Friday, 26 February 2016

A Close Shave and A Great Friend

Tuesday 23rd February light to fresh N Sunny 6C

I go down to breakfast and notice that the other punters are looking at me in a funny way. On returning replete to my room I find out why. Last night I cut my hair with my newly purchased hair clippers and before breakfast had noticed a bit I missed. With the cord from the clippers too short to reach the mirror I had cut the missed bit and had forgotten to put the number 3 comb on. My head has a fully shaved trench amongst a number 3 haircut! I shave my head!

What's this? I am actually enjoying the cycling through the north west suburbs of London. The roads aren't too busy, the tarmac isn't too bad and the way is attractive.
Turning towards Elstree, the road becomes a little too steep for me to cycle up and so a long restful walk begins. I start to notice that the ditch alongside is full of rubbish, plastic mostly; bottles, bags and even lots of plastic red pipes. Drink cans, dozens of them and fast food polystyrene boxes, does it matter? The ditch is being clogged by this mass and the rubbish is getting covered by sludge. Where does it all come from?




After passing the famous film studios I find out as a small side road leading to a large bridge designed for horse traffic over the A1, has pile after pile of fly-tipped waste.
Despite disappointing road side verges, the views on this splendid sunny day are lovely and three red kites fly over. There is even the occasional nuthatch calling.
I stop just north of Potter's Bar as a red traffic light instructs me to do so. A white van stops next to me and the passenger window comes down. Without a word I am passed a large, heavy and cuddly Bagpuss! The lads in the van have seen the lads on my bike and thought that it would be a laugh to add to the collection. It is! I can't stop laughing as they drive off. Bagpuss goes next to Wally the whale, Scaggy the rabbit and Tigger.

Into Hertfordshire, I stop to text a very special friend, Diane. I know she lives somewhere around here but I haven't seen her for over ten years.
Still cycling north, I go into a community shop in a small village. I am shocked when I am told that the only way the shop can be open is if it is run by volunteers and if donations are given as to its upkeep. There are even locally knitted jelly babies on sale. It seems like a food bank for the rich in this affluent commuter belt. It is charming and the volunteers friendly. It even has a couple of tables for coffee and cake.


Carrying on with my juice bottle replenished, my phone rings and there is a voice I know so well accompanied by the laugh. Diane!
An hour or so later and we are sitting in the community shop, laughing and enjoying a coffee as Diane tells me all about the trials of her miracle daughter, Katie. As in the past with Di I don't get a word in edgeways but is is wonderful to see her. In life one is lucky if one has five friends who are close enough to be thought of as true friends; ones who are so close and very deeply connected. Di is one of those and the long years of absence melt away as she natters on.
Half an hour flies by and Diane needs to get home. I need to carry on towards Cambridge. A hug and goodbye, no words of 'keep in touch,' we may. Time will tell.
Other people sitting at the other table stop me as Diane leaves and quiz me over the bike, the Lads and the collection boxes. Elke is German originally from Hamburg, is sitting with Stephanie and is sitting with a gentleman who's name I don't catch. The latter couple have trekked in Peru and tell me of their adventures. Elke talks about Germany and her life in Canada. They all give donations to the charities I am supporting.
From here the cycling along the beautiful quiet country lanes as the sun begins to sink is relaxing as memories from the past fill my thoughts. A car upside down in a peat bog, carrying a dozen ripped down roadside Rolling Stones posters into a Putney flat at 2:00am, sunrise on Beachy head, Pyrenean streams and police car pull over and always the laughter; all are memories of a time when my best friend was Diane and we travelled together. A very long time ago yet in my mind the memories are as fresh as if yesterday.

So the year list is still 169, eighteen ahead of this time last year.


52.25 Miles 2199 elevation up 2007 elevation down

Thursday, 25 February 2016

More Detail for the 22nd of February. Aldershot to Uxbridge.

Monday 22nd February light to fresh W Sunny 9C

The bicycle is all shiny, serviced and ready as I collect it. New chain and gear system, new brakes and cables, new back wheel with a new Marathon Schwalbe Plus tyre and a new cartridge; the bike looks fabulous and the ride is perfect after Stephen and Stephen, Dad and Son, are paid.
Goodbye to cousin, Rosemary and Paschal and a simple, reasonably quick ride to Virginia Water around fourteen miles north west.
Entering the park via the eastern entrance, I cycle path a large, new cafe and find the path around the lake has been improved since my last visit ten years or so ago. I search the cascade in the the south east corner but don;t find any of the brilliantly attractive ducks that Virginia Water is well known for. I head for the tall totem pole and where a small pool is cut off from the main lake, people are feeding a number of common duck in amongst which are four male Mandarin with a lone female.


Two ring-necked parakeets fly over and land reasonable nearby and so in the space of just a few minutes, today's target birds are added to the list bringing it to 169

Now this number of different birds had not been seen until the end of March last year so my progress is superb. Three red kites fly over, two of them in a sort of close together display flight. London is so lucky that the Chiltern reintroduced birds have multiplied and spread to such an extent that London skies frequently contain these magnificent birds. I just hope that they continue to increase their numbers so that more people can enjoy their elegant spectacle.
Through Staines and north to the west of Heathrow I reach a public house just outside West Drayton that two of my best friends will remember well; the Paddington Packet Boat. I want to stay here for the night because back in 1985 it was a directional landmark for a teacher with three young students who were searching for a special bird, a ferruginous duck.
I was that teacher and the students, Alex the Bear Barter, Jason John Oliver and Richard Southall were out on a bird watching trip. For the three Wolverhampton boys it was their first experience of rarity searching, twitching as it is called. That day so long ago had already been successful with a famous Siberian bird, an olive-backed pipit, having been seen in the back garden of a Bracknell garden. This bird had caused queues of birders to stand outside Huckleberry Close waiting their turn to go into the lounge of the bird's finders to watch it in comfort.
When we arrived early in the morning, after driving through the night despite my wife's dire warning of impending doom that she psychic-like predicted, there was a note on the door asking that birders gave the occupants a rest and went instead around the the nearby Primary school's playing field where the bird could be seen. We did, we saw and happy we left to go get the next bird on the lads' want list, smew at Kingsbury.
Back in the days before pagers and SatNavs things weren't quite so easy over getting accurate gen (information). Our happy troup were buzzing with excitement as we went through some large gates to get to the perimeter road that went around the large Wrasbury reservoir. Some workers busy painting those gates even waved us through and wished us luck. Those workers left the same gates locked when we returned an hour or so later!
Now trapped inside the reservoir we drove around the reservoir. We hadn't found any smew and we were now stuck inside the reservoir grounds with apparently no way out. No mobile phones to get help, we found a gate that we thought we could lift off the hinges and so escape. We heaved, we laughed, we couldn't lift it. Whilst we tried a police car arrived and the officers heard of why we were inside and why we were trying to get out. They had had a report from a member of the public that some lads were trying to steal the gates. “We'll send someone to let you out,” the police officers laughed.
Two hours later an old man on an old squeaky bicycle arrived with a key.
Still upbeat despite dipping on the smew, we went the short distance to the Paddington Packet Boat. The large gravel pits was supposed to be the home for a male 'fudge' duck but we couldn;t find it. We searched and did find an area of bomb crater like pits where some locals had been digging out old Victorian bottles. Two dips and a Siberian birds, we drove home to the Midlands.
It later turned out that we were at the wrong place at Wrasbury. The smew were on another pool near to the reservoir. As for the ferruginous duck, that had been hiding under a tree almost next to the car and we had missed it.
As for the lads; one, Jason is still a very keen birder who takes his young son, Jack birding most weekends.

Richard is occasionally seen birding but loves dragonflies more than birds. 
Richard with a yellow shirt me.
Sadly the Bear died too young. An un-diagnosed heart condition caused a heart attack and a great close friend had gone.
Alex the Bear and Richard
A wonderful thing is that his brother has taken up Alex's binoculars and is now a very keen birder.
Nowadays the group of ex-students who bird is much larger; indeed we have our own facebook group page, The Birding Clams. 

No room at the Inn, I backtracked to West Drayton where a hotel had a bed. The daylight faded as large flocks of ring-necked parakeets flew into an adjacent park to roost, hundreds of them.

So the year list is now 169, nineteen ahead of this time last year.


27.15 Miles 786 elevation up 920 elevation down

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Just a Quick Catch Up

Morning! A couple of days off the net due to tablet problems. Anyway two new birds, mandarin and ring-necked parakeets, take me to 169; the same number I was on at the end of March last year. 


Two days of cycling have taken me from Aldershot to Westmill, about 25 miles SW of Cambridge. On the way to North Norfolk asap, lots of new birds for the list.
Great day yesterday, cycling from West Drayton, near Uxbridge. A side passenger in a white van north of Potter's Bar threw something at me as I was waiting beside a red traffic light! A large beanie Bagpuss! He/she (?) is on the back now next to Tigger. Brilliant. LOL!

Next thrill of the day was seeing a fabulously wonderful friend, Di, I hadn't seen for ten years or so. Coffee in a Community shop in Tewin, a volunteer run shop with donation boxes to keep it open.
After Di had left a group of four also enjoying tea and cakes, asked about what i was up to and all gave donations which are now inside Ricky the Robin. He loves to be fed!
Today the aim is to get as far into Norfolk as possible, about 65 miles from here to King's Lynn, might be doable.