Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


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Talk of the Devil

Bit of a gap over the summer. Like Red Hen here: http://redhenrun.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/so-many-blog-posts-so-little-time/#comments (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: http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/earth/fossils/fossil-folklore/fossil_types/bivalves.htm

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?

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Stairs for fitness – or – I love graphs

I love playing with data.  This is a self-indulgent number-crunching post with graphs.  I’ve just been looking at some older Excel files from a while ago, and was really pleased to see how they show that doing all the running – even though it has been very much on/off over the last few months – has improved my health.

Doing stair circuits is pretty tedious, but a good way to do some exercise when you don’t want anyone to see you, because you’re embarrassed about how unfit you are.  I started doing ten minutes of stair circuits four years ago, when I was working more or less full-time and on my feet all day, but doing little other exercise.  One circuit is thirteen steps up, then a corner-step, across the landing, up one more and then all the way back down.  I used my phone to time each circuit.  The novelty rapidly wore off though, and I went back to doing very little exercise.

A year or so later, and I was working part-time, sitting down all the time, so I had another go.  The difference in my fitness showed.  After five circuits, I couldn’t manage to get up and down in less than 30 seconds.  That persuaded me to practise, and a month later it had improved quite a bit.

Then I forgot all about it again.  A year ago, I started running with the c25k programme, mixed in with yoga, more walking and Tai Chi.  I thought I’d see how I’d do with the stair circuits again, and was pleasantly surprised to see how much faster I was.  (28 circuits in ten minutes instead of about 20).

Stair circuit graph

Improving my stair circuits

I also found a ‘three minute step test’ a while ago on the sparkpeople website.  I signed up to track my diet, after I was diagnosed as coeliac, because the blood-tests also showed that I was low in iron and folate, and they are quite difficult to get enough of, if you don’t eat fortified cereals/bread.  (I ended up taking supplements as I struggled to get enough of them from my diet.)  I knew I wasn’t very fit, so I decided to use some of the sparkpeople trackers, so I could see if I got better at anything.

The step test involves stepping up and down for three minutes at a steady pace, then sitting and counting heartbeats for a complete minute after you stop.  To compare with the ratings chart, it should be a 12 inch step, but I just use the 9 inch bottom stair.  Cheating, but convenient, and it still shows me that I’ve got healthier.

Step test ratings

Women’s ratings for 3 minute step test on 12 inch step

When I first did it back in August last year (before I started running, and before I’d started taking iron and folate supplements) my recovery minute’s pulse was 117.  Today it was 75 – which is less than my resting heart rate was eighteen months ago!  So something is working, even if I don’t run fast or often.  This is the Garmin heart-rate monitor graph from today’s 3 minutes.  (I didn’t use the Garmin for the one minute count – I just liked the look of that steep drop back down to resting heart rate.)

Step test graph

Three minute step test and one minute recovery

I had thought it was down to the exercise, but looking at the sparkpeople tracker for the step test, maybe it is as much to do with having enough iron and folate in my blood, because there was a significant improvement before I began the running in December last year.  All good fun, anyway.  🙂

Step test graph

Three minute step test progress (US-style dates, month-day-year)


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Chipping away at the mile pace

10:55 min/mile today, only the second time I’ve managed under 11 minutes for a complete mile, and a better pace than three of the four 4-min runs yesterday.   Cooler weather, and a breeze, definitely helps.

This afternoon we visited Compton Verney, an art museum in a Capability Brown landscape just down the road from us.  I enjoyed the Turner and Constable exhibition focused on sketching from nature, and we all enjoyed climbing up in the ‘Empty Nest’ sculpture to see the view over the lake.

Empty Nest tree sculpture

Empty Nest tree sculpture

We had fun making shops to add to the public-participation display – a response to ‘The Narb’ (one of the several pictures that show at this link).

Spar

Spar

Street of cardboard shops

Public participation art – a street of shops – good fun, not sure how much art is involved though! Quite a few quirky ones including The Body Shop full of skeletons, and The Inconvenience Store stuck as high up the wall as they could reach.


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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.

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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Misread the calendar

Hmm.  Went off to a grass identification workshop this morning (I like my plants).  However, when I arrived, I found out that I’d misread the calendar (another senior moment), and it isn’t until next week.  So, as I’d driven all the way to the nature reserve, I thought I might as well learn about dragonflies instead…

Very interesting they were too, with beautiful photographs, but as it was overcast by lunchtime, I didn’t stay for the dragonfly hunting, but went for a walk round on my own.  I didn’t see any butterflies or dragonflies, but I did see some good birds, and I walked 2.6 miles, so good exercise.  I wore my running trainers, so my feet felt ok.  I even jogged a little bit.

I heard a cuckoo, which was great; that’s the third time I’ve heard them this year.  As I went into the first bird-hide, I was told that a kingfisher had been around earlier, but they’d been waiting about twenty minutes and it hadn’t come back – but I was lucky enough that it returned while I was there.  Just a fast flash of blue – stunning.  There was a reed bunting there too.

At another hide I saw a reed warbler, and then on a different lake, with a mudflat, there was a wonderful range of birds, including two I don’t think I’ve seen before – teal and little ringed plover.  All quite a long way away – and the plovers ran around really fast, like little mice!   Sixteen species altogether.  So, even though I didn’t get to the grasses, I had a good day out.

Lapwing

Lapwing and reflection

male Teal

A male Teal duck. Gorgeous patterning on the feathers on its side.

Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plover staring at me.


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Moths and butterflies

Well, not many moths and butterflies, but I did see two Green-veined White butterflies, quite a few Burnet moth chrysalises and a Yellow Shell moth.  I walked just over 3 miles, which included edges of wheat and rape fields, a stream, a path through a meadow with buttercups and clover – just beginning to flower, and the edge of a lake at a stately home that is now an art gallery (Compton Verney) and some woodland.  Later on, I went to see a friend in the village, and jogged most of the way home, including a short steepish hill.

 footpath bridge

Footpath bridge over stream

footpath direction

Footpath direction post

Burnet moth chrysalis

Burnet moth chrysalis on Meadow Foxtail grass

hawthorn blossom

Hawthorn blossom

Green-veined White

Green-veined White butterfly on Cow Parsley, Anthriscus sylvestris

pink Hogweed

Pink Hogweed flowers (just part of the flowerhead) – usually they are white

Yellow Shell moth

Yellow Shell moth