Archive for February 2012
This is Der Fernsehturm (the TV Tower), the tallest building in Germany. The Communists erected this priapic concrete spire in East Berlin to laud the perfection of their Socialist worker’s utopia (or somesuch nonsense). However, when the sun shines, the ball reflects the light as a glaring cross; Berliners apparently call it, ‘The Pope’s Revenge’.
Just returned from a week in Eastern Europe with a couple of dozen of my Sixth Form students. Dragging them around snowy Berlin and rainy Krakow by public transport, not to mention journeying between the two cities on a rickety Communist-era sleeper train, whilst on duty 24 hours a day, takes its toll. At this precise moment, I’m enjoying the first relaxing ’me’ time I’ve had in a while. I’m going to sit here and do bog all for the whole afternoon, and no one can stop me.
Some day soon, I’m even going to have a day free and go ‘paddling’.
Evening light over two Corfe Castles.
Photo taken just now, courtesy of my mobile phone, whilst strolling the Enchanted Gardens after dinner at Corfe Castle Model Village‘s cafe. This is undoubtedly the Isle of Purbeck’s friendliest eatery and (happening to be not very many yards from our house) is effectively our second dining room.
Two random images from the Isles of Scilly.
The image above was taken out at the Western Rocks, which is the very first bit of Britain reached from America. A sizeable swell was rolling in from the Atlantic, but we were shielded from its full force by the 4km string of rocks and reefs. The photo below shows the beach in front of the campsite on St Martin’s Island, on the first evening of our weeklong visit to the Isles. The paddler is Claire, who is XXX years old today… Happy Birthday, Claire!
To my intense disappointment, I won’t be running the South Devon Coastal Trail Series Ultramarathon tomorrow, as was planned. I’ve been laid low by illness all week; I’d hoped to shake it by the weekend, but am still coughing and running a high temperature. Very annoying indeed that I should contract ‘man flu’ at this time, after all that training. But I am definitely nowhere near a fit state to take on the event.
I have undertaken to attempt an Ultramarathon to raise funds for the Dartmoor Search and Rescue Team Ashburton, so have entered the next Ultramarathon event in the Coastal Trail Series, which is in Sussex next month. The good news is that they still had a few places left, the bad news is that I’ll have to carry on training for another month. Actually that’s no real hardship as I’ve really enjoyed it all so far, but it does mean that I’ll have to reshuffle all sorts of things to find the time and energy.
Many thanks to all who have supported me so kindly far, and apologies that I will not be running tomorrow.
In 1998, Norfolk man John Lorimer discovered a seven metre long oval of 55 oak posts in the tidal mud at Holme-next-the-Sea, encircling an inverted oak trunk. This Bronze Age ritual site had been uncovered beneath an eroding ancient peat layer.
Excavations began, before the site eroded away. The press showed an uncharacteristic interest in Prehistoric archaeology and (inaccurately) dubbed the site ‘Seahenge’. An international media circus descended on this National Nature Reserve, damaging the ecology and disrupting local activity. Some slightly unhinged New Age types also arrived and attempted to halt the excavation.
After the dust finally settled, studies of the oak remnants revealed that Seahenge was constructed on marshland behind sand dunes in 2049 BC, using exactly fifty axes. Seahenge is now displayed in Kings Lynn Museum. A second, larger monument was subsequently discovered close by, but kept secret! More ‘Seahenges’ from this ritual landscape will surface as the peat erodes, but if any are currently known of, be assured that no one local will tell you…
For more information, archaeologist Francis Pryor’s book is recommended…
Have a good St Valentine’s Day, all. Having someone you care about to share your life with is, all things considered, a wonderful and precious thing.
(The grey seals above live in Yorkshire)
Fistral Beach, Newquay, North Cornwall. Earlier on this day in 2007, I’d managed to launch out through clean 6-8 foot surf but (encountering steep 15-20 foot swell offshore) quickly realised that I was some distance out of my comfort zone. The problem was…now I was out there, how was I going to get back in?
I saved by bacon by working my way inshore to land at Newquay Harbour, which is tucked well away from the incoming swell, protected by Towan Head. There was still some surf here, though. I met a collection of fishing boats out back, waiting for the tide to rise enough to reduce the force of the surf break and give them a clean run at the harbour entrance. After advice from the fishermen, I decided to give it a try; whilst there was still enough surf here to keep me awake, all went to plan. On my final surf into the harbour entrance, I was joined on the wave face by a bodysurfing grey seal. I hadn’t seen that coming…
Heather and I had been stuck on the island of Rousay for three nights straight, waiting for the wind to drop. We were getting frustrated with our wait to head up into the North Isles of Orkney. One evening we returned to the tent and found that the wind had dropped…
Within an hour we’d packed the boats and were on the water, paddling across some surprisingly fast tides. The plan was to cross to Eday, a large island about five miles away. We pretty much continually surfed across standing waves for the first few miles. Things crept up on us; the wind cranked up behind us (against the tide), the waves steepened and roughened dramatically, and before we knew it, we were in full whitewater mode. By the time we realised how much we had extended ourselves, we were too far from Rousay to return easily, but nowhere near our intended destination. Our saving grace was a tiny uninhabited island called Muckle Green Holm which was located in mid-stream of these powerful flows. We were relieved to break out and take stock, in the huge churning eddies behind this island.
We couldn’t continue our crossing to Eday without taking on some fairly mad conditions; although it was only another mile or two, the next set of tide races (ominously known as the ‘Fall of Warness’) were frankly huge, and were surging and breaking hard. The route back was now similarly closed to us, and the tide was too strong for us to paddle north upstream against it. Escaping south with the tide wasn’t too promising either, due to the screaming headwind. On top of all that, the light was fading. We made the decision to land and camp on Muckle Green Holm, not ideal as we’d barely brought enough fresh water for a pot of tea with us! If we ended up stuck on MGH by the wind, we would be in big trouble.
Landing wasn’t straightforward, as the east side of MGH was rimmed by cliffs. We later discovered that there is a rocky beach on the NW side, but could not access this side of the island due to the strength of the tide flow. We eddyhopped up to the northern tip, where we were amazed to watch seals bodysurfing the standing wave created where the tide poured over a ledge. We considered climbing and hauling the boats up a muddy gulley from a geo, but eventually we found an better option; the rising tide made it possible to access the gradually sloping reefs on the southern tip of the island, where we were able to beach and unload.
Shipwrecked! The good news is that the next morning dawned calm and clear, so we were able to escape before our water ran out. Even so, the tides beat us again. We launched precisely on slack tide, yet still failed to make it direct to Eday, a mere mile away. Within 15-20 minutes of slack water, the tide was too strong for us to hold position, and we gave up trying to ferry across; we rode the tide north instead. We later learned that the spring flows we tackled commonly exceed 8 mph. A glance at a map of the Orkney Isles will reveal that this channel is basically a northerly cousin of the notorious Pentland Firth, but all of this wisdom was only gained in hindsight. I guess the clue was the experimental tidal power generator located in mid-flow…
Oh yes, Muckle Green Holm itself. It wasn’t ugly, and we weren’t alone. Aside from the hundreds of seals and the long neglected sheep (with ludicrously overgrown wool hanging to the ground), we were happy to make acquaintance with the innumerable shags, a small handful of whom are depicted here.
SAR helicopter training at the Needles, Isle of Wight. He was dangled right down between the Needles to water level and then winched up again. Rather him than me; funny, what some folk will do as a day job…
‘Grief is the price we pay for love.’ – Her Majesty The Queen.
Long to reign over us…
Images of Great Yarmouth. Well, why not.
This was the very welcome view that greeted me in the last mile of this mornings’ very gruelling run. Home was at last in sight!
I’d started out under starlight with the intention of running a full 26.2 mile marathon distance around the Purbeck hills, but the going was really heavy after last night’s heavy rain (I even found myself crawling on hands and knees along a streambed at one point) and my legs were telling me that they hadn’t fully recovered from last Sunday’s long run.
I decided to listen to my body (i.e. bottle out) and cut the run short (at c19 miles). Lots of rest needed I think, before I face the real thing in two weeks…
Now, it’s time for late brekkie.