Mermaid in training…

As a scuba diver I’ve always toyed with the idea of learning how to free dive. The peacefulness and weightlessness achieved whilst diving is one of the many reasons I took up the sport. Whilst descending slowly into the blue I feel a complete sense of calm. It’s almost meditative – I do feel totally at peace. Free diving appealed – especially as you rid yourself of the bulk and weight of tanks and regulators. ┬áIt would be just me and the water…and my breath.

I arrived at Vobster quay nearly two weeks ago now. It was the day of the huge storm that shrouded the South West. I had previously met my hugely experienced free diving teacher Emma at one of the UK’s Dive Shows – she was very impressive, full of energy and passion for her sport. I felt like I was in very capable hands. This two day course was also a chance for me to relearn some of the diving theories I had learned many years ago whilst doing my dive master course. I needed a total refresh of the physics and physiology theories behind both scuba and free diving. It was good to switch on my brain again!


Free diving training – harder (and colder) than it looks!

After the first day I realised that I had underestimated how difficult free diving can be – especially when you’re suffering from a cold, albeit it a mild one. I’ve witnessed free divers descend and ascend on one breath effortlessly. But for me, I could just make around 3 metres before rising up due to blocked ears or my diaphragm contracting to a degree which I found really uncomfortable.

To complete the course, and become an accredited free diver, would take me longer than two days. Not only did my ears cause me a lot of issues but I need to spend a lot of time practising my breath hold. Our bodies natural reaction to the CO2 build up whilst we hold our breath is something that you need to learn to manage, to over come and to embrace. It was a shame not to fully complete the course but I will return to finish it in the New Year. I’ve still acquired new skills and knowledge, I managed to get away to do the course in the first place which is always a logistical challenge and I met some lovely like-minded divers too.

I won’t be starting up my professional mermaid business just yet then…maybe next year.



We rescued 10 ex-intensive farmed hens well over a year ago. A plea was broadcast on a local south west radio station and I knew we had the space to home some of the 200 which were looking to be rehomed. 

A wonderful friend collected them from Cornwall and agreed to drive them across the Tamar bridge and down to the South Hams. When they arrived they were terrified and featherless. They had no experience of perching – so roosted on the floor – some made it to the nesting boxes but with no wing feathers some couldn’t. They certainly weren’t used to daylight and stayed in the hen house for 14 days before venturing outside. 

After a number of weeks their skeletal wings began to feather up. Subtle ginger tips sprouted through the meaty skin on their backs. And the more they became accustomed to their new home the more they flourished. It didn’t take long for the egg production line to speed up – at one point we were receiving 14 eggs or more a day. Suffice to say all our friends and neighbours didn’t have to shop for eggs for many months. 

Sadly, on occasion, one or two became poorly and passed away. The rest remained resolutely healthy – friendly and fantastic layers. Molly and Isla handled them regularly and our once fearful birds became household pets. 

I was spurred to write this all down because of an immediate call of help from the British Hens Welfare Trust – they need to urgently rehome hens in Rotherham this weekend. If you have space – hens don’t need a huge amount – these lovely birds are simple to look after and produce beautiful eggs. Please take a look at this link to see other appeals all throughout the country. Each has a personality and you won’t be able not to fall in love with them – promise. 

Savouring our summer – a sensory feast…

We are lucky to be experiencing high temperatures, clear, vivid blue skies and blooming, beautiful gardens, hedgerows and rolling fields. Today is a good day to live on the south coast of Devon. It’s glorious.

I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be – this morning on my jog/brisk walk/dawdle past the sweeping stretches of golden sands on the coast, I found myself in Blackpool Valley. It’s a cool and shady respite to the warming morning sun. A river idles through it and the sound of its babble is my accompaniment – there’s no need for iPods today. I can hear our majestic pheasants calling to each other, the cries of seagulls and the lowing of cows.

As I near the muddy footpath that winds up the valley I can smell a gorgeous scent – it’s a climbing English rose, pale but stunning and its scent is divine. It masks the cows…All I can see is dappled light shifting through ancient trees as I work my way steadily up hill. I squelch through swampy patches of path and stop to rest on a crumbling, worn stone wall. Finally I reach the top of the valley – and the narrow coast path opens up to farm track and I level off. It’s very hot and pretty uncomfortable but it was worth every step.


Blackberries in the paddock

Back at home I notice the blackberry bush is beginning to flower – its soft lilac tinged petals are where the plant will bear its fruit. And with that follows Autumn…it won’t be long until we’re pulling on our knitted jumpers, baking blackberry and apple crumbles and the nights will be dark and cool again.

But for now – I’m savouring our schizophrenic English summer, for all its faults (erratic temperature fluctuations to name one), when it gets it right it is simply the most wonderful thing in the world.