Monday, December 26, 2016

50 up!

Here she comes - Parkrunner extraordinaire - Vicky has now completed 50 Parkruns and will receive the famous red t-shirt! This shot is from the Oldham Parkrun on Christmas Day morning which takes place in a lovely old Victorian park (not flat!) We must go back on a summer's day!
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Friday, December 23, 2016

New pub for Dinbych.

Found! Just opened for Christmas - a new micro pub in Denbigh!! Y Goron Fach (The Little Crown) is tucked away on a side street by the town hall. DIdn't look much like a pub from the street but sure enough there was a row of hand pumps clearly visible through the steaming windows and a good crowd of happy customers enjoying themselves. We'd only gone out for a walk with Skip but we were in luck! The head brewer from the Denbigh Brewery was serving local ale (without the benefit of a bar we should add!) Three different brewers were represented all located less than 5 miles away which fits with the pub's mission which is to reduce 'beer miles'!

Monday, December 19, 2016

She's a winner!

Fame at Last
A big smile on her face and an unexpected win. But Vicky deserved the victory winning the Denbigh Harriers Johnson's Handicap shield for 2016. The seven mile race follows the lovely Afon Ystrad for much of it's course and passes the ruins of a cottage once lived in by Dr Samuel Johnson hence the name of the trophy. The route also passes the Johnson's Monument, an interesting piece of sculpture in the middle of nowhere, plus Gwaenygog Hall where Beatrix Potter did some of her writing - so a literary gallop through the woods and vales, Johnson was apparently not too impressed with Wales but the scenery, even in the depths of winter is delightful and Conde Nast traveller magazine recently described Gwaenygog Hall as having one of the top ten gardens in the UK. Vicky's win was slightly assisted by an energetic Skip on a lead - sadly Martin failed by 10 seconds to make it a first and second family victory!

The Johnson's race was a muddy one but the previous weekend Mortimers Forest Trail Race in Shropshire had been a lot muddier! I'd worn trail shoes basing my clever decision on my spotting the word 'trail' in the race title. 24 hours of constant rain prior to the event had turned the narrow forest tracks into an endless quagmire - when we finally found a bit of road (see the pic!) my inner racing demon was unleashed and I managed to pick up a few places on the run in.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Macc Half

Me towards the end of the Macclesfield Half Marathon

I was going well despite the undulations and the downpours - 1.35.23 for this one! I'd never done the race in it's dozen or so years in existence but I helped to run the finishing line at the very first event and I'd promised myself I'd come back to do it at some point - job done!

And me at the finish of the Saddleworth Edges Race
Spot the difference? Yes - dirty legs I'd been up on the tops in a bog. And maybe looking more exhausted. But what about having the same number for both races! There's a coincidence - mind you the famous Fishwicker himself, who is rapidly catching up to me interns of races completed, had this to say about his race at Saddleworth last year: "My 
time today, 1.07.34, is exactly the same as last years. What are the odds of doing this in a 8 mile fell race in claggy conditions?" I think the route change this year added something - I was 1.28.25!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Here Come the Dogs

Here are the dogs.....SIT!!
And what an atmospheric snapshot - this is on top of Beacon Hill, the highest point in Leicestershire. We had to find somewhere accessible for the various members of Skip's family. He has nine brothers and sisters and only four were missing for this photo. From left to right here they are: Tia, Kal, Cosmo, Peggy Skip and Ruin. Only two of them had to be slightly restrained for the sitting.
On the previous day we had called in at Congleton Parkrun for a quick early morning gallop - good to spot a friend of ours whom we'd not seen for a couple of years, despite suffering with metastatic prostate cancer with bone secondaries he is still knocking out 34 minute 5K's - inspirational!

And here's a thing -Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltters in a wrod are; the olny iprmoetnt fatcor is taht the frist and lsat ltteres be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Nearly there ladies!

Nearly there ladies!
Not mentioned running lately but we're still at it. This is from the Two Hillforts race which involves 9 miles of tough stuff up the prehistoric hill forts of Penycloddiau and Moel Arthur. Here we are at about eight and a half miles plodding through the last fields but Vicky and June charged across the finish line together and were joint winners of the L60 bottles of beer. Well done girls!
We've also been Parkrunning and the previous weekend all did the Vale of Clwyd 5K, a very pleasant gallop round the quiet country lanes near Llandyrnog. The upcoming big one is the 15 miler Clwydian Hills challenge at the beginning of September. Watch this space...
It's a bug's life!

Here's something that landed next to the point pots at a pub we visited recently in Staffordshire. It's a Hawthorn Shield Bug, a member of the family of 'true bugs'. Bugs is a rather misused word but used in it's correct sense it excludes beetles, spiders, flies and colds and flu. Bugs are a fascinating order of the insect family and consist of a wide ranging variety of creatures - pond skaters for instance who use the Marangoni Effect to walk on water! Other bugs you may have come across include bed bugs (but I haven't met any!), aphids and Green Shield Bugs which are related to Hawthorn Shield Bugs and gave their name to Green Shield Stamps.

Washing machine for 185 books!
Green Shield Stamps, rather astonishingly, only disappeared in 1991. The Green Shield Stamp company changed it's name to Argos and stopped accepting stamps at that time - no-one told me and I still have 47 books full! Each stamp was worth a nominal third of a penny and it took 1,280 stamps to fill a book. Things started to get a bit out of hand when competing stores offered 'double stamps', 'triple stamps', and so on. Part of the reason for their demise was that Tesco suddenly decided with no warning, to drop Green Shield Stamps and use instead the novel different sales tactic of price cutting!

And I challenge anyone to see the connection between Charlie Brown, his favourite Genesis album and Green Shield stamps!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Beware of the Black and Yellow

Bit of cherry makes a change from alder!
There are plenty of black and yellow caterpillars around - it's nature's way of telling predators "Don't eat me!" Wasps and bees sting, other creature bite or contain poison - or maybe they don't - but the birds and animals (and humans) don't want to take a chance! This is an Alder Moth caterpillar and, although they are widespread, they are apparently uncommon so I was lucky to see this one (on a cherry tree leaf not an alder!) at the back of West Cheshire College while taking Skip for our evening stroll a couple of weeks ago. 

And where do you think you're going?

Another evening walk we sometimes take is by the river past a house called 'Nowhere". The story goes that in the 1960's the Beatles were playing at a live venue in Chester - John Lennon happened to take a walk past this house and it inspired him to write the song "Nowhere Man"! Readers of this blog will know that I'm fond of linking apparently unconnected facts and those who follow the rock music scene closely may well have heard of the Bristol-based band "Tax the Heat" whose name comes from the lyrics of the George Harrison song "Taxman". And indeed the band were playing a couple of weeks ago at a live venue in Chester- and thanks to the fact that the bass player is the fiance of our niece Katy we were able to obtain tickets (with Katie's sister Lizzie Rose) to a fine gig (as concerts are known as in the 21st century!) Here Tax the Heat were supporting Ash - later this year they are on tour supporting Terrorvision - PLUG,  PLUG!

Go watch!

Bricks and Chester

Now how are we going to mow the lawn?
Cycling along the back roads south of Chester on a Sunday morning - these are quiet roads at this time of the week all I seem to see are other bike riders scooting between the delightful villages. Many of these villages  are within the Duke of Westminster's Eaton Hall estate and are full of listed buildings - this row of cottages is at Aldford and I was rather taken with the audience of gnomes, small animals, etc., who populate the garden of the cottage in the middle. These buildings are better known for the decorative pargetting or plasterwork on the front of the upper storeys. Many of the cottages and churches in these villages were designed by John Douglas, a noted local architect, who was also responsible for many of the brick buildings in Chester plus many of the half timbered buildings which most people think are medieval but, in fact, some of them actually date from the mid 19th century.

Is it easier having teeth out in a nice building?
This is 6-11 Grosvenor Street, also built by Douglas, and the end building with the turret houses our dentist's surgery! Nicklaus Pevsner described this as "a brilliant group of brick houses." I'd started to write this post before the recent death of the Duke of Westminster, who was held in high regard by folk in these parts, and many of the works of John Douglas in Chester and the surrounding area were commissioned by the previous Dukes of Westminster.

Still on the subject of landed gentry, this is Abbeystead House, near Lancaster, which was owned by the Earl of Sefton and built by - guess who? John Douglas or more correctly the Chester firm of Douglas and Fordham! On the death of the 7th Earl of Sefton in 1972 and in the absence of any heirs the House was sold and in 1980 it was acquired by the then Duke of Westminster. And sadly this is where the 6th Duke died last week.

As a bit of a postscript the main residence of the Earls of Sefton was Croxteth Hall, which is in Liverpool and is also the venue for a Parkrun - so we'd better go and give it a go!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Run from the Light.

This is Leasowe Lighthouse, constructed from 660,000 bricks in 1763. Situated at the north end of the Wirral, it was flashing its lights until 1908 at which time it's operator was Mrs Annie Williams, the only female lighthouse keeper in the country. It survives as a mini museum thanks to the Friends of Lease Lighthouse and it's also the base for the Wirral Coastal Park ranger service. Lease has an interesting claim to fame in that here started the world's first commercial hovercraft service carrying holidaymakers to Rhyl. It was not a profitable business and it was soon discontinued.(maybe the weather had something to do with this, the 1960's saw the coolest summers of the 20th Century.) Angela Eagle, who has been in the news lately, is the local MP - perhaps she's been to the top watching her constituency with her eagle eye!

Got my number!
Leasowe Lighthouse is also the registration point for the Wirral Seaside run which is a point to point race along the seafront, which here is known as Mockbeggar Wharf. (In April we also ran past a lighthouse at Point Cartwright, a big concrete tower built in 1978 in Australia.) Here's a picture of Vicky emerging from the building proudly displaying her race number. One advantage of a point to point race is that if you have a tail wind all the way you can get a good time - and our times were indeed good! However the only race we can compare it with is the next Wirral Seaside run as the distance is a fairly idiosyncratic 4.92K. The clear disadvantage of a point to point race is that at the finish we were 4.92K away from the car but at least it wasn't raining. Having run along the Mockbeggar Wharf it was entirely appropriate that we were able to repair to the Mockbeggar Hall for some nice pints of.

Mirror, mirror on the wall......
Still using Woolworths' trusty products? I rustled through my various toolboxes looking for some picture hooks and came across this unopened packet - is it worth anything? I doubt it and you can most likely get stuff like this at car boot sales - it's actually less than eight years since the last Woolworths store closed in the UK. The original parent company founded by Frank Winfield Woolworth in the US is still going strong and Woolworths in Australia is one of the two big supermarket chains over there. Aussie Woolies is not related at all to FW Woolworth -apparently the owners of a local store in Sydney discovered that Woolworths had failed to register their trade name down under!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Mini Tourist Guide to Cagliari

A sunny day in Cagliari
I never managed to write much about my 5 months in Sardinia, mainly as I was far too busy to find time to idly blog. So this is a bit belated but might be useful if you're planning a trip in the near future! Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia - it's not too big and easy to walk around. However most of the tourists don’t seem to think so as they throng around the Marina area and don’t get up to the Castello which is the oldest part of town. (Make sure you go up the Torre dell’elefante which is top left of this picture.) I lived in Castello for nearly 5 months and loved it. 
The Marina area pictured in the foreground has lots of touristy restaurants, most have some Sardinian specialities - we were advised to go to Dal Corsaro on Via Sardegno but never actually ate there! Pricier, but usually busy, are the restaurants on the battlements of Castello, Libarium is the popular one but the locals seem to go to others  either side of Libarium. Most restaurants don’t open until 7.30 - 8 ish but they close earlier than you might expect - it’s not like Spain!

All good stuff you see!

There’s plenty of Italian and Sardinian microbrewery beer around - you might find some in the restaurants, but the best bar with a range of straight and bottled brews is Il Merlo Parlante, Via Portascalas. If you walk past in the daytime you wouldn’t know there was anything there but between 7.30 and 8 a wooden door opens up and the long bar inside fills up pretty quickly. We went there regularly. If you want a beer earlier on you have the touristy bars at Piazza Jenne which we didn’t go in - the waiters outside will pester you trying entice you in with special deals. Round the corner is a big Irish (but not really Irish) pub, The Old Square on Vittoriio Emanuele II, just about the only place open when the rugby world cup afternoon matches were on - if you go there ask for the Italian bottled beer list - some good stuff there. And last but not least, Carlo and Sasha’s tiny pub Lima Lima is close to the shopping street near Bastion St Remy - it’s on Via Iglesias and usually opens at 6.30 pm (so we got to know Carlo and Sasha pretty well - give them our regards if you see them!) he usually has at least one local draught beer and he owns an eclectic beer shop over the road. He has occasional music nights but you’d need to reserve a table if you want to sit.

Italian word for flamingos is 'Fennicotteri!

You could spend all your time in the middle of Cagliari  - lots of churches, cathedrals, etc., but if you get a chance go down to see the flamingoes at Stagno Molentargius. Or even take a bus to Poetto Beach (can be absolutely packed but you’ll see the Italians at play!) In the mornings there is often a pink sheen on the water in the distance - just down from Torre San Pancrazio - as you come down through the North Eastern gate from Castello you’ll see them in the distance - this was the way I walked to work every morning! is a beer website for Italy that was full of fascinating information and I found it very useful - they’ve revamped the website for some reason and now it’s not nearly as informative. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Look at all those birdies

I'll doff my cap sir!
Lots of interesting birdlife at Oxford Island on the shore of Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland including Blackcaps, Great Crested Grebes and Pochards. Although they look like tits Blackcaps are warblers and they come in a selection of markings - this isn't my picture and the fellow that we saw had a distinctive white band - more like a scarf - around its neck. A big bunch of grebes were sheltering from a strong wind by some reed banks which we were able to see from a deserted hide at the edge of the lake. And then there was a miniature flotilla of Pochards which are quite handsome little ducks.

Apart from my beak and my head I'm really just like any other duck!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

I'll have a large Clotworthy please!

Spot the lobster.
We missed the ferry this week - however we were able to spend a few hours in Dublin and we spotted a freshly carved wood sculpture in St Anne's Park, Raheny (see the sawdust on the ground.) Just take a closer look at the photo and note the amazing detail. We eventually arrived home 10 hours late courtesy of the big late night ferry which was full of smiling Africans and Eastern Europeans - and guess what? Holyhead passport control had all gone home to bed! Whilst in Northern Ireland (where I watched Northern Ireland beat Ukraine in the footy on TV!) I ran in the Lisburn Half Marathon with our George tootling round in a little over 2 hours. Lovely course out into the countryside and we finished just after 9 pm feeling very thirsty.

Ireland, North and South, is synonymous with Guinness and there is not much else. However in the last few years a number of enterprising microbrewers have set up business. They are almost entirely absent from bars and pubs however as Guinness have some sort of monopoly, but there are plenty of bottles in the shops as you can see from this fine selection:

Not Guiness but something else!
See the beer on the exteme right - Clotworthy is an Irish surname and Mr Clotworthy was an accomplished brewer in the early 19th century in Belfast. Much later Brendan Dobbin was another pioneering Irish Brewer whose wonderful beer was sampled by us on his premises nearly 30 years ago in a dodgy housing estate brewpub in Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester. This was where we came across his piece de resistance, Yakima Grande Pale Ale - Yakima Grande Pale ale was a supremely hoppy pale ale first brewed in the early 90s at the now defunct Kings Arms pub in Chorlton on Medlock by Brendan Dobbin of West Coast brewing, formerly designer of the Firkin brewpubs. The beer was way ahead of its time with very high hopping levels being heavily influenced by the North American microbrewery scene.   

And according to Wikipedia: Most Clotworthys have emigrated to other countries round the world, many to America. There are very few left in Ireland.

I wonder why?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Poor wee doggie!!

Any chance of a small bowl of mild ale?
Poor wee doggie, left out of the pub! This is the back entrance to the Gold Cape, a very nice Wetherspoons place in Mold, North East Wales. We've been here many times before and the beer is consistently spot on, we've had good grub here and have recommended it to many folk as an excellent example of the Wetherspoons' philosophy, i.e. great ale presented in comfortable surroundings. OK some town centre Wetherspoons can be a bit busy later on a weekend evening and others look as if they're catering for elderly lost souls who want to have an early beer and a chat with their mates - but what's wrong with that? What's wrong with this is that it's the area where smokers come out to have a bit of fresh air and previously we've had no problem taking our dogs to sit out there while we enjoy the fine ale. On this occasion we were confounded, as was Skip! The little notice on the left of the gate says 'No Dogs' and, as we arrived, within seconds a manager came out and insisted poor Skip had to stay outside on the road. Shame! We have been living in Chester for a while and the pubs compete to provide the best service for customer's dogs - bowls of water, biscuits and cuddles are no problem whatsoever and the enlightened landlords and landladies obviously compete vigorously for this important sector of their business. C'mon Tim Martin - give us a break!

Need a St Bernard really!
The following night we sneaked into the Cellar Bar in Chester (with Skip of course!) to find an eminently suitable beer on the bar - this was a tasty dark ale from Snowdonia. Very appropriate as the following day I was marshalling at the top of Craig Cwm Sillyn in the Cwm Pennant Fell Race, a British Championship mountain race near Porthmadog. I'd asked the race organiser if he need ed any help and he'd only posted me at the top of the second highest peak at over 700 metres. I went up the week before on a gorgeous day and could see the whole 17 mile race route mapped out before me. Well on the day it was a complete waste of time taking my binoculars as, for the whole 3 hours I was up there I could see about 20 metres. Still it was good to see the runners - I blew my whistle every 30 seconds and my ACME Thunderer reliably kept them apprised of my whereabouts. Nearly 300 of them struggled over the top towards me - this pic is of the organiser himself - I had 3 layers on at the time and was decidedly chilled.

Are there you are Martin - good to see you!
And just a final photo from slightly further back shows how tough the terrain was - this is Victoria W from Denbigh Harriers looking quite cheerful considering. And as a postscript.......the mountain rescue team were not needed after all.

Is this the new running track?

Sunday, June 12, 2016

And meanwhile back in the UK

So here we are at the fastest 5K in the North West! The Christleton 5K in a sleepy village just outside Chester has been famous as a 'fast course' - loads of runners have claimed their personal best times on this fast two lap course round the lanes and through the village. And each year the race is over subscribed weeks in advance with top athletes coming from all over the country to pit themselves on this wonderful course. Until about a month ago when it was found that instead of being 5K the course was remeasured and found to be just over 4.8K! Whoops! And so the waiting list of folk who thought they might get a last minute place (and that included me!) suddenly disappeared and I found myself with a magic number. Having achieved my fastest ever time a number of years ago I now had to be content with the modest time of 20.27. There we are then!

Isn't this far enough?

And what a lovely Parkrun to follow up with the next morning - Erddig Hall is on the outskirts of Wrexham, not too far away, and a Parkrun has just been instituted there - Skip and I can highly recommend it. My first run with a Caicross harness so I'm not too unhappy with a 24 minute run.

This is a bit upmarket for Alf Tupper.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Blue Bananas

Stop me and buy one!
And welcome to Tropical Fruit World! With hundreds of varieties of tropical fruit on display, some never previously seen by mankind, we were in for a treat. Greeting us at the entrance was a giant avocado gleaming in the sunlight. We paid what seemed to me to be quite an expensive entrance fee, however it was well worth it with a bus tour of the farm, a trip on a boat, a train ride and a fruit tasting we had a great day out.

Tuppence a pound - roll up fer yer tasty Rollinia's! 
There was even a veggie shop where we could buy the delightful produce grown onsite which we'd just tasted. Wasn't sure about Rollinia (the 'fruit of the week'.) This was supposed to taste like lemon meringue pie but it seemed a bit slimy to me. However we tasted excellent Papaya, Star Fruit, Dragon Fruit (three varieties) and Lady Finger Bananas. And in the shop they had Pummelos, Jak Fruit, Santols, Hog Plums and Babacos and various other shady stuff.

Yes we have blue bananas!
So, back to the bananas.........back home we are restricted to the Cavendish Banana which Fyffe and Chiquita import in vast quantities. The Cavendish Banana works for Tesco, etc because it travels well, its a fairly uniform shape and it can be picked green and ripened off just before being delivered to the supermarket in big containers full of ethylene gas. Compared with Lady's Fingers and the other myriad types grown here and freshly picked off the tree there's no comparison. Fresh bananas are divine. We didn't get a chance to taste Blue Java (see the picture) but they are described as the 'Ice Cream Banana' because of their exquisite taste.

Who me?
Parkrun of the week was New Farm in Brisbane - very slow for me despite the flat course - I was somewhat virally afflicted but determined to get my 50th in and earn the T-shirt. 23.29 for me and 34.39 for Vicky on a picturesque course along the riverbank. I was called out at the start because a little bird had told the organisers that I was reaching a milestone - despite the smile I was a bit embarrassed (no really!)

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A wee beer update!

I'll have some of that!
Nice little pub-crawl in Brisbane starting with Mr Edward's on Edward Street which is entirely devoted to Cooper's brews. Coopers is a long established Adelaide based family owned concern that has vigorously resisted all takeover bids. (Their products are available in bottle in the UK if you know where to look.) Coopers  have a wider range available on tap over here - this bar top depicts a tasty range - the best was the Vintage Ale 2016.

Not too far away we found the Embassy bar, an old, slightly jaded building that has reinvented itself as a craft beer bar and music venue. At the bar we spotted a British style hand pump - hooray! Most of the beer in Oz is in kegs, it might not be filtered or pasteurised but nevertheless it is in a pressurised container and even the best microbrewed craft beer can sometimes be cold and fizzy. Real Ale in the British sense is rarely found, part of this is that the tradition for cask conditioned beer never survived, in part due to the weather - beer here must be ice cold! However some of the more adventurous new-wave brewers will try their hand at British style real ale and a hand pump can occasionally be spotted tucked away at a corner of the bar in some of the craft beer pubs. Often this solitary pump dispenses nothing, but even when it does there never seems to be a pump clip attached. Whatever if I see one I will make sure I ask the question. And what we found at the Embassy Bar was a perfect pint of Double Dragon - amazing! Double Dragon, as Welsh beer drinkers know is a legendary ale from Felinfoel Brewery in South Wales. Here Bacchus Brewery of Brisbane had somehow managed to faithfully recreate this dark malty bitter - two pints were called for each as we watched the antics of the brave open mic singers.

The Trannie?
And finally to the Transcontinental Hotel, a fine traditional building. Tucked away among the skyscrapers are a surprising number of beautiful Queenslander style pubs that have survived and thrive - the archetypical one in Brisbane is the Breakfast Creek Hotel (see below). The Trans was fine for our purposes - we had excellent Pacific Ale from the Stone and Wood Brewery. Pacific Ale is a new style of beer originating down here - it's a light citrussy beer, neither too hoppy or too sweet and it is so moreish.

Here it is, AKA as the Brekkie, The Breakfast Creek Hotel. It's a bit out of town and not easy to walk to, but it's a must visit for all visitors to this part of down under.

Best Corn Flakes this side of Sydney!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Happy Parkrunners

Well tie me down!
Just eating my porridge on the back verandah and I looked up to see this huge fellow - I hadn't noticed him at first as his colouring blended in so well but he was about thirty yards away and standing about 5 and a half foot tall. He didn't seem in the least bit concerned about my interest in him and he carried on grazing for another twenty minutes or so before bouncing back into the forest. This is an Eastern Grey Kanga and they can reach 6 foot in height! The Western Reds are even bigger with the largest recorded standing 6' 9" tall.

Here's well up the field!
Parkrun this week was at Central Lakes, Caboolture, about an hour north of Brisbane. On the face of it not a bad course, right round a lake (undulating though) and then along a flat corridor of trees and shrubs to the turn and back. Only it wasn't as simple as that because it was already 22 degrees and with very high humidity and no wind the corridor that I mentioned was like a long greenhouse. I know that folks back home in the snow will have no sympathy but it was hard going. I came 4th, Vicky was 51st and we both won our age groups. Next week is my 50th park run - there's supposed to be a special '50 Parkrunner' t-shirt awarded but I've no idea how that works!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Welcome to Doo Town!

They don't get ill down here - what am I to do?
Way down south on the Eaglehawk Neck peninsula, bottom left of Tasmania (nothing after that but Antarctica!) stands a motley collection of shacks, and one or two finer houses, collectively known as Doo Town. This is nothing to do with what dogs leave behind. In 1935, for a bit of fun, one of the residents put up a sign outside his house with 'Doo I' written on it. (This was later renamed Xanadoo!) Since then the locals have been vying to compete and most abodes have a 'doo' in their name such as 'Doo Drop Inn', 'This'll Doo' and 'Didgeree-Doo'. The photograph is of the local GP's place.

Back in Queensland on a fine drive in the mountains we finally came face to face with the

Just a little touch and I've got you!

dreaded Gympie Stinger. High up in the rain forest we were directed onto a boardwalk where we were advised to wear 'enclosed shoes'! If you look closely at this photo the pale green round looking leaves are those of the Gympie Stinging Tree. Whereas our home grown British stinging nettles are a bit of a pain for an hour or two if you have a bad dose, the stings of these babies last for months - the leaves sting, the fruit stings, even the bark on younger trees stings. What's more any dead leaf detritus left lying around still has the capacity to give you a pain - old dried leaves one hundred years old have been shown to retain their stinging capabilities. So if you're strolling on the boardwalk it's quite possible that you'll encounter something that'll get you. Poor Vicky just had sandals on and as she read more of the diabolical details about the Gympie Stinger on the various signboards on the circuit, she began to worry more and more and decided after a short while to call it a day. Not before she'd tucked herself in at the foot of this Moreton Bay Fig - we've seen some big ones in botanical gardens, etc., but this was the grand daddy of them all!

Got a ladder?

Monday, April 25, 2016

Heavy Metal Lighthouse

A right shiner!
Just when I was saying nice things about lighthouses along comes this chunk of concrete. Performs a vital function I'm sure but not exactly in the old fashioned tradition. This is located at Point Cartwright at the mouth of the Mooloolah River on the Sunshine Coast and is a mere 29 years old. We ran up to here and back on our latest parkrun at Kawana. Once again I managed to top the age related charts, but am still a way off breaking 20 minutes - we were both first over sixties though! An undulating course and the shade of the beachside trees didn't help much - if anything it stopped the sea breezes from cooling the runners, again it was well over 20 degrees at 7 am - how do they manage in the summer? Still we met some very friendly folk and worked up a thirst.

Here's the first over 60 lady hurtling towards the finish line!

Coasting home.

Just like Blackpool!
The local beach mid afternoon - you can see by the footprints that there have been some happy visitors to this wonderful long sandy beach but by this time the temperature has started to drop to the mid twenties so everybody's gone home - apart from us!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Processionary Bag-Shelter Moth Caterpillars

Hang on a minute!
I thought it was a piece of thick string (or thin rope) lying across the track. We were tootling along through the Australian bush on a couple of gearless bikes (thank goodness it was flat!) and, me being in front looking far ahead, I broke the line. Eagle Eye behind me (that's her foot in top left of the picture) spotted the confusion on the floor - a chain of over a hundred furry caterpillars had been disrupted, the front end charged on over the road, behind them a couple of squashed caterpillars were surrounded by the rest of the gang who eventually got back on track leaving their unfortunate colleagues splayed out. These are Processionary Bag-Shelter Moth Caterpillars - they strip a tree of its leaves over a period of a few days, sleeping during the day in a home made bag (hence the name) at the foot of the tree. Once the tree has been eaten it's time to move on and their brave leader sets off in search of a new tree followed by the rest of the clan, each one being towed in the right direction by a thin thread of silk. And of course what do the naughty little local boys and girls do when they see a chain of these caterpillars? Yes you've probably guessed it - they join the front of the chain to the back and watch a circle of caterpillars going endlessly round in a circle!

I can see your house from up here!
I do like lighthouses! This is the one at Low Point on the north coast of Tassie. In a fairly isolated position it looks out towards Australia warning oncoming ships of sand bars and reefs at the estuary of the Tamar. It's undoubtedly prevented lots of ships from running aground but it didn't stop the MV Iron Baron beaching in 1995 spilling tons of oil and killing thousands of penguins in Australia's worst oil spill disaster. The local little penguin colony has recovered somewhat with the right sort of looking after. Incidentally a little penguin population near Melbourne, having been devastated by fox predation is now being

You leave my penguins alone!
protected with the use of these big white Maremma Sheepdogs. This gives me a good excuse to post a fine picture of the dog! These particular canines originate in Abruzzo, Italy, where they protect the local sheep from wolves! Viva i pinguini - viva le pecore!!