Yo Ho Ho and a couple of puke bags

Arriving on the islandWe are in Cardiff ths weekend, visiting the sister in-law, and today, Satruday, we have a boat trip to Flat Holm to look forward to. We had to get up early to be down at the quay side at Pennarth at 0900. There were quite a few people waiting when we got there, and it was not long before we were giving the organisers our names, presumably incase the boat sank! Word on the boat was that it would be pretty rough out there and that they had almost had to cancel, too me the sea looked pretty flat, it is an estuary after all. The weather was grey and overcast but the forecast was for a sunny day, we had our fingers crossed.

There is a barrage around Cardiff bay and you have to go through one of 3 locks to get out onto the sea. The sea did not appear to be that rough, we bobbed up and down a bit but it was only a 30 minute crossing. We had the talk about what to do in case the boat sinks, and how to put on the life jackets, then he explained that it would be rough and what to do with the sick bags should the need arise.

Some way out it started to get quite rough, we were apparently going over a sand bank, which causes the waves to be bigger. At about 25 minutes into the journey a little boy decided he had to be sick, soon follwed by a woman who puked with her hand over her mouth and got a couple of other people sitting near by. In all we counted possible 5 people who were sick. As we got towards the island we were warned again that it would be rough, and that when we got there the standard practice was to run the boat up the beach, so we

Should not be standing up. To get to the beach the skipper had to get the boat perpendicular to the beach, we were about 500 yards out, and needed to get across an area of sea that had the biggest waves we had yet seen. He had to go down wind a bit to get to the of the high waves, cosing his moment he turned across the waves, and we headed in to the beach with the boat really pitching about, but we did fianlly reach the beach. Later we were told that it was the roughest public trip they had had for 13 years. I was happy to get off the boat, I had not been sick but the old trick of keeping your eay on the horzon had been a great help.

As we diembarked it became obvious that the people in the open part at the back of the boat had got soaked. We were met by one of the island volunteers, who took us to the museum/visitor center. The wet people just wanted a cup of tea but we had to sit through the health and safety briefing. They introduced a guy called Stephane (a Belge it turns out) who was a volunteer and regular visitor to the island and did free tours for those interested.

We waited for the tour to start and took in the view over the island, there were lots of Lesser Black Backed Gulls, many tending to young who could not yet fly. We were warned that some of us would get pooped on before the day was out, and that the gulls will defend thier young/territory by dive bombing us. First Stephane took us to have a look at some slow worms that gather under some iron sheet that are left in the sun. The we walked out

Towards the lighthouse to have a look at the seven inch gun enplacement one of about 5 or 6 we saw. We found out a lot of intersting facts about the isalnd on our way to the farm house, did you know that the fist morse radio transmission was received on Flat Holm? There is a monumnet celebrating the event strange thing is that they never removed the iron frame it was delivered in after the helicopter dropped it off. There are not many mammals on island apart from rabbits that have to be culled every so often. We also noticed lots of bones, bits and plastic and glass fragments, apparently all a result of the Gulls diet, the bones were apparently from the chicken bones found in our refuse.

At the farm house we had a coffee and biscuits before leaving Stephan and heading over to the visitors center for the women to do a bit of retail therapy. I must say that Stephan was a star and a real expert on all aspects of the nature and history of the island. Back at the center I took the opportunity to take some more photo’s with the new fisheye lens I have invested in, a Samyang 8mm f3.5 for £200 it is manual focus and aperture but the

Lens is great and at that price you can’t expect all the thrills of a £400 lens. The weather had brightened up by now and because the wind had dropped a bit we hoped the journey back would be a bit more comfortable.

Everyone was back to the boat by the 13:30 deadline and we headed back to Cardiff. At first the boat pitched about a lot, but it was not long before we were into a smoother sea. I took the opportunity to go up to the bridge to have a chat with the skipper, who was very welcoming and keen to tell me all about the wisdom of the bay barrage authority and other sea tales. About a few hundered yards from the locks we noticed the red arrows flying past then we had a spectacular views of a spitfre and lancaster bomber. Everyone one on board got very excited and some started humming the dam busters music!

We were soon back at the quay. We dumped some of our luggage into the car and headed over to the city center to have a look at the food festival that was going on. It was really packed why is typical for the weather we had, they say that the food festival is either a wash out or a roaring success depending on whether it is raining. We stropped for a glass of champagne to settle Helen’s nerves after the scary boat trip, but Cas managed to knock Helen’s glass over. We had not had any lunch so went on the look for a short queue on one of the stalls, luckily for us the Welsh aren’t that keen on veggie food, so we found a small queue for veggie burgers. I had a great curried check pea, with coriander and coconut one, Cas had a Laver Bread one. We were not in the mood for being with the crowds after our visit to a sparsely populated island so we headed back to the hut.

We went out for an Italian meal at a place called Lorenza’s, I had spaghetti a la vongole.

Tring and back

Wild raspberries

Nice sunny day with fluffy clouds about 21 degree, perfect for a walk. We got the number 500 bus to tring at about 11:00 and Helen allowed me to sit on the top deck, as a treat. At the bus stop I tried out the bus service computer which shows how long to the next bus and where it is going, as well as other interesting information.

We got oFf the bus at the Rose and Crown hotel then headed up Akeman Street past the Natural history museum, and out into the country side. As we went under the bridge over the A41 we noticed lots of small snails on the painted/varnished walls. They all without exception had shells with the most recent growth was clean and light in colour. I guess that the shell colour must reflect their diet, and I have a theory that as the graze on the greenish algal film growing on the wall, or the wall itself, presumably the amount of the shell growth would reflect the time that the snails had been living on the wall.

Next came a hard slog up the hill and onto the Ridgeway, it made a change to be in Beech woods after the last two weeks walking on cliff paths. We also noticed that the lack of a strong wind meant that holding a conversation at more that a few yards distance was possible.

The house at The Crong

The views over Dancersend were lovely and we passed by the fantastic house at The Crong, before heading towards the Cafe in the woods, in Wendover woods. We had some lunch brie panini for me and marmite on toast for Helen, the we headed down for a coffee at Hillside.

On the path just above the forestry offices we came across some wild raspberries, we ate a few. We could have picked some but we did not have a container to put them in and to pick enough for a Pavalova would have taken some time as the berries were quite small. Hillside was a welcome stop off for coffee, walnut cake, and the women’s Wimbledon final!

Suitably refreshed we headed home, then we were off out to celebrate Lizzies birthday at Malebon.

Truro on a rainy day

Truro Cathedral

As promised by the weatherman it is raining today, so we decided a trip to Truro was in order, to have a look at the cathedral and museum. Hopefully layter today the wet weather will pass and we will be able to take a walk north from Cadgwith.

We listened to a Matt Lucas Desert Island Discs episode on the way down, very interesting and funny man, shame about his tracks which were mainly musicals. We got to the city and parked up in the centre, £3.40 for 3 hours. We are currently enjoying a cappucino in Costa coffee.

We had a look round the cathedral which is very impressive. It does have a bit of a twist in it perhaps the builder did not have a set square. Helen bought 6 books in Waterstones (strike that it was 7 but one is for me), and I tried to buy a pair of walking shoes. Pizza express followed for lunch.

Pizza was up to the usual standard you come to expect from Pizza Express not fantastic but tasty and good value, service swift and with a smile. They even have Dyson Airblades in the loos. What to do next was our dilemma!

On the way back to the car I can across an independent camera shop selling second hand kit, and managed to bag myself a bargain, a 50mm f1.4mm Canon Lens. The light it lets is very impressive. Watch this blog for some photo’s.

We headed back to the hut in the hope that we could get one more walk in before we left, but the weather was having none of it, there was heavy drizzle. I packed in the hope that later I would be able to get out.

Up the grim north


Weekend at my brothers. We headed off at 16:00 and had a good journey up the M1 and got there before 20:00.
On Saturday the weather was showers and grey skies, we pottered about the house, had some lunch then headed off to The Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) to have a look at the latest exhibition. On the way there we stopped at Go Outdoors where a purchased a couple of tops to replace the one I lost walking to work.
The YSP was good as usual, I can’t remeber the artists name but heads of various sorts figured a lot, mapny of them made fro welded characters. There was one room with some very big gongs to bash, we felt like the man off the rank signature clip. The weather held out for the rest of the after noon. We had pizzas for tea.
Sunday weather was worse, we went for a swim then had lunch, follwed by a quick walk. Helen and I headed off at 16:30 and got back in good time despite the traffic. We saw a couple park their 4×4 on the two lane contraflow to let their kid have a pee!
We got back in time for a pint and something to eat at the pub that is set up in Buckland Village Hall every year on the may bank holiday. We sat with the Reverend and other church goers who had popped in after even-song.

Aston Clinton vintage car

Scimitar GTC

After a trip to Heathrow to drop some people off as a favour, I got home and Helen and I decided to go the annual Aston Clinton vintage car rally, which despite having been on very year, I had only been to once and Helen had never been to. We went by car because we happened to be out and about in it, but soo decided that next time we should go by bike as the queues to get into the car park were very slow and we ended up queuing for quite some time.

Once in to the ground we had a look round the usual stalls that you get at an out door event i.e. leather good, fruit, fishing gear, double glazing etc, as well as quite a large auto jumble section. Helen then had the idea to give Rory a call to see if he was about. Turns out he was about and we soon hooked up. Rory had his GTC Scimitar on show but despite some careful cleaning he did not win any prizes. We spend some time walking round the cars on display and taking some photos of them.

American car

Rory invited us round his mums for a BBQ which we went to later and it was great to catch up with everyone round ranch C.

Aldbury Nowers butterfly walk

Dingy Skipper

Helen spotted a butterfly walk/meetup on the BBC website, so she made enquiries and we arrange to meet at the lay by near the Aldbury Nowers (Grid Ref SP949128). Helen had other things to do but I went anyway and took Helen’s dad with me.

After hang about in the lay by waiting until the intended start time, and whilst listening to all the butterflies we might expect to see, we set off round the edge of the field. It soon became apparent that Butterfly miles are far slower than Bird miles, but the act of looking down at the ground and walking slowly means that you have time to take a lot in, and it is surprising what you find when you take the time to look. As well as some of our intended butterfly species we saw spiders, beetles, and a lizard.

After a look round the edge of the field we headed into the woods, which was not as productive, but when we then headed out on the chalk slopes that had been cleared/managed we again started seeing butterflies.

Nursery Web Spider (Pisaura mirabilis)

The whole evet was about 3 hours from arrival to departure and it cost us nothing, real value for money. We saw the following butterflies: Dingy Skipper, Brown Argus, Green Hairstreak, Small Copper, Small Heath, Grizzled Skipper, Brimstone, Large White, Green Veined White, Orange Tip, Common Blue, and Peacock,

Thanks to the British Butterfly Conservation Society

The night before the Royal Wedding

Tents outside the abbey

I’m not really one to go crazy over royal weddings,  I was probably Elite on my BBC computer when the last one was on, but I do enjoy big events. I floated the idea of going up to London on the night before with Helen but she does not like big crowds. On Thursday morning I thought sod it I’ll leave work at 1600 (I had been there since 0730) and head up to the big smoke and have a look round. I might even link up with A&C who had decided to spend the night outside the Palace to ensure a view of “the kiss”.

I needed to get the car so I went home at lunch time and would you believe the Golden Plover I had see earlier on the way to work was still there so were 2 Curlew. Any way I got the car and grabbed my camera and went back to work. I managed to get to a mile stone in a project I am working on at work so did not feel guilty about skipping off.

I got to Berkhamsted, found a place to park and was on the 16:30 train to Euston. I went for a 30p pee, grabbed a sandwich and headed for the Northern line and headed south to Charring Cross. My plan was to head straight to Westmister Abbey then kind of follow the route back to Buckingham Palace where A&C were under canvas with the Canadians. There were plenty of people about but it did not seem more busy than usual.

At the abbey things were a bit tighter there were people camped out on the pavement with chairs and tents, it was hard to get by we had to go single file. I got a few pictures of the tent city, and then headed back to Parliament Square to get a picture of Big Ben surrounded by flags. From there I headed the park that is next to The Mall, there was not much space left at that point, you could have fitted the odd tent in but it was clear that if you wanted a space earlier Friday morning would be too late.

Parliament Square

I wandered down The Mall taking in the party atmosphere. At the end opposite the palace were the usual media village that gets erected for these occasions. It was a very busy place lots of traffic, and people out to see what it was all about just like myself.

It did not take me long to track down A&C the Canadian Maples were easy to find. They seemed pleased to see me and it was good to catch up with the Canadians again. I was offered a seat and settled in for an hour or so chatting and watching the world go by. From time to time some darkened windowed cars went past often followed by Range Rovers. We had lots of enquiries by Canadians asking us from which province we came, they had never heard of Buckinghamshire province!

I made my excuses and headed back down The Mall, when I got to the entrance to Clarence House there were lots of police telling people to keep out of the road, it soon became clear that someone was going to leave or arrive. I hung about and to see what was going on. First a very large Mercedes pulled up with Canadian flags on the dash board, a police man stopped the car and spoke to the man in the from who wound down the double glazed window. The policeman then called back to base to report that the Canadian Governor was coming through, and should he be allowed. After a mexican stand off as the car edged towards the policeman waiting for instructions, he eventually go the OK and the policeman stood aside.

The media village

A few minutes later the police got a bit stricter and some more turned up then all of a sudden a car left, then a few minutes later another and then another, I tried to get videos of the cars going past but the results were not very impressive. I had enough of seeing large cars with darkened windows at that point so headed back to the tube station, but not before using a portaloo, I was not about to pay another 30p to pee. I was soon back on the tube and heading towards Euston.

I had just missed the 2024, but the next train was at 2034 so just had time to grab a snack before heading to platform 8. When I got there confusion reigned there were two trains on the same platform, one was the 2024, which had the 2034 queued up behind. It turned out I could get on either so I chose the front train, and was soon back in Berkhamsted, where I found the car a drove home. All in all a great adventure.

Purple Heron Wilstone

View over Otmoor

Weather was still great so we thought we would have another trip out. After some discussion and a phone call to Hillside,  we eventually settled on Otmoor again as we felt we had not done it justice last week. We set out and got as far as the holiday in when we got a phone call and had to do a u-turn and go and pick up John, who preferred out trip to the other trip that was on offer, basically a day at Hughendon grounds sat in a blanket.

We went the usual way i.e. down the A41 then left at the Brill turn off, then cross country to Beckley where you turn off the main road to get to the reserve car park, where we were lucky enough to find a space. We decided to do the walk that skirts round the outside of the reserve. The countryside different to the Chilterns, very flat and open pastures basically a flood plane. The birds were really singing Whitethroats were everywhere, Helen could heard Grasshopper Warbler, and we saw the odd Reed Bunting. The walk round the reserve took about 2 and a half hours and as it was the middle is the day really hot. We wanted to stop for sandwiches but could not find a place in the shade until we got to the new hide.

Suitably refreshed we headed back to the car park, we heard Cuckoo and saw 4 Hobbies flying around our first this year, and a few Sedge Warblers doing their stuff in the reeds. Whilst we were walking back I checked my phone, would you believe it there was a Purple Heron at Wilstone Reservoir.

Sunny Sunday Kew again

Zen Garden

When I told Kev that we had been to Kew the weekend before he was keen to go this weekend whilst he and the family were down for a visit. So we woke up in good time to get ready prepare a picnic and head off to Kew. It did not quite work out like that, we started watching the Chinese Grand Prix and Helen decided that she would like to go to church as it was palm sunday. Who were we to argue it would mean we could see the finish of what turned out to be quitre an exciding race. Race over we quickly made sandwiches and put together some chrips and cake, we had a picnic ready to go.

Getting to Kew is really easy just round the M25 then get of at junction 2 of the M4 and you’re practically there. The car park was slightly more full that the week before but we both found spaces with ease. Once in the park we decided to keep to the river side of the park and headed in when we were level with the tree top walk. Helen looked after the bags at the bottom whilst the rest of us did the high altitude walk. Ben showed of his reading ability by reading all the signs on the walk way. Hayleigh started winging so we decided a picnic stop was in order, we found a shady spot an were soon tucking into to our trout or cheese sandwiches.

Suitably refreshed we headed towards the the Pagoda, by way of the bridge over the lake, which is quite an interesting design. We spotted a few Parakeets on the way over. It is strange once you have seen a bird for the first time you then start seeing them much more.  Just before the Pagoda there is a  Japanese Zen garden, very tranquil I must say.  From the Pagoda we headed towards the end where we cam in with the plan of visiting each of the green houses on the way.

Kew Pagoda

Hayleigh did not like the heat of the greenhouses so we did not spend too much time in each. The highlights were the carnivorous plants, and the lizards in the Princess of Wales greenhouse, which we had not seen before. Ben and Hayleigh particularly liked the giant cat fish. We were fairly tired by the last of the greenhouses so we headed towards the exist for a coffee at the cafe near the exit, which has a children’s playground near by.

Whilst the kids were playing I was minding my own business when a little girl came up to me and declared that she had lost her parents. This was a tricky situation, what do I do? If I take here to a member of the Kew staff and her parents come looking for her and see me leading her away from the play area, what will they think. At the same time the poor kid was lost. I asked her what her mum looked like she said black short hair so I said well lets have a look round and see is we can see her. Luckily for both of us she spotted her mother some hundred yards away and went running off.

We needed some bread for tea so Helen and I set off to find a supermarket and left Kev and Ron to follow on. Another good day at Kew.


Otmoor and Oxford

Meeting my brother and family, in Oxford in the afternoon, so Helen and I decided to take a trip to RSPB Otmoor in the morning. So after a brief trip to the in laws for coffee we headed off to the reserve at Otmoor.

We did not go via the most direct route but headed out through Aylesbury towards Bicester. We turned right around Grendon Underwood and headed past Brill through some lovely typical Oxfordshire rolling country side. We found Otmoor easily and parked up. There were lots of birds about, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, White Throat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler to name a few spring migrants. There is a new hide been built since we last visited (See here) and it has great views over the wetland habitat they manage there. We heard someone mention Grasshopper Warbler but Helen could not hear it. After stolling around for an hour and a half we headed back to the Oxford Park and Ride. Parking was at a premium but we were soon on a bus into Oxford centre.

We were quite hungry by then and headed for the covered market and found a table in Mortons for a cappucino and a falafel burger, and lovely they were, that’s one each not multiples each!

We then headed over to Blackwells for a browse round the books. It seems that the computer sections are not what they used to be, and I could not find what I was looking for. Got a text from Kev so we headed to the bus stop to wait for him. They soon arrived and we headed over to the indoor market to get some stuff for tea, then we headed out towards the Natural History Museum. Outside the building there is a new exhibit, which is really cool. They have mounted on concrete plinths the lower parts of some very big trees, you can see all the roots which have been cleaned up. Surprisingly the roots do not go very deep.

The museum as expected was a really hit with the kids, they especially liked the Pitt Rivers section with all the old cabinets and dark room. The swifts had not arrive back yet so there was no chance to see the usual video feed.

It was quite late in the day so we were kicked out of Pitt Rivers then we quickly finished the main part of the museum, then walked past the Bodelian library  back to the bus stop, then we were soon back to the car and en route home. A great day out.

Categorised as Day out