It seems a long time since I have sat at my computer and posted a new entry. I really hope you are all thriving, or at least surviving, in these continuing difficult times. The lockdown is gradually being lifted and hopefully will continue to be as things get back to normality……whatever normality is or will be.
It is nearly three months since it began, and those have been three unprecedented months. Who could have possibly foreseen this at the beginning of the year when I, and I’m sure a lot of others, made all those plans for 2020. So far, all of those plans have had to be cancelled, all the planned backpacking trips, a weeks walking in the Cumbrian mountains, a great long bucket list of mini adventures……. Maybe some of these will materialise later in the year, but if not, then maybe next year 🙂 !
That’s not to say that nothing has happened. In fact it has been a great year so far, just a different one from the one I had envisaged. In many ways, this forced time of shutdown has actually given me the opportunity to explore other things which has been great. Don’t misunderstand me, I have really missed my long walks and rides, but I have been able to channel my energies into other things which have been equally enjoyable.
I think one of the highlights has been actually in my own garden, and here of course I have been helped by some spectacular spring weather – this must be the best April/May that I can ever remember. We have virtually lived outside. Early in the morning, you will find me sat outside with my journal and fountain pen, with my camera and binoculars beside me, and of course, a cup of tea. Late evening, you will find me still out there, sitting reading as the light fades, or just stargazing. There have been so many birds during the nesting season, the garden has been buzzing with activity! Feeding time from early morning throughout the day, right through to the last blackbird song heralding the day’s end from a high perch. Recently, even later than that, we have witnessed an amazing and very noisy gathering of crows flying to roost in the trees around us.
One of my joys this year was to finally witness my blue tits leaving their nest. They have nested in my garden every year but one (the year the tree bumblebees took over the nest box) and every year I miss them fledging because I am out walking at the time. This year, being forced to stay home, I got to see it and it was great. In fact, it was quite a simple affair, no fuss or fanfare, and no faffing either, not even a nervous climbing out onto a nearby branch to ‘test the water’. I had seen heads in the doorway for a couple of days so I guessed it was getting near, but I hadn’t expected it to be quite so simple. The first chick just launched straight out of the box and flew to a tree across the other side of the garden. One of the parents arrived with a caterpillar and seemed quite surprised to hear chirping coming from the tree, as well as from the box. Like any dutiful parent, he flew across to check his offspring before flying back to the box to deliver breakfast. Five minutes later, a second chick made its inaugural flight to freedom. The youngsters were literally in the garden for less than half an hour before they disappeared to be seen no more. I confess, I felt ’empty nest syndrome’ for several days afterwards!
They weren’t the only nestlings, we have had blackbirds, robins, great tits, coal tits, pigeons, goldfinches, and more nesting in the nearby area. The first mentioned had to be really fierce one day when a magpie got too near the nest – despite the size difference, he saw the larger bird off without any problem. We seem to have ‘adopted’ one bird, his name is Woody the wood pigeon, and he has a damaged leg which means that he can’t stand or walk well – mind, this is not helped by the fact that he is so plump 🙂 ! He comes and squats on my smaller bird table and I always make sure there is food there for him.
The vegetable garden itself is flourishing well, despite a shaky start. The ground was all prepared and manured when lockdown came, meaning that I was unable to get out to buy any plants. So I raided my potting shed for all the seeds I could find, most of which were years out of date, and a combination of that home seeding as well as ‘begging, stealing or borrowing’ from wherever I could, has meant that I have a garden packed with veg, some of which we are already using.
I have been getting out for my period of exercise every day, and I have been complicit in that I have tried to stick to the rules by walking/cycling from home, usually for an hour or so until recently. We have had the pleasure of being able to walk the local golf course this year and so have been able to explore some new ground. Golf courses are often a haven for wildlife and the local one is no exception. I had the amazing experience of seeing a weasel catch a mouse a few weeks back. I saw these two creatures bouncing through the long grass and since they were the same colour, I assumed it was just two mice frolicking together until I realised that the one doing the chasing was several times longer than the one in front. They shot across the footpath right in front of me – how I wish I had had a different lens on the camera I was carrying! The chase did not end well for the mouse and shortly after, I managed to locate them in the undergrowth with the weasel crouching over its victim. As sad as this was, it was amazing to witness a natural part of the wildlife world close up.
One thing I have done more this year is off-road riding on my mountain bike. I started this partly because it is a good way of exercising without the normal difficulties of social distancing on narrow footpaths. With the combination of walking, mountain biking, road cycling and gardening, my exercise needs have been catered for in a varied way. In fact there was a short period when my wife wasn’t at all well meaning that we had to lock down completely ‘just in case’, when I actually exercised by walking hundreds of time around my small garden 🙂 ! Where there’s a will there’s a way!
One of the things I have really enjoyed this year is getting back into my art work, and I have been doing a lot of experimentation with different techniques, whilst rekindling some lovely memories too. The picture above for instance goes back to my Wainwright Coast to Coast backpack a number of years ago. It is the view from Kidsty Pike in the Lake District and I painted this with acrylics on water colour paper from a photograph I took at the time. In addition to acrylics, I have been using oils, water colours, and ink and wash sketches.
Of course, I am still pursuing my photography. One of the benefits with that hobby is that you can do it anywhere, even in your own garden. I’ve particularly enjoyed walking the local park with my macro lens, trying to capture the little creatures. The picture at the top of this post was taken just a day or two ago.
Oh, and we have ‘discovered’ jigsaw puzzles, film nights at home, virtual pub quizzes, some new training courses in art, The Positive News Magazine etc etc – the list goes on….. There is never enough hours in the day even without long walks and rides.
Despite the negatives involved with being on lockdown, it has been a great year and a good opportunity to try different things and I have really enjoyed that. As Albert Einstein said:
“In the middle of every difficulty lies OPPORTUNITY!”
Thanks so much for stopping by and reading my ramblings, and I hope you enjoy exploring with me.
Until next time,
The Dorset Rambler
If you would like to contact me, my email address is terry.yarrow@– comments and feedback are always welcomed.
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