A Visit to Moco

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Near to the Rijksmuseum, there’s a much smaller gallery called Moco.

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They had, and still have I think, a substantial exhibition dedicated to the work of Banksy. I found it immensely enjoyable. I think this Mickey Mouse swallowing constrictor was my favourite, but it was a close run thing.

There was another exhibition – which sadly looked more interesting on their web page than it did in reality.

They also had artworks from their permanent collection which I think had been selected as being precursors of Banksy or in some way relevant to his work. I seem to remember works by Warhol, Koons, and Lichtenstein amongst others.

I was more impressed by these paintings by Keith Haring…

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…and this…

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…by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Little S, meanwhile, not always a lover of art galleries, was very taken by this sculpture in the small garden outside…

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A Visit to Moco

Amsterdam

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One reason, possibly, why I’ve fallen so far behind with the blog, is that I’ve struggled to know what to say about Amsterdam. TBH and I have wanted to visit Amsterdam for a very long time, but when we got there is was extremely busy and much, much too hot. I didn’t want to go to the Anne Frank house, the kids weren’t really struck with the idea of the Rijksmuseum, and we couldn’t book a boat to tour the canals despite all of TBH’s efforts.

I took lots of photographs of massed bicycles, and impressive architecture and canals and such like, but looking at them now – they’re a bit rubbish to be honest. My heart can’t have been in it. So – just a couple of photos. The first, taken by a waitress, is from a little road side cafe where we had a superb lunch. Decent vegan food even! The boys had burgers, which became a bit of a theme for a while, although in Germany they discovered the delights of Schnitzel, which became their new favourite. I had a delicious salad and really enjoyed the cafe’s soundtrack of 70’s reggae and 80’s rap. I even managed to smile for a photo, which is virtually unheard of.

We did walk ‘through’ the Rijksmuseum – there’s an archway/tunnel which walkers and cyclists can use – and were all impressed by the giant spider sculptures in the gardens…

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These are the work of Louise Bourgeois apparently – you can find out more here.

We were on our way to another, much smaller gallery, of which more to follow…

Amsterdam

Wormerveer

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Wormerveer was the first stop off on our summer tour, chosen due to its proximity to Amsterdam.

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I rather liked the place. The river Zaan flows through, and there’s lots of traffic on the river to watch. Canals abound too. Chocolate is made there and the smell of cocoa is pervasive.

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We didn’t book breakfast on the overnight ferry and by the time we’d found our accommodation, settled in and had a bit of a wander, we were all starving. Time to find something to eat. The boys tucked in to huge burgers whilst the vegans had lettuce and chips – from our limited experience, not all restaurants in Holland are geared up to serve vegans.

I had the house special…

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…a croquette, a glass of onion soup and carpaccio, which I enjoyed, although it seems like an odd combination with hindsight.

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Our home, for the couple of days that we were in Wormerveer, was an old wooden house, by a canal. Charming, but quite small. The kids loved the fact that it had a pinball machine and an arcade machine with lots of old games on it – Pacman, Space Invaders, Defender and probably lots more. It was hard for me to get a look in, but I enjoyed the pinball, at least, that was, until the boys started posting scores which exceeded my own best effort, at which point I found that I much preferred to hide behind the book I was reading – ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’, which, fortunately, was very entertaining.

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The temperatures were a bit crazy whilst we were there, which made sleep a bit elusive. A late night stroll did bring some relief – and some interesting views of the Zaan.

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Wormerveer

A Weekend in Lincolnshire

We’re just back from three weeks away, but I’m still not quite up to date with what we were doing before our holidays; so….

It had been a long time since we had seen my mum and dad. A was busy (A seems to nearly always be busy these days), TBH stayed at home to look after A, but the boys were both very keen to visit their grandparents. On the Saturday, we popped into Lincoln, because the boys both needed new trainers, but in the afternoon I had time to have another wander around the nature reserve close to where my parents live.

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I was struck by the abundance and variety of the wildflowers on display.

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And even more so by the profusion of bees, hoverflies, moths and butterflies; particularly the latter. I didn’t have my camera with me, so instead experimented with the zoom function on my newish phone – it’s up to x8, presumably a digital zoom – spending a very happy hour taking hundreds of photos. All of which are a bit rubbish. Oh well, lesson learned.

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The following day we all went for a wander around the Far Ings reserve which is on the banks of the Humber, not far from the Humber Bridge…

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Despite the cloudy skies it was really very warm that day.

I always enjoy a trip to where I can see unfamiliar plants which I don’t see growing close to home. This, I think, is Weld…

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…or Dyer’s Rocket, a native British plant which was once very important for the yellow dye produced from it. Apparently, it took 3-6 pounds of Weld to dye one pound of wool.

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This is Viper’s-bugloss, once thought to be a remedy for snake-bites. I have seen this growing in the car-park at Leighton Moss, but not elsewhere, so I assume that it was introduced.

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I think I’ve seen Common Mallow growing here in Lancashire too, but it’s much more common down in Lincolnshire. It was popular as both a food and a medicine in Roman times, with one use being as a cure for hangovers.

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This creeping plant is White Bryony. The unrelated Black Bryony is quite common around home. Both plants are poisonous. The ‘black’ and ‘white’ refer to the colour of the roots. Apparently, the roots of White Bryony were passed off by the unscrupulous as Mandrake roots which reputedly had magical properties, had to be imported from the Eastern Mediterranean, and so were expensive.

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More Dyer’s Rocket.

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Borage.

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The Humber and the Bridge again.

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After our pleasant stroll we retired to a local cafe for lunch. In the porch of the cafe, Swallows were nesting…

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So, here’s an idea of how my phone’s zoom performs. The first photo is without zoom, and this…

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…is with x8. You can see that the nestlings have very striking, Adam Ant style face stripes, which is how I know that they are Swallows and not Martins, so the zoom can be helpful, even if it doesn’t produce the sharpest images.

A Weekend in Lincolnshire

10in10

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I feel like I’ve been broadcasting my intention to do this walk for far too long, so without further fanfares – here it finally is. That’s my old school friend JS, close to the top of Causey Pike, at a very anti-social hour on a Saturday morning. Registration for the event opened at 6am and I arrived very promptly, but then mistakenly hung around in the car park waiting for JS: I should have know that he would be there before me, in fact he was the very first person to turn-up to register at 5.30am – he leaves nothing to chance. In my defence, he had only come from his hotel in Keswick, whereas I’d been up at 4 to drive up from home.

We thought we would be walking shortly after 6, but it transpired that the earliest start was at 6.30 to allow the marshals to get out on the course – each summit housed a small tent, a few volunteers and quite often some water and snacks to be shared.

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This is the initial, highly scientific, schedule I drew up. I did a second version with extra time added into each section to give an overall time only slightly under 10 hours.

After a prolonged spell of cool and often damp weather, this mid-summer Saturday brought much hotter conditions. We started the walk in shade, but as we began to climb were soon in the sun, and right from the off it was very warm.

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Dalehead, Hindscarth and Robinson from Causey Pike.

We were already a little behind my schedule by the time we reached the summit of Causey Pike, but over the next section we were making up time. As we descended into Butttermere, it briefly clouded up…

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Just by the tiny church in Buttermere, a handful of gazebos had been erected. Refills for water bottles, and all manner of cakes, and savouries were available, best of all, really refreshing slices of orange. Like many others, we stopped here for some lunch, which put us back behind schedule.

The climb out of Buttermere and up to High Snockrigg was, for me at least, purgatorial. There was no breeze, the sun had appeared again, and I was seriously over-heating. JS was very patient with me as I inched up the slope. He’d tripped on the descent into Buttermere, and gone over on his ankle, but was admirably stoical about the discomfort he was suffering.

Buttermere Moss was every bit as soggy as I remembered from my last visit many moons ago. The path which ascends Robinson cuts across the slope in the photo below…

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Robinson from High Snockrigg.

…rising from right to left. The angle was a bit easier, there was now a hint of a breeze and I would have been much happier except I recognised the tell-tale sings of the onset of cramp. I found that if we stopped and sat down for a few minutes when it came on, or better yet, just before it set in, then we could get up the slope in steady bite-size chunks.

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Buttermere from Robinson.

From this point on, I seemed to get a second wind. The incidence of cramp became less frequent and less debilitating, eventually ceasing altogether, and I felt much better generally. JS put my recovery down to the small piece of millionaire’s shortbread I’d accepted from a marshal on High Snockrigg. Maybe? It helped that most of the hard work was behind us.

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North-western fells from Robinson.

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Newlands valley from Dalehead. High Spy on the right, Skiddaw beyond.

The climb from Dalehead to High Spy was very steady and from there it was almost all down hill.

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Cat Bells, Derwentwater, Keswick and Skiddaw.

For a while, I think we both entertained the possibility that we might actually finish in the allotted 10 hours, but although it was relatively easy going, it was still a long way to the finish.

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The hills of the morning, seen from the final descent.

We both ran out of water before the end and one final checkpoint where drinks were available was extremely welcome.

I wish I’d taken some photographs of the party which was in full swing at the Swinside Hotel. We were greeted by cheering, applause and cowbells. There was live music and lots of enthusiastic singing along. I even bumped into a couple of old friends who I hadn’t anticipated seeing there. The pub was extremely busy and JS and I waited quite a while for our long anticipated pints of shandy – when we finally got served we adopted an old tactic of mine, not always a wise on, and bought two rounds simultaneously. The first one didn’t touch the sides. The second – drunk whilst sat on a bench in the sun, listening to the music – was even more satisfying.

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That’s us at the Swinside. And the bench where we supped our shandies.

In the end, we finished in a little under 11 hours. I’m happy with the fact that I finished at all, because when JS first contacted me about the challenge I had severe doubts about my ability to do so. Without me to hold him up, I’m sure that JS would have finished within the required 10 hours, but then he would have missed out on my sparkling wit and repartee. Or something like that.

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I’ve never thought to include the gradient profile before, but I rather liked this one…

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Mapmywalk gives almost 17½ miles and around 6000 feet of ascent. My calculations of the ascent, largely based on the figures given by Wainwright, gave a total of 6600 feet. Either way, a good deal more than I’ve done in a day for quite some time.

Although, I found this walk much tougher than the Three Peaks, if anything the recovery was slightly easier. I even made it, briefly, to a friends birthday party in the village that night.

The event was extremely well organised, and although it meant that at times we were walking in a bit of a crowd, I rather enjoyed the camaraderie and cheerful atmosphere. Thanks again for those of you who have very generously sponsored me and made donations to the Multiple Sclerosis Society. It’s not too late if you still want to chip in, my Just Giving page is here and that really is the last time I will mention it, I promise.

10in10

The Yorkshire Three Peaks with B

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Cloud clearing from Pen-y-ghent.

Last spring, B announced his desire to walk the Three Peaks. I wasn’t very confident about my ability to complete the walk last year, but stored away the idea, and this spring I asked B whether he still felt the same way. He did. So we planned to tackle the route during Whit week. In my head, the weather is always reliable at Whit, but obviously that’s just wishful thinking and this Whit was particularly unsettled and wet. A couple of weeks later though, and the Sunday forecast looked reasonable, so B and I set off early for Horton-in-Ribblesdale. As we drove over, it was raining and the hills were completely obscured by cloud, but as we climbed out of Horton the cloud was beginning to clear and we could see blue sky appearing behind from the direction of the Bay…

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When I was in my teens, my dad was hooked on challenge walks. I walked a few too, usually with him, often with his colleagues from work too, sometimes with my mum and sometimes with the local scout group. The first that I attempted was the Lyle Wake Walk, but I stopped after 20 miles, by which time the borrowed boots I was wearing had made a bit of a mess of my toes. After that we walked the Derwent Watershed, the Limey Way, the Welsh Three-thousanders, the Bullock Smithy hike, and the Three Peaks, which I think we did a couple of times.

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Approaching the last part of the climb onto Pen-y-ghent.

I remember those walks with a great deal of affection, and I’m sure that my dad does too; recently he’s been wearing a sweatshirt with his Bullock Smithy badge from 1983 sewn onto it.

Some years later, when I was in mid-twenties, I walked the Welsh 3’s again. I’d just spent 10 days or so alone in Lochaber, sleeping in bothies and bagging every Munro and Corbett in sight. Though I didn’t recognise the fact at the time, I was as fit as the proverbial butcher’s dog. None-the-less, by the time I’d finished the punishing route and was descending from the Carneddau towards Rowen Youth Hostel, where old friends M and J were volunteer wardens, my knees, ankles and feet were all very sore and I vowed not to get involved in anything so foolish ever again.

I haven’t done any challenge walks since.

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Pen-y-ghent summit.

But, with the commitment I’d made to join my old school pal JS on the charity 10in10 walk and the training I’d been doing for that, a Three Peaks walk seemed like a perfect opportunity to test my fitness. What’s more, taking on a challenge walk with my own son felt like an opportunity to complete the circle somehow, to pass on the torch.

I’d arbitrarily decided that we should aim to finish the walk inside 12 hours and had drawn up a schedule accordingly. I’d allowed an hour and half for our first ascent and was pleased that we arrived on the top with ten minutes to spare. As we did so, another group also reached the summit, celebrating the fact that they’d done it in an hour and ten. We’d be leap-frogging this group for most of the day: they walked faster than we did, but stopped more often and for longer. We did pause here in the shelter though, to eat the breakfast we’d deferred due to our early start.

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The onward path. Ingleborough behind.

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On the long walk to Whernside.

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The weather would improve through the day, but early on, despite the sunshine, it was still quite cold. Occasionally, we had a few odd spots of rain, but the threatened showers never actually materialised.

There’s a bit of road walking leading up to Ribblehead. The verges were overgrown with Sweet Cicely and I tucked into some lovely aniseed flavoured seeds. B not only declined my offer of some seeds, but seemed to think that I would poison myself by indiscriminately indulging on foraged treats. He had the last laugh: fibrous strands from the seeds had me coughing and spluttering for a while.

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Ribblehead Viaduct.

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Force Gill.

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Ingleborough.

I was carrying an old point-and-snap Fuji compact camera, rather than my Panasonic. It was lighter to carry, and, more importantly, could be stashed in a pocket and was therefore quick to use. Even so, we were trying to maintain a steady pace so I didn’t take as many photos as I usually would.

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Whernside was quite busy, but I suspect it had been much busier, the day before, a Saturday, when apparently there had been a number of organised charity events taking place in diabolical weather conditions.

Slightly away from the trig pillar and shelters, a radio ham had a tent pitched and a substantial aerial rigged up, presumably in order to contact far-flung parts.

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Whernside Summit.

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Lots of people were picnicking on Whernside, but there was still a cold wind blowing, so we dropped down and found a sheltered spot by a wall for a longer stop and some late lunch.

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Our lunchstop view.

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The route between Whernside and Ingleborough took us through very familiar territory, and right past The Old School House at Chapel-le-Dale where we have stayed many times over recent pre-Christmas weekends. In general, navigation was very straight-forward: partly because the route is so well sign-posted, partly because I’ve walked almost all of the route recently, some sections several times, but mostly because there were enough other people who were obviously ticking off the Three Peaks and we could just follow the crowd.

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Because I was trying to resist the temptation to stop and poke my nose into everything like I usually do, I didn’t take many flora or fauna photos, but I couldn’t resist this. I think  it might be Mossy Saxifrage, and if it is, then it hasn’t appeared on this blog before.

The route from Chapel-le-Dale on to Ingleborough crosses a fair bit of wet ground. In one fair sized pool I spotted a Newt, and when I pointed it out to eagle-eyed B, he soon spotted several more. The water was dark with peat, and anyway I didn’t have the right camera with me to get photos, so I’m not sure whether these were Palmate Newts again, like the ones we saw in Red Tarn a couple of summers ago.

Almost the last part of the climb, out of Humphrey Bottom and on to the ridge, is very steep and I have to confess that I started to struggle here. By the time I’d reached the top of the steep section my legs had turned to jelly, but somewhat to my surprise we were still ahead of schedule when we reached the trig pillar…

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Ingleborough Summit.

B meanwhile was still going strong and never showed any signs of flagging. I’d already warned him about the long walk from the top of Ingleborough back down to Horton: on reaching the final summit it can feel like all of the hard work is done, but in this case you still have many miles to walk.

Although B refused to take his sweater off, the sun was shining by now and it was really quite warm, a huge contrast with earlier. We’d both carried a lot of water, but were both running out, and we were very glad to find a small spring just off the ridge and a little way from the path.

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Heading for Horton. The large grey area in the middle distance is the extensive limestone pavements above the head of Crummack Dale, one of my favourite places in the Dales.

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I feel like I’ve spotted far more caterpillars this summer when I’ve been out on the hills than I ever have before. I’m not really sure why. I’m not sure either what kind of caterpillar this is. The caterpillar of the Broom Moth has three longitudinal stripes, but in all the pictures I’ve looked at those stripes look much bolder than these.

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Descending from Ingleborough.

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Pen-y-ghent ahead, looking quite different from earlier in the day.

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A final view of Pen-y-ghent from just outside Horton.

Though I didn’t realise it at the time, my phone was on it’s last legs. Mapmywalk worked well on the day, recording the walk as almost exactly 25 miles, but then ‘lost’ the file afterwards, so I can’t post the map or relay an exact time. I think we finished in just a little over 11 hours, not that that matters very much.

We stopped off in Ingleton on the way home for a celebratory milkshake and pepsi. I’m pretty sure I remember my dad buying me a pint at the Hill Inn when we walked the Three Peaks on a hot summer’s day, when I must have been around B’s age. I definitely recall the pint he bought me when we finished the Derwent Watershed (although I thought the pub was called the Dambusters and I can’t find it online – I suppose the name may have changed in forty years). How times have changed!

I reluctantly passed up an opportunity to walk from Old Glossop, on an old favourite route, with some old favourite friends on that Sunday, so that I could fulfil my promise to B by doing this walk with him. On balance, I think I made the right decision: I really enjoyed our day. I was hobbling on very stiff pegs for three days afterwards however, whilst B was posting a new PB for 800m (his latest sporting obsession).

 

 

The Yorkshire Three Peaks with B

One Summer Evening

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There were lots of climbers enjoying the evening sunshine at Trowbarrow. Sadly, down in the base of the quarry it was already shady. I had come in search of Bee Orchids…

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And found that there were lots flowering, more than last year I think.

Almost as an afterthought, on the way home I called in at Leighton Moss to take in the view from the skytower…

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I thought I might see some Red Deer out amongst the reeds and meres, and sure enough, there they were…

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What I hadn’t anticipated was the commotion caused by a Marsh Harrier making regular raids on a group of nesting Black-headed Gulls.

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The photos didn’t come out very well, but watching the acrobatics of the harrier and the organised and vociferous defence of the gulls was breathtaking.

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When the harrier stayed away for a while, some of the gulls turned their attentions to the deer and attempted to drive them away too. The deer looked more bemused than worried.

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The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
—Mary Oliver

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One Summer Evening