In the woods and on wheels


Here is a Scarlet Elf Cup fungus which Brian found in the woods. We are definitely not experts on fungi but this one is very distinctive. It isn’t poisonous, and some people consider them edible, but we’ll be leaving it where it is.


After being off-road for the snow week and then while we replaced a broken derailleur, Lucy’s bicycle got back on the road a couple of weeks ago and it was very exciting to be cycling again. Even the return of ‘helmet hair’ was welcome! Its a great time of year to be passing by the verges with their new flowers every day.



Brian has been doing a lot in the woodland, to make it as good a site for conservation as possible. These willows have been planted as a renewable firewood resource for us and  future generations. They have been recently pollarded to keep the re-growth out of each of nibbling deer. In a year’s time they will be up to fifteen feet tall.


Now we have a week off together and so far the theme has been: rain. Our ditch is very full and we have lots of frogs – about 18 seen together, lots of spawn, and a newt! This is the wettest Easter we can remember. We just got in from a walk at the university which started as a nice rabbit-watching wander about, but ended with us getting so wet walking back to the car that foam came out of the knees of Brian’s trousers. Most of our clothes are now hanging up over heaters around the house, while we sit and eat chocolate and dry off. We thoroughly enjoyed getting wet knowing that we were going home to a warm, dry house.

What we do for the rest of the week will be guided by the weather a bit, but there’s always something nice we could be doing…such as making a banana cake…and eating it.


Library books:
Salley Vickers – Cousins
Elizabeth McKenzie – The Portable Veblen
George Saunders – Lincoln in the Bardo

Final Fantasy – That’s When the Audience Died
Tegan & Sara – Hang On To the Night
Coldplay – O (Fly On)
REM – Pilgrimage
David Bowie – Loving the Alien



Within the Winter


Although this winter hasn’t been especially cold (yet), it has definitely felt like winter, and other seasons have seemed a long way away. There hasn’t been much snow or ice, only a light dusting on a few days. Indoors, our geranium just kept on flowering.




We are fortunate to have that big window in the living room. On a sunny day it brings a lot of warmth and light into the room, often enough to turn off the heating for a while. We have been good at getting outdoors this winter though, on walks and woodland visits.  

We’ve just been enjoying a long weekend with trips into the city for breakfast, and the cinema today to see ‘The Phantom Thread.’ Its a very rare thing for us to go to the cinema so it was a real treat, and made all the more enjoyable by the fact that this morning we got help to fix our television for free, which we were thinking we may have to replace! It had spent the past few days refusing to turn on.


The first signs of Spring are just beginning to come through now: much more daylight and birdsong, buds on trees and bulbs in flower. Lucy has recently changed her working hours to be slightly earlier, from 8am to 4pm. This is just half an hour earlier to finish, but much lighter for more of the year and safer cycling both ways, with less traffic around.


These snowdrops are flowering outside our front door which is a lovely sight every day. Each morning there are more birds singing, and chasing each other around the garden.


We have both been inspired in various ways this winter, by nature writing, insightful documentaries, moving stories, and engaging conversations. As each new day begins, it’s exciting to wonder what we will see, hear or do that is special and makes the day unique.



Recent reading:

John Lewis-Semple – The Running Hare

Rob Cowan – Common Ground

Claire Morrall – Astonishing Splashes of Colour

John Boyne – The Heart’s Invisible Furies

Rupert Thomson – Divided Kingdom

Anne Tyler – Ladder of Years

Richard Mabey – The Cabaret of Plants

Matt Haig – How to Stop Time

Graham Swift – Mothering Sunday

Joanna Cannon – The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

Brene Brown – Braving the Wilderness



Recent listening:

The Sundays – I Feel

Elbow & John Grant – Kindling

Aimee Mann – Patient Zero

Madonna – Rebel Heart

St Vincent – Prince Johnny

Radiohead – The Numbers

Benjamin Clementine – Then I Heard a Bachelor’s Cry

Queen – Radio Ga Ga

Tears for Fears – Shout

Santigold – Disparate Youth



May Days


Spring is turning into summer and it’s been a fun couple of weeks. We’ve heard hedgehogs snuffling in the garden (their mating ritual noises), there are plenty of birds feeding young, and we’ve seen mating ladybirds and shield bugs.


Lucy’s bicycle went in for a service, which seems to be needed every 18 months when the chain starts slipping over the rings because everything is worn.  The week without cycling was enough time to realise that cycling a 15 mile commute is actually quite a significant thing to do, and so it’s not necessary to feel as if a day on the bus when it’s rainy or because of tiredness is a failure. It feels good to switch this thinking around and celebrate on all the many days of cycling instead.


Cycling, pottering in the garden, woodland archery and fire-pit cooking…most of the things we like to do are free or cheap (after the upfront costs), and this fortnight there was also, of course, the Eurovision Song Contest, always a reminder that the TV license is good value for money! Last night was very entertaining and Portugal were worthy winners with a genuinely heartfelt and original song.

We had a day out today to an open garden, with tea and cakes, £18 spent in total which goes to charity, so that always feels like a worthwhile and fun thing to do. And they were really good cakes this time!


Ridiculously floriferous – one of our hawthorns


Things change fast at this time of year. Breathe in the smell of the blossom, and enjoy the colours, and if it rains (as we badly need it to here), celebrate that too!

Current library bookshelf:
Philip Pullman – The Subtle Knife
Sarah Moss – The Tidal Zone

Ali Shaw – The Girl With Glass Feet

Lucy’s current playlist:
Thomas Dolby – Airwaves
Rufus Wainwright – Tiergarten
Crowded House – Love This Life
My Brightest Diamond – Feeling Good



Winter Cycling Report 2015-16

By Lucy

This winter I decided to keep a proper record of how I was travelling to work, and see how much cycle commuting I was doing. Here are the results:


It definitely has not been a hard winter so I was surprised that I didn’t cycle more. But then it was a very wet winter, and while I don’t mind cycling in the rain when I can see where I’m going, cycling in the rain and in the dark is not fun, especially when you wear glasses (someone needs to invent and produce some teeny-tiny windscreen wipers).

Once I got a feel for how I was doing my challenge was to keep it above 60%. It dropped a few times but I got it back up just in time!

It’s not the most obviously motivating season to cycle in, but there are some things you get from a winter commute that are missing from the rest of the year. Setting off to work under the pre-dawn stars is always surreal, and being able to see a sunrise and a sunset on most days becomes easy to take for granted. Also, you never get too hot, and don’t have to wear sunblock!


An inky blue pre-dawn sky with blurry crescent moon


This winter I have seen so many different skies including the rare rainbow coloured clouds earlier this month. I’ve also heard birds singing in the dark, felt every kind of weather on my face, smelled the first blossom of the year, sung Christmas songs to myself and seen one early-morning fox, with a big rusty orange tail, as it ran out in front of me.

I love the personal thinking time that I get on my bicycle before and after work and this can feel even more magical in the early mornings of winter. I can work through worries, use my imagination and, sometimes, just be meditative and mindful listening to the sound of my wheels.

Even on the Park and Ride days I get several miles cycling to and from the bus depot. I always appreciate the convenience of living near to this service, and on a rainy, windy or icy  day to be able to lock up my bike, head to the back of the bus and settle in with music and a novel is pure luxury. Then I get a nice 10 minutes walk to the office at the other end. However, the cost adds up and so I do always need a good reason to use the bus rather than keep going on two wheels all the way.

My bicycle has done me proud and I was going to give it a big clean up yesterday to welcome the Spring, but I’ve run out of rubber gloves so that didn’t happen. I am sure it can get me through my first week of Spring cycling as it is. And of course I’ll be tracking my stats for the next 3 months and will share how I got on. I’m aiming for 85% cycling at the least!

Weekday fuel

06 04 Summer cycling

by Lucy

I love cycling to work. If I managed it 5 days a week I would be riding for 7.5 hours. I think I average about 5 hours a week. What I am sure of is that the more I cycle, the more I eat!

Over the last few months I’ve managed to find my perfect cycling workday diet. I am not perfect at sticking to it, but I know that when I do, I feel better.

Breakfast: I have tried eating breakfast before I leave the house, but I can’t do it. My body is not relaxed enough to digest it while cycling. It works better for me to set off early and have breakfast in the office before work (or in the summer I often stop by a bench on my route and eat it in the great outdoors).

My perfect breakfast: One home-made oaty cocoa flapjack, 2 kiwi fruits and a small mango or large banana, all chopped up in a bowl, maybe with some nuts. A few variations have included summer fruits, and fruit salad made by Brian’s son at school!

04 04 Perfect breakfast

10 08 Fruit salad breakfast

Mid Morning Snack: A banana or apple and some almonds or walnuts

Lunch: The aim is to bring my own lunch to work every day. In the past I was much more disorganised and would end up eating things like sausage rolls and pasties and chips.  I’ve realised now that it’s better for me to spend a bit more and get something healthy like a falafel wrap or soup if I haven’t managed to bring anything, as long as it’s not more than a couple of times a month. When I bring my own lunch to work, it is usually home-made hummus (garlic-free) sandwiches, or last night’s leftovers.

I would usually have wholemeal bread!

(I would usually have wholemeal bread, this must have been quite a disorganised day!)

After that I have my second flapjack of the day.

Mid-afternoon (pre-cycling home) snack: Banana and walnuts or almonds. I sometimes forget to eat my afternoon snack, and then feel very hungry on the way home!

Great things about these foods:

  • They are pretty healthy for the calories they provide
  • There is hardly any packaging but things are easy to transport. I carry a LOT of Tupperware around every day!
  • Very low cost compared to more processed stuff

(On top of this I sometimes have other treats such as office birthday cakes, a pub lunch  and the occasional ice cream in the summertime! But these don’t really help in fuelling my cycle rides…)

The Accidental Mobius Scarf


by Lucy

Here is my latest finished knitting project! I started this 2 years ago, but because I keep my knitting in a cupboard, I often forget about it and that’s why things take so long.

The idea for this project was that I wanted a scarf which could not blow off my neck while cycling. This is really a snood, and it was made on circular needles with one ball of rainbow wool.

At some point in the knitting, I must have twisted the whole thing round and through itself, because one day I realised it was curling over as I was knitting. What I’ve accidentally created is a Mobius or infinity scarf – not what I intended, but I think it makes it more interesting!

I enjoyed making something so bright and colourful, and when I remembered to take it out with me, I did quite a lot of the knitting outdoors. There’s something very satisfying about that!

04 28 Knitting in the wood

Now I’m using it, it does the job perfectly, keeping me cosy and warm on my winter commutes. I’ve made enough scarves now, so my next project will be some fingerless gloves – I’ll try not to take two years to finish those….