Old pastures

After a week of chilly weather, such that I wished I’d put the wood burner on Friday night, this morning was a spectacular return to summer.

Having sat in the tea-house to sup my way through two quadspressos, I felt that I had to get out for a run… especially as I didn’t feel up to a run last weekend.

I started off in the normal direction, but then a path caught my eye that I’d not run down for an age and I followed it. Unfortunately the first section was full of stinging nettles and my legs took a real hit! But then it led me across the fields to old Wivelsfield and an old corner of Burgess Hill that looks as if it is still delightfully rooted in the ‘fifties.

I crossed Rocky Lane (perilous!) and ran up through Bedelands Farm nature reserve, then crossed back across onto Theobalds Lane and ran round the back of where I used to live. I’m always curious about old neighbourhoods so I paused outside the house to take a quick look. The front garden landscaping that I designed has really stood the test of time, although the plants have been allowed to grow huge… I guess that it is almost eleven years ago now!

Overall Strava estimated that the run was 7.2 miles in 70 minutes… circa 6.15 mph.

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May two two run

Yesterday I ran the same route that I ran three weeks ago, but Strava deemed it a shorter run and slower.  6.9 miles in 71 minutes, only 5.8 mph average.  Not wholly surprising… well, the time at least.

A fortnight ago I spent a really enjoyable week working in Denver, but flew both Sundays and so missed the opportunity to run.  As soon as I got back last week I managed to catch a horrible cold, which I only managed to shake off this weekend… the two nights where I managed to sleep a full ten hours probably helped a lot!

It was the first ‘proper warm’ run of the year, which was lovely, but it much more of a struggle than I’ve been used to for a while. In fact I’m really feeling the effects today… although that might also have had something to do with the mammoth gardening session that I did afterwards: repotting four large bamboo plants & finding them new homes in the garden, repotting Kim’s Japanese cherry, emptying out the compost that has accumulated in bags over the winter, cutting the grass front & back, trimming the front hedge and then, for good measure, cutting an elderly neighbour’s grass to help him keep on top of it.

Talking of grass cutting, I have to mention the local communal grass that is (apparently) looked after by West Sussex County Council.  Aside from the fact that it is almost three feet tall in places, as you can see from the enclosed photos, I noticed something interesting about the kerb edges.

Five or six years ago (prompted by the local council asking how they could support the business community, with no budget) I started an ad hoc experiment regarding grass verges, with four hypothesises.

  • H1: If the grass verge is neat, then the owners of adjacent houses will tend to look after their front gardens.  Kerb appeal suggests that house prices are likely to be positively affected by this, whilst ‘broken windows theory’ suggests that residents of these areas are likely to feel happier and more responsible for their neighbourhood.
  • H2: If the verges are edged then grass will not grow out to destabilise the adjacent road or pavement, slowing the need for expenditure in this area.
  • H3: If the grass is cut more frequently (say every two weeks as opposed the the council’s 6-8 weeks), then the grass cuttings form a mulch that decomposes easily on the lawn, rather than choking the grass and sitting at the edges where it speeds up the egress of grass onto adjacent tarmac surfaces.
  • H4: If residents feel pride and responsibility for their neighbourhood, then they will take this positivity into their workplace and be more engaged, thus achieving the original aim.

I didn’t get to test my hypotheses empirically, but there is a good degree of support for them based on what I hear from neighbours (I’ve been looking after the grass areas adjacent to us for this extended period) and see with my own eyes.

For example, to add weight to H2, I carefully edged the kerbside of one of the verges in the two photos below, but not the other one (on the other side of the junction).  Bearing in mind how long ago I did it, the differences are palpable… the other non-edged sides of the green have spread across the pavement by up to a couple of feet, destabilising it in the process.


Coenagrion puella, the Azure Damselfly, described and named by Linne in 1758. (Thank you Michael & Jenny:-)

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May one run

According to Strava I ran 7 miles in 69 minutes, a shade under 6 mph average.

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Cloudy & cool with muddy patches

It’s been 6 weeks since my last run, which is how long it’s taken me to (almost) get over the coughing bug that I managed to catch whilst working in Budapest.  I sat down on the plane to come home and started coughing… eugh!

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from my run today, such that I almost managed to put it off for another week!  But run I did.

I took the normal short loop out to Wivelsfield, through West Wood and back via the Magical Path.  The weather was largely overcast and the temperature was cool enough for me to be comfortable wearing two layers, longs, gloves and a hat.  The ground was a lot drier than the last time I ran, with the compacted edges turning slightly bouncy, surrounding areas of squidgy and smaller pockets of watery squelch.  The bluebells were out in force.

My chosen warm top layer doesn’t seem to breathe, so despite the temperature I was hot & sweaty when I got back and more than ready for a cold shower… and not just my legs for a change!  I’ll know by Tuesday the extent to which my body is going to complain about a 5 mile run after 6 weeks off, but right now I feel pretty good.

According to Strava I ran 5.7 miles in 59 minutes, an average of 5.8 mph.

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Crossover weather

It’s looking more and more like Spring outside… provided that you’re looking out through the window with the heating on!

Or, like us, you’re willing to wait until early afternoon and have a sheltered south facing garden that acts as a sun-trap… and a warm jumper!

My run this morning had neither of these types of heating so I wore a thick running top over my t-shirt instead.  This was just about warm enough when I was in the shade, but too warm in the sun… which meant that I sweated profusely… which meant that the next area of shade seemed a little cooler!  I ended up taking it off so that i could dry out and warm up… if that makes sense?

I don’t remember it raining this week, but the ground was back to watery mud (and lots of it) so it must have done.

I did my simple local route out to the edge of Wivelsfield, through West Wood, down Hundred Acre Lane and then back on round via Ditchling Common.  According to Strava I completed 6.7 miles in 66 minutes… an average of 6.1 mph.

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Struggling with analogies

If you’re a regular reader, then you’ll know that I’ve been running an experiment on myself for the last six years… I’ve been working to improve my guitar playing, simply by ensuring that I simply play at least 5 minutes every day (following an initial 52 lessons in 2010 with Lucas Cook). One interesting side-effect of this is that I play two types of music.

To wake up my fingers each morning I play two Jazz standards, which together last a total of around three minutes. I’ve been playing these each day for four years (I think) and over that time I have slowly improved, though I still find them complex.

The rest of the time, which is around 20 minutes each morning and often the same again just before I go to bed, I play compositions which I have created myself. These have got ever more complicated over the years as my skills in fingering, picking and bringing notes, chords & melodies together improve.

It strikes me that these two types of progress are analogous to how organisations evolve. Most focus on efficiency and evolve incrementally, whereas others eschew efficiency and are instead constantly adapting to an ever-changing marketplace. To my mind the latter are focused on performance and whilst they are less efficient as a result, they are more engaging and exciting places to work.

It strikes me that the people in the former would trend towards being bored, whereas the latter are constantly adding to their value in the marketplace. I also hypothesise that the former are comfortable in their efficient success, whereas the latter are constantly failing, which is harder work to sustain, even when you’re actually making faster progress.

Do you have a view on this?

I ran from my folks’ place this morning and it was slightly warmer than last week, but still chillsome.  As I ran and the analogy above rolled around my mind, so I realised that I needed new views to break me out of the incremental thinking. Halfway to Ovingdean I turned right and headed over the hill into the next valley, or dean.  This is the one with Ovingdean in it. From there, rather than running down to the sea as normal, I ran up and over into the next valley and down to the sea at Roedean.

I wasn’t quite far enough East to run down the service road to the Undercliff Walk, so I ran along the top of the cliffs and soaked up the amazing view down onto the chalk seabed below at low tide. It has really muted colour-ways but it’s one of my favourite things… as I ran so I briefly chatted to another runner who wholeheartedly agreed.

As I reached the hill before Rottingdean, so I turned left and ran up the ridge to the top of Ovingdean and then on back to Woodingdean.

According to Strava I ran 6.7 miles in 67 minutes, a healthy average (compared to my recent performance) of 6 miles per hour, though I would clearly need to run more frequently to make any progress in improving on this.

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Less mud, more cold

This morning there was one of those chilly north-easterly winds blowing under a blanket of cloud and I decided to run out from my folks place for some variety. In the car I wondered whether I had overdressed, with a thick second layer plus a jacket, hat & gloves. Fortunately my Mother told me that it was just 2 degrees outside… not counting the wind chill factor. My extra layers were definitely needed.

As I ran across the common land towards the ridge, it was clear that the wet mud of the last few weeks had gone. In its place was firm mud with just a little give… a perfect running surface! Perhaps because of this I felt as if I was running a little faster than normal and Strava saw fit to award me a medal for my fastest mile since I’ve been using the app… though I’m somewhat surprised that it equates to 7.75mph.

I didn’t keep it up for long!

I ran down through the middle of Ovingdean to the sea and along to Rottingdean. The sea was nearly calm, which seemed slightly odd given the brisk wind, but I guess that the water was in the lee of the chalk cliffs.

Then it was the long slog back up the hill… this was always one of the downsides of living towards the top of the hill when I was growing up! As I cleared the protection of Ovingdean the wind was really chilly and as I neared Woodingdean so a shower of sharp sleet hit me, pricking painfully at my face. Fortunately it was short-lived and I was soon off the ridge & running back down across the common land.

According to Strava I completed 6 miles in under 59 minutes… an average a little over 6mph.

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More mud, less cold

One glance outside at the inclement weather this morning started me thinking about all the other things that I could more easily do for exercise… such as trying to repeat the Ashtanga Yoga routine that we did when we swapped classes the other week.

However, after a philosophical discussion on the similarities between organisations and individuals, when it comes to the trade-off between efficiency and flexibility, the rain had stopped and there was a trace of warm colour in the low cloud.

The warm colour was matched by the warm temperature… I could easily have gone out in shorts.

I started on the same route as last week and had quickly transformed my clean runners into dirty ones… in fact they seemed to change colour every ten minutes or so with the different kinds of mud.

I took the elongated route in West Wood and ended up running down Hundred Acre Lane.  Given how muddy my shoes were, I was dismayed when my shoelace came undone and I had to retie them… it’s amazing how much of your hands are involved in the process… and thus how muddy my hands were afterwards!

The Magical Path seems to have a drainage problem at one end and was particularly muddy, but at this time of year it still has something a special about it… it almost seems like a throwback to an earlier age.

Then it was back across to base for a bowl of warm water and a scrubbing brush to get my runners ready for their next mud bath.

According to Strava it was 6.4 miles in 66 minutes… not exactly but then it’s not so easy to go quickly when there’s this much mud around!

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My dear, what a run

Pronounced muddier water run.

After a frustrating day yesterday, where having too many work tasks to do meant that I failed to get into the flow of any, I felt it was super-important to get out this morning and run.

Despite being chilly, it was a bright spring-like morning as well… one of those mornings that just simply makes you feel better somehow.  This said, I knew exactly what the conditions underfoot would be.

I opted for a short local run… out to Wivelsfield, up through West Wood and back along the Magical Path.  As expected it was super-muddy.  This was the the kind of mud that has deep footprints & hoof prints, has then frozen, has then been filled up with water and has finally thawed… but only recently, judging by the water temperature!  Despite being deep in places and gloriously splashy, it was safer to run through the middle of it than risk sliding on the super-slippery gradients at the margins.

The photos below should tell you all you need to know!

5.6 miles completed in 58 minutes… not bad given all the slip-sliding around!

On another subject all together, whilst I still have your attention: we have a tradition in our house of ‘unexpecting the expected’.  The upside of such an arrangement is that there are occasional Tuesday or random day presents.  The flipside is obviously that cards or presents aren’t always forthcoming on those days when it’s traditional to give them.  Like today, for example.

So Kim, if you’re reading this… Happy Valentines Day gorgeous!

Sorry that the expected card is absent, but maybe there’s something unexpected hiding behind the sofa to make you smile?

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Glad of the gloves

It was a glorious day today, but there was a really chilly wind.  I ran from my folks place again and my brother questioned whether I really needed the three layers & hat that I was wearing.  Oh yes, I did!  In fact as I ran down the ridge path towards the sea, the wind was so biting that I was glad that I’d also sneaked a pair of gloves out with me!

I ran down to Ovingdean Church, on down to the Undercliff Walk and then along to Rottingdean.  There are days when I have less physical energy, but today it was more like I had less mental energy as well.  I even stopped at the window of an Estate Agent to look at the houses… a very thinly veiled excuse to pause for a couple of minutes!

At the top of the High St I turned left onto a path I’d not been along before (which is always odd when you’ve been in an area for 50 years!).  It turned out to be a middle path between the one I normally take past the windmill and the main road up the hill.  After a slippery ascent, it eventually led to the top of Ovingdean, from where I ran back up onto the ridge.

It was at this stage that I received an apologetic call from someone at Barclaycard.  They have been inundating me with direct mail for the last couple of years and my cheerful calls asking to be taken off the database last year obviously had little effect.  A month ago I asked in a more pointed way.  Yesterday I received another letter so I had another more robust conversation… the last two of the three agents I spoke to across 30 minutes assured me that I was no longer on the list as of the beginning of January, but that they print mail 8 weeks ahead so I may even receive another letter or two before they stop.  The nice lady today (remember that it’s Sunday), called to say that the job had not been done properly in January after all, so the 8 weeks would start from today.

I mention this simply to point out how effective having a phone conversation is at taking your mind off running… by the time she rang off (having presumably endured the sound of the biting wind that I mentioned earlier in the earpiece for at least five minutes) I was almost at the top of the hill.  The rest was easy.

According to Strava I ran 6.3 miles in 63 minutes.

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