26 April 2011

Petersfield and Irises - Heath Pond 40 years on

Following my sat nav from the south coast to my fathers home I got a sense of Deja Vu...

I've been here before...

On checking the map - yes I have - Heath Pond, Petersfield

and this is where more than 40 years ago I manned a checkpoint on one of my father's treasure-hunt-rallies.

The clue, when solved, was for the competitor to locate an iris and bring it, with other 'treasure' to the finish of the race.

My task was to hint heavily to anyone raiding the yellow flag iris lining the pool margins that there was another, more convenient and ecologically sound means of presenting "An Iris" to the marshal.

I have not been back to Petersfield since we moved to Chester in 1970

Agincourt - Not English but a Spanish Victory?

Horror of horrors - it was Spanish Yew that made the bows that won the victory at Agincourt (and Welsh archers to boot).  I learned all this at Kingley Vale, the most extensive stand of yew trees in Europe.

I had spotted something strange last year on my way down to caravan with the Dunbars.  Google confirmed - it was a wood composed entirely of yew trees - a freak of changing land use practice had let offspring of ancient yews spread all over a hill side.  There are plenty of yew trees in the UK (our third native species of conifer) but always an individuals.  I spent a happy summer in the 1990's sticking yew trees on the first Postensplain map

Only to have Colin Spears (Bonnington Trophy winning chairman of the BOF map group) have them eliminated on the next version.  In memoriam friend Russ planned a blue course as follows:

5.6km 200m climb 19 controls

1   74 Yew
2   33 Yew
3   56 Yew
18 45 Yew
19 100 Yew
Navigate 200m to finish

Kingley Vale must have been impressive even in pre-history - the many burial mounds on the overlooking ridge command views north and south over Sussex and Hampshire.

Ancient Yews on the valley floor 
Impressive but not unique (http://www.ancient-yew.org/)

A stand where all the trees are yew - that is special - sadly not very friendly for orienteering

Saved for the nation by...

In amongst the yews were many strange and rare plants - Butchers Broom 

and some form of vine or liana that I have not been able to identify...

and a local variety of Whitebeam

sad that this ability to identify and name plants, taught me by my botanist grandmother, no longer has any practical use

25 April 2011

An idylic afternoon of Cricket and Pang

Simon is playing cricket for Berkshire Gentlemen against Bradfield College - about the poshest place I have ever been - the school is really a whole village and has amazing sports facilities - looking at player names written in gold on the pavilion ceiling - from 1852 up until the present - thinking how many went from the playing field direct to the battlefield, especially in 1914-18.  "The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eaton".  Behind the trees is the river Pang - a beautiful chalk stream with watercress beds and all - very nice little jog up towards its source and back just in time for the final over.

OK - I was tempted - but it was just a little too steep

Nero is not amused

Nero is not at all happy with the new kitchen - especially as WE are allowed to eat in there but HE is not

24 April 2011

A late trip to Reading Station

...to wait for the last rain from Exeter and a nephew who has been on a six day camping trip with three friends from his scout group...

I guess the scouts have changed since my day

If its Easter then it must be National Trust

This is Hughenden

Home of Disraeli

The Tea and Scones were acceptable

23 April 2011


What a nice livery - Titan Airways - executive charter and "helping out other airlines at short notice"

22 April 2011

Back home for Easter with Teena Marie

Lunch at DUB - colourful and tasty but this lot cost €15.05 - thats $22 or £13

Its only a 35 minute flight from Dublin to Birmingham - not quite as long as it took to board the plane and taxi out.  The captain introduced herself at Teena-Marie - which I thought was a bit informal and brought visions of...

 1980's Motown soul singer of the same name

Sadly as we cruised over Llandudno the somewhat clearer "en-route" announcement name checked the captain as "Tina Murray" - my mistake

21 April 2011

Impressive Tracklog and "Do you think Heston knows?"

The tide really went out a long way today!

Malahide was heaving with late evening diners - everywhere seemed full but I managed to get the last table at 

It has a rather interesting "tasting menu" format - no starters, no mains - as much as you like off the menu in any order - the soup was broccoli based unfortunately so I had Chana Masala, Baked lemon sole, mushroom and leek "cornish pasty" lemon and herb sauce and bits of duck in a pastry parcel aka Oven baked duck parcel, stir fried vegetables, spiced plum compote

I wonder if Heston (The Fat Duck) Blumenthal knows about this though?

Only downside - the acoustics are terrible - meaning that that the sum of all the many conversations rise to a painful level - so next time I visit it is ear plugs or hope they have installed more soft furnishings

20 April 2011

A tough day in the office/on the beach

After a long day in the office mucking around with chocolate...

an hour in the gym and then a run along the promenade at Malahide...

Its a spring tide (again) - so another run out to the sea and back - its about a 1.5km - and the tide is 4m - so I ought to be able to beat the sea back in case I have the timing wrong.

The sea is out there somewhere
A little of bit of water "came in behind me"
No real challenge though as I checked it all out with a fisherman - if he was safe in thigh waders then I should be fast enough in my Inov-8's

On the way back to to the hotel there was a wonderful smell of fish - the "Seabank Bistro" -

I booked a table, had a rapid shower and was back in 20 minutes - starting with Seafood Chowder (wonderful with properly cooked veggies) and then Sea Bream with fennel and lemon balm sauce and "champ" as a side (even better - a really very nice fish and my camera phone with its oh-so-clever but pretty limited extended focus lens does not do it justice)

starter and mains + a glass of wine - €50 - just the wine was €11 - how do the Irish afford this?

19 April 2011

Ireland's largest lingerie section... Apparently, I read it somewhere

Another Monday - another 08:10 to Dublin

There are compensations however

and then watching Father Ted - a continuing attempt to get my "ear in" to the accent - In this episode 8 priests are trapped in the Ireland's largest lingerie section (http://www.dublinks.com/maps/Clerys-979)

You may be able to watch it here... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foFXj7pEj4g - depending on where you ISP breaks out onto the internet.

11 April 2011

A very short trip to Dublin

A short notice 8 hours in Dublin - so much for my "no more business flights" - it was really strange when the plane turned West instead of East out of BHX.  I got to see the Cadbury Factory at Chirk and my old school and house in Chester before it clouded up over Snowdonia - and all for only £400 return - economy (coach!)

For an essentially bankrupt country Ireland looks stunningly affluent indeed - and certainly still expensive.

The only detectable sign of the slowdown was the echoing empty spaces at the brand new "Identikit"* Terminal 2 at DUB - zig-zag lines for 400 at pre-security boarding pass check - 3 staff and only one punter - me.  As one of the gate assistants said "nice terminal, shame we will be paying for it for the next 50 years".  By we I think she meant "We Europeans" rather than "We Dubliners".  In the shopping & bar area it was pretty busy though - mostly the bar, where I successfully "guessed in one" the nationalities of Wojciech (Chef from Wroclaw - we agreed the broth was not a patch on Zurek) and Tibor (Hungarian barista, we discussed the pronunciation of Szeged and my favourite wine - Tokaji)

 Something tells me I will be seeing a lot of this terminal over the next few months.

*Is this Mother Teresa airport in Tirana? Warsaw Chopin Airport? Oslo Airport, Gardermoen?  I don't know they all look the same BUT Dublin is certainly the biggest!

08 April 2011

Got my baby back...

From Penkridge station it was either an hours wait and then 15 minutes on Bus 880 or a walk across country of 10km - on a day like this - no contest

The Penk

A week ago I was in Scotland, freezing cold, blowing a gale and spring was weeks away - no so in Shropshire.

I am an the right track for Wheaton Aston

Here lives a radio amateur - funny I would not have spotted that a year or two back
Half way

I came across a tribe of bargees - like a waterborne version of the refugees in Mad Max.  Elderly gentlemen who's chins had not seen a razor this side of the millenium, smoking pipes, tinkering with engines and fettling paintwork and accompanied assorted staffordshire and lurcher type dogs (friendly), wind turbines and pot herbs on the barge roofs...

There seems to have been some serous hybridisation here - the nearer duck was male-mallard patterned but had an overall washed out-light tan colour cast.  His girlfriend is certainly not a wild mallard - again with an overall light tan colour  but the beak is all wrong.

There's my baby - outside Turner's Garage

03 April 2011

One More Trip into Scotland

I thought my Scottish holiday was done - but we took Ruairidh over the border to play rugby - it was an international match, the game was good - but fathers got a bit heated - turns out the rules are different in Scotland - moves permitted in England at 12 years old are not is Alba - should we play English or Scottish Rules?

Langholm Rugby Club

Now the game is professional - the good players move up to Edinburgh/Glasgow - no more Scotland Caps

Bye-bye to a dear friend

That's 1842 miles in all