Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside

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Ipdong: the beginning of winter

Octopus porridge for lunch anyone? Bonfire Night fireworks were good here last night, with mulled wine, but this blog from my friend living in South Korea is perhaps a bit more unusual. ūüôā

Here on Jeju

Koreans traditionally divide the year into 24 seasons. Yesterday was the beginning of Ipdong, the first of the six winter seasons.  The climate on Jeju is milder than mainland Korea, due to its southerly latitude and warm ocean currents, but Mount Halla, at almost 2000 metres above sea level, usually has snow lying for at least three months of the year.  Last Monday it received its first snowfall of the season, a full fortnight earlier than last year.October - November 2014 Olle 19, Granny and Dorothy 301 October - November 2014 Olle 19, Granny and Dorothy 288

Even at sea-level, I was pretty cold by the time the closing concert of the Jeju Olle Walking Festival started at 5pm yesterday evening.  I had walked almost 20km in the rain, along with several hundred others, stopping for octopus porridge for lunch and buckwheat pancakes filled with radish for tea, and entertainment of all kinds: a traditional Silla dynasty wedding ceremony, yoga, children’s choirs, and a ballad about the loss…

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Talk of the Devil

Bit of a gap over the summer. Like Red Hen here: (links don’t seem to be working properly for me at the moment), I’ve been writing blog posts in my head, but haven’t quite got round to getting them online.

My themes included butterflies, running on a beach, Welsh gardens (including a labyrinth), dolphins, seals, jellyfish, cliff top walks, Henry Moore and Rodin. I’ve got all the pictures sorted out (good ones too!), it’s just a matter of putting it all together.

Anyway. Maybe I’ll get round to it next week.

Meanwhile, I got up early this morning and went out for a walk/run (more walk than run, but better some than none). The fields had been ploughed, so I kept my eyes peeled (weird phrase) for fossils, as this area was once a huge Jurassic lake.

Edge Hill

View towards Edge Hill where the first battle of the English Civil War took place in 1642

I found this Gryphaea, aka Devil’s toe-nail.

Devil's toe-nail

Jurassic fossil oyster – Gryphaea

Mind-boggling to think about when it lived – more than a hundred million years ago. Some nice folklore about them here:

I can’t resist picking up smooth stones. As far as I can remember, we get all sorts of different stones round here because they were brought in by the glaciers way back when. It’s a lovely colour, and feels good too.

Heart-shaped stone

Heart-shaped stone (if you’re imaginative)

There are still some wild flowers around. Hogweed has an unattractive name, rather ugly leaves and it doesn’t smell too good, but the flowers are really very pretty. ¬†Usually they are white, but this one had a pink tinge on the outer petals.

Hogweed - Heracleum sphondylium

Hogweed – Heracleum sphondylium

As I’d got out early, the sun was still quite low in the sky, and I liked the way the light caught on the trees and sheep.

Sheep grazing

Sheep grazing in early morning light

So – which of my missed posts should I aim for first?


Tai Chi and gardens

I started learning Tai Chi last year, and really enjoy it.¬†It’s calm and gentle, but it really helps to loosen up my neck and shoulders after too much computer slumping.

Apparently, it is World Tai Chi Day, where people all round the world are taking part in Tai Chi sessions at 10 am, sending a wave of peace and calmness round the world’s time zones. ¬†I rather liked that idea, so I joined in a lovely session this morning in a village garden, along with bees, birds and flowers. ¬†Beautiful!

If you’ve never tried Tai Chi, and get a chance, do try it.

The green and purple border is at Coton Manor garden, near Northampton, which we visited a few days ago.  That would be a lovely place to do Tai Chi too.  Those purple tulips have amazing fringes along the edges of the petals Рvery strange.

The flamingoes are free-range, and they move as though they are doing Tai Chi, placing their feet oh-so-carefully.




Spring flowers

It was misty first thing, but is brightening up now. A bit too chilly for butterflies, but the flowers look good. These are iPad photos, which aren’t as sharp as my fancy camera, but it’s so easy to click and upload without plugging in cables, and putting labels on photos. How lazy does technology make us?

Still, I have vacuumed a stair-carpet this morning, with a horribly-badly-designed vacuum cleaner, which makes up a bit. Plus, my thighs are still aching from running a mile the day before yesterday.

Narcissus flower

Pheasant’s eye narcissus


Tulips like flames

Orange wallflowers

Wallflowers – can you smell them?


RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is apparently “the world’s largest wildlife survey”. ¬†I’ve been doing it every January for several years, and now also often do a weekly birdwatch for the BTO too. ¬†It’s a lovely calm way to start the weekend. ¬†Though it seems it has been so popular that the website is now down (maybe because there’s a mobile phone app for it now). ¬†I’ll put my results up later.

This year was, I think, the best total I’ve ever had on one day – sixteen species. ¬†I made sure the feeders were filled last weekend and checked them through the week, as I know that in previous years I’ve often only remembered to top them up on the day, and not all the birds found them in time for the count.

A few of our visitors:

We have sunflower heart seed mix, peanuts, ‘buggy’ fat balls and a fat block. ¬†There are two feeding stations, with the seed mix and fat balls in both places. ¬†The feeders near the road are less popular with the shyer birds, as walkers with dogs go past only a couple of yards away. ¬†I also sprinkled some seed on the drive again, in the hope of tempting in a pied wagtail – and this time it worked.

The long-tailed tits were back, just two of them, and I had a song thrush sitting at the top of the pear tree for a while. ¬†We don’t see the thrush very often, so I was very happy it is still around.

Right at the end, when I was thinking I’d seen just about all the regulars (apart from collared doves), I realised I’d got a little brown bird that wasn’t a sparrow – it was a female blackcap (confusingly, the females have brown caps). ¬†I’ve been looking out for them all winter, as we had a pair of them visit us quite regularly year when it was snowy. ¬†It was very kind of her to arrive just in time for the Big List.

Final list: great tit, blue tit, house sparrow, starling, blackbird, dunnock, chaffinch, wood pigeon, greenfinch, jackdaw, long-tailed tit, robin, goldfinch, song thrush, pied wagtail and female blackcap.

Edit: Now I know why the blackcap was here – we’ve just had a short sharp hail/snow/thunder/lightning storm – it only lasted ten or fifteen minutes. ¬†She clearly likes to visit when it’s snowy – though it was sunny and fairly mild earlier on.

White road with hail/snow

Hail and snow