These are Better Days….. Maybe.

Spring has been slow to arrive this year here in North Cornwall. Its early May and by midday the temperature is only just nudging 8º Celsius, that’s a chilly 46º Fahrenheit. True it’s been occasionally sunny but often with a cool North wind.

I’m not complaining though; life is beginning to take on some sort of normality. The U.K.’s Covod Vaccine programme is progressing well and infection cases are falling dramatically. Lockdown measures are easing and at the moment things have an optimistic feel.

Maybe, just maybe we are moving into better days and as if proof is needed I recently took each of my two beloved Harley Davidson motorcycles out for a short ride to get some local shopping.

To be honest, it seemed a bit weird to be back on the road with a large Vee twin engine rumbling away underneath me. Weird, but in a very nice way.

On each ride I wanted to stop and take some photos of my machines, yet at the same time I didn’t want the moment to be interrupted by messing around with a camera…so I just carried on riding and soaking up the experience.

I took it steady, it had been some time since I had ridden any motorcycles, best to ease in gradually and let the road come back to me. There wasn’t any rush to get the ride over and living in such a lovely part of the world there was plenty to enjoy…trust me I was really enjoying these rides!

I did about 50 miles in total on each bike, on two separate days, and I was mentally worn out in a nice refreshed way. Motorcycles really do move the soul!

Despite thoroughly pre-ride checking each bike, on my return home I needed to make small adjustments and tighten up a few things on each of them; nothing major, just getting them back how I like them.

It felt good to be motorcycling again….and just to celebrate I smashed out a 28 miler on the man-powered bike afterwards!

Now all we need is for the weather to get warmer and say a prayer for the pandemic to recede all around the world!

“These are better days baby 
Yeah there’s better days shining through” 

Catch you soon,

Dookes

A Little Green Cross

It occurred to me that recently I have been singularly bad at posting anything on this blog.

In a way that isn’t very surprising, after all this originally started out as a motorcycle based platform with some other thoughts and interesting stuff thrown in on the side.

With everything that has been going on in the world over the past year, you’ll excuse me if motorcycling has been quite a long way from my mind.

A quick look at my logbooks shows that since January 2020 my two lovely Harley Davidson motorcycles have done just 378 and 513 miles respectively…

Harls

The only plus side is that they both are sitting in the Dookes H.Q. workshop looking extremely clean and shiny!

Hettie

With the terrible global pandemic it just doesn’t seem right to go motorcycling. Pleasure rides are certainly a no go and even though I am a volunteer rider for medication deliveries, it’s just too risky to use the bikes…Our hospitals have enough sick people, without having to deal with some motorcyclist who has had an “off!”

Looking around for something to lift my spirits I found that today is Imbolc.

Imbolc in the traditional Celtic calendar marks the beginning of Spring and a celebration of new life with the Earth waking from the depths of winter. It’s the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Equinox. It’s also the time to start your Spring-cleaning!

In the ways of all good Celtic/Pagan festivals it spreads over two days and is very conveniently encompassed in the Christian Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ, which lands on February 2nd.

Imbolc traditionally honours the Pagan Goddess of fertility, Brigid, who was also intertwined in the Christian Church as St Bridget. 

February 1st is also St Bridget’s day.

Over the Centuries Imbolc has been celebrated in many different ways. Altars were set in homes and adorned with the earliest flowers and breaking buds of the season.

In Ireland, Brigid Crosses were traditionally made. These are formed from reeds, woven into a four armed equilateral cross and hung from doorways and windows too welcome Brigid and for protection from fire, evil spirits and illness. The crosses are generally left until the next Imbolc.

There are various thoughts about the origin of these crosses, but consensus seems to be that they pre-date Christianity, even though they have been widely adopted by Christians in Ireland.

With the current state of the world and in need of a little cheer I sat down today and made my own Brigid Cross for Dookes H.Q..

My Brigid Cross, not bad for a first attempt!!

I’m hoping some of the old ways and protection rub off with this little symbol.

Now all I have to do is hang it over a door and let Brigid do her stuff for the coming year! 

Happy Imbolc!

Catch you soon, stay safe!

Dookes

PS …Brigid, can I ride my motorbikes soon please?

Winter Solstice – Looking For Brighter Days Ahead

Today, is the Winter Solstice, and probably my favourite day of the year; yes that includes Birthdays, Anniversaries and Christmas!

Living in the Northern Hemisphere it marks the turn of the seasons when the days begin to grow longer and the warmth of Summer is beginning its long return journey, true it’s also the real beginning of Winter, but hey you can’t have everything and thats only for a few months!

I spare a thought for my friends South of the Equator for whom the opposite is true, your days will now start to shorten towards Autumn.

In this craziest of crazy years it does occur to me that we, the human race, have drifted away from that fundamental link and understanding of nature. One could argue that we actively turned our back on the natural world to our great peril and it is now biting back. The World’s climate is changing and now the globe is under the grip of a pandemic that appears to be mutating and growing in ferocity.

Is our planet telling us something?

Perhaps it is saying “There’s too many of you, this cannot go on!”

In response to the pandemic the UK Government has just introduced restrictions on the number of people who can meet and socialise over the Christmas period.

Unsurprisingly, there has been a great outpouring of angst. I do wonder though exactly what these people will be celebrating, current surveys show that only a tad over 50% of UK citizens identify as ‘Christian” and staggeringly only around 10% attend church! I suspect the principle “God” figures are a turkey, alcohol and something called “Me, me, me”!

As I age, for me the relevance of the Solstice turning point has grown stronger. I understand the thoughts of ancient people who venerated the turning seasons, the Celestial calendar and more importantly the natural world which gave them everything they needed. Come to think of it the natural world still does, it’s just that we as a human race seem to have ignored it for too long.

In Pagan tradition it was customary to place holly leaves and branches in and around dwellings during winter. It was believed that the good spirits who inhabited forests could come into their homes and use the holly as shelter against the cold; whilst at the same time malevolent forces and spells would be repelled.

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It’s interesting to reflect that the origins of many common Christmas decorations such as the Yule Log and Wreath trace back to pre-Christian times.

Wreaths are traditionally made from evergreen symbolising strength and endurance as the evergreen lasts throughout even the hardest winter. The ring is also immortal, never-ending or beginning. I am pleased to report that, as is tradition, Dookes H.Q. is currently displaying a splendid Wreath made by Mrs Dookes.

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Familiar decorations of green, red and white cast back to the Wiccan traditions and the Druids. The old Pagan Mid-Winter Festival of Yule also included feasting and gift giving, doesn’t it all sound very familiar?

When I was younger we always did the usual Christmas decoration stuff, including a highly non-authentic plastic and metal artificial tree! My late father did little to dress the tree, but had his own take on the whole decoration thing that he insisted on doing himself; every year he would garland the house with boughs of green holly and evergreen, it was only then that I truly used to feel that things were being done properly. I suspect that my Celtic blood has a lot to do with this and I still carry on that tradition today in Dookes H.Q., I adore the house smelling of pine and other evergreens!

It won’t be long before I have to pop outside into the rain to grab Holly and Evergreen to decorate Dookes H.Q.!

Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, The Solstice, Dongzhi, Yalda, Saturnalia, Malkh, any other festival that I may have missed, or just looking forward to having a restful holiday, have a truly wonderful time and maybe spare a thought, or penny, for those less fortunate.

Lets hope that there are brighter days ahead and that we will all get to ride together again in 2021 with Harls, Hetty and I for more two-wheeled adventure and opinion!

“Praise be to the distant sister sun,
joyful as the silver planets run.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.”

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Long Nights, Short Days

It strikes me that just about the one thing that is “normal” about this crazy world just at the moment is the seasons.

I’m very glad about that.

To me one of life’s simple and indeed greatest pleasures is watching the seasons change. Not that I sit wishing my life to run away like grains of sand in an egg timer, no it’s just the way each season ticks over bringing fresh, yet reassuringly constant, vistas, smells and colours.

I’ve said before that the Autumn and Winter are probably my favourite times of year, which is probably linked to me being born in deepest Autumn. OK I could do without so much rain and wind, but a starkly freezing day with gin clear skies and iron hard ground takes some beating!

Then there’s that low lazy sun that can hardly be bothered to climb much above the horizon, the long shadows that it casts and the gaunt starkly bare leafless trees. I love to watch the last light of day disappear on the Western sky and the stars appear through those naked branches.
It’s all magical stuff to me.

Living in Cornwall, and sticking out into the North East Atlantic, we are never far from the influence of the sea. Dookes H.Q. is now only five miles from the coast and when there is a big storm blowing you can taste the salt in the air.

The sea, it is often said, defines Cornwall and standing near the shore facing a force nine gale, it’s hard to argue with that!.

Catch you soon,
Dookes

Better Days

The Great Weather Clerk must have been reading my post last week; minor grumbles about the damp, grey misty days were answered with bright blue skies, sunshine and crisp dry air. Oh yes, I almost forgot, freezing temperatures as well.

…and that suits me just fine.

You see I had a few “errands to run,” as my dear late Grandmother was want to say and what better spirit lifting way to do it than on two wheels of course!

First up I needed to take my laptop into the Apple Store for a memory upgrade. I really love my Mac computer, but one thing that bugs me about Apple is the way they bombard users with operating system upgrades. Yeah I know that this includes security improvements, allegedly, but each upgrade inevitably makes the computer run a little bit slower until, eventually, the thing becomes a dithering, if somewhat expensive desk lamp! There are two Apple stores near Dookes H.Q., one in Plymouth, 25 miles, and one in Truro, 45 miles away. Better go to Truro then and take the longer route too!

Truro is the County town of Cornwall, actually it’s a city, though quite small as cities go, with a population of only 18,750 people. It’s also the only city in Cornwall. Until politicians started handing out “city” status to all comers, a City in the UK could only lay claim to the title if it had a Cathedral and Truro has a gem.

The Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or just Truro Cathedral to most people, was built between 1880 and 1910 in the Gothic Revival style. It’s also one of only two Cathedrals in England to possess three spires; the other being Litchfield in Staffordshire. Nestling amongst a rabbit warren of narrow streets it’s quite difficult to get a decent photograph of this delightful building, but the West facade shows itself nicely! image Annoyingly the Christmas lights were being taken down so hence the “cherry picker,” but I don’t think that it spoils the view too much.

Just around the corner from the Cathedral is Coinage Hall Street, still covered in wonderful granite setts, which are a bit tricky on a motorbike especially in the wet, but look lovely!image The Coinage Hall at the end of the square was built as the Cornish Bank in 1848 on the site of the old Coinage Hall where twice yearly tin was brought to be assayed and taxed.

I really like Truro and one day I’ll do a proper post about the city when the sun is a bit higher in the sky, but for now I hope that this little taster will whet your appetite.

As is usual when I have time on my hands I took the even longer way home, after all better days like this are to be savoured and enjoyed. Once back at Dookes H.Q. I even had time to walk the dogs and take in some more of the lovely county in which we live.

Blue sky, crisp clean air and right on my doorstep!

Blue sky, crisp clean air and right on my doorstep!

“These are better days
Better days are shining through”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Blue Monday

Hello everyone!

First up, please accept my apologies for being a tad tardy in making posts over the last few weeks. Mostly my excuse is that I haven’t had much to say, so rather than blithering complete nonsense, as opposed to mostly nonsense I thought it best to shut up!

Life in Dookes World is pretty OK, I’ve been out and about on the bikes quite a bit though only relatively local trips. I am, however, getting totally fed up with the constant need to wash the bikes after each ride… go out on a blue Harley and return on a brown one, such is the level of c**p on our local roads at the moment! – No, don’t worry I’m not publishing a photo of a dirty motorbike!

Which leads me to the title of this post.

Apparently, the third Monday of January, (that’s today!), has been given the name “Blue Monday” and has been identified as the most depressing day of the year for countries in the Northern Hemisphere! There are even statistical equations that purport to back up the claim, though as two completely different versions of the equation exist I doubt that my old Mathematics Professor would be very impressed!

Now quite what this pseudoscience nonsense is all based on I’m not sure…though I’m inclined to suspect that travel companies eager to make bookings in the post-Christmas period have a lot to do with it!

Looking out of the window here at Dookes H.Q. today it’s dark, misty, damp and dreary, the forecast says its going to be this way for about a week… so maybe there is something in it after all!

All is not lost though.

We have been experiencing a very mild winter so far with temperatures around ten degrees celsius above average, it’s certainly saving on heating costs!

Best of all, a wander around the grounds here at H.Q. reveals that Spring is racing its way towards us. There are shoots of all my favourite Spring flowers pushing up from the ground through the last fallen leaves of Autumn. Stars of the show so far are a couple of delightful Primroses that certainly have arrived first!

Primrose, Primula vulgaris. Excuse the poor quality, blame the rain and the light!

Primrose, Primula vulgaris.
Excuse the poor quality, blame the rain and the light!

Now with that little glimpse of Spring I’m of to plan some road trips!

Blue Monday? Nah, not really!

“Monday morning you look so fine,
Friday I got travellin’ on my mind.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

La better kind of blue!

My kind of blue!

Jack Frost

I love crystal clear frost kissed days. Those mornings when the blue sky really does stretch to infinity and the sub-zero air burns your lungs as you drink in the purity of it all. If you need it, you get reminded of the pure joy of being alive!
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Our small corner of the world, poking out into the Gulf Stream warmed waters of the Atlantic Ocean, doesn’t get an awful lot of frosty days. Dookes H.Q. stands nearly 1000 feet above sea level and as a result we sometimes sneak an odd frosty morning while the rest of Cornwall basks in a sub-tropical bubble. More often, especially if there’s a South-Westerly wind, we just get mild rain!

We’ve had a couple of those crisp mornings over the last week and as usual I had a camera with me, so I hope you’ll excuse me a bit of self-indulgence and maybe enjoy some of the results; just click on an image to get the bigger picture.

“Countless drawings, endless sketches
On my window pane.
Master craftsman, skilled engraver,
Jack Frost is his name.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Stonehenge

It probably seems that I just ride a pair of big American built motorbikes and yes, in some ways that’s true, but…in reality…I also ride two time machines!

Many countries around the world have ancient monuments, sites of great historic interest and significance. On my travels I like to look in on some of these places, but it’s strange it’s always the ones closest to home that you overlook or put off to “some other day.”

On a gin clear late autumn morning last week, I fired up Baby Blue’s engine, turned East from Dookes H.Q., rode 150 miles on the road and back 5000 years in time.

Our destination: Stonehenge.
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One of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments, Stonehenge has been acknowledged by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site of International importance. Archeological research suggests that it was built in several stages: the first monument was an early henge monument, consisting of banks and ditches started about 5,000BC. That’s 2500 years before the Great Pyramid in Egypt! The impressive stone circle that is the quintessential image of Stonehenge was erected in the late Neolithic period about 2500 BC. Many burial mounds were built nearby in the late Bronze Age, around 800BC, and dot the landscape around the monument to the present day.

Round Barrow Burial Mounds near Stonehenge

Round Barrow Burial Mounds near Stonehenge

Stonehenge lies on Salisbury Plain, a chalk plateau in Central Southern England that covers over 300 square miles and is renowned for its rich archeological heritage. Even today it is sparsely populated, a combination of its worth as agricultural land and also use by the military for training purposes. As an aside my Grandfather Charles spent much of his early Army service with the Royal Horse Artillery training on the Plain, before heading off to the horrors of the Western Front in 1915. The Plain is also a special place for wildlife, with two national nature reserves, many rare plants and a haven for wild mammals and birds.image

Now let me be clear, I’m no archeologist, but I do have a massive interest in all things ancient. The reason I am saying this dear reader, is because there are many more detailed explanations that have been written about Stonehenge by far more qualified folk than I! So what follows is my take on the place…if you want more detailed stuff, well it’s out there in all different forms.

A fantastic new visitor centre was built in 2014 and stands about a mile and a half from the stones, where a superb exhibition tells the story of the monument through displays of excavated artefacts, photographs and diagrams. I thought it was very well done.

An example of a burial from 4500 years ago.

An example of a burial from 4500 years ago.

You can park at the visitor centre and catch frequent shuttle buses to the monument or enjoy the walk across the Plain, taking in some of the other surrounding archeology and delightful woodland as I did. Actually after 150 miles of riding I was ready to stretch my legs!image

I first visited the stones as a young lad, many years ago. In those days the public were free to wander amongst the stones and touch them as you tried to make sense of it all. Unfortunately, people then started to chip lumps off as souvenirs and the increased footfall of ever more visitors began to erode the delicate archeology. Since 1977 visitors are no longer able to touch the stones, but are allowed to walk around the monument and through the henge ditch, however on the two Solstice days plus the spring and autumn equinox access is briefly permitted.image

Exactly what function Stonehenge had in ancient times remains a mystery, indeed it may have had several uses. Hypotheses range from ancestor worship, celestial calendar, a place of healing or simply a place of the dead, a funerary monument if you like. The modern thinking on the reason for Stonehenge is that it was first built as a place of burial. Cremated remains of 63 individuals were excavated in 2013 and carbon dated to around 3000BC, it appears that at this time the standing stones that we know today were beginning to be erected and this is where things start to get very interesting.
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There are two types of stone found in the monument; Bluestones and Sarsens.

The first to appear were 80 Bluestones, of which only 43 remain today. These monoliths are about two metres high, about one metre wide and 0.8 metre thick, each one weighs about two tons. Now the really fascinating thing is that this type of stone, a variety of igneous dolerite, is only found 150 miles away in the Preseli Hills of South Wales…So how to goodness did they get to Stonehenge?

About 2000 years after the Bluestones were erected, the ring of 30 Saracens with their lintels resting on top made their appearance. Now these fellas really put things into ever greater perspective! Each stone is around 4.1 metres high, 2.1 metres wide and 1.8 metres deep, oh yes and they weigh about 25 tons!

Part of the Sarsen ring.

Part of the Sarsen ring.

Inside the Sarsen ring stood five trilithons, two large sarsens with a third one set across the top, in a horse shoe shape. imagePutting the all the other stones to shame, these behemoths weigh up to 50 tons each, the largest stood 7.3 metres tall with another 2.4 metres buried in the ground. These stones appear to have been transported from a quarry that was 25 miles to the North of Stonehenge…even so, just consider moving and erecting one of these mammoths with nothing other than manpower!

The whole site and specifically the trilithons and heel stone, which lies outside the main circle, are aligned to the position of the sun on the solstice.

The Heel Stone, on the Midsummer Solstice the sun rises over this point.

The Heel Stone, on the Midsummer Solstice the sun rises over this point.

On the winter solstice the sun sets over the alignment and in the summer the sun rises in line with the stones.
Looking along the Midwinter Solstice line from the Heel Stone.

Looking along the Midwinter Solstice line from the Heel Stone.

I spent a couple of hours wandering around looking at the monument, taking photographs, reading the various interpretation panels, listening to the free audio guide and generally really enjoying myself getting to know the place again. image

I took the shuttle bus back to the visitor centre and enjoyed a very pleasant lunch in the café/restaurant, after a quick look around the impressive souvenir shop.

Soon it was time to head back West towards home. I pointed “Baby” into the setting sun, we hit the road and basked in the freedom that only two wheels can give!

West, into the setting sun.

West, into the setting sun.

The air was certainly beginning to turn cool by the time we got back to Cornwall, but heated gloves, jacket and handlebar grips kept me snug over the miles.

What a simply brilliant day we had!

I’ve got to admit that as I rode back, I couldn’t help but keep thinking of the hilarious lyrics of Spinal Tap…

“No one knows who they were or what they were doing,
but their legacy remains
hewn in the living rock…of Stonehenge”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Admission to the monument, including free shuttle bus and the visitor centre exhibition costs £15.50 for adults and £9.30 for children, with a family ticket (2 adults and up to 3 children) £40.30. Best value is to buy English Heritage Annual Membership for a family (2 adults and up to 12 children) £92.50 or £52 for an individual adult. Concessions also available. This gives you unlimited access to over 400 historic places for a whole year. For Overseas Visitors EH offer passes that are valid for either 9 or 16 days. Family Overseas Visitors Pass (2 adults and up to 4 children) costs are £57 or £66 respectively. So you don’t need to visit many places before you start saving money and you can keep going back as often as you like!

Equalising the Equinox

There are some days when you just have to get out there and celebrate the sheer joy of life and if you can share that with one of your dearest mates then so much the better.

If that mate is battling cancer…

Well, it’s sort of inspiring and at the same time frankly humbling.

The Autumn Equinox, 22nd September this year, dawned bright and sunny.

I had arranged to meet G in the historic city of Exeter, about 50 miles from Dookes H.Q., just enough miles to warm up both man and machine. At our rendezvous G was on good form and after fueling both riders and machines we set out Eastwards along the beautiful South Devon coast. p1070794

We trundled along in glorious early autumn sunshine; OK I’ll be honest, I trundled along whilst G flicked his Yamaha Super Tenere effortlessly through the corners. These days, knowing what he has been going through, it always makes me smile when G does that with a motorbike; you see I know that underneath his crash helmet will be a big grin and that makes me happy too!

The beautiful County of Devon soon gave way to its equally lovely neighbour, Dorset and the famous world Heritage Site of the “Jurassic Coast.” The area cuts across nearly 190 million years of geological history, covering the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Fossilised remains found in its rocks testify to the land having changed over the millennia from tropical seas to desert and marshland. The region is a magnet to fossil hunters from around the world whilst the mellow yellow rock is very easy on the eye and the gentle hills a delight to a motorcyclist. There are many interesting features along the coastal landscape with the natural arch of Durdle Door being probably the most famous.

Durdle Door -  Photo by Saffron Blaze

Durdle Door – Photo by Saffron Blaze

Between Abbotsbury and Portland the impressive shingle bank of Chesil Beach extends for 18 miles (29Km). The beach is 200 metres wide and 15 metres high and shelters a broad lagoon known as The Fleet. It is fascinating that the size of the shingle pebbles on the beach varies from West to East; they range from pea size at West Bay to around the size of an orange near Portland.

Chesil Bank

Chesil Beach

We paused high above Chesil, partly for a breather, but also to take in the stunning view and enjoy the gentle sea breeze. When a Westerly gale is blowing here the place changes out of all recognition and takes on a ferocious face as the many shipwrecks that litter the seabed here bear witness.

From Chesil we turned inland and skirted the county town of Dorchester before heading north onto the chalk downlands. At Cerne Abbas it was time for another stop, we needed to discuss the important matter of lunch, but also to grab a cheeky view of the famous Cerne Abbas Giant, a massive fella, (in more ways than one!), carved in the chalk hillside.p1070814

This old chap is a bit of a mystery. Some people believe he is a Celtic fertility symbol and dates from around 10 AD, others say that he is Roman and represents Hercules, whilst a third school of thought is that he dates from the 17th century and is a caricature of Oliver Cromwell. My shot of him shows that he needs a bit of re-chalking so thanks to Pete Harlow for the use of his aerial picture.

Carne Abbas Giant - Aerial shot by Pete Harlow

Carne Abbas Giant – Aerial shot by Pete Harlow

We decided on lunch in Sherborne, a short ride from the Giant and after a gentle stroll around the old castle settled down to a relaxing meal. p1070818

Sherborne Old Castle was built in the 12th century as the fortified palace of the Bishop of Salisbury; it seems a tad strange for a Bishop to live in a castle! p1070824Later the castle was home to Sir Walter Raleigh and following its siege during the English Civil War was left in ruins by General Fairfax of the Parliamentary Army in 1645.p1070848

Today Sir Walter is said to return to his castle each St Michael’s Eve, 29th September, to roam the grounds and check up on his beloved former home. I don’t blame him, it’s a lovely place.

Refueled by our lunch we turned East and soon were crossing the Somerset Levels. This region of around 160,000 acres is an ancient coastal plain and wetland area of tremendously important habitat and biodiversity of international importance, plus rich agricultural land. It has been inhabited since at least 4000BC.
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The levels mostly lie only about 20 feet above mean sea level, but in some places only manage 10-12 feet. With peak spring tides of around 25 feet you can see the area is frequently in trouble from flooding. Drainage and land reclamation has been going on here since the 12th century, but every now and then nature shows who is still really in charge!

I like to think of the levels as our local equivalent of “Big Sky” country, it certainly is a pretty special place.

Burrow Mump is a hill and historic site that lies towards the Western levels. Our road passed the base of the hill and I couldn’t resist squeezing off a quick moody shot looking towards the ruined church on top of the hill.p1070857

Our route to deliver G back home swept over the lovely Blackdown Hills at Whiteball where on sweeping roads we crossed back into Devon. We parted just by G’s house, set in rolling rural loveliness between the Rivers Exe and Creedy.

My friend looked a tad tired as I rode off, tired but happy. I still had another 50 miles to ride, 50 more glorious twisty miles to enjoy my lovely big blue Harley and reflect on special times shared with special friends.

The equinox had been equalised, everything was balanced up nicely.

“It’s easy watchin’ seasons go
As sunshine turns to new-born snow.”

Catch you soon.

Dookes

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Family Friends

Families can be strange.

Friends, it has been said, are the family that you choose for yourself.

Families can be strange.

There are tracts of my family, both near and distant, that I never see and in many ways I’m quite pleased for it to be that way. On the other hand, there are family who are emotionally close though frequently geographical miles keep us far apart. Mrs Dookes and I are lucky to have a wonderful collection of nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews who fall into that latter category. The one thing we really treasure is that some of them choose to keep in touch and show that they care about us; sometimes it’s a phone call, maybe a text message or something via social media, but best of all is when they drop in to see us or arrange to meet up. They do it because they want to and because they want to know us for who we are, not who others tell them that we are and that’s pretty special.

Take for example our nephew Chris.

Now, it’s fair to say that in many ways Chris has had it fairly rough in life, with a range of medical issues and with what some White-Coat once labelled him “learning difficulties.” I prefer to say that Chris just processes things in a different way to the rest of us, but because of this he can be restricted in what he is allowed to do. These days he works as a car and motorcycle mechanic, has his own chalet in the grounds of his parents home and generally rubs along ok in his own routine. For a number of years he has been taking part in motorcycle trials and has built two of his own bikes to use (and win trophies) in competitions, so much for “learning difficulties!”

Chris on his way to winning another trophy!

Chris on his way to winning another trophy!

Because of his success with the trials bikes, the Driving Standards Authority have given Chris special permission to hold a provisional licence that allows him to ride motorcycles of up to 125cc on public roads, obviously he has had to pass the Compulsory Basic Training test as well. Riding with him, I have been able to see that he is a safe and careful rider with good bike handling skills.

I’ve been promising him for a long time that we would go for a nice long ride together, but for various reasons it hasn’t happened which has made me feel pretty bad. Fortunately, Chris doesn’t really bother too much about such things; he doesn’t worry about the level in the glass, because he’ll just get you to buy him another drink anyway!

Which leads me to today, when I finally got to rectify the situation and go for a ride with him.

Chris lives about fifty miles West of us, not far from Redruth in deepest Cornish Cornwall, the heartland of the old Tin mining region and one of the cradles of the industrial revolution. In the landscape here today frequent reminders of that industrial past are often to be seen, most notable being the monumental stone engine houses.

This morning was a bit dull and certainly cool, a gentle reminder that Autumn is progressing and what a good idea heated jackets and gloves are! On board my big Harley I was quite snug behind the faring as we munched the miles West to meet up with my nephew. His 125cc machine was parked on the drive all ready to go when I arrived and he fussed around with last-minute checks. Chris didn’t offer a cup of tea, he’s not that kind of chap and he reasons that if he doesn’t want one, why should anyone else? You get used to things like that with Chris!

It’s fair to say that we looked a pretty miss-matched pair, Chris on his Yamaha XT125 and me on my big Ultra Limited, Baby. That’s the great thing about motorbikes though, you can have fun on them whatever they are or however big they are, for once in life size really doesn’t matter!

The odd couple.

The odd couple.

I had chosen a nice gentle loop around the quieter roads of North West Cornwall, partly so that we could relax without too much traffic, but also because I hadn’t been that way for a few years.

First off we headed for Porthtowan which today is one of Cornwall’s main centres for surfing. The village is a bit dull, but it’s a place where the big Atlantic rollers sweep in from the Ocean to crash on the sandy shore in a maelstrom of boiling white water. Powerful hollow waves are frequent here, allowing for that wonderful surfing experience of “riding the tube,” it’s definitely not for beginners! At the height of summer this place is rammed full of visitors and their surfboards, but on a chilly day in October only the dedicated surfers brave the elements, mind you there wasn’t much surf either!

Porthtowan beach.

Porthtowan beach.

Just down the road is Portreath, once a busy industrial port, integral to the Cornish mining industry. Raw materials such as coal and timber were brought in, while thousands of tons of tin, copper, lead and arsenic moved out; all efficiently moved to and from the mines by an extensive tramway system that radiated from the port. Today only a few leisure vessels and the odd local fisher make use of the crumbling facilities.

Portreath harbour wall.

Portreath harbour wall.

Further West we paused at Godrevy Point where a lighthouse stands about 100 metres out to sea and marvelled at the three-mile stretch of golden sand that leads to Hayle.

Godrevy Point Lighthouse.

Godrevy Point Lighthouse.

It’s another paradise for surfers and generally fairly safe for bathers, so long as they follow the lifeguards instructions. This is one of my favourite beaches anywhere and not just in Cornwall, I love these sands and the dunes that lie between the beach and land. It’s another world on a stormy day!image

The estuary at Hayle is noted as an important spot for migratory and water birds, whilst the town itself is another former mining based harbour whose port is today largely inactive. At its peak the immediate area saw a number of foundry and smelting businesses boom, bringing great wealth to the town. The last foundry closed in 1903 and the harbour has been allowed to gradually choke with sand, quite sad really.

Hayle harbour.

Hayle harbour.

On a plus point, today Hayle is the home to possibly the best Cornish Pasties in the world! The local family firm of Philps have been making the local delicacy here for well over sixty years and as we were passing it would have been rude not to grab a couple for lunch. As they say in these parts, “Booty!”

Trundling homewards we passed through the quirkily named village of Praze-an-Beeble, which is actually Cornish for ” the meadow on the River Beeble.” The river in question is really little more than a muddy stream, but hey if it’s all you’ve got…!

I delivered Chris home at around three in the afternoon – still no cup of tea! If his smile was anything to go by, then I think he had a good day. He doesn’t greatly enthuse about things does our Chris, I think he just assumes that you get it whatever mood he is in.

Time to mount up and ride home, with the chance of a bit more speed than I had been pegged back to for most of the day!
Regular blogonaughts will have spotted that I do a lot of musing on the way home from a ride and today was no exception, It’s sort of my “Me” space/time.

I really enjoyed the day spent with my nephew and I hope he did with me, I made a mental note to do it again soon. It’s great to share my hobby with him and I think that he gets that as well.

Yes friends are the family that you choose, but…..
With some family you choose to be friends as well… and maybe that is more important.

Catch you soon.

Dookes

PS When I got home I found that Chris had posted a Facebook message thanking me for the day. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.