Outdoorsy

I get a lot of pleasure from lots of things that I never used to these days – but one that continues to surprise and delight me is my garden.

Long term readers may remember that back at the start of my journey in 2016 (when I still wasn’t coping with every aspect of life very well) this was viewed by me as something of a burden rather than a boon.

Right up until early 2017 I considered the maintenance of it to be a disagreeable chore rather than a chance to get out and have some exercise.

Consequently I’d let it slide into a shameful mess and I didn’t know where to begin. The problem just seemed too huge to tackle.

Although generally things were becoming easier for me as I lost weight the mental barriers were still bigger than I realised at the time and every time I pulled back the curtain of my back window (which usually remained closed – because out of sight is out of mind) I was convinced it was still beyond me.

I was doing a lot of walking back then though – and as well as becoming increasingly fitter I was beginning to fit into mainstream clothes more often than not. I was still a different man compared to the one I am today – and at 20st 10lbs still had quite a distance to go before I reached my target weight.

When I look back at my mindset then and compare it to the one I have now I can see that without doubt I was still being held back by an increasingly outdated perception of my capabilities. There were a lot of things that I was afraid of trying or tackling head on and certain tasks were so knotted up with fears and memories of how they used to affect me that I avoided them altogether.

This was until my friend eventually grabbed this particular bull by the horns and offered to help start me off with a couple of days clearing it (link).

I (maybe a little pensively) started with his support – fully expecting the (previously ever present) crippling back and joint pain to be immediate – and that I’d be drenched in sweat throughout. It wasn’t easy – but it also wasn’t the sweaty agony I expected – and as the days wore on the process slowly yielded pleasing results.

For one thing I could see my path and the fence again.

After many weeks of chopping branches up into little pieces, trundling back and forth with my wheelbarrow, filling refuse sacks and seemingly endless trips to my local tip I finally cleared it though.

My persistence had won the day but the fact remained though that my satisfaction from doing this wasn’t because I loved the process of gardening. I’d done it purely because I wanted to open my curtains and it had been bugging me for a very long time that I’d let everything slide so badly.

My approach going forward was therefore proactive and ongoing preventive maintenance. ‘Do a little a lot’ was mantra I adopted – and in doing so the garden soon became very much like washing or ironing because although I liked to see it look tidy – in truth it was just another chore around the house and very little more.

However this mindset wasn’t the whole story.

Whilst cutting the bushes back I’d been majorly upset that I’d accidentally disturbed a blackbird nest – and despite trying my best to cover it back up (link) ultimately the elements drove the little family out and their eggs were eaten (link).

I spent a lot of time watching this struggling little family and couldn’t help but fall in love with blackbirds – which (mostly because of their inquisitive behaviour) quickly became my favourite reason for having a garden.

They monitored my activities while I was working and bit by bit became bolder – following the cycles of my digging and mowing to get the choicest morsels for their dinner.

The more bugs and worms I unearthed the happier they were.

Then I started realising that if I made an effort to feed the birds in my garden and left places for them to nest (I stopped cutting back my bushes so brutally and left a thicker canopy) birds would come back and I’d always be able to listen to their pleasing twittering when I was in the kitchen.

Soon after I also started putting bird boxes and feeders in the garden which I regularly filled up with seed balls.

They’ve become quite popular…

The record that I’ve seen this week is five sparrows clinging to it – all chiselling away at the tasty treats – whilst blackbirds and pigeons hoover up the crumbs below.

Over time, and just like me, the garden has taken on a new lease of life.

It’s not just the birds though because I’ve realised that there’s another dynamic at play lately. I enjoy it a lot more with company.

Now the weather has improved when I cook for my partner we tend to sit outdoors and enjoy the birdsong and leafy ambiance together.

Whilst I was weeding my patio and path the other day I realised that I’m no longer making it look nice because I have to. My incentive to maintain it has now shifted and I’ve realised that I’m doing it not as a chore but because I want to share the space with someone else.

It gives me pleasure to know that they like it too.

A garden is a fascinating little eco system that supports any number of little creatures and tending to it (as well as continually being out and about in the wider world) keeps me feeling connected to it in a way that I never was in the past.

On Thursday (in between my various gardening exploits) I visited Coombe Abbey for the first time in a couple of months – and it didn’t fail to disappoint.

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Everything is in bloom – and this applies doubly to the wildfowl.

They’re doing very well indeed this season – and the swanlings (remember those?!) are clearly thriving because there’s plentiful food for them to eat.

There were seven in this particular brood. All seemed to be in rude health and were nibbling away at the wonderful green algae that was absolutely covering the pond they floating around in.

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Full tummies seem to mean more chilled birds – and neither the swanlings or the ducks at Coombe seemed to mind having their picture taken.

When you get closer to them the expectation is instead that you are very likely to have food – and as such a natural fear of human beings quickly evaporates and is replaced in almost all the birds by a willingness to eat seeds directly from your hand.

Coombe is hope to something else of interest though – and it wasn’t there when I last visited.

There’s now a ‘go ape’ facility there and the whole tree line in one area has been repurposed with all manner of climbing ropes, ladders and zip lines.

The prices are a little steep in my view (it’s going to be a wallet battering hour or two for a family of four) but I suppose if you want properly trained staff and good facilities then you have to pay for the privilege.

Whilst I was looking at the notice and saying I’d like to give it a go my friend pointed something out.

The weight I’d lost to get to target (if it was real live person) would have been too heavy to use the facilities! Furthermore if I’d been the same weight as I was when I started clearing my garden they wouldn’t even allow me to buy a ticket!

I plan to give it a go at some point though regardless of the cost because it looks like good fun. Plus over time I’ve realised that somewhere along the line I became ‘outdoorsy‘.

Anyway.

I must get on. I have a lot to do this weekend.

Once again I’m working towards making my partner’s move to Warwick a reality and there’s a whole load of things that need to get done before that can happen.

At least I know though that when she arrives the garden will look ticketty boo!

Davey

P.S.

These photos popped through the letterbox earlier, courtesy of the kind PR people at Slimming World. Friends think I know nothing about football – and that my lack of willingness to watch even world cup matches when they’re on means that I don’t have the first clue regarding the subject.

How wrong they are!!!

I for one will never forget meeting Gary Lineker – although admittedly I thought his ears would be bigger. It just goes to show – your heroes are never what you expect!

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Canal kittens

I’ve been lucky with the weather this week – although this morning appears to be doing all it can to buck that trend. I’m layered up this morning (it’s about 8am) because the wind is cold and the pavements are wet. Thankfully despite some overnight showers it’s currently not raining.

Other days have been kinder and when the sun’s been shining I’ve been exploring around the Yarningdale aqueduct on the Stratford upon Avon canal.

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This section of near Claverdon is one of the nicer places that I’ve ‘found’ recently – although admittedly this stretch was never ‘lost’ – I’d just never been there.

Just a few miles outside Warwick is an easy entry point onto it next to the Crabmill pub on the Henley road. From here I made my way several miles down its towpath with a friend on Wednesday. Pleasingly neither of us had come across this location before – despite us both having driven past it more times than I care to count over the years.

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As in touch as I am with nature these days though I’m not sure that the same can be said for cats. I seem to have completely lost my knack with them – because despite my obvious rugged charm it appears that the kittens clustered around this particular barge wanted absolutely nothing to do with me.

I passed by them twice, first trying to tempt a little black and white kitten to come and get some fuss and then an absolutely gorgeous little grey one on my return journey.

They were totally disinterested.

A man could take the hump if his surroundings weren’t so nice.

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In all we strolled just under six miles along this really rather lovely and rural section of canal – and it made a lovely change from walking along the Grand Union – which I’ve pretty much done to death over the last few years.

Sure – it’s just another canal – but there’s something about the tranquility of their still waters that becomes quite addictive.

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My companion and I enjoyed our walk so much that we plan to go back again and do some more exploring ASAP.

The architecture of this stretch of the canal seems quite different to others. The locks seem thinner, and the bridges are nearly all designed to lift like a drawbridges.

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The ones that aren’t have lovely little sluices at the sides, which seem to do a great job of pushing colourful piles of leaves into the water in swirling patterns.

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It’s a really nice part of the world to explore.

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I’ve also managed to get out and about to what’s becoming something of a familiar stamping ground of late – and on Tuesday did a rather epic (maybe a little too epic on reflection) 12 mile walk from my house in a giant circle to Offchurch and back again.

The tone of the Grang Union canal here is more urban – but I think rather nice in it’s own way, as some of the usual urban decay associated with proximity to such waterways is slowly turning into urban regeneration. With that comes art, and an entirely different kind of kittens that are far more likely to let me stroke them!.

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I find it fascinating that what would once have been considered vandalism (thanks to Banksy and others like him) is now art to be admired and even commoditised in such places.

Furthermore – rather then being an indicator of trouble it’s often seen as an indication that an area is ‘bohemian’ and that there’s new life and potential to be found locally.

I couldn’t have hoped for better weather to see it in either. It was (mostly) glorious that day – and further along the walk my companion and I rounded a corner to find a sea of colour.

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All of the fields nearby were full of little purple thistle like flowers – but I’m really not sure what they’re for or what they are.

I’ve looked online and the closest thing I can find to it is a ‘creeping thistle’ – but I’m not entirely sure that it’s a complete match – so if anyone reading knows what it is or why it’s planted in such large quantities (there were three huge fields full of it!) then let me know because I’m quite curious!

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I’d have happily knocked on the farmer’s door to ask – but for the fact that a passing elderly couple (also enquiring what the blooms were – we were all stumped) said that the rather temperamental land owner had recently been shooting at dogs, and that he wasn’t to be trifled with.

I’m not sure how true it is – but I’m keeping to the footpaths and not wandering over to the farmhouse to jab his doorbell nevertheless. Besides – I have my own land to tend to without worrying about being shot on his.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been bringing some order to my garden before the winter hits.

Parts of it have been a little neglected – but not because I’ve felt lazy. I’ve been cutting back one (rather huge) bush in particular which I purposefully left to grow pretty much out of control for the whole summer.

The rest of the undergrowth was looked after – but this one chunk of my border remained sacrosanct.

Long term readers will remember how distraught I was in June last year when (whilst hacking this particular bit right back practically to stumps) I uncovered a blackbird nest complete with eggs (link).

I was absolutely mortified and immediately tried to cover it back up the best that I could. Initially this seemed to work and for a while the mommy blackbird returned to sit on them.

She did so come rain or shine with the newly exposed nest often rocking violently back and forth in the wind.

The damage was done by then however – and the branches I laid back over the top of it in the hope of giving it cover eventually fell further forward in the wind, making the nest inaccessible. The blackbird was forced out and within hours the eggs were broken open and the contents eaten.

Nature is cruel and at the time this really got to me. I felt totally responsible for the loss of these potential little lives.

This year therefore the bush was left to grow because I could regularly see all kinds of birds going in and out. Even though we’ve experienced a dry summer the hedge still got bigger and bigger and looked more and more unkempt as the months went on.

Despite what the neighbours might have thought though I consciously resolved to leave it alone and I’m glad I did.

When I finally finished cutting it all back on Wednesday afternoon I found this – which made my (rather messy) choice something that I was rather proud of.

A new, used – and now empty nest. Evidence that new life entered the world because I chose not to prune. This really made me happy. Who needs a tidy bush when it means dead birds?

Not me.

However there’s another issue associated with leaving it to grow – because then you have to dispose of it all.

Since I’m not a fan of using the car to take rubbish (or me) anywhere unless absolutely necessary I resolved that all of the branches would fit in the bin regardless of how much they didn’t want to.

All they needed was a bit of energetic chopping and some stamping.

It’s nice to be able to do such things – because even a year ago when I was cutting this back I was six stone heavier and wasn’t quite nimble enough to climb into a bin!

Oddly I felt great at the time (I climbed Snowden at this weight!) but even though I’d lost 14+ stone by then I’m still taken aback by how my features have changed.

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A long time friend remarked to me yesterday that he realised he didn’t remember ‘old Dave’ any more – and that when he looked at recent side by side comparisons on Instagram it suddenly struck him that his past memories of times we shared still have me in them – but I look like I do now – rather than the big guy he knew.

What a thing to say!

How cool is that?!

The idea that I’m continually re-wiring people’s memories of me by presenting a newer version of myself thats fitter and looks radically different is fascinating.

Long may it continue internet!

Davey

Fitness and life

I’ll be honest – I’ve felt a bit off my game this week.

I’ve had a fair bit on my mind and combined with some rather thundery nights and a dog that’s intent on waking me up at ridiculous o’clock in the morning I’ve lost a fair bit of sleep.

It’s meant that when I have been nodding off it’s been at weird hours and consequently emotionally I’ve felt a little sub par.

I’ve been trying to walk it off all week and first started trying to get it off my chest in earnest on Monday whilst twalking with a friend on the Kenilworth Greenway – but it wasn’t until Thursday or Friday that I began to feel the weight of a few things lift.

I’ll write more early next week about one of the things that’s been occupying my thoughts – but over the last couple of weeks several other more important life related issues have been increasingly competing for my conscious and subconscious attention. Some have been more serious than others but all have equally been making me ask the question ‘what’s it all about?’

I’m being vague and evasive about these because whilst honesty is a theme of my blog, undermining myself or betraying the confidence of others is not – so unfortunately I’ve been left without my usual WordPress outlet. Consequently I’ve found myself writing words that will never be posted in an effort to understand and balance my thoughts.

So – you’ll have to forgive me that for the recent gap in my musings and just trust me when I say that I’ve had good reason – and that not all of it has been bad.

In the middle of all of it I’ve found that the one thing that’s been keeping me on an even keel is a willingness to remain on track health wise. Exercise fills a gap in my life that a few years ago I didn’t even realise existed. Now it’s importance in my day to day existence is something I would never have thought possible and my (maybe obsessive) walking continually provides me with a sense of physical AND mental well being.

I’ve been able to get out during my lunch breaks for a walk now the sun is finally peeping out from behind the clouds – and when I do this takes me away from an office and out into nature.

On my daily 2 mile constitutional I’ve seen some of my favourite things – and just around the corner from where I work there are some new neighbours that have moved in.

As vocal as these little guys are I think we’re going to get along just fine.

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Swanlings aren’t the only local residents I’ve been meeting for the very first time too – and I’ve bumped into a species that in all my years I’ve never ever seen before.

This is a Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) that I found just chilling in the grass near the park. It has such amazing colour on its wings that I honestly thought someone had spray painted it by accident until I got up close.

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It’s truly lovely to see all of these little flashes of nature – and I’d be aware of precisely none of it if I was sat at home with the curtains drawn.

I’m 1000% sure that today as I write I’d feel 1,000,000% worse if I’d just stayed in bed for a week feeling glum whilst playing video games.

In fact I’m now back up to my 10 mile a day average thanks to the much improved weather (the rain has mostly held off this week despite some gloomy forecasts) and after setting myself a goal to hit that metric again by the end of May on the 31st I came in bang on target.

Last month I walked 310 miles.

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This means that my step count is getting back up to an average that I’m happy with – and once more I’m in the 20,000 a day zone after a bleak winter which saw me fall well below.

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Of course all of this movement means that the one thing thats actually the most important (and the one metric that I almost solely attribute my reversal of type two diabetes to) is also looking excellent.

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I’m now once again nearing an average of two hours of cardio based exercise per day – which I’m super pleased about.

This means that hopefully a healthy heart and a long (and illness free) future lies ahead of me – AS LONG AS I KEEP IT UP.

You see – there’s always a ghost in the rear view mirror – and I see my rather massive shadow continually looming when I look over my shoulder. As slow moving as it is I feel that every time I think of slowing or actually slow down it gains a little ground.

I often feel that it’s my sole job in life to make sure the distance between us either remains constant or grows ever wider.

Currently I seem to burn (not through exercise) the calories that are expected of a normal man – around 2,500.

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The crazy thing is that even now – with as much as I do every day – I don’t even come close to burning the amount that I used to – and back when I first began my Slimming World journey (just slumped in my armchair at about 33 stone at the end of May 2016) I could eat and burn off a LOT more resting calories than I do now by waking 10 miles a day.

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You can take this with a pinch of salt or not based on how much you believe the widely accepted ‘wisdom’ that a man needs 2,500kcal (and a woman needs 2000) to survive and not lose weight.

I have limited confidence in these figures as absolute fact. 

However – even if they’re only broadly correct they show the obvious strain that being so overweight and unfit had on my overall health.

Now I have to work much harder to expend the same amount of energy and because of my increased fitness, my lower weight and other improvements I have a another stat that I am insanely proud of.

My resting heart rate.

This really really makes me puff up with pride, because it’s still 41bpm and has been at this level or slightly lower ever since Apple Watch’s iOS finally started watching it back in September 2017.

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In many ways (whilst I’m still really focused on it) my weight has ceased to be the thing that’s my ‘daily driver’. Now I’m just focused on always being outside, and being the best version of me that I can.

Thankfully this also has the (pretty ace) side effect of keeping me in target.

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Today I maintained – and (given how I’ve felt this week) that is a massive cause for celebration.

‘How does one mark such success?’ you might ask internet…

‘With a nice long walk’ is of course the answer…

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Davey

 

Plumping up the pillows for birds

I had a lot planned for the day when I started writing this post – and it started really well despite some very disturbed sleep.

I got up, did my shopping as usual and then planned to do the year’s first mow of the front and back lawns. To be honest they both really needed it – and since the last time I looked out of the back curtains things had started growing flipping everywhere.

Now – to be honest I don’t have a need to have a perfectly manicured lawn or perfectly trimmed borders. All I want is a pleasant and well maintained space that’s easy to look after rather than a continuing eye sore that becomes an epic task.

The back took a little longer than expected – but thankfully it was a way better starting point than I began with after years of neglect (due to my weight problems) in the spring of 2017.

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This took literally weeks of hard graft to sort out and many many trips to the tip.

The major downside now though is that I’ve pretty much removed from my borders any potential hiding places for bird life – so the chances of another naturally occurring blackbird nest are pretty slim.

Honestly though the garden is still full of little visitors (including frogs – which narrowly avoided the mower today – yay!) so there must be something I can do…

(Still ruminating on this the author visits Slimming World)

It was quite a busy meeting today – and one of the long standing members finally reached her target weight so there were smiles all around. She seemed a little emotional but also really happy too which was lovely to see.

All the time she’s been losing weight she’s had two jars with 50 marbles – each of which represented a pound that she either needed to lose or had already lost. Every time she lost another one she moved a bauble across to the other receptacle.

Today she went home and moved the last two marbles into the nearly full jar and put her target member certificate next to it.

It just proves that whatever plan you’re on (whether it’s Slimming World or otherwise) the power of coming to a group is apparent. In this lady’s case she was also losing weight with her partner – so they had both spurred each other on.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We’re better in groups – and a little friendly rivalry between two people never hurts either.

Visualising things is really good too – and it reminded me of the tricks I used to use in my own journey to spur myself on.

She may be interested to know that she’s almost lost an entire bag of cement!

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Either way it was wonderful to see her so happy!

For my part I wanted to be on the lower end of my target this week because next week (once again) I won’t be weighing in.

I have a special friend coming to visit me next week and we plan to be intrepid and super outdoorsy – so the next time I step on the scales will be two weeks from now and I’m going to have to be super good in the meantime.

Thankfully I’ve been on point this week – and I had a nice loss. This took me to my lowest recorded Slimming World weight!

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The plan after this was to mow the front lawn and then head off into town to do interesting things – but then it started raining – and on top of that honestly today I feel like poop.

For the second week in a row (last week I had what I think was a stomach bug and took two days off work) I’ve felt really sub par. I’ve currently got a head full of snot and it’s the main reason that last night I didn’t get the rest I needed – so today I resolved to use the car (grrrrr) to go and get what I wanted.

This (surprisingly) didn’t involve a charity shop.

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Since I don’d have a space in the bushes any more for the birds I thought that I’d try and promote a bit of wildlife with a bird box, roosting pouch and a feeder. Hopefully they’ll attract some visitors in the coming weeks, and maybe even get used!!!

If the birds have any taste they will. I think that my ‘beach house bird box’ looks the schnizzle! Only time will tell internet!

Anyway. I’m going to go away and die quietly, drowning in my own snot. It’s been nice knowing you all.

Goodbye cruel world!

Davey

Another bin liner full

That’s it. I give up.

Short of having the heating on 24×7 (something I consider extremely wasteful) I think I’ve resisted the inevitable for too long.

I’ve purchased a hot water bottle.

It’s one in a huge line of changes that I’m just having to accept about my new life. I get cold and I struggle to stay warm. I’ve gone from BEING a radiator of heat to needing to be close to one at all times.

Tonight it’s going to be under my duvet ahead of bedtime and I plan to climb into an oasis of warmth – rather than shivering and curling up into a foetal position for the first 10 minutes like I did last night.

I have no idea how teeny tiny little birds with stick thin legs don’t freeze to death running around on the floor looking for bits and pieces.

I’ve seen loads of these lovely little pied wagtails around lately – mostly at street level locally – but today they were everywhere in the park too.

They scuttle about picking up bits and bobs in a very industrious manner before flying off in a cute lollopy, undulating flight.

How they can fly at all without becoming itty bitty cubes of ice is beyond me though.

The other birds also didn’t seem bothered in the least by the temperature today either – although they at least seem fluffier and more capable of keeping warm.

Although this patch was free of ice the pavements by my house and by the river seemed incapable of thawing – even in direct sunlight – and as I walked around St Nicholas park this morning with my friend I was once again supremely happy with my new coat purchase.

It’s doing exactly what it’s intended to do – which is keeping me warm and dry at all times. Plus it fits perfectly – unlike many other items I own.

Which brings me to another topic.

I’ve had to accept today that lots and lots of very nice clothes that I purchased are now too big for me.

I know this because one very vocal friend continually says ‘that’s too big for you’ when I turn up in an item of clothing that she disapproves of.

It didn’t seem to matter what I tried on today the same problem was apparent in seventeen of my shirts and I knew if I wore any of them in her vicinity then I’d definitely cop some flack.

Not that I mind of course.

Often I don’t even realise that things have changed until someone points it out or pokes me with a sharpened stick.

When I had a bigger stomach and I tried on a shirt or jumper I used to have a ‘tug test’. This was a quick pull of the available material around the waist in an outward direction and if it didn’t give around 4 inches room then I knew that as I sat down that everything would pull taught and I’d look like my buttons were about to pop.

I’ve begun to realise though that my seated waistline (now all the belly fat doesn’t pile up above my belt anymore) is largely the same when I’m seated as it is standing.

This seems to have just happened overnight (well in the last 3-4 weeks anyway) and whilst dramatic weight loss is clearly a thing of the past, becoming more slender and toned is very much a feature of the present.

Continual exercise (even just walking – but maybe also sit-ups) is really making a difference. It still makes me sad though that I now have yet another bin liner full of perfectly nice clothes.

I’m not sure yet what to do with them. Should I keep them ‘just in case’ or is that the wrong mentality? If I don’t and one day I need them will I regret throwing them away?

I never plan to be big again but there may be a time where I experience ‘fluctuations’. I don’t know what’s in the future. Maybe I should get rid of the lot as a statement that things will never ever go that way again – but it seems at odds with my usually thrifty approach to life – and wasteful in the extreme to discard them.

However – if nothing else there’s at least one up side to my ‘problem’.

Whilst rummaging around today I found a receipt from late January 2017. It was from an outsize clothing retailer in Leamington and it was for £110 – an amount more that Supercoat 3 cost me last week.

The contents of the docket? Three shirts.

I was quickly transported back to what buying clothes meant a year ago – and how I was held hostage by the prices that specialist shops can charge. They have you over a barrel – and if you want to look presentable you have no choice.

In contrast (as I looked through the newly filled bin liner of 2xl shirts) the very most that a single item cost me in there (apart from one impulse purchase brand new) was £5. The vast majority were £3.50-£4.00 – and that’s pretty much what I spend per item (including trousers and jeans and jumpers) these days.

So my wardrobe may be relatively bare again – but at least now the things I’m currently purchasing (hopefully) aren’t going to need discarding soon – and they won’t break the bank.

Anyway internet – I must get walking again. I’ve only done 10 miles today and I need to get another 3-4 in so that I can maintain my average for the week.

Plus I was a bit of a piggy-wiggy last night and sat munching fruit in front of the TV when I should have been doing something else with my hands.

After I posted yesterday’s blog stats (about how getting rid of a pound of fat requires over 3300 calories to be burned) I’m supremely aware that I need to move my ass 😂

Davey

The Snipe

Whereas I used to be the undisputed Jedi Master of not doing much at all, these days (despite probably needing to rest a little more occasionally) I can’t stop myself from endlessly moving from A to B.

It’s definitely an addiction now. I can’t do without it. I get really fidgety if I’m not outdoors when I have spare time.

I honestly feel like I’m cheating myself if I relax – and despite spending a lot of yesterday feeling a bit off colour it didn’t really dissuade me from still clocking up the miles, and I finished on 9.5 and almost completed my 20,000 steps.

When I awoke this morning at 6.30 my first thought (apart from wondering which herd of buffalo had been farting in my room all night) was to check the weather.

The forecast wasn’t good. Rain from midday onwards and some of it quite heavy.

Day ruined?

Hell no!

That’s just a set of circumstances that you find yourself having to take hold of events quicker than usual. I hopped in the shower, got changed, put some waterproofs and an emergency coffee in my rucksack and around an hour later headed out.

I’d consciously taken my cue from a bird from yesterday’s walk that never made the cut in my blog last night – who I’ve nicknamed ‘The Snipe’ after Kevin the bird in Pixar’s ‘UP!’

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This was actually a female pheasant (link) who was (like my companion and I) was making its way along a footpath with dense borders on either side – but rather than take flight to avoid us it was perpetually running away from my companion and myself – and forever on the horizon, just out of zoom range from my camera and showing little more than tail feathers.

Finally we turned into a quarry and it made it’s escape on open ground, running with gusto for the security of a distant hedge.

I liked it’s style though.

I bet it really wasn’t sure why it was running – as there was nothing threatening about our behaviour – but nevertheless it was doing what nature intended it to do – and seemed happy enough.

I feel the same a lot of the time and I certainly did this morning. Despite still feeling slightly peeky (this is the correct spelling in Daveyland by the way for those who queried my choice yesterday. PEAKY is my hat – which is an easy mistake to make) I resolved to just get up and see where co-incidence took me.

Initially I thought I might go further afield than usual – but as I arrived at the train station the one I had planned to catch was just pulling away – with a two hour wait for the next one.

Plan B.

Stalking birds.

Although the weather was due to be awful later – by this point it was still quite nice – and there was even an occasional warm ray of sunshine.

This meant that when quite by chance when a Heron popped up from the river next to the bench I was sitting on in the park I got almost the perfect photo opportunity.

 

After a short while edging ever closer he/she finally sensed me getting too near and took off. After watching him gracefully re-locate I gathered my things together and checked my texts.

Ooooh! A coffee opportunity two miles away with my brother!

I slung my pack over my back, swigged the last of my drink and headed into town.

Along the way everything seemed quiet and green this morning – with next to no people at all down by the river.

There are usually lots of dog walkers and families passing through here and I’ve rarely stood by any of the bridges along the way without someone crunching along the gravel behind or in front of me.

Today though it was just me and pigeons – which for some reason made me stop and examine the rusty panels that I’ve blindly walked under many times before. They seemed strangely alluring in the light today and the greens all around me seem to be pulling the autumnal colours out of the metal.

I wonder how this will look when the leaves start to turn orange? I’ll have to come back and check in a few weeks!

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Within another 20 minutes I was in town and drinking my second coffee of the day – and chatting to my brother. I unzipped my bag when (picking up a menu) he asked if I was also eating breakfast in the cafe.

‘Breakfast is free today!’ I said as I showed him the apples in my rucksack.

This may seem rather cheap of me – but on my way into town there’s a really kind home owner that clearly has a lot of apple trees – and they leave their surplus fruit on the garden wall for people to take.

This morning I’d grabbed a few as I passed by and they tasted delicious!

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My brother laughed. I think he’s used to my penny pinching lately.

In contrast he’s got a shiny new toy and I couldn’t help but admire it’s heft.

It’s a chunky metal Android Wear smartwatch that wouldn’t look out of place on James Bond’s wrist. If weight is an indicator of quality then it’s definitely well made – and I began to wonder as I held it whether I preferred the square (which is maybe slightly nerdy now) Apple Watch face, or the classic appeal of a wearable with a circular face that actually looks like a real watch.

I’ve been thinking lately about Fitbits – not with a view to buying anything (with my non existent money) but just considering what I would do if my little friend suddenly died.

I doubt I would want to do without a fitness stat tracker anymore (it’s driven a huge amount of positive change in my behaviours) but now that my chief consideration is cost my choices would probably be very different if I had to make them again.

Despite me not liking the look of Fitbits I can’t deny that they do a very good job of their intended purpose, plus their phone application is superb – and way better than Apple’s own (IMHO).

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The latest Fitbit Iconic (link) however seems very highly priced (£299!) and even uglier and more plasticky than its predecessor, despite being loaded with really useful features…

My brother and I (and his wife) agreed that this soon to be launched Fitbit was designed for Shrek, said our goodbyes and headed off to enjoy the rest of Sunday – which by now was going to be pretty damp.

It had started to rain while we discussed watches, but despite this I pulled up my hood and carried on in the opposite direction to home. I’d only done five miles. There was more to accomplish.

Sadly there was little to tickle my fancy once the rain started – and I really did look for things to do! Everything appeared to be closing or had failed to open at all today,

Everywhere seemed empty of life and people.

I took shelter for a little while in another park. As I munched on an apple I watched some geese – who unlike me were total gluttons for punishment and had chosen (in the increasingly inclement weather) to stand on the edge of a fountain in the middle of a pond.

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They appeared to be really enjoying the soaking!

However – despite the day driving me slowly back under cover or indoors as I type at home I’ve done exactly 10.5 miles, meaning that my beloved average is intact and I have 20 miles and 40,000 steps completed for the weekend.

(Author’s borderline OCD breathes a silent sigh of relief)

I came home and cooked a rather lovely (even if I do say so myself) dinner that was fully on plan and then made myself a syn free frozen berry and yogurt dessert – so although it’s been a scrappy day I think it’s still been a success.

I didn’t spend it slumped on the sofa – which is always a win.

I think overall I did the snipe proud.

In other (possibly irrelevant) news I turned the heating on today for the first time in months and then put some fleecy jogging bottoms and a thick jumper on.

I never used to get cold, but the more weight I lose the more I notice it.

It’s weird – but also kind of brilliant!

Davey

Wyken Slough nature walk

Today was supposed to be more inclusive of gradients and hills – and I was originally planning another exploration of the hills and tracks around Ilmington – however at 5am I was awoken by the hammering rain outside my window.

Fields full of livestock don’t make for particularly good walking after a huge downpour – and you tend to find that the corners where stiles and gates reside have two different kinds of deep mud. One smells really bad and the other smells almost as bad…

So my friend suggested that instead we take a walk along the Wyken Way – which is just on the outskirts of Coventry. As it’s somewhere I’d never been before I was pretty happy to go somewhere new – especially one with a nature reserve along the way.

The start of our walk was on the canal – right next to our parking space – and immediately as we crossed a bridge onto the towpath I could see that recent regeneration of the area had taken place. Both sides of the bridge were adorned with some really cool metalwork wildlife sculptures – which (like the signs dotted about nearby) suggested that there were Kingfishers locally.

Sadly – despite both of us saying we’d never seen one before none were apparent as we made our way along the canal side. What was apparent however was that swanlings seemed to have a pretty good life in this area – and even before we got to the nature reserve I saw probably the largest surviving armada of them that I think I’ve ever come across.

Given that the brood that swans normally seem to have appears to be around 6/7 – unlike the swans in my local park – this family looked like all of them had all survived, which was really incredible!

They were all really lively and healthy too – and very inquisitive indeed, coming up to see us and nibble the grassy bank.

Further up the canal we came to a fork – and stopped to briefly ask for some directions. The canal volunteer in the blue jersey retreated into his little hut, and much to the obvious delight of my companion returned with a huge OS map – and proceeded to point to where we were and where he thought we had to go.

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I was quite impressed – but as we moved away twalking and laughing my friend quietly pointed out that hers was a better resolution and showed much more detail.

I could be wrong but I think I detected a teeny tiny hint of competitive cartography in my vicinity. Never compete with a girl’s map resolution. It will end badly.

The opposite side of the canal appeared to mostly be taken up with national grid infrastructure – and there were many warning signs, along with lots of ‘planted steps’ for water voles, of which there were allegedly loads.

However they seemed to be hiding in the same place as the Kingfishers today because despite them having tons of places to climb in and out of the water they all seemed to have gone on holiday.

I imagine they were probably sunning themselves on a nice beach elsewhere while we stood in the rain on the bank opposite their empty homes waiting for a fleeting glimpse of their noses.

However although there were no voles there were some interesting bugs on the opposite bank…

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After a while (and a particularly muddy field full of cow s**t later) we found ourselves on a path to the Wyken Slough Nature Reserve.

As you may expect the rain has been a constant feature of the day – and despite the really rather miserable conditions it can produce (wet legs and leaky boots I’m looking at YOU) there’s also some real beauty to be found when things get a fresh soaking – and along this tiny overgrown lane everything seemed to be about to drip, but not quite making it to the ground. Every bush and branch had a weight and pregnant poignancy that probably only lasted for a matter of minutes while we were there and then was gone again.

At that moment in time everything looked wonderful.

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It was around here that we got a little lost – and spent a while walking into bushes and routes that effectively became dead ends around the back of an industrial estate.

But exploring is fun!!!

Getting lost is fun!!!

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This didn’t last for too long however and we soon found our destination – along with a huge marsh of bullrushes.

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On the other side of the path however was an army of swans, ducks, gulls and coots!

I couldn’t make out whether they were happy to see me and wanted food, or whether I was in imminent danger, as when I moved in for a closer look the swans (of which there were a LOT seemed to be making a rather direct path toward me…

Unbeknown to me my companion (clearly enjoying the sight of me being stalked by a swan or two) was taking a video of her own…

Thankfully I didn’t get mauled and won’t be appearing on in any swan snuff videos on YouTube any time soon!

Shortly after this we decided to head back to a pub we’d passed earlier on the walk at the canal junction and have a bite to eat. We eventually found ourselves inside what turned out to be an unusually busy Tuesday lunchtime service.

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However, despite the Greyhound proclaiming it was a ‘triple award winning venue’ (and I hate to be critical but if the cap fits) it seemed to be staffed by people who had no idea who should be sitting where or the order in which people should served and were surrounded by lots of tables full of customers waiting for their lunch. Each table’s occupant looked either very annoyed or very bored and had half empty drinks glasses in front of them along with irritable, hungry children.

After we’d had our drinks we decided to move on rather than order and wait an eternity for food and have a coffee at home – saving £5.50 for a baked potato in the process.

This actually turned out to be quite fortuitous – because on the way back from my friend’s house (after being pleasantly caffeinated by her) I decided to check Kenilworth to see if there were any unicorn trousers. 

I found not one, but TWO pairs within budget! I’d wanted to pay no more than a fiver – but each were £3.99 – and my favourite of the two was an almost BRAND new M&S pair!

I have no idea what’s going on with the residents of Kenilworth – but the tags were still on one shirt that I picked up today – giving a clear indication of just what a bargain hunt my clothes shopping has suddenly become!

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I now have multiple really really nice outfits of practically brand new clothes in my wardrobe for less than the cost of a single shirt when I was an 8XL guy!

To be honest it’s been a great day. 

I’ve had excellent company and lots of chats with lots of friends. I’m also seriously winning with regard to non-scale victories.

If I ever ever decide to backtrack on any of the good choices I’ve made lately in life I want to remember how I feel today – and I’m so glad that I’ve gotten into the habit of writing it all down so that I can prove to myself if I need to what I feel and sound like when life is good and things are clicking into place.

I can walk for miles, I have great friends, I can get into cheap good quality clothes – and I have a sense of positivity that not only propels me forward, but that occasionally I can see rubbing off on others in a way that it never used to.

Although from time to time I have bad days internet the vast majority of them now are ones where I lift my head off the pillow and I’m just thankful I get another day full of possibilities.

Even if they so far have not contained a single Kingfisher…

Davey

Introducing friends

This morning I’ve been out with a couple of firm friends, who only met each other for the first time this today…

Initially they were quite wary – but in no time at all after some introductions they were getting on famously.

Probably bonded by their mutual love of bird watching Boris and Freckles seem to get along pretty well when they first met, and happily sniffed each other’s behinds for a while as their pet humans above greeted one another with (less socially developed) handshakes.

I doubt that Freckles and Boris would have minded me joining in – but I didn’t want to intrude and instead stuck to human pleasantries. Also – as fragrant as their behinds must be I was actually more interested in the other wildlife – of which there was quite a lot today at Arrow Valley.

The Pooches also seemed unusually willing to be photographed this morning.

Normally they refuse to stay still for the camera, yet today here they were allowing me to take snap after in focus snap.

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You might think that I’m a charming Dr Doolittle given how calm and collected they are, or what sweet little cherubs they have been to pose for my photo. However what you can’t see just behind me is the piraña like feeding frenzy going on.

A little girl was flinging giant lumps of bread to a growing collection of birds at the official ‘invigorate the ravenous little monsters with wings‘ baked goods slinging platform – and Boris and Freckles were both transfixed by the resulting commotion.

As I turned away from them to watch it struck me that some days what initially might seem like a great stroke of luck is actually the exact opposite.

Sometimes life isn’t what you expect when you’re the little duck that catches the golden crust.

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I think that the moral of the story today is ‘don’t **** with the seagulls‘…

As we left the beleaguered little quackers and continued around the park it was clear however that not all was well elsewhere. The strike by refuse collectors in Birmingham is having a pretty dramatic effect on this usually well kept space and the bins are currently overflowing at each and every corner.

(you don’t need photos of this – it was grim)

People have left carrier bags full of rubbish close to them and as you might expect with a lot of wildlife around these are quickly getting ripped open. Frankly the park is a mess today – and I really hope that this doesn’t hurt the birds – especially the fledglings.

On the main island there are a few nesting Herons – and from what I read on the visitor centre bird spotting chart they have some young with them. However when I looked I couldn’t see any – and only one of my full zoom photos of an adult came out clear enough to use.

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Apart from the overflowing bins and the skinhead-like seagulls though Arrow Valley was quite serene today. Whilst idly strolling we did around 3 miles around the reserve – all the time with Freckles and Boris sniffing away in the bushes and trotting back and forth to say hello to passers by and other dogs.

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As lovely as all this was though I must fill my green exercise ring on Apple Watch (which sedate strolls do not do sadly) otherwise my OCD will cause my head to explode. As lovely as my amble was I needed to do MORE!

Since I am still in need of a pair of black trousers, I headed out when I got home for a brisker walk into town to try and find some.

Sadly these are proving difficult to find – especially given that I have mentally budgeted only £5 for them. All in all I walked a further six miles trying to find my mythically cheap item of unicorn clothing and returned empty handed – but I will persevere!

(I have heard a rumour that there are some in a pot – just at the end of a rainbow!)

On the plus side every step I do is something toward the scales next week – and given that the theme of last Saturday’s image therapy session was step counting and ‘body magic’ (exercise with Slimming World counts to awards) I’ve been trying to keep my numbers up.

On Saturday I finished with 21,314 steps, Sunday was 13,057, and today is currently 22,110 – so I’m hopefully on track for an average of 20,000 a day (around 10 miles).

I’m also trying to ‘tweak’ my food a little bit to reduce calories and today swapped out kidney beans from my favourite chilli dish and replaced them with an aubergine and some chopped green and black beans (both of which came from a friend’s allotment and were delicious).

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The other ingredients were a courgette, broccoli, red pepper, leeks, mushrooms and 5% fat pork mince. The seasoning was cumin, smokey paprika, chilli powder, salt, a beef stock cube, some garlic – and finally to season some freshly chopped coriander was thrown in at the end.

Honesty this was so good that I may just forgo the kidney beans altogether from now on. A can of them has 280kcal in it – whereas an entire aubergine has 50Kcal – and 100g of green beans has 25kcal.

Thats over 200kcal saved today!

Finally – Rusty McBike is now back in the saddle!

Well – at the very least Rusty has a new (old) saddle (courtesy of a friend’s dusty garage contents) and although I’ve not yet had a chance to properly test her out on a long journey yet things currently seem very secure indeed.

She has even got a new donated strap-on gel butt cushion to alleviate the intensely bruised bottom that the previous saddle was immediately capable of giving me. It’s early days but I’m hopeful that this superb combo means that we’re going to be very happy together.

If worst comes to worst another friend has been a dumpster diving hero and secured yet another saddle clamp from the clutches of a nearby skip (in the right hand pic). As rough as it looks as long as I have a spare then I’m pretty happy.

It saves money on eBay and every little bit can go to my unicorn trousers!

As soon as I get a chance I’ll take her out for a spin and let you know how I get on. It’s most likely to be Wednesday however as I have even more planned for tomorrow! Time and tide waits for no man!

Anyway – I must get some sleep – nighty night internet.

Davey

Snowdonia part 2

(The story so far)

Our intrepid hero was lying in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar hotel room listening to the gentle snoring of his friend on the mezzanine level above him and unable to sleep because he was very excited. He was about to climb a mountain.

But not just any mountain – Snowdon!!!

(and now – our feature presentation continues!)

My alarm started beeping at 5.30am – the time both my companion and I agreed to get up and make a start. We’d heard that parking was something of a hassle at Pen Y Pass, which was the start of the ‘Miner’s Track‘, and where we were beginning our assault on Snowdon.

Pretty much all of the packing had been done the night before – and we’d both prepared for every eventuality. In each of our packs we had emergency first aid (including foil blankets and duct tape), food (I had 5 x pressed fruit bars and a 200g bag of fruit and nut totalling around 1600kcal), 2 litres of water, waterproof over clothes, an emergency whistle, plasters… (the list went on).

In addition to this I was also taking a lightweight mac, a jumper, a spare tee-shirt, spare pants, socks, a wooly hat, gloves, walking poles, a camera, my mobile phone, and a battery charger plus cables.

It’s fair to say the packs were heavy – but contained what we felt were sensible items to bring along. The weather was forecast to be changeable later in the day and we didn’t want to be stuck without important stuff.

We opened the door and marvelled at the morning. The sky was a clear blue and the sun was just coming up. A mist was rolling along the valley and everything was cool and fresh. It looked awesome!

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We arrived at the car park at 6.50am – a little later than we’d planned and boy were we lucky! We managed to snag the last parking space! It was a really tight one that no-one seemed to want – but my friend still managed to thread the needle and fit it in with a little room to spare.

We headed off.

Given the torrential conditions the day before (link) it was pretty surprising that the weather (there were dire predictions all week leading up to Saturday) was so nice. As we headed out there was almost no-one around either, and the path (apart from the occasional runner) was almost completely deserted.

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For those that have never walked the Miner’s Track, the first 2/3rds of it is a well maintained trail that ascends very gradually along 3 small lakes (with some rougher, steeper steps) and then becomes quite challenging.

We were making surprisingly brisk progress to begin with – and I was initially unsure whether bringing the walking poles was a good idea. They seemed like a useless nuisance to begin with – but I persisted – trying to match my stride with my arms.

By 7.20am we’d reached the first lake – which was crystal clear and completely serene.

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We were both feeling a bit warmer now, as the sun was getting higher – and carried on up the largely deserted path that wound its way along the hillsides climbing slowly further up.

Before long in the distance we could see the tip of a little building. There are a few of these along the way – and all by the lakes, so they’re a good visual indicator of progress. If you see one in the distance then you’re nearly there.

And then we were! At 7.40 am the second lake sprang into view – and the weather seemed to be continuously improving!

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We were making very good time at this point and saw no reason to stop for a break, so we powered on.

After the second lake the path started to rise more sharply, and moved from being a flatter, gravelled surface to one that was made from larger stones (almost like a roman road). I looked at Apple Watch and my pulse had now climbed from the low 90’s to around 122. This was now feeling a bit more like exercise!

By the time we reached the third lake it was 8.30am and I was drenched. Although my lightweight mac was keeping me warm it was also making me a boil in the bag meal – so I tied it to the back of my pack along with my wooly hat, and carried on with just my tee-shirt – which was nice and cool in the breeze.

This was where the hill became a mountain, and the climbing became more technical. Although there was a rough path ahead through assorted rocks and loose stone it was now less than obvious which way to go – and it was possible to head up what looked like easy rocks only to be headed off by a more challenging step – and in a couple of cases I turned around and tried a different route.

This was really hard work.

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It took a while to get up this first part – and it’s at this point where the ‘Pyg track‘ and ‘Miners Track‘ intersect. It was also at this point that both my companion and I began to wonder whether or not we’d brought too much stuff.

There were a couple of times that while hopping from rock to rock I felt myself tipping backwards, and it wasn’t a pleasant sensation. We decided to sit down for a while on a nearby boulder and have our first rest stop. It was now 9.25am.

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As I sat munching my first two pressed fruit bars of the day and drinking my water I noticed a visitor sitting next to me. Normally his kind are camera shy, but this guy appeared to rather like the attention and was watching me intently – in the hope I had spare food.

He even made absolutely sure he kept in shot for my panorama video and gave me a special take off shot too!

After a short while (and maybe a little reluctantly – the view was great) we decided to move on.

If I’d thought the worst was behind me I was dead wrong. Even though the surface was less uneven, and the rocks less likely to move beneath you the climb was both steep and challenging. The walking poles had by now already come into their own and they were a godsend for balance and a sense of security.

Without them I think I’d have been pretty nervous in some places.

Although I’ve lost a lot of weight I’m still far from nimble – and I felt that now I was slowing down a lot. However, in the distance (at the top, middle of this pic) I could see the crest of the path. The (almost) end was in sight!

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After some more slow but persistent climbing I reached the coin marker (a post with a mass of copper coins jammed into it by climbers – I know not why!) near to the crest and stopped to take a photo of the view below. Because of the angle of the first lake only two can be seen together – but it’s still a spectacular sight.

It was now 10.15am.

I turned around – there wasn’t far to go – and if I managed to get to the top quickly I could send my Slimming World group (which normally starts at 10.30) a pic to prove that I’d done it!

Then, with a second wind of energy we soon hopped over the crest, to a wonderful view of the valley the other side of Snowdon, and the mountain railway passing on it’s way down to Llanberis.

The view was too nice not to stop and take a picture – so we took a moment to drink in the surroundings and record it for posterity!

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However there was still more to climb – and in the distance I could see the monument we needed to reach – and it was crawling with people.

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We carried on up the increasingly large steps – and I looked continually at my watch. I could still send Angie and others a picture if I was quick.

Then, at 10.52 – after four hours we stood at the summit, 1035m above sea level with a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

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I’m not going to lie – I was expecting this to be quite emotional – but by now I was more interested in having a wee, sitting down and having something to eat! It’s amazing how your priorities shift after four solid hours of strenuous exercise!

Thankfully next to the monument is a cafe and after going to the loo (ohmygoshthatwassoooooogreat!) eating (nomnomnomnomnom!) and a quick change of upper clothing (sowarmandcosynowitssnugandlovely!) we sat outside to admire the view, send some more texts and selfies to people and agree upon which route we were going to take back down.

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We’d planned well in advance that taking the (supposedly) easier Llanberis Path back down would mean less knee and quadricep pain – but we’d almost changed our mind during the ascent. However things had again changed quite quickly. The miner’s track was a known quanitity, but it was now completely besieged by hordes of people going in both directions, and the narrow, more challenging sections of the route seemed like a scary prospect with heavy packs.

We decided to opt for the safer, but longer way down, in the hope things would work out well.  The weather was also clouding over a bit now and rain had been forecast for later in the day.

We headed off at about 12pm.

Well – we now know that safe and steady in terms of heading down a mountain also means ‘utterly endless quadricep torture with some occasionally nice views’.

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By 12.30pm I was already beginning to feel the burn and relying even more heavily on the walking poles as the first 1/3 of the descent to Llanberis is pretty darn steep. By 1pm I badly needed to sit down, and we both agreed it was time to chill for a while and admire the view.

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It’s also around about here that my friend revealed a startling ability to ‘vogue’ for the camera – and displayed what I thought was initially a high altitude stroke but learned moments later that it was actually a particularly stubborn fart that required some enhanced concentration to shift.

Thank goodness for a mountain breeze!

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Following this moment this my photographic documentation of the walk became a lot more spotty – and after an unbelievably arduous and leg shredding hike down to a bus stop that never seemed to arrive (to get back to the car) during some driving rain at 3.30pm we eventually (wearing full waterproofs) reached a small cafe and a Taxi rank at the end of the Llanberis Path.

Honestly at this point I would have signed over a kidney to someone if they would make the pain in my legs stop and I wasn’t alone. Both of us were broken and the prospect of moving another inch was unconscionable.

We’d walked almost 10 miles up and over Snowdon to get to where we were and neither of us wanted to take a single step further.

We gladly stumped up £15 for the taxi to take us back to the start of our walk and at exactly 4pm – a gruelling nine hours after we started we climbed out of the taxi and onto the tarmac of Pen Y Pass.

I could have frankly married the cab driver – and borne his children.

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Amazingly – despite grumbling for much of the way about the weight of the packs we’d taken (they were a stone and a half each) we’d used almost every item we brought with us. It was all useful – and in retrospect made me marvel at the lady we passed wandering up the mountain in a thin summer dress and flat bottomed deck shoes.

I bet she got soaked!

Finally, through a superhuman feat of physical prowess that was probably only manageable by a woman (I was reliably informed) my friend drove the 20 minutes back to the hotel, where we each had a really well deserved shower and lie down for an hour.

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We were absolutely shattered.

I can’t honestly ever remember being that destroyed in recent memory – but as I lay on the bed I realised how proud I felt of both of us and what we’d achieved.

I’d been worried all day long about what I was eating – insistent that I didn’t want to over indulge in energy rich processed foods and destroy all my good work – and it occurred to me once again how much my life has changed.

I was paranoid about eating any kind of unknown food in a wrapper or large bags of nuts because I’m so unused to it now. They’re no longer in my dietary lexicon.

I’m so different to the man that I used to be in April 2016 and climbing Snowdon was a watershed.

It’s a moment in time that no-one can take away from me.

This is something I planned for, worked towards, that I lost fifteen stone of fat to achieve and I deserve to feel great about.

And I do.

I REALLY do.

I did treat myself a little though.

I had a baked potato with tuna and mayo and coleslaw with mayo later that evening (we went back to the cafe from the night before) which I’d never normally do.

I did leave the butter to one side though – one can’t go crazy after all…

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Did I feel guilty?

Hell no internet! I totally deserved that spud! I really really worked for it!!!

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Davey

P.S. Tune in tomorrow for the final Part 3!!!

Brandon Marsh

I’ve been in gentle exploration mode today – with the emphasis on stopping to look at things rather than clambering over stuff and moving quickly.

Although I’d originally planned a return trip to Ilmington Downs today (original visit here) for some hill based cardio exercise I’m still being troubled by some stubborn blisters on my left foot from over two weeks ago – and despite having a day here or there where I do a bit less to promote healing (and using some fancy plasters) they don’t seem to be shifting easily. Annoyingly others appear to be joining the party – which isn’t really helped by me buying some 2nd hand walking boots from eBay.

These are not the cause of my current blisters – but I need to wear them and get used to them at a time when my feet don’t want to be in boots at all.

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Tread wise they seem hardly used – and the soles are very comfy – however the left foot appears to have part of the inner membrane above the toes slightly twisted, making the boot feel a little cramped compared to the right one. They were 1/3 of the cost of the same pair new though, so I guess beggars can’t be choosers!

On the plus side the leather is supple enough for them to not require much ‘breaking in’ and so far they seem to be quite servicable. They need to be. I have big plans for them in the near future. So – in order to minimise any further poking of the ‘blister bear’ (blister bear doesn’t like being poked) today my companion and I went for a leisurely stroll at yet another place I’ve not been to before.

Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve and the nearby Brandon Woods.

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I’m beginning to wonder just how many locations there are like this that I’ve never been to. I’ve been exploring my local area for a while now and Warwickshire appears to continually throw up new (to me at least) and cool little spaces full of life and interest.

The nature reserve is one of those places however where teeny tiny bits of wildlife are completely missable if you don’t take the time to stop and look.

Take this little guy for instance. He’s about 1cm across and is teeny tiny.

I only just avoided stepping on him as he hopped across the path in front of me.

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Shortly after meeting him we stopped at one of the hides along the way – and looked for a while at all of the serene water birds just going about their business. There’s a pretty varied bunch here – and it’s really calming just watching swans and other birds float past your seat.

After sitting just tantalisingly out of reach for a while (I need a longer zoom lens!!!) from the really interesting species we moved on and it was here that I started to pay close attention to all of the insect life – which is legion around here.

 

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Although the flowers are currently well past their prime it’s not stopping the smaller residents enjoying the bounties they have to offer. A really varied selection of bees (the reserve also sells its own honey and candles) were all buzzing around busily collecting pollen and carrying it from place to place, making sure the delicate order of things is maintained.

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Maybe because it was pretty humid and moist today it was easy to get a sense that this place wasn’t just about conservation – but also about procreation. As with the little swanling above there was evidence everywhere that this was a place where gettin’ jiggy with it was the way forward.

It’s a good thing these guys aren’t shy.

I got a ringside seat.

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They weren’t the only ones taking time to enjoy the steamy conditions – there were many others nearby – and although the sun wasn’t shining brightly it seemed to bother none of them. They were all lost in their day jobs – which appeared to either be making whoopee, eating as much as they could before the seasons changed – or before their short life spans ended.

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After we’d spent a little while walking around the reserve we were back at the gift shop and decided that a stroll around the nearby Brandon Woods would be a nice way to round off the day.

I have to say I couldn’t have agreed more. The words ‘moist’ and ‘woodland’ always seem to go well together – particularly if paths are well maintained – and in this case they were. Lots of eager people were busy re-barking the trails and trimming back the brambles that were encroaching a little too far.

Although small this little piece of woodland is clearly loved by people nearby – and I can understand why. It’s supremely peaceful.

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By the time we’d returned to the reserve there was a definite need for coffee (isn’t there always?) and thankfully they had a really nice little cafe.

Initially I was confused. Normally there’s an unspoken table etiquette where you leave (if possible) a distance between you and the person at the next table – however in this cafe everyone was sitting close to each other, by the window. It was then I realised that the ground outside was teeming with bullfinches, sparrows, robins, blue tits, blackbirds, and chaffinches.

There were loads of bird feeders full of nuts, seeds and fat and the little guys were loving it!

This pretty much ruined any conversation we were having – as half way through a sentence both of us kept tailing off with ‘Oooh look at that!!!… Oh it’s gone!’ again and again.

Shortly after trying (and failing in most cases) to make conversation and take photos through cafe windows we moved on, headed for the car and then home.

However – sometimes it’s at the most unexpected moments when you see the nicest things, and just as we were driving out to the main road my companion noticed a slowly moving (I think it had a limp) but very beautiful pheasant. I stopped to let it cross the road – wound down the windows and quietly grabbed a couple of snaps as it passed by me and into the nearby reed beds.

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This site apparently used to be a quarry – and it’s very heartening indeed to see something that used to be an industrial hole in the ground returned to something that holds so much life and diversity.

Overall a leisurely 6(ish) miles of strolling yielded some of the most pleasant views of wildlife that I’ve seen in a while!

Stop and look at the flowers internet – you never know what you’ll see – and watch out for teeny tiny froggies!

Davey

 

Draycote Water and fresh Apples

Today started well.

VERY well in fact.

A knock at the door early on revealed a smiling UPS courier and a small package. Inside was a (quite unexpected) presentation box wrapped in cellophane. When I opened it I could scarcely have been happier with the contents!

Instead of my old friend returning to my loving bosom I have a NEW AND IMPROVED FRIEND! 

I’ve had my teeny companion since September 2015 – and it’s seen some revisions since it was originally launched. My ‘1st generation’ model was eventually superseded by a ‘2nd generation’ series 1 and series 2 devices in late 2016. Both of these were upgraded versions of the original. Series two had GPS and water proofing – but crucially the series 1 had a faster processor than my 1st gen version which was then removed from sale.

Clearly Apple didn’t think it was cost effective to replace my 1st gen sensor (the circular panel housing it on the underside had come loose, making it turn like a bezel) and have now upgraded my nearly two year old watch to a brand new series 1!

How’s about that for customer service?!

After quickly restoring my settings from an old backup my new Apple Watch was soon right where it belonged – on my wrist – and waiting for instructions.

It soon got (quite literally) it’s marching orders, as today I’d planned to go for a walk with a friend. He’d originally suggested that we go somewhere further afield – but knowing I’d have to wait in for a parcel we had instead agreed to go a little closer to home – and have a look at somewhere neither of us had ever been.

Draycote Water (link).

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This is a Severn Trent reservoir – and according to wikipedia it can hold more than a few kettles worth of H2O…

The reservoir was created in the 1960s and was opened in January 1969 and is by far the largest expanse of water in Warwickshire. It covers more than 600 acres (240 hectares) and holds up to 5 billion gallons (23 million m³) of water.

As you might imagine it’s pretty big – and is expansive enough to have a five mile circular walk around the outskirts of it – meaning that there’s plenty of places to sit on the reservoir wall and have lunch.

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We started out quite gingerly – mostly due to my ongoing war wounds from a week ago. I got some pretty epic blisters during my 17 mile walk to Solihull (link). I had convinced myself that they were fixed up and as good as new – until I embarked upon my energetic 8 mile march around Warwick and Leamington yesterday.

Unfortunately this resulted in (amongst other things) the angry looking 3cm wide red/black/purple one on my left foot flaring up again. Today it was once again covered in elastoplast to reduce friction and pressure – but there’s only so much you can do to something that ideally you should just leave alone and allow to recover.

I can’t help myself though. I need to walk – and it’s really annoying to have loads of energy in your legs but to have sore feet that slow you down or eventually stop you altogether.

Thankfully we soon stopped for a bite to eat after a mile and a half or so, sat on the wall, looked out across the water and rummaged through our respective carrier bags.

Whilst my friend had packed a cheese and onion sandwich I had a whole cucumber. This had been a present from him the previous day and was fresh from his allotment. It was small (like a chunky courgette) and crisp (like a gherkin) and before setting out I’d chopped it into some basmati rice along with a can of mackerel and some beetroot.

Paired with a flask of coffee this (maybe odd – but delicious) combination went down really nicely!

However – if there was EVER a time I was kicking myself for not bringing a proper camera with me then today was that time. It was quickly apparent that the whole place was teeming with wildlife – and there were quite a few birds I’d not seen before. The Draycote birding site has a link to a list of the species that have been seen in 2017 and it’s MASSIVE (see here).

Annoyingly my iPhone just couldn’t do any of this justice – and the only things I could capture that didn’t look like flies in the distance were the geese – which were legion, and slow moving.

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I’m therefore going back again soon with my proper camera to see whether I can get some better shots!

Birds weren’t the only wildlife here though – and although we never saw anything today other than small whites there appears to be a cornucopia of butterfly life in this area – with Draycote having one of the most comprehensive lists of potentially viewable species that I’ve seen so far at a reserve.

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Although we didn’t have time to explore today there are also a couple of marked woodland walks around the reservoir that branch off into small areas of trees. I’m not sure how far these go but the Severn Trent site suggests that there’s quite a bit to explore –

There is a flat five mile tarmac road all the way around the reservoir which is ideal for a leisurely stroll. The Hensbrough hill top provides spectacular views and is a great place for a picnic, whilst the 25 acre country park provides enough room for young and old to play games and enjoy the outdoors.

There were lots of cyclists and sailing enthusiasts – along with several pretty large areas set aside on the banks for anglers – and the reservoir is apparently well stocked! There’s also a visitor centre with a cafe and balcony overlooking the reservoir.

Overall it seems like a great place to take the family for an active day out and it definitely requires more investigation. If nothing else it’s a supremely quiet and relaxing place for a stroll.

Even if your feet hurt!

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Now – if you’ll excuse me internet my slightly perkier and enthusiastic puppy dog of a watch is pressing me to stand up and do something – and who am I to ignore it’s well intentioned pleas for attention?!

Davey

Chair repairs

I feel somewhat re-energised this week.

My feet are almost recovered after their Sunday shredding and it’s becoming a bit less onerous to go for a walk now. Today it’s been absolutely sweltering – with a clear blue sky. In this respect it’s not been the best day to attack the garden – but the recycling gets picked up tomorrow and I find lately that I have a philosophical objection to leaving my green bin empty.

Today it was so full that by the time I’d nearly finished clipping bushes and levelling hedges I had to climb into it with some steps to jump up and down on the contents just so that I could fit the last lot of grass clippings in.

My garden’s not going to win any beauty contests at the moment (particularly in the category of grass coverage) but crucially it’s still under control and that’s all I care about currently.


It’s also still home to lots of birds – who regardless of my pruning still seem to want to make it their go to destination for a dust bath on the left hand side.

It looks like there’s a new baby robin in town too – who’s all fluffy and mottled. He’s been darting back and forth quite a bit looking for tasty morsels in the grass and seems quite interested in me.

My resident house sparrows appear to still be living up to their names and are commuting in and out of the eaves my roof regularly – but I don’t mind – as long as they stop for the occasional picture!

In other news I decided the other day that an item of furniture that’s been sitting broken (although you’d never be able to tell unless you sat on it) in my living room for about two years needed to be dealt with.

It used to be great.

It was a John Lewis armchair and I was really happy with it when I bought it. Although it was expensive it reeked of quality and we were very happy together.

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In truth it was less of an armchair and more of a small ‘snuggler’. The idea for ‘normal people’ (whoever the hell they are) was that they’d wrap themselves in pillows (or around a partner) before tucking their legs in and relaxing with a cup of tea in front of the telly.

In my case I filled it. Completely.

My stomach went to the ends of the arm rests.

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This is how I now fit into it’s duplicate twin…

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I struggled to get out of it a lot of the time back then, and the pressure that my 34.5 stone brought to bear on it finally made something snap in the frame.

It’s not every day your fat ass costs you a fortune  – but that day each cheek was individually responsible for £350.

I was gutted. Although I had two identical chairs this was one of the few places that I could find comfort – apart from lying on my left side (I couldn’t lie on my back or right side because I couldn’t breathe).

Things had got so bad (although I never told anyone this at the time) that just sitting still had become intensely uncomfortable in almost all seats. No matter how I tried to shift my huge weight something hurt. If I relieved the pain on my back then my ankles began to swell – if I moved to prevent water retention then my spine quickly complained.

Toward the end I often ended up sleeping in my armchair when I had trouble breathing and nodding off lying down.

So it was a dark day when I heard it crack.

I genuinely intended to try and fix it – and right up until a few days ago that was the plan – but when I took the base off and saw the splintered wood and all the snapped screws at the front I decided that not only did I no longer consider it worth the effort – but that it was a blatant reminder of someone that I no longer am.

Much of my house feels the same way sometimes and I often think that if money was no object I’d destroy all of the (perfectly usable) items that represent the old me.

For the moment though, this huge chair will suffice.

Since no one wants busted furniture sitting on the front lawn waiting for pickup today I decided to take the more energetic route and saw it into chunks.

Despite it having broken under my old weight I found it impossible to snap it again with my current weight. By any standards it was a really well made item of furniture with some top quality wood inside it. In all it took me an hour of sawing and sweating in the sunshine to separate it into parts small enough to fit into my car so I could take it to the tip.

So what next?

Well I have my IKEA Poang chair, purchased from the recycling centre a few weeks ago for £10 (a stunning 70 times cheaper than it’s John Lewis predecessor) and my matching footstool (£4).

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The only problem is that my mind will not allow me to sit in it without it being propped up against the wall. I simply can’t conceive of a world where I’m actually light enough to not break it.

I know that it’s rated by ikea to hold up to 26st (I’m currently almost exactly 20) so it shouldn’t be a problem – but honestly I couldn’t take the disappointment if it broke. Instead I’m going to put it in the living room for other people to sit on until such time as I feel secure enough to do so myself.

In other news there’s still no sign of my little buddy. Apple Watch is still MIA and there’s no news in my inbox about whether or not it’s expected to pull through. I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve glanced at my wrist today and frankly it’s doing my head in.

I can’t get it back soon enough internet. I am in a timeless world without haptic feedback or heart monitoring.

I’m living in the flipping stone age I tell you.

Davey

Allotment ivy

Although I have come to hate it with a passion there’s absolutely no denying that ivy is great for relieving stress. Not content with working on my own garden I agreed to help a friend out on his allotment today – and it’s nice to finally be physically able to return some of the help he and others have given me over the years when I’ve been incapable.

When taking on his allotment he inherited a plot where successive owners seem to have ignored a continuing problem with this weed of a plant and instead covered it with layer upon layer of black plastic and nylon sacking.

Someone did the same on my garden’s borders and so far I’ve not pulled this horrible (and rotten) stuff up to see the full horror of what lies beneath. If today is anything to go by it won’t be pretty…

In response to its treatment on the allotment the ivy went underground, growing even stronger and even more sinewy. It continued (now hidden from view) to migrate further along the ground, working its way through the black sacking and then under and through everything else.

The stuff is like a virus.

Although we had already cleared a small spot in this picture there was clearly a LOT of work to do along the fence line – which was where it was all coming from.

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I have to say I’m rather jealous of the ease that things can be disposed of on this particular allotment plot. In my case ripping all this down would then result in lots of chopping and stuffing a recycle bin or bags for the tip.

Before starting at the allotment I took another 6 of my own sacks to my local one this morning – bringing the total number of them (stuffed full of garden waste) I’ve now shifted to a rather mind boggling 75 sacks

Each of these theoretically contains 95 litres – so if I had around 75 in each then that means 5625 litres of rubbish has so far been pruned or pulled out of my garden (and thats not counting the huge green bins)

Also – to fit the bush branches I’ve lopped into these has taken a LOT of pruning. The pile I created from the remaining section where the blackbird was nesting took somewhere in the region of 15 (approx) bags. I also started counting last night (during this seemingly endless and mundane task) how many cuts I have to make to the average (rather large) branch in order to fit it into my wheelbarrow before I start putting it into bags.

I lost count after 100… It’s a LOT.

Basically it takes tons of chopping. For the last two days alone I’ve done nothing for around 3.5 hours but a continuous chopping motion. However – without a chipper I don’t see any alternative. It all has to be moved somehow.

On the bright side it’s been absolutely stunning for exercise. So much so that today we were happily pruning away for a 3-4 hours before I excused myself to go and get some lunch at around 2pm.

It’s always nice doing things together though. As my friend said today you get more than twice as much done with two of you working in tandem. It’s the ability to share the load, have a natter and a laugh in the process that makes the difference – and boy did we clear the end of his plot.

 As always this kind of wholesale removal of ivy uncovers lots of creepy crawlies – and a young robin was following us around all day. It was quietly watching what we were doing and then hopping in when food was available.

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This little fellow was such a feature of the day, and so comfortable with our company that at times it seemed like he was posing for photos – and as you might imagine I’m not really one to complain!

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When we’d had enough we sat back (me in my newly purchased £4 folding camping chair from the recycle centre that would never have fit my ass six months ago) and looked at our handiwork.

Although there was still a lot t do it looked much better than when we’d started!

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At this point I took a selfie – not realising that half a tree full of bits appears to be stuck to my head – but hey ho!

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I can’t help noticing that I look a little tanned at the moment – and I’m just loving how capable I feel. It was a big thing for me a year ago to feel like I could walk anywhere and move through the world unaided.

I feel like I’ve cracked that now.

However what I hadn’t really thought too much about until fairly recently was what I could do from a hard work perspective in the world.

I don’t mean drilling holes in the road or working on building sites (although you never know) – I mean that I always thought that I hated this kind of thing. I’ve said over and over that I didn’t like gardening and I didn’t like DIY.

What I really meant though was that I didn’t like the way they made me feel both physically and emotionally.

Nowadays they seem to be having absolutely the opposite effect – and I’m genuinely enjoying the hard work that they represent. Sitting back on that chair looking at the blank fence panels felt awesome. Helping my friend felt awesome. The coffee tasted sweeter, the air smelled fresher – and it made me happy to be there.

Later in the evening another friend happened to send me a picture taken in 2012 of me holding her then newborn baby.

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It reminded me that when I held her son in my arms I couldn’t sit properly on her very large leather sofa.

I couldn’t rest him on my lap because  at the time I didn’t have one.

I couldn’t turn around to put him down.

I couldn’t lean forward with him.

I couldn’t stand up from the sofa and hold him while I did so.

I couldn’t do anything but have the baby handed to me and then after a while hand him back.

Things are very different now internet – and if ivy continues to make new Davey possible then I accept it’s challenge. I’ll pull it and dig at it and tear at it for as long as it takes. This is not only so that I can continue to feel the way I do now – but eventually so that when I hit my target I’ll look back on this moment with a wry smile and think about what I did to get there and what I learned about myself along the way.

Davey

Banded demoiselle

Yesterday I walked into Sainsburys to get a coffee and unexpectedly walked out with a bag of clothes that I’d purchased because they were half price.

This in itself is really not unusual I suppose – as clothes from shops like Tesco, Asda and Sainsburys are now cheap enough to make buying them little more than impulse purchases for most people. When the items are half price it’s even easier to make a decision.

What’s unusual about this for me is that I walked out with a bag containing pretty much an entire outfit that I could wear immediately if I chose to.

Although I’ve made spotty purchases here and there from high street shops a lot have been (in my view) slightly aspirational, and were things that I’d ‘shrink into’. This is the first time I’ve been able to go in, take a range of clothes from a sale rack, try them on and just buy them knowing I could wear them the same day if I chose to.

However – almost as importantly – I got two tee shirts, two long sleeved tops, a pair of denims and a lightweight raincoat for £37. This is £3 cheaper than the cost of ONE SHIRT from a specialist retailer when I was in the 4-8XL size range. 

Given how tight money is currently I can’t overstate how awesome this is!!!

I think in all honestly my exercise is helping immensely in this area. Even though according to the scales I’m not flying down in weight any more (my current average is around 2lbs a week) I do seem to be dropping in inches, and I’ve noticed in particular with my gardening a pronounced difference in my upper body. My legs and stomach are also noticeably more at home in my trousers – where I’m forever tightening my belt.

It’s really encouraging progress!!!

Mind you – although I have the garden (amongst other things) to thank for my good news my horticultural endeavours have now moved from a pastime where I could see sweeping visual changes to what’s becoming less rewarding grunt work. Now all the bushes have been cut back I have digging and tidying to do, and ivy is the work of the devil.

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In the process of rescuing my trees I’ve stripped tons of the stuff away from their trunks and roots. I’ve also now cut a clear band completely around the middle of my larger tree and severed all the vines theoretically keeping the leaves and tendrils further up alive.

Not so long ago the trunk looked like this…

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Cutting a band around the middle is one thing though. Getting the rest of the ivy off the tree higher up is another thing entirely.

After hacking through one particularly thick vine yesterday I was amazed to see it peel off the tree into the canopy above me. It came away surprisingly easily. I continued to pull it outwards while it slowly tore away from the branches over my head.

Then I pulled.

Nothing.

So I wrapped both hands around it and pulled a few more times with significant force.

Still nothing.

I then wrapped the vine around my right arm and lifted my feet off the ground, swinging on it like Tarzan.

Twenty stone of chubby man just hung there without a single creak from above or indication that I was anywhere close to breaking anything ivy related. I gave up in the end, and resolved to come back later when it had died.

In the meantime I busied myself with chopping up vines and branches to take to the tip – which now stands at a total of 69 sacks of refuse and counting. I’m not sure the frogs or birds love me any more though, as I’m removing all the fun places they liked to chill out in.

This little guy nearly got bagged and tagged yesterday – but at the last minute I noticed him. He had a narrow escape and would have been heading for the mulching plant if he hadn’t blinked at me from between the leaves.

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Today though (at least for the morning) I left the garden to it’s own devices and went for a walk. It’s been amazingly sunny all day today – and quite draining if you’re not in the shade.

I’ve been drinking water like I had a camel’s hump to fill today and I’ve needed every drop. I’m also pretty sure that despite liberal application of factor 50 suncream my newly shaven cue ball like head may have burned a little. It’s all tingly.

It’s been worth it though.

Initially neither myself or my friend were sure where to go – and had been poring over an ordnance survey map to see if anything jumped out that looked interesting.

(warning –  for one particular reader the next photo may prove unduly arousing.)

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In the end (partially due to time constraints) we decided to go for a walk I’ve done a few times before (link) but that my companion today has never seen – which was along the Grand Union canal and the Offchurch Greenway.

It’s a lovely little five mile walk and easy to do in under two hours if you have a good pace. Today though I was probably a little slower than usual mostly because I was entranced by how the seasons seemed to be so swiftly moving on. Everything was changing so rapidly!

What was once a swan nest on the canal bank the last time I passed…

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Is now a family with four large cute and fluffy swanlings!

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The canal is also home to other juvenile residents, and as well as ducks there were quite a few fledgeling moorhens skittishly darting about in the water – all under the watching gaze of parents sitting by the banks.

However – for me the CROWNING GLORY of the day was not only spotting several banded demoiselles but actually getting close enough to one to take this photo.

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If I had any lingering doubts about whether I should have bought a camera or not then this picture washed them all away. It’s probably one of the best photographs I’ve ever taken – let alone one of the most beautiful.

Step aside swanlings. There’s a new king in town!

Anyway internet – I need to get back to the garden. I have a full day ahead of me tomorrow, and I won’t be able to get to it at all.

 

‘It’s a boy!’


My companion were sitting quietly in a bird hide discussing the view in front of us.

In particular we were focusing on the two families of mute swans on the opposite bank of the nearby lake. Once more we were visiting the grounds and wildlife reserve at Coombe Abbey – but today were both of us were armed with proper cameras and not just our smartphones.

‘I’ve no idea how to tell which is male and which is female…’ I said abstractly – reflecting on a serious gap in my knowledge regarding one of my favourite animals. In front of us as I looked through my viewfinder a small flotilla of them passed serenely by with four little swanlings in a row.

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My friend fell silent – looking at her phone, and I was momentarily distracted by an unexpected flyby of a heron, heading for a small island on the lake to the right of us.

I just managed to point my camera and focus in time as it passed me by. I looked at the camera photo viewer and smiled looking at the result. I’d managed to capture it in mid flight and it was only a teeny bit blurry!

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My friend touched my shoulder. ‘It’s the size of their knob.’ She said, giggling a little.

I looked around smirking. ‘The size of their knob?’ I said.

‘Yes – the knob on their noses. If they have a big knob it’s a male and if they have a small knob it’s a female!’ She replied, and carried on scanning through the article.

‘…but not all of them have big knobs…’ she continued, despite me obviously starting to titter next to her.

‘If they don’t have a big knob the only way to tell is to stick a finger up it’s bum.’ She said triumphantly – seemingly satisfied with Google’s explanation.

‘What will you find up it’s bum if it’s a male then?’ I asked, now laughing.

‘I don’t know..’ she said ‘…you just have to stick a finger up it’s bum!

Immediately I envisioned an offended swan on the end of my finger shouting ‘**** off!’ in a manly voice – and THAT being the indicator of whether it was a daddy or a mommy.

Since I rather like smutty humour I spent the rest of the afternoon chuckling away to myself thinking about invaded swans swearing at their inappropriate investigators in a male Glaswegian accent (their offence in my imagination seemed somehow Scottish) whilst a guy in an overcoat holding a clipboard nearby duly noted that this was a male swan and no longer of the ‘mute’ variety.

Although today was overcast and cooler than my last visit the plants and wildlife were no less fascinating than they were before – and all were somehow subtly different.

Although the herons were hard to capture on their island (even with 30x zoom) I managed to get a couple of shots of them and the geese nearby – who continually floated past in little armadas of orange and brown.

They weren’t the only ones around that day though and I spotted another few I’d not seen before.

Now – I’m not 100% sure about this – but I think (from looking at the RSPB site) that the little grey one with the insect is a Pied Wagtail (although it could also be a Water Pipit) that the large goose is of Egyptian descent while the lovely little guy with the flash of blue on his wing on the log is a Jay.

It’s also been quite a nice day for flowers and fungi!

All in all a most amusing and relaxing day of twalking and bird watching was had by all concerned!

In other news – I’d like to thank my audience for their kind comments regarding my recent emissions issues.

There have been many helpful suggestions for how to stem the gaseous tides – which I will look into and take into consideration. Low stomach acid, artichoke tablets, and brewers yeast have all been suggested as potential culprits and may well be valid.

However the kind offer of ‘a big cork’ by one reader will probably not solve the issue at hand, so I’ve discounted that one.

If things get really bad internet I can always pretend to be a swan and hope that (thanks to my small nose) a kind ornithologist is nearby to help with the blockage…

Davey