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Smeaton's Tower amidst an amazing evening sky in the summer of 2015. 

Postcards from Plymouth
Friday 21 August 2015 

I’ve learnt to carry my camera with me everywhere I go (except for the times when I forget), so in the past year or two – and especially so this ‘summer’ – I’ve accumulated a nice collection of photos, almost all of them of Plymouth.

I’ve just had quite a few of them printed up in roughly postcard size and framed to adorn previously bare walls in my house.

It was only when I collected the photos from the printers and flicked through them that I realised how stunning Plymouth is, how its history can be seen in its buildings and cobbled streets, and how great it is for eating out. 

It was then that I had this idea of a gallery, which I’m calling Postcards from Plymouth.

And here it is ... 

Postcards from Plymouth Gallery >>>

Chickweed on the banks of the River Dart

Chickweed on the banks of the River Dart. 

Cup of horsetail tea anyone?
Wednesday 15 July 2015 

I went foraging earlier this summer. It was a lovely warm, sunny day, just perfect for a stroll along the banks of the River Dart. Within less than an hour, I had sampled 17 different herbs and plants – all edible and all good for you.

How this foraging foray came about in the first place is another story. I was visiting various places along the South West Coast Path in East Devon when I got talking with a couple of people who’d just walked the Sidmouth to Branscombe section. Both had really interesting stories to tell and one of them, Hannah, told me she was a herbalist and had spent much of the walk picking things to eat and/or turn into a hot or cold drink.

“I take people on foraging walks,” she said. “Let me know if you fancy an afternoon of foraging some time and we’ll organise it.” Brilliant, I thought, I’m up for that.

So, armed with note pad, pen, and camera, I headed off with Hannah for a riverside walk at Staverton, just outside Totnes. Wow! The place was awash with nature’s wonderful summertime offerings.  

“Spring and summer are just bursting with things to eat,” said Hannah. “I make a point of eating something every day that I’ve foraged. 

"Within about 15 minutes I can collect all of the vegetables and salad that is needed for a day, just paces from my front door. Providing people are respectful of the environment, not taking too much from any one place, they can collect their supper from a walk, whether it’s in the countryside or in an urban environment. You don’t have to go far to find all of these amazing things; they’re everywhere.

“It’s about getting people to look at plants and connecting to nature again and trusting their own wisdom about what is good for them.”

The photo gallery linked here shows what we found on our walk.  I had a great time, sampling the unexpected delights of rose petals, nettle and thistle. I took a few little bits home for a fresh salad, together with a clump of horsetail which I used for a surprisingly tasty cup of tea.

What a great way to spend an afternoon – a forage walk followed by some experimenting in the kitchen. Go on, give it a go this summer!

Public warning bit: You’ll need a guide at first to make sure you’re picking the right things and, as with all herbs, check that there’s no reason you should avoid it. Read more about Hannah Pearson >>>

Foraging photo gallery >>>

Woods and mum

Our family woods and our mum. 

"Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you ..."
Wednesday 25 March 2015 

Memories. I bang on about them all the time. If gold medals were handed out for nostalgia, I’d win the lot (if you don't believe me, take a look at some of my earlier blogs).

This month, I’ve relived a lifetime of memories, as we said goodbye to our mum.

A couple of years ago, mum went on a mission to dig out family photographs going back generations and to learn more about our ancestors. The result was a book, Our Family in Pictures by Thelma Joint. We had them printed for family members.

She was determined to have a photo of our family’s woods on the front cover because she said the trees were a nod to the future as they were “green shoots” that were still growing.

What an amazing legacy this is; her work in bringing all of the photos together means that all of those memories and stories are preserved for future generations of our family. 

Thanks for the memories mum; we’ll cherish them forever.

(For those wondering, "Preserve your memories, they're all that's left you" is a line from Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel, who provided the soundtrack of my childhood in the late 1960s and early 1970s.)

Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel on YouTube >>> 

Rainbow over Brixham Breakwater

Rainbow over Brixham Breakwater. 

Because I Can ... 

Friday 16 January 2015 

If there’s one phrase I’ve used more than any other in the four years since I became a freelancer, it’s “Because I Can”.

These three words have been used in a variety of settings but you’ll spot a theme developing: “I’m meeting a friend for coffee this morning, because I can ... I’m going out for lunch today, because I can … I’m going for a walk in the sun this afternoon, because I can.” You get the picture.

Today was a “Because I Can” day. I logged my computer off at 11am and headed to the coast. First port of call was Brixham to collect my sister for a little ferry trip across the Dart to Dartmouth where we ate takeaway fish and chips (Plymouth-landed line-caught haddock from Rockfish and very nice it was too) on the waterfront.

What a view! Green hills and river to our left, Kingswear straight ahead and the Dart estuary to our right. 

The term “four seasons in one day” was invented for days like this.  As it was still light when we got back to Brixham we went down to the harbour to make the most of it. Dark grey skies mingled with a golden light and then gradually a rainbow appeared over the Breakwater. Wow! This was another of those occasions when it's impossible for the camera to do justice to the real thing.

“Well,” I said, “that was better than being in the office.”

Yes, there are down sides to being self-employed – it can be difficult to switch off at times and there’s no guaranteed salary plopping into your bank account every month.

But I’ve grown fond of my “Because I Can” moments and I’m looking forward to having quite a few more of them this coming spring and summer. Because I Can. :-)

Mushroom roast

No meat and six veg. 

Promises, promises ...

Sunday 4 January 2015

I don’t do New Year resolutions but for 2015, I have come up with a few lifestyle ‘tweaks’ -  I like to think of them as New Year promises to myself.

Tweak Number 1 is to reduce my meat intake, which is why my first Sunday roast of the year was a plate of no meat and six veg. I’m not saying I’m about to become a vegetarian (although as an animal lover this is a long-term but possibly unrealistic aim, given my love of chicken Balti); it’s just that I think it might be healthier for me to eat less meat.

So today, my roast consisted of mushrooms with all the trimmings – carrots, kale, roast parsnips & shallots, roasties and stuffing.

I fried the mushrooms in a juniper berry butter I’d made (taken from one of my Nigel Slater books), with a splash of Madeira and some fresh thyme. Guess what? It was really tasty and I didn't miss the meat at all!

Encouraged by the success of this first New Year tweak I will waste no time on my next promise to myself. This is a sort of 3-in-1 challenge to do more photography, get more fresh air and go for more walks. Yes, I know, it's hard work this New Year promises idea...

Happy 2015 everyone!  

Walk On event

Walking as art - and great fun it was too.

"One man's barmy is another man's art..."
Tuesday 9 December 2014 

Well, that was exciting. I’ve never been part of an artwork before. Together with the other 159 participants in Hamish Fulton’s group walk, I arrived at our meeting point at Plymouth train station with not the foggiest idea what to expect.

Yes, it was a communal walk and yes, it would take place somewhere in or around Plymouth city centre. We’d all received emails informing us that the walk – part of the Plymouth Walk On programme – would probably not be suitable for children or dogs. Apart from that, we were pretty much in the dark.


Read my blog about a walk-with-a-difference at the Plymouth Arts Centre website >>>