Friday 30 October 2015

Outside our comfort zone

Last year Joseph had a go at a tree top adventure course, and finding one about a 20 minute drive from Aubazine we took him along. He wasn't satisfied with mum and dad watching from the ground this year and insisted that we go as a family

Fortunately the limit for a 6 year old was 3 meters, but frankly that was more than enough for Erica and I, especially traversing the tightrope wire which admittedly had a shoulder height wire to hold on to. Joseph on the other had was mostly un-phased although he needed a little encouragement from one of the guides on one especially tricky section, he soon regained his confidence as shown below.

There's a 200 meter zip wire across the late, the tiny white dot at the centre of the picture is Erica arriving at the other side.

Below she launches from what was a very high platform. Having watched her go there was no backing out, so it was up the tree (horrible) clip on, check all was safe and then go, it was great.

The location is called Les Tetes en L'air, we can't speak highly enough about the guys who run it, they were so helpful, friendly and professional - check out our report on TripAdvisor. 

Wednesday 28 October 2015

Mushrooms on the mind

You know when you see something and then you notice them everywhere, well so it is, just recently with mushrooms.

There was a welcome pack in the house we're staying in which included a jar of preserved Seps and this amazing specimen, no idea what it is. The nut aperitif  was pretty good as well, but I digress.

The following day walking through the woods we came across lots of these, no idea if they are edible or highly toxic but they look amazing growing on what looks like silver birch.

And these in the wood where we took Joseph for a tree top and zip wire adventure, on the basis that the guys running the place had left them untouched I guessed these are probably not top of the gastronomic list.

Of course it's the time of year for mushrooms which are eaten widely with great variety in France, given the region's forest covered hills there's no shortage in the shops, supermarkets and restaurants, which is the safest and easiest way for us to try some of the more unusual varieties.

Monday 26 October 2015

Canal de Moines

We're staying in Aubazines in the Limousin region of France, which is a hill village, based around a former Cistercian Abbey. Some time around the 12th century the monks decided to divert a stream which runs down the head of the valley to feed a canal to bring water to the monastery.

The canal and path follow the contour from the village through woods, thick with chestnut trees turning yellow and gold in the late October sun. But it's not long before the 1.5 Km canal heads out around sheer rock faces, the monks having to build tall rock walls and buttresses to support and retain the canal.

Down in the valley the stream which is the source of the canal, flows fast over rocks,and waterfalls, the stream bed rising quickly towards the level of the canal.

The source of the canal, a sluice diverts the water, while the stream plunges off down the valley. The monks also used the dam to create a fish pond.

Along the way the canal was cut through huge boulders, which continue to be a source of fascination for small boys centuries later.

Saturday 24 October 2015

More Lasers

It was just the other day I was writing about my friend Glen's Laser 13 so it must have been on my subconscious mind as I walked past the marina in Lymington and spotted the big brother Laser 16.

I'd sailed one a few years ago and liked it, from the photo the hatch and under deck storage can be seen which is a feature I like a lot, as is the classic navy blue colour scheme.

On the way back to the car we spotted a Laser 3000 which I have to say was an unusual shade of green.

 It must have been an interesting day in the boat show room.

"What colour would you like for our new boat?"

"Well do you have one to match my 1970's bathroom suite please?"

Thursday 22 October 2015

Foraging for forest funghi

Well not exactly, this fine crop has sprung up on the roots of an old pine tree we cut down a few years ago.

Unfortunately I never learned to tell the difference between what's edible and what's not, which is a skill I'd like to learn. A German colleague tells me it's very easy, he goes out into the woods this time of year and I recall the market in Sete a few years ago with the most amazing variety and quantity all of which had been gathered in the nearby woods.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Ships that pass

Well maybe not in the night, but ships that certainly pass either side of the shingle spit.

In Southampton water a cruise ship heads out taking holiday makers who knows where, while in the river Thalia a gentleman's yacht built by G F Wanhill at Poole in 1889 return to her mooring.

Saturday 17 October 2015

Venice Boats

I could hardly visit Venice back in the summer, without looking at the boats, gondolas apart, there were some very interesting, local craft.

Given the relatively shallow and protected waters of the Venice Lagoon it’s perhaps unsurprising that many were flat bottom hull forms. The narrow beam and light displacement make for craft presumably influenced from the days when craft were rowed along the narrow canals.

I really liked this boat, maybe it's the sheer but I could imagine it as a good tender for getting out to our mooring on the river.

Again long and thin with an up swept bow to slice through the chop, although from the stern it looks flat bottomed so might pound a bit.

I think this is a Sandolo which is also a traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat, but of a much simpler build than a gondola, still rowed with one oar from the stern.

And I presume this is another variation but very much a working boat, which reflects the relatively simple build and painted finish.

In the course of doing a some research I found - The Gondola Blog which is based in California to represent the interest of Gondola Society of America, worth a read and some great pictures.

Thursday 15 October 2015

Venus and Mars, and Jupiter too

I was at the station waiting for the horrible o'clock train up to London watching the dawn break in the eastern sky. It was incredibly clear with a bright light which clearly wasn't a star.

A quick google on the phone revealed as I suspected the bright object was Venus, but the big surprise was that the smaller objects were Jupiter, Mars and Regulus.

Saturn is also visible in the evening twilight and I was keen to show Joseph, but alas we have cloud cover.

The following morning I got up early to clear sky and managed to get the picture above. I think what it shows is Venus the bright one, Jupiter off to the left and lower in the sky, Mars just above, Regulus was visible to the naked eye but didn't come out in the photo.

According to the very helpful  earthsky web site they should be visible for most of October for all you early risers.

Tuesday 13 October 2015


Team Concise trimaran on the pontoon at Hamble Point.

MOD70 trimaran described as " latest generation of absolutely identical trimarans aims to combine modernity and performance, safety, reliability and cost control." Hmmm, not quite sure about that last point, but I guess it's all about relative cost and they sure are fast.

Sunday 11 October 2015

Laser 13

Our friend Glenn had recently bought a Laser 13 and asked us along for his first sail, not that he really needed any help, just with a new and unfamiliar boat it's useful to have a couple of extra hands along.

I've sailed the larger Laser 16 so it was a great chance to try out the smaller boat which is probably more suited to single handed or two up sailing.

At risk of sounding like a yachting journalist, I have to say it's a well designed and well though out boat, everything is to hand and simple to use. We had the boat rigged and on the water in no time, it's light weight makes handling ashore easy.

It was a gusty day, but with a reef in the main and three of us (well two and a half as Joseph's still only 6) there were no dramatics as we sailed down the Beaulieu river.

Glenn sails from the Royal Southampton YC at Gins farm which is a lovely spot on an unspoiled Solent river as the panoramic shows.

We had a good sail, the laser proved to be an all around good boat, a safe and sporty family dinghy and is in fantastic condition.

The club bar had closed by the time we got back and put away so we retreated to the Master Builder's in Buckler' Hard which is just one of the hardships of sailing on the Beaulieu.

Saturday 10 October 2015

Up the creek

Well Badnam Creek to be specific, it winds up past Mercury marina, from the main river if you didn't know it was there you would wouldn't notice it it.

A summer evening low water, the air is still and filled with the ozone and scent of weed exposed on the drying mud. The boats high and dry, egrets and birds picking along the last of the water for tasty morsels.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Indian Summer in the western Solent

Seen from Lymington and Keyhaven salt marshes during an early September day, hazy sunshine, light winds, does it get any better than this?

Dinghy racers gather just outside the Lymington river.

And further west, down off Hurst Castle the Keyhaven fleet also prepares for a start.

While others stay aboard in the harbour and catch up on a few jobs and maybe some maintenance in the nice weather while the wind is too light for sailing.

Fishing and crabbing off the old pier.

Taking the opportunity to row around safely in the flat calm.

Yachts lay quietly at their moorings as high water fills the channels among the marshes.

Children sailing and playing.

Horses enjoy a cooling walk along the shore.

Monday 5 October 2015

The Observatory

Down in the salt marshes between Lymington and keyhaven, on a point on the path are two strange looking shed like structures, close inspection reveals they are an art installation.

Described as a sculptural installation, one of the buildings is an artist's workshop while the other is an open observatory which can be rotated using a winding mechanism inside, so it's possible to follow the sun or the stars or just simply change the view across the marshes, open lake and the Solent.

The project began as part of Winchester Science Centre on the south downs, but has been relocated to Lymington over the summer and I have to say looks very at home in the new nautical setting.

It was certainly proving to be a popular stopping and talking point with walkers and cyclists when we were there. The artist in residence changes often, outside the workshop was a cabinet where people were invited to swap or leave items and write about them in a book.

Friday 2 October 2015


Seen alongside at Dell Quay what looks a traditional local boat, gaff rigged and fitted out with an engine.

Traditional clinker built (lapstrake if your reading this to the west of Cornwall), she looks to be a stout and seaworthy inshore fishing  craft or similar.

Sadly there never seems to be anyone around to ask, given it was lunch time perhaps the crew had adjourned to Dell Quay Sailing Club or the nearby Crown and Anchor.