Sunday, 31 July 2016

Usky goes to Usk - again

I cycled out to Usk again this morning, although on a slightly different route to my previous Usk jaunts. An excellent ride as it turned out with a couple of interesting hills and some stunning scenery.

Usky's route to Usk and back (marked in red)
This 33 mile ride climbs 813 feet onto the Shirenewton Ridge, that's 795 feet above sea level), before descending to the Usk Valley for the trip back towards Newport. A thoroughly enjoyable ride that burns a little over 2000 calories, which is two thirds of my 'standard' daily target. :)

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Cycle Art

I spotted this sculpture hewn from a tree in Erding, Bavaria, recently. I've no idea who the sculptor was, but I liked what the artist had achieved.

Road Racer
The piece reminded me of me a little bit... except I'm rather faster when I'm on my bike!

Friday, 29 July 2016

On 'Bunny Watch'

Sometimes a dog just has to remain alert while laying in the afternoon sunshine... after all, you never know when one of those sneaky runny babbits will pop its head out of its hole in the ground

Tilly on 'Bunny Watch'

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The promise of things to come

I'm a big fan of foraging for wild berries, fruits and nuts so at this time of year I keep my eyes wide open for likely sources of the goodies to come.

I've already enjoyed wild strawberries, a few blackberries and some early plums and am eagerly awaiting the day when these little beauties will be ready to pick and turn into a delicious winter liqueur.


Okay I admit it, I was wrong...

So a few days ago I told you I'd spotted what I believed to be some rare visitors to these shores and now I'm holding my hand up to say I was mistaken. I'd seen a group of three cranes, which I mistakenly identified as Sandhill Cranes. In my defence I saw the birds in early morning light and at a distance. I saw them again this morning and this time I had my little Panasonic TZ5 with me (it just fits in the rear pouch of my cycling shirt) so I grabbed some quick images. Again we're talking early morning light (6:20am) and in overcast conditions at the extreme end of my little pocket camera's zoom... I tell you this because the images are not great by any means, but at least they prove the birds are there. :)

Common Cranes
They are Common Cranes otherwise known as European Cranes and I'm pretty sure they will have migrated the short distance from the Somerset Levels where a group were released in an effort to reintroduce the species to the UK a couple of years ago.

Common Cranes
I'd still like to photograph these birds properly, after all these are the first cranes I've ever seen living in the wild in the UK, so will make the effort to capture some images with a 'proper' camera and long lens.

Common Cranes

Monday, 25 July 2016

Bee-friendly Wild Flower Verges

Over the last few years Monmouthshire County Council has promoted 'Bee-Friendly' verges around the County by spreading wild flower seeds along the roadsides. Not only is this a great way of helping our native bee population it is also a good idea for us humans... our verges are brighter and sweeter smelling! I know you can't sniff these, but just see how pretty our roadsides look:

Nice, eh? And to think my parents would have regarded these beauties as 'weeds' and ripped them out of the garden... what a mistake that was!

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Pictures within pictures

As a photographer there are times when directed composition goes out the window and serendipity takes over...

Pictures within pictures
This was the case when we visited Lamphey Bishop's Palace recently.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Unexpected sighting

Amazing the things you see when you're out on your bike... on my morning ride over the Gwent Levels today I spotted some large birds in a field. I didn't believe my eyes, so I stopped to get a better look and low and behold my initial impression appears to have been right... I'm pretty sure I was looking at some visiting Sandhill Cranes.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes are usually resident in North America and while they have been known to visit the UK occasionally they are very rare here. There were three in the group I saw this morning (the image above is not mine, but for illustration only) and I have just spent the last hour trying to confirm my identification. I'll take my camera and return to the location shorty to see if the birds are still there. Crossing my fingers they will be.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Come on, don't be shy

Here's another mother wanting to show off her family...

Say 'Hello' Son
He didn't need much encouragement to stick his nose over the gate for a bit of fuss.

Motherly Love

I met this duck yesterday evening who was obviously so proud of her second brood of the year she rounded them up to show them off.

Meet the Family
It's obviously been a very good year for waterfowl, I've noticed quite a number of large second broods recently, though this is the first time a new mother has ever brought her brood to be admired.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Bugger Brexit, you don't get rid of us that easy!

Whether the UK is in or out of Europe really doesn't matter... try as you might you just won't get rid of us!

Want proof?


Sir Sign
There's been an English Pub in Altstadt, Salzburg since long before the European Economic Community (now the European Union) was even a twinkle in anyone's eye way back in 1958.

Just goes to prove, us Brits get everywhere whether you want us or not! lol

Friday, 15 July 2016

Faded Beauty

A little ragged round the edges and a tad faded, but still beautiful, this Small Tortoiseshell butterfly spotted on a head of Common Knapweed yesterday.

Small Tortoiseshell on Knapweed
The butterfly was enjoying a nice feed and I didn't want to disturb it, so just grabbed a couple of quick images before moving on.

Small Tortoiseshell on Knapweed
As you can see Tilly was not impressed by my paying attention to another creature...

Oi! Me, you're supposed to pay attention to me!

Usky rides to Usk

I was awake early again this morning (as usual) and since the day was overcast, but warm I decided I'd go for a nice countryside ride so I got myself together and set off just before 5:30am.

I headed out of the village toward Chepstow with the intention of riding through the country lanes around Shirenewton, but in fact the views across the Severn Estuary from the Earlswood Road were so stunning today I decided to just continue on over the ridge and drop down into Usk.

So the upshot of  this morning's activity was a 33 mile ride, the second 30 mile plus ride this week, that burned over 2,000 calories, which is obviously good for my weight loss.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Pretty in Pink

I noticed these hollyhocks while I was walking Tilly this morning and couldn't resist grabbing a couple of images...

Hollyhocks seem to have fallen out of favour with gardeners these days, which is a bit of a shame. These girls look okay to me.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Salzburg re-visited

Before I returned to the UK from my recent trip to Bavaria I spent my last morning re-visiting Salzburg with my good friend +Silvia Antlady. Fortunately the weather was much kinder so I got the chance to experience the city in both wet and dry conditions and what a difference the sunshine made!

Looking down over Altstadt Salzburg
We took advantage of the fine weather and took the Mönchsberg Lift to the Museum of Modern Art, then walked along the ridge toward Fortress Hohensalzburg. The views over the Salzburger Altstadt are nothing short of stunning and I was interested to trace the route we had taken through the old city on our previous visit.

There are several fortified premises between the Museum of Modern Art and Fortress Hohensalzburg, of which this is one:

The footpath we followed also took us around some of the old city's fortified wall.

Part of the Old City Wall
It's difficult to say how effective the city wall would have been as a defencive unit, but it's still an impressive structure.

Fortress Hohensalzburg viewed from the city wall 
I have no idea what the property prices would be here, but without doubt Mönchsberg would be a wonderful location in which to live.

As well as the wonderful views down over the city residents also enjoy the imposing presence of Fortress Hohensalzburg and the surrounding mountains.

Fortress Hohensalzburg
And I'll leave you on this occasion with one final view of  Fortress Hohensalzburg from the access road that serves the locals:

Fortress Hohensalzburg
I could most definitely live here, couldn't you?

Wo! I feel good

I knew that I would, now
I feel good!

Well okay James Brown I ain't, but I really do feel good today and it's all down to exercise...

  • 32.5 miles on the bike this morning before breakfast
  • 2.5 mile walk/trot through the woods with Tilly after breakfast
And all before 11:00am... Not too bad for an Old Fart!

Of course the downside of all this activity is a very rumbly tummy. Wonder what I can find to snack on in the kitchen...

Wo! I feel good, I knew that I would, now
I feel good, I knew that I would, now
So good, so good
So Good!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Kurz a Curry

Kurz a Curry is an Indian restaurant in Berchtesgaden. I didn't eat there so can't speak for the quality of the food, but I absolutely loved the owner's idea of street advertising, even if it is a little scary for the little ones! Berchtesgaden is of course close to the Austrian border so how's this for a nod to a famous Austrian actor?

Kurz a Curry
I should point out the actual sculpture does not have the red Terminator eyes... being me I just had to add those!

Kurz a Curry - will you be back?

Romanesque arch in Wasserburg am Inn

I spotted this arched gateway to The Old Cemetery at Wasserburg am Inn on the last day of my recent Bavaria trip and couldn't resist capturing it.

 Wasserburg am Inn Romanesque Archway
Something about the arch spoke volumes to me, I suspect because it reminded me so much of a archway I saw at Pompeii years ago. I guess it's possible this is a copy of one of the famous Roman arches, but can't confirm that.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Flora (and Fauna) in the Almbachklamm

I simply couldn't leave my short series of blog posts featuring the magnificent Almbachklamm without posting at least a few images of the flora to be found in the gorge. Let's start with these:

Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley
Yeah I know, but I thought it was kind of apt to begin the gorge's flora with Lily of the Valley.

If you're a regular reader of this blog you'll already know I'm not much good at identifying plants, I just like to look at them. I'll caption those plants I know, but would be very appreciative of any help to identify the ones I don't.

These are a type of Cornflower I think...

Ferns have always interested me and I'm pretty sure this next one is a Brittle Bladder Fern.

Brittle Bladder Fern
Wild Strawberry
Love wild strawberries, they are so good to eat. Ahem... don't pick them all!

These are known to me as Granny's Bonnet - their real name is Aquilega. I don't remember seeing them in such a deep purple before.

And I'll finish off with these...

No idea what this caterpillar will turn into, but he's kind of cute.

Talking of cute, how about this little chap?

Sunday, 10 July 2016

More from the Almbachklamm

As you progress up the Almbachklamm the valley sides become steeper and the bottom narrower.

The footpath frequently leaves the path of the watercourse and is cut into the rock offering wonderful views both up and down the Almbachklamm.

Bridges cross back and forth over the water and the walker finds himself continually moving from light to shade with frequent dowsings from water dripping off the overhanging valley sides.

The morning I visited the Almbachklamm I was impressed by the feeling of solitude that surrounded the valley, the only noise coming from the gurgling and rushing of the water and the chatter of the local birdlife.

It was interesting for me to note the number of trout visible in the quieter pools as well as the dippers fishing for water nymphs and small fry, indicating just how clean the water is.

I could continue to wax lyrical about the beauty of this wonderful place, but I think I'll just sit back and let my photographs speak for themselves.

As I've already said, if you happen to visit Upper Bavaria and Berchtesgadener Land you really must make time to walk the length of the Almbachklamm. Even at a slow pace and taking time to photograph the valley three hours is sufficient time for the trip.