Challenging Habitat Blog

One year of lockdown in England.

I feel grateful for my health and that of my family, however far away.

I feel grateful for the beauty of nature around me.

I feel grateful for all the amazing things people do to support each other.

I’m lucky. still. today.

Another beautiful hour on the river…

…I never grow tired of paddling and drifting.

Cold water swimming – not just for people!

Blue sky, sunshine and a fresh wind in my face: happy moments and feeling alive.

Caradon Hill is just about 7 miles from my parish, and what’s good enough for Boris is good enough for me (well, I’ll restrict that to distance permitted to venture from home during lockdown, nothing else).

So off I went and enjoyed rambling over to the Cheesewring, avoiding paths and and taking a long route back via the Hurlers, a neolithic monument of three circles of standing stones.

Good air, spectacular views and space!

Plenty of industrial heritage, too: abandoned granite quarries with the sleepers of their tramlines more or less intact and engine houses that serviced the metal mining industry of the late 19th and early 20th centuries partially ruined.

The only industry that remains today is hill farming, and who knows how long that will survive now, without EU grants and subsidies?

A new dawn, a new Covid-19 lockdown across the country.

On the Today programme (BBC Radio 4) this morning, the question arose how we stay positive in this mess, what lights us up in lockdown.

For one of the listeners, a lady in her 90s called Julia, it is the daily 5:30 pm ritual of poring a G&T and sipping it in the light of a candle while counting her blessings.

For me, it will be, once again, immersing myself in nature and noting abundance and beauty and counting my blessings.

I can’t convey the wonderful scent of this winter flowering shrub Daphne odora…it is divine and that’s why I planted it by my front door.

Some of these moments I’ll share here in Outdoor Daily III.

As the second covid-19 lockdown in the UK draws to a close, I won’t be alone in, once more, evaluating the important things in life.

For me it’s having positive, loving and healthy relationships.

With nature: being outdoors, experiencing it with all senses, exploring and observing, learning and understanding, connecting deeply and striving towards sustainability.

With people: family, friends, communities, humanity in all its diversity and self.

Clarity. Stripped down to the foundations of happiness, wellbeing and resilience.

Taking the dog into the orchard before bedtime has become a treat:

time to take deep breaths of fresh air,

space for grounding and letting busy thinking drain from my mind,

darkness so deep it reveals the Milky Way (or see clouds chasing across the sky … the moon conceived by fog … rain soaking my face …)

occasion to practice of Tai chi

and feel gratitude for the good things in my life, think about absent friends and family.

A long walk on Dartmoor with a friend.

The perfect way to spend Fridays.

Views of moor and valleys, farmland and out to sea at Dartmouth.


I’m just returning from the dentist minding my own business and am stopped by a column of 16 SUVs (you know the type: Range Rovers and Japanese models with names, such as animal, terminator, dominator or whatever…) pouring out of the country lane I need to turn into.

A sure sign that the pheasant shooting season on the grand estate nearby has opened.

Quite apart from the issues I raised recently relating to the negative impacts of releasing millions of pheasants into British ecosystems, the paraphinalia that go with the shooting sport have, in my view, a serious issue with sustainability.

SUVs are largely a status symbol for city dwellers and the vehicles of the ‘sportsmen’ I encountered today were specklessly clean and pristine, indicating that they weren’t exactly utilised for off-roading on a regular basis.

They were large models.

According to recent research, the increase in SUVs on our roads were the second largest contributors of the rise in global CO2 emissions since 2010, behind power production.

If that wasn’t enough, they are largely diesel engines, which are responsible for the pollution of our air with small particular matter that gets into our lungs and blood stream, with the potential to cause many diseases, including cancer, and premature death.

I’m not a fan of SUVs, especially when they are used for journeys that a normal car can do, or for the ‘sport’ of shooting.

Like you, I am European and I live in the UK. By accident of birth and shifting borders, I carry a German passport.

I reflect on history, the bad bits (lots of human suffering at the level of individual and collectively) and the good bits (when society thrived through cooperation and solidarity).

I conclude that being part of a bigger whole is infinitely more desirable than striving to be great and powerful alone, to be the biggest of all.

In the belief that history is a great teacher and the foundation upon which we develop foresight and wisdom,


* Johnson, plus D Cummings, J Rees-Mogg, D David, N Farage et al.

We are waking up to a beautiful morning, 25 knots of wind, a following sea and just an hour of foul tide before approaching Pentland Firth.

Perfect timing by an excellent captain and crew!

Pelican is rolling gently, 260 tonnes of ship just powered by the staysail and doing six knots.

I’m loving this, but sadly, it’s too much to stomach for some, so science has to wait until the green drains out of the last faces and the sea state goes down to moderate.

11:30, rounding Duncansby Head with the staysail and topsail and a freshening wind, and with calmer seas now the tide is with us.

The dedicated cetacean survey finished without a single sighting, but still provides valuable ‘absence’ data to the Seawatch Foundation.

After lunch, Mizzen Watch is on and I rotate from port lookout to a challenging stint at the helm in confined waters and then to starboard lookout.

The sun brings warmth between strong gusts and I enjoy watching the fulmars wheeling around the ship.

Fulmars have been wheeling around the ship all day and I enjoy watching their play with the wind and waves.

I read up about their history and discover that they share the common name ‘Mollymawk’ with another bird, the great albatross of the South.

Another beautiful sunset leading into a night under a lot of sail as the winds weaken …

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