Summer started to quietly settle towards autumn and we went back to work . . .
I made this recording for Allysse's Nature Sound of the Month series.
We started the month with the end of the holidays and another go at Champing with friends. The days grew shorter and the mornings darker, which gave us the chance to see some gorgeous sunrises.
We still made it out for some walks, though, including our monthly outings with the HRRA walking group and our weekly strolls around Arlington Reservoir on the way home from work.
We also walked the whole of our local long distance path, the 1066 Country Walk. Handily, it goes right past our front door (literally, as our front door is directly onto the street) and Battle is slap-bang in the middle. A good place to rest overnight! Allysse came down to join us and she wrote up a blog about it. A few of our HRRA friends came along for the second day, too. It was a fun weekend.
Wales, Malvern, Birmingham, London, Sussex, Kent . . . August was jam-packed with activities as we made the most of our summer holidays. This is a bit of an epic post - though, to be fair, it's mainly photos.
After walking from channel to channel, our holiday continued with a short stay in Monmouthshire. Our Airbnb wasn't far from Rockfield Studios, actually, and the museum in Monmouth had an interesting exhibition about the studio. We were also delighted to discover Monteas, a looseleaf tea shop with a friendly owner. We bought some delicious tea.
From Monmouth, we went canoeing down the River Wye, which was great fun. I'd only kayaked before, so it was interesting to get a feel for canoeing - it feels much more sedate and, if you're in a canoe with others, there's more team work and communication.
After a few days on the river, it was off to Malvern to finally visit the Malvern Hills. The short chain of hills is an eye-catching feature in the landscape, rising abruptly from the low-lying surrounds. We've seen them in passing and have always meant to visit, but it took us several years to get around to it! We just had one morning to climb to the top of one of the hills and enjoy a cup of tea sheltering from the stiff breeze. But what a morning! I loved being able to pick out other places we've been (the line of Hay Bluff was just visible in the hazy distance) and other hills we might want to climb.
Malvern was an overnight stop on our way to Birmingham, where we stayed with a friend and spent a couple of days exploring the city (and washing our clothes, because after two weeks of walking, canoeing and sightseeing, we were a bit smelly). She took us around the city and we got to spend a few hours in the fabulous Library of Birmingham, another place we've been meaning to check out for years. We browsed books (and borrowed some, thanks to our friend!), admired the old Shakespeare Memorial Room which has been incorporated in the top floor of the contemporary building and wandered around the roof gardens checking out the view.
On the way back to London, we detoured to visit the Alpkit warehouse and showroom, to look for kit in advance of our Snowy River adventure. That was fun, especially because they let me climb inside the fluffiest sleeping bag I have ever seen. I've always wanted to try one of those out, though I have absolutely no reason to use one in earnest!
In London, we met up with a friend for breakfast and did a bit of city exploring to find some wooden streets. Yep. Did you know that the streets of London (and Melbourne, and many other cities) were once paved with wood? You can read about it in this great article by Ian Visits. I came across this when doing some research for our Snowy River adventure (a proper research rabbit hole) and decided I wanted to see it for myself. Our walk took us down some interesting back streets as well as along main roads, making for a fun afternoon wandering around the city.
Home again, home again. But being home didn't stop us getting out and about. We were making the most of our time before heading back to work.
Wild swimming in the River Rother near Newenden. (Most people venture out in boats hired from the campsite.)
On the last day of August we walked all the way around Bewl Water. We'd been meaning to do the 20km/12.5mi circuit for a while and the weather forecast was fine, so off we set! Our circuit took us anti-clockwise from the main carpark/cafe area, along dirt and paved paths, down country lanes, around a few small hills, through woods and fields and along the Sussex Border Path for a while. It's a great walk if you're up for doing something of that length.
And on that note, let's call it a day (or a month)!
A summer of celebrations and holidays!
A friend came to visit in July. Having visitors is always lovely, partly because it gives us the chance to check out some of our favourite places and share them with other people. One day we went up to Battle Museum and spent some time in the gorgeous Almonry Gardens out the back. A community tapestry to mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings was underway, so we all went and stitched a bit of history!
It was a year for anniversaries in Sussex. Brighton was celebrating 250 years of Jewish residency in the town, with a series of cultural events including lectures, concerts and exhibitions. One key event in the calendar was the unveiling of a Blue Plaque dedicated to Brighton's (then called Brighthelmstone) first Jewish resident, Israel Samuel. Israel Samuel is my ancestor and we attended the unveiling along with another two hundred or so spectators and various dignitaries. There were three direct descendents including me, my third cousin from New Zealand and her son who lives in the USA. We were treated very well as guests of honour, invited to a reception in the mayor's parlor, a special opening of the old synagogue and to lunch in Brighton. The Middle Street Synagogue is a beautiful old building which is no longer used for worship and is not often open to the public, so it was a real treat to be able to spend some time inside.
We had a weekend break with friends in the little town of Haddenham in Buckinghamshire. It was lovely to catch up with them and to feed the ducks in the pond on the green outisde the church. (Plus, we just spotted it in the most recent episode of Midsomer Murders - yes, I have seen every single episode ever, don't judge me.)
And then it was the summer holidays. Several weeks off in July and August has to be one of the best bits about working in a school! We set off to walk from the English Channel to the Bristol Channel with nothing but a backpack (and reservations at a number of B&Bs, haha!). I posted lots of photos at the time, but here are a few more from the walk - including some from the last day, which was actually the 1st of August. Shhh, don't tell!
I shall sign off with a very short compilation of video footage taken at various places over the month of July.
The sights and sounds of summer . . .
To start, why not put some sounds in your ears while you read over this post? Below is a compilation of various recordings I made (on my camera, so not brilliant quality) during June. Originally, I intended to do a recording every day for 30 Days Wild, but didn't manage it. Speaking of 30 Days Wild, it was fantastic to get my pack from the Wildlife Trusts, featuring cards with pictures that I drew! It was very exciting to have my art going out to thousands of people. I talked about the process of creating the cards here.
So, back to our activites in June. We paid a visit to London for a family wedding at the start of the month and enjoyed some green spaces in the city.
The wedding cakes were a sight to behold. All the fruit and flowers inspired me to try something I'd been meaning to get around to for the last few years: cooking with elderflowers. I foraged a couple of flower heads and made them into pikelets (sweet little pancakes), which worked quite nicely.
It's hard to fit in outdoors time around a full time job with a 1-2 hour commute each way, so we decided to start a little tradition of going on a walk on the way home at least once a week. We chose Arlington Reservoir, because it's a one hour circular walk on an easy trail, with a variety of stuff to look at: the water and waterbirds, a bit of woodland, views of the South Downs, animals, buildings, fields. It was satisfying to watch the evolution of the micro-ecosystem that is the reservoir wall over the course of the summer and autumn, until it got too dark to walk any more.
There was a gorgeous Chicken of the Woods fungus growing on Battle High Street, of all places. I didn't want to take it, as it looked so lovely and colourful. Somebody else didn't have any such qualms - it had been cut down when we next went past, a couple of days after I took this photo. (I later heard it was a friend of a neighbour, who presented it to a family member for their birthday!)
We had an amazing microadventure on the South Downs with probably the most beautiful scenery I saw this year. The HRRA walk this month was also on the South Downs, which meant even more fabulous views!
Small tortoiseshell butterflies, which have suffered a population decline, especially in the south of the UK.
And at the end of the month we went Champing for the first time. Despite quite a grey and drizzly month overall, we did manage to make the most of it.
Mild weather lingers as the leaves turn golden - then the days shorten, mists smother the valley, and frosts coat the grass.
We had fine weather through most of October. The colours only started turning in earnest towards the end of the month and, because there was very little wind, they stuck around for a while. Much to my disappointment, the ponies moved out of Lake Field in November. At first we thought they might have been relocated for bonfire night (a very big, very rowdy night in Battle!), but then a sign popped up informing us that they'd done their bit for Lake Field and the National Trust was moving onto the next stage. This involved felling a patch of sycamores from the edge of Lake Field to the left of these photos. Apparently there used to be allotments here. I'm not sure when they were established or when and why they were left to overgrow, but they must have been disused for a couple of decades judging by the size of the trees.
I hope you've enjoyed this year-long photo series about Lake Field as much as I've enjoyed taking the photos. It's been interesting to see the seasonal changes wash across this one view and exciting to document the National Trust works in and around Lake Field. I certainly wasn't expecting so many changes when I began the project.
A month bookended by long weekends and packed with the beauty of spring.
We went up to Suffolk for the first May bank holiday weekend (which technically started in April, but I've put it all in the May revist because I can). It was lovely to spend time with a couple of friends, and I posted many pics of cute animals we saw, so go and look at them. Here's some birdsong recorded at the minster ruins (where we wild camped the year before) as a soundtrack.
Dan and I started summer early with a little picnic (i.e. drinking sloe gin, generously provided by one of my colleagues) in the fields out the back.
Again, heading out to take a photo from the top of Lake Field meant taking note of the hyper-local changes in seasons. These frothy white flowers (cow parsley, I think) made a pretty addition to the footpath.
We went down to check out the newly reopened and rebuilt Hastings Pier. You can see a paddleboarder at the right of the frame. I'd like to try it out one day. I think I would be terrible!
And for the other May bank holiday, we nipped off to a very local campsite for a night in the tent.
April was even busier than March - and I took loads of photos. Lucky you.
We started the month in Australia and had a couple of days in the country . . .
. . . before heading to Melbourne. I posted many photos of Melbourne at the time, but here are a few more.
Ceres, a community environment park on the Merri Creek, featuring gardens, chooks, cafe, nursery, green energy projects and more.
And then, all too soon, we returned to the UK - which put on quite a welcome with this sunrise!
We got back as lambing season began and we had the most amazing experience of seeing a sheep give birth in the field beside the footpath on the South Downs. We watched the newborn lamb almost manage to get up on its wobbly little legs, then the farmers came and whisked ewe and lamb away - presumably somewhere they could keep an eye on them.
The springing of spring also meant lots of foragables coming into season. I posted a sorrel recipe and a few other things also made it onto our table.
But it wasn't all sunshine and wildflowers. Towards the end of the month there was a light smattering of snow on the South Downs. Chilly!
The last days of April were part of the May Day bank holiday, which we spent with friends in Suffolk - but I'll post more about that next time.
Over the coming weeks, I'll share a few bits and pieces from 2016 that didn't make it online at the time. Mostly it's a good motivator to get around to editing all my photos!
Getting my camera out to take a photo of Lake Field every week also encouraged me to notice the details near our house as the seasons changed. These apples stuck around on the tree through January and into February.
Dan's folks came down for a day and we enjoyed a shimmering afternoon by the sea. This is the view from Galley Hill in Bexhill, looking east towards Hastings in the pastel glow of the late afternoon sun.
We go walking most months with a local group, part of HRRA. In January we went for a (very short) walk at Camber Sands, near Rye. The first two photos are taken looking east, towards Hastings but from the other direction. Please be warned that the third photo is the corpse of a calf which had washed up on the beach.
We spent a weekend in Chichester, which I wrote about at the time. Here is a photo from the misty Saturday morning.
What are your plans for this winter? I'm looking forward to a trip to Norfolk and hopefully another walking weekend along the Grand Union Canal.
The tail of Storm Angus was still lashing the coast last Sunday, so our monthly HRRA walk was cancelled. But we were all ready to go out, so we convinced a couple of friends to brave the elements and walk with us from Hastings to Bexhill. (There's a video at the end of this post, in case you want to read along to the sound of waves on a pebbly beach!)
In Hastings Old Town, the wind had wreaked some minor damage - a few signs and awnings had blown over or come off the shop fronts. (You can see one in the photo above, on the ground behind the Whites signs.)
It was blustery when we met our friends by the Jerwood at the Stade. The wind was coming from the west, which meant we'd have a headwind all the way to Bexhill . . . If we made it that far.
The sea was white with breakers as we pushed along the seafront towards Hastings Pier. We noticed these big rocks, new additions to the seafront, presumably placed there to help stabilise the beach.
We also saw a few people out with their metal detectors. I suppose that the beach after a big storm would be a good place to find things that have either washed in from the sea or been disturbed and uncovered by the wind and waves. The the view towards Eastbourne was screened by a haze of seaspray.
I was quite close to suggesting we stop and have lunch at St Leonards instead. (That would have been a huge walk of three miles - the headwind made it feel a lot longer.) But I'd been stopping to take photos and the others were too far ahead to call off the expedition. Onwards to Bexhill!
The path between Hastings and Bexhill is part of National Cycle Route 2, which hugs the south coast of England from Kent to Cornwall. It follows the railway for a while, and passes this great old industrial warehouse. I love the patterns of the windows and the rust and texture of the metal.
One of our walking companions went down to the water's edge, a silhouette striding against the grey and white sea.
The sun began to break through as we got closer to Bexhill, creating silver stripes on the horizon. We were getting hungry and, while we found a few leaves of salty sea beet to chew on, it was a relief to climb Galley Hill, drop down into town and have a hearty lunch at Trattoria Italiana.
Afterwards, we popped over to the De La Warr Pavilion and spent a while mooching around Fiona Banner's exhibition. One side of the gallery is a wall of glass looking out to the sea, and Banner has covered this in an anti-UV film with several pieces cut out, the pieces being the same shape as (enormously magnified) full stops in various fonts. I loved how these shapes framed little views along the horizon and it appealed to me that the end of our walk should also be the end of a sentence.
I took a several minutes of footage of the mesmerising waves on the beach at Bexhill. Hope you enjoy them!
I've been struggling to find time and energy to get outside, let alone write about it. This often happens to me in winter. This year my motivation is to keep my walking muscles in practice for our Snowy River adventure. Do you have any other suggestions for motivation? (A good lunch is always a motivator!)
After a glorious late summer in East Sussex, the year begins to sink softly towards autumn.
The grass is cut for hay and the crops are harvested. In the pastel mornings, mist hangs in skeins over the fields. But the most exciting news from Lake Field is the arrival of some new residents: three Exmoor ponies! The ponies were preceded by a bit of work by the National Trust, including new fences and gates. While people are still able to enter the field, this infrastructure should keep loose dogs away from the ponies. The ponies seem to be quite a hit with passers by, who can often be seen leaning on the fence to watch them. I count myself amongst the gawkers - I'm pretty happy with our new neigh-bours! (I stole that pun from Dan.)
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