A Sunny February Morning With The Camera

Brilliant sunshine this morning, despite a chill in the air. I took Ollie out early, before the winter sun got too low in the sky. Over to Hoe Rough, with the small Panasonic Zoom Compact in my coat pocket.

(All photos are posted from Flickr, and can be enlarged there by clicking on them)


The little camera has a 24-720 zoom. To show the extent of that, I took two photos from the same spot.

Wideangle, 24mm eqivalent.
Full zoom on the distant tree, 720mm equivalent.

By the river, the snowdrops were out in abundance.

But it hasn’t been cold enough for the mud to freeze, so I still needed my Wellington boots.

An ingenious cow-watering device. They push their snouts against the yellow lever, and it sucks water into the reservoir from a pipe placed in the river.

Ollie was happy to have his photo taken today. I think the tiny camera covering less of my face calms him down.

After a much-needed drink in the rainwater pool that never dries up. You can see where the fur has not grown back on his legs and back.

I sat down in The Dell, and he came for a stroke.

Then I was able to get more photos of him as he stood around waiting.

That rainwater pool, with the river beyond.

Some trees were felled there a couple of years ago, as their roots had been undermined by the river flooding.

The logs were left as habitat for creatures, and Nature is finally reclaiming them.

A walk of just under two hours, rewarded with some photos, and the fact it was not raining. 🙂

Slip Slidin’ Away

Walking with Ollie today, I was reminded of the old Paul Simon Song. Not that it has anything to do with dog-walking of course.

No, it was because the mud is back with a vengeance, and I was definitely slip-slidin’ away, even in my stout wellington boots. Although we have had no snow yet, and only one ‘car window-scraping’ hard frost, we have had a lot of rain. Over the past week, it has often rained for 12-16 hours a day, and I can’t actually remember the last day when there was no rain at all.

They (the weather reporters) say it’s the warmer weather, caused by a nice video graphic swirling around in the Atlantic Ocean that is sucking up warm air from North Africa, and turning it into rain. (Something like that, but the graphic looked good on the weather report) It seems to be in a cyclical pattern, and definitely visiting the east of England on its cycle. Beetley is in the east of England, only 26 miles from the point that says ‘Next Stop, Holland’.

(Across the North Sea, so you will need a boat of some kind)

So as usual, we have had a lot of rain. Rain eventually makes earth become mud. Rain swells the local river so that it overflows onto the paths, creating more mud. Then the mud stops supporting the roots of the trees on the riverbank, and they fall into, or across, the small river. The trees in the water cause the river to overflow even more, adding slick new mud on top of the old thick mud.

Now that’s what I call ‘Cyclical’.

Altogether now, try to keep up with Paul…

Hailstones And Brambles

There are some days when you wished you could have stayed at home, instead of having to walk your dog. Today was one of those days.

I left the house with Ollie in bright sunshine, but seeing some dark clouds in the distance, I took my umbrella. Despite the sun, the wind was still gusting, and very cold too. Fifteen minutes after arriving on Beetley Meadows, I saw a lightly-dressed dog-walker running for the exit. Opening my umbrella just in time, I was suddenly battered by pea-sized hailstones, as the temperature dropped dramatically.

Moments later, it was as dark as night, with the coulds I had spotted earlier appearing to be low enough to touch the treetops. As the hailstorm increased in intensity, I clung desperately to my umbrella to keep the worst of it from hitting my face. Then I headed for a woodland area, to try to reduce the impact of the wind-driven icy projectiles.

By the time I got into the trees for some relief, the patch pockets of my coat were full of hailstones, and I had to stand and scoop them out before they melted. By contrast, Ollie was casually walking around and sniffing, as if having his back covered in hundreds of icy white balls was completely normal.

Then it stopped, and the sun came out.

Waiting a while to make sure no more threatening clouds could be seen, I took Ollie over to Hoe Rough. Despite the thick mud over there, it became quite a pleasant walk in the sunshine, with the temperature warming up considerably from earlier.

We had been out for just about an hour when Ollie headed into a deep muddy pool. It looked to be about eight feet long by four feet wide, and had formed in a natural depression in the gound. Seeing it didn’t reach his underbelly, I followed him in, and carried on walking. But unbeknownst to me, the murky water concealed the thick tendrils of some nearby brambles. I was over two-thirds of the way through when both my heavy boots slid under the bramble creeper, stopping me in my tracks.

More than that, the sudden decelleration pitched me forward. Dropping my umbrella, I spread out both arms, in the hope of stopping myself falling face-first into the quagmire. My right hand found some firm support, in the form of a grassy hillock, but my left hand disappeared into a clump of brambles and assorted spiky plants, offering only sharp pains, and no support. As a result, I ended up kneeling in the slop, my thick dog-walking trousers saturated at the knees.

Ollie looked at me as if I was playing some kind of game that didn’t interest him, and trotted off to pee up a nearby fallen tree branch. Before I could try to stand, I had to get the thorns and spikes out of my left palm and fingers, as they were incredibly painful. I used my teeth, carefully extracting each one. I counted eleven, before I eventually stood up.

That was enough for me. Hailstones and brambles had ruined my walk, and soured my mood. I strode off in the direction of home, and when I put Ollie’s lead on, he gave me a ‘hard done by’ look that we were leaving after just over an hour.

But I didn’t care, as I had genuinely had enough.

Ollie Treads Carefully

The snow we had earlier this week has not melted. It is still here, despite strong sunshine in the mornings, and the weatherman’s promise of a thaw.

Now the constant sub-zero temperatures have done their job, and it is frozen. This is a serious issue on pavements, and the well-trodden paths on the dog-walking route. There is solid ice on those, two to three inches deep, and difficult to walk on. Bad enough for me in my rubber-soled walking boots, but for Ollie it is incredibly hard for him to keep his footing on his small pads.

His legs splay apart, like Bambi in the Disney film, and he hesitates as he tries to find dry spots to place his feet into. Where it is really bad, he stands still and looks at me, only continuing when I walk away from him.

Over on Hoe Rough earlier, the snow had combined with the mud, freezing into what looks like a miniature mountain range. Walking on that presents new problems, as there is the danger of sinking deep into the areas that have not completely frozen. And the small solid ‘peaks’ are slippery enough to sprain an ankle, if you are not careful.

Ollie chose to avoid the paths completely, and walk in the deep snow instead. I was reluctant to follow him through that. It makes walking harder as I sink into the softer snow with every step, and it also conceals the deep pools that are full of water that could easily go over the top of my boots and soak the inside of them.

This all meant that our ninety-minute walk felt more like it had taken over three hours, especially in the bitingly cold wind that was blowing at me, seemingly from every angle.

We were both glad to get back home into the warm today.

Ollie And The Mud

I have written before about the amount of mud we have to endure on our dog walks. Following the frequent heavy rain we get in Beetley, the mud persists until it is either frozen by a long period of extreme cold, or finally dries out sometime in late May or June.

I have become an expert on mud. I used to think there was just ‘Mud’, but there are a great many varieties.

There is the obvious churned-up ‘surface’ mud. You look ahead of you, and can see a muddy area. If it cannot be avoided, you squelch through it with a depth of just a couple of inches appearing on your boots.

Then there is the ‘slick’ mud. It looks black and oily at first glance, and is rarely deep. That’s because it is sitting on firmer ground, and hasn’t sunk in. Close to the riverbank, this type of mud can often be left behind after local flooding. Walk on that at your peril, as it is as slippery as an ice-skating rink.

The other one best avoided is the ‘boggy’ mud. What might just seem like very wet grass can conceal mud up to three feet deep. That can not only get over the top of your boots and inside them, but also deliver enough suction to pull the boot off completely as you try to extricate it from the quicksand-like grip.

Despite all this, Ollie returns from our walks relatively clean. I have to wipe his paws on one of his dog towels, and clean off some splashes under his belly. Given that we have just spent almost two hours trudging through all the types of mud listed above, you would imagine that my dog would be caked in it up to his hips.

There are two reasons why Ollie can avoid the worst. For one thing, his relatively low weight stops him sinking in too deep. At 28 kilogrammes, (Just over 60 pounds) he is able to distribute that weight over all four legs instead of two.

And there is the way he walks. Best described as ‘prancing’, he does the whole dog walk on the eqivalent of his tiptoes, adding a bounce effect from his strong leg muscles that prevents him from sinking in too deep.

Unlike me, Ollie seems to have been perfectly designed for mud.

The Cows Have Gone

A couple of months ago, a herd of cattle was placed on Hoe Rough by a local farmer. This is done in conjunction with the Wildlife Trust, who like the natural way the cattle eat lots of the unwanted scrub grasses. They also churn up the ground, allowing some other plants to seed, presumably.

But for my walks with Ollie, this is bad news. Once the cattle are there, it is not a good idea to wander around with a dog. Not that Ollie would take any notice of them, but they might well be alarmed by his presence. Cows can run at up to 28 m.p.h., and for a long distance. They can outpace almost any human runner, and certainly beat me in a race. If alarmed, they might also trample Ollie, causing him grievous injury.

As cows kill more people than any other animal here in Britain, I keep away from them at all times.

I heard today that the cows had gone. They have presumably been removed to provide succulent joins of beef for the coming Christmas season.

For the first time in weeks, I could take Ollie over to his second-favourite stomping ground. Once through the gate, he was visibly excited, spinning in circles as I took his lead off. And then he was off, ready to sniff anything and everything he hadn’t been able to sniff for so long.

Unfortunately, the recent heavy rains and the presence of the cows had left the side paths deep in sticky mud, some eight inches deep. Even in my new boots, it was hard going, and made the walk more difficult than usual. But Ollie was so happy, I slogged on for a few circuits of the area.

By the time we got back, the sun was setting, and I had a tired dog ready for a nap.

“It’s Just Weather”

After another ten hours of near torrential rain yesterday, I was beside myself. Why had I chosen to live in Norfolk? It was supposed to be the ‘Driest county in England’, but after seven years, I had seen more rain that in the previous sixty years of my life. There was no getting away from it, all this rain was making me unhappy, bordering on depression. I was beginning to hate my life in this world of water.

The new guttering was unable to cope with the relentless downpours, so the whole property was awash. Then I discovered that the shed had flooded again, so by the time it came to have to take Ollie for his walk, I would just have soon hanged myself from our oak tree, in all honesty. I really had seen enough. The end of my tether didn’t even get close to conveying my mood, which was darker than dark. Black, in fact.

But Ollie has to go out.

I dressed for the weather, with a waterproof coat, and heavy rubber boots. I added an umbrella, to keep off the worst of the downpours.

Ten minutes into my walk, and Ollie was saturated. Even with the umbrella, I was having a hard job even keeping remotely dry. The ground was wet and muddy, the river had burst its banks and overflowed onto the paths. If I lived in America and owned a handgun, I would have shot myself, with a smile on my face as I collapsed to the ground.

Halfway round Beetley Meadows, I spotted a fellow dog-walker. I know him, and his delightful tiny dog, Lola. Ollie trotted off to see them, and I finally caught up. Lola was also saturated, her short coat of fur was a mass of damp curls. But as always, she jumped up onto my leg for strokes and cuddles, and licked my hand and face.

I walked alongside my neighbour for a while, bemoaning my fate. I told him how I was so fed up with the rain, that our shed had flooded, and that my mood was so low, there was no level that could describe it.

He told me that he was having just a short walk with Lola, as she was such a tiny dog, she didn’t need too much exercise. When I mentioned that I had to keep Ollie out for at least two hours, to tire him out, he nodded.

I repeated my complaints about the relentless rain as he walked away. He turned and smiled, his local upbringing showing through his wry grin.

“It’s just weather. That’s all it is”.

I wish I could be like that, I really do.

Winter has arrived

It has been a while since my last Beetley weather report. Well at least it seems so, to me. 🙂

After the hot summer, and an unusually mild early autumn, we are getting payback, as I might have guessed. Almost gale force winds, and torrential rain that lasted for over twenty hours. The leaves are still falling, and are now sodden clumps all over the place. Driven into piles by swirling winds, then rained on, they will have to be left where they are, as I cannot even contemplate trying to clear them up in this weather.

And the mud is back, let’s never forget the mud. In the space of a few days, pleasant dog walks have returned to battling high winds, and slipping around in the rapidly forming mud pools.

Checking the weather forecast, the earnest young man predicted ‘showers’ for Norfolk. You have to laugh at those forecasters, they should really be on stage at a comedy club, getting riotous applause.

So winter is here on time, and set to stay for its usual few months.
It could be worse of course.

At least it isn’t snowing.

Mud, and car problems

After some films and music posts as a diversion, I’m afraid it is back to woeful tales about the weather, and problems with technology. In other words, situation normal, in the world of beetleypete.

I am struggling to remember a (recent) year when the Winter dragged on for so long. OK, 1963 was a nightmare, but I was only 11 years old then. Since I last wore my shorts in October, it has been month after month of cold, rain, and even heavy snow for a time.More than six months of what feels like an endless Winter, confirmed by heavy rain all last night, and a foggy cold morning to wake up to today.

Walking Ollie in thick mud has been the subject of quite a few posts recently, and today was no exception. It is actually hard to keep upright once again, as I slip and slide trying to keep up with my dog. This wasn’t helped today, when he spotted a small Muntjac deer over on Hoe Rough, and took off after it excitedly. I had no chance of keeping Ollie in sight, let alone managing to follow him closely enough to make sure he was safe. Those small deer are not much bigger than him, but they are tough, and have tusks and antlers too. If Ollie managed to corner the frightened animal, he could have been injured.

But I could make little progress in the heavy mud he was skipping over, and it took me almost fifteen minutes to find him. He was hot and panting, but had obviously not managed to come into contact with the deer. So instead, he jumped into the muddy river to cool down, plunging into deep water up to his chin. Once he emerged, I had more than had enough, and began the slow stomp home, in mud-covered boots.

Yesterday, I had planned to go on my usual trip to the supermarket. But after starting my car, I was unable to get the gear selector out of Park. (It’s an automatic gearbox) No amount of fiddling around would seem to shift it, so I had to take Julie’s smaller car instead. On the way, I popped into the local car dealership where my car is maintained, and explained the problem. They don’t send people out, they told me. Nor do they arrange to collect cars on a trailer, to bring them in for repair. If I could get it into them, they could put it on their diagnostic scanner, and try to find the problem. I told them that if I could have got it there, then it would have been outside for them to examine, but they didn’t get the irony.

Last night, we contacted a friend of a friend who is a mechanic. He sent some advice by text. We also looked online, to discover many other owners with a similar issue, as well as some videos showing how it might be fixed. Many of these cars have a small opening into which you insert a screwdriver, to ‘reset’ the micro-switch that tells the gear selector to come out of Park. Mine being a so-called ‘Sport’ model, it doesn’t have that of course. More research revealed the electrical intricacies of a system that relies on lots of information to tell the six-speed gearbox when to change. This ranges from a connection to the rear brake lights to tell the car it is slowing down, to something on the rev counter that informs the gearbox to change up. I was past the limit of my car DIY skills, that was for sure.

I resorted to ‘fiddling about’ this afternoon. Turning switches on and off, and applying and reapplying the brakes. Still no joy. Then I remembered the ‘Sport Mode’ switch on the console. This changes the gearbox ratios, to give a sportier feel when driving, including stiffening the suspension. I never bother with this function usually, but tried switching it on and off anyway. Eureka! The gear selector freed out of park, and I was able to move it normally. Of course, I have no idea if this will provide a permanent fix, or if it will just stick in Park again tomorrow. So, it is booked in for that diagnostic scan next week, the earliest they could do it.

What happened to hitting things with a hammer?

Mud again! With photos

After complaining about mud recently, I thought I might show you some pictures of it. Despite two days of bright sunshine, it doesn’t appear to be drying up. I took these shots on Hoe Rough today.

Soft mud, on reasonably firm ground.

Ollie, drinking watery mud. He loves the taste.

Mud under water, boots stuck fast.

Ollie rushing along a muddy path, blurred by his speed.