Friday, November 27, 2009

.... one for all

I'm not sure what’s happening at the moment but every time that I’m out and about lately I seem to be clapping my eyes upon a glut of predators, and rather like Mike’s last post at ‘Hodgeman’s thoughts on the great outdoors’ I’ve failed to get a picture of one of the little tinkers!. (Oh by the way Mike’s blog is, I think, one that is really worth reading and catching up on.)

The first predator of note was the large fox mentioned in my earlier posting, frustrations, which was spotted on one of the back trails on Moel Famau during a right stormy day, new camera in pocket, fox chased off by Lucy before any chance of retrieving the image taker – hoe hum. Then on Tuesday, following what is now becoming my usually routine of clearing my head on the change over from day shift to night shift, I took Lucy along for an excursion (well short trek then) amongst the trails in Nercwys forest. Again it was another wind swept and wet morning but with the temperature still remaining high for this time of year (and a more suitable choice of gear this time!) the walking was good and with Lucy providing the entertainment with her inevitable impressions of a bog monster the lack of visible wildlife for the camera was not a problem. It was as we returned to the car park that I spotted over the access gate a yearling rabbit sitting bolt upright just under the tow bar of the fun cruiser. The furry little mite appeared oblivious of our presence (as did Lucy of Bug’s), not wishing to let a potential free meal (yes I’m tight, I know this already) I slowly stooped and picked up a throwing rock and eased myself through the gate whilst Lucy was heading back the way we had came intent on submerging herself once more in the nearest ooze filled ditch.. With Lucy forgotten I was nearly close enough to be within certain striking distance when from the edge of my vision I caught the slightest of movement and it became clear to why the rabbit was immobile. There, weaving his memorizing spell on the rabbit was a beautiful stoat. Now here was something that I’d never witnessed before, a rabbit being taken by a stoat in broad daylight. I caught my breath, all thoughts of rabbit stew forgotten, and slowly began to reach for the camera. It was at this very moment in time, camera being withdrawn from pocket, stoat now within a couple of yards from dinner, thoughts of award winning photography coursing through my pea brain when I had my legs taken from behind as Lucy burst back into my conscious thought, argghhhh! I just had time to raise my head from the gravel and glimpse the stoat disappearing into a log pile and Lucy crashing through the far hedge, presumably in hot pursuit of the mobile food source (well not mine or stoaties’). The little blighter had clocked onto the fact that I’d gone into stealth mode and had decided that something far more interesting than stagnant water was afoot, she’d obviously spied the rabbit from behind me and, taking the most direct route through yours truly, had decided that the meal was hers for the taking, sometimes…… With nothing harmed besides my ego, we headed home, one muddy but happy mutt, and one rueful mutt owner.

Yesterday I headed out after the last night shift of the block hoping that some buzzards would be riding the thermals after being kept down by the last week’s storms. There is nothing that pulls at my soul more so than the haunting call of buzzards as they welcome me back to the hills, I cannot explain with mere words the affect inside of me the call of this bird has just to say that it feels so right when I’m lucky enough to be in their company. As usual the first part of this walk consisted of me awaiting the caffeine to kick in and for my senses to at show at least some small sign of coming online (Clare refers to me as that grumpy get after nights). I was surprised and disappointed that I saw or heard no sign of the buzzards during the duration of the walk, perhaps they had moved to lower ground seeking refuge from the earlier storms. I had only the raucous and harsh calls of Odin’s eyes to listen too and with little else to catch our attention even Lucy seemed more subdued that usual. I did come across a discarded or maybe lost knife on the west side of the hills, am Opinel number 8, a fine folding knife and once I’ve given the blade some much needed attention and treated the wooden handle it’ll make me a useful companion. But I’m going off on a tangent here, why I mention this walk is that as we came around the west side of Moel Famau the now exposed trail skirting the top of the hill with the ground falling steeply away to the valley below I spotted a raptor coursing down the slope. Immediately I was sure to what it was, a peregrine falcon, the speed as it hurtled downwards was incredible. Then, with an explosion of feathers, it caught its target, a ringed dove, with no visible change to its rhythm the falcon swept upwards and over the hill to our right with its supper in its firm grasp. That’s twice this year I’ve witnessed a peregrine take pigeons and I’m honored to have done so. The movement was to fast for my camera skills but on the up side at least I remained on my feet!

Three predators in the space of a few days and all in broad daylight, makes me smile. Thought about leaving Lucy behind on the next long treks, just to get a bit closer to the fauna that she disturbs before I have chance to view it closely or photograph it, but then we’re a team and I’m not complete out there with out her, so all for one….

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Something different

Hi all, in the short time that I have been writing this blog I have come to realise that, well that I really enjoy the writing part. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not claiming to be the new bard or a writing genius, just that I’m really starting to enjoy the writing part. So I’ve written a little account of a childhood memory but to keep it separate from the spirit of this blog I’ve opened another blog called ‘Tails from the fish’, I hope that some of you may find time to cast your eyes over the occasional story that I’m hoping to post here and if so, I truly hope that you enjoy them. I don’t think I’ll stick to any particular theme, just see how it goes. So if you like the 'tails' let me know and if you don’t like them let me know as well, all comments (except the really harsh ones!) welcome.

In trepidation,


Thursday, November 19, 2009


Talk about having the stuffing knocked out of you! You may (or may not for that matter) noticed buried deeply within the depths of my previous couple of posts the looming cloud of despair and the slightly morbid tenor of my writings as the day of my operation drew closer. But, I’d bit the bullet and braced myself for the inevitable events of tomorrow, stiff upper lip and all that rhetoric. So, as promised, I spent the day outside wandering in and around the trails upon the Clwydian range, being battered by howling winds, soaked thoroughly to the skin by the endless horizontal deluge of rain (I did say hell or high water didn’t I?) and to add insult to injury sweating like the preverbal pig due to the very unseasonable temperature of fifteen degrees whilst covered in my “all weather, breathable” gear (all weather except British weather that is, I’m assuming!). But I survived the tempest and made my way home aching, soaked, decidedly windswept but strangely content and feeling pretty good within myself, after all there is nothing like the feeling of coming home after being outside in some of roughest weather the year has yet to throw at the hills. Storms, whether they’re in the hills or on the coast with sea spray lashing at my face, I just love them.

So there I am whistling to myself around the kitchen, rubbing Lucy clear of the usual detritus that she collects on a walk, kettle on and bacon in the pan (the fasting due to start 6pm tonight) when the blink of the answer phone catches my eye. One final rub at the elusive Lucy to remove the remaining flotsam and jetsam from her eyes and then press play with my elbow whilst juggling hot coffee and a bacon sarnie, cue removal of stuffing. One message only; tomorrows appointment cancelled, new date being the 3rd of December, have a nice day! Stuffing well and truly extracted leaving me with a certain sense of anticlimax to say the least. Just over 3 months of waiting, prodding and a little foreboding, not to mention arranging cover at work, getting extra provisions in as I wasn’t expecting to be going anywhere fast and then at the eleventh hour the rug is pulled, bloody marvelous. So I’ll just have to go through the build up again and hope that it won’t be another dry run, but I do promise you that I’ll not mention it again as I think I’ve said all I can in previous posts so when the postings become few and far between you’ll know why.

But going back to the storm I was really fortunate to get more than a glimpse of the largest fox that I have ever seen. I was not expected to see any wild life about in the ferocious conditions that I and Lucy were pushing through, well Lucy had the good sense to let me do the pushing whilst she stayed firmly behind me gaining as much shelter as she could when we were marching into the teeth of the gales (and we’re the smarter species?). Anyway, the noise my elephantine self was making as well as any scent was being firmly displaced be the storm when as we crested one of the last few hills before reaching the sanctuary of my little fun cruiser there, bold as brass, loping towards us was the biggest dog fox that I’ve ever clapped eyes on. We both stopped at the same time, and I don’t know who was more shocked me or the fox, whilst we stood, suspended in the moment, I noticed that he did not carry the normal reddish hue of our only native wild dog along his flanks but was a dark, bluish grey, something the I’ve not seen before although I have heard some shooting friends who travel the remoter areas talk about seeing welsh grey foxes, almost as if they are a separate breed. This is something that I’m going to have to research because this boy was big. As in all things the spell was swiftly lifted, Lucy upon peering around to examine the cause of the hold burst past and headed straight for him, she’s getting on but she’s still game. As they hurdled down the slope I thought she’s gaining, this should be interesting and I was not disappointed. Just as she was closing in on his brush the canny feller just seemed to leap in mid flight from all fours and changed direction by ninety degrees and disappeared into the bracken. Unfortunately for Lucy, downhill at that speed she has the turning circle of a fully laden oil tanker, game over. So after a bit of sheepish shuffling in the undergrowth we called it a day and headed home to that message. All in all a great day for both of us but with both of us being a little deflated at the end, but at least I’ve got the consolation of a couple of ciders to be getting on with, so until the next time, cheers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An Interlude

Ok so it’s 36 hours until I am placed at the mercy of a man with a sharp knife, wearing a mask and a head torch with whom I have never met or held a conversation with, ever! Not that I’m either counting or worried, honest, well maybe just a tad worried. To be honest though I cannot wait for Friday to come and go so that I can turn the page on the last few months, putting all the discomfort behind me (no pun intended). Hopefully I’ll soon start picking up on my fitness levels and be able ‘get out there’ as much as possible. It’s only when you are unable to have or do something do you realise how much you love, need or depend upon whatever is missing. I need the outdoors to keep me sane in this world where doom and gloom seem to be the order of the day.

Therefore this will my last musing until maybe after the weekend and my inflatable computer chair is installed, and tomorrow I thoroughly intend to be outside dawn to dusk, come hell or high water. So until further notice all projects are on hold and I guess that I’ll have little few tales to chronicle in the forth coming week or so. Although , perhaps buoyed by Owl’s comments and a couple of work colleagues remarks on my writings I may try my hand at a few short stories from my youth or maybe I’ll just sulk and feel sorry for myself , who knows time will tell. I hope that all of you that I’m following will fill your blogs with your usual wealth of rich and enjoyable stories to help me pass the time and give me inspiration for my journey back to the outdoors. Well enough of this feeling sorry for myself its back to the cider and a takeaway before I’m banned from tickling my taste buds tomorrow. Enjoy life and live it to the full, it’s not a rehearsal!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Double edged sword...

A double edged sword, catchy title eh, thought that would get your attention, but this week’s posting is not about sharp items intent on harm, but more of that later. I’ve just got a brief window (whilst my rice is cooking) to fill you in on the week’s events. Managed to get down to the sailing club at Gresford the other day with Jim, with the intention of removing some boat trailers, which were basically rusting away making the place a bit of an eyesore, and hopefully picking up the second hull. But as you have guessed by now nothing runs smoothly for yours truly and once more I was thwarted by the complete absence of said hull. So I spent the morning dragging the prehistoric, rusting frames of about 8 trailers and launch trolleys without much hope of reward (except of course the satisfaction of a job well done). But fortune favors the brave, as they say, and when we’d finally lashed the lot together and dragged it to the local scrap merchants we came back with 26 pounds for our labors, I didn’t realise scrap metal was worth so much at the moment so the local church roofs had better be well protected from now on, and I don’t just mean a small amount of lead for fishing weights! (Only joking – honest). But the best upshot of the morning’s activities’ is that now a salvageable trailer frame and launching trolley frame now sit on my drive taking their place in the projects queue (yes I know, nothing has to be said about time money etc…).

Ok back to the multiple precipice weaponry statement. Regular readers of my musings (and I sincerely thank you all) may well recall my posting; ‘to a mouse’ in which I was lamenting about a certain medical condition which is afflicting my good self. Well the time of reckoning has arrived and I’ve received my operation time which is a week today. So here’s the double edged sword point:- for the last few months I’ve been as about as much use as a one legged man in a backside kicking competition, to say that I was mis-firing on all four cylinders is a rather large understatement so to have confirmation of the date of redemption from this affliction is mighty relieving. But here’s the rub, I’ve an inherent fear of hospitals and the thought of full anesthetic is slightly worrying (bloody terrifying actually), but it’s going to happen whether I like it or not so hey hum here we go…

Oh and finally to end this particular muse I’ve reopened my ‘pay for all projects’ account at the dreaded E-bay, starting with a small steam engine commencing this coming Sunday, well needs must when the devil drives (where do people keep coming up with these sayings?) but as I’m sure I’ve said before if I wish to enjoy my outdoor orientated life style, and keep on taking on projects then it all has to be paid for, by hook or by crook (there’s another one!). That’s about it for now, off to the goggle box the curl up with my beloved Clare and scream my head off at the Welsh hopefully taming the Samoans, fingers crossed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

On the water at last

Well we’ve lost this evening’s light so I thought that I’d just fill you in upon this weekend’s rather limited adventuring. Saturday started off with what appeared to be a day of little opportunity with myself feeling more that slightly lethargic, probably due to the shift pattern change undertaken in work and absolutely nothing to do with the copious amounts of cider, southern comfort and excellent food consumed on Friday night at a friend’s wedding reception! So a quiet morning’s stroll around Wrecsam’s limited shopping centre seemed about as much as I could handle in my rather delicate state. But the day was brightened considerably with a visit to Jessop’s camera shop. To be honest I’ve been contemplating purchasing a decent general purpose camera for a while, especially after seeing the recent photography by Owl on his blog Wandering Owl Outside. The photographs that have appeared on my blog up until now have been taken on my mobile phone. There are three downsides to this, firstly my mobile has a limited picture capability, secondly I detest having my mobile turned on when I’m out and about (one of my loves of the outdoors is the chance to have some solitude when needed) and thirdly I’m really bad, unlike Clare who has a great eye, at taking pictures so I need all the help that can be mustered. So after a little negotiation and the handing over of a rather large chunk of my frugal wages I’m now the proud owner of a Fujifilm F75 EXR (details on the link), so hopefully after some tuition from Clare there will be a marked improvement in my pictures on this blog, time will tell! Now all I have to do is improve my writing to the levels found on many of the blogs that I'm following.

The first racing in the frostbite series finally took place this morning and to be honest Jim and his handicap crew (that’ll be me then) didn’t do to badly at all with two second places out of the two races. Although the weather was a bit of a let down with low to non existent winds, temperatures about 8 degrees and enough drizzle to wet just about everything I thoroughly enjoyed myself and also surprised myself (and perhaps Jim) with the way I got around the boat. But then again I think that it may well be a different kettle of fish with a half decent breeze to test my new found confidence. Oh and just in case you were wondering today’s pictures were taken by Clare hence the improvement in photography. Another upshot of the sailing today was that I managed to speak to one of the club’s members, Nick, who is supplying the second Mirror hull that I keep going on about. He assures me that it is better overall condition than my little lady so I’m hoping to organize delivery towards the latter end of this week, we’ll see. One thing of note about the sailing club at Gresford is the abundance of wildlife in residence with large numbers of water fowl and some rather rotund carp lurking in the depths, now if only I could get er, yes that's it, wildlife management control rights there my freezer would be well stocked for the coming winter.

So all in all another reasonably productive weekend, unfortunately with the new shift rota that has been adopted regular weekends will now be consigned to a dim and distant memory as we’re now on a four on four off shift pattern. Basically this means that I’ll have less time to spend with my beloved Clare and I’ll be completely knackered (excuse the Anglo Saxon) for five out of the eight days in which the rota operates. On the plus side it does give me longer stretches of time to work around the house, complete projects (god knows that I’ve got enough on the go!) and much more importantly just get out there. So like everything in this world there are going to be highs and lows, I’m just grateful that I can support us and put food on the table. So that’s about it for now, hope that you all get out there and enjoy yourselves.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Seasonal change at last

Well at long last it appears that we have an end to the Indian summer of October with November being heralded in with a distinct change in the season. True, the daylight hours have been drawing in with their usually inevitability but up until last weekend the temperatures reflected a more summery feel. Don’t get me wrong I don’t overly enjoy the wet, windy and cold weather that has drifted in over the Atlantic but without the seasons being clearly defined I feel some how slightly out of kilter.

Walking some of the back trails up Moel Famau this morning truly blew away the cob webs of last nights 12 hour shift, and with the larch trees now nearly bare of their needles the paths underfoot had a cushioned, carpeted (for wont of a better word) feel to them. Lucy had her usual ‘let’s find every boggy, mud filled ditch’ head on and the stiff breeze on the tops seemed to galvanize her into the maddest ‘running around an idiot’ spell that she’s had for years. I guess she’s also enjoying the change autumn has finally brought about.

One down side this change of weather did cause was the cancelation of last Sunday’s first race of the frostbite series at Gresford Sailing Club, to say that I was disappointed would be this week’s biggest understatement. Not only did I not get to sail but there was no chance to appraise the Mirror dinghy hull that I hoping to purloin! Still, on the bright side I didn’t get wet, cold or an ear bashing from Jim, ah well there’s always this Sundays lambasting to look forward to! On the up side (I think) our resident wood mouse house now taken up squatting rights in our tit marsh box and is providing us with some entertainment during first light with his? acrobatics getting to the bird feeders and back to the ‘mouse box’.

So with a full weekend to look forward too I hope that I’ll have some tales to tell thee next week, but for now I hear the call of good food and fine ale so with no other choice I shall be away…..