Flypast at Sunrise


At this time of year we have the enormous pleasure of seeing Barnacle geese flying past our house as they leave their overnight roosts on the merse and fly inland to feed. Later, in the afternoon they return to the salt marsh or merse as it’s more commonly referred to here.

Any time between 7.30 and 8.00am, the first skein will appear, closely followed by the others. Some mornings, the light isn’t good enough to capture a photo worth keeping and as we’ve got storms forecast for the next few days, it might be a while before I stand outside at breakfast time while my porridge goes cold!

I’m accumulating a number of poems about geese, all written over the last six years since we moved into this house ,which is in a prime position at the top of a hill and ‘on the edge’. Here are two of them …

Geese in Winter

sketching the glow of dawn sky

geese scribble their route westward

thousands – skein after skein

head for inland grazing

later –  they return

with their wild evensong

before settling on the merse

for another winter’s night


Solway Migrants       

Nearly sunset,

January sky soon to be a palette

for shades of evening light.


skeins of barnacle geese head

back to the feeding grounds.

Solway coast, haven to migrants

from Svalbard, welcomed,


Their journey

free from barriers, unimpeded

by politics, prejudice.



At the start of a new year we usually hope that things will get better. The last few years have not been good for many folk- healthwise and economically, to name but two. I’m sure you can add more.


This photograph I took last January. Snowdrops are flowers that always bring hope for me. When we moved here I couldn’t believe how many snowdrops we saw in the woods, alongside the verges and in gardens. I had never seen an area with so many. In the depths of winter, in January, they bring the promise of spring, a light that shines on dark days.

Albert Einstein wrote – Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

Swans make good parents!

This sequence of photos was taken one evening earlier this year (late May) I was captivated by the intelligence and care shown by these two swans as they led this summer’s brood to greener pastures. The photos speak for themselves – no need for more words.

Now it’s September and we look forward to seeing the geese arrive from Svalbard – they’re mostly Barnacle geese, but we also get Pink Foot.

Watching birds and indeed any animals or insects, I often feel that they have so much to teach us humans. The human race is wrong to feel superior.

Time Passes


At this time of year, we’re all too aware of time passing. Last weekend we were seeing many bluebells on our walks through woods and by paths alongside rivers. Now, only a week later, the bluebells are going over, the white starry flowers of wild garlic are disappearing and the yellow flag iris are taking over.

In the natural world nothing stays still, there is always change, we see aquilegias brightening the gardens with so many different shades of pink, blue and purple. As they self seed and pop up all over -among the gravel paths, trees and shrubs, nobody can guess what colour will dominate next year. A few days with strong winds and this year’s flowers will be gone. Already the clematis are past their best and we’ll only have the walls and fences graced by their cloaks of pink and white for a few more days, maybe a week or so at most.

Last week we visited one of my favourite gardens and found a new Buddha had been installed. Sitting looking across at at him in that beautiful setting, I was reminded again of the importance of valuing the now. I know that the natural world is a great teacher  – we are made aware of making the most of what we can see around us – enjoy it while it lasts. With human relationships too, we must never take them for granted.

One of my favourite quotations from TS Eliot’s Four Quartets comes to mind. It’s not always a good idea to dwell on what might have been however- better focus on what is, now.

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past,

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened.


Carpe Diem


We took one of the few fine days in the week to visit the wood. We knew that after all the rain we’d had, the waterfalls would be looking quite impressive. The following day, the forecast was that we were to have winds of over sixty miles per hour and heavy rain showers.

As we walked, it seemed hard to believe that there could be such a change in the weather, that tomorrow we would be watching rain streaming down the window panes and listening to the wind battering the trees and flowers.

This is the wood that we chose for our first walk after lockdown in the spring had eased, and we could walk further afield. (See my blog written on July 18th). On this day near the end of February, the sun was shining, the silhouetted branches of the trees were creating an intricate tracery that reminded me of the leaded lights in stained glass windows. Here though, there was just the one colour – a radiant blue, shining through.


Days like this make us really appreciate being alive and being able to get out and walk in beautiful surroundings. The pandemic has made us realise we need to live our lives to the full and make every day count.

It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up — that we will begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.
― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross


Lifting the Veil of Familiarity

Conversation with a friend a few days ago has prompted this blog. It seems that we are both arriving at the same conclusion – restrictions in our lives due to the Covid pandemic are making a number of folk reassess and value where they live.

We are looking at the familiar with new eyes – almost as if we are visitors; we are seeing things that previously we would have walked past and ignored. There are places that once had been accepted as everyday scenes but are now become more interesting. We look for the little things, spot previously ignored changes and enjoy observing the behaviour of birds in the garden.

People who previously hadn’t paid any heed to wildlife are now enjoying the pleasure of getting to know the habits and behaviour of ‘their’ Robin or Blackbird.


More joy is being found in the observance of an unusual visitor to the peanut feeder, or finding the patterns made by bird footprints in the snowy garden, the spoor of wild animals in the local woodland, or otters’ prints showing their regular route from burn to beach.

I can’t help but think of the opening lines of Auguries of Innocence By William Blake –

To see the world in a grain of sand

And a heaven in a wild flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.


Imbolc or Candlemas

Imbolc marks the beginning of the lambing season in the Celtic calendar. The original word Imbolg literally means ‘in the belly’. It is a time when new life  is just beginning to show, there is the promise of renewal, new life is stirring just below the surace or the wintry earth.

February 1st is also St Bridget’s day – as so often happened, Christian festivals adopted a pagan festival and Brigid, who was loved as a pagan goddess of healing, poetry and smithcraft, was celebrated at Imbolc.

Although it is still winter, we are enjoying hints of spring, not just with the snowdrops – always a joy to see at  this time, but the daffodils are  beginning to develop quickly and those here are already over six inches high and some even beginning to show signs of buds.

It’s quite a good time of the year for foraging. We have always enjoyed hunting for mushrooms in the autumn, but we were recently inspired by John Wright’s book The Forager’s Calendar to look along the shore. Last week we found an excellent source of sea spinach which tastes, I think, even better than the ordinary spinach we grow in the garden or can buy in the shops.


Walking through a woodland near the coast, we spotted jelly-like Wood Ear fungi growing on a log. These are apparently edible although not recommended and we didn’t feel tempted to try them. Other names for these are Jelly Ear or Jew’s Ear, and it’s scientific name is Auricularia auricula -judae. Apparently they don’t have much flavour but can be added to a sauce for the texture.


We look forward to more foraging, but as heavy snow is forecast, I doubt we’ll be doing much of that for a while.

Being outside, no matter what the weather is essential for our mental health in these Covid obsessed times. We think of life BC – Before Covid, and it’s hard to remember the last time we greeted a friend with a hug or had folk round for a meal or discussion group. How long will it be before we can give someone a lift in the car or go for a walk with friends? It pays not to think of how much longer we might have to wait to do these things. Much better to live for the now, follow the wise words of Thich Nhat Hanh and remember when we are out walking or sitting indoors, we should be living mindfully, slowing down and enjoying each step or breath. Every breath we take, every step we make can be filled with peace and joy.

Finding Philosophy in Woods

One very positive aspect of January is that there are definite signs of spring. The snowdrops bring light into even the darkest days of winter – a sign that soon we’ll be getting longer days and warmer weather.


Snowdrops on a cloudy January day bring hope. Suddenly more things seem possible, the world seems to be less insane. Albert Camus once said In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer. I think that being out in the woods and seeing sights like the drifts of snowdrops can make everyone feel less vulnerable, feel that batteries are being recharged.

Earlier this month, in another wood not far from home, there was evidence of the damage that had been done by storms in the past. Many trees had been uprooted and over time they had been colonised by mosses and lichens. Not only that, some had put out new growth and where there had been branches, the tree had sprouted saplings, growing at right-angles to the fallen trunk. These were thriving, evidence of nature’s powerful resilience and ability to overcome adversity. We can take that as an inspiration for our own lives.

In 1888, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche first stated, Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.


Walking in the Woods


Sometimes, when the world seems to be in an incomprehensible mess, when politicians seem to ignore the reality and live in cloud cuckoo land where they can do whatever they like, there is a need to find a place that seems more sane.

It’s at times like this when a walk through a wood can be very therapeutic. On a November afternoon when the sun was shining, we did just that. After a day or so of rain, the leaves beneath our feet didn’t have that satisfying crunch, but they gleamed, lighting the path ahead like jewels. The rocks covered in moss cushioned the woodland floor and ferns spouted green in amongst the branches of dying trees.

Here, when we stopped just to gaze around us or sit sipping warming coffee from our flasks, here we could find a sense of peace. Only the scolding call of a jay interrupted our stillness and he soon disappeared out of sight. The late afternoon sun filtered through the tracery of the ancient beech tree. This was a moment to savour. This is ancient woodland that in centuries past saw families that farmed this area of woodland grazing. We could imagine the few beasts feeding among the trees, hear the children’s voices as they played by the burn.

The remains of the threshing barn and the corn kiln still stand to remind us of a simpler life; though not necessarily an easier one. There would be hardship and illness; there would be cold winters when they would be glad of the warmth from the beasts that shared the roof over their heads. Would they have had time to sit holding a warm drink, to meditate on the beauty of the silhouetted branches backlit by the setting sun?

Thankfully our lives are such that we can soak up the peace of the woodland, we don’t have to scrape a living from the land, but we can absorb the beauty and the peacefulness here in the wood, escape from the political landscape and C21st turmoil to recharge our batteries before returning along the path to home.


Trees and the seasons

It’s hard to imagine what living in an area where there are hardly any trees would be like. Here we watch the changing seasons in a landscape where trees play a huge part in defining whether it is still late summer of whether we are moving into autumn or from autumn into early winter.


Each season brings its own particular beauty. Just now – early November we see the delicate tracery of the bare branches silhouetted against the sky. Either in the glow of dawn,a grey afternoon or the fiery shades of sunset, the delicate skeletal patterns are every bit as beautiful as the leafy, if more colourful autumn vistas.

I am reminded of someone who dreaded autumn because to her it was a time of dying. Ever since I was a child loving the walk home from school through drifts of crunchy autumn leaves or, after rain the glistening glow of birch and maple jewels, I’ve always looked forward to autumn.

Autumn is a time for taking stock, for winding down; a time for lighting the fire, toasting crumpets and sitting with the cat curled up with us listening to quiet jazz playing. (He’s quite a cool cat who loves Bill Evans and Ben Webster)  This is the season where normally we could share and experience hygge with friends. The hard part now is that with the restrictions necessary because of Covid 19, we can only share such things through the medium of Zoom. Thankfully we can still see and chat to folk using Zoom and Skype etc. How much worse would it be without the modern means of communication?

It’s time however to think of those who are homeless and not just think about them but do something.

The Country’s No Place for the Homeless

 ‘It’s not easy being poor here

Not everyone who’s poor

wants to live in the town.’

She said.

‘Where can I find a home?

Houses let for holidays

not for people like me.’

She said.

‘I walk miles and miles

looking for work.

I don’t want to be poor.’

She said.

‘They don’t want you here.

Not if you’ve no money.’

‘Go back to the town!’

They said

Each day the tiny figure

tramps the lanes.

head high, proud stiff back.

‘I get angry.’ She said.