A Sunny Autumn Afternoon

Today’s dog walk was cold (7C) but beautifully sunny.

I took the camera out with me, hoping to capture Beetley Meadows in low winter light.
(The photos are on Flickr, and if you click on them you can enlarge them there)

Ollie sniffing around under a tree. Its leaves have finally changed.

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Most of the berries on the Holly have been eaten by birds already, but these ones by the gate to the woods are on the lowest branches.

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The river was hardly flowing today, making the surface very still. I was able to get some reflections of the trees as a result.

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If this good weather continues, I may well take the camera out again soon.

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.
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The cap of the same mushroom.
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A black and white version.
Black and White Mushroom

The river bend at Beetley Meadows.
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Ollie on the riverbank.
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Ollie standing in the river.
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A fallen Silver Birch, in the woodland area.
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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.

Ending Up In The River

The classic English Summer is upon us with a vengeance. Late on Thursday afternoon, it started to rain heavily. It continued to rain all night, and was still raining when I got up on Friday morning. Almost fifteen hours of relentless, stormy rain.

It finally stopped while I was having lunch on Friday, and I was quick to take the chance to get out with Ollie before it started again. It was too humid to wear waterproofs and boots, so I went out wearing shorts and lightweight trainers, carrying my umbrella. Sure enough, five minutes into the walk some gusty winds heralded the return of the rain, as it blew black clouds around Beetley like aircraft stacking in the sky waiting to land at an airport.

Up went the umbrella, and on we trudged.

Approaching the river bend and picnic area, I waited on the bank for Ollie. He usually goes down the slope into the river for a drink, but he was still a couple of hundred yards behind me, sniffing shrubs and grass. When he still hadn’t arrived, I turned again, to see where he was. That was a fateful turn, as I immediately slid down the rain-sodden muddy bank.

My umbrella flew into the river and I landed on my right side, with my right hand undermeath me. Both feet were in the water, over my ankles.

I managed to get up with some difficulty, to discover that my shorts and my right leg were covered in mud and gravel. Inspecting my hand, I found gravel embedded in the palm, and blood running down my arm from small cuts and abrasions near my wrist. As my shoes and feet were already soaked, I waded in and retrieved my umbrella, which had fortunately not floated away.

Ollie appeared moments later, giving me a quizzical look. I wandered off reluctantly, to continue the walk. As Ollie ran past, I shook my head at him.

“I’m seriously getting too old for this, boy”.

Ollie And The Swans

In 2016, I posted about Ollie’s rather tense encounter with three swans.

Ollie’s Mexican standoff.

Earlier today, something similar happened again.

Although it is 10C cooler today that it was yesterday, (18C instead of 28C) the air is very humid after heavy rain last night, with thunderstorms forecast for later. So after a couple of tours around Beetley Meadows, by the time we got over onto Hoe Rough, Ollie was panting, and ready for a drink and a dip.

He waited until we got to his favourite spot, where he can slide under the wire of the fencing, and slip into the river. There were two swans already there, a large male and smaller female. (Yes, I know they are called a Cob and Pen, but this is easier.) For all I know, they could well be the same pair from 2016, as they have been on the river every year I have lived here, and they do mate for life.

Ollie ignored them, and plopped into the rain-swollen water, which came up to the base of his tail. The large male swan flared out its tail feathers, and the female moved away slightly, protected behind her mate. When Ollie had drunk his fill, and presumably cooled off sufficiently, he decided to turn and investigate the nearby waterfowl. At this, the male swan raised its wings, and the female swam away, making for the safety of the next bend in the river, and deeper water.

With the swan making no noise, but threatening with his strong wings, Ollie continued to move through the water in his direction, breaking into a dog-trot. At that point, I whistled Ollie to come back out onto the bank.

One of them, or both of them, would undoubtedly have been hurt.

Video Clips: A Very Snowy Dog Walk

When I took Ollie out today, I also took my phone, attached to the grip/holder I bought to try to keep it steady.

Ollie in the snow, avoiding the camera. And the deserted playground on Beetley Meadows.

Boots in the snow, and more views of the Meadows.

Riverside area, and boots in slush.

The River Whitewater, back to normal levels.

No picnics on these benches today, and Ollie refusing to move in shot.

My next door neighbour, and her lively dog, Henry.
Ollie was refusing to play, as usual.
(You can hear me asking him to)

In the woodland area, Ollie liked the smells.
It did look quite pretty in there, with no wind to disturb the snow.
Just after putting my phone away, I had a heavy fall, tripping on a tree root covered by the snow. I managed to bend back two fingers on my right hand, and they still hurt!

If I get the chance tomorrow, and the snow is still around, I will show you what it looks like over on Hoe Rough.

A Semi-Aquatic Dog Walk

I waited until the rain I wrote about yesterday had finally stopped, then set out with Ollie in bright sunshine. I was aiming for Beetley Meadows as usual, but soon discovered that around 40% of our usual walking area was under water.

This is definitely the worst I have seen it since moving here, a legacy of the rain that almost drove me insane over the previous 28 hours.

The seats of the picnic benches were submerged, and the water had not just burst the banks, the river was actually flowing at some speed in areas where we walk every single day. In the livestock field beyond, it was spreading almost as far as the busy Holt Road in the distance. Fortunately, there were no grazing animals there.

Ollie splashed happily through the freezing muddy water, but as I followed him I realised that it might well come over the top of my boots, and I was forced to retrace my steps. I decided to head across to Hoe Rough, which is slightly higher ground. Our arrival there coincided with a sudden hailstorm, which turned Ollie’s back white in seconds, and was hammering against the canopy of my umbrella.

It turned out that not only was Hoe Rough just as badly off for flooding on the north side next to the river, but some of the larger ‘puddles’ along the main path were also too deep for my knee-length boots. Some old trees had fallen too, the roots washed away by the flood waters. I may have to invest in some fisherman’s waders!

The second hailstorm that arrived was more than I could take, so we headed home. I had to take Ollie along the path beside Fakenham Road to avoid more standing water.

And even after using all four of his special dog-towels to dry him off, he is still damp to the touch.

We have an Atlantic storm arriving on the 26th. They say we will have ‘heavy downpours’ along with winds up to 80 mph.

At least tomorrow is forecast to be dry.

Ollie’s Mexican standoff.

Today has been miserable in Beetley. If you didn’t have a calendar, you could be forgiven for not realising it is August, as it is more like March. The day started wet and grey, and stayed that way. It was even chilly enough for me to need a coat when I went out with Ollie. (Though I still wore shorts)

The grass was wet over on The Meadows, but luckily the rain had not been heavy enough to bring back the mud. I wandered around for a while, but my heart wasn’t in it, and I headed over to Hoe Rough to give Ollie more to explore. Nobody was about, and there were no other dogs for him to sniff, or to run around with. One of those days when I could happily have headed home, and written off the walk as just another dull trek without inspiration.

After just over an hour, Ollie made his way to the path that runs alongside the river. I guessed that he had warmed up enough to need a refreshing dip, and a long drink too. He scrambled down the bank into the water, and I took position against the wire fence nearby. He walked around in the water for a bit, exploring over to The Meadows just in case any other dogs had appeared. Seeing nothing, he just stood in the water up to his belly, looking more than a little fed up.

Suddenly, three swans glided gracefully around the bend. A large male, a smaller female, and another that seemed to me to be the offspring of the pair, tagging along behind. Seeing Ollie, they stopped dead, less than six feet away from him. He stood and looked, and they looked back. He made no attempt to approach them, even though he was obviously interested and watching them intently. The male flapped its considerable wings, but my dog remained unimpressed. I thought that they would turn back, and that would be it.

Ollie looked across to me on the bank, and back at the three birds again. He wasn’t going to move, that was certain. I smiled to myself, wondering how this dog and swan version of the traditional Mexican standoff would end. He was outnumbered three to one, but seemed unconcerned by the weight of numbers. The male swan emitted a strange noise, and flapped again. Ollie had a small drink, and carried on staring. They had one route to get past him, close to the other bank, and separated by a large clump of weed. The male swan checked this out, and as he moved, Ollie suddenly ran through the water after him.

With a raucous honking and flapping of wings, the big bird crashed past the dog, finding sanctuary behind him though still just a few feet away. The smaller swans were making squeaky noises, apparently calling to the male. When he didn’t return to help, they took their chances by using the same route. Ollie let them go. He was never going to hurt them in the first place.

But he wasn’t about to give ground to them either.

Ollie and the unseen otters

The last two days have seen the arrival of what I would call reasonable weather, here in Beetley. Reasonable, in that it didn’t rain yesterday, or today. (Yet) Time for longer walks with Ollie, and allowing him back into the river, following a two-day ban after his wash and brush up.

Extending the usual walk by almost an hour gives Ollie the chance to really get back to examining all the smells and trails, made even better for him by the absence of heavy rain. Even though I am still being bitten despite copious application of my ‘Jungle Formula’ spray, I don’t have the heart to keep him away from the wooded areas or the riverbank, where the biting insects can be found in abundance.

Yesterday afternoon, he became unduly taken with a scent he had picked up. Snuffling like a cartoon bloodhound, he set off in the direction of the riverbank, to the north side of Hoe Rough. I followed along, happy to not have to dodge flooded areas, or deep mud. Close to the bank, I saw a large heron lift, flapping into the trees to the east. I like to think that this is the same heron I always see, and that it has returned once again to Beetley. However, the usual heron is unconcerned by the proximity of snuffling dogs, and this one seemed alarmed at the sight of Ollie approaching.

At first I thought that Ollie had noticed the heron from a distance, and set off to have a closer look. But the flapping bird did not interest him in the least. He was inspecting tiny blades of grass, and individual leaves close to the riverbank. Unable to contain his curiosity, he walked into a deep part of the river, and continued to sniff under the overhanging vegetation close by. Around the bend, I could hear a splashing in the river, but I was unable to view the cause. It was a swirling sound, not unlike hearing the clothes sloshing around in a washing machine. I tried to get closer, but even after allowing myself to be cruelly stung by clumps of nettles, I could see no further around the bend in the river.

Ollie set off in the direction of the noise. He was nose-down, and even sniffing the surface of the water. Once I could no longer see my dog, I became a little concerned, but I knew that he would come back if I whistled. I could not recall ever seeing him so determined to track a scent, and I had a feeling that he was onto something. Very soon, the splashing noise stopped, and Ollie wandered back sedately. I had an idea that it might have been otters. They have been seen in the river quite frequently, though I have never spotted any, in the four years I have been wandering around. Out today, someone told me that they had seen otters by the bridge yesterday, at the far end of the river. Perhaps my suspicion was correct.

I am pleased that Ollie didn’t get close enough to tangle with them though. They have sharp teeth and claws, and might well have injured him. I also would not have liked him to hurt them in return, as they are delightful creatures, even if fishermen do not like them, for obvious reasons.

We walked past the same area today, but nothing took Ollie’s fancy.

Swans don’t play

Today was yet another day of heavy rain, with occasional torrential downpours added in for good measure. I am not complaining, you understand. Our two days of excellent weather over the weekend had to be paid for somehow. I had to go out to the car dealership this morning, to get new struts fitted to the tailgate. They did the job in good time, and I waited for them to finish it, in the room provided for customers. As I was paying, the young lady advised me that it was beginning to rain harder. ‘I hope that you don’t get too wet,’ was her cheery farewell.

In the town of Dereham, I stopped off to get some watch batteries installed, and was allowed a fifteen minute respite, as it actually stopped raining for that long. Cars were splashing through the deep kerbside puddles, and pedestrians had to be careful to avoid a soaking from them. Heading out to the village of Swanton Morley, to collect a prescription from the GP, I noticed the narrow country lanes were awash with water running off of the fields, and I had to increase the speed on the windscreen wipers, to keep the screen clear.

Back at home, it carried on raining without let-up, and I advised Ollie that there might be a delay with his afternoon walk. I was hoping to wait out the worst of it. No such luck. By 2.10 pm, he was becoming fractious, and I had no alternative but to gird my loins, and face the inevitable. After a few soakings last week, I decided that it was time to dust off the wellington boots, dig out some long trousers, and don my heavy parka. Even though it was still August, and not cold at 18 degrees, I had to return to my normal winter clothing, like it or not.

Wrapped up in the aforementioned attire, I headed off under my umbrella, with Ollie raring to go. After ten minutes on The Meadows, I was uncomfortably hot. After twenty minutes, I had to sit down for a rest, on a very wet bench. Ollie was still full of get up and go, so headed off to the river. I watched him until he got past a large clump of nettles, and then heard an almighty splash, followed by lots of flapping sounds. I went to investigate, and found Ollie in a canine version of a Mexican Standoff, ten feet or so from a pair of very grumpy-looking swans, up to his chin in the water. The large male and his mate had gone a little way, then turned to face my hapless hound. He was looking at me, wondering why they wouldn’t play with him. He meant them no harm, but the large male wasn’t to know that of course. I made Ollie leave them in peace, and he trotted off to sniff around some bushes.

A little further on, I stopped again, becoming weary as I was feeling hot. Standing still by the riverbank, I noticed the large grey heron. Ollie had spotted it too, but for some reason, decided not to try to catch it. We watched the bird for a while, and it suddenly plunged its head under the water, returning with a decent sized fish in its beak. It took off immediately, presumably to eat its catch undisturbed, in a better location. That was a nice moment, that even Ollie seemed to appreciate.

We continued our normal circuit, with me sadly lacking in enthusiasm. My normal brisk pace was reduced to a begrudging shuffle, heavy boots sliding on wet grass and mud. By now, the rain was getting through the parka, at least around the shoulders and back. I lowered the umbrella, to make sure it was still raining, as it was hard to tell, with all the drops coming off the trees. But it was, and still as heavy as ever. Ollie wanted to venture into the woods, to check for squirrels, but one look at the muddy ground in there brought a refusal from me. I managed to stand it for a good while longer, as Ollie really seemed to be enjoying himself, despite the complete absence of playmates. On the last turn around the bend in the river, he spotted the swans again, in deeper water. This time, he left them alone. It seems that he had learned a valuable lesson this afternoon.

Swans don’t play.

Ollie and a rainy day

I recently wrote about the uncomfortable heatwave that we experienced, here in Norfolk. It didn’t last that long, and it has rained every day since. One of the benefits, no doubt, of living in the driest county in England. I watched the BBC weather news this morning, and the forecaster predicted, ‘showers in the east.’ He should have called one of his colleagues in the region, and got the facts. It rained all morning, until 4 pm, often in torrential bursts.

After a morning spent cleaning the house, I was ready to take Ollie for his walk, at the usual time. I have recently stopped carrying my trusty ‘country stick.’ This is mainly a measure to stop Ollie being attacked by unfriendly dogs, but it has many uses, as it is very sturdy. It has been replaced by my ‘gentleman’s umbrella’, originally purchased from John Lewis, in London. This has seen good service, and was well-worth the money. It made life easier at many bus stops in central London, and helped me during long walks home in the rain, in my time in the Capital. It is windproof, and has a curved wooden handle, all very traditional.

As soon as we started to head for the Meadows, the brolly was up. It wasn’t cold, and my shorts and short-sleeved shirt were evidence of the humidity. The shower soon turned to a downpour, as is its habit, and there were no fellow dog-walkers to share my misery. Ollie quickly decided that if he was going to get wet on dry land, he might just as well be in the river. He jumped in, searching for ducks. Finding none in residence, he continued walking along the water, hoping to find anything of interest. As he has previously discovered moorhens, voles, and even a large trout, there was some sense to his quest. In the absence of playmates, I tried to give him some interest. I soon had him searching for a platypus, then an anteater, and finally, a unicorn. Naturally, he had never seen any of these creatures, and one of them is mythical, so doesn’t exist anyway. Nonetheless, his determination was marked by his demeanour, and off he went.

After an hour, he tired of the river, and came out to join me on the grass. My leather deck-shoes were soaked by the wet grass, and they felt as if I was walking in cold wet sponges, not a pleasant experience. We carried on looking for something, anything to break the monotony of the endless rain. I suggested that he look for a Pangolin. He did his best, but had no idea what I was on about. He managed to find a rabbit, just the one. It was chased into its burrow, so his job was done to his satisfaction. By then , I was losing the will to continue, and as we had been out for almost two hours, I headed for home. I was thinking that I would have to have at least two towels to dry him off. I got into the driveway, and put his lead away, going inside to prepare the towels, and also dry off myself.

Then the rain stopped, and the sun came out. It didn’t last though, in case you were wondering.