Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


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Look closely and weeds are jewels!

In our garden, weeds are allowed to flower, so the bees can visit them. This one is really pretty when you get close to it, with star-like calyx and white stripes on the dark purple petals. The leaves smell quite strongly, and look fairly similar to stinging nettle leaves.

Hedge Woundwort

Hedge Woundwort, Stachys sylvatica

This little shieldbug is pretty jewel-like too – it lives on the woundwort, and is called Woundwort Shieldbug…

Woundwort Shieldbug

Woundwort Shieldbug – about 1/3 the size of my little finger-nail.

Well, that was in response to the Daily Prompt – The Natural World which asked about early memories of nature.

I grew up on a farm, and I can’t remember the first time I was interested in nature, as it was so much a part of everyday life.  However, I do remember vividly the thrill of finding an orchid growing amongst scrubby bushes in a woodland. It wasn’t in my flower book, which made it even more exciting, and nobody had shown me where it grew; I’d found it all by myself.  On on of our occasional trips to London, we visited the Natural History Museum, and in some wall-mounted display-cases I found a picture of ‘my’ orchid – a Man Orchid.  The flowers are greenish-yellow, with red edges, and look like tiny little men.  Such an amazing plant.

They are fairly rare in the UK, and although they have been found in quite a few nearby sites to my one, I don’t know whether anyone else has ever seen the plants that I found.  So – that was a significant waymark on my journey to being a nature geek.

Race for Life report

The other news today is that I did my Race for Life – and I DIDN’T WALK!  It wasn’t fast (about 46 minutes – last time I did RfL I took 53 minutes to walk it) but it was mostly very sunny and warm, so I’m happy with that.  The first ten minutes were really hard work, and I wasn’t expecting to manage to run/jog it all at that point, but I just kept doing a bit more and a bit more, and got the whole way round.  Hurrah!

RfL shirt and medal

Race for Life shirt and medal

I don’t know how many women were there, but pretty sure it was well over a thousand.  I was fine though, didn’t even need to use the loos (sorry, if that’s too much info) which is most unusual – and a good thing, as the queues were about 30-deep.  Maybe that was the most significant acheivement of the day!  The running and walking didn’t get started until about twenty minutes after the official start time. Maybe that was to allow everyone to visit the loos?

It was a lovely day to be outside, mostly sunny and with a good breeze.  Uphill through the meadow was pretty warm, as the wind seemed to have dropped there, and there was no shade, but I kept plodding on, thinking I’d walk after the 3 km mark.  But then it was flat, and it seemed a pity to stop.

After 4 km it was pretty easy.  I almost missed getting a medal, as I was still jogging past the finish and had to stop and go back for it.  I was really pleased that I didn’t feel worn out at the end. After clapping some of the walkers in, I jogged part of the way back to the carpark.  I would have jogged it all, but suddenly felt as though I was showing off, so I walked the rest.

So, Juneathon may not have gone quite the way I’d envisaged, but I did manage to end it with a 5k run in the sun, and feeling good at the end. So I’m a happy bunny, and I’ve raised quite a bit for Cancer Research. 🙂

Race for Life hat

Sunhat with pink feathers – fallen from a tutu


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Rainy day out

School summer trip today.  It was raining heavily when we arrived, and the plan was to be outdoors all day…  I was with the tinies, 4 and 5 year-olds.

Here is an accidental shot of three of my companions for the day:

Wet day feet

Wet day feet

Luckily the rain eased off a bit for our bug hunt in the meadow. We found LOTS of huge slugs – and only one child in the group wouldn’t go near them, all the rest happily collected them on plastic spoons (renamed ‘creature catchers’ for the day, for health and safety reasons…).  Maybe it’s good that I didn’t take a picture of the slugs.

There were loads of lovely meadow flowers – buttercups, knapweed, yellow rattle and bird’s-foot trefoil, all a bit bowed by the rain, but still beautiful.  The children were given sweep nets, and caught a good range of insects, despite the dampness. I think this is probably a Peacock butterfly caterpillar.  Very spiny.

probably Peacock caterpillar

Peacock butterfly caterpillar – probably

We also fed the ducks and swans (and nobody in our group fell in), and had a scavenger hunt in the woods.  All in all, a good day out.


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Bees

Quick update as I need to cook.   Short walk today, hunting for bees. I’ve just found BeeWatch, where you can upload photos and use a really good id tool to identify them (and get them checked by an expert). Much easier than looking through a book.  I’m pretty sure this one is a Tree Bee, a relatively new species in the UK (since 2000).  They loved the snowberry flowers.

Tree Bee

Tree Bee


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Day 26 Juneathon

If you haven’t heard of running wellies before, go and see Oldgirl’s blog post and find the link. They are rather unusual. 🙂

OldGirls Juneathon journey

Day 26 Juneathon

What on earth is wrong with my brain today!?! I’ve done the exercise but can’t think of a thing to write about!!
OK, Zumba Gold class was busy, energetic, music was good, 55 minutes later job done. Now that didn’t sound much fun but it was, it’s just me, think I would have been happier going for a run.
Coffee break and a mug of the best Americano coffee in town went down a treat.
Went into the gym as I had 15 minutes before my next class so jogged on the dreadmill for 10 minutes, covered 1.6K, fine with that it was not on my to do list so it was an extra.
Body Balance, big ball class as I call it was quiet, lots of the students are now away home so we were reduced from 20 plus to just 8. Felt a bit too…

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Bugs!

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My back was OK again today, hurrah!  Yoga rules.  I went for a walk to look for butterflies and dragonflies as it was sunny. I didn’t see many, and they were all camera-shy, so I ended up taking pictures of various other bugs instead. I used to be really scared of crane flies, or Daddy-long-legses (? dubious plural) but they can be quite pretty, rather like dragonflies.  Apparently there are loads of different UK species (hundreds!)  There was quite a range of colours in the insect world today.

I walked 2.5 km (in about 2 hours – taking photos is very time-consuming when bug-chasing) and ran a tiny bit, but it was on a sideways slope, and pretty uncomfortable, so when a moth distracted me, I stopped and didn’t start up again.

6-spot Burnet Moth

6-spot Burnet Moth

Bee-like fly

Bee-like fly – looks like a bee, but it has a fly’s eyes

Crane fly

A crane fly

Crane fly

A different crane fly with pretty wings

Red and black froghopper

Red and Black Froghopper – startling!

Blue-bottle

Blue-bottle – I have always hated flies with a passion, but have to admit that this is quite striking

This gallery contains 6 photos


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Juneathon day 24

I’ve dared to put Juneathon in the title as I’ve actually done some exercise today.  I didn’t have  too good a start this morning though, as I ricked my back somehow, while sitting in a chair…  No idea what I did, but it was pretty painful, to the extent that I had to walk very gingerly or it made me yelp.

Large White butterfly on Knapweed

Large White butterfly feeding on Common Knapweed flower

Thankfully, it had eased off a bit by the time I left work, so I stopped off for a short butterfly hunt on the way home. I only saw one common butterfly, but it looked as though it was quite freshly hatched, without any wing damage. Very handsome, sitting on a Knapweed flower.

Home again, thirty minutes of gentle yoga stretches, and my back feels much better. Hopefully it will be fully recovered by the weekend for my Race for Life. I certainly wouldn’t have been running anywhere this morning.


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Little green flowers…

I spent today on a workshop practising identifying grasses and sedges.  They aren’t the easiest things to identify, as they pretty much all have tiny green flowers, but once you get the hang of how they are put together (and learn a bit of vocabulary, so the books make sense) they aren’t too bad at all.  Honestly.  🙂

We went out for a walk round the nature reserve (bit of Juneathon activity in there!), and found a wide range of grasses and sedges.  I’ll see if I can list them, to see how many we found.

Couch, Perennial rye-grass, Rough meadow-grass, Annual meadow-grass, Yorkshire fog, Red fescue, Floating sweet-grass, Cock’s-foot, Barren brome, Soft brome, False brome, Yellow oat-grass, False oat-grass, Tufted hair-grass, Sweet vernal-grass, Creeping soft-grass, Wood millet, a Bent-grass and Crested dog’s-tail.  19 grasses!

Pale sedge, Pendulous sedge, Remote sedge, Oval sedge, Spiked sedge and Wood sedge. 6 sedges

And on the way home I also found Hairy brome and Glaucous sedge.

The biggest problem is that it is so hard to remember the distinguishing features from one year to the next, so with the sedges I have to start from the beginning again every year.  Grasses seem easier, but that’s probably because I started getting familiar with them when I was younger, so it’s harder for my memory to lose them.  I grew up on the North Downs and it wasn’t really the right place to find many sedges – too dry.

Barren Brome spikelet

A single spikelet of Barren Brome (Anisantha sterilis). Each of the long points sticking out is an awn, on the end of a lemma, and inside each lemma will be a single seed. Barren Brome is not a very appropriate name!

Barren Brome

A panicle (flower-head) of Barren Brome – lots of spikelets.

Tufted hair-grass

Tufted Hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) with beautiful silvery flower-heads.  Apparently the German name for this grass is something like ‘Pin-stripe suit grass’, because of the stripes on the leaves.  I liked that, and I think it’s easier to remember than the English name.

Pale Sedge

Pale Sedge (Carex pallescens) – pale rounded fruits, and apparently the crimped bract (leaf-like blade) is typical

Glaucous Sedge

Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca) – blue-green underside to the leaves, but brighter above. I have seen this so many times, but still have to look it up every time I find it.