Monday, 22 May 2017

Song Thrush Egg

I think this is a Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) Egg.  Turdus, ha ha ha.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Down, but not out.

I mentioned a short while back that there had been some land management work along Red Rise Brook.  Towards Markway Bridge a fair sized bank side Oak has been cut down and I couldn't see why, it's not out of context or anything. So I was pleased to see that although it had been cut down, it wasn't yet ready to bow out, and only a couple of weeks after felling the stump was bristling with eager shoots.

Thursday, 11 May 2017


A carpet of Ramsons (Allium ursinu) cascade down Knowle Hill through Norden Wood.  It's another seasonal ritual of mine, to visit this wood in May. It's beautiful on both eye and nose.

Ramsons bw

Or, in black and white.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Tuesday, 9 May 2017


This isn't a monochrome photo.

Rock Hills fire

Evidently this was the source of the smoke I saw on Sunday whilst walking over Mill Lawn. A huge area along the Rock Hills ridge towards Markway Hill and down across the wet heath below.

Monday, 8 May 2017


I don't remember another year when the Gorse flowers have been so lush and dense. I really should make some wine.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Rock Hills

Oi oi, what's going on here? Walking along Mill Lawn Brook, a huge plume of smoke can be seen rising from Rock Hills. It's not burning season, and it's a Sunday! Shenanigans I reckon.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Common fire #4

Fire season has only just started, and I think this is our 4th fire, and the biggest so far.

Monday, 1 May 2017


After a 2 hour drive in the rain, I sat in my car at the bottom of Glastonbury Tor. The rain was still running down the windscreen, it was 0450, and 50 minutes to sunrise. I first came to Glastonbury for Beltane sunrise in 1990 and have been coming every year since (except for the year foot and mouth closed the tor, and another year due to illness). It's become a tradition I hold dear. It's an occasion I usually end up attending alone, I have taken people before, and ask every year, though I think people are put off by the time and the prospect of an early morning climb, not to mention the frequent inclemency. The rain still ran down the windscreen as the clock struck 0500 and it was time to start making my way up the Tor. Miraculously as I left the car, the rain abated; over the years I've found it can often be the way. I like to see it as a sign. The rain may have faded, though the tor was still shrouded in damp mist. As I climbed, part of a long line of pilgrims snaking their way upwards, the ghostly form of the tower emerged. I got closer and could now smell incense wafting on the air, and hear drumming.  Inside the tower folk were crammed, noisily welcoming in the morning, the Green Man and the May Queen. It was getting brighter and the tor filled with more celebrants. Periodically the mist would clear to reveal the patchwork of fields and drains which make up the levels, then just as quickly as they appeared they were gone, and we were returned to standing on an island in a misty sea. Most people had gathered to the north of the tower, small groups doing their thing, others just watching the horizon to the east. The combined morris of Cam Valley and Mendip were preparing to do their thing; I've seen them perform every year and in every weather condition...they are hardcore! About the same time as their accordion breathed life into their dance, a group of women began to sing Deep into the Earth. ''Deep into the earth I go, deep into the earth I know, deep into the earth I go, deep into the earth I know, hold my hand sister hold my hand, hold my hand sister hold my hand,  hold my hand brother hold my hand, hold my hand brother hold my hand'', over and over. They began to form a circle and it soon incorporated more and more smiling people. A hand reached out for mine and I joined the now slowly moving line of people as they wove a labyrinth path around the hill top, still singing. I've been coming to these type of things for nearly 30 years, and still I find it hard to let go, I'm too inhibited, though today  my inhibitions were brought down, first meekly, then with more vigour I joined in the song. As the sky brightened and the clouds began to part, the tor was alive with music and activity, it was beautiful and I remembered (as I always do) why I drive through the night to an often windy hilltop for May morn.  The assembled cheered. Once freed there was no holding back the spring sun, who spread his light across our goddess the land, illuminating all.  One of Rollo's druids blew a horn, people whooped and cheered, smiling they stood transfixed on the sight before them.  The green's face says it all. What a wonderful morning. Beltane blessing to y'all, may the seeds of your dreams and desires fall on fertile ground.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Goat Girl @ The Wedgewood Rooms, 3.4.2017

I read good headlines about Goat Girl, but only the headlines, I made a point of not reading on, nor listening to any of their music. There's something exciting about seeing an unheard band for the first time, the possibilities. I wasn't to be disappointed, Goat Girl were fecking great! Blisteringly paced, short punchy numbers all delivered with energy and gusto, in an indie, garage style; a four piece from the smoke, with a good tight sound.  I heard they were all still teenagers, which is mental, and bodes well for their future, as if they're this good already (and they really were) we can look forward to some proper good shit to come. Each band member was proficient in their art and all had their own unique style and delivery, which made them as much fun to watch as to listen to.  The lead guitarist/vocals had a cool laid back and quirky style of delivery which drew both eye and ear, the drummer was intense, leaning into her kit, giving it a proper thrashing and pulling some top faces, again great for eye and ear, the bassist was solid and already had that air of stoic cool seen in seasoned bassists, I couldn't properly see the other guitarist (too far over) though she sounded good too. I really enjoyed their set, as did the rest of the audience. A nice surprise and certainly a band to keep an eye on.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Bindon Hill to Flowers Barrow

Not a long walk at 9 miles, though a punishing walk as it was virtually all hills. Park in Lulworth, up the steep side Bindon Hill and along it's hogs back ridge with its prehistoric banks and ditches, followed by a descent in to the small bay of Arish Mell where the waste water pipe from Dorset’s atomic energy establishment site at Winfrith, then directly the citadel heights of Flowers Barrow Iron Age Hillfort rose before us, an arduous climb later the payback was glorious views along the Jurassic coast. That was the out route. After a short rest and time to absorb the beauty before us, it was the return route.  Over ancient ramparts and back down to Arish Mell, past the rusting hulks of cobbled together mutant tanks used for target practice, then up the really punishing rise to Bindon. We then turned towards the sea and down the slippery grass slope with its loose tracks to the rocky bay of Mupe.  With it's rock stack, buckled geology and secret smuggler cave (a proper one!), Mupe Bay is straight out of an adventure story.  It's hard going, the coast here is jumbled rocks, some stable, some not. Once up from the bay it's along the coast to Lulworth Cove, with a quick detour to the fossil forest, described as "one of the most complete fossilized forest of any age", now closed to the public due to access problems, still do-able though. Finally Lulworth Cove and back to the car. Lulworth Cove's great, though a tedious walk (as pebbles always are), especially at the end of a walk, and a notorious honey pot, especially on good days. A great walk, taxing, though well worth the inevitable aching to come. 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

April clouds

I really dig clouds.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Spring cleaning

They've been doing some land management work along Red Rise Brook, clearing invasive shrubs and trees, opening up vistas and reconnecting areas. It's easy to see the forest as natural landscape, and forget that all it's constituent parts, heath, wood, lawns, are all the consequence of a constant cycle of management, and far from natural. That said, I love it.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017


Bonnie, Ben, Jack and Molly, shiny discs, nailed to a birch in Red Rise Shade. What's the story there, I wonder?

Sunday, 26 March 2017


All along Mill Lawn Brook the Blackthorn are coming into flower.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

And so it begins!

As is my way, I've left it late to start up the lotty. I make the same excuses every year. Most of the seasoned holders are up there all year doing something or other, March to Octobers my season, though adopting that maintenance regime does mean some tough work to get it back in shape.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Misty Moor

Dartmoor touches me like no other landscape I know, in any season, in any weather, the magic is so tangible, the landscape crackles with energy.  There's just something about the place. Maybe it's primal aspects of the rugged landscape with its exposed moors, high tors and deeply wooded river valleys, often cloaked in mists. Maybe its that where ever you walk, you walk in the footsteps of the moors past inhabitants, like an archaeological onion the moor has layer upon layer of history. Low cloud and swirling mist, heavy with moisture, shrouded the Moor today, and as damp as that was, it couldn't dampen our spirits or our desire to explore. First to Merrivale, a complexed landscape of natural rocks and human activity and occupation, of isolated Bronze Age stones settings, rows, kists, circles and menhirs. Constructed during a very different climatic period of drier warmer days and clear sky nights, their current isolated setting in a deteriorating climate lends them an additional air of forlorn mystery. Then it was off to Wistman's Wood. Tucked into the side of the West Dart River valley, it's all that remains of a much more extensive woodland, remnant of our Atlantic rainforest. It's gnarled Oaks emerging from moss covered boulders have a fantasy air about them, home to mythical beasts and fairy folk. Below them the West Dart was in full flow, bubbling and splashing as it sought to escape the Moor.  Returning to the car we made our way across the Moor, stopping periodically to take in a site or a view, before our final stop at Hay Tor and its adjacent quarry.  We arrived at Hay Tor during a break in the clouds, bathed in warming sun, although by the time we reached the Tor the cloud had returned and with strong gusting winds which made any ascent of the Tor too treacherous to contemplate.  I love the Moor, I feel so connected to it, I felt it my first time there and that feeling has only grown over the years of visits and camps.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Totnes gig at Unit23, part 1: Invisible Opera Company of Tibet

Totnes on the River Dart, Devon's Glastonbury, they say, was our destination this evening for a night of musical entertainment at Unit23. Unit23 a great little venue well suited to the times, a unit on an industrial estate, it's well laid out, a good sized space with balconies/mezzanine on three sides, no frills, but well functional, with good sound too; a great place. At a time when small/medium town centre venues are being pushed out, places on the periphery are ideally suited to fill a need.  A need for live music. No neighbours to piss off, either.  We were here to catch Magic Bus and Gong, although when we arrived we discovered that that Gong family favourite, the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet had been added to the evening, and what a great way to start the evening. There's a nice funky punky rock vibe to the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet, they're a band which always keep it real.  A nice mix of tracks, a couple of old Here & Now/Gong numbers from the 'Floating Anarchy' period, one which was 'Stoned Innocent Frankenstein' which was interrupted by interference from guitarist Brian Zero's musical t shirt.  All the bands tracks have lyrics that have something to say, this is proper festy/protest music, it's got a DIY feel to it, and is performed with fashion and humour.  That not to suggest that it's amateur or anything, not at all, they're all great well seasoned musicians and performers.  Jackie Juno delivers her vocals with gusto, and both her and Catriona McTeabag, on backing vocals, give flamboyant expressive performances. Tracy Austin-tatious Loquacious, on drums, and Phil Whitehouse, on bass, effortlessly created a bouncy uplifting rhythm section. Whilst Julian Veasy put in a solid performance on keys and synth. All great musicians. Even though there's a punky element to the sound and performance, it's also warm and engaging. The band didn't do a very long set, though what they did do was quality, and was a great appetizer for what was to come. As I say, the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet's music and performance has a real old school free festy feel to it and it's lovely. And, hey, a bit of Tory cussing too. Can't be bad.

Totnes gig at Unit23, part 2: Magic Bus

Well, the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet had got our evening off to a great start. The place was now filling up with an interesting selection of the colourful and goodly folk of Totnes, ready for one of tonight’s headline acts, the fantastic, Magic Bus. We discovered Magic Bus a couple of years ago, and if you've stumbled across my past blog posts about them, then you'll know I dig the bands sound and the atmosphere of musical joy they create. Magic Bus are Viv Goodwin-Darke on flute and vocals; Paul Evans on guitar and vocals; Terence Waldstradt on guitar and vocals, Wihll Mellorz on bass, Mitch Pike on drums and of course Jay Darlington on all things key and twiddly; all are splendid musicians and masters of the craft. I always feel uncomfortable about 'they're like' statements, though do it all the time,  it's a useful descriptive tool. So, if you like that 70's Canterbury psychedelic prog sound, with a soup├žon of West coast and a handful of mushrooms, you'll f*cking love Magic Bus, they're in that tradition, it's the organ/flute/harmonies combo thing. I really dig the fluty/organ sound combo, which create the ethereal stream of wistful magic which meanders through all the 'Bus's' tracks. Lovely! As expected tonight’s performance didn't disappoint, in fact from the get go tonight the band took their performance to new heights. Whenever we've seen them they've delivered great performances, tonight though they were cooking on gas. Maybe it's because Totnes is home territory, that the band appeared really relaxed, in a way we'd not seen them before. Maybe it's the addition of a heavier drummer (not in any way a criticism of previous drummer Connor, who is a top drummer and lovely chap), that the tracks seemed performed with added gusto. I don't know. Whatever the reason, there was a different energy this evening and a sense of freedom and joyful abandon in their performance. They kicked off with 'Sunflower', off of 'Transmissions from Sogmore's Garden'; a sunny afternoon under dappled sun type of a song, a beautiful track to create an uplifting atmosphere.  And, we were off on a magical bus journey. They played a nice mix of favourites from their previous two albums, and a good sprinkling of new songs from their forthcoming album too.  All took you smiling through worlds of psychedelic bliss.  Their new tracks have a jazzier flavour to them, still distinctively Magic Bus though; they certainly all sounded great. I'm definitely looking forward to their upcoming release, released in a month or so, on vinyl too! The jazzy sound made a complimentary addition to the bands more established psychedelic, folky, prog, rock sound. Paul mentioned the influence of Gong on them, that's no bad thing, I can think of worse things to be influenced by.  We all take influence, it's where those influences take our mind and creativity that's important. And Magic Bus have clearly created something of their very own, you know a Magic Bus track when you hear one. Every track was played to perfection. The best Magic Bus performance we'd seen, by a country mile, and I've thought every performance we'd seen has been bloody marvellous. Everybody was having a whale of a time, and the band looked like they were really enjoying it too, all smiles (it was the smiley-est I'd seen Jay, who usually looks quite studious), and that's what it's all about, everyone having a good time. Well, job done. A big thanks to the band, the venue and the inhabitants of Totnes who made for a memorable evening. I can't wait to see Magic Bus at the Avalon Weekender, nor wait for their latest waxing. Check Magic Bus out, or lose out, it's as simple as that.

Now, Gong!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Rhinefields Sandys

Walking near Rhinefields Sandy's enclosure I noticed the gate was open, and couldn't resist going in. Rhinefields Sandy's was a place we used to enjoy walking, it's one of the places we walked our older children when they were young, it was the place our eldest said his first word, on a chilly winters day, with the winds swaying the coniferous canopy, he said 'tree'. Not too many years later the woodland was enclosed by 3m high deer fencing and the access gates locked, and so it has been for over fifteen years. I think they'd been doing some thinning out and forgotten to close up. Whatever the reason, I enjoyed the access. The main path remained quite clear, narrowed by encroaching growth, but clear. Whereas some of the other paths had all nut disappeared, like the one in the picture, which used to be a broad forestry track, though now is hardly recognizable. Nature will regain her dominance quickly if left to her own devices. It was nice to walk there again.