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

It’s Not All Bad!

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.

Hmm, tight!


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!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

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

The Cycle of Life

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.

Now?

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.

Now, if only I had 20 year old legs again….!

Catch you soon, ride safe.

Dookes

Heddiw yw Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, Today Is St David’s Day

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.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 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.”

Hwyl fawr!
Dookes

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m Gwlad.

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?

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

Riding Through It All

It’s been a while since I posted anything.

It’s also been a while since I was out on one of my beloved Harley Davidson motorcycles.

Are the two linked?

I suspect that’s very likely!

Lets face it, 2020 has been a crazy year and I’m quite numb from the constant bombardment of World Politics, Pandemics, Ecomonics and plain stupidity.

Following my somewhat nasty brush with the C19 virus I have been concentrating on getting well and getting fitter and in the usual Dookes way this has been done on two wheels; though this time man-powered two wheels!

Discussing my medical situation with the doctors treating me I came to the conclusion that there were two different paths that could be followed:

1. Sit back and hope that medicine would find a way.
2. Get of my backside and do something about it, make my body work back to health.

Now it just so happened that two of my Medics are pretty mad keen cyclist themselves. One of them is six months older than me and a couple of years ago she cycled up Mont Ventoux for goodness sake! Now I’ve motorcycled up Ventoux and that was tough enough, it’s not known as “The Beast of Provence” for nothing, but cycling, at our age? Do me a favour…

Mont Ventoux


Anyway, from small acorns mighty Oaks do grow. I started out on pedalling on two wheels.

I don’t mind admitting, those first rides were tough, very, very tough. Small gradients stopped me in my tracks, I was gasping for breath and coughing up all kinds of muck. The early rides were low on miles, high in time, but also high on determination…this wasn’t going to beat me.

Gradually, through hospital visits and x-rays, I could sense not only was I getting stronger, but my endurance began to climb.

One day it all seemed to click in place and then after many months it all suddenly got a whole lot better. Though a largely wonderful summer certainly helped.

Now the days are growing colder and shorter my enthusiasm is undiminished. I hate the wind though!

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine asked me if I fancied a ride out with him.

My wonderful Cannondale.


Now Merv is pretty hardcore when it comes to cycling either on road or mud-plugging on a mountain bike, oh and he loves nothing more than wild swimming in any available cold water,; actually, the colder the better for him. He’s also ten years younger than me!

Anyway out we went, on a none to exciting dull day.

Twenty Eight miles later we were back at Dookes H.Q., 1852feet of elevation gain, average speed of 14.5mph and dealing with 16mph winds. Not bad for an old geezer, declared Merv!

….and the best part of cycling?

When I’m out there pedalling, all the crap in the world disappears!

Sure, I have to have serious conversations with my legs and tell them to stop complaining, but when you have faced the terminal alternative, it’s a small price.

Catch you soon, stay safe.

Dookes

Red Rocks and White Waters

Hello everyone!

It’s been a long time since I sat and wrote a Blog Post.

A lot has happened in the world since then.

Many years ago this started as a motorcycle blog, a way to record my travels and if other people wanted to follow, comment or just have a look then I was very happy about that!

Over time the Blog has morphed into something a bit broader than just “This is a trip I did on my motorcycle.” It has become more of a look inside the mind of a chap who is growing older, possibly more cynical, but still has an enthusiasm for pushing the envelope…whilst at the same time ever more embracing the concept that he doesn’t have to/want to take any more cr%p from anyone!

It’s also a way of facing one’s own finite mortality and realising just what really is important in life.

Last week, Mrs Dookes and I were hoping to be in France. Unfortunately, the present Covid19 situation screwed that idea, but all was not lost as we took lovely holiday at home…admittedly living in a beautiful part of the world certainly helped!

One of the things that we did was to take Mrs D’s Dad out for a day. He’s been a widower for some years now and generally does OK. A diagnosis of prostate cancer and subsequent radio therapy earlier this year has knocked him sideways a bit lately. The good news, however, is that the quick and quite intense treatment appears to have been a success and he is now in remission.

A proud Cornishman, he was born and raised on the Lizard Peninsular in the very extreme South of Cornwall, so it seemed only apt that for his day out we should go there.

Lizard Point


Lizard Point lies at the Southern tip of the peninsular. It is the most southerly point on mainland Britain. Thats a lot of South and Southerly stuff!!!

The point has for centuries marked the start and end of great Ocean voyages, being the last and first land that ships encountered.

On nearby Bass Point stands the former Lloyds Signal Station where, in the days before radio communication, semaphore signals were sent and received from ships in passage.

Lloyds Signal Station on Bass Point


It’s also the graveyard of many ships and the final resting place of their crews as the rocks, reefs and currents here can be lethal to the unwary mariner.

A lighthouse, to warn seafarers of the dangers of the Lizard, has been present here since 1619.

The current lighthouse dates from 1751, though obviously has been constantly modernised since originally constructed. The lighthouse was automated in 1998, along with all others around the British Isles along with the splendid foghorns that date from 1908.

The foghorns.

On a lovely day such as we enjoyed it’s hard to imagine how savage the weather can be on the Lizard. No trees grow here; it’s just grass, some wind stunted gorse, rugged drystone Cornish hedges and rugged Cornishmen… like my father in law!

“Although I wasn’t born here, it’s always home for me,
I love this land where red rocks and white waters greet the sea.”*

Catch you soon,

Dookes

*Frank Yonko