Category: Out and About

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Heaven is a boggy bit of Devon

Steve Haworth

Swapping scouse for pasties, misguidedly dissing Dartmoor and a stroll up the Cowsic. When I was 28 work took me from Merseyside to Cornwall: I traded a lively metropolis with easy access to the mountains of Wales and the north west, for the dramatic, breathtakingly-beautiful coastal scenery and pristine sandy beaches of the West Country. […]

Brownsea Island: private paradise to national treasure

Valery Collins

Brownsea is a small island at the entrance to Poole Harbour in Dorset. In the past it has been vital to the defence of the harbour and Poole itself. Originally the island was owned by the church and under the auspices of Cerne Abbey but it was claimed by Henry VIII when he dissolved the […]

The rough stuff!

Jon Vernon
Rider's view from a mountain bike on Dartmoor

I realised a few weeks back that I’ve been riding bikes off-road, in one form or another, for well over four decades. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of a friend’s older brother rescuing rusty bikes from skips and the local scrapyard, and repurposing them as cow-horn-barred “tracker” bikes which we’d spend the summer […]

“Get Britain on its bike”- part 3: E-asy cycling!

Mike Zollo
two mountain e-bikes

In Parts One and Two of this Cycle-paths series, we covered the subject of cycle routes, both on and off-road, for commuting and for leisure. However, ‘leisure’ can be a misnomer where the physical effort to cover distances and climb hills is concerned. If you, Dear Reader, feel a degree of cynicism stemming from concern […]

Pop-up glamping in Somerset

Valery Collins

Everything seems to pop up nowadays – restaurants, shops, bars, campsites. But a glamping campsite? I was not sure about that. However, I was willing to give it a try and set off for Pop-Up Somerset in the depths of rural Somerset. Pop-Up Campsites Visions of compost toilets and bucket showers played in my mind […]

“Get Britain on its bike” – Part 2: cycling home and away on routes with roots!

Mike Zollo

“Boris Johnson ‘obsessed’ with encouraging cycling” “Cycling is a top priority in Prime Minister’s drive to tackle obesity in fight against Covid-19 in the UK.” So said Cyclist magazine on 15 May 2020, adding that “Boris Johnson believes that the coronavirus crisis presents the perfect opportunity to ‘get Britain on its bike’ to enable social distancing […]

Cae Hir: a gem of a garden in Wales

Anna Andrews
Cae Hir Gardens - the circuar pond and wedding cake tree

Cae Hir is one of the most beautiful gardens I have visited and if you ever get the chance to see it, I would absolutely recommend you go. It sits on the side of the valley of the little Bran river, near Lampeter (Llanbedr Pont Steffan) in west Wales.

“Get Britain on its bike”- part 1: cycle-paths

Mike Zollo
Boris Johnson on a pushbike

what might encourage people to take up cycling, and what support and infrastructure exist to foster cycling … and what might put potential cyclists off! ‘Cyclist’ is a very broad term, ranging from those using two wheels to commute to work or to travel from a to b, through leisure cyclists and touring cyclists to serious club and competition cyclists.

Natural remedies: how you can help address the bio-diversity crisis

Anna Andrews

“The UK has ‘led the world’ in destroying the natural environment” The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) produces a ‘Red List’ of threatened species. Of 8341 UK species assessed under IUCN criteria, 41 per cent have declined since the 1970s and 15 per cent are threatened with extinction; 133 are already extinct. Those […]

Who rebuilt Blandford Forum? The Ingenious B’stards!

Valery Collins

Blandford Forum is a pretty market town on the River Stour in the depths of the Dorset countryside. Visitors will be enchanted by its unique Georgian market-place and fascinated by the story of how the town recovered from a disastrous fire in 1731, which destroyed 90 per cent of the old town. An unusual chain […]

A better urban wildlife legacy

Nick Dobbs

At the heart of Bournemouth and Poole lies an extraordinary 37 hectare fragment of the once Great Heath that stretched uninterrupted from the Purbecks to the New Forest. Eighty per cent of heathland has been lost since 1800 and today the UK is the custodian of 20 per cent of this remaining habitat worldwide. Talbot […]

Dartmoor’s wounded land – part 3: what can be done?

Tony Whitehead

In the first two parts of this series I looked at the parlous state of the Dartmoor Special Area of Conservation. I gave reasons for how it came to be in such a poor state, and covered the influence of post war agricultural policy. In this final part, I will look at what can be […]

Welcoming prickly visitors

Helen Fairhurst

As nature starts to beckon in the spring, my thoughts turn to welcoming some prickly visitors. Each year I’m hopeful that I might see the return of hedgehogs on my little patch as they awake from hibernation. Sadly, the hedgehog population is in serious decline in the UK. The State of Britain’s Hedgehogs 2018 report […]

Walking for health

Barbara Leonard

Just over a year ago I was one of small group of volunteer walk leaders sharing thoughts about a new virus being talked about on the news in the UK. Some of us had just returned from visits abroad where warnings about Covid 19 and measures to limit its spread were already happening, in sharp […]

Zebra crossing in the Masai Mara

Valery Collins

Driving through the Masai Mara Nature Reserve, I had to stop to let a herd of zebra cross the track in front of me. And not just zebra: wildebeest and the occasional giraffe as well. Mine was the only vehicle for miles around and wild animals were the only pedestrians on the vast open plain. […]

Puppy lust: the rise in heartbreaking pet theft

Sadie Parker

Imagine having a pair of dogs for company. They’re your everything, now that your spouse has passed on. Between walks they like a frolic in the garden. One day you let them out as you put the wash on and potter in your utility room. When you finish a short while later, you call out […]

The Third Gentleman of Swanage

Valery Collins

During the nineteenth century the fortunes of Swanage were dictated by a trio known as the Three Gentlemen of Swanage. Two of them, John Mowlem and George Burt developed the Purbeck stone trade, contributing to the fabric of the town as their business prospered and grew. It was the third, philanthropist William Morton Pitt, who […]

Beyond the ‘burdensome estate’

Mick Fletcher

Since West Country Bylines published my article Blocked by the ‘burdensome estate‘ people from all over the country have contacted me with similar examples of apparent official vandalism. Despite the Department for Transport (DfT) publishing a cycling and walking plan for England which ostensibly “sets out a vision for a travel revolution”, part of that […]

Gardening for wildlife: get ready for Spring!

Anna Andrews

The hours of daylight are slowly beginning to increase again and nature is responding to the lengthening days: spring is not all that far off. In February while the trees may still be stark and leafless, look really closely at the branches and you will almost certainly see the buds, the promise of this year’s […]

The ballast of Swanage

Valery Collins
Wellington Clock Tower, Swanage. Deep blue sea, blue sky, cliffs in the background

To many, Swanage is a traditional, old-fashioned English seaside town, a place to wander along the sea front enjoying the murmur of the waves. Some may notice the old tram tracks embedded in the concrete and ponder their significance as they pause on the Stone Quay. Purbeck Stone Brings Prosperity to Swanage During the 1830s […]

Rewilding comes to a Devon valley

Simon Chater

Local environmental charities are working to increase Devon’s tree populations. Simon Chater was delighted to take part. For nearly 40 years I’ve lived in an old farmhouse in one of the loveliest spots in the South West – the valley of the Holy Brook, a tributary of the Dart. A livestock farmer sold me the […]

The shifting sands of travel restrictions

Valery Collins

Christmas and new year are traditionally times for planning summer holidays, but we’re living in a constantly changing situation. It is no longer a question of asking ‘Where do I want to go?’ – more a question of ‘Where can I go’? Even if the UK has put a country on their ‘travel corridor’ list […]

2020’s Christmas ‘star’: the great conjunction of the giants

Bob Mizon
Saturn, Jupiter and Milky Way above Dunkery Beacon

At dusk during the fortnight before Christmas this year, an intriguing event plays low in the western sky for those with an unobstructed view of the horizon. Stepping out into the night from 11 December, if the sky is free of cloud and light pollution we see stars beginning to appear around 5pm, as darkness […]

Walter Raleigh and Sherborne’s castles

Valery Collins

Sir Walter Raleigh was loved and hated by Queen Elizabeth I and despised by King James His own great passion, however, was for the Dorset town of Sherborne. He has left his mark on three of the town’s attractions: he lived in the two castles and he intervened in a dispute at the medieval St […]