Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


7 Comments

I can still run – and the Big Butterfly Count

I have just been looking at my Garmin (running watch) stats. In May I ran for 30 minutes or more on six occasions, during the 5×50 challenge. In June, just three times. July was even worse, as I only did one longer run, though it was for 45 minutes.

And so far in August, I hadn’t run at all. So off I went this evening, once it had cooled down, and ran for 30 minutes. The first 5-10 were tough as ever, but I knew they would be, so that was ok. Then I kept using the ‘just to the next…’ trick to keep me going. I was going to stop at 20 minutes, but then decided that would be a bit lame, as I could run for 30 all the way back in February when I graduated from the NHS couch to 5k programme.

I even managed to speed up a bit at various points, and although I’m still slow, 13:51 min/mile, or just over 4 mph, considering I’m out of practice, I was quite pleased.

But I really mustn’t let it be two weeks before I go out again. 🙂

Other than running, today I’ve watched butterflies, for the Big Butterfly Count and was really pleased to see my new buddleia being well-used by a Peacock, some Large Whites, Small Whites, and Green-veined Whites. There were also several Gatekeepers on the marjoram and on the apple cordons, and one gorgeous Common Blue male on the lavender.

Peacock butterfly

Peacock butterfly feeding on buddleia

Common Blue male

Common Blue male on lavender

Sadly, I also had to bury a young hedgehog. 😦 We found it munching a slug on the day we got back from our holidays, and now, just two days later I found it dead and covered with flies. It’s about ten years since we’ve seen a hedgehog in the garden, so it’s very disappointing. Perhaps the fact that it was out in daylight when we saw it first was an indication that it wasn’t well. I’ll still send in a record that we saw it though, through irecord, as the county biological records office welcomes all hedgehog sightings, alive or dead – and other wildlife too.

On a more cheerful note, we watched a female Field Grasshopper laying eggs in the dry earth in the meadow part of our garden. She took ages, maybe twenty minutes or more, and then when she’d finished, she used her hind leg to scrape loose earth over the hole, very daintily!  She appears to be a unicorn grasshopper – one antenna is missing.

Field Grasshopper laying eggs

Female Field Grasshopper, Chorthippus brunneus, laying eggs


10 Comments

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


6 Comments

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.


7 Comments

Flora group walk

Went out for the day with the county flora group,  surveying a rather lovely meadow.  Walked a bit over 2 miles at a very slow pace.  We found lots of lovely plants, including the very strange fern, Adderstongue.  We also found Pignut, Dropwort, Bugle and lots of all three common buttercups.  Despite the sunshine, I only saw one butterfly – a Small White, but I did see a small frog.

Drybank Meadow

Drybank Meadow near Shipston

DSC04962 Adderstongue Fern

Adderstongue Fern

Goatsbeard - a very pale one

A very pale Goatsbeard flower.

 

A soldier beetle

A soldier beetle reading the Flower Guide blurb