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Well we are slightly off the pace with the #30DaysWild thing. It started 1st June and we managed to do nothing that, or the following day.

However, we had spent the previous Friday to Monday at The Bushcraft Show, which covered lots of bases on the outdoors front, so we are not fretting too much. We will just double up on a couple of days to hit out 30 activities.

So Activity #1 was actually on the 3rd June. Little Boots and I were in town sat on a bench having something to eat prior to going to the cinema. We heard chattering.

“Know what that is?” I asked. Little Boots said that he did not. “Magpies. Now where are they?”

We narrowed it down to a nearby Whitebeam, at which point the three of them burst out of the foliage and flew in a loop, around us and back to the tree, where they started chattering again.

We looked at each other. “Magpies!”

Activity #2 – Saturday 4th June. I went for a long walk along the river (21 miles). Little Boots was excused this for two reasons. Firstly, the distance – it was way too long – I was doing it as part of an effort to get in better shape, and knew it would be fairly arduous. Secondly, with Half Term drawing to a close the young fella had a lump of homework to get through.

It was a warm, but cloudy day and I walked through some lovely scenery along the Kennet valley. However, this also meant that walkers and cyclists were out in force, so that I did not spot much wildlife. There were plenty of young Rabbits who seemed delightfully incautious as I approached, something which accounts for the fact that I also saw the remains of several. The best wildlife spot was on a quiet stretch where about 20 House Martens were wheeling and diving at the river. At first I thought they were picking off flies, as they had been a couple of weeks back when I watched half a dozen picking off Mayflies. But the Mayfly hatch is over and as I drew closer I realised that they were taking it in turns to drink from the river. Amazing.

Activity #3. Sunday 5th June. We went to the small playing field behind the village hall to try out the bow and arrows that LB got at the Bushcraft Show. Whilst we were there we went to the small woodland next to the field to inspect the camp that LB had built a few weeks ago. With the warm weather and rain the herbaceous plants have all sprung up and ruined the stick based structure. Rather than write it off I suggested he fix the camp using some of the Willow branches that were stacked at the front of the wood, to make a living structure.

Not the sort of sign you see often in the UK

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Yonderland begins it’s second series tonight on Sky1.

Little Boots enjoyed the first series very much and fell in love with the Parvuli, furry little singing and flute playing creatures, that featured in the final episode.

So that last year when they made some cotton bags at school LB’s featured a Parvuli on the front.
We will be looking out for them this series.

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As you will know, for me, the last day of the fishing season is thick with tradition.

This year Saint Xeno saw fit to allow a break with that tradition.

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At 6lb 2oz this was a huge uplift in the size of my biggest Chub.

What a day.

Over the weeks of the school hols Little Boots has crossed off a few more entries from the National Trust “Things To Do” list.

I queried one ‘Go Bird-watching’ (number 44).

“We’ve never been bird watching”, I said.

“But we’ve watched lots of birds”, came the reply. Woodpeckers and nuthatches were cited and true enough on a walk a couple of years ago we’d spied a nuthatch and earlier this year we were very close to a woodpecker (a Lesser Spotted one we later discovered – barred back) and watched him for some time as he searched a tree for food, just a couple of yards from the path where we stood.

“And the Wagtails” added Little Boots.

Immediately my mind went back to late May when, taking advantage of the only dry day of a soggy Bank Holiday weekend, Little Boots and I set off for a womble. We took a route that was new to us identifying trees and plants as we went. Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness books have made knowledge of trees and such pretty cool indeed. Cutting across a field and over a railway crossing brought us back to more familiar territory. With a view to making some casts of animal tracks we explored the waters’ edge of a couple of old gravel pits. This did not yield any good prints, but LB did find some coins no doubt dropped by some bivvying angler. Almost enough to buy a bag of elastic bands, since weaving them into bracelets was the latest craze. We wove back towards the village before joining the riverside path. Insects, mayflies mostly, were visible in the sunlight hatching and dapping the water’s surface as they completed their cycle of life. Whist we ambled along I showed the munchkin some mayflies clinging to reeds as the sun dried their wings. This wasn’t deemed very impressive, and so I explained Duffer’s Fortnight, which did at least raise a snort of amusement.

By now we had reached a bridge and stopped beneath it for something to eat a drink. Not that Little Boots needed the latter, having been sipping all along from a long-wished for camelback. It had been my hope that we would see a fish rising to take a fly. A Brown Trout perhaps, I knew there was at least one in here, or more likely a Chub.

That wasn’t to be, but we did see something pretty amazing as we stood eating and contemplating the river. A pair of yellow-chested birds, their long tails hanging down, were perched on reeds that stuck out from the opposite bank. We watched them flitting back and forth searching for hatching flies and acrobatically taking them on the wing. At one point one came within four feet of us, spinning and hovering at the same moment as it snipped its target from the air. Occasionally one of the birds would disappear up under the bridge. “There must be a nest up there” said Little Boots. I agreed, adding that I thought that they might be reed warblers.

How wrong I was. When we get home I looked them up in our bird book and found that they were in fact Yellow Wagtails. A summer visitor to this country the book said and that “Observers of the yellow wagtail are lucky to get within 50 yards of this extremely cautious bird….The nest is particularly difficult to find even when parents carrying food for their young are watched. Rather than reveal the nest site, the adults will refuse to deliver the meal until the danger has passed or the intruders have gone away.”

When I told LB this it was met with a widening of the eyes that always greets something special.

Even more special I now realise, having subsequently read that their numbers are on the decline.

 

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Up until about a month ago if you had asked me if I knew Brendon Chase, I would not have had a clue and might have said that the name had a vaguely familiar sound of something once well-known, but now forgotten.

Perhaps like a someone who had played for Watford in 1993, becoming the League’s top scorer, before disappearing into obscurity.

Brendon Chase is not however a who, but rather a what. It’s a book by Denys Watkins-Pitchford, a writer who under the nom de plume “BB”, is much loved by the traditional angling fraternity.

(I confess that is about all I know about him, apart from the fact that he was also an illustrator).

It is a tale of three boys who run away to the woods and I can’t believe I had not come across it previously, as that’s exactly the sort of book theme that I’d have loved as a child. Perhaps it’s existence was kept from me by adults worried I might take it too much to heart.

My ignorance is all the more astounding since there was also a TV series of the book made and broadcast by my local childhood  ITV station. Starring Christopher Biggins no less.

So, having belatedly become aware of this paean to childhood adventure and the natural world I got hold of a copy and took it with me the week before last when we went camping. With a campsite that was both field and woodland, and a trip that featured campfires, cooking over coals, whittling, woodland wombling and even managing to light a fire with steel and stone, it was the perfect choice of reading material. It really is a ripping, yarn, though often thoughtful, and featuring butterflies as much as the red in tooth and claw stuff.

Several times in this blog I have mentioned strange coincidences, and so it was that the day after I finished reading Brendon Chase and we returned home, the BBC’s programme Countryfile did a feature on the book, the author and kids doing outdoorsy stuff. unfortunately with an ex-Blue Peter presenter leading it, it felt like….well Blue Peter, which is not to my mind a good thing and I suspect that the Brendon Chase outlaws would have agreed.

 

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More on the theme of adventure, when a blow-in slid out of a newspaper last weekend. From the National Trust, it was entitled “50 things to do before you are 11 ¾”.

 Six were listed inside – Go swimming in the sea, Track wild animals, Make a daisy chain, Roll down a really big hill, Catch a fish with a net, Build a den and as I chatted to Little Boots we discussed the flyer, the six activities listed and since they could all be claimed how many of the others might be too. So I went off, looked up the NT site and printed the list.

 Back in the living room LB and I went through them ticking the ones that had been accomplished. When we’d finished, I asked LB to guess how many had been done.” About twenty came the reply”. The actual total was thirty. It was a number we were both impressed with. The fifty were divided into five groups of ten headed Adventurer, Discoverer, Ranger, Tracker, Explorer and on the first of these LB had ticked nine off, with the one remaining being Play Conkers and this high-lighted something interesting.

Whilst LB had done several things I could only dream of as a child (Canoe down a river!), there were a number of things that we did all the time as kids, that my modern child does not. it’s slightly curious, although I am genuinely pleased LB has done so many of the activities on the list.

Completing some others might be a good way to plan some adventures this summer. It’d be nice to get up to fifty, and perhaps even beyond by inventing some extra categories of our own.

This is the full list & the NT site is linked above

Level 1 – Adventurer

1.Climb a tree

2. Roll down a really big hill

3.Camp out in the wild

4. Build a den

5. Skim a stone

6.Run around in the rain

7.Fly a kite

8.Catch a fish with a net

9.Eat an apple straight from a tree

10.Play conkers

Level 2 – Discoverer

11.Go on a really long bike ride

12.Make a trail with sticks

13.Make a mud pie

14.Dam a stream

15.Play in the snow

16.Make a daisy chain

17.Set up a snail race

18.Create some wild art

19.Play pooh sticks

20.Jump over waves

Level 3 – Ranger

21.Pick blackberries growing in the wild

22.Explore inside a tree

23.Visit a farm

24.Go on a walk barefoot

25. Make a grass trumpet

26.Hunt for fossils and bones

27.Go star gazing

28.Climb a huge hill

29.Explore a cave

30.Hold a scary beast

Level 4 – Tracker

31. Hunt for bugs

32.Find some frogspawn

33.Catch a falling leaf

34.Track wild animals

35.Discover what’s in a pond

36.Make a home for a wild animal

37.Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool

38.Bring up a butterfly

39.Catch a crab

40.Go on a nature walk at night

Level 5 – Explorer

41.Plant it, grow it, eat it

42.Go swimming in the sea

43.Build a raft

44.Go bird watching

45.Find your way with a map and compass

46.Try rock climbing

47.Cook on a campfire

48.Learn to ride a horse

49.Find a geocache

50.Canoe down a river