Yellow Crocus

Tuesday Photo Showcase #27
crocus-and-the-fly

 

I stepped outside my student house to hang up the washing yesterday and was met with this pleasant surprise. The garden has a splattering of Crocuses peering out of the grass, and in one a little hoverfly perched.

Last weeks Tuesday Showcase: Winding Path

Cross country skiing in the far North

The predominant winter colours of the far North are white and shades of grey. In winter it is a hard, silent land, but has its own unique and austere beauty.

skiing-sunset

We spent the last week of January cross country skiing in the North of Finland, just on the edge of the Arctic Circle.

The flight from Gatwick landed us at Kusamo airport, and then a short bus journey took us to Ruka where we rented a cabin for a week.

Every day was spent out skiing. We had learned the basics, but it took time to find our ski legs. The first day we found a frozen lake to practice our drills on. Then came snow ploughs and turns, which are difficult on the narrow racing skis and lead to plenty of falls.

I have a very good technique for getting up after a fall:

skil-fall-step-1

Once you are down you need to let go of the ski poles.

ski-fall-step-2

Then you lie on your back and grab your skis and roll.

ski-fall-step-3

Now it is easy to stand up from a kneeling position.

ski-fall-step-5

This is the most important ski information I can give you.

We did daily ski circuits of about 20km. At the beginning of the week the day time temperatures hovered around  -17c . It is interesting how the snow makes a different sound depending on the ambient temperature. At -17c the snow squeaked. Towards the end of the week the temperature warmed to -5c and the sound of the skis on the snow was a wetter sliding sound.

The trails took us across frozen lakes.

skiing-tree-sunset

And through woods. There were occasional rest stops and even warm cafes.

Or cold shelters with stacks of ready cut birch wood, which could have been very cosy with a fire. Next time I am going to take my big knife and some matches.

skiing-thermos

In the evenings we enjoyed a sauna, and a beer.

skiing-beer

And of course coffee made in the Finnish way.

skiing-coffee

Cross country skiing is very hard work, the best description is to compare the days to 20km runs on ice.  But how else can you experience this:

skiing-pose

Just don’t stray past these signs at night…

skiing-sign

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Tuesday Photo Showcase #26

Mountaing photo

One of my favourite photographs from the 2012 backpacking trip in the French Pyrenees. Later on in the day I bivouacked just under a glacier, at 2151m! I woke up to find ice on the insider of the bivvy bag.

Last weeks Tuesday Showcase: Black-veined White Butterfly

A little update from me:

You’ve probably noticed I’ve been pretty quiet recently, this is because I’ve started my dissertation and things are getting busy. The weather is horrible so I’m spending most of my time either at home studying, or at university chatting/studying. Not much exploring is going on, unless you count delving into academia. However, to make up for my absence you should see our first guest post soon!

Winding Path

Into the Mist

The last three days have been foggy in Bournemouth, many of us are starting to forget what the sun feels like. The first foggy day was spent revising, the second doing the exam, but today was for the first long ride of 2017!

The first bit of the ride was to Wimborne Minster. I was slowly going up a hill and saw a decrepit old graveyard sign a little too late and thought it would look good in the fog. I made a rapid swerve, had a fist shaken at me, and then found a scene better than expected. Not one, but two steeples.

misty-church-2The whole motivation for the ride was to see the Badbury Avenue of trees in the fog, I would never have left the house otherwise. Braving the cold for 2 and a half hours was worth the photo! Though my toes were frozen by the end.

badbury-avenueFor comparative purposes, here is the same avenue of trees from a similar ride mid-summer last year (from the opposite direction).

Bradbury Rings trees photo

badbury-and-bike

Badbury Avenue and the London Road

The remainder of the ride was making my way back home, the fog shrouded nearly everything and I was getting too tired to keep stopping. Not exercising all winter really does make a difference.

The Ride

into-the-mist-rideThat little loop in Wimborne Minster is taking a wrong turn, spending five minutes going up a hill and 20 seconds going down the other side.

 

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The Mystery of Star Jelly

If you have ever wandered across the moors, through fields or over woodland you have probably come across this mysterious substance. You may immediately have chosen not to think of where it came from, but ignore your imagination and read on…

star-jelly

You will be surprised to hear that it has baffled people for centuries.  Records date back to the 14th century of a mysterious jelly-like substance found after meteor showers, leading to the name ‘Star Jelly’, or ‘Astromyxin’. Throughout the 20th century more sightings of the jelly have been recorded and frequently after a meteor shower.

Even now, the origin of Star Jelly isn’t known for certain. The most common theory is that it is regurgitated frog spawn from frog eating predators. This is supported by the findings of the BBC who in 2015 sent a specimen to the National History Museum for DNA testing. The results showed it as primarily frog, but with a small amount of magpie. Suggesting that a magpie attacked a frog, and then regurgitated a portion of it.

Whatever the origin, be it regurgitated frog, meteor deposits or even the leavings of a pixie gang after a night out, it’s probably unwise to go and touch it. At least until a modern scientist manages to figure out a definite answer.

Further information on the mystery of Star Jelly can be found on Wikipedia and an interesting article by Legendary Dartmoor which I stumbled upon whilst trying to figure out whether the mystery was finally solved.

 

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Tuesday Photo Showcase #25

Boscastle Arch

Whilst I was home for Christmas in Cornwall we went for a walk along the coastline near Boscastle, and I was reminded that this beautiful location existed. It’s surprising how many people walk past without stopping to admire it. It’s called the ‘Ladies Window’ and definitely worth a visit.

Last weeks Tuesday Showcase: Crab Spider

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The Ladies Window

A Cycling Recap – 2016

I wanted to create this update before 2016 is too far gone in the rear-view mirror. It’s simply a recap of where I’ve cycled over the year. Cycling as a hobby started in February when I bought the London Road bike, and then I went out most weekends and occasionally after work. Admittedly, it tapered off towards the end of the year with starting university again and the cold weather. But I am still pleased with the amount I did.

In 2016, I cycled:

1911 miles – 3085km
365 hours – 376 rides (inc. commutes)

2016 cyclingAnd a Strava ‘My Year in Sport’ video

It’s doubtful that I will beat 3000km this year, there’s too much university work that needs doing. However, I do plan to explore towards Wareham a bit more as that area is looking a bit neglected.

My favourite photo from cycling has to be the oak tree somewhere near Braggars Lane in the New Forest. I always stop and have a quick rest before carrying on. It’s not the quietest spot in the world but it has a nice feel to it.

Favorite oak

The main rides:
Durdle Door Gran Fondo
Witchampton Ride
First New Forest Gran Fondo
The Turning Point
Bournemouth to Southampton
BUBUG Swanage
Blashford Lakes
Horton
Cycle Route 25
Hurst Castle
Isle of Portland Gran Fondo

Tuesday Photo Showcase #24

spider photo

Up to 10mm long, the Crab Spider lurks in brightly coloured flowers waiting for its prey. It pounces when they land close by, and traps them between crab-like front legs, the venomous bite quickly paralyses most large insects. On top of this, it possesses chameleon-like abilities and can change colour, though the process takes a few days.

Last weeks Tuesday Showcase: Leaping Dolphin

Crab Spider

New Year Resolutions

2017 has begun, and for most it is a time to consider New Years resolutions. I’ve never been any good at that, so instead I’m trying a different approach suggested by a cousin. Instead of resolutions I will be making New Year goals. The first couple are in relation to this website…

  • I want to grow the reader base, and the best way to do that is to start early. To that end I have created a Facebook page, please pop along and ‘like’ it here: Exploration Journal
  • Guest writers, I hope for a couple over the year.
  • Finish documenting my travels from the last few years, I have a couple of backpacking trips that still need posting.
  • I also want to keep up my cycling, it tapered off a bit towards the end of 2016 but as soon as the weather improves I plan to be out there again.
  • And of course I need to improve my artistic skills, so I will draw more digital art and attempt to experiment more with photography.

Now, onto more worrisome things…

  • I’m in my final year, so I have a number of university related goals. The most urgent of which is my dissertation, which will undoubtedly impact my other activities. I hope to keep a nice balance between the two though, it’s not healthy to slog away at just one thing for six months. This resolution can be simply summed up as ‘graduate’.
  • Then, I’m off on holiday for a few months, during which I plan to forage up plenty of interesting stories and live up to the ‘exploration’ name of the site.
  • And to top off the year, I’ll return and find a suitable job for an IT graduate.

It will be a year full of change for me, and though moving on is somewhat daunting I look forward to this next stage. In that theme of things, here is a mushroom just starting its life in a Cornish hedgerow.

new mushroom