Saturday, 18 September 2010

A walk in the park

Yesterday I went for a quiet wander in the park.  The sort of day where you realise that Autumn is approaching and Summer is dying away.  This time of the year is great.  Sun but no real warmth. Cold but not freezing, and no wind, a still day.

The land still has all its lovely full Summer colours but you know the Autumn is approaching the Sweet Chestnuts are falling to the ground, though still to small to eat but in another 6 - 7 weeks we will be hopefully in for a lovely bumper crop of my favourite Autumn food Roasted Sweet Chestnuts. I looked around for the Dragonflies but they seem to have all disappeared.  Whilst looking for the flies I came across a wonderful splash of colour in the form of a Pink Waterlily among all the green I just had to take a picture.

The sun was streaming through the woodland canopy and bouncing of the water a real day to enjoy life.

Even in death beauty can be found, a dead tree that is being used by the Woodpeckers. Framed against a blue sky the tree stood out as I walked by.

Woodpecker Tree

I had to visit my favourite tree. Earlier in the summer I had picked Cherry Plums from this tree now of course all the fruit has gone, perhaps next year I may make some jelly jam from the fruit?

Cherry Plum Tree on the left.  Small hazel on the right.
This time of year in the UK edible mushroom / Fungus / Fungi are very much in season.  I found some lovely Beef Steak Fungus in the week which I sliced into thin strips and fried in a little butter served with salt and pepper, lovely. Today hidden away in an old but growing Oak tree was a small Beef Steak Fungus they only grow on old living Oak or Sweet Chestnut trees.  Be careful what you pick in the woods to eat if unsure please do not eat it some fungus's can kill. 
Small Beef Steak Fungus on an old living Oak tree.
Not all Fungi are edible but some I believe are just pretty in there own right.  Take this picture of the Common Ganoderma Fungi on an a very old Beech tree.  Beautiful for what it is I think?

Inedible Bracket Fungi Commom Ganoderma
Lots of Fungi, Fungus, Mushrooms etc around at the moment it seems like a bumper year? These Shaggy Ink Caps photographed at the side of the road are edible but must be eaten young.

Shaggy Ink Caps
As always I had Pants along with me, my companion generally on my walks and visits.

A thoroughly enjoyable walk in the Park.

Please before eating wild foods even if you think you know what it is check or ask someone who knows. Stay safe.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Fossil Coast

Gault Clay Cliffs
Today we decided to go to the fossil coast at Copt Bay, Folkestone.  The weather was warm with the sun breaking through the clouds occasionally. We made a flask of coffee, packed a small daysack and loaded Pants into the car.  The trip is about 5 minutes from home we could in fact walk there but to ensure we got the tide at the right time we drove. A short walk to the edge of the cliffs and a sharp descent down to the fossils embedded into the face of the cliffs.  I am no expert when it comes to fossils so much of the information has been taken from the on site information board that is located at the top of the cliffs.
Ammonite impression
We discovered the beach and fossil coast by accident. Despite being so close we had never stumbled on the fossil area, not being local or living long in the area. I have to say that it is now one of our favourite locations. The fossils date from the Albian stage of the Early Cretaceous epoch, approximately 110 million years ago. The fossils in general are found in the Gault clay. 


The best time to go is after a storm when the cliff face has been eroded, that was the first time we visited and we found plenty of nice impressions and fossils. We ventured up to the Gault clay cliffs and I soon discovered a few nice impressions in the clay. The area around the cliffs in general is littered with concrete Anti tank / vehicle blocks left from World War II to prevent landings these are now being overgrown with seaweed. 
Pants inspecting the Old WW II sea defences

The last time we came to the beach we found a fragment of old mug / cup dated 1852. To me these simple little things are quite fascinating. We proceeded along the cliff looking for fossils and impressions I found a few more examples in the clay.  

 Hoptitidae sp 
Neohibolites Minimus
However, we found very little on the beach area probaly due to the lack of heavy weather damage to the cliffs.
Hamites Maximus

 I have taken some pictures of previous finds of visits to Copt point.

Hoptitidae sp
Hoptitidae sp
Anahoplites sp and Neohibolites Minimus
The tide was at its lowest point when we arrived, the ebb is only about 35 minutes before the tide comes in it is quite easy to get carried away with the exploration and get cut of on the point. The small sandy beach area a little away from the cliffs is popular with people looking for prawns / shrimp we observed a man shrimping and actually met up with him when we were leaving he had a few pounds of fresh caught shrimps with him. We decided to wander back to the beach area and have a look around after a lady had commented that you could find some nice examples of fossils with mother of pearl inlay still on at low tide in that area. 

We duly had a look but to no avail, another location to check out the next time we visit. Time to stop for a cup of coffee. 

Pants had been swimming he really enjoys the water trying to get rocks out of the sea strange dog. Once we had drank our coffee we decided to head off back to the car.  Its truly amazing how quickly time goes when you are enjoying yourself we had been on the coast for over 2 hours and the tide was well on the way in.  I am going to invest in a small shrimp net and give it a go.  We love shellfish, I am sure that it will be fun and a bit of a laugh.  I might do a short blog on our first shrimping expedition it depends on how succesful we are.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Simple Hobo Stove

In the pursuit of outdoor living there are a few key requirements to make yourself comfortable shelter, warmth water and food. In the UK it is not always acceptable, sensible or legal to start an open fire on someone else's land unless permission is sought and given.  Enjoying the delights of an open fire I decided to look into how you could have the benefits of a living fire to cook over without the risks associated with it. After a few trawls over the Internet I came upon several versions of the Hobo Stove including versions of the originals from the USA. I eventually settled upon this design.  The basic requirements are: Stainless steel drainer unit available from most stores (with holes in the side).

Stainless steel tea,coffee, or sugar container this should be able to fit inside the drainer, wire cable(mine came from an old lawn mower throttle), a couple of electrical connectors (plastic type they have stainless steel parts inside) a couple of large sea fishing swivels.

A couple of stainless steel BBQ skewers (taken from the BBQ equipment).

A pop rivet gun with a couple of rivets, angle grinder or hacksaw,drill and craft knife. Well that's about all the stores you will require to manufacture the Hobo stove. The first thing that you must do is ensure that the boiling vessel that you are going to use (tea,coffee,sugar container in my case) fits inside the drainer (cooker) that you have bought.

Take the drainer with you to the supermarket or at least take the measurements. The next stage of the process is to decide where and how large you are going to cut an opening, allowing you to put your fuel source into the stove. Once you have decided where its going it's time to cut the opening out.  I used a angle grinder for the job it only took a few minutes.  

Once cut the edges will be razor sharp beware file them back so that the edges are blunt. You have got to be able just about to put your hands in and out of the opening.

Please if you are using tools that you have never used before or not competent with seek advice.  Always think SAFETY FIRST.   

Really that's the cooker done!!  The next stage involves a bit more work, well it did for me.  The container that you are going to use for the cooking vessel. I chose a stainless steel tea caddy from a well known UK store it cost a couple of pounds.  The first thing I did was to locate the centre of the top of the lid of the caddy and drilled a hole to except a screw. I then made a small knob as a handle from seasoned Beech for the lid of the caddy. The next stage was to drill two holes into the side of the lid of the caddy to act as steam vents. So that when the cooking vessel / kettle was boiling the pressure escaped.

When drilling the two holes ensure that they are located above the actually main body of the cooking vessel / kettle otherwise when you fit the lid back you will still have no holes!!!!!!!  With the knob fitted, steam pressure holes drilled re-fit the lid to the caddy.

Ensure you drill two pressure holes

What you must know do, is decide where you are going to drill you holes on either side of the main caddy to allow you to fit the large metal swivels.  Be careful not to drill to high or low on the caddy body, you want the caddy to be able to pour and swivel its your best guess....I thought about it this way the caddy cost just a couple of pounds..kept the pressure of me.  Once the holes are drilled it's time to fit the swivels attached with pop rivets this was the hardest part for me not using a rivet gun for many years. The next step was to get hold of the plastic connectors and remove the plastic from them.  We only want the stainless steel connectors. I used a craft knife for the task be careful its easy to cut the old pinky's.  Once we have our two sets of connectors its time to decide how long the carrying handle will be (I used throttle cable its stainless steel) again its personal choice I made mine perhaps a bit long.  To attach the cable to the cooking vessel / kettle place the wire through one side of the connector then through swivel eye and back through the connector tightening up as you go.The final stage that I completed was the shortening of the BBQ skewers that will support the weight of the kettle.  I kept them long to start with but it was not practical so they where shortened to fit into the stove for an easy pack away.

The very last thing to do is test our new stove out.  I have to say that for the stove to burn the natural fuel that you use it needs ventilation from the bottom.  Raise the stove in some way ensuring that its is stable.  I have found that the best and most portable item is the old fashioned British Military hexamine cooker.  The types of fuel that you can use come down to two types Natural and Manmade. Natural speaks for itself, however I find that Pine cones burn best its the resin. Man made you could buy or even make a Trangia cooker insert or hexamine or such like substances.  I have to be truthful a good project to make and something that is very practical, however I have used mine only a few times.  The cooking pot has been hung on a hanger over an open fire it worked well. A few pictures below of the Hobo in action on the beach near my home.

A day at the beach

Moules el Fresco
"Its a partnership" Moules are collected while the cooker is started
Pine cones for fuel. A cup of Coffee coming straight up
My last word on the Hobo stove is please be responsible and fire aware when in the Countryside.          

Thursday, 2 September 2010

The Dragonfly Walk

Common Darter Dragonfly
I look forward to expanding my knowledge about the Countryside, Nature and all things Outdoors. The 25th of August was just such a day.  I had the most fortunate opportunity to be given a very informative short lecture about Dragonfly's / Damselflies by a gentleman who's enthusiasm for his subject was infectious and you could not help but be swept up by it.  After the lecture we departed for a field trip to the local lakes and ponds to search for the flies.  We were so fortunate with the weather thank goodness the sun came out to play. On previous day's we had very heavy rain and in fact the remainder of the week was set for rain.  A glimmer of sunshine on the day we had chosen to conduct our Field Trip.  You cannot help wonder at the beauty of the Woodland in the Summer months.

Brown Birch Bolete

I found a couple of Bolete's one of which was about 6 - 7 inch across the top. Both are edible.

We parked, got booted up, collected our day sacks and proceeded.  We had not gone more than 300m from where we had left the vehicles before we came across our first Damselfly's, The Azure Blue.  We spent over 2 hours moving from wetland ground to ponds in search of the flies.

I have to say that being a complete novice it was quite a lot to take in.  The recognition of the different kinds of Dragonflies/Damselflies is overwhelming.  We came across over 10 - 12 different species on our little field trip.

White Legged Damsellflie
I have never really taken the time to stop and appreciate the beauty of the flies. I plan to rectify that by purchasing a small book on how to recognise Dragonfly. The walk gave me a chance to capture some images of the local woods and streams.  It is amazing, the lakes where almost dry after a prolonged period of no rain. One real heavy down pour and that all changes. We finished our little field trip I had my Cheese and Onion sandwiches, we chatted and all departed much the wiser for our field trip in search of Dragonflies. I found the day so very interesting.  All photos of Dragonflies in this short Blog are courtesy of my friend Bob the Beard, he has a wonderful portfolio of wildlife pictures thanks mate.
Brown Hawker

On a different subject whilst out and about the other day I found a very unusual plant/flower which I think is from the Artichoke family.  I would be interested if anyone could recognise the plant pictured below and post a comment, thanks.

Who am I ?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Late Summer walk on the White Cliffs of Dover.

On Bank Holiday Monday I thought that I would go for a walk with my dog (Pants).

 The day had started off with brilliant sunshine. It had been such a shocking few days before that I needed to get out.  So at 07:30 off we went heading for the White Cliffs of Dover near Folkestone.  It did not take long before the Nokia E72 phone camera came into play the image quality is so good  have taken to leaving the Fuji at home.  The views of the coast of France were spectacular you could even see the buildings in what I assume is Calais.

Once at the top of the cliffs there is a very steep zig zaggy narrow path down to a small campsite.  We proceeded to continue down again I had to take a few images of the sun pouring through the foliage canopy.

The route down.
Nature is so beautiful at times. I started to notice that there was an abundance of ferns again the camera came out.
Hart's Tongue Fern
Halfway down we stopped to admire the view and I decided to wait for a train to appear.....I had along wait and in the end gave up and moved along.  Their is no morale or tale to this little story just the ramblings of a man enjoying a wonderful late summer walk with his dog, so please bear with me. 
In the distance Samphire Hoe.  The spoil from the Channel Tunnel.

During the Napoleonic wars Britain erected a series of Martello Towers on the South coast to warn of invasion most have been left to the weather or in some cases turned into homes.  Peeking out between the trees was a wonderful view of a Martello tower that has been restored back dropped by the English Channel. 
White Martello Tower
Once we reached the bottom we turned around and started our ascent of the narrow track.  I have to say that the upward trip was not as enjoyable as the descent.

Looking back up, the way home.
I got to the top completely out of breath, with a sweat on.  Pants however, just looked at me wanting more.....  I decided that we should head back to home within minutes a sea fog came in you could not see your hand in front of your face.  A walk that was enjoyable for the early morning sunshine and views for me, Pants just enjoys the walk.