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EXPLORING THE STEART MARSHES

I have spent the last few weeks exploring the  West Somerset coastal path which is now designated as the England Coast Path and runs along the Bristol Channel coast from Brean to Minehead.steart-river-mouth-winter-for-web

At this time of year (February) it is essential to make sure the weather is favourable to venture on this trail as you can go for miles without seeing a single person. Getting into a difficult situation could become a real problem.

The area known as Steart Marshes is to be found at the mouth of the river Parrot where it empties into the Bristol Channel and has undergone a considerable change from when it was little more than a flat wild  marsh land following huge investment by various organisations. This has resulted in new  dykes and pathways as well as several ‘hides’ from which to observe the birds and other wildlife. New car parks and a toilet block has made the area far more attractive to visitors and it is now well signposted. All this have made it very popular but of course the single track lanes that are the only way to reach the marshes are a problem for visitors who might expect good road access.

I have been to Steart previously but as I was new to the area I had no idea where to go except to follow the signs.

This time I was more prepared having obtained an excellent  leaflet with map supplied by Natural England. I noticed that there was a Tower hide at the river mouth and planned to go there and not knowing what I would find I left my trusty dog at home. I drove through the Steart parking areas where most people go and on to the little car park nearest to the river mouth. There were no other cars in the park and completely deserted.

I got out the car and stepped into the full force of the wind, a westerly gale coming in off the sea, not quite what I wanted to find but the sky was blue and cloudless so I decided to press on.view-from-hide-for-web

The single track lane passed in front of several farms before it ended with a gate to prevent car access and the track became a wide muddy footpath. I could just see the ‘tower’ in the distance and followed the path until I came to a field of sheep with lambs, thought to myself “glad I did not bring the dog”  as I had to walk through the field to the tower.I was surprised at the distance I had to walk and was better than 20 minutes and with the wind howling across the open land made it feel a lot longer. Still no sign of another person. tower-hide-at-steart-point-for-webThe wooden tower was well made and substantial with a staircase up to the hide at the top. Here there is a 360 deg view of the countryside and the sea across to Wales in the distance and Hinkley point power station down the coast as well as a good view of town across the river. Visibility was great with the sun on the ponds but the birds were all a long way off and although I took some great pictures of the coastline I was wishing I could afford that 600mm zoom lens that I coveted but could not justify spending £750 on!!steart-in-winter-for-web

 

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL

I have always enjoyed Charles Dickens’s  “Christmas Carol”  in book form and different films over the years and last night I thought I might watch the animated version on TV.

This is a surprisingly good version of the story has stuck to the plot as in the book. It was not long into the film that I had the realisation that the predicament of the working people in England in Victorian times was just no different than it is today. After 150 years of progress in improving workers rights and the fight by ordinary people for a decent living  it is obvious that there has not actually been any progress at all.

Then we had employers exploiting their staff to satisfy their own greed and making huge profits and today we have employers exploiting their staff for their own and shareholders greed. We have a government that is incapable of doing anything except blame others be it the Labour party or the workers or outside forces for the problem and have no idea how to proceed. The only answer they can see is cut spending and hope that everything will work out in the end.

The introduction of the living wage was a great idea brought in to improve the lot of low paid workers but unfortunately this has been exploited by many companies and employers who consider it not the minimum they should pay but the maximum. This has resulted in workers who might have enjoyed a pay rise being held back to the minimum by unscrupulous bosses who use the minimum wage as a way to increase their own profits. Our government are complicit in this arrangement because they feel that they have done the poor a great service.

Over the years it has become obvious to me that a well paid, happy staff assist in a company making more profit where a poorly paid unhappy staff who could not give a toss if the company struggles do nothing more than go to work. Why then would you want to exploit your workers?

The same old story the poor get poorer and the rich get richer!!

 

 

A WALK IN THE COUNTRYSIDE

The great thing about writing a blog is that no one may read it at all so it can be like writing down your own personal thoughts on any subject you like. Then again lots of people may read it so you have to use a bit of common sense and not start insulting people. I have decided to write a blog once a week about the places I have visited during the previous week. As I don’t get to go very far these days it could be a bit limited, we will see how it goes.

This week, last Wednesday to be precise my wife Julie said she had to go to a meeting in north Somerset and would I like to go along and take the dog to the coast for somewhere different for the both of us to visit.

I dropped her off at the office and drove on the A39 to Kilve a small village close to the Bristol channel and turned left down a lane through the village following a sign which read Kilve beach.

The lane turned into a track for half a mile and suddenly terminated in a piece of waste ground. There were no cars there except for me. I looked around the car park area which in effect was a piece of rough ground with a couple of old wooden benches and a waste bin oh and not forgetting the white box and the sign don’t forget to get a ticket to park or you will be liable to a £60 fine!

Yes out here in the middle of nowhere on the bleak north Somerset coast a ticket machine, a white box for the purpose of extracting money from any visitor unlucky enough to want to spend an hour walking on the beach.

I looked at the map and saw that there was a public toilet marked on the map so maybe the cost of the parking was the upkeep of that facility? I walked around the field, nope no toilet block. an old shed that could have been one once, no surly not. Right then what was the 1.50 parking fee for?  No one about to ask ask and no one about to keep an eye on the car while I was away. Well not a problem really as there was noone else about and not likely to be with the thickening mist and falling drizzle. Stop being grumpy John, I told myself, pay up and go for your walk. Dog getting restless. Don’t have any change, this is getting worse, don’t want to go home and don’t want to risk a fine of £60 so search the pockets and see what we can come up with. Ah ha in the glove compartment a £2 coin.  Back to machine, read instructions, no change given, beginning to dislike this white box. Swear at it and curse. Dog getting worried, Right put the £2 coin in and get on with it.

Finally got on our way along the track to beach, next sign “Private road no entry” Lucky a small sign with English Coast Path on it. Didn’t have to use the private road, incidentally this was a tractor track, no road anywhere.

I decided to head east up a narrow footpath that interestingly joined the “private road” 50 yards further on, The dog and I stood on the high ground and looked over the edge at what was supposed to be the beach! No beach, not one speck of sand, miles of rocks as far as the eye could see and as the tide was out about 200 yards of rocks between the cliffs and the dirty brown water which is the Bristol channel.

The path followed the cliff edge and I feared for the dog and could not let her off the lead and this was not a very interesting place unless you like acres of grass . I decided to turn around and retrace my steps  and  see what was along the path to the west. As it happened this was more interesting as the cliffs were low and I could let the dog off. we walked for a couple of miles taking in the rugged, wild coast, no-one to be seen and I could imagine how some people might find it interesting. I can’t believe that someone had the nerve to call this place a beach though, not with the wildest stretch of imagination.

rocks-1-kilverocks-2-kilve

 

We wandered back to the car and I dried the dog as best I could, what to do next?

I know I will go home, nothing else to do here anyway!!  Thought for the day “I won’t be back here in a hurry”.

 

 

AIRPORT MADNESS

Hard to believe that a statement by the current government on the third runway at Heathrow would cause so much excitement.

Can you remember just a few years ago the furore caused by the Blair government when they made the same announcement! Then only a couple of years ago the Cameron government stated categorically that there would be NO new runway at Heathrow!

Now another government comes along and makes another bold statement which on the face of it is no more likely to happen than UKIP winning a general election. If you think about it that is even much more likely!

Would it not be amazing if someone in government even a Prime Minister had vision for the future of our airports, say look forward fifty years or even 100 years and make decisions that would improve the lot for our grandchildren and their grandchildren instead of a short fix to accommodate the get richer desires of the London based businesses and bankers of today. It is as if the people of London are on a different planet to the rest of us.

I don’t have the answers to the airport expansion issue but I do have the questions, like would it not make sense to build a new airport where the aircraft go out and come in over the sea thus reducing the problem of pollution of the cities at a stroke?

I heard a proposal for a airfield that was mothballed and waiting for investment would fit the plan ideally, I believe it was talked about but thrown out by the Heathrow lobby, Why? Imagine a new airport built for the 22 century that incorporated all the new gadgets, and powered by solar energy!  and at a fraction of the cost and disruption of the Heathrow or Gatwick projects.

What about expanding Bristol airport? that would accommodate everyone in Wales and the west and has great access from the motorway network. It is also close to the sea where aircraft could once again come in and out without crossing any heavily populated areas.

I am not sure but I expect it is true that more than 70% of the people travelling from Heathrow come from outside greater London and would prefer to fly from an airport nearer home.

I could rabbit on about it a quite a while but that is enough of that!!

Ah! British Bake Off now that’s more interesting!!!

 

GETTING USED TO BEING RETIRED

I have been retired for quite a while now probably about 7 years but the odd thing is it is only now that my wife Julie has started work that I feel that I am truly retired. While she spent so much time at University and the last couple of years looking for a decent job I did not have this feeling.

Being retired now means that I can get up when I like take the dog out when I like and write my letters at my own pace even do the blog, or not, whenever I like. I can watch the TV or not and I can go into town if I wish, then again can’t be bothered as I don’t have to.

Maybe it is the prospect of Julie having a decent income that is the difference but then no I don’t think so! Whatever it is I think I am going to enjoy it, I felt like getting out early this morning and was on our walk by 8.30 . The dog and I had a long walk and stood by the river Rosie had a swim and I looked for any bird activity of which there was very little and I found myself thinking just how pleasant this was. Then I thought about an old friend who passed away yesterday and wished I we had had a chance to get together once again as I had not seen him for years. Well you don’t do you ? if one of you lives in Somerset and the other in Yorkshire it is not easy to say lets meet up somewhere just for a chat. Well we didn’t and that is all I can say about it but it has not stopped me thinking! One of life’s strange happenings, well to me it is strange. Why is it that we can travel from one end of the country to the other when a relative or close friend dies to attend the funeral, but we don’t go and see them when they are alive or can’t even pick up the phone and say hello until it is too late.

Now that is an idea. I will make a new year resolution to start contacting my family and friends and go and visit people! Bet you a pound to a pinch of xxxx they will think I am really acting strange!   It reminds me of  the last time I told an old friend that I was coming to visit him and his wife. I was quite looking forward to seeing them again but when I arrived at the house they were not there it was all locked up. Strange I thought. A neighbour was pottering in the garden and I asked if she knew where they were were and she said they had gone off to Falmouth for the day!!  Well maybe they forgot!!  Surely not on purpose?  Makes you think though! Enough said strange people the Cornish!

Now I have lost track of what I started with. That’s what being retired does for you!!

Never mind I will do it tomorrow I have all the time in the world, well maybe!!

 

 

 

 

HOMES FOR THE POOR!

There has been a lot of press coverage this week about the fact that 2 in ten people live in poor or very poor housing, well that is no surprise to me. I am old enough to remember the years after the second world war when each town and village throughout the country was given the order to build houses. Not for the rich and famous but for ordinary people this was met with an amazing effort. Houses were built at a tremendous pace. You can still see many of them today. We used to call them Cornish units but I expect each part of the country had their own name for them they were prefabricated and built to last for 10 to 5 years in which time better housing would catch up and they would be replaced.They were not sold to people they were rented out and called council houses. Everyone who had one was proud to have a house even if they did not own it , the rent was set at a fair rate and they were in there for life if they wished. If they became better off then they could go out and buy a house and the council house they vacated was let to the next family on the list. The system worked extremely well until the squeeze was put on councils to cut back on building more council houses. The impetus  to build slowed down and the enthusiasm to build was lost.

Then years later when you would think things were bad enough in the housing arena we elected a PM who thought that everyone should own their own house. Only a wealthy mindless person would come up with an idea like that!  The great sell off was on its way. Council houses were sold off, not at the market value but at a very much knocked down price. To make matters worse the PM would not allow the money from the sale of the houses to be used to build new houses to replace the stock of council houses  but kept in reserve for a rainy day. Well the rainy day came and the money went. Today we have councils who cannot afford to build council houses and the lists of people in desperate need of housing grows longer.

The racket of buy to rent has become the norm with rich getting richer and those concerned people who wish to help are unable to homeless well still homeless!!

If the councils were given enough freedom to build council houses and every village and small town in the country were made to  built say ten houses to let, we could in just a few years, reduce the problem to a manageable level.

 

 

 

STRANGE HAPPENINGS IN THE NATURAL WORLD!

This week I read about the decline in the butterfly population this year, this is despite a good winter for butterflies and a warm summer!

A mystery for the butterfly experts to fathom but I noticed a strange difference  in some of  fruit bushes that we have close by. The Hazel bushes and the slows were so laden with fruit last autumn that we had more than we could pick or use and the elderberry tree in the garden dropped so many berries that the ground was covered in places with their berries.

This year a complete change has occured, hardly a hazel berry anywhere, and we have dozens of trees in the nature woodlands close by! The sloe bushes had none at all as far as we could see and the elderflower did not develop and hardy a berry to be seen.

Plums, apples and pears all seem to have had a good year so the question is what happened to the other fruits?

I am not the one to answer the problem just ask the question! Could this be related to the disappearance of the butterflies?PAINTED LADY 2 4TH AUG E.jpg

A painted lady which must have flown all the way from Morocco to Somerset