Like many others in the UK today I woke up to a touch of snow this morning – not enough to cause any undue trouble but enough to make a photographer smile.
We visited our local church, St James, here in Bramley for the 9am service (Alison was leading the service) and afterwards I took a stroll around the church to see what stood out for me. The Daffodils had taken a bashing however when I got down low their beauty really stood out. Needless to say my kids were happy just to ping snowballs at me.
I then took a stroll around our local woods – The Frith and the first spot I found were these two horses in their winter coats nibbling on some hay. I adjusted my angle and got the lovely heart shape effect with their heads which you can see in the bottom right picture.
At this time of year it can be hard to see the colour in the landscape but if you look close enough you can see it. The Hazel catkins were all fluttering in the strong wind but I did get a picture of some hanging nice and still in a more sheltered area – they look delicate and beautiful however they are tough little things ‘hanging on there’ in the wind.
I was hoping to spot some Deer in the woods however they were all out on the fields today. The wind was strong but the Roe Deer were in the fields on the lee side of the woods avoiding the worst of it. They kept a close eye on me as I passed on by – normally they sprint off but not today – there spot was just too good.
I also spotted a few of our feathered friends in the woods from the Kite soaring overhead, the Robin flitting from tree to tree and the Pheasant making his presence felt in its usual noisy way on the woodland floor.
As Bimbles go this was a pretty special one, with lots of wind, snow, life and colour.
Unlike the Saturday where navigation skills were the focus the Sunday at Chosin Cup is all about testing the cadets skills such as teamwork, ropework, first aid and archery – to name just a few (there will be a further post on the Endurance Race).
After a short briefing the cadets were sent out in their teams to various stances set out in and around the woods earlier that morning.
Being Sea Cadets a weekend without testing their Seamanship skills in some way would not be proper so they soon found themselves having to construct a pulley system to transport water across a ‘raging river!!‘.
Bushcraft is a key part of their training now so their firelighting and pioneering skills were also tested however there was always time to take a few minutes’out‘ on the hammock.
Our adventure training boss Ben McDonald had organised for a mobile climbing wall to turn up that morning. I have no idea how they scored this event however the cadets were up and down it like yoyo’s.
A couple of challenges they faced involved climbing in pairs carrying a ball between them and making the climb blindfolded – both more difficult than you would think.
A favourite of mine is archery. This year our archery instructor Jacob brought along his Area kit so my poor bows could have a year off (I broke one a year ago so glad we have new kit). It proved a ‘hit‘ with both the cadets and staff and even the visiting VIP’s had a bash.
Perry and Deano spent the morning running the tree climbing stance. The cadets had to use ascending devices to climb up into the big old oak tree. This was done to varying degrees of success as it can be difficult if you do not get the knack right.
We had a birthday that weekend – Frankie Mae Edwards turned 13 on the weekend and the cadets had brought her along a cake to celebrate. Needless to say the staff did not get to see much of the cake – thankfully I missed out on all that polishing – well done Cliff and Dave – vary shiny job.
Normally all our classes are located outdoors but this year for some reason the First Aid and the Navigation quiz was hosted indoors – no idea why and hopefully will not be repeated next year 🙂
The one activity missing from this post is the Endurance Race – that deserves a post all of its own which will follow after this.
Soon it was time for the awards and we all paraded in the massive troop shelter on the training area. Enfield unit came 3rd, Sunbury & Walton unit came second and Poole unit won the visitors trophy.
First place went to Merton unit and the Team leader trophy went to Niamh Kelly. Well done to everyone – cadets and staff for taking part in what was a great weekend.
Catch up time again – this post is the one I think that caused me to stop blogging for a bit last year – just too much to capture and show I thought. As you can see I have finally gotten off my backside and written it up.
Chosin is the is the one cup any Sea or Royal Marines cadet who does adventure training in the London Area wants to win. It is a tough weekend where all their skills are tested.
Our new Area Staff Officer Ben McDonald managed to get the training area around Pirbright Ranges booked (they were not in operation thankfully) for a weekend in late September last year. We found a great little woodland to set up the staff camp and an open field for the cadets to use on the Friday night.
The Friday is always a hectic one with setting up camp, sorting the teams out as they arrive and planning for the Saturday and Sunday events.
I took a fair bit of video on this weekend so have made up a number of short videos for the post (hence the delay in writing this up). This post will focus on the Friday and Saturday only with a further one with the Sunday Shenanigans.
Saturday morning got off to a quick start with some staff heading out to check points and some to act as a roving assessment team. I was part of this roving team and had along with me Sharon Selby and Kim Pybus. Sharon and Kim were under training for their Basic Expedition Leaders qualification (now known as the Lowland Expedition Leader Award) and they were using the weekend to help hone their navigation skills.
My fellow colleagues Dave Lewis and Dan Keefe each had a team of trainee instructors as well to take out making for one of the best staffed Chosin Cups I can remember.
Sharon and Kim were soon off navigating and I kept a discreet distance away most of the time. We were hunting the cadet teams that had headed out earlier however they bumped into Dan’s team where one of his trainees – Gary 🙂 put a seed of doubt into their minds as to their location. Needless to say this caused a moment of two of Faffing to happen but they soon got on with things again. They did get their revenge later when we bumped into them again :-).
It was not all study on the day – Kim and Sharon are a little bit mad but great fun to be with – that is what makes them great instructors.
The teams were set tasks along the way and we came across units having their team work assessed at the First Aid stand. Not the usual First Aid but a blind fold carry through the woods – a lot more difficult than it looks – only one team member could see and they were not allowed to touch the other team members in any way.
Another stance was about communications. Instructions were given to a runner behind a tarp, the runner had to pass the info to the others who had to then navigate through a pretend minefield. Their were plenty of other stances including erecting an antennae in a tree and a navigation quiz.
Along the way I did come across some intriguing spots, including checkpoint markers (hope the Paras won), a Pine with its inner trunk burnt out, beautiful Welsh Love Spoons carved by Phil Dent and some great skies.
Looking back on my videos there were some more silly scenes apart from Sharon and Kim.
Once the teams had finished the navigation for the day they had to set up camp and cook a meal from the food they had brought and present it for inspections. Paul Townsend and Graham Brockwell volunteered for this duty – brave men 🙂
Did not get to try out the delights myself however they did manage to stagger away from the tasting session and live to tell the tale.
The cadets thought that was it for the night but they were told to strike camp in the pitch black and pouring rain, then given some co-ordinates to head for (with all their kit). Thus involved having to scramble down a steep slope using descending gear and navigating from point to point in the darkness and rain.
This did not take long and after a debriefing they soon had their tents up and got their heads down ready for a busy Sunday the next day.
Hard to believe that just a couple of days ago we had a good covering of snow (nothing like in the North & West of the UK though) and then in a flash it was gone.
We have an informal and relaxed service at 9am in our Church – St James in Bramley that I attend when I can (other conflicts being Finlay’s Footie or Cadet weekends). After the service I left Jerry and Finlay to clean the hall and had a stroll around the cemetery to see what I could find.
I spotted a lovely dew covered Daffodil and a grave marker for one of The Old Contemptibles – James Johnson – I will have to try and find out a bit more about James and his time in the army. The term Old Contemptibles is supposed have come from from an order from the Kaiser at the beginning (as known then) of the Great War when he reputedly ordered his army to “exterminate … the treacherous English and walk over General French’s contemptible little army”.
After dropping Finlay off at a friends house Catherine Alison and myself all headed over to The Vyne National Trust property that is near Bramley. The Vyne had been shut during the cold snap and just re-opened again.
My first spot was some Lungwort near the main house however as usual it was the sight of the 100 Guinea Oak that got my attention. This grand 600 year old oak (Quercus robur) is propped up by a couple of poles because of damage caused by the main road to its roots (the oak was there before the road) but it is still a magnificent sight to look at. For scale you can just see Catherine in the bottom right corner of the picture.
Old & New
I was not expecting to see too much but I was pleasantly surprised to see plenty of late winter/early spring plants such as the Primrose, Winter Aconites, Snowdrops and one or two Cowslips. All these dainty little flowers were popping up near the sight of a rather rough and silvery dead conifer trunk – quite a contrast.
On the Water
I spent a lot of time watching life go by on the water. There was one lovely spot where the Snowdrops drooped over a stream, a Swan cruised by a wood carving of itself and the Ducks were happy to get some ice free water to feed under.
Amongst the Trees
There are a wide range of trees at the Vyne however the Cedar of Lebanon does produce a rather grand seed that sits upright. There were also plenty of nodules sticking out of the ground under some conifers on the bank of the lake – no idea what causes this but will check it out.
After a lovely coffee and cake it was time to pick the boy up from his friends and head home.
The final part of our Welsh Weekend with the Grumpy Chums (Rick, Gordon, myself and Stu – the order of grumpiness) last year brought us down to the Brecon Beacons and Pen y Fan. The drive from Cadair Idris was a long one due to an accident ahead of us but we got there eventually and soon had a fire on.
We stayed at the Pentwyn Farm campsite (I can thoroughly recommend it) which is 7 miles from Brecon Town and within easy reach of Pen y Fan.
We headed off from the car park at Cwm Gwdi (old soldiers may remember this as an army camp) and headed SSE up the track on Cefn Cwm Llwch ridge.
We had very little in terms of wind so the walk was pleasant enough as we ascended the ridge however we were soon in the clouds with very little visibility (I like this route as it is usually quiet).
A young couple did overtake us on the way up (sprightly things) but after about half an hour they appeared out of the clouds heading down hill. We congratulated them on getting to the summit so fast but they quickly admitted that they had not gone too far ahead and had kept us in sight as we ascended. They lost us at one stage (probably when we stopped for a break) and so got a bit concerned for themselves in the thick clouds – turns out they had no map and compass. Thankfully they carried on back down the ridge.
We soon topped out and joined the masses coming up from the Storey Arms, had a dram and got a quick piccie of Flossie Ann before heading off down to Cribben. Along the way I did ‘splash about’ a bit – Rick had a few choice words for me 🙂
Once over Cribben (finally got a view) we were off down the Old Military Road back to Cwm Gwdi car park. Everyone had achy limbs by this stage and if you know this old road then you will know how we felt 🙂
As it was our last night we had a night out in Brecon Town where we downed one or two sherberts to toast our 3 days on the hills.
I had a great weekend with the Grumpy Chums heading over Snowdon, Cadair Idris and Pen y Fan and would thoroughly recommend this gentler 3 Peaks Challenge.
Today has been one of working at home as our trains decided the weather was not for them.
As I had been stuck at home all day but without the daily commute into London I decided to take a Bimble around our local woods – The Frith – here in Bramley.
The snow was falling gently and the light was fading slowly. Not having the kids with me I could walk slowly and quietly. I came across a forlorn looking nest, a fresh Pheasant track (could hear him but not make him out), spotted a Hare and saw plenty of Deer in the gloom. There was one Muntjac and a herd of Roe Deer.
I shot the pictures and video using my phone so the quality in the low light is not the greatest.