Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Off the beaten trial

Sometimes it’s nice when an idea that seems ok when first dreamt up, turns a little (quite a lot actually) difficult when half way through implementation and then comes up trumps when finally completed. Just like the other day, myself and my ever present, far from odourless, shadow hit the trails quite a bit earlier than usual hoping to perhaps surprise some early morning, half awake, wildlife with my not so impressive stalking skills (hence hoping for the half awake part!). The temperature was cold enough to warrant me wearing the excellent Jack Pyke coat (going to get withdrawal symptoms from that when the weather warms a little more) and I decided to try out the new haversack for the first time. Actually the temperature that early in the morning was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey, but as we climbed the first slopes of the trail it had no effect on the blackbirds in the topmost branches whose songs pierced the early morning air with startling clarity, even making Lucy pause and gaze upwards for a while.

As we moved on the now familiar forest closed in around us and the morning songs of the blackbirds dulled into a distant, just heard, warble. Now it was the turn of the coal tit-marshes to scold us with their harsher warnings to stay away from ‘their patch’, which accompanied us as we followed the ever more twisting trail. Lucy had taken one of her sideways detours when in the distance, to my surprise, a large rabbit started legging it down the trail. I really didn’t expect a rabbit this far into woodland with little, as I thought, in the way of food to entice it here. As I slowly approached the side bank from where I assumed the critter had sprang from there was clear evidence that my still bleary eyes had not been mistaken, in the form of fresh droppings.

I just know that some of you would be fascinated with pictures of poo! With the dry weather that we’d experienced over the last couple of weeks the opportunities for Lucy to become covered in detritus are now becoming much less, unfortunately for me this has resulted in the four legged fiend and spawn of Satan to resurrect one of her more entertaining (for her that is ) and painful (for me that is) pastimes. I moved onwards down the trail becoming dimly aware that Lucy was coming up from behind me fast, too bloody fast! A vague, uneasy, memory tugged at the edges of my befuddled mind trying to warn me of the impending doom that was approaching. I was just about coming to the realisation of what was occurring when it hit me; no I mean it really did hit me! My next recollection is of gazing up at the blue sky, through the tapestry of overhead pine branches from my now newly recumbent position. Lifting my head off the floor I caught a glimpse of Lucy hurtling around the next bend with what was left of the branch that she had used to upend me, oh god I though, not this game , why can’t she play the ‘spook game’ or anything else for that matter, why the upend John game? 

I cursed her enthusiasm for which she had reinstated this pastime, with the knowledge that this will not be the last time that yours truly will end up on his backside this year (note to self; take Lucy where there’s water – lots of dirty, deep, smelly water!). 

I gingerly raised myself to my feet then paused to rest on a particular comfortable tree stump to wait for Lucy to stop her crashing through the nearby undergrowth and to examine my sore knee (she’s the perfect height to catch me in the crook of the leg with a particularly solid branch) and bruised ego. Whilst paused I enjoyed a thirst quenching apple and marvelled at the morning sun, now streaming through the trees, it was at this point that the aforementioned ‘great idea’ sprang to mind.

To divert Lucy’s attention from rendering me a limping, quivering wreck I decided to go off the beaten path and follow a little used, overgrown trail that we’d spotted the other week and were yet to explore. Excellent idea thought I and as we started along the beginning of the trail my judgement seemed justified with Lucy scampering off ahead, eager to explore unknown territory and at the same time scare off any wildlife before I’d have chance to come within touching distance, the little …..

The trail closed up rapidly and it became obvious that there had been little, if any, human traffic along it in some time. With the undergrowth virtually covering the path it caused us to slow and check our progress against the sun, but the day was warming nicely and thoughts of being lost never entered my thinking (after all there’s always backtracking) a couple of miles into the trail the reasons for the unused way were becoming obvious. With the ground rapidly drying out, trees weakened by the winter’s storms and exposed by earlier felling had given up their grip in the soft ground and tumbled across the path. Firstly singularly, which took little in the way of overcoming, but then in almost impenetrable swathes of fallen timber hiding the trail from our sight.

With a slight misgiving I decided to push on hoping that my sense of direction and location had not totally deserted me and that we’d soon reach the tree line. Even Lucy had given up her zig zagging excursions and now followed quietly behind me, her subdued attitude adding to my discomfort. We circled a mound of fallen trees that we’d been unable to climb or break through and just taken up the trail when the trees thinned dramatically. Within a few minutes we broke the tree line and were able to both breathe more easily. To my right a buzzard launched itself from low branches, untroubled by the out of breath idiots below who gazed after her with wide eyed wonder and awe, their latest mis-adventure already chalked up as another grand day out!

We then plotted our way back to the fun cruiser and reached it with out any further excitement, glad to be safe and already planning longer walks. It brought home to me that once we start exploring other locations further a field and away from our familiar comfort zone, that more care and preparation will have to take place for us to enjoy ourselves safely ‘out there’. Oh and a quick word about the haversack idea from fellow blogger, Le Loup, it worked really well, so much so that I think that I’ll try and do what many of you more experienced guys (and gals) would call a ‘kit review’ on it. But for now, so long.

Your friend,

Friday, April 16, 2010


Just thought that I'd leave you with this picture for the weekend - Lucy's not a happy bunny!

Have a bountiful one my friends, and stay safe out there.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

End of a rest

Afternoon all,

Just passing time tinkering on me keyboard whilst deciding what to cook myself before the dreaded night shift tonight, so I thought it would a good time to fill you in upon the last day of our short break.

I’ve been looking for some suitable material lately to make myself a haversack after an inspiring posting by Australian blogger, Le Loup. For the last couple of weeks nothing has come forth that was either suitable or within my meagre price range (yes I know a very frugal price range indeed). Clare suggested we headed to the local car boot sale (always a source of cheap goodies) to kick start Sunday, so at an entirely unearthly hour on Sunday morning I was evicted from my pit with the slightest of thick heads, nothing to do with an over indulgence in cider, honest (well maybe a little then) and we trundled off to the car boot (didn’t realise just how many pot holes were in the road to Yr Wyddgrug).

Well after the third coffee at the burger van, and with the sun just beginning to climb high enough to warm my miserable face (Clare’s description, not mine) we began scouring the sale in earnest. A mere hour had elapsed and we’d covered ourselves in frugal shopping and bartering glory. For the princely sum of £4.50 we’d plundered the following; an extremely light but effective burner (burns mentholated spirits) plus kettle, a still 'in its packet' pannier set for me cycle rack, a lined leather drawstring purse for me air gun pellets and the best of all a haversack of perfect proportions – god pats me on the head and says ‘good boy John’.

We arrived home just after eight am, where I started cooking us a grand fry up whilst Clare provided mugs of steaming coffee. My somewhat smug mood was dented slightly by Clare mentioning that her parents were due a visit. Now don’t get me wrong the out laws are great, warm and caring people but I really didn’t fancy making small talk over Sunday dinner when the sun was shining on the trails and this was after all our last day off before the return to the grind (yes I know what your thinking, but didn’t I tell you before that I’m not a nice guy and just a tad selfish?). I glanced over at Clare, any objections buried deep ‘cause you all know that I’d go, when she burst out laughing, “gotcha, now go and take that slobbering hound of yours from under my feet”, Lucy does love bacon but not as much as I love Clare.

So full and once again smug I’m off to the woods with the bog monster in tow, and oh boy what a beautiful, sun kissed wander we had. We dumped the fun cruiser just outside Nercwys woods and headed for the recently cleared trig point that I’d mentioned in earlier musings. The short, steep trail, to the top reminded me of the desolation of Smaug with all the felling that had gone on previously, but a closer look showed that mama nature had not lost her foothold here and already there are signs of regeneration.

Once we gained the top the view was more than reward for the slight breathlessness that I felt (still not fit then fat boy?). To the south on the surface of the large pond spotted the other week the tell tale ripples of several feeding fish could be seen. I decided that further investigation was required. From this side of the wood no trail could be seen to take us directly to that fascinating piece of water. Fortunately though, this is a managed wood with trees well separated and at this time of year the undergrowth had barely raised its head above the carpet of pine needles. I noted the position of the sun in relation to my watch and headed into the depths of the wood.

Funny thing perception, I perceived myself as a quite walker with the lack of wildlife photo opportunity entirely and squarely laid down at the paws of that hulking beast of a companion of mine as she charged about me on the firm trails. Mmmm thing is as the woods closed in on us and the ambient noise level dropped under the shelter of the trees and foot falls were deadened by the thick carpet of pine needles it was not Lucy that made the din, but yours truly! Every swing of my arms or legs brought noises from my clothes that I’d never been aware of before, my breathing rasped out for all manner of critters to hear, I was making more noise than Hannibal and his elephants as they crashed over the Alps. I’m really going to have to rethink my approach including clothes, fitness levels and how I move if I wish to stalk successfully whether it be for the photo or for the pot! We finally emerged from the woods bang on target (at least I get something’s right!), where in the distance a sign could be seen on the boundary fence of the pool, fishing contacts perhaps thought I, nope as I focused in I realised that I’d been thwarted again!

I’ll have to leave the bog monster at home when I come for a closer luck, one because of it being a reserve and two because of the lambing season. We turned tail and headed for what I hoped would be the hard trail, bingo I think that I’m getting good at this direction thing. The rest of the walk was uneventful apart from the fact that the buzzards circled high on the thermals over head, their cries once more piercing the warm air above, seemingly to follow us for the remainder of the trek. We arrived home tired but happy, just as Clare returned from the out laws. The evening was spent in that comfortable, confident, silence of those who don’t need to voice their thoughts and feeling for each other at every chance just watching the goggle box over pizza and whiskey. A good end to a enjoyable and reinvigorating break. Mmm now for food…..

Your friend,


Wolfy has organised a fishing auction for a great and worthwhile cause over at flowing waters, get off your bums and start bidding – I know where you all live!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I really do not think that I’m a people person, in fact I’m beginning to come to the conclusion that I’m not a very nice person at all. It started early yesterday morning; I’d planned to take the bog monster out to one of our favourite haunts, mine for the buzzards and hers for the ample, detritus filled, ditches. So we’re up and ready, kitted out, fed and watered and just finished checking the fun cruiser out to make sure nothing had been overlooked. Clare’s still snug in bed, at least an hour and a half to go before her 7.30 alarm will stir her from her well deserved slumbers. I’m just draining the remnants of my second cup of char (always need two to kick start the day) when the shrill bell of the house phone screams out for attention. I check the number and it’s my parents so with the icy claws of dread and foreboding clutching at my heart (after all tis not long since ol’ string vest was discharged after his major operation) I answered expecting dire news. After all why else would the phone be going from my parents at this time in the morning? It was father “any chance you could pick us up a kilo of new potatoes from Lestors when you’re out and about today?” his cheerful voice piped down the line. To say ‘I was taken aback’ would have been a mild understatement to say the least, I managed a weak “yes of course pops, not a problem” at which he promptly hung up! Clare appeared, blurry eyed, from the bedroom asking if all was ok, Ok I thought, I’ll ram those bloody spuds where the sun don’t shine (dread had turned to surprise and then to anger surprisingly quickly). I stomped to the fun cruiser, slamming doors as I went. I looped past Lestors farm shop and they were just receiving the mornings stock, a quick apology and several pence lighter I’m trundling to the parents house with the spuds, a handful of minutes later the spuds have been thrust into a surprised mother’s hands and I’m off without saying more than two words. I was not a happy bunny.

A mere fifteen minutes later and we’re approaching the parking spot where the fun cruiser is to be abandoned for the morning. I’m still frothing at the mouth over that incredulous phone call. We pull up, don our stuff (well Lucy did bring herself) and head off into an absolutely beautiful day which I was blissfully unaware of still being wrapped up in my own selfishness. Yes my selfishness, I realised as I trundled along the walk with nature calling out to me that I was really being very selfish. I mean to say, a couple of weeks ago I was lamenting about the possibility of losing my father when he went under the knife but out here in the fresh air with Lucy just, well just being Lucy, and the sounds and sights of the outdoors blasting all ill tempered fillings from me I realised how lucky I was that the cantankerous old bugger was still around to phone me at silly o clock and ask for spuds, blissfully unaware of the emotional roller coaster happening on the other end of the line. We finished the walk a good hour before I intended and headed back to my parents ready to apologise for my earlier, bullish, behaviour. I walked through the back door mother turned from her baking, smiled and told me that the kettle had just boiled, poor myself a coffee. I walked through to my dad, he looked up “eh up John, those bloody potatoes are a bit soft”……

Yes I might not be a nice guy, but I’m a bleedin very lucky guy indeed, just need reminding of it now and again.

Your friend,


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Space for rent

I’ve decided to improve the chances for my somewhat small food growing project that I’ve embarked on by trying to attract more pollinating insects. Last autumn I replanted part of my hedge with more insect attracting shrubs and now I’ve just implemented phase two of operation bug. As regulars may be aware my space is limited (bleedin tiny that is) for the growing of crops so I really feel that I need every advantage that I can make use of. No with absolutely no room (or knowledge) to run a bee hive I’ve come with a plan to attract small, single burrow, wild bees to my small space. This involved destroyed a very cheap and nasty bird box and reconstructing it for the use of these bees. The box was refitted with untreated blocks of 4X4 pine drilled with 41 (count them if you like) 6mm holes for the use of said bees. So hopefully this little tenement will soon be host to a colony of flower hopping wild bees, time will tell.

Well tomorrow it's off to Lake Vyrnwy for the three of us for a stroll and a picnic, but for now I'll just sample another whiskey.
Your friend,

Rain n Shine

Mmmm yesterdays walk was a ramble amongst two totally different weather systems on the same hill. As my four legged slime ball and I approached Moel Famau from the east in the fun cruiser we were bathed in early morning sunlight and the temperature could almost be tangibly felt rising. Ah thought I, there’ll be no need for the heavy gear today just the light stuff and maybe the chance to add some colour to my waxen, winter caused paler.  I really do wish that I wouldn’t pre-empt my walks, remember “A calming little walk….” and how that turned out? You really would have thought that I’d have learned my lessons about expectation wouldn’t you? Well I guess I’m either stupid or just have the memory of a goldfish.

So there we are heading up the lane to the lower car park, Lucy beginning to whimper excitedly in the back yearning to stretch her legs and find something dire to wade through. It was at this point that I noticed the mist and drizzle just rolling down the narrow valley that the road follows and now became certain of the inevitability of a bleedin nerve jangling jaunt on the trails just staring me in the face. You know by now that I’m just too stupid to turn back and head for sunnier climes with my eternal optimism that this time Lucy will be just dandy. And anyway how could anybody resist that delicate whimpering of expectation as we ground to a halt in the car park? The omens were not good, in fact they were bloody awful as I gazed around me, the visibility was lessoning with every step from the car park, the raucous call of one of Odin’s eyes fell on my ears bidding me to return to the sanctuary of the fun cruiser before doom befell me, and the drizzle was turning into rain, bugger.

Lucy just bounded on ahead, her devious mind just waiting for us to be a couple of miles up the trails before her mind games began. With heavy heart I trudged up the hill in her wake contemplating the woes ahead which were to befall me, but then it happened, a beam an ultra bright sunlight burst down from the heavens and illuminated the way ahead. No seriously the sun really did break thru, firstly in a solitary beam but as me pace quickened and I breasted the hill this mist and rain was pulled away from me like a giant cloak being snatched from over our heads. All the while we were on the eastern slopes of the Famau we bathed in warm refreshing sun, but a glance to western ridgeline revealed that the doom of mist and cloud had not deserted us but hung like a heavy velvet curtain, neither retreating nor advancing from the ridge. Unfortunately the route that I’d decided upon would eventually take over this ridge and onto the western slopes. Yes I know that I could have retraced my footsteps but hey stubborn is one of my many second names (skinflint being another) and anyway I hate linear routes and always try to make them circular. We headed down into one of the valleys before facing the inevitable, and it was here Lucy put up a glorious cock pheasant (yep no picture, camera in pocket in expectation of the soaking to come – sorry) and for once she actually looked to be a sort of hunting hound (camera now out of pocket!). This brought a wry smile to my face ‘cause even if she’d brought it to ground I’m damn sure that she’d have no idea what to do with it, and anyway they’re out of season at the moment.

From the valley we climbed to the western ridge and walked into another world, one of mist, rain and the bleedin spook game. Oh yes she’d been waiting for this and she wasn’t to be denied, as soon as we’d scampered down the far side of the ridge her antics started and by the time we’d reached the fun cruiser (some two hours of neck turning later) my nerves were once more shot at, you’d really think that by now I’d be grown up and adult about this, oh yeah? Well call me primitive if you must but that dog just knows which buttons to press, god love her…..

Seriously though, I cannot remember walking in and about such a compact location where the weather patterns were so well defined, it wasn’t as though there was no breeze, it was slight but it was there giving an angle to the falling rain. I could literally step from sun to gloom and watch one from the other. I tried to capture it with my camera but the pictures just didn’t give the definition needed. I guess it was just one of those strange but true moments… What I did manage to capture though was the water run off, it bears testament to the amount of rainfall that has occurred (mainly at night) lately, even some of the bog monsters favourite haunts were more water than detritus!

Your friend

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Broke again..

Ok the main part of this post is for my rather impatient fellow blogger from Australia, Le Loup, who would rather me tell all about my latest acquisition instead allowing me the time to pass wind. To be honest I wasn’t in the market for another air rifle having recently serviced my old BSA meteor MK V and then on a slightly alcohol induced whim purchased the .177 Diane rifle on New Year. After all I think that you are all getting the picture that I’m as tight as a ducks arse when it comes to spending cash (and that’s water tight) with my favourite phrase “out for knout” being branded around liberally. But then during a visit from my accident prone brother in law, Wayne, he mentioned that he was looking to get rid of his rifle (purchased last September and only used twice since!) and putting the money towards his favourite form of fodder provider, a new shotgun. He really didn’t take to the air rifle after owning shot guns for eons and was looking for a quick sale. Now I’m not usually too impulsive but when he mentioned the ‘family rates’ asking price (over a third less than what he paid) I made a snap decision without even testing, holding or really knowing what the hell I was buying (damn that cider). So here I am the proud owner (I think) of a Benjamin Discovery .22 pre-charged pneumatic air rifle. As of yet I’ve yet to fire the damn thing but the surprising thing for me was the weight and balance of the gun, it really does seem to fit me like a glove and is actually lighter than the BSA. So a quick shuffle around has ensued involving fitting the BSA with the telescopic from the Diane, selling the Diane for the same price that I paid (minus the telescopic) and begging my beloved Clare for some early birthday money. I’ll let you how the new gun performs soon enough and Wayne has also promised me some shooting rights controlling rabbit, squirrel and pigeon this summer (and what ever else falls into the bag!), Mmmmm food.

Speaking of which I’ve been sowing some more crops for my tiny garden space including runner beans, bortilottie beans (think that’s spelt right!), tomatoes, peas, squashes, lettuce and another tub of potatoes. As you can see from the picture even my seedling space is limited with this little lot now taking over me grinding and drilling bench!

As for getting out and about, little to report here although I came across the first frogs spawn of the year down at loggerheads, it was all that I do to stop that infernal hound of mine leaping in and making a complete mess of it. Also work on the little lady has somewhat ceased due to the lack of time previously mentioned in the earlier post and now a distinct lack of funding (also paid for me latest tattoo) may well curtail this and other projects for the foreseeable future (damn that cider once again) so it looks as if I’m really going to have to start up my life of piracy back on E-bay if I want to do half of what I want to over the next couple of months (thrice curse that cider). So I guess for the moment I’ll be looking to do things for free (familiar territory here then) until the bank balance is the right side of the red line. Oh and Lucy? well she’s just chillin’

Tara for now,

Friday, April 2, 2010

Time to pass wind

Good evening all,

Firstly let me apologise for the lack of recent postings upon my blog but between father being readmitted and then turfed out once more from hospital, a host of household chores and the dreaded work I really have not had time to fart, let alone pay much attention to the world of blogging (my loss entirely and not yours I suspect).

The last few days have been hectic to say the least with ol’ String vest going down hill rapidly after ignoring all sound advice and suffering from dehydration and a urine infection due to failing to drink any where near the amount of fluids required. I saved his rollicking until he was fit to return home, but then I’m somewhat ashamed to say he got both barrels somewhere on the lines of if you won’t look after yourself why the hell should the rest of us bother? Harsh I know, but born from frustration that he’d skipped through a very severe operation only to let things go by not following the simplest advice afterwards. To be honest though my words to him may well have cast me as the black sheep (once again) but they do seem have done the trick and that is all that matters.

So this quick post is just to let you know that I’m back on the keyboard and with a few days off work for the coming week hopefully I’ll have some decent musings for you all in my more usual vein. Oh one tiny piece of news is that I’ve purchased a new air rifle, yes with my hard earned cash – smelling salts please. I’ll fill you in over the next few days, but for now there’s just this photo for you to surmise over (the new one is top of picture)

Tara for now,