As always the year has flown by to leave us with much uncertainty and sadness in the world. Fortunately, life in the secret valley continues pretty much the same – it is easy to find relief from everyday stresses when surrounded by unspoilt countryside. Rarely does a day pass when I don’t count my blessings for having had a rural upbringing and the opportunity to continue to live and work in such beautiful surroundings.
However, I am no hermit and I enjoy visiting other places – even cities! One city I loved when I visited it some years ago was Stockholm, the capital of Sweden and I began the blogging year with a post about the Skansen open air museum. Skansen was the first tomove and preserve traditional, threatened buildings; it was founded as early as 1873. As well as buildings it also houses a zoo, concentrating on breeding native wildlife for reintroduction schemes including the European Bison which had become extinct in the wild. To see more of the buildings click on the link here.
Exmoor is a second home to me and features regularly on my blog. In March, with some misgivings – for why would I want to share such a magical place – I took readers on my favourite walk, one that wouldn’t be found in any guide book. The walk encompasses all that is best on Exmoor: open heather moorland, deep wooded combes, rushing streams and traditional pubs. It also passed the door of the hill farm where I turned up as a lad looking for work after leaving school. I was taken in and cared for – and made to work hard – and, well read the story by clicking on the link here.
April saw me back on the Continent (as we Brits call Europe). This time in the south of France visiting the ancient town of Lombez. It is far from the tourist routes and we discovered it quite by chance. With its ancient, timbered buildings and wonderful, brick built cathedral it deserved a longer visit than we were able to give it. An excuse for a return trip, perhaps? In the meantime, you can visit it by clicking on this link here.
If April saw us travelling slowly through France, May saw us travel at an even slower pace – by longboat on the Oxford Canal. Passing through traditional buttercup meadows – we were miles from the city of Oxford – and in glorious sunshine it was the perfect way to relax as well as to see the wildlife that seemed oblivious to our passing. Click on the link here to see more.
Our native butterflies struggle to thrive but I have been fortunate in living in places where they prosper reasonably well. As a gardener, (both my hobby and my profession), I probably see more than most and in June I wrote about the species that visit gardens. See how many you can identify in your own garden by clicking on the link here and don’t forget to record them with your local conservation trusts or online.
2017 may well prove to be a year that none of us forget too easily. Travel abroad or in the countryside – and the British countryside is second to none – always helps to refresh the spirits. I have numerous plans for the year ahead and hope that you will be joining me month by month. In the meantime, the review of the second half of this year will follow shortly and don’t forget that images of the Cotswolds and other places I visit are updated regularly on my Facebook page and on Flickr. You can also find me on Twitter @johnshortlandwr