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!
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.
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!
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”
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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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?
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….!
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.
Catch you soon, I’m off for some more foraging!
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!
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.
Today is the Summer Solstice and here in the Northern Hemisphere our longest day of the year. It should be warm and sunny, but instead it’s miserable…which sort of matches my mood. Actually that’s been caused by a dose of computer grief, always guarenteed to wind me up!
Normally in the Dookes calendar, this time of year I would be riding Harls on the high mountain roads of the Alps or Pyrenees.
Er..don’t tell Mrs Dookes that I rode up here!!!
At present though, life is still anything but “Normal.”
It’s virtually impossible to travel abroad from the U.K. at the moment and like a lot of sensible people I’m also feeling very much less than enthused with the idea. Apart from the trifling matter of health and travel insurance, there’s also the balls-ache and cost of Covid tests before travel and the same in reverse….and that’s assuming that your country destination of choice will even let you in!
Oh and yes, I’ve had my two shots of vaccine!
Foreign travel is just not worth the hassle when I live in such a beautiful place and can enjoy riding around here.
Cornish roads, you can’t beat them.
Which is exactly what my mate Mark and I did last Friday.
First a gentle trundle to Port Isaac to collect an order of shellfish for Mrs Dookes.
Port Isaac is a working fishing village on the North Cornwall coast and if I take the direct route, only around 25 minutes from Dookes H.Q….we didn’t take the direct route!
The harbour, Port Isaac.
It’s a lovely little place with tight streets and alleys that has been made famous by a television drama called “Doc Martin.” Needless to say this has had the effect of attracting thousands of tourists, most of whom understand that the village is not solely a film set.
There are however who, well let’s just say don’t understand and wander aimlessly around blissfully unaware that business and life is still happening.
In other words “Get out of the way!”
Fortunately, Harls rather meaty engine exhaust note has the effect of drawing attention to the fact that they are standing in the middle of the road…
Once the visitors were avoided and the food was stowed in one of Harls’ panniers, it was time to ride off and find some good coffee.
Can you spot Dookes???
A hundred miles later a very happy Dookes arrived home.
Yeah, it’s not the Alps, but it’s not half bad round here either!
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”
When I started this blog, amazingly nine years ago, it was very Motorcycle Travel heavy.
In essence it was a blog diary of my travels around Europe on my Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Well the world has certainly changed a fair bit since 2012 and over the past year my focus has been on just about anything except freely travelling around on a motorcycle.
Almost exactly a year ago Mr Covid paid me a visit and for a few weeks survival became the main goal! This was then followed by months of rehabilitation in a bid to regain some semblance of health.
I’m pleased to say that this was largely achieved on two wheels…man powered two wheels…Dookes powered two wheels!
Hybrid Carerra, utility and good off road.
I have commented previously about my love affair with bicycles, it goes back a long time and was, I suppose, the precursor to my passion for motorcycles.
Since those early days I’ve always had at least a couple of bicycles in the garage and sadly that’s largely where they have stayed. Two years ago I started cycling again, but it was the Covid thing last Spring that really gave me the impetuous to get out there regularly.
Cannondale Synapse. Endurance bike, alloy frame, carbon forks, good on Cornish lanes.
Initially it was my own idea to start cycling and get my lungs working properly, I floated it to the medical staff who were treating me and it turned out that I was in the care of a bunch of cycle mad medics who couldn’t have been happier for me to get pedalling!
Those first post-Covid rides were tough, very tough.
The reward for getting out.
Three miles, that’s one and a half out and one and a half back, were the limit to start off with. Then over time and just by taking it steady things sort of grew and with the lovely countryside around Dookes H.Q. the incentive is always there.
Well I smashed out a 51miler last Friday, so I guess I’m making a bit of progress, not bad for an old geezer if I do say so myself!
Forme Pro Carbon. Goes like lightning, only comes out in the dry!
The strange thing is that if I have a few days off cycling, I feel my breathing getting a bit laboured and the old chest tightening up, then its time to get out and work it all again!
It’s nice to give the bikes some serious use too; they are there to be ridden, not just to sit in the garage looking good.
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!
The weather here at Dookes H.Q. in Cornwall is lovely, if a tad cool.
The daffodils, 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.
After the year we have all endured, it’s nice to have some brightness for once!
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.
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 wonder how many countries around the world have a National Vegetable? I can think of Ireland with the potato and in Wales it’s the humble, yet tasty leek, “Cennin” in Welsh, it is frequently eaten on St David’s Day; in fact I’ve just been outside to dig up a few for supper!
Leeks, just dug from the garden at Dookes H.Q.
Mrs Dookes has just made a lovely batch of Welsh Cakes, little drop scones of sweet fruity tastiness which we will shortly enjoy with a cup of tea. No, not all of them at once though!
Mrs Dookes’ Welsh Cakes.
There are reasons to be optimistic this St David’s Day and thankful too.
Plus our wonderful Welsh rugby team won the Triple Crown on Saturday by beating England in a thrilling game in Cardiff!
Photo: David Davies/PA
Have a lovely day and in the words of St David:
“Gwnewch y pethau bychain mean bywyd.” “Do ye the little things in life.”