The Real Spooks Of Halloween

I’m not a great fan of Halloween.


When I was younger it was never a big deal, but the global spread of Americanisation and commercial pressure seems to have propelled it high in popular consciousness.
Even where we live, deep in the heart of rural Cornwall, it’s now not unusual to see “Trick or Treaters” roaming the country lanes on the evening of 31st October…!

If you keep your eyes open though, there are many more scary, weirdly beautiful and indeed deadly lifeforms to be found around the woodlands of the British Isles.

I’m talking fungi!

These fascinating lifeforms burst from cover as the days grow shorter, wetter and before the first frost occur. I love their variety and colours, from pale ghostly white through to vibrant orange, red, blues and browns.

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria), definitely poisonous!

Walking through the woodlands, I love to see how fungi magically appear from the leaf litter on the forest floor; theres a silent eeriness about them….yet at the same time a beguiling beauty.

2022 seems to have been a spectacular year for fungi.
This Autumn around Dookes H.Q. we have enjoyed harvesting a wonderful bounty of tasty field mushrooms, Agaricus campestris.

The important thing when foraging wild mushrooms is to get your recognition right. There are over 1400 different varieties of fungi found in the British Isles, some are edible, but many more are not and some are deadly if eaten…you have been warned!

Yep, definitely field mushrooms!

.

Ready for cooking.

Then, almost a quickly as they appear, their fleeting visit is over and they degrade into a wet slimy and often smelly mush…!

Farewell spooky friends, until next year!

Catch you soon,
Dookes

PLEASE do not eat any wild fungi unless your are 110% sure what it is.
Check with a real expert or better still don’t risk it, a mistake could be fatal.

Through Others Eyes (Showing AGMA around)

OK, Dookes is bad…no posts for ages, again!
No excuses, other than life stuff constantly getting in the way…

Over the years, blogging has given me many great experiences and the opportunity to make many “on-line” friends. Some I communicate with on a regular basis, though few as much as the legendary AGMA, that’s “Ageing Gracefully My Ass” in case you were wondering!

It was an absolute delight earlier this year to hear from AGMA and learn that she and husband “Hubs” had decided to come visit Cornwall as part of one of her famous round Europe dashes! Would Dookes be available to show them around his part of Cornwall?
You bet I would!

Regular blogonaughts will know that Dookes lives in the far South West of the United Kingdom in the fair Duchy of Cornwall; a rocky, windswept, at times sunny, but ruggedly always beautiful place to live!

Sometimes though, just to keep things in perspective, you need to look at it through other’s eyes and realise just how lucky you are to live here!

Amongst places that AGMA wanted to visit was Tintagel Castle the world famous legendary birth place of King Arthur; yes him of Round Table fame!

Mrs Dookes and I have a bit of history with Tintagel so it was a pleasure to show AGMA and Hubs around the place and tell them of it’s history and legends.

The medieval ruins of Tintagel Castle

To stand on Tintagel’s island mount and look out at the wild Atlantic Ocean with AGMA made me so very grateful to live here and call this land home.

I’m pleased AGMA and Hubs enjoyed their holiday in Cornwall, we were delighted to meet them, show them around and welcome them, albeit briefly, into our lives.
We hope to see them again before too much longer!

Oh yes, before I forget. AGMA was insistent that she met my beloved Harls…no problem, you weren’t going to leave without saying “Hi” to her!

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus, Happy St David’s Day

Y Ddraig Goch, The Red Dragon

Bore da pawb. Heddiw yw Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, y Diwrnod Cenedlaethol Cymru.
Dymuniadau gorau i chi i gyd!

Good morning everyone. Today is Saint David’s Day, the National Day of Wales.
Best wishes to you all, from a rather dreary Cornwall!

All is not gloomy however, despite the dreadful events unfolding in Ukraine, daffodils, the national flower of Wales, are in bloom and with a freshly picked bunch on the table next to me, its like the sun has come into the house as well.

The world is a sombre place just at the moment, so it’s nice to have something to cheer me up!

OK, brief history lesson then:
Dewi Sant/St David was born towards the end of the 5th Century in the region of West Wales known as Ceredigion. Whilst alive he built a reputation for his preaching, teaching and simple living amongst the Celtic people. He founded a monastery at Glyn Rhosin, which became an important early Christian centre. Dewi died on 1st March 589 and was buried in what is now known as St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire where his shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage.

For centuries 1st March has been a national festival in Wales with parades, concerts, poetry readings and of course traditional food all being enjoyed. Around the country not only will you see the flag of Wales, Y Ddraig Goch (the Red Dragon) being flown, but also the flag of St David, a simple yellow cross on a black field.P1030045

Today is also the time when Welsh exiles around the world remember ‘The Land of My Fathers’ and try to ease the sense of “Hiraeth” that yearning homesickness tinged with grief, nostalgia, wistfulness and pride in our identity that we often feel.

I imagine that many Ukrainians are feeling something very similar today too…

In these increasingly dangerous times, as if the world hasn’t gone through enough in the last few years, have a lovely day and in the words of St David:

“Gwnewch y pethau bychain mean bywyd.” “Do ye the little things in life.”
(And maybe offer up a little prayer for peace too!)

Hwyl fawr!
Dookes

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m Gwlad.

High Places

Regular visitors to this site, my Blogonaughts, will know that every now and then Dookes gets an urge to stand on top of a mountain or a hill, safe in the knowledge that the only thing above is the vast expanse of the heavens.

I’m not sure exactly when this feeling, call it a habit if you like, began. What I can report though is that when the feeling creeps up on me it can be all consuming and totally irresistible.

Which is what happened earlier this week.

We were just preparing our evening meal at Dookes H.Q. when I received a message from nephew Darrell, “Would you like to go up on the Moors tomorrow with the dogs?”

Diddy in her element.

Now apart from it being really nice that my nephew and I enjoy time in each other’s company, it didn’t take a second to say, “Yes, yes, yes and let’s go to the highest point….!”

I’ve written before about Bodmin Moor, it’s one of Cornwall’s designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The two highest peaks in Cornwall Rough Tor and Brown Willy, 420 metres (1,377 ft) above sea level, dominate the landscape to the North. The landscape here is testimony to thousands of years of human occupation, with the remains of Bronze Age hut circles, Neolithic enclosures and mysterious stone circles.

Brown Willy

The Moor is a remote, bleak, grass and heather covered upland with an underlying geology of hard granite. It’s hard country, not as high as my beloved Welsh Mountains or the Alps, but you don’t want to be caught out here in bad weather or with the wrong gear, the Moors can be brutally unforgiving.

Showery Tor

I love the place
I love the way the wind sweeps in unchecked from the Atlantic.
I love the hard ancient rocks that stand witness to the passing seasons of man.
I love the smells of peat and heather.
I love its babbling water and clear open skies.
I love its stark brutal beauty.

I love how I feel my spirits lifted after a day in it’s sanctuary

The Wild Atlantic

Catch you soon,
Dookes

PS Thanks Darrell for a great idea!

Leaning on Gates

I like space.
Space to think, space to breath, space to enjoy life and space to take in the view.
I’ve never been a town or city person, those built-up places make me feel closed in, trapped, suffocated; yes I know that some people thrive on “City Life,” but it’s not for me.

Dookes H.Q. is in the middle of North Cornwall nowhere and recently I’ve begun to appreciate my local field gates.

I lean on them….quite a lot!

The roads and lanes of North Cornwall are delightful, often narrow, frequently bumpy and normally bounded by high banks and hedges. Gates give a glimpse from those roads across wonderful countryside and tantalising views of the sea. The trouble is that when I’m travelling on either two or four wheels I never seem to stop, but when I’m walking things take on a totally different perspective.

Life at Dookes H.Q. is often dictated by Working Cocker Spaniels, wonderfully busy little dogs who live life to their fullest and effervesce with boundless energy….which means walks, lots of walks!

Smudge

That’s where gates come in handy.

They have become places to pause.
Places to welcome the dawn.
Places to see the Moon rise.
Places to contemplate.
Places to be thankful.
Places to feel renewed.

….and also just somewhere for an old geezer to lean on and get his breath back after keeping pace with his four legged friend.

I love gates.

Catch you soon,
Dookes

Ring Out Solstice Bells 2021

Best wishes to you all on this Winter Solstice Day!

At exactly 15:59 GMT today the polar axis of our Planet Earth will have be tilted at its farthest away from the Sun in the Northern Hemisphere, giving us our shortest day of the year and marking the beginning of astronomical winter. This makes me a very happy Dookes, for though the days will be colder, they will also start to get longer!

Of course if you live South of the equator the reverse applies.

For my previous posts about the Dookes take on the Solstice please click here.

This year we have been doubly treated as there was a full “Winter Moon” last weekend.
For us Celts, with a feeling for the natural cycle of life, it doesn’t get much better than that!

The Winter Moon rising over a cold Cornish landscape.

In accordance with the old ways and as a Druid, I’m off to garland Dookes H.Q. now…and raise a glass to the setting sun.

In the meantime, however and whatever you are celebrating have a really good one!

“Ring out these bells,
Ring out,
Ring solstice bells”

Catch you soon,
Dookes

Remember Penlee, 40 Years Ago.

Jutting out into the wild North Atlantic Ocean the County of Cornwall is indelibly linked to the sea. 

Nowhere in Cornwall are you more than 20 miles from the coast and on the edge of the Ocean lie numerous villages whose existence is based on either fishing or trade.

Strong amongst those villages is the tradition of saving lives at sea.

Around the Cornish coast can be found lifeboat stations where, crewed by volunteers, stand tough vessels ready to be launched at a moments notice to assist those in distress on the Sea. Lifeboats at Bude, Padstow, Falmouth, Fowey, Lizard, Sennen Cove, St Ives all have distinguished histories and can list many brave and tragic events in their roll of honour; but in Cornwall the most revered name is Penlee.

Forty years ago today, 19th December 1981, the crew of the Penlee Lifeboat answered a call to a vessel in distress.

The brand new MV Union Star on passage to Ireland from Holland with a cargo of fertiliser was in difficulties. She carried a crew of four, plus her Captain Henry Moreton, his wife and two teenage daughters.

At 18:00hrs Falmouth Coastguard received a distress call from the Union Star; her engines had failed and would not restart. Hurricane force winds were blowing the disabled vessel towards the treacherous and unforgiving South Coast of Cornwall.

In the small and picturesque fishing village of Mousehole, (pronounced Mowzull), population 600, the crew of the Penlee Lifeboat were put on standby; twelve men volunteered and eight were selected by Coxswain William Trevelyan Richards.

A Royal Navy helicopter was scrambled to assist the drifting merchant ship, but so strong were the winds, over 90 knots, and so violent the sea at 18m metre waves that it was unable to undertake any rescue operation.

At 20:00hrs the Penlee lifeboat was launched, the Union Star was now just two miles from the treacherous coast.

The lifeboat was named “Soloman Browne” and was a 14 metre long “Watson Class” with two powerful diesel engines giving a top speed of 9 knots.

The Soloman Browne

For 30 minutes the helicopter crew watched as the Soloman Browne made numerous attempts to get alongside the stricken merchant ship.

“We’ve got four off.” Radioed the lifeboat to Falmouth Coast Guard.

Ten minutes later, the lights of the Soloman Brown disappeared and nothing more was heard.

The helicopter returned to base to refuel and took off again, whilst lifeboats from Sennen Cove, Lizard and St Mary’s were launched to help their colleagues.

At dawn the Union Star was seen capsized and on the rocks at Tater Du, just a few miles from Mousehole and debris from the Soloman Browne began to wash ashore.

The wreck of the Union Star

Within 24 hours the small and stunned community formed another volunteer lifeboat crew.

Coxswain Trevelyan Richards was posthumously awarded the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s Gold Medal for Gallantry and the rest of the crew were awarded Bronze Medals. 

Lieutenant Commander Russell Smith, the pilot of the Sea King helicopter, said:

‘The greatest act of courage that I have ever seen, and am ever likely to see, was the penultimate courage and dedication shown by the Penlee crew.They were truly the bravest eight men I’ve ever seen, who were also totally dedicated to upholding the highest standards of the RNLI.’

Every year on 19 December, the Christmas lights at Mousehole are dimmed between 8 and 9pm in memory of the 16 people who lost their lives, leaving just an illuminated Cross and two Angels shining down across the village and out to sea.

Remember them with pride and gratitude that volunteers like them still go down to the sea in boats to save lives:

  Coxswain William Trevelyan Richards

  Second Coxswain and Mechanic James Madron

  Assistant Mechanic Nigel Brockman

  Emergency Mechanic John Blewett

  Crew Member Charles Greenhaugh

  Crew Member Kevin Smith

  Crew Member Barrie Torrie

  Crew Member Gary Wallis.

Autumn Musing

There’s an Autumn storm brewing.

The wind is rising and the barometer pressure falling. Leaves are whipping from the trees and swirling like a murmuration of starlings.

Heavy rain is forecast and localised flooding predicted.

I thought it was a good idea to get out for a walk with one of my canine pals before things got really wet and wild. Not a day for heroics on a motorcycle at all.

I feel that one of the nice things that stems from living in the cuds (middle of nowhere) is that it gives me space to think, drink in the silence and concentrate on the joy of life.

Autumn is definitely my favourite season, as the poet John Keats wrote “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun.”

Yes, Autumn sees the shortening of days, cooling of temperatures, the first frosts and heavy water-soaked soils. I find beauty everywhere, the colours of the season prevail. The last fruits of the year are gathered. Summer blooms begin to die, but bravely brighten grey days.

Still stubble fields, that only recently stood proud with wheat or barley, now feed wild birds with fallen seed. Cattle savour the last good grass before Spring and on leaden skies the migratory Woodcock returns to the British countryside for Winter.

Eurasian Woodcock (Scolopax rusticola). JJ Harrison

There’s a sweet smell of decay in the air and the tang of beechwood smoke drifts from cottage chimneys.

It all lifts my spirits and I feel like the luckiest man alive.

“Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.” Emily Brontë

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Summer Draws Away

Theres a chill beginning to creep into the air at Dookes H.Q..

Mornings are starting to get a bit misty, shadows are longer and heavy dew sparkles on the myriad hedgerow cobwebs.

Autumn is on its way.

Butterflies and bees are grabbing nectar from late flowering plants as the garden produces a last flush of colour before the short winter days ahead.

Small Tortoiseshell, Aglais urticae on Sedum in Dookes H.Q.

I love the changing seasons. In my lifetime I’ve seen how the normality of the weather is changing, so I appreciate even more those precious moments that nature gifts us. I never need much encouragement to get out in the open air and enjoy it!

Early Autumn also brings the bounty of wild food and never let it be said that Dookes turns down the chance to gather free food! What could be better than an afternoon spent foraging the hedgerows and woods for tasty seasonal treats?

Blackberries

The humble blackberry is probably the most popular amongst country folk, easy to find, simple to gather and makes delicious jam, jelly and deserts.

My favourite is the Sloe, the fruit of the Blackthorn, Prunus spinosa. Now finding Sloes is not always easy, despite the blackthorn being widespread in woodlands and hedgerows throughout the British Isles the trees fruit unpredictably. One year they will be groaning with the weight of fruit, the next almost barren. This irregularity is mainly due to the blackthorn’s habit of flowering very early in the year, before that leaves appear and always vulnerable to late frosts…just like we had this year!

But if you know where to look….!

Sloes, Prunus spinosa.

The only other problem with Sloes is hinted at in the tree’s name, Blackthorn. It is covered on thick sharp spiky thorns and a harvesting foray frequently results in various wounds to your hands! The gathered fruit though has various uses, yes it makes a wonderful jelly, but by far he best thing to do with you hard won spoils is to make Sloe Gin, a warming tot on cold winter nights or a refreshing aperitif on a warm summer, or Autumnal, evening.

Sloe Gin and Clementine tonic; Cheers!

Catch you soon, I’m off for some more foraging!

Dookes

PS Whilst I encourage anyone to look out for wild food, be careful, don’t eat something if you don’t know what it is!

Bike Nights and Near Normality

The world remains strange, though there are the beginnings of green shoots of normality slowly starting to emerge.

Here in Cornwall, as one of the most popular UK tourist destination areas, we are used to visitors during the summer months, but nothing like the invasion that we are experiencing this year! The prime driver of this is the continuing restrictions that the UK government have placed on all but essential foreign travel, as a result most people who would normally holiday abroad have swarmed to popular UK hot spots….and don’t we know it!

Local journeys are on average taking twice as long as normal. Narrow roads are choked with motor-homes, caravans and bewildered drivers who seemingly are unable to reverse when faced with a large tractor hauling silage; yes there is more to Cornwall than just the beaches!

The great thing is, with a motorcycle and a bit of local knowledge, you can avoid most of the holiday making madness!

Not very far from Dookes H.Q. on the stunningly beautiful north coast of Cornwall, lies the small town of Bude. Originally a harbour and fishing village, like many small coastal towns it developed into a holiday resort in the 1800’s and with the arrival of the railway in 1879 became a firm favourite of affluent Victorians.

Today the railway is gone, closed in 1966. The harbour just a shadow of it’s former glory. As a holiday destination Bude is no longer on the “must do” list for visitors to Cornwall, but it still retains a certain charm and in places, elegance.

Each Wednesday evening through the summer Bude hosts “Bike Nights” when motorcyclists of all sorts gather on the quay to drink coffee, eat donuts, hang out together and talk motorbikes in a relaxed atmosphere.

It’s great fun to see the holiday-makers giving us a wide berth; if they looked closely though, they’d notice that most of us are drawing our pensions!

It’s also great fun to have an evening out with motorcycle mates, plus a nice ride there and a nice ride back, you can’t beat it!

Pop down and see us if you are in Bude on a sunny Wednesday evening in the summer.

Catch you soon,

Dookes