Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


Frozen canal and Jupiter’s moons

Grand Union Canal

Grand Union Canal frozen with snowy topping

Snow! But not enough to interfere with travel, just enough for prettiness.

The ducks weren’t quite sure what to make of it though.

Mallards walking on water

Mallards walking on water

This evening, the moon was full, so I went out to take some photos – not that it will look any different from the shots I’ve taken before, but it’s fun (if a bit cold) trying out different settings on the camera. None of them worked too well though, as I’ve misplaced the tripod attachment, so I was balancing the camera on a step-ladder. Not ideal.

Even so, I managed to get some pictures of Jupiter (shining brightly a bit to the left of the moon, should you want to go and have a look outside), and by zooming in and playing with the settings, I picked up three of its moons too (all in a straight diagonal line from bottom left to top right). I’ve posted pictures of them before, but it still amazes me that I can photograph them. Apparently Jupiter is between 300 and 600 million miles away. I can’t really imagine that.

Jupiter and three moons

Jupiter and three moons



ilike my iphone

I’ve finally caved in and bought myself an iphone, after years of having an extremely basic mobile.  Oh, what fun I’ve had this weekend!  Photos taken, messages and emails flying, web pages read and apps downloaded.  Time wasted.  🙂

I am very pleased with the camera so far.  It can’t get quite as close up as my main camera, and won’t zoom so far away – but it’s pretty good.  The lighting was lovely this weekend – very autumnal with alternating sun and heavy showers plus some mist.

Stag's-horn sumach (Rhus typhina) in its autumn glory

Stag’s-horn sumach (Rhus typhina) in its autumn glory

Village church in golden Horton stone

Village church in golden Horton stone

Rainy street and a rainbow

Rainy street and a rainbow – and the old village pump

Misty morning

Misty morning

Minute toadstools, about 1 cm tall, amongst moss

Minute toadstools, about 1 cm tall, amongst moss

I’ve only tried out a few apps so far. A couple of weeks ago, I have to confess to not being entirely sure what an ‘app’ was, but now I know. I like being able to record birds, butterflies, ladybirds and mammals out ‘in the field’ so those are handy, and seem to work pretty well.  I was lucky enough to spot a kingfisher on Saturday, and a jay on Sunday, so the bird recording got off to a very good start, as I don’t often see either of those.  It must have been blue-feathered bird weekend.

A pulse rate app (cardiio) that works by detecting minute changes in face colour (or by a finger over the camera lens) is amazing, and surprisingly accurate too.  It is free, but I’ve just noticed it’s only free ‘for a limited time’. Having the phone even got me out walking/running, so I could try out ‘map my walk‘ – I need a bit more practice to deserve ‘map my run‘ I think though.

So, a busy weekend.


Full moon – awoooooooooooooooo

Beautiful pinkish corona around the moon

Corona around the moon

It’s a full moon tonight, which I was alerted to by this post, which suggested that full moon might be a good time for target setting.  The moon was beautiful both with a corona, glowing through light cloud cover, and when shining brightly all alone.  You’ll just have to imagine the owl that I could hear out there too – hoo-hoooooo.  No wolves though.

No targets set yet, but I’m thinking about them… maybe to take more photos?  And to find the thingamajig for attaching the camera to the tripod, as it doesn’t work so well just balancing it on top.  Hey ho.

Full moon

Full moon


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


One misty moisty morning

One fristy frosty morning,

When cloudy was the weather,

There I met an old man

All clothed in leather.

All clothed in leather,

With a cap on his head…

But what came next?  Well, that’s what I had in mind as I went to work this morning, with a heavy frost on the fields, and misty fogginess in the air.  But I couldn’t remember the ending.  Googling turned up various versions (though I’d converted ‘misty moisty’ into ‘fristy frosty’, and ‘Clothed all in leather’ to ‘All clothed in leather’ – presumably that’s how oral traditions come to have so many variants).  I don’t think my version ever had lines 5 and 6 below though.  A Steeleye Span version mentions a cap under his chin (which seems a strange place to keep it).

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 19.05.58

I stopped the car to admire the frozen scenery and the sight of the sun rising on my left, and the moon still hanging in the sky on my right.

Sunrise on the left, moon still visible on the right (if you look hard)

Sunrise on the left, moon still visible on the right, just past 3/4 of the way across (very tiny)


Frost fairies

Earlier this week we had a heavy frost in the morning, and my car windows were covered in beautiful frost feathers. I didn’t quite get the focus right, but you can get something of the effect here.  Amazing that water can do that all on its own.


Jack Frost had been at the window

January challenge (at least three mile runs a week) is coming on well.
1 mile run Sunday
1.2 mile run Tuesday
1.7 mile run this evening – this one was a bit slower, as my right knee objected to going up a bit of a slope near the start of the run
With some yoga / Tai Chi / stair circuits in between.


A good start

First complete week of my January challenge to do at least three runs a week.  In December I ran a mile only half a dozen times, and haven’t done 5k since the end of October.

Saturday – mile run: 15 min 36 s

Monday – mile run 15 min 17 s

Wednesday – 15 minutes stair circuits (very, very tedious, but avoided the cold, dark and wet) – 40 times up and down, including the landing

Friday – 15 minutes stair circuits

Today (Sat) – two consecutive mile runs in glorious sunshine (took off fleece, coat, hat, gloves and binoculars after first mile): first mile 17 min 7 s, second mile 13 min 58 s, and feeling good at the end of it.  Very pleased with myself.  Now wondering whether the Garmin just malfunctioned, but it did feel a lot faster, and curiously, easier.  Beginning to remember that I do actually enjoy running once I’ve settled into it.

I ran in a city park, and it was lovely watching children learning to use their Christmas presents – several very wobbly in-line skaters, and new bicycles and scooters.  Only a handful of runners, but lots of walkers, which made me feel as though my slow running was really speedy.  🙂  I also enjoyed the sight of a wedding party having photos taken (men in white suits – very jazzy), and then seeing the hugely stretched limo in the car park.

There was a lovely technicolour sunset on the way home.  I took quite a few pictures with my phone, but overloaded it, with the result that it now won’t let me download them.  This one has arrived here via being sent to my daughter’s phone, and she then emailed it back to me.  My phone won’t let me email.  However, I do now have the internet working – a couple of hours ago that was refusing to cooperate too, and I was getting seriously fed up with technology.