decorations needed to be taken down now….

It’s a really well managed wood, and as such there were lots of logs knocking about.  I always try to tread lightly and  leave no trace of were I’ve been, so this log trivet to absorb the heat of the kettle saved the ground from any threat of scorching.

The kettle comes in two parts; a double-walled chimney (where the water goes) that sits on top of a base in which a fire is built.

I do love the process of making a fire.    It’s like following a trusted family recipe, get the fundamentals right and you’re laughing, pay no attention to the basics and you’re in trouble.  Here, one of the basics is preparation.

I already had a stash of dry birch bark in my tinderbox,  so that was nestled into the kettle base, followed by birch twig kindling arranged tipi-style over the tinder,  some small fuel on top and large fuel waiting in the wings.  I love collecting firewood, a certain primal instinct takes over; peripheral vision comes into play looking for hung up branches within arms-reach, as they will be guaranteed dry, the wind having blown away any dampness.

And then there’s the sorting!!!  Oh how I adore sorting and grading the fuel….  I am by nature, a fairly untidy person and it would seem that all my tidying energy is channeled into “You’re a tiny twig, into the kindling pile you go,  you…hmm, you’re just fat enough for the large fuel pile” and so on.

Good fire prep will help ensure a successful fire, nothing lowers moral more than attempting to light a fire and failing (I learnt that one from the legendary Mr. Mears… thanks Ray)

One match later and success!   I’ve used these kettles before in my Forest School work and have found it much easier to place the chimney on the base before lighting the fire.  The handy hole means you can do this and, if there’s a breeze, turn the hole into the wind to get a strong draw.

The Vigurs fundamentals of tea

  • Good mugs
  • Good tea cosy
  • Good company

The truly fantastic folding toaster!   It can only do one slice of bread at a time, but because of the heat-diffusing mesh on it’s underside, it toasts beautifully. It also does a great job of warming through (pre-cooked, veggie) sausage rolls (so no worry of  food poisoning) and a cheeky mince pie or three.  And, AND it folds down small enough to fit in a trouser side pocket!  Truly fantastic.

The third fundamental of good tea!

Shiny new!!



look! here's a picture of a web on a post and I've put a post on the web!!.... I know.

ok, first blog post ever in a year laid-out bare before us,… fresh, still wet,   like the sand on Bembridge beach when the thin tide runs back to it’s deep, watery home.   I’ve sat for a while not wanting to plonk my heavy size 7s all over it’s perfect smoothness, but then the five year old inside me squeeled loud as she often does.  So here I am stomping about the internet with my coat of extended metaphore and wonder-goggles on.

I want to create a corner in which to share the frankly ridiculous amounts of joy I get from the natural world and the stories that arise from it.

I hope you find a cosy spot here and are able to pad around a bit, fluff up some saggy old cushions and settle down into a place of purring happiness.

I really wish I could purr.