Monday Meditation: A January Day in the English Countryside

Originally published in January 2017, now updated.

A few pics from our impromptu afternoon out when we were in need of fresh air and space after being cooped up for some time. It was a grey but fine day with no icy winds to sting our faces and make our eyes water, unlike the storms currently battering the UK a whole year later. We did the same walk this week and when I compare the views, it is noticeable how much greener, calmer and more fertile-looking the land was last year. This year there is a lot of mud and debris from all the winds and rain. I’ll be posting the latest photographs in a companion piece later.

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Lots of crab apples!

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A gnarly old tree, one of many!

Does anyone know what plant these grey pods belong to?

 

They look like they are from a climbing plant, they were growing next to some lovely yellow winter jasmine overhanging a garden wall and had a few small pink flowers like blossom on their branches. They look like grey broad beans! (A year later, there were hardly any pods, and what there were looked black and shrivelled from the frost).

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An English country lane. We saw a fat grey squirrel leap from the bare twigs of a tree on the right hand side of the road into the large pine tree opposite, very athletic! Such a contrast between the lush green conifers on the left and the bare-twigged hawthorns on the right. We were accompanied by a robin we saw a few times down this lane, but he was a little camera-shy, he kept flying off before I could take his photo.

Some farm animals on a smallholding, the grey goose did not like our presence one little bit!

 

This poor goat was looking at us and bleating the whole time, both when we passed the first time and again an hour later. Then we realised it was in exactly the same position. It was clearly quite distressed and we realised it was tethered so tightly it could neither turn around, lie down or move in anyway from this position. I can’t stop thinking about how disstressed it was and how much stress there must be on its joints etc. having to remain in that position. There was no-one around to do anything about it.

When we retraced our steps exactly 12 months later, there was no sign of any of the animals, the land looked abandoned; they could have been in the out-buildings, but we heard no sound.

27536816_unknownMore crab apples! This time in a small woodland.

(None at all 12 months later).

 A lonely glove. This one’s for the Tom Hanks’ collection! Did you know he collects photos of discarded/lost gloves?

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Copyright: Chris McGowan

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Monday Meditation: A Study in Perseverance

On a gloomy day and in much pain, I asked my husband if he would drive me to the next village where we could sit quietly by the canal. I felt in need of fresh air, of some quiet time with nature while observing the sedate and elegant barges moored or gliding by in their unassuming fashion, a smile and a wave from the owners as they pass.

We parked in the car park of the country pub and made our way down to the towpath to find a bench. It wasn’t easy, my back was very stiff and painful, not helped by the damp, chilly conditions, but the tranquil atmosphere began working its miracle immediately.

There were lots of barges on the canal that day, most were moored but there were others passing through, immaculately painted and often decorated with pot plants. They left gentle ripples as they crept quietly by, almost surreptitiously.

Weeping willows graced the opposite bank and further along there were interesting, often eccentric, gardens leading down to the water:

29667200_Unknown29667376_Unknown29667616_UnknownBut what fascinated us most was a male mallard. Seen first at some distance, on the towpath by himself, he was paying particular attention to something on the ground. We couldn’t see what it was at first and we approached slowly and quietly. He didn’t pay us any attention, he was completely focused on the thing he kept picking up and dropping.

29667312_UnknownAs we drew closer, I realised he was trying to swallow whole acorns! He kept picking them up – they were still attached to the cup and stalk – tipping his head back and then letting it drop again, tapping it on the ground then having another go. He was completely oblivious to our presence and I clicked away.

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This went on for some time. The slight rustling of a plastic carrier bag alerted the duck to a man approaching, but he carried on trying to swallow the acorn before the man reached him. He briefly and reluctantly gave up, walked away to the water’s edge and waited for the man to pass. He then walked calmly back, past other acorns and searched for the exact ones he’d been wrestling with.

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He found them and with one almighty effort, he did it, he actually swallowed them whole! He then waddled over to the water, stood for a while like a child summoning up the courage to dive in and off he went to join the others.

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As we turned to go back to the pub, I found another rock (See Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine – Paint a Rock & Give a Smile to Someone Who Needs It!:

 

I rehid it in a flower box.

As I did so, I heard voices near by and then laughter. I looked up to see two friends coming out of the pub after having lunch. We joined them for a drink and a chat outside, overlooking the water.

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I went home, refreshed, inspired, re-energised, and proud that I’d made the effort despite feeling like I needed an oil change and a few replacement parts!

Meditation Monday: Gratitude & Faith in Nature

Meditation Monday: A Stroll Along Sustrans Bike Trail 55

Meditation Monday – A Stroll Around Hodnet Hall Gardens

Ducks Crossing! In Which We Take a Break from House Refurbishment

If you like country estates, you’ll love this!

Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep!

Stunning Stained Glass in a World-Reknowned Medieval Shrewsbury Church

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Ducks Crossing! In Which We Take a Break from House Refurbishment

We had been cooped up for so long with all the work being done in the house and having the drive resurfaced: the parquet floor* took 9 days instead of 4, the drive had been delayed and went from taking 5 days to 11 days due to the rainy weather and we were also decorating the kitchen and lounge! The middle Sunday, however, turned into a fine day and I was feeling like a caged animal, so we took a short drive to one of my favourite places: Lilleshall National Sports Centre, where the  gardens and magnificent trees never cease to uplift and inspire.

Here are some photos from that afternoon’s breath of fresh air:

 

 Then, on the way out, along the long drive with its line of conifers, old farmhouse cottages and where we often see squirrels, a badger, pheasant and rabbits, here was a flock of ducks waiting to cross the road. We slowed to a stop so I could take a photo, and waited as they regarded us, assessed the situation and eventually decided it was safe to cross. Tentatively, the first one stepped out, looked at us then carried on, while the others had a little huddle to discuss whether he was wise or insane and then slowly followed his lead in a long line.

 

 Three cars were stopped either side of the road until they reached safety and proceded on to the lake a few hundred metres away. It made my day.

See also: Magnificent Trees, Olympic Medallists, A Czar & Some Sheep! for the history and more beautiful photos of Lilleshall

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If you like country estates, you’ll love this! for a different seasonal view.

*The Tour de France & A Parquet Tour de Force!

Copyright: Chris McGowan

A Nursery, a Ruin and a Baby Cow

This is a bit of a mish-mash of a post resulting from a spur-of-the-moment decision to take advantage of a sunny (but chilly) afternoon to buy some plants from the local nursery. On the way back we did a little detour (of course!) to look at the ruins of an Augustinian abbey, the idea being to see if Mum would at least be able to make it inside the site, if only to sit on a chair rather than walking around. The sky was stunningly blue and so clear, the moon was easily visible. You can just about see the white dot in the top left and bottom right photos. The photos are a little deceptive as there was a fairly strong cold wind blowing when you were out in the open, but a couple of hours in the sun and fresh air was just what I needed after a difficult few weeks (see here). I took deep breaths and absorbed the tranquility of the place in its wide open spaces. We were the only ones there, apart from the cows, and even they were still and silent.

The shapes in the bottom right photo are the graves of the abbots. The right column of the entrance in the first photo used to be higher and there are spiral steps up to it where my husband and young grandsons once climbed up and had their photos taken right at the top. Sadly, the entrance is now fenced off and it looks like the tower has crumbled somewhat.

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The abbey is surrounded by farmland and these very young calves were in the field by the lane. I thought this one was an unusual colour, it was nervous and very wary.

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The others couldn’t care less!

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Here are the some of the plants we bought, still waiting to be homed:

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Just don’t ask me what they’re called!

Ps You can read about our other detours here: An Impromptu Mother’s Day Adventure or How We Survived the Vortex that is Our Local Bermuda Triangle … & Ducks, Daves and Detours

PPS Unfortunately, the entrance to the site is through an awkward swing gate with such a narrow opening so no, Mum wouldn’t be able to get through.

Copyright: Chris McGowan

Post Thanksgiving/Christmas/Celebration Digestion – some suggestions to ease that overstuffed feeling

My American friend Bernadette over at Haddon Musings has just requested a digestive aid to help overcome the overstuffed feeling after the Thanksgiving meal. I half- jokingly gave some suggestions, but on reflection perhaps they may help some of you cope better with the over-indulgence at this time of year. For many of us in the UK it is Christmas or Divali or Hannuka.

I realise of course I should have written this a few days ago! Sorry!

My first advice would be to pace yourself. Take your time, eat slowly and chew thoroughly, put your knife and fork down occasionally and talk to your neighbour.

Remind yourself that as lovely as all this sumptuous food is, your stomach will only take so much before it starts objecting, very loudly and clearly! You can always go back for more later.

It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message from your stomach that it’s had enough, so eating slowly gives time for this message to get through before you start feeling uncomfortable.

You could serve melon with ginger sprinkled on (especially cantaloupe) before the main meal (melon must always be eaten on an empty stomach) and a green salad with the meal, these will help with digestion and also help fill you so you don’t over-eat the fancier stuff.

Here is a website I found which has juice recipes specifically designed to aid digestion: The Fit Indian

Also, fennel and ginger are great digestive aids in any form.

imagePapaya too is especially good for the digestion.

The best thing that you could do – apart from not over-eating in the first place! – is to go for a stroll in the fresh air afterwards. Most people flop on the sofa, holding their stomachs, groaning, vowing never to eat such-and-such again and then doze or veg out in front of the telly.

This is the worst thing you can do!

Walking aids digestion, gets things moving and regulates blood sugar levels so you won’t be dozy all afternoon.

Another tip, have some small windows open. If you are all packed into a stuffy room you will feel worse if you’re also overfull.

Drink water in between the wine/whisky/beer. 

I hope this helps and that you all have a lovely time with family and friends.

Copyright: Chris McGowan