Category Archives: LEISURE TIME

RESTING PLACE – IN THE POOR LANDS


I was doing some computer housework today and just having a general clean up and sort out. I found one particular photo that I took a while ago. It’s in Rogiet a small village about 5 miles from Chepstow, for those who are not familiar with area, Chepstow is where the Severn Bridge crossing is, the Gateway to Wales. However, there is a small little hideaway in Rogiet and it is owned by the Gwent Wildlife Trust (GWT) it is a very old area where many moons ago, so I believe, there was some kind of Gypsy dwelling. Later on it also became a local tipping place where the locals would take there rubbish to dump. I understand some nice little finds have been found there over the years. Especially if you are a collector of ‘say’ small tincture bottles and the like. Today is has been cleared and cleaned up by volunteers with GWT into a small nature reserve, and on a nice day it is a lovely place to go and just sit and watch and listen to nature. I have spent many hours there over the years and I have seen everything from newly born Rabbits to soaring Buzzards, not to mention 1000’s of flies of all types and sizes (great if you are a Bug person), bees, birds and a plethora of wildflowers. For those of you who live in the area, I can recommend a 20 minute stroll at The Rogiet Poor Lands site, and it doesn’t have to be a nice sunny day either. I have also been there on a crisp Autumn morning and watched the songbirds hunting for food.

A welcome resting spot to stop and absorb all that is nature
A welcome resting spot to stop and absorb all that is nature

There is no charge to go in and in most cases, depending upon time of year and day you may well be on your own where you can contemplate……..well anything really.


Chepstow Castle Internal Door
Chepstow Castle Internal Door

Well it’s seems like an age since I last posted, so I thought my snippet of a Chepstow Castle door (which dates back to the 11th Century) would be an apt header!

I would just like to wish all my new friends on WordPress Blogs (and any other Blogs for that matter) a very happy Christmas and a healthy & prosperous New Year.

The weather in Wales is much like the rest of the UK at the moment there are floods everywhere, and more rain than we have had in a 100 years. But it doesn’t appear to have deterred the shoppers, from the TV news I see that the High Street and the Internet have all had a last minute boost to their sales. And good luck to them – it didn’t come from my house!

I have a number of plans for the New Year, whether they will come to fruition or not is another thing. One never knows what is around the corner, good or bad? But if all goes according to plan, I intend to finally publish my PhotoBook on “My Time with the King of Skiffle“. I have quite a lot of unpublished pics of Lonnie Donegan (Does your Chewing gum Lose its Flavour) during the time I was with him from about 1968 to 1973. I am sure there will not be a lot of interest out there, but I know there is a click of hard fans who would welcome it. Besides, I feel it would be a shame if the pics didn’t see the light of day.

I also have a number of photos, also unpublished of other entertainers which I guess would be another book. Pics of ABBA during their sound check at the Royal Albert Hall in 1978. I was the only photographer allowed in – all down to CBS Clout – nothing to do with photography skills. And lots of photos taken at private gatherings, none of which I will mention here because I am not a ‘PAP’ and I will ask permission to publish, just out of politeness really.

OK, have a wonderful and safe holiday,

My warmest wishes to all.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge – ‘What makes me happy’


Ok so this is my first attempt at the photo challenge, hope I don’t mess it up!

Not one of my pics
Banded Damselfly
My Late Huxley – Almost

I was going to try the new photo layout but I couldn’t find it!

Hope you like a selection of things that make me happy.

 

 

Wild Flowers & Stuff


Some of you may recall that I recently revisited my local wildlife stomping ground only to find that the local Council workers had moved in and chopped everything down,  and dredged up all the silt at the bottom of the water, that contained all the larvae, eggs and what not of the local insect life. I was most disappointed but, I know it will come back in time. Whilst I was there I was met by a really nice guy and his wife, his name is Rob and he is a volunteer who tends the wild patch. He basically, from what I can tell, keeps the place generally tidy by litter picking, and the odd bit of pruning here and there. Whatever he does, he does it very well and I and the local Flora & Fauna thank him. Anyway, we got chatting and before long I realised that this chap had a great in-depth knowledge of wildflowers. He asked me if I had seen the wild Orchid in the meadow, I told him I hadn’t and he started to explain where it was and how I should find it. The he suddenly said…Oh come on I’ll show you, he asked his wife if she minded and we left. We had to walk only about 500 yards or so to the meadow (thats the polite word for the couple of acres of scrubland, that is full of wildflowers).  Finally amongst a whole bunch of grass and stuff, there was this beautiful flower. It wasn’t what I had expected because I didn’t know that Orchids grew in this shape.  Rob  went on to explain that he hadn’t managed to identify it yet, that he thought he knew all the Orchids but he couldn’t name this one.  I thanked him for his time and I took a couple of pics.  Before he left he said oh by the way, on the other side of the road as you come in there is a another smaller stretch of wild area with a pond that hasn’t been disturbed for ages, you may find your Dragonflies and Damselflies there.

So that was quite a few weeks ago now and I really have been bogged down and haven’t had the opportunity to go there until Sunday past.  Imagine my joy to see simply loads of insect life abound, including some beautiful Dragonflies. I am hoping to get down there and spend a little longer next week, I shall keep you posted.

Un-named Wild Orchid
Un-named Wild Orchid

And then just one pic of a Southern Hawker Dragonfly from the other wild area.

Southern Hawker

How Animals Can Brighten Your Day


You wanna take my photo? Go on then…how’s this?

I had never seen this horse before, I just stopped at the gate whilst out for a quiet walk with my camera. When I stopped at the gate the three horses that were in the distance turned and saw me and made their way across to me. On their arrival I offered the first one an Extra Strong Mint (candy). He just turned up his nose and didn’t take it, then I offered it to the second who took it and proceeded to drop it on the ground. Then this chap pushed his way in and said “I want one”.  I offered him the same he took it  and crunched it up (they are very hot) and then asked for a second, which I gave him. When he asked for a third I said, “No,  too many sweets are bad for your teeth” ( I looked over my shoulder in case anyone was watching me, as they would have thought I was nuts talking to animals. When I turned back, I smoothed this chap on the head and he gave me this great big smile. And, he then did it again to allow me to take the photo.

Don’t you just love ‘Dumb’ animals? Whoever named animals dumb, was no genius!!

Sunday Times Feature on Litter


Hi all,

Ok, I have tried to make some sense of  the pics of the discarded Bra via a screen grab. I trust it works.

 

Screen grab of Sunday Times on line article on litter

 

A closer screen grab of the said Bra.

 

Now I should make it clear that I really don’t know much about the quality and costs of such under garments, but it looked like it was fairly expensive. How on earth could it have been forgotten?  What did the owner think when she got home and started to get undressed for bed? Surely she would have missed it then….if not sooner. Of course I am presuming that it was a her, could have been a him, then maybe he wouldn’t have missed it until he looked in the mirror.

:-0)

Stepping Back In Time


I know, it’s been an age in between posts! But I have finally found a few minutes to jot something down.

During my recent trip to the Golden Valley, I was fortunate enough to actually get out and explore the immediate vicinity, (my apologies if I repeat myself here and there).

You will recall that I went to a village in the Valley known as Vowchurch. Well this time out I went in the opposite direction and visited Peterchurch. Then the next time went back to Vowchurch and then on to the next little village which really was like stepping back in time.    However, the first thing that I saw as I entered Peterchurch was a Second WW US Army Ambulance up on a ramp! Not something I expected to find in the depths of darkest Herefordshire.

US Army World War II Ambulance

Kind of weird really and something that made me stop in my tracks and just look at it, and wondered who would have driven it etc.

Immediately opposite the truck was the church of Peterchurch. This was a bigger one than the previous church I had visited but part of the same group (not the correct term I know) and administered by the same clergy. In front of the church was a magnificent example of an ancient Yew tree. The tree is recorded as being at least 850 years old! Apparently, in the Middle Ages many of the churches were used as a refuge and ‘forts’ as the villages were regularly raided by Celtic warriors from over the border in Wales.  The main weapon of the day was the bow and arrow and, what wood do you think the bows were made from? Yes absolutely correct Yew. So that it is why in most of the church yards in the UK you will find a really old Yew tree in the yard.

The next village was back to Vowchurch and then on to the old village of Turnastone.  As I entered the village it was just like stepping back in time, the first thing I saw was an old farmhouse. It was pretty old but also it was empty. What once was obviously a magnificent family home, was now just sitting there rotting away.  From what I could gather it appeared the farm business was another victim of the current economical downturn that is affecting everyone.
Turnastone Court

Turnastone Court really would have been a beautiful place to live back in the day, and its garden backed on to the little River Dore. However, if I thought this was quaint, I wasn’t any where ready for what I was to see next.

Turnastone Village Garage

An Original 1940's Petrol Pump

It was almost like stepping onto and Ealing Studios British Film Set. It was absolutely wonderful, well it was for me, I must have take about 60 pics of the place from every angle.

I eventually came to St Margaret’s church and I went in side, it was a sweet little church and once again steeped in history. I took a number of photos many of which are still in the workflow but I will show them as soon as.  Meanwhile, I will leave you with just one more pic. This was one I took of a memorial plaque on the wall inside the church.

It is written in old English where the ‘S’ looks like an ‘f’ and the Stonemason would abbreviate words to suit, as he was engraving to ensure it all fitted on the stone.  The way that I read it is that young John Roberts Junior died just after Christmas on December 29th 1768 at the age of 22.  Then just 12 days later his wife Catherine who was 25 also died as did their daughter Ann. I couldn’t find out anything out about the family or why they perished, but the Plague and the Pox were around at that time along with all the other diseases of the day, and obviously without any real pharmaceuticals to treat the illnesses with.

The poem at the bottom reads: In youthful years through pain and grief, we here retreat and find relief.  Waiting in hope out of this dust, to rise and reign among the just.

Golden Valley Trip


As some of you may know, my dear wife is an MS sufferer. She is what is termed as Primary Progressive and is now in her 17th year. She has coped remarkably well but is now on Morphine patches to help with the pain. However, the reason I am telling you this is that, because of the Morphine, coupled with the fatigue of the illness, she tends to get knocked out!  So, there was no way we were going to be able to leave for this trip before mid-afternoon, as hopefully she would be awake enough to travel by then.  This we managed to achieve, we then proceeded to tow the Caravan up to the Golden Valley which is about an hour and a half’s journey, which is about the limit for Ondrea.

When we arrived it was freezing cold and dark – nothing worse than trying to site a Caravan in the dark. However, it didn’t take too long and I had Ondrea in the van, the next thing is to get the heating on and the hot water. After messing about and scratching my head for nearly 4 hours, I managed the heating and hot water task. I had made a major slip up and forgot to check the LPG Gas before we left, and needless to say, we had ran out! I managed to get a fresh bottle and the heat was on, but that took 4 hours!! I was not the champion of the day, to say the least!!!

The next day was a little warmer and by this time the van was warm and snug. We had breakfast and then I planned to go and explore the area leaving Ondrea with her Kindle.

The first place I found was a small village called Vowchurch. A tiny village that is mentioned in the Doomsday book albeit spelt fowchirche. As I drove into the village the first thing I spotted was this beautiful old church called St Bartholomew’s. To say it was old was an understatement. This lovely little church had been standing on the same spot, welcoming people since the early 1200’s

Now I have seen a large number of churches over the years, it is one of my delights to find a church and then try and find some of the history behind it. Having said that in more recent years, when I have attempted to enter the House of God, I usually find the door is locked! So no sanctuary there then. Imagine my surprise when I approached this ancient door and found a sign pinned to it.

Sign on the door of St Bartholomew Church

Needless to say I grasped the ancient iron door handle and twisted it in it’s rattling socket. The handle must have been 200 years old if it was a day. I wondered how many people before had turned the very same handle, back in the day when there was no running water, no sewage works, no electricity. And what had they entered the church for…a happy Christening or wedding, or a sad farewell to a loved one.

As soon as I entered the church it was slightly chilly and getting dark. What struck me most was the silence and the feeling that I wasn’t alone.  I know, a number of you will be saying that I was making it up because of the age of the building etc. But I promise you, the feeling in that Ancient Old English church was welcoming. I sat down in one of the pews and said a prayer.  I then looked around for some information leaflets or a booklet. Once I had found it I then looked for somewhere to put a donation. Many of these old churches have iron boxes build into the stonework and you post your donation through a small slot. I found what I was looking for and made  my donation.

Looking down the aisle from behind the Norman built font, towards the alter

After spending about 20 minutes in the church, I realised that I needed to get back to the Caravan site. So I said thank you to whomever may have been listening and made my exit back into the daylight.

I had a quick look around the graveyard and the ancient stone bridge that crossed the river Dore and headed off.

This was a Headstone just to the left of the main entrance to the church.
The bridge over the Dore. Apparently not the original. The original was made of wood and was further down stream. This version was built in the 1800's.
The twisted root of an ancient tree in the grounds of the Graveyard and on the banks of the Dore. I couldn't resist a snap, the tree must have been at least 500 years old.

So, a wonderful hour spent in a time gone by, the next day I went to another village where there was an even bigger church, but more of that on another occasion. When I returned I was greeted by a chubby little Robin who just sat there and posed for me.

Robin - Erithicus Rubecula

Golden Valley


I am currently away on a trip to the Golden Valley in Herefordshire, UK. It was supposed to be a Nature Photography trip! I say supposed because it hasn’t stopped raining for more than an hour yet. But it is such beautiful countryside that I don’t really mind. Hopefully I will post  some pix soon.

Natures Detectives


English: Pond at Magor Marsh Nature Reserve Mo...
Image via Wikipedia

I know that it has been over a month since my last post here and I feel pretty guilty. That almost sounds like the beginning of a Catholic confession! But I promise you dear reader, I do have some genuine reasons. One, I have been ‘enjoying’ bad health, two I am my wife’s main Carer and she will always come first and three, there was a surprise birthday party for me organised by my number 2 son Jozif. I hate surprise parties, but as this was a special one (Big 70) I kind of accepted the surprise, and I was pleased that I did.

Jozif is a DJ and Music Producer and he flew back from Tunisia – where he had a gig – especially for me. He also organised his two brothers, who in turn had to juggle their diaries to be there. We had the small dinner party at home, Jozif and Oliver stayed on for a couple of days, Ben the eldest had to leave because of baby duties. He made me the proud grandfather for the third time with the gorgeous Lilly-Mae recently. Next Oli had to leave to take care of business at EMI Records where he manages the design department, and then Jozif shot off to Madrid for his next gig!

So all in all, a pretty hectic time.

Today was a beautiful Winter’s morning the sun was strong, the sky was blue with some lovely fluffy white clouds and there was a fierce chill in the air. However, I had signed up for a morning’s seminar/workshop with the Gwent Wildlife Trust (GWT), at the nearby Magor Marsh Nature Reserve. The reserve has been there for a while now and it is really making a name for itself, unfortunately I don’t get to go there as often as I would like.  This morning’s session was entitled Nature Detectives. It was delivered by a charming and very knowledgeable chap named Chris Hatch. Chris brought a few examples with him of things one is likely to find in the countryside and went into great detail to explain what they were and why they were important etc. The items included a large mollusc  which was a Swan Muscle, found in freshwater and in the reens  at Magor Marsh. Reens are small shallow field drains or ditches, but in Wales they are known as Reens.  He also showed us a the breast bone (Sternum) of a Pigeon which he had found beneath the nest of a Peregrin falcon and finally the skull of a badger.

After spending about 20 minutes in the classroom the small gathering followed Chris out onto the Reserve to see what signs we could spot. and where we should be looking for signs. We were lucky to be able to spot signs of both Otter and Fox. We walked on to the Hide where we spotted a number of Teal and a Crested Grebe, not a fantastic display I admit, but all the same some good explanations from Chris and also the signs of Badger just near the Hide.

Finally on the way back Chris pointed out some grassland that he said was the ideal habitat for Snipe, so while we stayed on the path Chris walked through the grassland to see if he could ‘walk up’ some Snipe.  Sure enough with two minutes of him walking onto the land up flew the recognisable zig-zag flight of a common snipe.

So an enjoyable two hours spent at Magor Marsh Wildlife Reserve in Monmouthshire.

The Nature Detectives follow Chris Hatch onto the Reserve

Magor Marsh Nature Reserve (Gwent Wildlife Trust)
Image via Wikipedia

Common Snipe
Flushed Common Snipe