Quarter Days Walking Book Group, New Forest

An invitation to join the Quarter Days Walking Book Group.

Many of us here locally feel the global ferment and anxiety with regard to green and environmental issues. As newbies to the area, we wanted to meet like-minded people, care for the planet and do participatory stuff!

As a result, we plan to offer 4 seasonal walks, based around the old farming Quarter Days, giving time to Read, Ramble, Reflect and Relax.


The first event will take place on Michaelmas Day, Sunday 29 September 2019

3.00pm – 5.00pm (Sunset 18.43)


Setley Ponds Car park New Forest SO41 8PS


We can walk slowly, serenely, bound together by an appreciation of the countryside and a love of reading and participation so that we may return to our lives with a little less tension and with a little more delight.

The Book

The book chosen to launch the Walking Book group is The Overstory by Richard Powers (2019). The idea is to pre-read and discuss one section of this large book in each quarter of the year – aka ‘Slow Reading!’ The novel is already conveniently arranged in 4 parts: Roots, Trunk, Crown and Seeds.

It is available on Kindle as well as hard copy. Start reading now!


Everyone is welcome to join in this response to the countryside and witness the turning seasons that help to inspire us.




America 18/70

Marilyn meets Moberg!*

My excitement knew no bounds as we arrived at Stillwater. I was steeped in the psycho-geography of the fictional land of my Swedish settlers at last. *

Although we were in a typical motel on the outskirts, our walk into town provided a great opportunity to understand its site and situation on the St Croix river.

Very tempting!


The St Croix riverside in Stillwater

And I am there! 37 days since leaving home!

America 18/70

Minneapolis-St Paul

This city was to be the last stop before hitting the finale of the Swedish story at Stillwater. Our short stay revealed the full story of the Mid-West, the commercial exploitation of its resources and the significance of the Mississippi.

St Paul

Once again we were amazed to find waterfalls in the centre of a city. But it was the falls that resulted in the development of St Paul as early settlers could not pass further north on the river. Here are a couple of glimpses of those earlier times.

Fort Snelling was built to protect the commercial interests of the in-comers.

Although we would have liked to stay longer, we also had to make our turn at the St Anthony Falls to reach our goal – Stillwater.


America 18/70

24 Hours in Portage!

Just setting off for the twin cities, Minneapolis–Saint Paul, our target destination after 34 days on the road.

We began to suspect that all was not well further down the tracks. The upside was that we made great friends with our fellow travellers in the hot and steamy waiting room as we shared texts and info about the delay.

Six hours later we boarded our train! The delay was due to torrential rain washing away the tracks in both directions.

I have included this photo of a train because this is where we spent the next 24  hours – in a siding in Portage! The track damage was extensive and rail maintenance had been out sourced to Canadian contractors, hence the wait! All was not lost, however, as these photos reveal of our romantic on board dinner that night, courtesy of Amtrak.

Actually, I could not face steak at 3 am but Paul loved it and we were both so impressed that it happened at all!

I have spared you the other realities of the 24 hour delay but instead refer you to Henry Moore’s depiction of London Underground Tube shelters during the WW2 blitz.

Shelterers in the Tube 1941 Henry Moore OM, CH 1898-1986 Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee 1946


America 18/70

Portage -small town America writ large!

In our trip planning we chose a stop over in Portage, Wisconsin for two reasons: it was half way between Chicago and St Paul, MN and I liked the name, knowing it was often associated with settler travel. What we did not know was just how much this delightful town had seen of the evolving story of America. It had many claims to fame!Portage

It started with the Native Americans who appreciated a good route when they found one. Prior to European settlement in the late 17th century, the shores of the Fox River and Green Bay were home to roughly half the estimated 25,000 Native Americans who lived in what is today Wisconsin. They used this important water route between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi and this helped the first fur seeking Europeans to establish their trade routes  to the Gulf of Mexico. Portage stands at a key watershed. It is the place where you unload and carry your stuff to the next stretch of water! Portage

Some of the earliest ‘management of the Indian problem’ was carried out from forts and agency houses nearby. I will let the sign boards speak for themselves.Portage


Here is the Native American’s perspective – Portage

Portage was also home at different times to three men who became world renown for their contributions to the American story. Here I am, a humble student, outside the very home of Frederick Jackson Turner famous for his Frontier Thesis.

If, as Turner claimed, the ‘Frontier made America,’ John Muir spent his life campaigning to save its precious wilderness for future generations. Portage

Widely regarded as the father of America’s National Park system, Muir emigrated from Scotland with his family in 1849 to a farm near Portage.

The third famous person I stumbled upon was Frank Lloyd Wright. Although his “Prairie Style” architecture does not feature here, Portage has developed a great town trail for visitors to view the Society Hill Historic District. The large and gracious homes reflect the wealth and high society living here between 1870 and 1910.Portage


As you have guessed, we learnt so much of all this from the delightful Town Museum, located in the former home of Zona Gale.

It was the view from Zona Gales’ lovely lounge window that gave us the first portent of weather problems to come. 

A warning about this had woken us up at 3.00am in our hotel room when my phone suddenly burst into life with a scary tornado message!

Before I regale you with the storm story which follows, I could not leave Portage without sharing a couple more of its joys:

Portage Museum guide Sarah Mautz helping us feel at home.

And … seeing is believing, this is Portage library on a wild and wet Wednesday!



See you at the railroad station – westward ho!