Travelling in ultra lightweight style (we only carried four cricket stumps instead of the full compliment of six) Emma and I marched along the coast path, over the dunes and onto the vast sands of our beautiful coast for a perfect Wild Night Out 2019, until the high-pitched whining started…Read More
One thing I decided to do this year was leave one corner of the garden wild. I don’t know how long it will last as pressure builds from within the family to “do something” with that corner but while it does last it has had a positive effect in terms of wildlife.
Perhaps the best aspect of this experiment is the fact that every night around 9pm we have a fat hedgehog who comes through our front gate, wanders through the garden to this unkempt patch of land and roots around for a couple of hours before waddling off to check out what the neighbours have to offer.Read More
This filthy-wet month, I am trying to spend time outside in nature during my working day as part of the Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild. I cannot pretend it has been as easy as last year’s sun-drenched June when gently swaying flower meadows and deserted Norfolk beaches called out to me.
However, recently a client of mine drew my attention to an innovative and inspiring initiative getting business people into the outdoors, for Freshwalks. The benefits of which might surprise a few…Read More
“Can you repeat that please sir?” I could hear a slightly exasperated tone on the other end of the line.
This morning, a few days into June and woefully short of what I hope to achieve during 30 Days Wild, I ventured out into the meadow to make a few phone calls. I took my office outdoors! The helpful assistant from Barclays Business Banking went off for a few minutes to find out some information, and probably to curse me as my microphone was buffeted by the breeze, that bent the tall flowers surrounding me and repeatedly flicked my hood over my head.Read More
We are just a few days away from June and the start of 30 Days Wild; the Wildlife Trusts amazing initiative to get people outside, enjoying and appreciating nature.
This year, as part of 30 Days Wild I will be focussing on how nature can help alleviate the stresses and strains of work and how to get more of it into the working day.Read More
What an exciting weekend! Saturday was the last day of 30 Days Wild and also Wild Night Out so we (Myself, Emma, her friend and her friend’s Dad) embarked on a wonderful micro adventure that ended up with a trip to A&E and a course of antibiotics...
We headed out around 5pm on Saturday. The idea was to have a paddle in the packraft, a splash in the river, a little barbecue and camp out in the wild.
It all went swimmingly. It has been a rich seam of good weather of late and we tapped into it - the girls really enjoying the cooling waters of the river and the generous warmth of the late afternoon sun to dry off as we lit the barbecue and opened a can of beer.
After eating we dragged our gear, using the packraft as a kind of pulk, to a secluded spot where we figured we could set up camp undisturbed. It was around 9 pm when we threw down our mats, and threw up the tent. The air was cool, but not cold. A heron flew overhead and we could hear its wings beat. It was as quiet as can be expected with a 6 and a 7 year old negotiating for more marsh mallows but it was idyllic to be outside, free of the usual digital distractions to which our children can be easily subjected.
Then... I stood on a snake.
Then, whilst wandering around the longer, uncut grass near the tent, it seems I stood on a snake. I felt a sharp pain and jerked my leg up. Two little holes on my ankle oozed a drop of blood. I wiped it off.
I thought I had seen the back end of a grass snake disappear but I was carrying my unpacked sleeping bag and I honestly didn’t really believe this could happen in Cambirdgeshire.
I thought no more of it and before long we were all lying down - children in the tent and grown-ups out under the stars. It was stinging and I joked with everyone that I had been bitten by a snake, but I didn’t really believe it myself. As I tried to rationalise it internally I wondered had my eyes deceived me? What else could it have been? There were no brambles or plants nearby. Nothing but grass.
The dark flick of a snake tail remained in my mind. Surely I hadn't actually been bitten by a snake? These things don't happen in the Cambridgeshire! But the summer sun was setting, shadows lengthening and my mind wandered.
I remembered encountering vipere (adders) when I was a child, in Italy. I was almost always with an adult as I recall and in any case I had been drilled as to what to do: cause vibration from a distance, remain still if it is close to you, don’t touch it or poke it, don’t step over it, even if it blocks your path.
They were beautiful creatures, occasionally quite large, with dark diamonds down their length. Fascinating to a child, because of their danger as well as their beauty.
But that was rural Italy. Most people in England have never seen a snake in the wild.
The next morning I lay in the silence of nature, next to my daughter. The early morning sun warmed our faces and she smiled silently at me - the smile of someone who has (for once) slept well in a tent. This incidentally is quite possibly a major turning point as getting a decent night’s sleep has been tricky for her in a tent, but more of that another time.
The bite marks were weeping and walking was painful.
I had forgotten about my snake encounter, until I moved my ankle and felt some pain. The marks were red but there was no swelling. It wasn’t until we had packed and started walking back to the car that it started to stiffen and the pain started rising.
By the time I had got home it was aching and slightly swollen. It was at this point that I began to accept what had happened. It abated after a rest in the afternoon but by the evening, having worked a few hours in the garden, it was throbbing, and sore.
My wife convinced me to go to A&E where they didn’t feel the infection was visible enough to prescribe antibiotics. By the next morning I knew I needed something more than a painkiller. I was confident there was no venom (even if it had been an adder I ought to have reacted by now, unless it was a dry bite) but my ankle was red and tender and although the swelling was still minimal, the bite marks were weeping and walking was painful.
I have never got an appointment so quickly in all my life. Perhaps it was from curiosity, rather than any real sense of urgency, but I must thank my local surgery for seeing me immediately and prescribing antibiotics instantly.
As I have mentioned before my wife has an irrational fear of snakes, so this is a particularly bizarre thing to happen in our household, especially only a week after Emma and I were looking at snakes in the local nature reserve. Four days have passed now and the antibiotics have kicked in and, whilst Emma and I have found it all to be a bit of an adventure, the chances of her mother ever spending a night out with us in the wild has receded further.
At least it's something to tell the grandchildren. Of course I may dress the story up by then...
If last week was action-packed then the pace didn't relent this week. Read on for news of my walking trip to Norfolk.
Emma has continued to take part in 30 Days Wild through her school - they have been learning to identify trees amongst other things this week - and outside school hours we have been exploring wild corners around our home.
Going to Godmanchester nature reserve to look for snakes is always a favourite with Emma. They are fascinating creatures and the fact that Mummy is so irrationally scared of them adds some amusement to proceedings. This serpentine theme continued into the weekend as we came across the sloughed skin of a snake whilst visiting some open gardens. It has been added to the list of things we will examine under the microscope.
Walking in Norfolk
I spent the back end of the week in North Norfolk, walking inland and then on part of the Norfolk Coast Path. I have visited this area once before, but never had the opportunity to do at this at my ideal pace - on foot.
From the wild flowers to the windswept beaches this was a perfect way to experience the natural beauty of our land. Wandering through the picture-perfect villages, along the sand dunes and through the pinewoods during the week is a real treat. Places like Wells-Next-The-Sea can be overrun during the holidays so a wild camp and then a walk along this coast when it is absolutely deserted is precious. It is of course the reward you get for going even slightly off the beaten track or at unpopular times - you see nature and the landscape in a state of purity that can be difficult on this crowded isle.
I slept beautifully, the wind whistling over my sleeping bag, hares nibbling away at the grass a few metres away and broody oystercatchers wheeling around just over the dunes, squeaking like trainers on a gym floor.
It has been an action-packed few days. I spent two days walking in the Eastern Chilterns, getting closer to nature and enjoying the therapeutic effects of travelling slowly, under my own steam.
Today's blog post is a little video I made from this beautiful 29 km round trip, from Hitchin through the Wildlife Trusts Barton Hills Nature Reserve and back.Read More
Get ready to shoot me! We picked wildflowers. You see, I think the educational value of doing so outweighs the negative impact... at least if you do it with common sense.
The last few days of 30 Days Wild have seen us devote some time to wild flowers; finding, identifying, picking (judiciously), pressing and planting.Read More
We have a distinct lack of nesting birds this time around. Last year we had robins, blackbirds and wood pigeons all successfully rear their young in our garden.
Where have all the birds gone?
Since my last blog post, Emma and I have spent some time comparing this year’s garden with last year's.Read More
I never thought Emma seemingly dismissing 30 Days Wild, just three days in, would please me so much, but her sentiment was both unexpected and absolutely true.
Yesterday, as we tramped the dank mosquito-infested swampland that is Raveley Wood in rural Cambridgeshire, flapping our hats around vulnerable legs like a cow might swish it’s tail at the pestering flies, my wife was hassling me in the nicest possible way..Read More
30 Days Wild is here and this is what you can expect to see on my blog.
Last year for 30 Days Wild I blogged everyday for the whole month of June. Emma and I came up with the idea of "A Wild Alphabet" and dedicating each day to a new letter. It took a bit of planning and in truth it took a lot of work.
I have been asked on a few occasions what theme we would choose to follow this year and up until now I had no idea. But because of extra commitments this year I have decided to blog once or twice a week summing up our activities in The 30 Days Wild Gazette.Read More
A few weeks ago I gave an assembly at my daughter’s school. On a few occasions I have spoken to rooms full of journalists and at conferences but nothing made me as nervous as a room full of primary school children.
What if I didn’t know the answer to their questions? Fortunately I was giving an assembly about 30 Days Wild and, fortunately, I was joined by Liz Carney from The Wildlife Trusts who did have all the answers to the children’s questionsRead More
30 Days Wild, has primarily been an opportunity for me to share this with my daughter and to introduce her to a few micro-adventures to help her connect with all things wild, even if only in a small measure.
It has been a pleasure, mostly simple, occasionally difficult to find the time to write a blog post, but never boring. Both Emma and I have had great fun doing it. I have been able to share some things I enjoy with my daughter and she has grown more confident from experiences such as making a video, camping out at night, paddling on the river and "playing" with creepy crawlies.Read More
Nothing tastes better than an ice cream on a hot sunny day and what better way to cool off in this current heatwave than by making your own "wild" ice cream.
We went out and picked elderflowers to make elderflower, orange and lemon ice cream. The basis of it is elderflower cordial so this is effectively two simple recipes in one.
A walk across Portholme meadow at this time of year is a special pleasure.
In autumn and winter this 260 acre Site of Special Scientific Interest is shared with livestock. However, they haven't quite grasped the meaning of sharing; the black cattle will gladly stand and face off any human who deigns to approach and it pays to give a wide birth.
Both my wife and I have had encounters. I was chased by a cow, who presumably was still protective of her calf, late in autumn...Read More
I am writing Day 25 from Chamonix, in the French Alps. My daughter and I agreed that on this day we would both spend some time reading a wild poem.
Emma's favourite poem; one she likes to recite, is The Grass House by Shirley Hughes.
The grass houseRead More
Is my private place,
Nobody can see me
In the grass house...
Wind gets a bad rap. It can be very irritating, I'll give you that. It blows things down, it messes your hair, it dries your skin, it blows dust in your eyes, it knocks you down and it picks things up. It is uncontrollable.
But it can be used. And is there anything more fun, liberating and scream out loud enjoyable than flying a kite?
Until last year I had totally forgotten about it. Then I suddenly realised I had a child and I was legitimately allowed to do childish stuff. I bought a cheap kite from Ikea and ran into the meadow, the wind raising it gleefully and swallowing my whoops of joy.
Then, obviously I let my daughter have go too.
Now we frequently take the opportunity to enjoy the pull of the wind and the freedom of the Meadow and it feels really wild!
Today was the school sports day, so we spent the best part of the day on a large expanse of closely cropped grass; sitting, lying, running, jumping, hopping and dropping eggs off spoons.
It got me thinking of grass and the fact that I haven't cut the lawn since the beginning of June. I didn't set out to do this with any kind of re-wilding exercise, or even to leave it during this "wild" month. It's more down to time constraints and a little laziness, but its amazing how many things grow there, that are not in fact grass - although I am unsure what really constitutes a grass.
Emma and I crawled around taking some pictures to create this green patchwork. Perhaps what is most surprising is, despite the variety of plants, how little they have actually grown during what seems to have been an unusually warm and dry month.
Not that our lawn was ever going to win any prizes, but I kind of like it in this slightly wilder state. Think I might leave it for a bit longer.
We were both a little disappointed not to encounter some kind of owl on our camping microadventure on days 16 & 17 of 30 Days Wild and it would be crazy to allow this month to pass without on post about these beautiful birds of prey. On Day 22, and with the finish line in sight, I thought it best for us to pop in to the Raptor Foundation - our local sanctuary to see the owls...Read More