I’m all for trying something new. Seeing and doing something different is not only fun but, as the saying goes, stretches the mind, makes us view people and places in a different light and challenges us and our opinions. But as with most things businesses and the media latch on to this and now we’re bombarded with the notion that life is a series of experiences to cross off a list. There was a time in the pre-economic doom years when travel programmes showed us the places we should be going to if we wanted somewhere interesting to show off about at a dinner party. There was the ever-increasing quest by the producers of said programmes to find more and more extravagant holidays or far-flung destinations. If you hadn’t yak herded in Mongolia or eaten mongoose with some impossibly remote tribe with an unpronounceable name then you hadn’t lived. Maybe these programmes had run their course or perhaps it was increasingly hard to justify holidays which cost more than a new car once recession had started to bite.
Then that dreadful word ‘staycation’ appeared everywhere, but I can forgive all those who used it, if it made people look at what was on their own doorstep in a different way. I have a friend who has been to every continent including Antarctica but has never visited Cornwall. *incredulous look at computer screen* I must admit to being rather jealous of her seeing penguins in their true habitat and not just in a rather dubious looking pool construction at a zoo but you don’t have to spend lots of money or travel long distances to come across the new and interesting.
This weekend we walked a stretch of Offa’s Dyke that we know well. One of our favourite places, the paths take us through ancient woodland clinging to the side of the Wye Valley. On one hand there is a comfortable feeling of familiarity, knowing the terrain, the sections that will be muddy because of the underground spring or the steep part that we need to descend to return to the car. On the other is the feeling of discovery whenever we visit. It might well be the same walk, through the same trees but it’s always different.
Seeing how the seasons and the weather affect the woods is the most noticeable difference. Last year we visited in mid- March,and in the warmth of the early spring bluebells had created a spectacular show and were joined by wild garlic and wood anemones. These bluebells were out about a month earlier than the previous year but this time around, unsurprisingly, there were none to be seen. The foliage was there but the first flowers may well not appear until May. The buds of the first wood anemones had appeared but only a few had opened; they, like us craving some sunshine. A carpet of wild garlic had formed though and we picked a few leaves to take home to make a pesto.
The winter storms had taken their toll. A huge tree had split with two sections now lying at right angles to the trunk. As these had fallen they had taken out other trees in their path. It looked like a scene of destruction but as the wood starts to rot it will become the perfect home to so many creatures.
Wellyman spotted these fascinating fungi which we’d never seen before. Whilst I was waffling on about them looking like those men, often with no teeth, who take part in the gurning competition in Cumbria he was off looking for a stick to poke one that had fallen on to the ground. Apparently he was looking to see if the inside was full of rings rather like the trunk of a tree and thought they were called King Alfred’s cakes. The fungus did have the said rings running through its inside and checking when we got home it turns out Wellyman’s fungi identification skills, on this occasion, were correct. Their name derives from the fact that the black varieties look burnt just like the cakes King Alfred is said to have overcooked. Apparently they can be used as kindling for those who like the idea of bushcraft.
Of course, even in such a beautiful spot as this there are always some who just don’t seem to appreciate what’s there. I really dislike seeing trees that have been vandalised. On this occasion it was initials and dates carved into the trunk of a tree. Some were obviously more recent than others as the bark hadn’t had a chance to fully heal. Banging nails into a tree in order to hang up a poster annoys me too. I know the tree doesn’t feel pain but it’s the lack of respect that frustrates me. Trees really are incredible and deserve more than being treated as a convenient spot to advertise some nightclub, a missing pet or as a place for RR to declare their ‘love’ for LT.
Very thoghtful post WW. I agree, we should never take for granted what we have close by. Getting to know somewhere intimately can give so much pleasure, rather than just ticking off something as ‘done’. Christina
Hi Christina, After years of moving around and not spending much time in one place I’m loving being able to get to know our local patch. Being able to go back to the same spot and watching the seasons change is a real treat for us. WW
Lazy Trollop said:
Being a Cumbrian the bit about turning made me smile, although the fungus looks to me like a lip enhancement that has gone a bit wrong – & we have all seen those! And of course trees feel pain……
Lazy Trollop said:
Sorry, that should be ‘gurning’ not ‘turning’. Must get Cumbrian predictive text!
🙂 Or the backside of a comic relief red nose. We were at Malvern last year and overhead a woman say she thought bonsai was cruel. It did make us chuckle.
Paula @ Spoons 'n' Spades said:
What an interesting funghi, I’ve never seen one like that before. It definitely is reminiscent of a gurners expression 😉 My partner and I went on several local nature walks a few years back and discovered so much that we didn’t even realise was practically on our doorstep, it really was an eye opener!
Hi Paula, It’s amazing what we have around us. 🙂
Wow – great photos and great post ;0)
Thanks Lynda, 🙂
Anna B said:
Haha! The cumbrian gurning competition is hilarious. Adam’s folks live near Egremont, I’ll have to tell them about it! I’ve just had a short break in this country and I love it. I’m a bit of an adventurer too, last year was south India, year before was Borneo, i’ve been all over Central America, even the Galapagos but this year I just fancy staying in the UK. It’s great! I’ll be doing some blog posts on my holiday soon. Talking of the Wye Valley, Adam was reading something about canoeing trips along there. Sounds awesome!
Hi Anna, Looking forward to your blog posts. 🙂 Yes you can canoe on the Wye. We did it a few years ago on a stretch from Goodrich. I would definitely recommend it. We got to see kingfishers and it is really beautiful scenery. Best not to do it in late July/August though as it gets quite busy. June and September are good, much more peaceful.
Andrea Mynard said:
In the past I’ve enjoyed travel adventures in far-flung places and although I wouldn’t have missed having some fabulous holidays in Peru, Nepal, Kerala, Morocco, totally agree re appreciating what’s a bit closer to home too. Nowadays Dorset and Wales are about the furthest we venture but I’m seeing these sort of places afresh with my 5 year old daughter and delighting as much in rock pools and streams rushing through woodland as she is. Sounds as if you had such a lovely time in Wye Valley.
I can spend hours rock pooling, one of my favourite things, apart from gardening, of course. 😉
I’ve never really been keen on travelling far and wide on holiday, and some of the best ones have been days out from home. It always surprises me that so many people have never been to places on their doorstep.
I’m always fascinated by fungi but know very little about it so thanks for increasing my knowledge on the subject.
I agree with what you say about trees and what gets done to them. xx
Hi Flighty, We lived abroad for a short time and we were both quite homesick for lovely gardens, parks, coast and historical buildings. I do enjoy seeing new places abroad but closer to home can be just as much fun and considerably cheaper. 🙂 Fungi are fascinating and I love to read more about them. Must make a note to try and find a great book on fungi.
Glad you enjoyed your foray – even for those who holiday in this country and take regular days out to visit somewhere different it is easy to forgoe more local walks. Over the weekend we managed two local walks from our front door, one of which we had never got round to doing before, despite being here over 16 years. That fungus was amazing – thanks for the education!
We’ve moved around a lot and each time we landed somewhere new one of the first things we did was visit the tourist information centre. We’d probably seen and done more by the time we’d moved on than people who had lived there all their lives. The fungus does make me chuckle, I love its toothless grin. 😉
Thanks for sharing your trip with us. Having moved around quite a bit with the undergardeners job, we have always made a point of exploring close to home,never knowing how long we would stay there and it’s amazing what you can discover that neighbours know nothing about! We now explore with a view of where to take visitors as I think this is the last move as we are now retired! I don’t think you can beat this country for such a variety of scenery, if only the weather was better!!
That sounds exactly like us, Pauline. We used to pick up all the tourist leaflets when we first moved somewhere. Knew the places so well by the time we moved, probably better than people who had lived there all their lives. The weather is a problem and I have to admit if we get another summer like last I might well be heading to the airport.
We used to go abroad on holiday every year, some long haul trips too, but we’ve stayed in the UK for the last four or five years because there’s so much of it that we’ve yet to explore. I love visiting places on my own doorstep. I suppose I’m lucky that there’s so many good walks and places to go near where I live.
There are so many great places in this country. We haven’t spent much time in Scotland or north Wales. I love the Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales and I haven’t been to Whitby for years.
I liked your post. I tend to smile and nod when people describe how they “did” an exotic country in three weeks. Not my thing at al,l but everyone to their own.
I like the idea of wild garlic pesto and dislike people who hammer nails into trees.
Thank you! I’m not a great fan of flying and find airports a hideous experience now. I spent quite a bit of time flying one year, flights into double figures and it puts you off after a while. It can be so tiring. I did love Monty’s French gardens programme though so that is somewhere I’d love to visit soon.
I grew up well before the age of cheap flights and package holidays WW, when so called ‘staycations’ were quite the norm. My first holiday abroad was as a nine year old to my Mum’s home country of Italy. I still have vivid recollections of the journey there. I love travelling abroad but also appreciate time spent discovering spots nearer to home. Sounds as if you had a great weekend. ‘King Alfred’s Cake’ is a new one to me – looks spooky but fascinating 🙂 Hope that you enjoyed your foraged pesto.
Hi Anna, I was lucky to travel abroad as a child and it was fascinating. I find the whole hassle of airports and flying now so tiring. I love how we can be in Cornwall in 3 hours. I’d never heard or seen King Alfred’s cakes before either.
I don’t really care what the media says I should do. Many years ago we regularly travelled far away, to China and Australia, in recent years it’s been closer to home i.e. the UK, Scandinavia and France. To be honest, it has to some extent to do with me not being happy flying. Two years ago my husband gently nudged me into going to Botswana, and I have to say, it’s one of the best holidays ever – especially the bird life. Sometimes doing things, going places one has talked oneself into not being interested in really does broaden the mind. I totally understand if there are people who have no need to do these things, but if one has the inclination I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. Seeing stuff much closer to home can, on the other hand, also be extremely enriching, your walk sounds lovely.
I don’t like flying either. I spent quite a bit of time flying one year and I think it put me off. Seeking out unusual plant life might be one way to tempt me abroad again. I’ve heard Costa Rica is amazing. Escaping the British weather might be another. If we have a summer as wet as last year I might look at emigrating and not just going on holiday. 😉
Lovely post, made me think about about how lucky I am with my own surroundings!
Thanks Hannah. 🙂
Would’nt be too sure about trees not having feelings….
Hi, just discovered your blog and really enjoyed this post. I remember how important it seemed to travel to far flung places, because of curiosity about the world, peer pressure and desperation to get out of the city. I can’t afford travel these days, but now I live in Devon and I’m lucky to have loads of lovely places on my doorstep plus an allotment filled with wildlife. Now like you, I’m pretty content, to explore what’s on offer locally. It’s a free and constantly changing source of wonder.
Hi Lynne, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the post. I love Devon and have spent many a holiday there. There are some amazing places to visit abroad but sometimes the greatest pleasure can be found closer to home.
Hello, Just wanted to say thankyou for such an inspiring and lovely blog I have just spent a lunch break reading some of your posts. Back to the welcome sunshine and warmth in the garden now!
Diana Studer said:
(I’ve been to Cornwall, exploring my mother’s roots)
Each time we walk on our mountain, the season is different, the flowers are different, it is before just after or long after a mountain fire. Superficially similar, but in almost every detail different!
(not been to Antarctica, I worry about tourism damage – but I have seen wild penguins swimming free on the ocean)
Gurning fungi, I love it. I think there is a particular magic about getting to know somewhere really well so that you notice the small changes year on year. I also think we live on an island with an incredibly rich and varied landscape. I travelled a lot in past year s and am grateful for the experiences, but am happy to think that I may never use my passport again, content to relish learning my way around this small corner of rich and varied landscape. As to tree vandalism, that could make me almost violent, but mostly sad at the lack of awareness it demonstrates.
The gurning fungi do make me smile. I think we’re incredibly lucky to live on such an amazing island and there’s so much of it I have yet to see. Would love to take a year out and just camper van around. Maybe one day. 🙂