Puddles and biodiversity

Puddles and biodiversity


Ash leaves in an Autumn puddle


Autumn puddles on a path – a perfect line for a child to run through

On today’s walk I decided it would be a slow journey exploring the delights of Autumn –leaves, berries and puddles. For some reason as I wandered along pausing to take photographs my thoughts began to wonder what could live in these puddles. After watching The Blue Planet and those of us of a certain age, Jaques Cousteau, we know what lives in oceans. For what lays lurking in lakes we have Jeremy Wade to thank. Any young child that has been pond dipping has fair idea what lives there. What about puddles? Has anyone studied what lives in a puddle? We all know that a puddle is a small pool of water formed usually by rainwater captured in a small depression. Young children know what to do with a puddle. Run and splash through them and have great fun in doing so. But what lives in a puddle?

Perhaps as I write David Attenborough is currently secretly filming a brand new series “Life in a Puddle” to fully complete his “Life on Earth” franchise. 

My reasoning for “What lives in a puddle?” is likely based on what I was reading a few weeks ago. This was Edward O. Wilson’s “The Diversity of Life” [1] and I was particularly fascinated in the “Biodiversity Reaches the Peak” chapter. Here the author informs us that we also need to look at small worlds in what he terms as “microwilderness”. In one of his examples of a microwilderness he wants us to picture a large beetle, a weevil is featured in the accompanying drawing, 50mm long living on the side of a tree. Then imagining as it walks around this trunk, which has a circumference of 5m, browsing on lichens and fungi. As it goes about doing the most important thing to exist, eating, it is scarcely aware of a much smaller world at its feet. This micro world has many dips and hollows in the bark of the tree which the weevil, due to its comparatively large size, negotiates without issue. However, in this undulating terrain there are beetles small enough to make it their home. They exist in a different scale of space. To these smaller beetles irregularities in this terrain are not trivial. As they crawl down the sides and climb back out of them, the circumference of the tree trunk is about ten times what it is for the weevil, which knows nothing of these tiny crevices. In this microwilderness the giant is the weevil and the surface of the trunk is 100 times greater for the smaller beetles than what it is for the weevil. This disparity translates into more niches as different crevices will have their own regimes of humidity and temperature. With this diversity a variety of combinations of algae and fungi have evolved on which these smaller insects can feed. Wilson then takes the reader even further and descends into the microscopic realm where he starts at the feet of these smaller beetles. Here he informs us that there are still smaller crevices and patches of algae and fungi too narrow for them to enter. Here the smallest insects together with amoured oribatid mites [2], measuring under a millimetre in length compete for this food source. Finally, these minute arthropods [3] stand on gains of sand lodged in algae films and rhiziods of mosses, and on a single gain of sand may grow colonies of ten or more species of bacteria. Scanning the geometry at this level reveals that this diminutive fauna live as if the surface of the tree trunk were a hundred times or more greater than the surface embraced by beetles the next size up, and a thousands times greater than the titan weevil occupying the apex of this particular environment.   


An Autumn puddle – an ephemeral microwilderness

If this biodiversity has evolved to live on a small section of a tree trunk in a tropical forest what could live in a puddle in a temperate landscape? Whatever lives there will also need a survival strategy when the puddle dries up as in temperate environments puddles are an ephemeral microwilderness providing a transient dimension to support life.

Now what microwilderness lays below the surface of a puddle?


Walk took place on 21st October 2017


[1] Edward O. Wilson; 1992; The Diversity of Life; Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press

Biodiversity Reaches the Peak” chapter pages relating to microwilderness as discussed in this article are on pages 207 – 209.

For details of the latest edition published in November 2010 with a New Preface: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674058170 Accessed 22/10/17

[2] Oribatid mites: http://www.hutton.ac.uk/research/groups/ecological%20sciences/our%20science/orbatid-mites Accessed 22/10/17

[3] Arthropods http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Arthropod Accessed 22/10/17 Although front page shows last updated in October 2014 it provides links to a wealth of BBC film clips from their natural history programmes. How about a caterpillar that feeds on flies! There is one such species, it lives on Hawaii and a clip shows a caterpillar catching then devouring a fly.

#walk1000miles challenge completed

#walk1000miles challenge completed

Harvested field

Through Twitter I became aware of Country Walking magazine’s #walk1000miles in 2017 challenge. This seemed to be the ideal New Year’s resolution with an activity that not only improved personal physical fitness but also mental wellbeing. Country Walking stated that all you needed to achieve this target was to walk 2.74 miles every day for 365 days.  However, with many commitments, especially from work, would I be able to keep to this schedule every single day? Self doubts began to creep in. But after reading some inspiring stories from people on Country Walking’s website who completed the #walk1000miles in 2016 I decided it would be worth giving it a go. I devised a plan to keep me on target for each month based on the number of days in each month times 2.74 miles. Then I simply just needed to start and my first walk for this journey commenced on the 3rd January. I realised it was steady progress as I hadn’t achieved my January target at the end of that month. The main reason being that the first two weeks of this month involved a heavy workload finishing off UCAS student references and approving their applications. During February I exceeded my monthly target but was over 30 miles under the cumulative total for that month. However, by the end of March I had exceeded the cumulative target by just over 2 miles. Now I needed to keep ahead each month even if it was just by a few miles. April was a brilliant month as I walked almost 211 miles during this period. On 7th May was the break through as this was the date where I hit over 500 miles and therefore reached the half way point with almost two months to spare. I was delighted to be so far ahead of the target I had set myself. Late Spring and early Summer was a drive to keep well ahead of the set targets and then the realisation that I could hit 1000 miles before the end of August if I maintained this pace. In mid August there was a lapse in my recording and as I feed the latest data into Movescount I suddenly found that I had achieved the 1000 miles target a few days after actually completing it. So my journey to a 1000 miles ended on 22nd August which just happened to be pay day! This could be seen as the reward as there was no red carpet or fanfare as I crossed the 1000 miles finish line. This personal challenge was really enjoyable and I was pleasantly surprised to be able to finish it with over four months to spare. Special thanks to Country Walking for devising this challenge and providing the ongoing motivation through Twitter and regular e-mails. I certainly feel physically fitter and the activity provided a vehicle to promote my personal well being.

Wheat field with heavy cloud

This year was a good yield for cereal crops

What next? Well if I completed 1000 miles in two-thirds of the year then it should be possible to complete another 500 miles for the remainder of this year. Perhaps I will start the #walk500more and aim to complete 1500 miles before the end of 2017. On the last day of August and as Summer comes to an end I have walked a fraction over 1030 miles and tomorrow sees the start of a new journey in another season.

Canal reflection

Walks along canal towpaths also contributed to the distance completed

January to August monthly totals for #walk1000miles in 2017

January 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles

January total 36.6 miles (58.91 km)

February 28 days X 2.74 miles / day = 76.72 miles 161.66 miles

February total 91.22 miles (146.8 km) cumulative total = 127.82 miles

March 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 246.6 miles 

March total 120.98 miles (194.7 km) cumulative total = 248.8 miles

April 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 328.80 miles

April total 210.7 miles (339.1 km) cumulative total = 459.5 miles

May 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 413.74 miles

May total 153.6 miles (247.2 km) cumulative total = 613.16 miles

June 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 495.94 miles 

June total 114.6 miles (184.5 km) cumulative total = 727.62 miles

July 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 580.88 miles

July total 130.98 miles (210.8 km) cumulative total = 858.7 miles

August 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 665.82 miles

#walk1000miles target achieved on 22nd August = 1003.5 miles

August total 172.07 miles (276.9 km) cumulative total = 1030.85 miles

Used Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping for route planning and Suunto Movescount to record walks.

Tree in a field

Footnote: I have taken photographs of this tree throughout my #walk1000miles venture and here it is after the harvest with a fabulous blue sky as a backdrop

Slower Journeys

Slower Journeys

Logan Trail start Gotham

On our AIM Awards Access to HE Diploma in Health Professions course one of the key themes in the Health Promotion unit was to engage in physical activity. To this end several teams elected to plan, organise and deliver a health walk as a health promotion event. Here the method of delivery was a demonstration and an actual walk which took in The Forest Recreation Ground, venue for Nottingham’s famous Goose Fair, and the Arboretum was planned as the activity. The course measured 1.93 miles and not only did students state that it was a great physical activity they said that going though green spaces also gave them a sense of wellbeing.

The Tree in late Spring

The Ash tree in the centre of a field on Bunny Moor

Moving on from this walk I decided to organise a 10 mile countryside walk which provided a stretch and challenge activity to take place towards the end of the course. This walk would be over varied terrain using footpaths, bridleways, tracks and trails. To maximise student participation I decided to organise two opportunities for the walk. Also the walks would be used to help raise funds for the Nottingham Universities Hospitals ‘The Big Appeal.’

The walk starts and finishes in East Leake and the first section gradually ascends to Bunny New Wood then descends to Gotham Lane. The next leg follows Fairham Brook over Bunny Moor then heads west going through a former Great Central Railway bridge. After crossing a few fields the route goes along The Logan Trail which was originally a railway line built by the Great Central Railway serving the gypsum industry in the Nottinghamshire village of Gotham.  This leg ends on Leake Road and the next section crosses this road and continues along the western section of The Logan Trail.

Cuckoo Bush

Circling the Neolithic burial mound and site of the Cuckoo Bush near Gotham

A short distance the trail ends and crossing the road the path follows a bridleway which gradually steepens to gain the top of the hill and our lunch stop. After lunch we take the opportunity to visit the tumulus which is a Neolithic burial mound over three thousand years old. This is also rumoured to be the site of the famous Cuckoo Bush where the Wise Men of Gotham built a fence around a tree to prevent the Cuckoo from flying off so that spring will last forever. Unfortunately, this didn’t work as the fence wasn’t built high enough and the Cuckoo simply flew away. After crossing a field the route goes through the West Leake Hills wood and then follows tracks and rights of way to the village of West Leake where this leg ends at the church. A quick break for a drink and for the next section the route follows the Midshires Way ascending Fox Hill. Just before the top of the hill the final leg descends following the footpath to the footbridge and turning to follow Kingston Brook to eventually go through a railway tunnel. Exiting the tunnel  the route goes through Meadow Park to the car park and the end of the walk.

Selfie end of walk 200617

The Tuesday team selfie at the end of the walk – I am second from the right

The main aim for the walk was for a slower journey to enable connections within the group and enable them to connect with nature and history during the activity. I planned the walk to take around five hours and the first walk was completed in 4 hours 19 minutes and the second one in 4 hours 57 minutes. The ambient weather for the duration of both walks was just perfect. Feedback from students was extremely positive and they all would like to continue with walking in countryside environments to promote physical activity and wellbeing. Both areas being beneficial to a life work balance especially in the careers they are pursuing in nursing and other health professions.

The day after the final walk I received the Summer 2017 issue of the Institute for Outdoor Learning’s ‘Horizons’ magazine. I was pleasantly surprised to read an article by Geoff Cooper under the title: #walking as a humble & subversive #activity which ended with the need to encourage ‘slower journeys’ that allowed for spontaneity, contact with people, enjoyment of nature and give them the chance to express their feelings and discuss issues of the day. I certainly feel that the two walks provided opportunities for all of these themes and this is further supported by the students positive accounts of these ventures.

Find out more about the Nottingham Universities Hospitals Trust’s: The Big Appeal


Here is a link to my Just Giving page if you would like to make a donation:


For information about the Institute of Outdoor Learning:


My Scoop It site for health walks and the health benefits of walking:


#walk1000miles the first 600 miles

#walk1000miles the first 600 miles

After seeing the Country Walking magazine’s #walk1000miles in 2017 challenge on Twitter I decided it would be worth giving it a go. However, it took  until the 3rd of January to make the start. Knowing that one needed to do 2.74 miles every day for 365 days to hit the target why didn’t I start on the 1st January? I devised a plan to keep me on target for each month based on the number of days in each month times 2.74 miles (see below).

So to commence the challenge on the 2nd January I planned what was to become my #WorkWalk. This was a 1.93 mile route that started and finished where I worked and went through two green spaces in Nottingham, namely the Forest Recreation Ground, famous for the site of the Goose Fair in October, and the Arboretum. I completed fourteen #WorkWalk ‘s in January to which I added a walk I have done many times in the past few years (7.25 miles) and one I devised especially for #walk1000miles in 2017 (10 miles). The latter were countryside walks over footpaths, bridleways, tracks and trails close to where I live.

Meindl Cambridge GTX muddy

Typical conditions with the countryside walks early in the year so my Meindl Cambridge GTX shoes came into their own and they kept my feet perfectly dry

In February I only missed three days where I didn’t walk and was pleasantly surprised just how many miles one can achieve with a #WorkWalk every weekday. Weekend walks were in the local countryside but as a respite from the mud I did three laps of the National Water Sports Centre’s (NWSC) Regatta Lake. March saw four days missed walks but more countryside walks enabled more miles walked this month compared to February. April was a great month and a turning point despite missing four days of walking. This was due to gaining blisters after a Long Distance Walkers Association 29 miles Erewash Valley Trail walk with the Anytime Anywhere group. Also I devised a new walk which took in three historical sites around East Leake and measured 16 miles, and I completed this every weekend in April.

Blue and Yellow

Fields of Oil-seed rape near Rempstone Nottinghamshire May 2017

May saw me go through the 500 miles target with a total of 501 miles recorded on the 7th of that month. Then there was a lull with four days in a row missed and a total of ten days when a walk wasn’t recorded. However, with determination I set a target of completing 600 miles before the end of the month and this was achieved on 30th when five laps of the NWSC Regatta Lake were completed which meant 0.7 miles were needed to get to that target. Getting back home I didn’t want to leave it until the next day so literately it took a 2.5 mile walk in the park to go through the 600 mile target. Finally, on the last day of May I added another 11.34 miles with a countryside walk in beautiful weather.

Now onward with seven months left to do 386.84 miles. I am enjoying this personal challenge and thanks to Country Walking for devising it and providing the motivation.

#walk1000miles plan for 2017

January 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles

January total 36.6 miles (58.91 km)

February 28 days X 2.74 miles / day = 76.72 miles 161.66 miles

February total 91.22 miles (146.8 km) cumulative total = 127.82 miles

March 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 246.6 miles 

March total 120.98 miles (194.7 km) cumulative total = 248.8 miles

April 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 328.80 miles

April total 210.7 miles (339.1 km) cumulative total = 459.5 miles

May 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 413.74 miles

May total 153.6 miles (247.2 km) cumulative total = 613.16 miles

June 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 495.94 miles achieved 501 7th May

July 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 580.88 miles

August 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 665.82 miles

September 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 748.02miles

October 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 832.96 miles

November 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 915.16 miles

December 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 1000.1 miles

Used Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping for route planning and Suunto Movescount to record walks.

#walk1000miles The first 200 miles

#walk1000miles The first 200 miles


Display of tulips in the Arboretum

In a moment of possible madness I decided to embark on the Country Walking magazine’s #walk1000miles in 2017 challenge. My first walk was what I called #WorkWalk which is a walk of 1.93 miles that I could do within my lunch hour at work. Luckily I work close to two green lungs in the City of Nottingham: the Forest Recreation Ground and the Arboretum. Truly splendid urban walking locations that not only aid physical fitness but also mental wellbeing. So the first circuit was completed on Tuesday 3rd January 2017 and now I have completed numerous rounds that have enabled me to steadily tick off the miles.


Snowdrops close-up

Close-up of snowdrops in Dimminsdale Woods

My wife and I have for the last couple of years wanted to see the beautiful display of snowdrops in Dimminsdale Woods in Leicestershire and we also seemed to always be a couple of weeks late. However, this year we were better planned and a visit there would also add a few miles towards my #walk1000miles total. Finally we saw the spectacle for ourselves which was an amazing experience and I added another couple of miles.


Tractor tracks

Tractor tracks provides evidence of the mud encountered on the local rambles

Alongside the #WorkWalk the mainstay walks were two local ones that I could access straight from my front door. One was an old favourite devised back in 2011 and first walked on 4th September in that year. This 7.25 miles walk is over mixed terrain which includes tracks, footpaths and bridleways and it also has a couple of up hill sections. In the current period of walking mud features prominently in a few areas. The other local walk is one I originally planned to be around 15 miles but during the first excursion I didn’t feel 100% so I shortened the route. I liked this version, which measures out at just a tad over ten miles, very much so I have done this five times now. In fact it was during the fourth completion of this particular walk that I went through the 200 mile point on Sunday 19th March 2017. If it wasn’t for #walk1000miles I might never have designed this walk which uses the Logan Trail, a disused railway line, just south of Gotham as part of the route.

Lego MiniFig Navigator with snowdrops

Chris Navigator ready to go on another hike to add towards his #walk1000miles challenge

On behalf of Chris Navigator many thanks Country Walking magazine for the #walk1000miles challenge I have not felt fitter in thirty years! Now a fifth of the way towards the target and all I need to do is maintain this momentum.

Country Walking website for #walk1000miles in 2017


Arboretum Nottingham


Dimminsdale Nature Reserve Leicestershire


#walk1000miles Challenge Accepted

#walk1000miles Challenge Accepted


The Subway Arboretum Nottingham January 2017

To walk 1000 miles in a year one has to complete 2.74 miles every day for 365 days. Now just less than 3 miles per day isn’t an impossible task but one that will take dedication to pursue. Country Walking magazine is promoting #walk1000miles in 2017 after the success of this project in 2016. Currently over 24,000 people have signed up with this magazine to complete this distance. One of those is me. In the distant pass I surpassed the 1000 mile target a few times in the 1980’s when this distance was promoted by the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) for it’s members to accomplish. In 1986 I completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks, 23 miles; the Black Mountains Roundabout, 25 miles; the Surrey Summits, 62 miles; the Fellsman Hike, 61 miles; the South Downs 100; and the Lakes Four Three Thousands, 45 miles. So with just these six events I notched up 316 miles in that year. These events coupled with completing several 20 miles plus LDWA walks organised by the High Peak and Sherwood Groups at weekends and personal walks during the week it is easy to see how I hit the 1000 miles in a year target.


Superb weather on my walk through the Arboretum on 5th January 2017

However, in 2017 my time during the week will be limited to what distance I can realistically complete during a lunch hour. For this I worked out a route that I can start and finish at my work place that goes through two green lungs of the City of Nottingham, the Forest Recreation Ground and the Arboretum. Using Ordnance Survey (OS) Digital Maps Premium I could devise a route on their 1:25,000 scale maps and this even provided a target time. The route measured out at 1.93 miles (3.1 km) and the target time was 42 minutes. I have now completed this route 18 times from 3rd January to 10th February yielding 34.74 miles towards the 1000 mile target. My fastest time was 30 minutes and the slowest 36 minutes so every walk was within the OS target time. Public Health England recommend we should be doing a minimum of 30 minutes moderate exercise at least five days per week so this walk is also enabling me to meet these standards.

Further details:

Country Walking magazine #walk1000miles link:


Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) link to Groups and Events:


This challenge promotes physical activity as recommended by Public Health England:


#teacher5aday #pledge #2017

#teacher5aday #pledge #2017

In 2017 there are for me two important landmarks. The first is that I am a third of the way into my 27th year in teaching and the second sees me celebrating 40 years as a member of the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA). Both of these events will feature strongly in the #teaher5aday 2017 pledge.


Keep being involved with Twitter #PLN (personal learning network) and do more walks with groups – I value face to face connections too. It would also be nice to meet some #teacher5aday tweeters during 2017.



The trig pillar, at left, on Crich Stand, Derbyshire


What remains of the trig pillar at East Leake

Whilst on a walk take an image of something of interest. During 2016 I enjoyed taking part in the Ordnance Survey’s (OS) celebration of the 80th anniversary of the trig pillar. This assisted me organising local walks to gain access to trig pillars that were close by that I wouldn’t necessarily visit. During one excursion I noticed that a trig pillar was no longer there even though its location was clearly marked on the map. I notified the OS and they sent one of their representatives to check this out and they replied that the map in question will be updated to reflect the missing trig pillar. OS also utilised Twitter to share peoples images of trig pillars and connected these with #trigpillar80. During 2017 the focus  will be me noticing elements in the natural world and recording these in blogs.


Red Admiral butterfly – a surprise sight on 9th October and I saw six other individuals on the same day


I have always wanted to write an article for publication in a journal. I could base this article on flipped learning relating to coaching concepts in land navigation which led to the 4 D’s of Land Navigation Model. This has been the theme for my presentations at various conferences in 2016 and with an article I had written that was published by the Institute for Outdoor Learning (IOL) in their Horizons magazine in the Spring 2016 issue. The first conference I delivered to was for the Nottingham Trent University’s Trent Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT) at Nottingham in July, then at the IOL Conference, Staffordshire in October and finally at the inaugural researchED FE conference, London in December. May be I could add New York and Paris as venues in 2017! In preparing this article I will be engaged in learning and if published will be part of scholarly activity in that the results will be shared.



This should be relatively easy as I have a wealth of experience leading walks for various organisations in the past and could do this again in 2017. For example, lead a ramble for a local Ramblers’ Group or organise a walk for the LDWA. Perhaps I could plan and lead a walk for #teacher5aday as I did for #UKFEchat community in 2015.


Try to do basic flexibility exercises everyday and complete a long walk every weekend. In 2016 I celebrated my 60th birthday with a walk to work. This was almost 13 miles in distance and I planned the route to ensure the minimum of walking by a road. It was a neat challenge and one I had in mind since I moved there twenty years ago. My previous home was 23 miles from work! I managed to complete this walk in 4 hours and 36 minutes just two minutes outside the OS Maps guideline time. Other walking events of note completing the 26.2 miles Dovedale Dipper challenge walk in the Peak District during August – such fabulous weather and my sixth completion of the 16 miles Seagrave Wolds Challenge walk in November – not so good weather!


Stunning scenery on the 26.2 miles Dovedale Dipper Challenge Walk 7th August 2016

The highlight though was that I took part in the LDWA Three Forests Way 54 miles challenge event but I only completed 49 miles! However, that 49 miles was the furtherest I have walked in almost 30 years! I would love to have another go and finish the walk this time. To enable this to happen requires building up not just physical endurance but mental fitness as well. This preparation will certainly provide enough for #teacher5aday throughout 2017.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year, don’t be to obsessed with work, and ensure you build time for you every day.

In completing this blog I would like to acknowledge Dawn Jones @stowdawn