There are always things to be found in the forest, if you look, that is. Walk off the beaten track, keep you eyes open and you're bound to come across something. And, they're all part of a story. Hundred's of stories that I only see fragments of. I'm not complaining, mind. I enjoy finding things, they often make me smile, and I enjoy letting my mind wander as I ponder the what's, the who's and the whys.
Sunday, 30 December 2018
Saturday, 29 December 2018
You'd think that over the years access to the forest would have increased, and in respect to numbers it has, though I really mean more in regards to accessibility. Over the years I've seen numerous paths and routes disappear, bridges decay never to be replaced, even actively removed, allowing routes to become forgotten and favourite spots left abandoned. Take this stretch of Uber Water, below Markway Bridge, I remember a small narrow footbridge being here for ever, it fell into ruin and that was that, there may even have been two. I've wondered why that would be, it happened all over the forest about 20 years ago, bridges, car parks, and access gates, all disappeared. I suppose it could have been some conservation plan, though all it's done is create over used 'honey pots' where more folk have been concentrated into fewer car parks and onto walks. Or, it could be that there were just too many things to keep maintained in our modern asset stripped country. I may look into it, or more likely forget, until the next time I remember something that's no longer there whilst out walking. For me, I still visit the spots and walk the same paths I've walked for decades, paths don't need to be marked to exist.
Friday, 28 December 2018
Wednesday, 26 December 2018
Even though time and life have hollowed out this veteran Beech, it still puts on a good show. For all intents and purposes viewed from most angles this tree looks rock solid and in perfect health, though it is but a shell of itself. It's not uncommon to approach a veteran or ancient tree unaware that what you're looking at is only half a tree, and often less than that. Nature's wonderful, her determination and endurance are inspirational.
Tuesday, 25 December 2018
check them out, everything I've heard to date is aural joy. So, I'm looking forward to looking backward, and to hearing some of the bands earlier material. The earliest album I have is 2014's Victoria Moon, another great album. 2011 is way down the time tunnel, and I can't wait to find out what the band sounded like then!
Monday, 24 December 2018
It's not until the wet season that you can make out the early 19th century meandering course of Red Rise Brook in one of its un-restored sections. Its truncated oxbows are always there, though they're just easily overlooked, the years have seen them silt up and become colonized by heathland flora, although when water filled you can easily follow the streams pre Victorian course, which meandered similarly to Mill Lawn Brook up stream. I don't know if they intend to restore this section of stream at any point. Though, it's just dawned on that the bog woodland restoration program may cease after brexit, as it's an EU initiative, and EU funded too, so there maybe no more restoration projects in the forest. Another story the landscape will tell.
Saturday, 22 December 2018
It's an important day, so I'm up at 0500 this morning, it's the winter solstice. Every winter solstice I go somewhere to mark the occasion, I say 'somewhere', for 20 years there'd be only one place I'd be and that was at the 'Henge', though disgruntled with this and that, for the last few years I've sought over places to mark the new sun. Today though I felt compelled to return to Stonehenge to celebrate. We used to park on the nearby drove or a ways off and walk, though Wiltshire Council/English Heritage have put Temporarily Traffic Restricts on several of the rights of way in affect closing them to all vehicles, pedestrians and equestrians. So with my options limited, I reluctantly decided I had little choice other than the visitor centre car park. Reluctantly, as I take affront at having to pay, effectively, pay to pray. Anyway. The roads where clear as I drove through a moonlit landscape, English Heritage's open access notice had said the car parks wouldn't be open until 0600, and not to get there before. It was 0610 when approached 'Druid's Lodge' roundabout, and with only half a mile to the visitors centre I thought I was good for time. That feeling quickly evaporated as I saw the traffic chaos at the roundabout, the bumper to bumper headlights led off into the distance along the A303, and everything from every direction was stationary. All the approaches to the visitor centre were gridlocked. By 0700 I was approaching the the visitor centre car park, still plenty of time to walk the mile or so to the stones. No, I was directed on to the overflow car park and park and ride. Now ahead of me was an endless cue of tail lights. What a massive bummer, man. Time to sunrise shortened. By the time I reached the overflow car park the full sign was up, and bizarrely, we were directed back to the main car park. It was too late anyway, it was 0740, and even if I'd got a parking space, which is a mahousive if, I'd never have made the stones. What an omni-shambles, though it didn't have to be so. For years we've used the droves, there's something quite magical about spending the night around a fire on the drove, so near to the ritual site, something timeless, as those who built the site would have done. It worked too, people arrived at staggered times, people could walk, more than that a community formed which congregated at the allotted times, meeting, feasting, drinking, partying, as we know was the case during the sites construction and use. The archaeologist in me loves that continuity, though EH doesn't and works hard at making it as difficult as possible, part of a cynical move to deny any access the landscape other than through their expensive controlled route. As it happens, the Temporarily Traffic Restricts had been quashed on the 21st of December, though the prohibitions had not been lifted, so we'll see what happens at the Spring Equinox. Anyway, as I said, it was 0740 by now and I turned for home, I stopped briefly near Woodhenge to asked some coppers if they'd pass on complaints, they said they would, they weren't happy with the chaos either, and nodded in wry agreement with my cynical opinions on EH's motivations. Then I made my way to Old Sarum, and climbed the ancient ramparts to greet the new born sun. I was disappointed, though consoled myself it that it wasn't getting to the henge which was important, more the intention, that I'd got up and travelled, marked the day, observed the sunrise. The henge would have been a bonus. Spring Equinox it is then, an overnighter, weather (and droves open) permitting.
Friday, 21 December 2018
From the depth of Winters cold embrace.
Between the horns of the moon we glimpse an infants face.
Tis the birth of the new Sun.
Giving us hope of a Summer to come.
Between the horns of the moon we glimpse an infants face.
Tis the birth of the new Sun.
Giving us hope of a Summer to come.
Out in the forest for a Solstice walk, it had to be somewhere that really channels the forest's spirit, for me there are several places in the forest which do that, though none more so than Bratley Wood. Bratley Wood is surely one of the forest most beautiful woods, ancient and open it has vistas that steal your breath away and touch your spirit. So beautiful, man. Majestic wooden behemoths hold the land and reach for the sky, amongst the stands today deer and pony graze, whilst an inordinate number of tiny birds moved erratically through the maze of fallen trunk and bough. You see, the open aspect of the woodland which makes it so endearing, also, sadly, makes the woodland vulnerable to the elements, elements which in recent years have wrought destruction. It started in '87 when the Great Storm knocked chunks out of the stands, the holes left in the canopy allowed for more destruction, and so on, and so on. This has certainly accelerated over recent years, as the winds have increased in severity and frequency. Very sad, man, the mass of fallen trees, smashed and scattered, gives the woodland a melancholic edge. Though it's beauty still endures and shines through. Anyways.
Solstice blessings y'all beautiful people. We hope the birth of the new sun brings in abundance flags, flax, fodder, frigg and all else you need and desire for the coming cycle, and may this cycle be more radiant than the last.
Thursday, 20 December 2018
I've never done the 'Geocaching' thing, I do though appear to have a knack of finding them hidden out in the forest. I'm well into double figures now. I've never found one in such a lovely box as the one discovered today. Usually they're in Tupperware boxes (or similar), and this one was too, though inside was a beautifully carved Owl box, with a natty sliding outer lid and smaller internal lid, a really lovely thing. Nice.
The landscape can play tricks on you, this ancient Oak, hollowed out by lightning and time, often hides in plain sight. Stuck out on a exposed and open hillside you'd think you notice it right away, though it can be hard to spot. Lovely setting, mind. And worth a visit to say hello.
Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Ocknell Arch lays at the head of a dank valley, amongst the head waters of Highland Water. The ground's always wet, even during the summer months, though during the wetter months when the slopes channel the water through a filigree of rivulets and when the narrow infant flow of Highland Water exceeds it's banks, it's even more so. The ground here yields under foot, in some places more than your boots would like, or can endure. There are wonderful ancient Oaks dotted about the scrub woodland that fringes the stream, one I know has been in decline for some years now, aided I'm sure by the perpetual moisture of the land. I usually visit it once a year, sometimes more, and each visit I see more of the crown disappear, as bit by bit the tips of its branches break and they recede towards the trunk. It still endures though, still hold a place in the forest, and will do for many decades to come. The forest is timeless.
Monday, 17 December 2018
The low winter sun burst through the ancient stands of Mark Ash this morning, flooding the woodland in a wonderful light. Lovely. The woodland's quiet, though you'd be mistaken to think there's nothing going on, look and you see ponies grazing, frenetic squirrels, small birds flitting about drooped bracken, large birs looking on from high perches, a cautiously deer drinks from a water born rivulet, aware that the open forest left it exposed, it disappears quickly as we approach. There's plenty going on it the winter forest, it's just happening, for the most part, in understated ways.
Sunday, 16 December 2018
Saturday, 15 December 2018
Elfin Bow and Gary Lloyd have released a fabulous single on the Fruit de Mer Records label, Elfin Bow is musician and artist Elizabeth Anne Jones, and Gary Lloyd a respected composer, with them the Scottish Session Orchestra. I'll be honest I'd heard of none of them, and choose this single primarily as I liked the name 'Elfin Bow' (cool name), that, and I've yet to get a record from FdM that I don't enjoy. Well, what a lovely record. The A side is a beautiful arrangement of Sandy Denny's classic 'Who knows where the time goes', and one that really does the original justice. Elizabeth's got an absolutely gorgeous voice, and uses it wonderfully, doing a fantastic job with this classic. The original has a mournful feel to it, I think, whereas Elfin Bow has managed to elevated the mood, whilst retaining the gravitas and emotional essence of the original. Elizabeth's dreamlike honeyed vocals complimenting Sandy's lyrics, invoking those images of open fires in winter bound cottages, of the cycles of the year and of life. It's a really lovely interpretation. And the addition of the orchestra just hits you, man, and when it cuts in proper it adds drama, real depth and warmth, elevating the song even further, a grand interpretation. Masterful, man. As good as the Denny reworking is, and it is, what I love best is the B side. A stunning reworking of Elfin Bow's 'The Wisdom'. The original with Elizabeth's beautiful vocals is lovely enough (I checked it out on Bandcamp), though, on this track her voice is absolutely mesmerizing, man, transporting you to magical realms, maybe that's the 'elf', in Elfin Bow. Again, the addition of the orchestra lifts an already impressive track to something simply wonderful, the perfect juxtaposition of simple folk and grand orchestra. Both re-workings are enchanting, Elizabeth's voice is heavenly throughout, and massive kudos to Gary Lloyd and the Scottish Session Orchestra whose performances on both tracks are remarkable. A really lovely single. As with all FdM releases it's a quality release with attention to detail, a lovely gate-fold sleeve housing a pastel pink 7inch vinyl, go on buy one, you'll love it. Also, go check Elfin Bow out.
A fantastic release FdM, I'd have more like this.
And, if you fancy a trip, play it at 33rpm (both sides), go on, it's amazing what you get.
Friday, 14 December 2018
Held firm now in winters embrace, with the fall near complete, our forest stands in naked glory, the ancient leviathans of Mark Ash's, Barrow Moor, once again stand in magnificent isolation, in suspension, enjoying their rest and waiting for a new cycle to begin. The forest feels open and exposed now.
Thursday, 13 December 2018
Although the soils of the exposed open forest heath are poor, sand and gravels for the most part, with only a thin layer of usually impoverished soil, the ground supports a colourful world in miniature of mosses and lichens. On close inspection you can but wonder at the works of nature, who needs science fiction, the world around us is populated by a myriad of alien-ness. I'm going to try and get some better shots of the forest floor it's crazy.
Wednesday, 12 December 2018
A Fruits de Mer parcel through your door never fails to bring a broad smile to your face, and why wouldn't it, Fruits de Mer Records produce the most exquisite musical ear treats. Today a wonderful quadrigeminal of 7 inch's by: Elfin Bow and Gary Lloyd, The Chemistry Set, Nick Nicely and Touch. That's rarely all with a FdM delivery, included today the fabulous Swordfish and the Toad 'the first road trip', a mix exploring the FdM archives (all I've listened to, so far) and a Christmas postcard. A nice touch, and always appreciated. I was late to the Fruits de Mer party, and came to the label a couple of years ago through a selection of FdM mix CD's in a friends car, track after track of music which simply just hits that sweet spot, well, my musical sweet spot anyway. What FdM does, it does brilliantly. Attention to detail runs through the label like Brighton through rock, primarily in the choice of artists, all unique, all selected from a wide psychedelic spectrum and all with their own certain magic, the records are usually colourful quality pressings with a great deal of consideration put into the sleeves as well, the whole thing smacks of class. Anyway, these little fishies will not be going on the little dishy, rather on to the spinning platter. I'm off to listen the heck out of these beauties.
Tuesday, 11 December 2018
Walk a place long enough, and you'll discover its secret paths, you have to keep your eye out for them though. I say 'secret paths', they can't be that secret as for the most part once you're on one they're easily definable, although that traffic maybe made up largely of ponies. One such path is the path which follows the contours of Rock Hill, and the interface between the lawn and heather heath of Spy Holms and the open tufted grass wet heath below. It's a wonderful path which winds around the folds of the land, allowing you a different perspective than that afford by the established routes. It's always good to get another perspective.
Saturday, 8 December 2018
I made a rookie error today, especially for someone who has spent the majority of his life living on the coast. I didn't check the tides. Rookie, mistake, man. I'd planned to take harbour side route out round Hengistbury Head, and was pledged to my path by the time it disappeared into the harbour, even the bridges (whose position was marked by their balusters) were under water. The water looked shallow, and there grassy island dotted about, so I though carry on regardless. For the most part the water was shallow-ish though reaching mid shins at points, and at first I thought the waters were quite bracing, that swiftly shifted to cold, soon becoming painful, I was committed by now, the prospect of going back less appealing that soldiering on. Moving through the water as quickly as I could without ending up in a deeper hollow or such, I rested on the grassy islets, when I could to allow my feet to warm (warm not really being what they became, just less cold). It was worth it though, just to have done it, the near empty sands of Mudeford spit were a bonus.
Thursday, 6 December 2018
There are few trees hardy enough to consider attempting tenure on the seaward side of the Purbeck Hills, even fewer on the summit, rarely free of strong winds as it is. There's no season in which the Isle of Purbeck isn't at the mercy of the weather, and today was no exception, a brisk chill wind raked the hills. There's one tree though, a Hawthorn, which stands, or rather bows, on the bare ridge, close to a group of prehistoric burial mounds, the oldest over 5000 years. It's right to see Hawthorn and mound together, both having close association with the fay, both being home to faeries or gateway's to their world. The hawthorn looks as if weirdly trained by a mad arborist, though it's been shaped by the elements, or rather, one element. It's strength and tenacity in holding firm against that element is visible in its contorted form, it has clearly adopted a bend rather than break mentality, and that has served it well. It's still here, the winds haven't won, as yet.
Monday, 3 December 2018
Sunday, 2 December 2018
The recent rains have seen an unusually late flush of Ceps amongst the open oaks. I say flush, I've only seen about half a dozen about this morning, still, it's not usual for December. Shame those rains didn't come a few months back, we may have had a better crop, that said, it wasn't the worst mushrooming season I've seen. So, mustn't grumble. I got a few breakfasts, a couple of risottos and some dried till next season. I didn't collect them today though, they were all quite small, and I thought I'd leave them for the forest inhabitants, a tasty treat.
Saturday, 1 December 2018
Ordered by natural process. As the waters recede and the forest streams retreat back within their banks, they leave behind them the well ordered vestiges of autumns glories. It's quite a wonder to see.
Friday, 30 November 2018
Walking off the path as I do, I regularly stumble across weird stuff in the forest or when out and about. Things that must have made sense to the folk which constructed them, though I can't fathom. Take this 'thing', a circle of cut branches all of a similar guage, firmly pushed into the ground, one round of para cord tied around them, with conifer trigs (I don't know if they where green when placed) forming a cover...nothing inside (on cursory inspection, I don't like to disturb too much in case it's something ritual). What's that about? Most peculiar.
Thursday, 29 November 2018
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
The rain fell mainly on the plain. Actually it didn't, it fell all over the forest and then bled from the landscape through a filigree of rivulets, whereupon it engorged the forest streams causing them to burst their band and flood the surrounding environs. It gets much better than this, this is just the beginning, when properly inundated the water extends quiet some distance. This was the whole point of restoring the forests streams to their pre-Victorian courses, to slow the waters transit, holding more water in the forest and creating bog woodland environments. Well, it's working. I've walked this roam for decades and rarely in the past did Red Rise Brook breach it's banks, it had to be extraordinarily wet for weeks and even then it was never as expansive as it regularly is today.
Monday, 26 November 2018
Well camouflaged, this dragonfly blended beautifully, if it wasn't for a slight shift, I'd have walked on by. A bit late for Dragonflies isn't it? I thought late autumn was their limit. Still, although it's wings were a touch tardy, it looked in good health.
It was Geoff's first trip to the beach, I'd wanted to wait until Studland was dog friendly again and let him enjoy a proper beach. And enjoy it he did, loved it, in fact. It's been a while since I've walked here, though knowing the area quite well having spent countless hours investigating and recording Studlands World War 2 archaeology, I was struck by the changes. It's a strange environment, timeless though fluid and constantly in flux. The combination of management and natural forces, I suppose.
Sunday, 25 November 2018
You can still trace the boundary ditch and bank around Burley Old enclosure, greatly reduced in depth and stature respectively, though still a strong feature in the landscape. I like to walk boundary bank and let my mind wander, noting the admiralty marks on some of the trees I pass, remembering how these woods came to be and how the iron clads saved them for us to enjoy today. The forest still had to give up some of it's treasures for war though, quite a lot was taken a 100 years ago to shore the trenches and prop the tunnels. Though for the most part Burley Old has survived. It was nice out today, the forest is quiet, closed for winter, all, or at least most, of it's residents tucked safely away till spring. I feel like the night watchman, just keeping an eye on things. Burley Old remains my most frequently visited roam.
Saturday, 24 November 2018
And here we are again, in the west country's Albert Hall, venue of quality and distinction...The King Arthur. Our musical landscape would be greatly diminished if it weren't for the efforts of the King Arthur to consistently put on wonderful evenings of top draw bands. Tonight was particularly exciting for me as we were seeing two bands I've never seen perform. Exciting stuff! First up was Icarus Peel's Acid Reign, a band who showed perfectly that you still can't beat the beauty and pure power of a trio of first class seasoned musicians playing blistering rock. I don't think it'll ever be surpassed. Icarus and chums delivered blistering blues infused psychedelic rock with an element of late 60's sensibility, and they did it with gusto. Icarus Peel has a lovely guitar style, he makes it look a natural symbiosis, man and guitar, exquisitely picking as he works the frets, conjuring magical riffs, sweet flourishes and a well deployed whammy, made for some masterful guitar work. He's certainly in his element. What an outstanding guitarist, Icarus looked like he was having of fun too, a lot of smiles... always good see musicians enjoying themselves. Behind him, in the boiler room of the band, Brian Rushbrooke on drums, drums are a bands engine, and Brian made it look effortless (which of course it can't be, far from it), as he delivered some formidable drumming, beautifully paced with great resonance and depth, a really nice clean sound. Lovely. On Bass Andy Budge. Ubiquitous psyche bassist Andy, was on top form this evening, full toned, rich, deep and resonant bass is the Budge trademark, and he doesn't fail to deliver. A cucumber cool master bass practitioner, with great presence, Andy's neutronium fingers picked out some wonderfully groovy blues licks and riffs. The Budge Rushbrooke combination ensured a rock solid rhythm section, together with Icarus' sweetly singing guitar all the ingredients were there for a musical feast. Man, what a feast of wonderful bluesy psychedelia it was, a real listening pleasure. We could've listened to a lot more of that, it was bliss. I love that the cut back nature of the production allows you to hear and enjoy the individual musicians contributions, there's a purity to a good three piece, and these fellows were way beyond good, each performed magnificently. Kings of blues infused psychedelia, the throne rightly belongs to them, long may Icarus Peel's Acid Reign. Big thanks y'all. And check this out.
Thursday, 22 November 2018
If you're of the school of thought or tradition that says, berries (sloe, hip, haw and so forth) should be, or are best, picked after the first proper frost, then now's your chance. Frost still clings in the shadows this morning, puddles have opaque crusts and the shrubs are laden with useful fruits. Come fill your boots!
Wednesday, 21 November 2018
Sunday, 18 November 2018
Here's a band you need to look out for. I first heard The Locker Room Cowboys on Fruits de Mer's excellent recent compilation 'The Three Seasons' an interpretation of mid sixties classic psyche (see post), The Locker Room Cowboys did a wonderfully original interpretation of the Stones 'We love you', the stand out track in my opinion. It has an eerily weird music box sounding introduction, leading to a deep and laid back rhythm, at times it sounds as if it's slowing down and stretching out, like it's been dipped in psychedelic treacle or is running out of juice, whatever, it makes for a nice trippy feel and sound to it, throughout everything’s just right, guitar, keyboards, vocals, everything, and the addition of some sumptuous female harmonies was inspired, just topping it of beautifully. Smashing track. I remember listening to it, then immediately lifting the tone arm and listening again, on checking out who they were, it transpired The Locker Room Cowboys were an ensemble of leading lights in contemporary psychedelia, Andy Budge, Gregory Curvey, Crystal Jacqueline, Icarus Peel and Victoria Reyes (I shan’t list all the bands they're all associated with, as they're legion). That track alone is reason enough to keep your eye on The Locker Room Cowboys, and got me wondering what else they might have up their musical sleeves. Well, over the last couple of days they've dropped some tantalizing demo’s and, man, they're excellent! I know they're only demo's, raw, unpolished and unfinished, but they suggest some really good things to come from the The Locker Room Cowboys. The Amen Revolution is a fat funky psychedelic dance number, with some fruity bass, you can only imagine how flippin brilliant the finished track is going to sound! Troublefunk #1 too is damn funky, but in an entirely different way, bloody lovely. Finally, there's Saturday Morning Fuzz, something quite different, more rock orientated though none the less ace. Fantastic stuff! Give them a listen, and I'm sure you'll join me in being excited and eagerly awaiting their album and live dates?
The wrinkled landscape of Cranborne Chase is never boring, so wide ranging and varied as it is. It's a country landscape, of fields and hedgerows, scrubby woodland and coppice sheltering in its combes, rising above them exposed chalk grasslands reach for the skies, little changed in centuries, I'd imagine. Today was a good day for a walk in the chase, clear skies, an unseasonally warm feel, walking with an old friend who I don't see enough off (in fact the last time I saw him was last year, when we wandered the Chase). Our route was an undulating one, up through Garston Wood, with it's well managed Hazel coppice, down through Mistleberry Wood, up into Chase Woods following the Shire Rack, past Cuttice Lodge and up on to the Ox Drove, with it's fantastic views over four counties and on a good day as far the Isle of Wight. Man, it's always amazing to be up here, but on a clear day like today, it's something else. We took a slight detour to wander about Winklebury, an Iron Age Hillfort positioned on a promontory overlooking the Berwick St John at the head of the Ebble Valley. It was excavated by Pitt-Rivers at the end of the 19th century who found evidence of Iron Age occupation, though I question whether it was a finished hillfort, it's defensive ramparts and ditches lack uniformity in nature and appear incomplete. The most striking features are the two linear outer ramparts and ditch defences some way from the main enclosure, which cut off the promontory. The Chase is jam packed with archaeological features, it's always been a popular landscape. We made our way back down through Chase Wood, this time following the ups and downs of Chase Avenue, a neglected veteran Beech avenue, back through Mistleberry Wood with another Iron Age 'fort' which appears either incomplete or simply not a fort (I do wonder about some of the old Ministry of Works definitions of archaeological sites, several in the area appear suspect), before finally returning to Garston. Fantastic walk, longest I've done in a while too (12 miles of walking and talking), I've been slacking of late, must try harder.
Friday, 16 November 2018
Wednesday, 14 November 2018
The colour's quickly fading from the trees as more and more leaves turn and fall. Soon the fall will be complete and natures quiet winter slumber will begin. It's still stunning out here, mind, every season in the forest has something to share and offers opportunities to experience and learn.
Tuesday, 13 November 2018
Today's charity shop find, three Trojan Record albums, Greatest Hits Vols.1 & 2 and Reggae Chart Busters Vol. 3. What a smashing find, although they're all quite dirty, they all play well, even before cleaning, and each album is packed with cracking tracks. Very happy, man.