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Having written several recent blog articles about my (and RISKKO’s) adventures in Africa I realized this weekend that my other (prime) winter residence was suffering from under-exposure. So this week I will try to correct this.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I spend the months from March to November commuting between London and the Alps. London is where I earn my living helping a large industrial group manage its business risks. The Alps, or more precisely Bavaria, is where I go on a weekend to recharge my batteries and get inspiration for the week ahead.
In the winter I find that commuting to the mountains can get disrupted by the weather and the drive from either Munich or Salzburg Airport to my apartment in the mountains is rather dangerous (my trips to and from the airport are either very late at night of very early in the morning).
So in the winter months Bavaria as an escape route is replaced by South Africa where I live in a remote location next to the ocean (my recent African blogs have lots of pics and can be found here, here and here). However, commuting every weekend between London and Africa would be a bit over the top, both in terms of my body and my bank balance. So I save up all my annual leave and together with the festive national holidays this allows me to make three trips to Africa of 2/3 weeks.
When I am in the UK I live in leafy Surrey, not far from Horsell Common. Horsell Common is famous because it provided the setting for H.G.Wells’ book “War of the Worlds”. The sand pits mentioned in the book actually do exist in Horsell Common (see the picture below).
If you visit the sand pits or the surrounding swamp area on a misty day it is not very difficult to imagine the Martians landing there and building their heat-ray machines. The book features many of the local areas so if you are a fan get yourself over to Woking in Surrey and visit the common. The author H.G. Wells lived in Woking when he wrote the book and there is a statue of a Martian ‘Tripod’ fighting machine in the town shopping area.
In addition to the sand pits there are a number of other interesting things in Horsell Common. In an earlier blog I described the prehistoric burial mounds which only further add to the mystique of the location (the relevant articles can be found here and here). Around the sand pits, where sand has presumably been excavated (or perhaps its is a result of the Martian heat ray), the ground below many of the trees has eroded leaving some very interesting root structures (see the pictures above and below).
Those local people who have dogs will be very familiar with Horsell Common as a popular place for walking their dogs. In order to not stand out when I am taking photographs I make a point of also taking my dog RISKKO. This helps me to avoid drawing undue attention to myself.
Of course when you are out with your dog it is pointless thinking that you are in control of the agenda. Invariably RISKKO meets up with one of his many friends – like Sid (below).
When the two dogs are together they love playing in the roots and building little doggy houses there. Readers will certainly remember that RISKKO gets involved with similar activities with his friends in the Bavarian Forests during the Summer (if you have not seen the pictures try the link here).
I personally find Horsell Common is great for jogging because the ground is quite soft. This helps me to keep my aging knees going a little longer. Being chased by an untethered Rottweiler also acts a great incentive to go a little faster (I normally jog very early – which is the time that people with the most dangerous dogs are also out – to prevent them disturbing other dog-walkers). If your dog struggles with eating fresh meat try wrapping it in Lycra first!
I can actually get from my apartment in Surrey to the Common by foot. I simply go along the Basingstoke canal. This allows me to avoid unpleasant traffic fumes or hard surfaces. The canal also has lots of interesting things to look at and photograph.
I live next to the canal so I can enjoy the four seasons from my balcony and also keep an eye out for the many activities on the water. We get numerous barges and canoes going past and there is plenty of wild life. The pictures below are taken in Winter and show the views in both directions (taken from the balcony).
One of the most interesting things is a very large Oak Tree which grows directly in front of my balcony. The reason it is interesting is because of the local squirrels.
The squirrels use the tree on my side of the canal together with a similarly large tree on the opposite side as their ‘bridge’. Like many bridges over pretty rivers this ‘Squirrel Bridge’ appears to be a key meeting place and a popular location for the enjoyment of ‘Squirrel Romance’. Clearly you will not find any photos of that kind of stuff on a respectable website like this one.
Although I understandably draw the line at publishing squirrel porn I think it is probably OK to share with you a picture I took in the last couple of days of a rather large squirrel having a mid-day nap on the ‘bridge’.
Squirrels are not the only animals to have found an interesting way of getting from one side of the canal to the other. In the winter time the ducks can find the water a little cool and as a result they have taken to using the local locks as a way of avoiding getting cold feel.
As well as helping to keep their feet warm the locks are also a useful vantage point to enable the ducks to watch out for the many naughty foxes that travel up and down the canal.
Actually I think the major reason for the ducks meeting on the canal locks is to satisfy that most basic of animal instincts – they like to gossip. Take a look at the picture below and tell me that Ducks don’t like getting together for a good chin-wag.
The local ducks also strike me as being a bit vain. I have noticed they like using the locks as a kind of catwalk to show off their shiny red boots.
Well I hope that has brought you up to date with some of the excitement we get here in Surrey during the winter months. Sadly my time for photographing in the UK is somewhat limited in the winter as I normally start and finish work in the dark. However that means there will be lots of potential when I retire.
If you have any suggestions or comments please do not hesitate to use the message box below. Time now to pack my summer gear for the next session in Africa.