Saturday morning was Kieran’s ballet class. Michael dropped him off and then came back for Hazel and me. I needed to speak to the teacher about Hazel—I never go to the Saturday morning class—it took me longer to get ready that hour of the morning! It was fun to watch Kieran dance for a few minutes. After the class we went to Waitrose to get some food in for the weekend. Our meal/menu selection of late is getting to me—I’m a bit tired of trying to think of meals all the time-and want something a tad different every now and again. Not that we actually did anything too different-but we did manage one new meal. When we got home we just had a banana and then just put some potatoes in the oven to bake for lunch. We then walked up to the hospital as I had an appointment with an ophthalmologist. I had to have drops put in and wasn’t sure how my vision would be on the way home. On the way there we saw a Steam Traction Engine-the engine driver blew the horn for the kids. When we got home we cooked some broccoli and I made a cheese sauce for our baked potatoes-yummy!
Michael and I then made a soup/casserole for dinner. It was a new recipe for us-puy lentils, ham, carrots, potatoes—very easy to make and very delicious. When we put the casserole in the oven we all headed out to the bird hide. Hazel and Kieran were anxious to see if anyone had answered a note we left about a large white bird we saw. I was anxious to try out my new binoculars! They were great-really sturdy, clear view—and no trouble to focus. The other one is a small compact set-and focusing it just takes far too much effort and time. We had a pleasant walk over to the hide-nice to see so many kids fishing along the canal.
We spotted quite a few species-such as 10 Great Crested Grebes, about 10 Cormorants and some tufted ducks. Kieran found a map to keep him busy with for awhile!
Our note was answered, and our favourite neighbour was right-it had been an Egret. While we were there another couple came. They eventually asked where ‘we’ were from. I so love when British people think Michal is from the States/Canada-he so doesn’t have a strong British accent! Turns out she has family in New Jersey-almost 2 hours south of where I grew up. They commented on how surprised they were to see two children out on a walk-especially with an American mother. She was also quite surprised I didn’t have them in a mall!! Are American woman that bad? I just hate to shop-and would rather be out in the fresh air any day of the week. I can’t be that unusual!
As it was getting onto 5pm, we decided it was time to head home. On the walk home the kids were pleased as a canal boat was coming into the lock-and it went right under the bridge they were standing on. The smell of the casserole was a wonderful welcome home! It was delicious-and we all enjoyed it. Then the kids had a quick bath before Strictly Come Dancing started. After the kids went to bed-Michael and I got some things ready for our Sunday morning outing.
Today-the kids and I went on our first official Geological outing! I decided to take a geology course this year. I have always enjoyed and wondered about the ‘views’ and the hills and rocks-but have never bothered to learn about them. It is one of Michael’s interests, and the kids are eager to learn as well-so I thought it was time I actually learned a few of the details.
I signed up for an Introduction Course to Local Geology, run by the Oxford University Continuing Education program. Sounds impressive-doesn’t it? I go to the first class-and everyone is chatting together. I’m thinking to myself-wow, isn’t that unusual-they all seem to know each other. Well—they did! They have ALL taken geology classes, they ALL know the teacher, they have ALL joined a local geology group–they ALL know geology. See, when I saw ‘Introduction’ in the course title-I assumed it was a beginner class for beginners! I was sooooo wrong! It has been a bit of a shock—I’m probably the youngest-there is probably only one other person under 50 in the class—so I’m in the role as the youngest, and the dumbest in the class! I’m not used to that role! It wouldn’t be so bad, except for the teacher (very nicely) keeps pointing this out in class by saying things like-‘Don’t worry about trying to get this all now, Elizabeth’ or ‘I know you won’t know this Elizabeth’ or ‘ Have I lost you Elizabeth?’—all said in a very kind way, as if to a young child! Oh well-I have some brain cells left-and will hopefully catch up!
One part of the class is going on ‘local’ geological outings with the group. They aren’t mandatory-but something that is encouraged, and something that Michael and I are both interested in. They had no problems with the children coming along-so off we went. Today’s outing was at the stunning Devil’s Punchbowl, Wantage. (It was a former dry valley, as Kieran said to his Gran on the phone tonight! See-we are all speaking the lingo now!) We had a lovely walk-just over a couple of miles down and along the base of the valley. The group consisted of just about everyone from the class and about 5 other people, plus my posse. (Michael had taken this class about 9 yrs ago-so knew the teacher and a few of the other members.)
The teacher is facilitating this class-but not ‘teaching’ the class. He feels everyone (except me—but I’m not to worry my little brain too much!) has enough knowledge to be able to decipher what they see-and then he will listen to the theory’s-and then give the correct answers if needed. Great-if you at least have a clue as to what you’re looking at! Actually-he and the class are fantastic-they all take that extra bit of time with me, and no one seems to mind my questions, yet. I/we learned to measure the angle of the slopes; how to drill mini-boreholes to check what is below the soil and to be able to label the different layers of soil; how to tell what layer of ‘chalk’ we are looking at-and to tell which era it was from
; and what those layers of terracing in the grass on the slopes was; we also compared the effects on the slopes between the north and south facing slopes-and what could have possibly caused the valley itself. Not bad for a 2 ½ hour outing!
I have to say-everyone was very welcoming of the kids-and just about everyone chatted to them and pointed out things for them. They let the kids use the tool to measure the slopes, they got a go at using the auger, they helped with reading the measuring tapes, and they went up the slopes with some of the other walkers to explore chalk that animals had dug out and so much more. They also managed to do some bird spotting-they saw some kites and some buzzards. They had a good time-and so long as I bring the right shoes for them-they will go again.
2. The class looking at the chalk layers
3. Soil borehole lessons
4. Kieran climbing up to explore the chalk an animal dug out along the slope
5. The view looking back from the half-way point. We started at the top left of the photo-you can just make out a tree at the top.
6. The view from the half-way point looking forward to the end of the walk. We walked to the bottom of the greener hill in the background.
7. This is the actual ‘Devil’s Punchbowl’–at the half-way point of the walk. The photo doesn’t do it any justice–but it looks like half a bowl-and is gorgeous.
The group was going on after that-and we had originally planned to go-but the kids had wet feet. I hadn’t thought to tell them to put their walking shoes on-and their sneakers and socks had gotten wet! When we went home we finished our lunch, and then had a quite day in. I did some homework, Michael had to download our trek (he took the GPS) and hasn’t stopped researching the walk yet (hopefully I’ll soon have a blog link to his new blog about the walks we do), the kids watched two Barney movies, we cooked a roast chicken dinner, and the kids were in bed just after 7pm! Someplace I’m heading soon!