Showing posts from 2011

Whither FWAG, the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group?

Formed in 1969 by a forward thinking group of farmers and conservationists, including Eric Carter, FWAG ( has done a huge amount to integrate profitable farming with farm conservation in the UK over the past 40 years.It is disturbing to hear that the organisation is likely to go into administration, with the potential loss of many excellent county advisors and their highly respected Technical Director, Jim Egan.I am working with Jim on the multi-partner Campaign for the Farmed Environment ( and can vouch for the drive and professionalism that FWAG brings to the partnership.I also worked with a predecessor of his, Richard Knight, who instigated comprehensive evidence and technical support for the county advisors on the ground.It would a real shame if this experience and excellence was lost at a time when there is no real agricultural extension service in the UK, but the need for sustainable production is probably at its most acute ev…

Bali 2

Our transfer to Ubud was booked for 11:30, so we had a leisurely breakfast, pack and final photo session before departure.Our driver took us up into the hills to a delightful villa on a hill top with stunning views over a valley of rice paddies, forest patches, villages and up to low peaks.We had a lovely lunch, brought up to us, sitting in an open verandah with the vista in front of us.The garden was delightful, with many flowers and orchids.Back in the Toyota, we headed towards Ubud – the roads are small and motorcycles plentiful, so you do not get anywhere fast!Our driver was keen to show us the delights of craftware and we agreed to stop where they had woven materials.We liked some of the trays etc. and selected some for a little bartering and came away happy.Alila Ubud was no disappointment, located at the end of a bricked road through small rice paddies and palm trees. Our de luxe room has a huge bed and a separate open air shower room with a large stone bath big enough for both…

Bali 1

Woke around 8:00 a.m. for morning tea.There were one or two people by the pool in the morning sun.Strolled over the alfresco dinning room for a leisurely breakfast – fruit, juices, toast, Balinese omelette and pancakes. Then a stroll round the site and into costumes to rest by the pool – very well-designed and set out.Towels on loungers under umbrellas and iced water served.We had a free spa treatment booked for 1:00 p.m. and walked over to be greeted with cold ginger tea.Decided on an hour’s Balinese massage each – oiled with their Signature scent and pummelled into a hazy daze to the sound of the waves washing in and out!

Had a late lunch and signed in for the Satay dinner at 8:00 pm.Took a cup of tea and cake back to our room and rested on our comfy verandah, where there is a big lounger for two overlooking the pool and lawns.The weather changed during the late afternoon and we were treated to a tropical deluge, complete with thunder and lightning.A romantic setting with the rain po…

Singapore 7

With the tour at an end, Hilary and I set off to explore Singapore.Our first port of call was the National Museum of Singapore.This was a fine building with a colonial classic style front, but an modern and airy main area.We had come to see the Musee d’Orsay exhibition of art and were not disappointed with some stunning pictures of the era from c. 1860 to the 1920’s.One of the best was by a Brit, of a girl by the sea, with light on the sea to die for.After that we headed for the Botanic Gardens, getting on at Dhoby Ghout and changing onto the Circle line.We had a bite to eat at the cafĂ©, then did the wonderful Orchid Gardens, then the Ginger garden, before strolling back via the Evolution garden – well done.Bathed and changed for Raffles, going smart, so we could get into the bar for a good seat.We both had the Singapore Sling Original, which slips down a treat, so you don’t notice the cost!Then on to Chimjes and selected a nice tapas bar for supper and a beer.Afterwards, we were join…

Singapore 6

A quiet morning by the pool, catching a bit of sun and drying kit.Preparations and down to meet for a 12:00 departure in the coach.We were at the ground for 13:00 and ready for the off at 14:00, the Aussies playing Scotland in the other semi-final. We were playing on the top pitch and started with some good play, despite the midday heat.We went 1-0 up and then 2-0, ending 2-1, despite another series of opportunities to score (yes, I shot wide on one) and a missed flick (not me).Still, we got the right result and face Australia in tomorrow’s final.
The evening saw us back in the coach for the tournament dinner – held at the Hollandse Club with c. 500 people in attendance.Good food, a couple of drinks, a few presentations and some great Bangra music.However, we were away by 10:15 (after the Aussies), in preparation for the final game.
Saturday dawned and after a late breakfast we again began preparations.Only 16 players can be named and play in internationals, so two of us would be standi…

Singapore 5

Phone call from 02920359001 at 02.39 – probably trying to flog 3, the mobile phone operator – I was not happy, as this is the third call I’ve had in Singapore.They will be hearing from me, when I get home.A bit later got a text from Hilary saying all going to plan and waiting to board at Schiphol, so replied to let her know she will need to fill in an immigration card on arrival.The alarm went off at 05:45, in time for a quick shower, change and downstairs for a light breakfast.The bus was ready for us and we were away for 06:20.We were at the ground for 07:00 – time for final preparations, stretching and loading with liquids – it was still, hot and humid, so the sweat was running freely. Most of the girls arrived by cab a bit later and gave us great support from the touchline.I was on at right mid/wing and forced three corners, Tim scoring from one to put is 1-0 up against the Kiwis.We generally had good possession, while the Kiwis tried to hammer the ball through to the odd front ru…

Singapore 4

A rest day after the Aussies and did a bit of editing in the hotel to mid-afternoon. There was a fantastic thunderstorm at around 2:00 pm and a tropical deluge – good to be inside!Then off to Little India for a walkabout – small shops and market – took the MRT south to Harbourside and looked out to Sentosa Island – a resort area.The cable car trip to the island and back to a hill location looks good.Perhaps Hilary and I can do it over the weekend.Later joined up with some of the lads to visit the Raffles Long Bar for a proper Singapore Sling with peanut shells on the floor.Just the one, as they are pricey! Off for supper at our local.

Tuesday – match day – Bill and I set ourselves the task of finding a Laundromat, so set off with bags of not too nice kit.Alas, the one we had found online was shut and really a drycleaners, so strolling the streets and malls to no avail.Back at the hotel, we tracked down a coin-op on floor 7 and Bill dried the kit beside the pool.A late game v. Singapor…

Singapore 3

Another quiet start to the day – Bill and I took the bus to Chinatown after a late breakfast.Walked around the area using the Lonely Planet walking tour as our guide, visiting the Buddha Tooth Relict Temple and then the Hindu Sri Manamman temple.There were lots of small market shops along Trengganu St and many restaurants on some of the others.The walk took us into areas of small balconied houses, probably late Victorian era.Took the bus back to the hotel, stopping at a 711 shop for a lunch snack, then up to our room for an afternoon rest.

We met in the foyer for the coach at 16:30, reaching the ground a little about 17:15, in good time to start preparations for the match at 18:30.Team talk, stretching, Pilates and final team talk. The Aussies looked good for the first 10 mins, winning a couple of corners, but we played our way into the game and started to put them under some pressure.We won a series of corners, unconverted, and then Kaka was fouled as he went to shoot and Tim stepped …

Singapore 2

Team meeting at 09:30 beside the Carlton Hotel pool .Prof, the other keeper (Webby was already with us), flew in yesterday, so we were at full strength.A good opportunity to talk team formations and build-up.Trish gave us a quick chat on managing liquids etc.I need 15 minutes on my own, as do others, to do a full set of stretching and this is now built in to the squad pre-match programme.A quiet day doing a bit of editing and email catch-up.Went across the road to get lunch and a mango and banana pressed fruit drink.Strolled to the Fort Canning park, but there were a few drops of rain and got back to the hotel ahead of a deluge.Others were not so lucky and got soaked.Met at 16:30 changed, dry by now, for the coach organised by Kaka and Irish, en route for our 18:30 game against Scotland.The coach has made transport easy for all of us and helps in the build-up.At the ground, we changed and had a team talk.Ibuprofen on the ankle, strapped my toes and then the ankle support, and then did…

Singapore 1

Arrived on the overnight flight from Amsterdam on Wednesday evening local time, having taken the KLM flight from Bristol.Hilary dropped me off with my various bags. Met up with Bill Deayton in Changi Airport and used the MRT (Tube) to get into the city and walked to the hotel.It is certainly warm (c. 28 oC) and there are regular thunderstorms.We are right next door to Raffles, the famous hotel, so easy walking to many of the local sites, including Marina Bay and the famous merlion.Clean, green and prosperous is a good description of the Singapore I’ve seen so far.
On Thursday evening we made our way to the tournament ground (about an hour on the MRT & walking) for a practice match against the Singapore U18s.I was soaked with sweat before we started and drank and lost 2 litres over the game – we came second to some very quick and skilfull junior Olympians, but it was great to run off the flight, find out the best trainers to use etc. Not so good to shake up my worn ankle, but better…

Unsolicited Mail

National Grid, that monolithic monopoly that is trying to put huge pylons across swathes of beautiful Britain, has just sent out it latest A3 size glossy “Project News” to Somerset householders.This seems to be part of its second consultation – after the first was shown to be a sham.However, this seems to be no better, with the company again only presenting overland options for its giant 46 m- high pylons.These will pass through our Lox Yeo valley, despite it being a protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – and despite them admitting that they have still not included an uncompleted independent report on undersea (the most obvious route) and underground options. One also cannot but help notice the glossy cover has a great picture of Brent Knoll complete with gliding buzzard.  BEFORE:
How crass, when one considers what this view will actually look like, if the pylons go ahead.  AFTER:
National Grid is a plc quoted on the stock market.This means that profit for its shareholders is par…

Mellow fruitfulness

It is that time of year when the grass growth is slowing, and the apples are falling, along with the rain.Two Saturdays ago, there was good weather for the Barton wedding of the year.This was a medieval handfasting in full dress, complete with jester, held at Barton Camp.We were not invited, but Sue and Chris Sanders were there for the full do and we also heard a little from Anne and Bernie Tarleton.Sounds as though it was a grand event.This last weekend, Hilary and I picked some of the Bramley and Sunset apples.The Sunsets, which are like Coxs, are not quite ready, but they will be soon and keep well in our apple store.Likewise, the Conference pears are burgeoning, but are not ripe yet. However, the Beurre Hardy pears are just about there – juicy and slightly scented, they are delicious.The Comice pears are also doing well, but not quite there. It looks a good fruit year – and we have already had plums – just four left to eat now!

We have also been picking blackberries and have made t…

Fungus foray

After taking Hilary to Bristol Airport for her trip to Glasgow to see grandaughter Abbie, Michael and Karen, I took the dogs up on the hill (the Mendips) behind our house. On the headland, I didn't find any giant puffballs, but lots of the ordinary puffballs and the orange waxcaps are up in the short grass.  Thinking I wouldn't find much to pick, I was pleasantly surprised to come across some horse mushrooms on the National Trust ground and picked one good one - my first proper use of my Opinel mushroom knife.
Further along the hill, I found the first parasol mushrooms of the year! Fried in butter with garlic, they taste lovely, but don't tell anyone, after all they are toadstools.
On the bluff overlooking Barton, I also found a colony of autumn lady's tresses, smart little cream orchids. What a lovely place to live.

Grandfather's towel

I noticed this morning that the green bath towel I am using has a label that reads: BOMBAY DYEING & MFG CO LTD, BOMBAY. It is perhaps a little thin, but dries well and has the initials EFM embroidered on it.  I deduce that this must have come from Sri Lanka and once belonged to my Grandfather Ceylon, who died in 1972 or thereabouts.  Quality, or what.