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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.

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Often when I tell Little Boots about my childhood, it feels like I am discussing medieval history.

A recent case in point was when I was telling a story about when Star Wars first came out.

By Star Wars I mean the first movie, which to many of us will always be Star Wars and never A New Hope.

In those days, unlike today, films did not come out at the all the cinemas at the same time. Our local town was usually two weeks behind cinemas in the nearest large conurbation, which was itself behind London.

From somewhere, a rumour started that Star Wars was not coming to our local cinema because the screen was too small. This rapidly became gospel at our school, sending the pupils into paroxysm of anxiety and nervous excitement.

Somehow, my brother and I persuaded the Old Man that it was essential that we see the movie and to this day I’m really not sure how, because he probably hadn’t been to the flicks since the early sixties.

Anyway one evening the Old Man took us along to one of the “big” cinemas twenty miles way. It was big because it had more than one screen, which was impressive to us. As we turned the corner we saw a huge queue snaking back from the cinema. My brother and I were sure that we would never get in. Dad reassured us that we would, but frankly I was not convinced.

However the doors opened and before long we were in.

It was an amazing experience, because apart from Disney films, we had not really been to the “pictures” a great deal.

There were two outcomes from this “event” – I call it that because it does stand out significantly in my memories of my last years at primary school.

Firstly that my Dad loved it. Not surprisingly really, because it is basically a western and the old man loves a good western, but he also really raved about how the equipment all looked battered and used rather than pristine which was the usual model for Sci-Fi movies. Consequently, for a couple of years thereafter he agreed to take us to see any movie we suggested. Close Encounters and Grease stand out as examples.

The second, and far more important result, was that my brother and I saw Star Wars a full two weeks before it eventually came to our town cinema, dispelling the myth that it wouldn’t.

And for that period we absolutely ruled the school, with what felt like demi-god status. Thus we also spoiled it for everyone, by explaining the plot, and other facets of the film, in infinite detail. Not, I’m sure,that that made a jot of difference to the kids’ enjoyment of the movie once they saw it themselves.

This was a tale I recently told Little Boots and whilst a lot of the background seems from ancient past, the kudos with seeing a mega-movie ahead of the other kids still holds good.

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Little Boots is a very creative soul.

Because of this some weeks back we attended a launch event for a film competition that LB’s school cine-club is going to enter. It consisted of some screening of short films and some Q & As from “experts”.

There was an interval during which various attendees sent in Tweets which were displayed on the large screen on which the films had been shown.

I tweeted something about Seeing Star Wars as a child. That is a post for another day.

Anyway my tweet name and avatar popped up (the latter forms part of the banner of this blog).

I laughed.

“Is that you?” asked LB. “Yes”, I replied.

A very confused look passed across my child’s face. “Why have you got that name and that picture of those old boots?”

I explained that the boots were my all-time favourites and that I’d worn them when doing some things that I’d loved like building RHS show gardens. Following on from that, I explained that there was a very famous gardener from Victorian times called Miss Jekyll and there was a well-known painting of a pair of her old boots. My picture was an “homage” to that, as my boots were in the same position and I’d set up the background to look the same.

LB, who knows what an homage is, nodded along as I described this.

“And the name”,  I went on, “comes from the fact that the boots were an Australian brand called Blundstoned and Stoned Love is a track by a soul group called the Supremes, and because I loved  the boots and soul music I put the two together – Blundstoned Love”.

LB thought for a moment before saying. “That’s really cool.”

“Yea, I used to be cool,” I replied, not smelling a rat.

“So can I have a Twitter account?”

Last week Little Boots and I spent a couple of days on a wooded campsite. It was nice to get away, as life has felt rather too hectic of late, and great to spend some time outdoors.
We cooked over an open fire, whittled sticks (me an atlatl/LB somekind of ninja weapon), climbed trees and even rigged up a hammock using a tarp, paracord and walking poles.

I’m always astounded by LB’s climbing skills, but was also impressed that my child can now single-handedly pitch a tent, light a proper fire to cook on and self-administer first aid following a slip whilst whittling.

These are useful skills and things that no amount of time playing computer games can give you.

I am a very proud parent

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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 My baseball cap is getting pretty worn and battered, not to mention sun-bleached. It’s a golden rule of clothing that just as a piece starts to get really comfortably, then that is the point at which it develops a hole, splits or otherwise starts to fall to bits. Mine will last a while yet mind you, although if I was in the market for a replacement I’d get one of these fish hats from Ben at Arizona Wanderings. Last year I bought one of his K C Badger t-shirts and its always bought me luck (and a trout) when I’ve worn it fishing.

On the subject of sartorial items, recently discovered on the internet, that I’d quite like are Auxiliary Outside Projects t-shirts, deigned by Anthony Oram, who’s interviewed here.

Though, given the current fiscal position at Boot Hall I might only be able to stretch to one of their patches.

Sew-on patches are something I’ve been giving a bit of thought to lately, because I’d like the womble bag to have a slightly less military surplus look.

Another vendor of outdoor-themed patches is Miscellaneous Adventures. The general “honours” patch is OK, and there is also a cycle one that I can’t find just now, but the one I really like is the woodland woodcarving one. Not sure I can justify the costs of going on a course to get one though.