We coppiced the tree

Sweet Chestnut growing too tall

Winter sleep cut down


We had to coppice the Sweet Chestnut tree as it was growing under the power lines, planted in the wrong spot almost nine years ago. 20171205_121724I had been reluctant over the past few years as it was the best growing tree of all the nine hundred we planted in our small woodland, but now it wasn’t so dominant as many of the other trees are reaching up to a good height. The tree will spring up again building out from its coppiced stool; maybe in ten years we will have to take the same action, unless some future technology has removed the power lines in favour of a future alternative method of power distribution

This picture of the growing tree (‘before’ the chainsaw) is  a fudge – it is a neighbouring Sweet Chestnut tree, not so tall and not directly under the power lines.


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The last leaves are falling, a few beech boughs hanging on to golden leaves that have 20171129_075443resisted the gales.

The open woodland has a few treasures to reveal such as the near perfect woven nest of dead grass and moss placed on a young crab apple branch two feet off the ground.

Hidden both by leaves and the rough grass and nettles that grew in summer round the tree. Bare now, whose nest was it? A diameter of four inches, it was small, fit for one of the tiny birds that flit among the woodland branches. 20171129_075645Probably a warbler, maybe a Willow Warbler, we see those about. I wondered about a Goldcrest, but the book suggests they nest high in a tree. This nest is low and in a small tree.

Now we have sheep in our field, a large flock from a neighbouring farm, eating off the last of the summer grass. Ewes, all colour marked in blues, reds or brown, from the IMG_1544rams. They wait out the winter building up their strength for their spring lambing. Now it is winter with a night time temperature falling below zero.

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An affair years ago leads Meg into an adventure ending with success and catastrophe.

The quiet pace of life in an English University town clashes with the harsh regime of a tropical island dictatorship.

Danny’s Island, my 10K word story, is published by CUT this month.


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20171103_101025spider woven gorse

flowering in autumn mist

fated pheasants flee

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On a recent visit to London I spent time in Waterstones bookstore on Piccadilly: five floors of books, who knows how many tons of books, never mind the number.

Tons of books, the thought is intimidating, not least in the month when one has independently published a second novel. How does one get a head above the parapet to get noticed? It is an awesome task.

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Man Booker

October brings the 2017 Man Booker prize awards after the short list of the six novels was announced in September. By chance, when the long list came out earlier, I heard an interview on the radio with Fiona Mozley, a young first time novelist whose book, ELMET, I bought a few days later. Good news when, against many expectations, Elmet was one of the six short listed.

The word Elmet meant nothing to me. The book explains, quoting Ted Hughes, ‘Elmet was the last independent Celtic Kingdom in England and originally stretched out over the Vale of York.’ Since buying the book I keep coming across the name – there is even an MP for Elmet and…

The tale is one of our time focusing on a family, well, a son, Daniel, and daughter, Cathy, and their ‘Daddy’, a man mixing moments of tenderness with a mean fighting lifestyle, essential to his survival.

Every year the Yeovil Community Arts Association holds a lively debate (this year on Thursday 5th October in The Johnson Studio at The Octagon Theatre, Yeovil) with advocates arguing the merits, or on occasion the failings, of each of the six finalists. On occasion the subsequent vote of those attending is in line with the that of Man Booker judges.

The six on the short list are: 4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (Faber & Faber), HISTORY OF WOLVES by Emily Fridlund (Weidenfeld & Nicholson, Orion Books), EXIT WEST by Moshin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House), ELMET by Fiona Mozley (JM Originals, John Murray), LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, George Saunders (Bloomsbury Publishing) and AUTUMN by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Random House).

Several long listed ‘names’ didn’t make the cut. Will Elmet succeed? It might just do it.

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BIRCHLAND HALL, my second novel, is now independently published on Amazon as a paperback and Kindle e-book. Although the ideas behind the novel have been in my mind for some time, I only got down to serious writing this year, through several drafts. I had returned to Birchland Hall as I was blocked on my proposed novel, EXMOOR PUFFBALL based locally and in Kyoto, Japan.

The puffballs Franklyn Thomalin chances on growing on Exmoor are mysterious, their spores seeking living hosts. I now aim for Exmoor Puffball coming out in 2018.

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