Sandlings with John Macrea

Sandlings walk day 1

We’ve started the Sandlings footpath. In part inspired by reading Robert Macfarlan’s book the Old Ways, which describes all the old footpaths he finds and walks. In part finding the start the day of my vaccination, unexpectedly walking the dogs north end of southwold I saw this notice sandlings way from here to Ipswich.

Our first Sandlings walk was on a dull and cold day, and we kept a good pace for 3 hours easy going. Starting along the popular Southwold promenade, up the estuary, passed all the wooden boats out water resting up, over the Bailey bridge. I deviated for the sandlings route as we had already walked the 5 ways part the previous walk, and we cut down, through the reeds. Walked right passed Sara’s home, which made me miss her, and also guilty that I had not been in contact.

We rocked up at Dunwich as the church bells struck 2, and found a bench in the leper church, among the snow drops and violets, and stone fro Cean, hundreds of years old. Begun in 1200 it continued as a hospital until 1600. Excellent sandwiches and tangerine, before making our way to the sea and our taxi, Michael, to collect and transport us back. The sun came out as we left.

Sandlings 2 Dunwich to Sizewell

Still to write up

Sandlings 3 Sizewell to Snape – April 20th 2021

It was 3 weeks since we last walked – the move from Magnolia to East Lodge distracted. We’d both missed the walking and resumed with pleasure on a glorious perfect walking day with pure blue sky and fresh north wind on our backs.

Starting at Sizewell, John resumed his memory of touring Nuclear Power Stations from Dounreay in Scotalnd to Sellafield in Cumbria, and how Britian, determined to be a paradigm leader in nuclear technology lost out by using gas cooling technology, different to the rest of Europe who used water – the 3 pin plug story and hubris.

The walk turns inland, to cross the estuary at Snape. Throughout the walk we came across the conflict between new technology and landscape. First up was the modest signage for Greater Gabbard a 504MW windfarm off the coat here. Completed in 2012 with Siemans turbines it is now owned by SSE Renewables The extension, called Galloper, adding a further 504 MW, was completed in 2018. I gather A solar powered robot scarecrow successfully reduces dangerous levels of bird ‘guano’ on the offshore substation – they are dressed as offshore workers to frighten birds away! Not long after seeing these … we see the first campaign notice Save Our Sandings – a natural SOS. Scottish Power Renewables plan to build two new windfarms and as a first stage they need to industrialise a large area for a complex of at least 3 substations – covering 30 acres with buildings at a height of 21 metres and the similar acreage for a lorry park etc.

This landscape is unknown to me, the first time on this Sandlings walk. With the trees still bare, but blackthorn flowering along with coconut scented gorse, it is clear to see it in such nakedenss. Above us skylarks.

A notice to Wardens Trust – which I had recently come across as sponsors of Wonderful Beasts creative zoom.

In the middle of fields a huge grey modern architecture is being constructed. From the builder we gather it’s just a home for 2 people.

On such sandy soil, no rain for 3 weeks, the sprinkers are on and the covering for frost protection begins, making the field look like water from a distance. Underneath potatoes.

We lunched under the protection of Great Wood – sitting on a bank with the sun on our faces, as we ate delicious brown bread cucumber and sardine sandwiches prepared by Gill.

John is good at asking direct questions and the first is asked of a woman walker – what are the flags in this field. ‘I’m afraid to say the outline for the substation planed by Scottish Power. They could have a perfectly good substation at Sizewell were there is already plenty of infrastructure, but Scottish power do not get on with EDF and vice versa, so they’ve come in land to this glorious landscape and will blot it.’

A little further on, nearer Snape, a bird watcher with a huge lens on his back, invited by John, tells us of Woodlarks to view and that all of nature is 2 weeks behind last year, such sharp frosts we’ve been having.

The last part of the walk to Snape marshes was a picture post card. With tide low, the mud flats full of feeding birds – a Godwit or two, a flying oyster catcher.

Gill was there to meet us, sitting on a bench in the sun by the barges. While we searched for a cuppa, John stuck gold. Remembering an exhibition of his cousin here he went into the shop Lettering Arts Trust to ask if the work, a figurative sculpture, was still here. Here he encountered Harriet Frazer who was one of his cousins pupils and was as overjoyed as we were to find this unexpected connection. Photographs exchanged.

The Lettering Arts Trust was founded in 1988 by Harriet Frazer MBE as ‘Memorials by Artists’. This was in response to Harriet’s need to find someone to make a unique memorial for her step-daughter Sophie, who died suddenly at the age of 26.

At one point John asked me what were the memorable walks in my life. My first back to back walk, coast to coast, 14 days walking and breathing Alfred Wainwright, falling in love with Bob. The 2nd image came to mind was walking with Kali in the Tatra mountains amongst the carpets of wild flowers. The 3rd walk resonated with John for it was a GR route, somewhere near the Col de Vence, in which I came across a random restaurant in an abandoned village which served me the most delicious Daube for lunch.

For John, the walk was from his childhood, in Kashmire. Taken 4 hours by boat up Dal Lake they as 12 year old pupils walked back taking 3-4 days, up a few mountains on the way. Kashmire is where his strongest memories begin.

We’d walked for 5 hours, our longest walk yet. Getting lost twice no doubt lengthened the walk, but otherwise we found a good pace.

Entangled Life

Yes, I remember now, all of our current cell life have come from the water (something water babes like Sara I’m sure feel when they are in that element that is far more strange to me). Plants made it out of water 500 million years ago.Their collaboration with fungi served as their root system for millions of years until they developed their own, independently

Truffles – tuber magnatum. smell, aroma, chemical dimethyl sulphide. Cannot dry a truffle as you can with other fungi, it has to be fresh. Never been domesticated, impossible to reproduce to farm. In part because of their sex lives. Truffle sex takes place between the hyphae of one mycelial network must fuse with those of a separate, sexual compatible network, + to – .

Foraging behavior of mycelium.
Study of a wood rotting fungus, moving from one block of wood to another.
Tokyo network experiment – with Slime Molds

Mycelium is how fungi feed. Unlike other systems, they digest the world where it is and then absorb it into their bodies. The hyphae long and branched and only a single cell thick, the more they touch the more they consume. Hyphal tips must lay down new material as they advance. Hyphae grow into other structures besides mushrooms. Many species of fungues form hollow cables of hyphae known as cords or fhuzomorphs

Sensitivity to light and spectrum

Hypha tips – the brain? (Darwin) electrical signalling?


Extreme tolerances – lichen abord soyuz 2016 – Tardigrades – few able to withstand space

Lichen – what is it? Animal/Plant Dual hypothis – composed of two different entities, Alga and fungus. First put forward 1869. The alga partner harvested light and carbon dioxide

Mark Cocker on crows on zoom

Organised by Wynd – a neighbour from Southerton – with an introduction to his eccentric museum in Hackney London (www.)

Roost – where Corvids collect until they nest I the spring. Abandoned the moment of nesting.

Rookery where come spring – late feb to may – corvids next.

Roost. Amazingly active. They have 16 hours to prepare and eat for this critical time of station in their roost for the night.

Creators of landscape. Extraordinarily effective planters of seeds. . Jay’s for e amp,e great. Urries of across

Third part was their myth and historic reputations. Magpie with its black and white, enjoys an alternating status.

Michael’s 86th Lockdown Birthday

All exotic plans scuppered, no North Norfolk like last year, no Paris, no travel due to the Coronavirus Lockdown, then the snow came, so no fish and chips and champagne in Southwold harbour either. It would have to be a home affair.

An early highlight of the day was the morning walk to the supermarket, to get food for the evening. After a boiled egg and marmite soldier breakfast naturally (table decked out with blossoming yellow afro Witchhazel).

Planning was secretly schemed though the day, with Gabrielle arriving early for Table Tennis then distracting with Upwords while we did our final dress rehearsal on zoom.

Unbelievable on Zoom was the highlight, for both of us, the culmination of converting M’s story to a script, roping in Ben (by chance staying at East Lodge on an acting job in Bungay), Juliette and Richard, actors from Halesworth. With Ben’s up to date knowledge of Zoom, and his blatant encouragement too, we rehearsed over the weekend. The day before I’d delivered the food package to all – (smoked salmon, pink bubbly, stilton and a cake), using the walk with John as the excuse.

I almost didn’t record it – the landline went! The great music 2001 Space Odessy Blue Danube – did not transpose, I fluffed my lines (oh how the negatives come first), Ben, Juliete and Richard, all brilliant, Ben porting a new prop of glasses, Richard so arrogant in his suit, Juliet, with her V&A scarf, oh what joy to hear it all come together! Michael almost speechless, very touched.

Gifts from Kath and Candy, a Noel Coward dressing gown (kimono) from me, champagne, confit of duck, dauphinoise potatoes, spicy red cabbage, almost burnt brussels, followed by M’s favorite, Tiramisu. Dogs washed the plates.

Here’s the day in photos

Some screen captures from the zoom

Michael’s Account – which naturally starts with food at breakfast:

Rachel arranged an amazing birthday for me. After a special breakfast we took the dogs for a walk and did some shopping.In the afternoon Rachel, I, and our neighbour, Gabrielle. played table tennis, as we do most days. We play our own version of the game, each of us taking turns to play the other two together. For the first time ever, I managed to beat them. They both denied they were making it easy for me. Rachel had then arranged for me to play Upwords (a board game like Scrabble) with Gabrielle, while she prepared a surprise Zoom for me.To my astonishment, this turned out to be some actor friends of hers joining her for a performance of a dramatisation she had done of a short story I had recently finished writing. They had taken a lot of trouble with costume, props and music and, when I talked to them afterwards, said how much they had enjoyed it and how they thought I should enter it for a local drama festival. You can imagine how it made me feel that Rachel had gone to such lengths for me. It was the best possible present, but the day was not over. We both retired to dress smartly for a dinner of smoked salmon and champagne
, followed by confit of duck with dauphinoise potatoes and pickled red cabbage and a dessert of tiramisu, all cooked by Rachel. 
On the table were more presents from my daughters and also from Rachel, who among other things, gave me an embroidered silk dressing gown of the sort that Noel Coward, my agency’s most distinguished client, was famous for wearing. I now wear it when I read to Rachel first thing in the morning. It will always remind me of this extraordinary birthday – not that I could ever forget it.

Walking with John Macrea, 1,2,3,4,5

We’ve started walking on Sundays. Aged 88, John is an impressively strong and well paced walker. It is a pleasure for both of us, to have company, explore and exercise, these lock down days. I’ll keep adding our walks as we find them to this blog.

Sandlings walk day 1

We’ve started the Sandlings footpath. In part inspired by reading Robert Macfarlan s book the old ways, which describes all the old footpaths he finds and walks. In part finding the start the day of my vaccination, unexpectedly walking the dogs north end of southwold I saw this notice sandlings way from here to Ipswich.

It was a dull and cold day, and we kept a good pace for 3 hours easy going. Starting along the popular southwold promenade, up the estuary, passed all the wooden boats out water resting up, over the Bailey bridge. I deviated for the sandlings route as we had already walked the 5 ways part the previous walk, and we cut down, through the reeds. Walked right passed sara s home, which made me miss her, and feel guilty that I had not been in contact.

We rocked up at dunwich as the church bells struck 2, and found a bench in the lepper church, among the snow drops and violets, and stone fro Cean, hundreds of years old. Begun in 1200 it continued as a hospital until 1600. Excellent sandwiches and tangerine, before making our way to the sea and our taxi, michael, to collect and transport us back. The sun came out as we left.


10K On a day unexpectedly hinting at spring – after the cold of the last week (Valentines day, walk postponed, instead lunch of muscles in the cabin, and reading of poetry), it was a pleasure to wear less clothes and walk out. I chose this walk by the sea, thinking sand and less mud – I was mistaken. Setting off from 5 fingers, we walked parallel to the Sandlings walk on board walk, over marshy boggy woodland, reminding us both of Lord of the Rings. That part was easy, it was when we came out to the reed, where exposed the slippery mud began – it was heavy and slow going. Met Katherine on the way, who’d just seen a Bittern – we’d watched 2 circling sparrow hawks. Turned right just before the windmill, on higher and easier ground, we went to say hello to the sea, dogs full of energetic endorphins with their achievements retrieving sticks from a wavy sea, before retracing steps, to find the track to Dunwich forest. We turned into the forest to picnic just before St Helena’s – delicious Gill packed sandwiches, tangerines and cashews. An easy walk back, passed the house I almost bought, the garden done by Peter and Sue, young couples on bicycles, families walking, back to 5 fingers. Eyes opened to lichen, as reading Merlin Sheldrakes Entangled Life.

8K After the Beast from the East arrived, here we are in over a foot of snow in places, carving our own footprints (good for leg muscles) we walked from Halesworth, over the railway line, up Loam Pit lane, down my favourite snicket (as we say in Norfolk) edged with old hornbeam coppice, across some fields, through a council estate, beside Holton round tower church, to my wood in Holton, finally to deliver a package to East Lodge. Back along the roads, via a conversation with Ros (socially distanced). We talked of frost bitten fingers, wondered about the freezing temperature of blood. I heard the story of how John bought his first flat in London with the money from selling a Ford Cortina (?), and their first dog, what was he called? Amazing how short the memory becomes. We had the land to ourselves, the road empty but for the occassional Land Rover, all inhabitants of homes inside, snow high on their stationary cars.

Our third walk, John took me on, we were on his patch, the Wissett circuit, starting from straight outside Rectory Road, through the bull field, over the footpaths to Wissett, down by the church, beside the graveyard where a friend, Miles (Armoral’s husband) was freshly buried, back along the road, into Halesworth. Not long but a good stretch all the same, and across fields and old hornbeam coppices which always raise my spirit.

Our second walk was our longest yet, over 12k, from Holton over the Blyth up and down into Wenhaston. A glorious sharp frost day, ground firm to walk on. Over Wenhaston Health to the balancing barn and all the way back. I said, if we cannot make it, Michael will come and get us, but we did it. 4 hours. Under the fan like branches of a cedar of Lebanon we ate a delicious picnic in the church yard of Mells packed by Gill, salmon sandwiches, apple juice and a healthy bar.

Our first walk was a modest walk to the windmills, Bernhard Matthews 8 great turbines, and back.

Bill Gates letter

Bill Gates foundation working on health for over a decade now, world health, and involved with the Ebola epidemic – so this is up his street. He talks about the next stages:prioritizing equity and getting ready for the next pandemic.

Not so straightforward – I first heard the Bill Gates theory in my woodland from Rachelle, convinced of the conspiracy theory, who’s real goal was to take control, by Gates developing a vaccine for COVID to enslave the worlds population. *

That kind of shared effort is important, because in a global crisis like this one, you don’t want companies making decisions driven by a profit motive or governments acting with the narrow goal of protecting only their own citizens. You need a lot of different people and interests coming together in goodwill to benefit all of humanity. Of course, Philanthropy helps here, being non partisan, being global. The pandemic brought new meaning to old terms like “global health.” A consequence of globalisation is not only trade but viruses. §

The online campaign against Gates encompasses a myriad of alternate realities created by anxious and isolated social media users, including debunked claims about 5G cellular technology, anti-vaccination rhetoric, QAnon content, and the conspiracy theory du jour, like the idea that sunlight can kill the coronavirus. And it’s not just limited to the fringe: According to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll released Friday, 44% of Republicans in the US believe that Gates plans to use a COVID-19 vaccination as a way to implant microchips in people and monitor their movements.

A bug walking across the ground

Read this last night, while reading Merlin Sheldrake, of Terrence McKenna

I always thought death would come on the freeway in a few horrifying moments, so you’d have no time to sort it out. Having months and months to look at it and think about it and talk to people and hear what they have to say, it’s a kind of blessing. It’s certainly an opportunity to grow up and get a grip and sort it all out. Just being told by an unsmiling guy in a white coat that you’re going to be dead in four months definitely turns on the lights. … It makes life rich and poignant. When it first happened, and I got these diagnoses, I could see the light of eternity, à la William Blake, shining through every leaf. I mean, a bug walking across the ground moved me to tears.

Belly of the beast to building bridges

With half a million Americans dead, and nearly 100,000 UK dead, in both cases more than all in WW2.

Inauguration 2021
Michael, Bobji Kali myself and a cup of lapsange tea, that became champagne, on a sofa in Magnolia House, Halesworth, on a dull day, watched the US inauguration of Joseph Biden, ordinary Jo from Delaware, who’d been trying for this post for the last 50 years, and finally made it.

Trump has had his time, after a possy of outright lies on the podium, backdrop AirForce 1: how good he was, how brilliant he was to cut taxes, and beware, beware of taxes going up, beware of Liberty being taken away, beware of the unnamed next organisation changing the steady course he set the people on. Thank you, he mimed as the fanfare of YMCA came of the loud speakers.

Cleaverly the team had decked out the grass avenue with flags, where they would have been crowds of people. Yes, remember 4 years ago, this was our first glimpse of how the Trump time would be, the masses of news coverage on the disputed numbers who attended Trumps inaguration. Oh how we tripped up then and continued to be tripped up. No comparison here. The pandemic and the moral high ground of Biden ensured that. Everyone wore masks, a veritable festival of masks.
But the great and good came, Clinton with Hilary in purple, the great Obhamas, George Bush. Standing alone with his stoic expression, Mike Pence, with a certain grace, albeit to recover his own reputation, had organised the day, fulfilling the role of president, while the child went off to play. Yes, it was indeed a good thing Trump was not there, (Biden said it’s one thing I agree with him about) for it was Biden and Kamala Harris’s day. Oh there were loads of first, but Kamala took the basket. Her husband Douglas Craig Emhoff, is the first second gentleman in American history.

Biden’s speech was centered around the need for urgent (war time) action on the pandemic and unity. How uprising and challenge was normal though history.

Who stole the show? The girl in yellow. The Hill We Climb, was the title of her poem.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken,
but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a
skinny Black girl descended from slaves and
raised by a single mother can dream of becoming
president, only to find herself reciting for one.

A game of table tennis with Gabriel, after which we opened the bubbly, and watched as Biden sat at the oval office (photographs of his family already behind him – yes, we know this change over process from West Wing), with a pile of 15 Executive Orders, 3 of which he signed immediately. No time to waste. From revoking the ‘Muslim travel ban’, Defunding Trump’s border wall, and re joining the Paris accord.

Here’s what Sen Ted Cruz had to say (so we still have some Trump moments to come)

Last word with the yellow girl.

If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.