Words, Wildlife, Rock & Roll
Borneo, Wales, Infinity and Beyond...

Words, Wildlife, Rock & Roll <br> Borneo, Wales, Infinity and Beyond...

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Awkward Moment on a Train

Those of you who know me, know how much I love trains. In theory, they are environmentally friendly, simple ways to travel. In reality, they are so expensive that it costs me twice as much as it does to drive anywhere. Over the years I've spent commuting between Cardiff and Dorset, I've been delayed by breakdowns, signal failures, hot weather, cold weather, rain, cows on the line and a malfunctioning steam train further up the line. I've sat with drunk people, funny people, creepy people, a man who re-enacts medieval battles and tells people about them on trains, and many normal people too.

There are advantages to travelling this way. One of the big ones for me is that, although it takes nearly twice as long to get to Wales as it would if I drove, I actually get a few hours of my life back. Instead of three hours concentrating on the speedy lumps of metal zooming by and the myriad of white stripes and yellow squiggles on tarmac, I can read, write, think and procrastinate on the interweb. The only time this falls through is on an extremely busy train, like the one I caught yesterday, which suddenly filled up at Bristol Temple Meads, making turning the pages of my book more difficult than it was worth. So I started people watching.

There were so many people squished on board, that for the most part, staring around the carriage was quite boring. However, the lady opposite me was absorbed in a complicated textbook with brain diagrams dotting the text. I tried to read it upside down, and failed. Something about 'resilience'. No idea. Got bored. Daydreamed a bit. Realised she was having a very important phone conversation and that I'd been bored without realising it. I was curious about her frantic scribbling of notes and really wanted to know what the book was about.

I could just ask, of course, but that sort of question has previously landed me in several hours of dire conversation with no way of escape until Southampton Central. So I chickened out. What I did do however, was Google the name she had written on her backpack in permanent marker. The Sherlock Holmes way of finding out what she was reading, or at least finding out something.

To my amazement, the result brought up an American billionaire heiress to a food company... and an art therapist with an OBE. I was just clicking on a search result which took me to Wikipedia, when her phone conversation ended, and the train jolted. Whoever she was, she had far better control of her personal belongings than I did, because whilst her phone was put neatly back into her pocket, mine leapt out of my hands and landed screen-up on the table between us, proudly displaying her own Wikipedia page.

She was good enough, or creeped out enough, not to say anything. Or maybe she was secretly pleased to get a Wikipedia hit, who knows? All I know is that it seemed an appropriate time to attempt reading my book again, I've banned myself from train travel for the foreseeable future, and I still don't know what she was reading.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The Long Trail

As the idea of walking a long distance trail burns away in the back of my mind, every path and gateway appears as an opportunity. Earlier in the year I read Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, his account of attempting to walk the entire Appalachian Trail. He gave it a fair shot, but its gruelling 2,160 miles eventually got the better of him. I honestly don't think I would have got as far as he did, but still, the idea of completing a self propelled journey of a significant distance is appealing.

When I decided to come to Vermont, I knew that I would mostly be based in the city of Burlington, but budgeted for a few weekend trips in a rental car. Staring at the map or this relatively small state, it became obvious that you could reach any of its corners easily in a day trip, and that there was a nice obvious walking trail dissecting the state down the middle.

The Long Trail is the oldest dedicated long distance hiking trail in the United Stated of America. It runs 273 miles from the Canadian border in the north, down to Massachusetts, and in the southern part of the state actually joins up with the Appalachian Trail. I had to at least set foot on it.

This weekend, we headed to an obvious access point on Route 125, where the signs quite clearly labelled that we had the right trail. All we had to do was pick a direction: North or south? North had the more adventurous feel, looking like it went 'up' rather than stay on the flat. On entering the trail you need to sign in. It enters a wilderness area at this point, and I suppose the authorities want to know how many people they might have lost on the way. Only one other person had set out that day, but it wasn't too surprising considering that it was a very cold day in November and snow was falling.

We only walked for a couple of hours, due to my fingers feeling like they'd disappeared, but it was enough to re-ignite a sense of wonder. 'What would it be like to do the whole thing?' 'Could I do it?' '273 miles is a long way.' These thoughts bounced around my head as we meandered back down the rocky path towards the road. I did, however, make one decision. Nothing would be able to persuade me to walk that trail in November!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Snow in Vermont

It's good to see that weather in New England is as changeable as it is back in 'Old' England. Fall still hasn't finished doing its thing and already we're having dustings of snow in the hills. For these parts, it's only very little, but if we had this in Dorset right now there would be people out there trying to build snowmen. It still has a novelty value for me, and it gives me an excuse to get the Cookie Monster hat out.

These were taken down at Texas Falls in the Green Mountain National Forest. I only had time for a quick potter today, but it's made me want a slightly longer expedition later in the trip. If possible, on the Long Trail. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Fall Foliage in Burlington, Vermont

I arrived in Burlington, Vermont on Thursday. We wanted to see the leaves changing colour, as it's meant to be spectacular over here, but we had been forewarned that we would be likely to miss it.

We were lucky this year though, fall has arrived later than normal. This was the scene in Battery Park at the weekend. Beautiful maples are decorating the floor everywhere we look, and some of the later trees are yet to turn. There are plenty of oaks that are still green in the hills.

So for now, I'm just exploring the city, and appreciating the subtle, and not so subtle differences between my expectations and Vermont in the flesh. I'm relieved to see, at least, that they really do have yellow school buses over here.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Durdle Door, Dorset Adventures

The summer's almost over. I know, it's a terrible thought. My coastal adventure to Durdle Door was supposed to be an epic after work hike to somewhere or other. It ended up being a slump on the pebbles with a book.

I guess some adventures are more strenuous than others.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Scribbles in London

I've found a coffee shop to write in. I'm waiting for my brother to get across the city and find me, but in the meantime I have tea, a notebook and an open window to watch the comings and goings of Holborn.

I wanted to steer clear of public transport after arriving in London, so I followed Google Maps and found China Town and an astrology shop where the proprietor was telling the future of a customer's five year old. She's very gifted and will go on to do great things. I also managed to acquire some semi abusive birthday cards from a quirky bookshop, so apologies in advance if you're expecting a card any time soon...

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Hiking in Dorset, Adventures from Wool

If I'm going to get anywhere near hiking the South West Coast Path I'm going to have to get prepared for it. So I planned, on a rare day off at home, to walk the coast of Portland. I'm going to have to work on my will power a little though as I woke to see torrential rain and abandoned the plan in favour of 'getting things done' at home. By two in the afternoon I was bored of that and the sun was out. The OS Map lying on top of my day pack caught my attention, and I decided a shorter walk was better than no walk at all. I would walk to Moreton and catch the train back to Wool. It was only about five miles.

It felt good to be out of the house, pack on my back, going on a little adventure. I was so wrapped up in feeling smug that initially I didn't notice the flapping noise as I walked. It sounded like I had an enthusiastic sealion accompanying me, and no amount of pulling at straps made it go away. Strangely, it slowed down when I slowed down, and sped up when I sped up. With a sense of foreboding I looked down at my feet and simultaneously tripped over them. The sole was coming off of my boot. These boots have seen me through a year in the jungle, Silver and Gold Duke of Edinburgh expeditions and countless day trips and afternoon wanderings, so it was sad to see them beaten on East Burton Road, one of the least taxing places I've ever taken them. I flopped home in a grump and put on my spares.

Even more determined to finish (or even start) my walk, I now sped off on a mission. The first few footpaths can't see much use, as the wet vegetation soaked me almost to my waist as I made my way accross the water meadows in search of Bovington. Although it had been raining it was a beautiful afternoon to be walking, and until I reached Bovington I didn't see a soul, just a pair of coots splashing around in a stream.

Moreton Forest was also quiet, and I couldn't understand why nobody else was out enjoying the woods, until the path turned into a series of lakes and I figured the locals had more sense than I'd given them credit for. I was absolutely not turning back again, so I took on the gorse-ridden banks and made stepping stones out of logs. By the time the path returned to a usable route I thought I'd mastered the situation reasonably well. I had, after all, only fallen in twice.

"I wouldn't have gone that way. Got wet feet?" asked a bearded man who obviously didn't appreciate a good adventure. But yes, I did now have wet feet, but it wasn't far to Moreton now, and there was a pub by the station. By my calculations I should be there with plenty of time to get a drink before heading home.

It's a shame that people don't seem to use pubs anymore. I can only assume that's why they have reduced opening hours in this part of the world. My little oasis was definitely closed on arrival, and there was no way I wanted to hang around for an hour at Moreton Station. the only thing at Moreton Station is a railway line and an abandoned digger. So I walked back using a different route. It was five miles and I hadn't had the privilege of a good, cold drink to spur me on. I'd already finished the emergency Dolly Mixtures (about half an hour into my journey). Things didn't look great.

The Jubilee Trail took me most of the way home, but wasn't the most welcoming route. Some charming neighbour has stuck up KEEP OUT signs which are written in a way that suggests impending doom will occur if you stray from the trail. The woods themselves were totally deserted apart from two 4x4 drivers trying to justify owning a vehicle built for off-roading that seemed as shocked as I was to meet on the trail.

I arrived home soggy and exhausted, went straight for the kettle and realised with dismay that I had exactly 34 minutes before I had to be at Air Cadets. But I had managed to fit in a ten mile walk on my day off, so there was no way they were going to be moaning to me about the prospect of an expedition this evening.