Category Archives: Thoughts

Some of my thoughts, ideas and other text based entries

Storm Eunice damage along the Kennet & Avon Canal in West Berkshire

After one of the worst storms in decades hit the south of England including West Berkshire with storm Eunice on Friday 18/Feb/2022 there was a lot of damage. When I write this on Saturday afternoon the village of Aldermaston (just over a mile down the road from where I write this in Aldermaston Wharf) still hasn’t got any power and might not get it back until late in the evening or potentially even Sunday. I know of at least two trees having come down and having hit houses in Aldermaston Wharf, luckily as far as I’m aware nobody was injured (and I believe there was no serious damage to the houses). This morning I went out for my regular daily walk (slightly extended as it is Saturday, where I usually go on a longer walk than on weekdays), here is some of the storm damage I spotted along the way:

One of the first things I saw was also one of the scariest, a quite large tree had fallen across the canal and the top of the tree had hit a moored canal boat (Pictures 01 & 02). The owners had already cleared most of the tree off the boat and as far as I could see there was no significant damage to the boat itself, only the solar panels were rather smashed up.

Not very far down the canal along a field with cows and sheep there was more damage: Three smaller trees had been snapped off (I suspect the wind had enough space to run up across the field and hit them hard) and were pretty much blocking the towpath (pictures 03, 04 &11). I managed to squeeze past two of them, for the third one I had to climb over the fence for a short ‘detour’ across the field (luckily the cows with their calves were far away, so it was safe). Luckily I didn’t have to do that when I returned about an hour later as kind boater had taken his chainsaw to the trees and cleared the towpath.

After that it wasn’t too bad on the towpath, of course there was branch debris pretty much everywhere, but there wasn’t really any blockage. The fallen trees were either away from the towpath or left enough room to get past them without much difficulty (Pictures 05, 08, 09 & 10).

But my walk was stopped by a fallen tree just before where I usually turn around anyway on my longer weekend walks. While I just managed to squeeze past the first tree (Picture 06) the second one, a large tree covered in Ivy, fully blocked the path (Picture 07) and I couldn’t find a way past it. So I turned around and walked back to Aldermaston Wharf.

Just before arriving back home I couldn’t resist the obligatory fallen fence picture (Picture 12), I believe that’s a standard for after the storm pictures. Interestingly the fence at the communal garden below my flat was swaying precariously yesterday, I think at least one of the posts is pretty much gone. So far it’s still holding up, but will it survive the next storm?

Robins in the New year’s sunshine

On the second day of the new year 2022 I managed to get out for a short photo walk around Aldermaston Wharf, returning as the rain arriving from the west set in. I didn’t see an awful lot, but managed to capture these two Robins in the mild New Year’s sunshine high up in a tree:

As usual, click on the pictures to view the larger version and visit the gallery. I hope you enjoy the pictures of the two Robins, if I remember correctly the most popular bird in the UK.

Pair of Blue Tits from my window

Over the last few weeks I’ve been watching a pair of Blue Tits in the trees opposite my windows. I think they’re nesting somewhere under the roof of my block of flats, although I can’t see that from my window as they are entering from the side. I can see them very well in the tree opposite my window though and with the warmer weather this weekend I used the opportunity to take a few pictures. They are only about 4 metres away, so I was able to take some nice close up shots, especially when they sat on one specific branch:

I hope you’re enjoying the pictures as I’m enjoying watching the Blue Tits hopping around in the trees and flying over to where I think their nest is. Should I get a chance I’ll try to take some video of them over the coming weeks.

May colours at Westonbirt Arboretum

My first real day out for over a year since the pandemic started, my last big day out before was a trip to Oxford on the day I picked up my new car (which stiil has less than 2,000 miles on the clock) at the end of January 2020. Spurred on by memories of May 2020 where we had some beautiful sunny weather (but couldn’t get out much under lockdown) I had decided to take a week off in May 2021 for some first tentative steps to get out a bit further than the local walks and weekly trip to the supermarket. Of course the weather didn’t really cooperate, although I probably picked the best day for the only real trip I managed to get in:

After not having been for probably more than a decade I decided to visit Westonbirt Arboretum, in the hope of some nice spring colours. A few days before I pre-booked my ticket online, for the time being admission is only with pre-booked tickets so that they can control visitor numbers and make sure it doesn’t get overcrowded, allowing social distancing to keep everyone safe. After an uneventful drive I arrived at 11:00 to some mostly cloudy weather with occasional showers. Luckily the clouds broke up early afternoon, giving me some beautiful sunny intervals to enjoy the colours. My hopes for some beautiful May colours were certainly fulfilled, lots of plants in bloom and a lot of fresh greens (and reds). I took a lot of pictures, here are 10 of my favourites:

I spent the whole day until closing time at 17:00 walking around, discovering new views, new trees, new colours, new plants, revisiting places for different light after the sun came out and more. It wasn’t busy most of the time, I think through a combination of the pre-booked tickets and the not very promising weather forecast (with the weather turning out much better than forecasted luckily). Some features (e.g. small parts of the treetop walk) were closed to ensure social distancing, but the vast majority was open. My enjoyment of the arboretum wasn’t diminished at all. The staff was friendly and helpful when I needed them. All in all a great day out, I felt safe pretty much throughout and enjoyed the May colours I had come for.

On my return journey I decided to a small bonus and made a detour to an old haunt of mine, a place I had visited many times when I first arrived in the UK, Avebury. I didn’t stay long, but had a nice time revisiting familiar views.

I arrived back home in the evening very tired, but also very satisfied after a great day out.

Big Stones at Avebury Stone Circle

On my first big day out for over a year due to the pandemic I went to Westonbirt Arboretum (pictures from that in a separate post) on a May day with changeable weather. On my return journey I decided to make a detour via Avebury Stone Circle, a place I had great memories of from my early years in the UK 25 years ago. I hadn’t visited since moving to West Berkshire over 10 years ago. I had the place pretty much for myself (well, apart from the sheep and lambs) and took a few pictures of some of the standing stones during a few short sunny intervals. I used my wide angle lens and went close up, hopefully showing the massive size of these stones.

I didn’t stay long as I was tired after a long day walking around Westonbirt Arboretum, also some heavier clouds moved in and it looked like rain was on the way. But I’m sure I’ll be back later this year or next year as we hopefully progress with overcoming the pandemic and the country opens up further. In the meantime I hope you’ll enjoy these pictures.