Favourite Locations

Penllergaer Woods

Penllergaer Woods in Autumn

The locations of the StillWalks I produce are many and varied – from woodland to coast, townscape to park, I enjoy them all. Pre-production recce walks can sometimes be the most interesting as that is the time of initial discovery if the place is new to me. Production days, however, are the time to look and listen really closely.

Some of the places I have enjoyed most are: Penllergaer Woods, samples of which can be seen in – the Autumn Walks, Woodland Walk 1 and Woodland Walk 2 in Winter Walks. Also the old St Teilo’s Churchyard down on the marshes near where I live can be seen in the Old Churchyard Walk from Summer Walks and Carrick Shore in SW Scotland – Coastal Walk Evening in Spring Walks. One more is on the Swansea cycle route – Abertawe Walk from the Autumn Walks.

Pennlergaer Woods in Winter

Pennlergaer Woods in Winter

M4 Traffic – Pennlergaer and the old churchyard, are both close to the M4 motorway, which is busy at all times. In Penllergaer I find the gradual absorption of the sound of traffic, by the trees and their foliage, as you go deeper into the woods, very attractive. Perhaps it is the contrast of the two adjacent environments that creates a better sense of release from one and welcoming of the other.

On the other hand, I love the walk down to and around the old St Teilo’s Churchyard and you cannot get away from the M4 traffic in this place. I find I “filter out” a lot of the sound from the road and just listen to the birds that can easily pierce the sound of the cars and trucks.  The sound recorder does not ignore the traffic of course, but, as I do it subconsciously on location, I feel justified in filtering out some (but not all) of the background road sounds when editing.

StillWalks Works for Me – I tend to use them when I need to take a few minutes out of the working day, relax and focus my mind on something other than work. I also use them at times of stress – this is often when waiting for an approaching event such as a meeting. I use them occasionally at the end of the day too, when I need to wind down before going to sleep.

On the Move – If I am on the move and, therefore, watching a StillWalk on my iPhone, the screen may be small but with headphones plugged in and the video filling the screen, I find I easily “move” into the space of the StillWalk. At all times of viewing on a computer screen, I would always watch the StillWalk in full screen mode and I try to prompt others to do this. Not only do you see more, but full screen view also prevents many other distractions and helps promote your relaxation and enjoyment of the StillWalk.

Still Watching . . . I may have to add one of the latest StillWalks to my favourites list – Moss Wood Walk in the Autumn Walks. This is from Gnoll Park in Neath, South Wales and I have just watched full screen in full HD . . .

Week 6 – Marshwood Birds – Anyone interested in following my weekly recording and photos from this project can find the recordings on SoundCloud and the images on Flickr.

On the Move

On the Move, Swansea to York

Sunny Sunday and Week 5 Marsh Wood Birds

At last – sunshine in amongst all the drizzle and mist in South Wales. It’s a couple of days ago now and, of course, we were straight back to the drizzle on Monday but the memory remains.

Saturday was at least dry and allowed me to get out to record week 5 of the birds down at the marsh woods. Listen to the clip below. This is a 2 minute clip but I could have sat and listened through the cans for a lot more than the 7 minutes of the full clip. Remember, if you’re reading this in an email, you’ll have to click the title above or the http link at the bottom to see the full blog entry with sound clips . . . or you could click the comment button.

And then in the woods the birds were arguing over territory again – or was it food? The two things guaranteed to make birds or humans argue. Listen below.

Marshes

Marshes

Robin

This Robin's keeping an eye on me

Old Railway Track

Old railway track through the woods

Sunday AM

At last, a bright day. At least for today there would be no SAD. I took a walk down to the old St Teilo’s Churchyard and had to take my coat off in the warmth – I love this place and have done a StillWalks there, a Summer sample of which you can see here – Old Churchyard Walk. Here are a few pics from Sunday AM.

Marsh Grasses

Marsh Grasses

St Teilo's Churchyard

St Teilo's Churchyard

St Teilo's Churchyard

St Teilo's Churchyard

River loughor

River Loughor - Down on the Marshes

Sunday PM

With the sun still shining, a trip to Cardiff was called for to take Ellen back to Uni – she had come down to Swansea to go and see the National Dance Company of Wales (NDCWales) at the Taliesin Arts Centre with us. They were awesome 🙂 Anyway, not wanting to waste the sunshine, we had a walk in Roath Park and got a cuppa in the cafe there. We were reminded what a popular place it is . . . with birds and people alike. Whoops! How did I manage to miss both people and birds off these shots – I wouldn’t have thought it possible lol. The sound clips at the bottom prove they were there though.

Roath Park

Roath Park

Roath Park Crocuses

Roath Park Crocuses

Roath Park

Roath Park

Remember, if you’re reading this in an email, you’ll have to click the title above or the http link below to see the full blog entry with sound clips . . . or you could click the comment button.

Missing Marsh Music

Weeks 1 – 3 of my marsh wood birds sound clips went smoothly and it was great to hear different “music” (bird song) on each occasion. I’m afraid there will be no “music” this week as I’m off to York for a British Tapestry Group meeting (another, parallel life) – they have an excellent new website.

The week has been very busy with the launch of the new StillWalks website and various other things including a trip to Cardiff where we visited the library and the Chapter Arts Centre. The main exhibition there was Lothar Götz and was much more interesting than I was led to believe from what I saw on their website. We also went to see The Artist and really enjoyed it – the best film I’ve seen for a while . . . and silent!

Anyway, in place of a sound clip, there are a couple of pics from Cardiff and the Chapter here or you can see them and others on Flickr.

from Cardiff Library

from Cardiff Library

There is one other shot on Flickr of the interior of the library – I would have taken more  as it is a great building but Vertigo is not a good thing to suffer from there 🙁

Lothar Götz

Lothar Götz

Hope to do a recce walk for StillWalks in York while I’m there and maybe get back in the Spring for a production day.

Blog Update

It was 3 AM this morning when I realised I had forgotten to update the StillWalks Blog menu following the launch of the new (now current) StillWalks website. Apologies to anyone who may have been confused by this.

The menu items at the top of this blog are now up to date. If you haven’t yet visited the StillWalks website, please do and I hope you enjoy all that is there. Much more will be coming in the future and here is a tip for enjoying the virtual walks found on the site – click the Full Screen button in the corner of each video – it looks like this.

full screen button image

Ellen’s Blog – Ellen, author of “A Jaguar Tale“, now has a blog of her own on Tumblr – you can find it here http://ellencd.tumblr.com/.

. . . and here’s that Jag again!

Jaguar XJ

Jaguar XJ

A Jaguar Tale

Introduction

Last year my daughter, Ellen Duncan, had a short story included in an anthology edited by Kate North and called “The C Word”. It was published by Cinnamon Press and launched at Waterstones. Needless to say I was very proud of her.

I asked Ellen to write an account of a recent trip I took with her to the north of Scotland to visit my sister, Jane, on the sad occasion of her husband’s death from cancer. Philip had lived with cancer as long as he was able and maintained, with Jane’s help at the end, a popular blog about his experiences (www.philiprogers.co.uk). Jane runs RichThinkers.

Whilst in Scotland I wanted to produce a StillWalk for Jane, which would be dedicated to Philip – The StillWalk is “Winter Woodland Walk – Forres”.

I asked that Ellen’s story focus on aspects of the visit other than that of the funeral.

Alastair Duncan 31/01/2012

A Jaguar Tale 

The trip to Bristol Airport at three in the morning, was probably more round-about than necessary, a result of attempting to figure out how to use TomTom on my Dad’s new iPhone and not being entirely successful. Nevertheless, we arrived there in plenty of time and spent the next two hours drinking coffee and trying to decide whether it would be better to stay awake or doze until the flight. As it happens, even dozing is virtually impossible in a busy airport at five in the morning, regardless of whether you’ve slept earlier or not, and I hadn’t. So we stayed in a mostly silent daze until it was time to head to the departure lounge.

Sunrise at 20,000 feet

Sunrise at 20,000 feet

The flight itself passed in a haze of tiredness, broken by a spectacular sunrise somewhere around eight in the morning, and constantly underpinned by the gravelly whine of the engines. It was cold when we got off at Aberdeen Airport, a biting wind that even cut through my thick winter jacket, and we were both glad to reach the warmth of the arrivals lounge. Checked in with Europcar rental service, then got breakfast, and wow, what a queue of riggers! We were too warm by then, that’s always the way, but a full cooked English breakfast could actually be enjoyed, and then it was back to the Europcar desk. Another queue, more waiting.

I was hanging back, staring at nothing in particular, so it startled me a bit when Dad just spun around, grinning like a little kid, and said, ‘We’re getting a Jag!’

Jaguar XJ

Jaguar XJ

‘Awesome!’ Because, frankly, it was. Who’s going to be disappointed by that, especially when we were expecting a Ford Mondeo? So off we went, keys in hand, and suddenly looking forward to the two-hour drive to Forres rather more than anticipated. And there it was, gorgeous and shiny and black, absolutely stunning, with leather seats, and so comfortable . . . and Dad couldn’t figure out how to start it.

We worked it out, eventually; it was all electronic, automatic, but so smooth. We had fun playing with the digital display, tapping through the climate control (separate for each side of the car!) and figuring out the radio and sat nav. Hooking up the iPod was beyond us, so we travelled in the quiet – you could barely hear the tyres on the road, or the engine. I didn’t sleep. The sun was bright, the area was gorgeous and there was snow on the hills.

We were staying with my grandparents, opposite Jane, in her friend’s house. Lunch – thank heavens – was pretty much ready when we arrived, so after some admiring exclamations about the car, we settled down to eat, following which I passed out in bed for a couple of hours, catching up on some much-needed sleep while everyone else went out and got in the major shopping for the next few days.

And that, unfortunately, was when the problems began.

‘The boot won’t open.’

‘What?’

‘The boot won’t open. All the food’s in there.’

And try what we might none of us could get it open either. Dad ended up calling the rental service, Europcar, and they said they’d send someone out – but because it was snowy it might take a while. So we got on with things, and saw Jane, and cooked dinner, and poor Dad just had to hang around.

When they finally did arrive, late in the evening and while we were eating, Dad hung around outside while the mechanic tried to sort it out – but of course, things are never that easy, and even he couldn’t sort it out. Dejected, Dad came back in to finish his by-then cold pasta, looking harassed.

He had been explaining to the others about StillWalks, and since he had brought one of the DVDs up he decided to use it in a much-needed attempt to relax. It worked, too, for all of us, just sitting, watching and listening to them, going from a winter to a summer one, from coast to forest. Dad seemed pretty calm – right up until the point when Granny said, ‘I think you should call the car company again now, not in the morning!’ Quite a lot of the tension returned.

Next morning, while I was giving Jane a hand with some boxes of Philip’s books, poor Dad was still having to wait around, this time for the AA Jag specialist to arrive. As he had been hoping to use the time we were up there to produce a StillWalk of the area in memory of Philip, this was more than a little frustrating. When they finally did get there, still no luck. Whatever techniques they tried made no difference whatsoever, and on top of that it turned out the car wasn’t locking either. By this point we had all pretty much decided that a Jaguar, lovely though it might have been, was far more trouble than it was actually worth on this occasion.

Dad, in a last ditch attempt, tried calling Jaguar themselves, in the hope that they would have a solution. Considering the luck we had had so far, I don’t think any of us were surprised when they told him the only way to get in would be to cut through the steel and into the boot from the inside. By this time we decided just to give in, do the shop again, and apply to get the money back on the insurance.

That was how Dad and I ended up in Tesco, buying everything again – and it’s funny how it doesn’t matter where you are, Tesco is the same. At any rate, by the time we were finished, it was nearly dark, and sleeting along with it, making for a fairly miserable drive back while we tried to remember the route without a great deal of help from street signs. On our return my Uncle Simon joked that the boot would open only when we got back to the airport!

The next day, Dad took the morning to do the work for the StillWalk – by then, thankfully, the snow had more or less cleared. Granny had done the flower arrangements for the service that afternoon, so we drove there a little early. It was further than we had realized, and the roads were quite twisty, so I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised when a humpbacked hill came out of nowhere – it felt like the car almost took off.

That evening, I found myself keeping my little cousin, Isobel, entertained with just about the strangest game of Hide and Seek I’ve ever played – it involved her showing me where she was ‘hiding’ something, and then the pair of us wandering off to start ‘looking’ for it together.

Unfortunately for us, we were leaving in the early hours of the morning again, and had to be up at 2am, which I can’t say is a time I’m too fond of. Nevertheless, when it actually came to it, despite all the trouble we’d had, the Jaguar is a nice car to drive and be in, and the roads were silent and empty, so we arrived at Aberdeen Airport in plenty of time, and not quite as tired or stressed out as we might have been. We parked in the hire car area, which was more or less completely abandoned, and were just grabbing our things off the backseat when Dad decided to try the boot one last time.

It opened! After everything, all the trouble and time we had taken trying to get it sorted out, and right at the very end it just opened. Leaving us to abandon £130 worth of food and wine just as it was finally accessible again.

Ellen Duncan 31/01/2012

I wondered later if it was that ‘flight’ from the humpback bridge that unstuck the boot, but I guess I’ll never really know. And the car? Well I know from the texts I sent, just how frustrated and annoyed I was at the time – but when I look back, it is the pleasure I felt at driving a brand new Jaguar XJ that I remember first and foremost.

Alastair Duncan 31/01/2012

NB Anyone interested in Philip Rogers books should contact Rich Thinkers.

Travelling

It’s a while since I lasted posted anything, I know – please be patient with me, I am still getting up to par with all this. Anyway, things are moving, as have I – i.e. travelling. This latest sound clip (see below) is from a recent journey to London for a British Tapestry Group meeting. All did not go well! The meeting was OK – Hillu Liebelt gave a fascinating talk about her work. Getting there was not so easy!

I arrived in London to discover that half the tube lines and stations were not in use. No problem getting to Tate Modern – lovely walk along the Embankment and the Tate is an experience on its own (watch out for the StillWalk). Afterwards I crossed the Millemium Bridge ‘cos I wanted to, and then headed for the tube . . . 1st station closed . . . and the 2nd . . . and the 3rd . . . finally London Bridge was open but I couldn’t figure out which lines/stations were open to allow me to get to Richmond. Knackered by this time, I waited in the ticket queue for assistance and finally took a roundabout route out to the BTG meeting, arriving late and exhausted.

To end on a brighter side – the weather was beautiful and I enjoyed the train journey up to London – got some work done, emailed some friends and recorded this great clip of travelling under the Severn Estuary.