Back in nature…

Friday evening saw me, two other leaders, one junior leader and 14 Scouts park up at Ullesthorpe Scout Camp. As soon as I headed down through the trees with my gear, I knew I was in for a special weekend. Just being surrounded by nature, no phones, no watches, just tents, food and space.

I think it took about an hour to get our camp pitched, before we got the fires lit, kettles on, and burgers and hotdogs cooking. So nice eating outdoors with our troop, surrounded by trees, with the crackle of fires soundtracking our evening. I didn’t mind that I had a tiny tent, although it was kinda funny listening to the Scouts chatting away loudly until 2:00 in the morning!

I didn’t sleep much that night, so was up at 4:00am, getting water and making sure the kettles were on for a brew. It was nice having the camp to myself  for a while, the only sound being the stove boiling water. Strong coffee brought me big smiles, as I waited for the rest of our crew to stir…

A fry up of bacon and eggs, more coffee and some fruit got everyone up and running, and we set the Scouts off on Bivvy building exercises, and making sure their fires were brought back to life. Our younger Scouts did a great job of keeping their fire going all day, which was brilliant, as we were cooking on fires that evening. I was very proud of how our younger Scouts managed over the weekend, and carried out all tasks, even washing up with a smile and good grace.

At some point during the day, I wandered back up the hill, and sat in the small open air chapel for a few minutes. It was lovely just sitting in peace for a short while on my own, surrounded by trees.

So, the bivvies never got built, but the fires were stoked up, and a water fight ensured everyone (me included) got soaked. Hey, it was fun, and the sun was high in the sky, and we dried off quickly. Dinner that night was chicken stew and baked potatoes cooked on the camp fires, damn there were good. Dessert was baked bananas with dark chocolate, I should have left mine on for longer, but it was nice and unctuous…

We spilt the Scouts into two groups and set them challenges around the campsite, which was fun, and they won sweets, which they enjoyed. We all spent time chilling around the fires, and all was good until some of the older Scouts starting mucking around, and curfew was called. Just as well we were all tired anyway… I read for an hour (Pratchett) and crashed out, happy wrapped up in a sleeping bag.

I was first up again in the morning, so got the kettles on for brews. Once everyone else was up, we got sausages on, and tucked into a very hearty breakfast… those sausages were GOOD. Slowly, we took all the tents down, washed all the pots, cleared up the rubbish, and generally got ready to go home. We were all knackered form taking everything back up the hill, but it was worth it. We had all had a brilliant weekend. Bring on the big camp in July…

Into the trees…

RollingI’ve been trying to cycle more over the last few months, partly to get fitter, but mostly because I love bikes and cycling of all forms. It’s also a great way to explore…

I have a regular route to a local town that I use for meetings which takes in country lanes with spectacular views of beautiful English countryside. One side of the road, rolling hills and fields, the other woodland. I love woodland, its my happy place, where I can escape from everything for a while and regroup.

BicycleThere’s one stretch of road I’ve been on lately, which has woodland stretching down a hillside that I’ve wanted to explore. So I stopped, turned my bike round, broke through the hedgerow and stepped into another world.

I put my bike down and looked around me. There were trees all around me, with the hillside rolling down from me, covered in a blanket of leaves, broken with clumps of bracken and brambles. My first thought was “Woah. It would be cool to ride down that…”, as there was a clear(ish) trail weaving down the hill. Another time, definitely…

EntranceThe hill is quite steep, so I stepped carefully, stopping to photograph the ancient trees as I descended. I also stopped to look back up the incline, admiring the view of the midwinter sun pouring back through the trees. At the base of the hill, there is a gate leading into farmers fields, so I can only assume that the woodland belongs to them…

UphillI wove my way back up the hill, aware of the time again, knowing I had an appointment to keep. But for a short while, I knew my mind had escaped the stresses and strains of everyday life. Picking my bike up at the summit, I knew I would return, hopefully to go blasting down a clearer hillside on my trusty steed.
Slope

 

Hooked!

Back from my best solo fishing session yet! I got my first bite, though the fish got away!

I feel so happy and calm right now. I had intended to go down to the canal for two hours tonight, and fish the other side of the bridge, as there seemed to be more fish activity on that side, BUT… I looked over to the side of the canal where I have been fishing for the last few weeks just in time time to catch sight of a mighty splash in line with my usual spot. Game on! I was fishing down there for sure!

Trying to keep calm and quiet after seeing activity in ‘my’ spot, I got down there quick sharp, baited up with sweetcorn, using the water from the tin at the canal’s edge to tempt the fish, got some corn on my hook and cast out… There was lots of activity on the far bank, near the weeds, and a little further from there too. I felt really happy, and proud that my tactic of baiting up this spot seemed to be paying off. The fish were out there, and definitely interested…

I got a little frustrated that I seemed to be casting more into the overhanging tree for a while, and managed to break a float… It was a freebie, but still. I set up a new float and rig with lighter weights, and this seemed to do the trick. Casting out to the other bank, and allowing the mild current of the canal to shift the float and rig a little closer paid off, as the fish were a lot more interested, bubbling up around the float. Time passed without me noticing, as watching the fish draw ever closer was so exciting. I was willing them on to take the bait… then one did!

This was my first proper bite, as I was fishing solo, so it was really exciting. I managed to get the fish out of the water, a small Roach (I think) about six inches long, but it wriggled off the hook and splashed back into the canal with a plop! Miffed, but so happy that I’d got a bite!

roach

Time had passed, and I had planned to head for home, but they were biting now! I stayed on for an extra hour, until the light started fading, enjoying seeing the fish get ever closer to the float, but not quite taking the bait. Plenty of knocks, but no more bites I’m afraid. I cleared up, taking my rubbish home, and walked back with a REALLY big smile on my face. I might not of actually caught and landed my first fish on my own, but I was so close. I’m hooked!

Going solo…

Been out on my first solo fishing mission today, without my very good friend and mentor, Rolf. (Mind you, he does live a fair drive away…)

The learning curve at present is HUGE, from knots to bait, casting to positions, hooks, line and sinkers! After a bit of a mess setting up my rod at first, I got it spot on second time round, added a rig and headed for the canal. It was so nice to walk up through the canal fields where I have since my childhood, cross the old bridge, and wander into the woods to the spot I’d ‘found’ on Friday. It was lovely and shady under the trees, good for hiding me from any fish, and a perfect spot to get baited up and make my first cast.

Handling maggots could have been an issue for me, as I’m a bit squeamish about slimy stuff and all that. (I’ve been scared of frogs and toads since I was tiny… They still freak me out a bit now, but I know they look lovely.) I’m pleased to report that handling maggots wasn’t an issue at all, and I baited my hook fine and baited up around the ‘swim’ I’d picked out. Yay! First issue resolved!

Casting out was cool, as I was short casting near the bank, thinking that’s where the fish would be… Well, the fish were there for sure, as there was plenty of surface activity, but more towards the middle of the canal. Mind, I couldn’t cast there, as there were barges cruising through. Hey ho…

It did quiet down, and I recast further out towards the centre or the water. Time passed in a weird way, slowly and quickly simultaneously. Focussing on a small stretch of water for hours made time disappear, and I slowly lost myself to nature. Birdsong, wind, sun, insects on the water and the occasional splash of fish feeding became my soundtrack. It’s a lovely feeling just being in nature, and I was very aware of the large smile on my face. I was truly in the moment and very happy.

I didn’t catch anything on this trip, but I could see that the fish were there. I will return later this week, trying different angles, times and spaces in my little corner of the canal bank. So happy and calm. Catch you later… (LOL!)

Rod rest Happy face Tree Canal overview

Wind Power…

Thanks to Thomas Dolby for the title! Linda, Fizz and I went for a walk in the woodland next to Gumley church this morning. After being stunned by the beauty of the trees (so straight and tall!), we came across a huge tree which had been knocked down (by the heavy winds last week?), and had taken out many more trees too. Incredible to see the power of nature.

Enjoy the photos!

Big fallen tree Fallen trees Tree trunk Spilt trunk Knocked down trees Curvy tree

Lovely day for a walk.

Me and Fizz (our German Shepherd) went for a walk to the canal fields in our village this morning. Partly for a change of scenery and routine, but mostly so I could check out fishing spots for the weekend.

It’s been a glorious day today, bright, sunny and warm. The trees around the canal look great in bloom, and the canal is looking good for fishing, plenty of surface activity, with bugs skating around and fish eating them. It was just lovely being out in nature, surrounded by trees and looking at the differing qualities of light. We are so lucky having such a beautiful space on our doorstep.

I checked out a few potential swims on the canal banks, under the shade of the trees, and have earmarked them for fishing, hopefully on Sunday, I just need to get some bait!

After checking swims, Fizz went for a swim! It was so nice seeing her really swimming, breathing heavy with effort, proper doggy paddling! (Mind you, Fizz won’t be coming fishing with me… I don’t think German Shepherds and fishing mix!)

tree spot
Tree at the third swim
Second Swim
Second swim
First Swim
First swim
Fizz Swimming
Fizz swimming
First Spot
Potential swim
Woodland
Woodland