A Crunchy Walk

Yesterday morning was icy, and still below freezing at midday. The cars were iced up, and the road was dangerously slippery.

I headed out with Ollie before 1pm, heavily wrapped-up against a bitingly cold North wind.

But the sun was shining brilliantly, and the sky deep blue. So despite the cold, the walk looked promising. And it was.

That hard frost had frozen the mud. And the leaves, and the grass. The result was a nice ‘crunchy’ walk underfoot, and no slipping and sliding in sticky mud.

As a bonus, the local Wildlife Trust workers have finally installed the bridge across to Hoe Rough. They also cleared a path on Monday and Tuesday, so we could walk to the bridge from just inside the woodland on Beetley Meadows.

Once across the bridge spanning the small River Whitewater, we discovered another bonus. They have installed a solid metal gate, to stop any grazing cows finding their way across to disturb the peace on The Meadows. Well done to them!

This means we no longer have to walk up to the main Fakenham Road to use the road bridge to get to Hoe Rough Nature Reserve.

Bridge photos to follow eventually.

Ollie’s Latest Photo

Michele Smith is my near-neighbour, a fellow dog-walker, and treasured friend. She is an animal lover par excellence, and has always adored Ollie.

Just recently, we were chatting on Beetley Meadows, and she remarked that she had never taken a photo of him. She produced her phone, and managed to get Ollie to stand still long enough for this lovely photo.

(It can be enlarged, by clicking on it.)

Thanks very much, Michele. xx

The Beetley Meadows Wasps

The long dry summer has brought a new hazard to our regular dog-walks. Underground wasp nests.

A couple of weeks ago, Toby the Jack Russell Terrier was chasing his ball into the long grass when he screamed in pain and ran back onto the path. He seemed agitated and unwell, so his owners took him straight to the Vet, concerned he may have been bitten by an Adder, a poisonous snake. However, it turned out he had been stung several times by wasps. He was given some treatment, and made a good recovery.

His owners went back to check the area where he had been stung, and found a series of holes covered in wasps entering and leaving. They notified the Parish Council, who arranged for a pest controller to come and destroy the nest.

Then yesterday, in a completely different area of Beetley Meadows, a family group were making their way down to the river when they were attacked by a large number of wasps close to the main path. The wasps appeared from holes in the ground inside the long grass nearby, and a child and her mother were stung. The mother was stung 12 times as she attempted to shield her child.

Today, a sign has been erected warning people to avoid the area. Hopefully, someone will advise the Parish Council tomorrow.

I know they are valuable pollinators, but we can’t have openly aggressive wasps stinging small children and dogs on a family-friendly recreation area.

My Latest Camera: First Impressions And Some Photos

As some readers may recall, I recently bought another camera, a secondhand Panasonic LX100 Compact.

It took me some time to actually remember to take the camera out on a walk, so with the benefit of a bright and windy afternoon yesterday, I put the camera into the pocket of my fleece jacket, and set off on the usual walk with Ollie. I took 50 photos, and these are the seven I have chosen to show you.

They have all been uploaded to Flickr, so clicking on them will take you to the photo on that site. Using the magnifier icon, you can enlarge them greatly on there, and move around them too. They are all standard j-pegs from the camera, with no post-processing applied.

An impressively large lone mushroom, spotted on Beetley Meadows.
P1000105

The cap of the same mushroom.
P1000110

A black and white version.
Black and White Mushroom

The river bend at Beetley Meadows.
P1000121

Ollie on the riverbank.
P1000124

Ollie standing in the river.
P1000135

A fallen Silver Birch, in the woodland area.
P1000139

My impressions of using the camera? Well, let’s say it has pros and cons, like anything.

Pros.
*It is very light. Despite metal parts, it sat easily in my jacket pocket, was unobtrusive, and the weight was hardly noticeable.
*All the main controls are set using dials and buttons, so no need to explore the electronic menu whilst taking photos.
*The electronic shutter is completely silent, very useful in some situations.
*Zoom action from the 24mm-75mm lens is smooth, especially using the lever around the shutter button.
*Buffering to load the image onto the Pro-spec memory card was almost immediate.
*The electronic viewfinder shows all the information I need, and gives a completely accurate representation of the final photo.
*The Leica lens renders true images as seen in the viewfinder.

Cons.
*Focusing is not perfect. I had 3 completely out of focus images from the 50 taken, and changing the setting around the lens to Macro focusing made very little difference to the close-ups of the mushroom.
*The small size of the camera can make it fiddly to hold and use. My hands are comparatively small, and I was still able to inadvertantly move dials or press buttons. This size also makes it potentially easy to drop, so I had bought a Paracord wrist strap and attached it before taking the camera out.
*The Panasonic 1-inch processor chip seems to favour browns and greens, with little colour ‘pop’ on brighter colours.

So, all in all, I am very happy. If you can find one of these old-model cameras for less than £250, I recommend you consider buying it.

A Non-Summer Summer Dog Walk

Summers in England cannot be guaranteed. Ask anyone who lives here.

But this summer has been the worst for a long time, especially in the East of England where I live, which has languished under gloomy cloud cover for what seems like months. Yesterday, It was dark while I was making breakfast, and the sun hadn’t appeared by the time I took Ollie out for his walk, at 1:40pm.

The temperature was only 16C (60F) and it was unusually windy for August too.

Since he had his Vet treatments on Wednesday, Ollie has improved immensely. He was pleased to get out over to Beetley Meadows, and it wasn’t too long before he was running into the river for a refreshing drink. As we walked around the riverside path after, the shoulder high nettles were on the move. Stirred by the wind, they seemed to be reaching out to others across the path, in the hope of stinging me as I passed by.

Like some kind of anchored monster, their tendrils waved in the breeze, almost as if they sensed my arrival. I had to weave in and out of the extended nettle heads, stopping occasionally to bash down some of the most impassable ones with my trusty dog-walking stick.

Oblivious as ever, Ollie trotted on, sniffing and marking. But he had no canine companions yesterday. Local dog-walkers were either away on holiday, or not willing to chance the possibility of rain.

When that rain arrived, it was nothing to speak of. Little more than tangible moisture in the air, followed by a few very determined individual drops that had escaped the heavy clouds overhead. Not even enough to wet my uncovered head.

After less than ninety minutes, Ollie’s enthusiasm waned, and I sensed he was preferring the idea of his dinner, to more walking. So we headed out of the alley at the far end of Beetley Meadows, with Ollie sniffing and marking the spots he had missed earlier.

I was left reflecting that it hadn’t felt much like a late-August dog walk. More like late March.

“Old Man! Old Man!”

As I was finishing the walk with Ollie yesterday, I was heading past the small playground on Beetley Meadows in the direction of one of the exits.

Two young mums were sitting on a bench inside, watching their children playing on the swings, roundabout, and climbing frame. The children were aged around four and five, and very noisy. Ollie was trailing behind me, sniffing and marking the rows of shrubs along the wooden fences of the houses that back onto the playing field.

Just as I got past the playground’s wire fence, a little boy shouted out to me at the top of his lungs.

“Old man! Old man!”

I turned to see him up at the fence, obviously wanting to say something to me. So I smiled at him, and walked back.

“What is it?”, I asked him. He pointed at Ollie. “I like your dog”. I grinned, and asked him a question.

“How did you know my name?”

He didn’t get it, but his mum smiled.

Ollie And The Heatwave

Since Ollie turned nine in February, he has slowed down considerably. But he still likes nothing better than to accompany us anywhere in my car, and is able to jump up onto his bed in the back as if he is still only two years old. So he was delighted when after watching us pack up the car last Thursday, he was called outside to leap into his spot.

The first day in Essex was actually overcast, and not very warm. He was pleased to see my cousin’s two small dogs again, even though having so many people in the house made him rather agitated, perhaps because he worried that he might be left behind.

By the time we arrived in Kent late on Friday afternoon, the weather had started to warm up considerably. We were grateful to be able to eat outside at my friend’s house, but Ollie stayed inside, finding some cool carpet in the shade to lie on.

On Saturday, it was almost 30 degrees (C) and we drove the short distance to a local Country park to give him a good walk. In the absence of a river, I took along his water bowl and a large bottle of water. Ollie was soon slowing down in the heat, so after an hour, we sat under a tree near the cafe there, and Ollie was lying down on the long grass in the shade. Despite drinking lots of water, he couldn’t seem to cool down, and was panting constantly.

The next day, I walked him to the local park near my friend’s house, somwehere he has been many times before. But there was a lot of traffic in that large town, and Ollie kept stopping on the pavement, flinching at the noise as cars and buses drove past close to us. By the time I got to the park, I had to sit in some shade and give him a big drink from his bowl. As he showed no sign of wanting to continue the walk after that, I decided to head back, by which time it was close to 31C there.

He spent the rest of the time lying on the kitchen floor, and when the sun moved around and we sat outside to eat, he ventured out to find any small breeze and the cool decking of her patio. For all three days in Kent, he had seemed grumpy and listless, though I was pleased that he ate all of his food, and had a good appetite.

The drive home on Monday wasn’t too bad, and I decided to stop off at Thetford Forest so that Ollie could get out for a walk, and have a drink. For some reason, he wouldn’t follow me after I parked the car, and kept looking back at it. I had to settle for him having a short drink before getting him back in the car for the one hour drive to Beetley. The next morning, he seemed happier, as the temperature in Norfolk, though still hot, was a full 5C lower than it had been further south. Even so, after fifteen minutes in his preferred area of Beetley Meadows, he ran into the river and stood there for over twenty minutes.

Today was still warm and sunny, but a lot fresher than it has been. Ollie has decided that he must now sniff and mark a lot more places than ever, presumably making up for that ‘lost time’ away. It took me almost thirty minutes to walk less than 400 yards, and I found myself standing waiting for ages until he was ready to catch up.

So at least during this short heatwave, dog-walking now has a new name.

‘Dog-Waiting’.

Finding Bailey

It was a wet dog walk today. I wathed the lunchtime weather report, and they said it would be ‘cloudy but dry in the East’. So I knew to take my umbrella. Ten minutes in, and it was raining lightly. By the time I got over to Hoe Rough, the umbrella was failing to cope with torrential rain.

That meant wet shoes, (Skechers for comfort, not waterproof) wet shorts, and wet sleeves on my cotton top. Then there was walking through the tall grass and shrubs, still wet from yesterday, now soaking my legs on top of the rain. To remind me it was summer, the temperature was a humid 21 C (69 F), and Ollie was hot enough that despite being wet from the rain, he still jumped into the river to cool down.

After a couple of miserable rounds of the nature reserve, I headed back to Beetley Meadows, skidding around on the fresh mud. Over there, I saw a lady I know in passing. She usually has two small dogs with her. Today there was only one. She walked up and asked me, “Have you seen a small dog? It’s a little Spaniel called Bailey”. I told her I knew the dog, but hadn’t seen him. She told me her son was out in his car, driving around Beetley hoping to see him on the street.

I asked her where she had last seen Bailey, and she said he had gone into the long grass opposite the gate to the woodland area. That grass is never cut, and is currently very high. It also contains nesting adders, (poisonous snakes) who would likely be hunkered down in the cooler, wet weather. I said I was heading that way, and would look for her dog. By that time, she had been trying to find her dog for almost thirty minutes, and was getting worried.

Standing next to the long grass opposite the gate, I called out “Bailey” and whistled too. Ollie seemed confused, thinking I was whistling him. Seeing the grass moving about twenty-five feet away, I called again and again, until there was definitely more movement. So I told Ollie to stay, ditched the umbrella, and ventured in, finally catching a glimpse of the tiny Spaniel ahead. I patted my legs and called his name again, and he made his way nervously in my direction.

When he was close enough, I stepped forward and slipped Ollie’s lead over the small head. Then I walked him back to where the lady was standing with her other dog.

Little Bailey was soaked through, and looked exhausted. It must have seemed like being trapped in a grass maze, towering well over two feet above him. Perhaps he became disorientated, and headed deeper into the grassed area, rather than back to the path? We will never know for sure why he got lost there.

But at least he was found, safe and sound.