30 Days Wild, June 2020: OX3

30 Days Wild is always a fun challenge - but this year it's felt like more of a challenge than usual.

June 2020

The LockDown rules mean that I (like everyone else) had to stay local for 30 Days Wild this year - so it meant that all 30 pictures were taken within three miles of the Oxford house - mostly at the local nature reserves or on the various lanes around Headington.

The other aspect of the challenge was the fact that this year I felt I'd been following the same routine for about 10 weeks (since the start of LockDown) before we got to the start of 30 Days Wild. 

Back in March when the working-at-home routine started I decided that the best way to ensure that I got a 'green fix' each day was to walk to one of the local green spaces - and I'd found that having my walk early in the day was the lowest stress way to get my exercise - and to take a daily picture.

But by early June, I'd 'done' all the local walks many times - and really was ready for some new walks.

The saving grace (if that's the right phrase) is the fact that the LockDown was happening through the spring and summer - so we've gone from bare trees and early blossom through the snow drops and bluebells and onto full trees and local orchids.  It has felt like an opportunity to spend extra time watching the spring unfold in Oxfordshire. 

The End / June 2020

Well that title does sound a bit dramatic. Or at least more dramatic than I might have intended.

However - today is the last day for three ‘projects’.

It’s the last day of 30 Days Wild

This has been a regular fixture in my photographic diary each June since 2015.  Each year the Wildlife Trusts encourage engagement in the wild things around us, and the sharing of things wild things online too.  In practical terms, it means that I try and ensure that my daily picture has a wild theme.  This year has been a bit strange (poetic understatement) in that all the pictures have been taken within three miles of the Oxford house.  This has meant limited scope this year for spotting whales or puffins, but still left me with lots of birds, insects and wild flowers from the garden or from the various local nature reserves.

It’s the last day of my #FromTheArchive Project

On first of July last year I set myself the target of posting a picture from my digital photo archive each day for a year, with the proviso that the picture had to have been taken on the corresponding day.  Sometimes that was a challenge, but on other days I was spoilt for choice - so yes, I have shared at least one picture from the archive each day for a year. 

At the start, I found I was giving priority to polar trips, then to other ‘exotic’ places then to images taken in Scotland.  More recently, during LockDown it’s felt more important to share Shetland pictures (as a reminder to myself that I will get back there eventually). 

Thank you to everyone who has shared or liked an image over the last 366 days, or generally just encouraged me to keep posting.

It’s the last day of my contract at Oxford Brookes

Today is also the last day of my contract at Oxford Brookes University.  It’s been an interesting couple of years albeit a slightly surreal last four months.  And I certainly know more about Enterprise Data Warehouses and Workload Planning Systems than I did two years ago.

It’s a bit ironic that one of the attractions of the OBU role was that it meant my commute was a 15 minute stroll from home, rather than an hour (or more) on the M40 or A421 - and that I finished the contract by working from home.

What’s Next?

I had lots of the plans for the next few months - most of which involved travelling. 

Covid-19 has scrubbed quite a lot of them, but there is something to be said for a diary with lots of clear space.  There will certainly be more pictures - hopefully from the coastline at the south end of Shetland.

Ultimate Friday / 26th June 2020

Funny word, ultimate.

Everyone seems to understand that penultimate means the ‘one before last’, but ultimate does have a variety of common usages.  It is often used to mean ‘the best’, but here I’m mostly using it to mean ‘the last’.

Back in November, I reduced my working week to four days, and said that I would log (or blog) what I did each Friday when I was planning to spend time outside, travelling, photographing, reading - and generally not being at my desk.  

For the first few months that all went well - I spent time on Shetland, in Austria, walking the Thames path, buying new cameras, buying new maps.  Then came Covid-19, and the Great LockDown of 2020 - which has rather restricted the travelling options but I have still generally managed to be away from the desk most Fridays.

I’ve attempted, recently, to use my Fridays to have a rather longer - but still local - walk than on other days - and to explore some of the ‘green spaces’ close to home that I’ve managed to previously neglect.

Today is the last Friday of my contract at Oxford Brookes University, so it seems like a good point to draw a line under the Friday blog routine - this is (I think) Friday Blog #35.

So what have I done with my ultimate Friday?

I’ve explored Brasenose Wood, I’ve made soup, I’ve eaten said soup, I’ve had a snooze in the shady corner at the end of the garden.  

And I’ve composed this blog post - sitting at the table at the end of garden.

Brasenose Wood

Posting in the Shade (yes, the grass probably does need cut)

Perhaps the ultimate Friday would have included a wander on Scat Ness - or a walk up to the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head - on Shetland, or a hike up a snow-filled Alpine valley.  

So, not the ultimate Friday.  But a pretty good Friday..

Blog will continue, but there won’t be a post every Friday. Probably.

Walking Friday / 19th June 2020

In the time of LockDown there are somethings that are the same each day (this being Day 96 in my LockDown) and some things that still, just about, manage to stick to a weekly pattern.

Pretty much every working day over the last three months I've managed to be up early enough to get a walk before facing up to the work inbox.  On Fridays, although I usually get up at around the same time, breakfast is a more leisurely affair and there is space for a rather longer walk.  A longer walk being a relative term since I'm still sticking to #StayLocal guidelines.

In my recent search for green spaces within walking distance I was reminded about "Green Lane" - at least I assume it's called Green Lane, since the house at the end of the lane is described on some maps as Green Lane Lodge.

One of my favourite local pictures of last year was taken on Green Lane between Christmas and New Year (it wasn't green at the time) - so it seemed like high time for a revisit.

At this time of year the lane is both greener and quieter.

And on the theme of longer walks, I thought I should tally up my walking mileage for the year so far.

Back at the turn of the year (about the time the winter Green Lane photo was taken) I set a few goals for the year.

I said I would try and take 366 pictures of the day (I'm still on track for that) and 12 pictures of the month (yep, still on target).

I said I'd try and fit in four blood donations (failing badly on this one).

I said I'd try and spend more time on Shetland - not doing at all well on that one either, going to need to spend a lot of time up north in the second half of the year.

And walking.  Aspiration was to log 2000 miles.  As of today, I've logged just over 750 miles, I'm going to need up the average quite a lot to reach the target - it would good to do some of these on Shetland!

Calm Friday / 12th June 2020

After last weeks rant the ambition was, and still is, to achieve something closer to calm for the Friday Blog this week - or at least as close to calm as the current state of the nation allows.

A good step towards calm for me is avoid the mainstream media (relatively easily done) and to not venture onto social media (significantly harder).

However, the real key (for me) is spending time outside - ideally wandering along the Shetland coastline in the company of orca, puffins, arctic terns, razorbills, guillemots, black guillemots, kittiwakes, gannets, shags, bonxies and otters. 

Puffin at Sumburgh Head (12th June 2018)

Scat Ness (12th June 2018)

In the current circumstances (this being Day 89 - in my diary - of LockDown) the best I can do is search for some local (OX3) green space.  The Ordnance Survey now offer a splendid online service that enables you to search for green space (ranging from parks, recreation grounds and golf courses, through to country parks and nature reserves).  

Over the last three months I've spent time at several local green spaces, but I was keen (for Day 89) to find a new green space.  

Step forward Magdalen Wood.  

This was once (until the 1950s) part of a much bigger historic Royal woodland running up into Shotover Country Park.  In the late 50s the Oxford Eastern Bypass was completed slicing the woodland in two - the bit inside the ring road is now referred to as Magdalen Wood West.

Deep in the Wood (12th June 2020)

Woodland Tracks (12th June 2020)

Old Wood (12th June 2020)

My wander may not have offered the coastal delights of Shetland - but it did provide lots of bird song, some muntjac deer, a green woodpecker - and a dragon.

Magdalen Wood Dragon (12th June 2020)

Raging Friday / 5th June 2020

I'll be the first to acknowledge that I've had an 'easy' LockDown.

I've got out for a walk into a local green space almost everyday.  I've got to spend work time at a comfortable well-connected home desk, and I've had a decent-sized garden to retreat to between Zoom meetings and the weather has been good.  I've had good company too.

Home Office

Out in the Garden

Aside from a few supply panics back in March, we've been able to get a lot of food and other essentials within walking distance - and we've kept a small fleet of delivery vehicles (and local businesses) busy delivering other stuff to the house.

But - and maybe there's always a but - the LockDown has got to me this week.

It's not the undoubted, and on-going, governmental incompetence and deceitfulness.  It's not really any uncertainty about what happens to me next.

I have been worried for a while about how various friends will come out of this - some have health issues which are sure to be made worse, others have been furloughed (and aren't clear when or if their jobs will come back), others have already had contracts ended or have been made redundant. This worry is there all the time, but isn't new.

What has got to me this week - and I think it's the unexpectedness of it - was a news update from BBOWT - my local wildlife trust.  Go and read the news update.

I had naively assumed that folks during LockDown were spending most of their time in or around their homes - and when they did briefly go out they were appreciating (and valuing) their time outside.   I had also, very naively, thought that the LockDown might give the local nature reserves the chance of a relatively undisturbed few months.  I had this idea that if folks stayed away the flora and fauna would have a chance to do their own thing.

C S Lewis Nature Reserve- some litter and broken trees (but I suspect someone has been collecting litter too, thank you)

But no - it seems like, for some people at least, the LockDown has been an opportunity to cut down trees, rip up fences, destroy nesting sites and shit in the woods.  What is wrong with people? I really did think that people were better than that.

Is this a generic lack of awareness about what they are doing or is it just a belief that if there isn't someone to police what they're doing they can just do anything they like?

I'd like to think that the offenders lie awake at night regretting what they've been doing, but I'm pretty sure they aren't giving it a second thought.  I, however, am lying awake at night worrying about what can be done to mend the damage that has been done and how to educate people to recognise their responsibilities.  Surely we don't need to extend the surveillance culture to include cameras on every nature reserve?

Do people really need to be told what they should and shouldn't be doing - or is this just part of the 'getting away with it culture'.  Locally, there are many examples of trashing the landscape around nature reserves or of fly-tipping just because there's no one watching.  Further afield there are stories every weekend of beaches and national parks being covered with litter (and worse) - all at a time when responsible people are staying local.  It goes further up the 'food chain' - there are reports of raptors being trapped and poisoned on grouse moors on the assumption - or hope - that no one is watching.  Local councils apparently relishing the opportunity to mow down wild flower meadows. HS2 are reportedly merrily trashing ancient woodlands across central England - there can be no justification of the work being 'essential' - simply because they can do it without witnesses. And our politicians are trying to get away with it too - the seemingly irresistible urge to 'sneak' out new legislation when most people just aren't watching.

Rant almost over.

There is a sign in a local house window near where I live "The Recovery Must Be Green".   There is rhetoric about needing "A New Normal".   We will probably never have a better opportunity to look at how we start to do things in a more sustainable way.  My biggest fear is that the corporate lobbying will result in a New Normal, but that new normal won't be about a new more sustainable way - it'll just be part of a process to try and ensure that a few people will Get Richer Quick.

OK - rant over now.  Will try and return to a more measured tone of voice next Friday.

Seeking Calm in Mesopotamia

Lye Valley Orchids