winter trees

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

A friend remarked recently on the idea of Buddhist, changing your mind which got me thinking about meditation in general. Years ago I learnt to do Transcendental Meditation. I have lapsed in its use and don’t use it regularly but I do find it useful every so often to calm my mind and help with creative thinking.
I had always been interested in the techniques of Meditation and remember learning from a book how to use a mantra. The book suggested using an object that was close to hand like a tea cup. You would think about the object and then think about your breathing and the moment you were in. The mantra helped the mind to let go of all the extraneous thoughts that would crowd out the brain. It worked up to a point but I found the training with TM helped me to really get to grips with the ideas of meditation. Just sitting with a group of people all meditating made the experience ten times better. The rigourous training and checking helped me on my way.
With TM you were supposed to sit calmly for a set amount of time per day and it wasn’t until I read up about Buddhist meditation that I had the revelation that freed me up. You could really meditate wherever you were and whilst walking. The idea is to increase mindfulness, tranquility and concentration. Walking along on a country walk you would try to be in the moment, to be aware of all the things around you , the step on the ground, the crunch of leaves, the feel of the wind on your face. The breath of air into your lungs. In this way, it gives rise to a way of enjoying the walk whatever the weather. Funnily enough I was trying this out last week on my winter walk without realising it. I just wanted to enjoy the walk on a most wintery raining day. The temptation was to stay indoors but somehow I got the energy to go out and experience the landscape with all its elements. It turned out to be most enjoyable. I let go of any negative feelings and looked for the positive. I was using photography to help give me a sense of place and the photographs that I took felt most satisfying. I made a feature of the bare branches and the rolling clouds. The sun even came out towards the end.
I am going to try to practice the ideas of Buddhist meditation on my walks in the future and to see if I can develop the practice and to truly make them my own.


Walking in Autumn at the Warburg Reserve

Thursday walk

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

This wild place is in the depths of the Oxfordshire countryside near Henley. I parked at Maidensgrove common and walked down into the wooded valley to discover its autumn charms.
It had snowed in the Chilterns just the day before. An unexpected downfall that froze over making it treacherous to drive to work. The sun came out and the countryside looked beautiful. I hoped that some of the snow would survive the following day and I might get some interesting photos. It was not the case. There was not even a tiny drift left in any gully. However, the trees still had their Autumn colours so I was hopeful.
It was so quiet in the valley. There was no one around so I had the place to myself. It was raining as I set off but this soon cleared and the sun came through so I caught some good light effects on the leaves and branches. There were deer that scampered off into the woods as I approached. Right down in the bottom of the valley there is an old muddy track that runs through the reserve and one deer came out onto this in front of me and then couldn’t find a way out. She ran away from me on the track her heels kicking up the mud behind her.
In the bird hide, I settled down with my binoculars and had a cup of tea from my flask. Not really expecting to see anything. Then a gold crest came out and moved rapidly bimbling over the branches. I can recognise this bird just by the way it move but it was good to see the vibrant band of yellow across its head and its wide eyes. There was also a male bullfinch and several chaffinches.
Further up the valley I took more photos as the trees looked so good in the sun. I set up my tripod and wandered around looking for shots. Then within a few minutes a cloud rolled over and it rained again. I hauled myself back up the hill for tea and toast back at home.

Walking at Otmoor

hen harrier flying

Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

Otmoor Bird reserve near Oxford
From A34 take B4027 to Islip. Through Islip, continue along B4027 towards Wheatley. After four miles turn left to Horton-cum-Studley. Turn left to Beckley. After one mile, road drops down short steep hill. Turn right before Abingdon Arms. Turn sharp left into Otmoor Lane. Follow road to end, about one mile, left through reserve entrance. Car park is on your right. From A40 travelling west: at Headington roundabout, turn right, taking exit sign posted Crematorium, Beckley, Horton-cum-Studley, Headington. After two miles, turn right at junction onto B4027 then immediately left, signposted to Horton-cum-Studley. Follow directions to Beckley as above.

This is a delightful and wild fen area just near Oxford. It makes a good walk but to enjoy it to the full you need to be keen on birds. In one afternoon we saw a hen harrier and flocks of starlings coming in to roost. There are many waders as well as woodland birds along the fringes.
From the carpark follow the main track in to the reserve. After a few minutes you come to T junction. Turn left along a sign posted muddy track. After about a mile you reach another junction and see some lakes off to the left and right in front of you, Turn left here keeping an eye out towards the lakes. You then reach the first hide which is a good place to linger and look out over the reeds.
This is where we saw the hen harrier. If you want to see the amazing spectacle of large flocks of starlings you have to wait until dusk so bring a torch to see your way back.
There is a further hide on the track that continues from the first hide but it was so cold that we couldn’t make it so you are on your own from here on in. Good luck.