Entries tagged "south"

Credit where it's due... in the Chianti vineyards


I end a lot of my courses, walks and talks with the joke, "You've now unwittingly signed up to be part of my extended research team." - Many a true word spoken in jest! There is nothing nicer than learning of a new technique, perspective, observation or other insight from someone I've once taught or met. It is always very important to me that those that are kind enough to feedback any gems get the credit, which was one of the reasons it was great to receive the…

Lavender - lavandula


Lavender enjoys full bright sunlight, so it will not be found on the north side of walls, trees or anything else throwing lots of shade. And as you can see in this picture, this lavender knows which side its bread is buttered, as it leans towards the southern light. (The picture was taken early in the morning, about the only time this lavender is not in full sunlight.)

Deducing Direction from Dog Defecation


This is not an April Fool's post. Instead this is about the most extraordinary piece of research that I have come across in many years of being on the lookout for such things. I am hugely grateful to Martyn Walker for drawing my attention to it. In a past post, I mentioned the story about researchers discovering that cows align themselves north-south more commonly than any other direction. I never suspected that research in this field could grow more surreal. Researchers have found that dogs defecate more commonly along the north-south axis than any…



I took this photo in Chichester the other day, at midday. Chichester has four main streets, North, East, South and West. (A fairly appropriate home city for me.) You can probably eliminate a couple of those quite quickly, but which of the remaining ones is it? It's not a great photo, taken on my iPhone whilst walking, but there are a couple of good clues. I'll update with an answer in a few days. Update, spoiler alert: We are looking due south on North Street. The clues are: the midday sun plus…

Prickly Lettuce, A Compass Plant


Prickly lettuce is known to some of its navigating friends as the 'compass plant' and to its Roman friends as 'lactuca serriola'. In truth it is only one of many plants with the compass plant nickname (Silphium laciniatum in the US is another one), but it has earned it. In open ground, the leaves of the main stem are aligned north-south, offering the least surface area to the midday sun, but the maximum area to the weaker light of the start and end of the day. (This is a similar logic to the N-S alignment…

Analemmas and the Equation of Time


If you stood on the same spot and took a photo of the sun every day during a year's worth of good weather, at exactly the same time each day... ...You might expect to see the sun moving up and down in the sky. But sideways? In fact it would trace a figure of 8 in the sky. This shape is called an Analemma. This has nothing to do with 'daylight saving' or any of the other artificial clock changes. It is caused by two factors. The first is well known and understood by…

Back from the Arctic


Yesterday I arrived back home after sailing north from Scotland via the Faroe Islands into the Arctic, finishing at Reykjavik. I used the trip to study the relationship between the environment, the distance to land and other factors like depth. I'd like to thank my Mate and only crewmember, John Pahl, for volunteering for such an unlikely voyage and for being such an invaluable help throughout the trip. There's lots to report both here and in the articles I will be writing, but in the meantime I've just got time to share what felt like a great…

Tree Lichens and Royalty


  -------------------------   In these four pictures we are looking at the same beech tree. See if you can work out which way you are looking in each picture. If you hover your mouse over each picture it should give you the answer. If it has been a bit quiet on the blog recently, it's because it has been a very busy time for the last…

Which Way Are We Looking?


The last astro quiz proved so popular that I thought we'd do another. This fantastic photo was taken by the expedition photographer, James Walker. Thanks, James, for permission to use it here. Do check out James' website, there are some stunning images, but only after you've had a go at answering the questions below. Which way are we looking in this picture? Bonus: roughly what latitude was the photo taken at? Good luck! I'll post the answer here in a few days. Photography tip from a pro: The tomb in the…

Snow and Ice Patterns


I'm just back from some micronavigation in the Black Mountains in Wales. I should get a chance to blog in more detail in time, but for now I just wanted to share a couple of nice clues I found in the light snow and ice I walked amongst. The first photo shows the first snow I encountered on a climb out of the Vale of Ewyas. We are looking east in this picture, the only snow to have survived the thawing warmth of the day are the thin strips hiding in the shade on the south…