Defensive gardening and entertaining eccentrics

This afternoon I took my lunch and a tin mug of tea out into the meadow and idly caught up some well-deserved sunshine. I thought I heard voices, which is unusual unless ramblers decide to come off the beaten track, I rarely get to see anyone close up. With my back against the large felled tree logs, I sat and pondered about life in general. Suddenly a voice called out (the shock of which almost left my teeth prints in the lip of the tin mug). Turning toward the call; and not more than thirty feet away, was an elderly gent who was walking towards me, his skinny white legs protruding from a pair of baggy safari shorts looked like two lengths of cotton dangling down! “I hope you don’t mind, my wife has been admiring your beautiful ‘Pinus Sylvestris’ for the last few minutes,” said he, with a big smile on his face.

I stood up, as I had no idea what he was talking about (though I was wearing a pair of faded black rugby shorts, in true ‘commando’ style). Then his wife appeared with a beaming grin, and said, “Your ‘dwarf Pinus Sylvestris’ is absolutely stunning“! ~ “Is it” I replied, wondering if the local asylum was missing two of its inmates. They then went on about the beautiful wild meadow we all found ourselves in, the warmth of the sun, etc, etc, upon which I stated it was actually ‘my private meadow’, and that they were fortunate not to have walked through it when my dogs were out letting off steam (must not encourage them, such delights pass like wildfire among the rambling community). Not content with climbing my high five bar gate that was clearly signed ‘PRIVATE LAND-NO TRESPASSING’ they also disregarded the two black outlined bull terrier heads as well.

After introducing ourselves I done the decent thing and made them a nice pot of tea and offered them home made ‘tiffin’, which we all enjoyed as we sat with our backs against the logs. Then they were gone, just as they came, but in reverse! Two slightly eccentric people, who have been married for sixty years, whose children and grandchildren live in Australia, who they fly out and visit three times a year. Who have now managed to get rid of the blight that was affecting their green house tomato plants? Two academics that taught at various Universities around Yorkshire, before retiring to tend their garden, as well as to enjoy their twice weekly ramble. A lovely couple who were as mad as a bag of frogs. (Incidentally, my dwarf ‘Pinus Sylvestris’ is apparently my small Scots Pine tree). Phew?West View 1

Unless you include ‘cam & concealment’, gardening is not my forte, and having just looked at the digits on my hands, I can assure you that not one is green! Although I do have a decent garden within the inner fenced boundary that surrounds my home, it’s taken care of twice weekly by a hobby gardener who knows about such things. I take my pleasure from walking around my rough three-acre pasture/meadow, which I access through an old garden gate, where I often plonk my rear end on the felled tree logs, to sit and quaff tea. From the sanctuary of my three acres I can see far into the distance looking West, across rolling undulated multi coloured countryside that flows idly through a long twisting valley, which is interlocked with sown cultivated fields, ancient hedgerows, and woodlands.West View 2

Through my pocket binoculars (click to enlarge above), what I see in front of me are ‘enfilade and defilade’ shoots, ideal for co-ordinated long & short range anti/tank systems, with natural funnelled routes leading to choke points; providing enriched enemy killing areas. Routes for advance and withdrawal using cover from view through dead ground. Open wide countryside for artillery and mortar fire, with areas interlocked for a deadly beaten kill zone. On my flanks on the high ground I have heavy MG’s positioned ready to unleash deadly arcs of cross fire. And here, I stop; as I need to self medicate, and forget that I am no longer a serving Royal Marine 😉 (Did I mention the blizzard of information relating to target indication points)?

It is safe to say that I am not the gardening type. My dream garden would have a six-foot high border of thick Blackthorn hedging as an outer defence, the base of which would have low tangled Firethorn bush, with an internal six-foot wide border of pea gravel, that crunches underfoot for the dogs to react to. The grassed garden would be dug up and replaced throughout with Yorkshire stone-slabs. Under each ground floor window I would have savage Wild Rose bush growing to windowsill level, with a 3’ wide border of raked sand running parallel to capture footprints. My only compromise for a single green growth would be a huge ‘Golden Barrel’ cactus plant, placed within the centre of the stone patio to act as a focal point and a lure for the ‘ill disposed’ to hide behind, thus allowing my hidden CCTV full observation. There are more wild plants I could name and use, but they are a natural poison, and to fit within the genteel parameters’ set by NavyOne, I will decline to do so here. They say an Englishman’s home is his castle. Ahhhh, blissful thoughts! 

‘Up here’ in the North-East (as opposed to ‘down there’ in the South), we have our fair share of Castles and Fortresses, the majority I have often visited over many years since childhood. Last year a good mate of mine (another ex-bootneck) brought his family ‘up’ from ‘down–South’ to travel around the county of Northumberland. Their intention was to walk part of Hadrian’s Wall as well as take advantage of the various country cycle paths. The grand finale was to visit Alnwick Castle (pronounced ‘Anick’), as his young girls wished to visit Harry Potter’s ‘Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry’ (where part of the films are set). I was pinged to act as the days taxi driver, though I may have volunteered after a few beers a couple of days before.DownloadedFile-1

Alnwick Castle is more than just a fortress; it is a cracking day out for every one of all ages. Steeped in traditional history, there is every thing from deeply informative Castle tours, a host of top class eateries, and a huge garden, which also includes a ‘Poison Garden’ secured behind high walls and a heavy-duty steel palisade fence. (I personally had to visit it, just for a look-see, not for ideas)!

Alnwick Garden | A contemporary garden attraction and events …


The Alnwick Garden’ is more than a garden; it is a registered charity that places people at its heart, whether they be individuals or part of a community. As well as standing for contemporary gardening excellence, The Garden stimulates change through play, learning, the arts, healthy activity, addressing disability and the economic renaissance of a rural community.

And while I am forever pushing the values and sights of the City of York, North Yorkshire; I would also like to endorse visiting Northumberland, and stopping off half way to walk through Durham City, and visit the huge historic Durham Cathedral. 

York to Durham = 70 miles = 1 Hr 10 Min. Durham to Alnwick = 53 miles = 1Hr –. Hogwarts Express York

So come on over, what are you all waiting for, ‘old steady hands’ (yours truly) is the unofficial taxi driver, and a rock steady guide to boot!

Yours Aye.

Hippopotami and Royal Marine recruits have some thing in common.

Britain’s Royal Marine recruits show they have what it takes to become part of the elite fighting forces through grueling Mud Run’s

The notorious run is part of a grueling 32-week Royal Marine training course that ‘turns civilians into Commandos’

It’s held in the foul-smelling mud of the River Exe estuary on the doorstep of the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre, Lympstone Devon.


It is designed to turn the merely tough into the super-tough.

A run, with strength sapping circuits thrown in, is designed to improve recruits’ stamina, strength, and team-spirit, and to weed out those who just aren’t up to it. The Royal Marines’ mud run is used as part of the 32-week training course said to turn ‘civilians into Royal Marine Commandos’, and looking at these astonishing photographs, you can see why even the strongest recruits dread it.

Exhausted, demoralised, and covered in foul-smelling sludge from head to toe, these Royal Marine recruits hope one day to wear the coveted Green Beret marking them out as the elite of Britain’s fighting forces.

As these pictures, (taken on Wednesday 1st May 2013) show, the men need to call upon reserves – both mental and physical – that they didn’t know they had, simply to get through the grueling ordeal.

Captain Ben Chappell RM, who oversees physical training at the Royal Marines Commando Training Centre in Lympstone, Devon, said: “The Mud Run is about instilling a Royal Marines state of mind”. The recruits spend up to 45 minutes in the mud that is so thick they can barely run, doing exercises and ‘games’. Towards the end of the session individual effort is not enough to complete the tasks given, cohesion is required using the buddy-buddy system, getting through it really builds team spirit”.

“We are not just looking for physical strength but mental resilience as well, and the team cohesian that comes from getting through the hardship together – this strength and bonding forms part of the Royal Marines’ DNA.”

He also mentioned that the recruits would not necessarily know when the run was coming up, saying: “It’s all about dislocation of expectation”.

Their uniforms offer little protection from the stinking slime as their superiors bawl at them as they commit to circuit training, and crawl on hands and knees through the mire left by the receding tide in the River Exe estuary, beside their training base. Nowhere else in Britain is there a military base right at the gaping mouth of a river, and the training team instructors take full advantage of the noxious mire left by the River Exe for some hardcore ‘obedience’ training.

A dreaded rite of passage, the infamous mud runs aren’t a regular fixture, but occur as and when training teams deem them necessary.  If a recruit Troop work and bond together and give 100%, then generally they are held towards the end of the training course, as part of the Commando Training Tests. Just before the recruits are awarded their coveted Green Berets.

Sometimes they take place sooner than that, and sometimes more than once. It is one part of the Marines’ tough training course, which is designed to weed out those unable to cope, and create a bond amongst those strong enough to survive.

“There are two key aims we’re trying to achieve”, explained Captain Tom Limb, Troop Commander for 164 Recruit Troop, who are in their fourth week of training.

“Firstly, instilling the ethos of team work and the Commando qualities of courage, determination and cheerfulness.  This troop are still early on in their training and they’ve not yet started to gel as a single unit, which is important”.

“The second is discipline – they understand what is expected of them but their discipline levels aren’t where they’re supposed to be at this stage”.

“Eventually, after training and passing out as Royal Marines they will be deployed with a Commando unit elsewhere, ready to take on operational duties – so any discipline issues, to do with the very basics like shaving correctly, cleaning weapons, or maintaining equipment, needs to be ironed out early and swiftly. Hopefully the run will have achieved its aim”

Other wise its back into the mud for another session!

Plagiarized and ‘amended’ form an article written by Harriet Arkell of the Daily Mail.


Royal Marines Commando…. It’s a state of mind.

Yours Aye.

Al Roker, Commando

I generally pride myself on knowing all the prior military members on television. Guys like Drew Carey, of the Price Is Right, who served in the Marine Corps Reserve. Still, I was quite surprised to read that Al Roker was a commando. He revealed this little-known fact in a visit to the White House.