Thursday, 21 October 2010

Fractals, ferns and frost...

R.I.P Benoit Mandelbrot the mathematician who showed elements of the beauty of nature through his calculations of fractals.

 "Why is geometry often described as cold and dry? One reason lies in its inability to describe the shape of a cloud, a mountain, a coastline or a tree." The approach that he pioneered helps us to describe nature as we actually see it, and so expand our way of thinking.

On Long Road we have seen several examples of natural fractals this week - the first being the ferns, that when broken down create smaller and smaller copies of the larger plant. F has experimented by gleefully pulling some of the last green specimens to pieces.

Next looking up into the sky at the high cirrus and small cumulus clouds moving above us. It is at the edges we noticed the swirling and curling associated with Mandelbrot's set.

....Finally this morning the first frost came, and the sharp intake of cold air was a pleasure as we stepped out. Jack Frost had been hard at work  - as Long Road lies at the bottom of a small valley it is always that bit colder than the surrounding area - we were able to fully appreciate the frost patterns on the slightly wilting foliage and notch up another fractal spot.

Nice article on fractals here:

Friday, 15 October 2010

Blackberries and The Devil

I've made jam, cobblers, smoothies and even chocolate and blackberry muffins from the pickings on Long Road in the past few weeks. But it is too late to eat blackberries straight from the hedgerows now, apparently - even F knows that - and tells me in no uncertain terms today as I flout the Old Wives Tales and pick a few to munch on the way home.

The saying is that the Devil was kicked out of heaven on October 11th. He landed on a blackberry bush. It must have hurt as each year he takes his revenge by spoiling blackberries after the 11th. Some say he spits on them, others that he pees on them.

Other sources I have found claim:

Your last chance to pick your blackberries is Michaelmas (29th September), by legend, the day the Devil spits on them, making them inedible more of the devil having a bad day. The berries I picked today certainly didn't look too devilish and tasted good. I tend to leave the ones where the berries have puffed up and become bulbous or shrivelled. After a  futher bit of looking I found a possible explaination to the legend:

The mould that will settle on them this late in the year is the grey botrytis cinerea mould.

yuk. I guess we are eating blackberries so late in the season this year simply because they have not gone mouldy, perhaps this could have something to do with the warm October weather.


Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Warm October

It has been an unusually warm October, walking along Long Road in a t-shirt seems a little odd. Apart from a few yellowing leaves on the Oaks, only the ferns on the side of the railway appear to be indicating signs of Autumn colors, turning brown and withering.

Whilst fumbling with my camera last week, I had a chance to chat to Martin Ward, a keen amateur photographer. I told him about this blog and he has taken some shots of Long Road as he sees it. Here are a few of his images, they really capture the warmth of the past few days I think. Click here to see all of Martin's Long Road Album

Friday, 8 October 2010

Friday morning

This is it..... Long Road on a grey Friday morning,
at first sight an unremarkable bit of road, with weeds pouring over from the unkempt
railway on the pavement side. A few oaks trees clinging on at the side of a  field, and a grass
verge that no one walks on but the council keep mowing on the other. A bridge taking traffic onto the A3
to London or Portsmouth halfway down, and a bit of unloved  scrub land beyond with abandoned farm vehicles.
.....but on closer inspection is wonderful what you can find there.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


Misty morning, damp, so damp the water vapour from the warming land is hanging visibly in the air, curling around us. It has settled in a beautiful way on the myriad of cobwebs. A & F take their time this morning examining them and looking for the spiders. F's interest lasts a few minutes on Long Road before friends are spotted in the distance. A wants to look at each and every one. On the return journey we stop to watch one spider at work blobbing glue with its abdomen, weaving silk to glue with legs and heaving the silk to the next anchor point.

We notice two types of cobweb, the traditional spiral web and the web which looks like a woven hammock. I wonder what spider species makes the second type, and in my search have come across The Arachnological Society and get drawn into scientific research into the strength of spider silk. Its pretty strong stuff, in fact a web line in our garden strung from a tree is currently supporting a small sunflower, which would slump if not suspended in this way.
Long Road, Hampshire a few miles from Selborne where Gilbert White the pioneering 18th century naturalist lived and documented the flora and fauna of his area in his book The Natural History of Selborne.

The long road home, to and from school, playgroup, friends houses, the nearest village. With my family or on my own, I walk this way two three sometimes four times a day. It is our patch. It is the place to watch the time and seasons come and go. A place to listen, think, learn or this morning stride though the driving October rain and getting wet feet.