BIG Garden Birdwatch 2018

For the past five years I’ve been participating in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. Over the years I have seen fluctuations in bird numbers and species. This year before the count, it had been the poorest showing of birds in a long time. I don’t know whether this is due to the goldfinches being scared, yes you read that correctly, scared of the seed I bought for them from Haiths? Or whether it’s due to being a mild January, where there’s more abundant foods elsewhere? Either way when I came to sit down with a cup of coffee in hand I wasn’t expecting much of a show. However the birds had other ideas!

This year, the only day I could fit in the hour long bird watch was Sunday, between 12.10pm and 1.20pm. While a enjoyed a relaxing lunch, I gazed out of the window to where the bird feeders were all topped up!

I didn’t have to wait too long for the first visitors, the starlings, who in turn bring a cascade of flocks of goldfinches and pigeons. My tally for the hour was as follows.

  • 8 starlings
  • 10 goldfinches
  • 9 pigeons (featuring a prima donna display from the rescue pigeon, Hoppy)
  • A swift visitation by 1 dunnock
  • An equally brief visit by 1 blue tit

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The yarden this winter has generally attracted two blue tits, but the other was no where to be seen. I have spotted a visiting robin on most days, (which the dunnock could have chased away), and two great tits have visited occasionally. On Friday last, I saw what was either three long tailed tits, or wagtails, they stayed all too briefly for me to ID them!

So, there you have it, my tally for 2018’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I wonder what species I’ll see in 2019?

What species did you record if you participated?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Four Out of Five Birds…

By no means is this post sponsored by Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. However, after previously testing their wild bird food, (you can read all about that here). I decided to purchase some of their foods for our indoor aviary, which houses seven finches, with two in the ‘naughty’ cage! Overall we have a mix of nine foreign finches.

We regularly offer millet sprays to our birds. We usually buy Chinese millet from a local pet store. On perusing Haith’s Cage and Aviary website, I spied French red Anjou millet sprays. Though a little more expensive than the Chinese millet I was won over by their deep red colour.

Haith’s delivery is supper fast. On receipt of my goods, I couldn’t wait to give the finches their first taste of the red Anjou millet. Needless to say the new millet went down a treat!

With two of our ladies laying eggs at present (in rather unsuitable places I may add), I purchased Haith’s foreign finch tonic food. This blend is to support staple foods and is enriched with nutritious seeds to help with a balanced diet. Like their wild bird seed, the foreign finch food came SUPERCLEAN. You can read more about Haith’s cleaning process here.

To help with digestion and aid in egg production I also purchased some granulated charcoal.

We are very happy with the purchased products from Haith’s. The birds are loving the new tonic seed and red Anjou millet. I will definitely purchase these items again from Haith’s in future.

Thanks to David for taking the pictures!

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #6

Bev from Confuzzledom informed me that the latest #photoanhour challenge was this Saturday 20th January 2018. I decided to join in on Instagram. Though my day was hectic I wouldn’t class it as exciting! Here’s my 12 hours of Day.

Photo an Hour – 20th January 2018

8am to 9am:

My Saturday began at 8am with the alarm clock blaring. I was the first up and with Artie fed, I waited for the kettle to boil for my morning coffee.

9am to 10am:

I dawdled over breakfast. The morning was cold, grey and raining. It was difficult to motivate myself, but I knew I had to get up as a busy day awaited. I spent fifteen minutes putting on my make-up and getting dressed.

10am to 11am:

First on the agenda was the weekly shop. We spent a good hour in Asda spending lots of money on gym clothes and groceries.

11am to 12pm:

Was spent unpacking groceries, travelling to garages so David could pump up his car tyres and travelling to a spice market that was sadly closed when we got there.

12pm to 1pm:

Arriving later than planned, we took a visit to David’s mum and dad.

1pm to 2pm:

Home, I managed to arrange the cut flowers I’d bought that morning.

2pm to 3pm:

While having a late lunch, David noticed we had an egg in the aviary. It was a tiny owl finch egg.

3pm to 4pm:

Thankfully the rain stopped long enough for me to spend some time in the yarden. I cleaned the bird feeders of mold.

4pm to 5pm:

After doing some house work, I tried on my new gym clothes!

5pm to 6pm:

After cleaning the aviary, we watched as the finches enjoyed their new French Red Anjou Millet!

6pm to 7pm:

Dinner time. I was starving! We both had pizza for Saturday’s evening meal. David’s was topped with chicken, while I had half a goat’s cheese with spinach pizza. I served it with a heap of salad to make it look healthier. Of course I enjoyed a nice glass of cabernet sauvignon too :p

7pm to 8pm:

For the rest of the evening I relaxed with Classic FM and Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type. David and I also snuggled and watched a film together. It was a nice end to a hectic day.

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #41

This post’s a bit late, but it’s been a busy weekend and I’ve not had chance to sit down and write. So here’s my Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Walking the Dog: 
The highlight of the week has been walks with Riley.

Today we visited Sefton Park in all kinds of weather. While the daffodils bent their heads in the wind we jogged and walked in the snow, sleet, hail and rain! We had fun though and added three miles to my annual mileage.

#walk1000miles:

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This week I managed 35 miles, bringing my total to 108 miles! I also ordered the 2018 badge. If you are partaking in the challenge, how are you doing?

TV:

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I have recently been enjoying the BBC 2 programme A House Through Time. Presented by David Olusoga, featuring a house in Faulkner Street, Liverpool. The programme is in four parts and follows the lives of the people who lived in the four storey house.

A Year in Books:

I am currently reading Tom Hank’s Uncommon Type, a collection of short stories with a typewriter mentioned in every one. David informed me that Hanks collects typewriters hence the love for them in this collection of stories. Have you read the book? What were your thoughts?

Night Out:

On Thursday David and I took a trip to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. The orchestra performed a varied programme. The low point was a premier of Stephen Pratt’s Symphonies of Tide and Time, which sounded discordant and seemed to have no theme whatsoever. Lithuanian violinist Julian Rachlin performed Brahms’ Violin Concerto enthusiastically, while the high point of the night was Elgar’s Enigma Variations. It was lovely to hear Nimrod played poignantly and variations 11 and 12 were both fun and melancholic respectively.

Classic FM Hall of Fame:

Hall of Fame

It’s that time of year again, when voting is open for Classic FM’s Hall of Fame. This year I voted for:

  1. Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony
  2. Elgar’s Enigma Variations
  3. Massenet’s Meditation from Thais

Even though we are in the midst of winter I am looking for signs of spring. I have not seen snowdrops yet, but I have seen daffodils and willows showing their catkins. Have you seen any signs of spring where you are?

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

An Introduction to Wild Swimming

I was thinking the other day, that of all the wild swims I have posted about, I have not included a beginners guide. So here’s how I read and learned about the wonderful ‘sport’ of wild swimming.

After the initial interest, (visiting the shores of Llyn Idwal and Derwentwater) and of being tempted into the silky waters. I Googled whether it was indeed acceptable to go swimming outdoors in the UK. I discovered that there was a time when there were hundreds of lidos (outdoor pools) in the UK and people didn’t bat an eyelid if you were spotted swimming along a river or paddling in a lake. Today’s mindset that swimming outdoors is dangerous, comes from after WW2 when heated indoor pools became the norm. Thankfully people like Kate Rew, The Wild Swimming Brothers and even Robson Green, are helping swimming outdoors, known as wild swimming, become much more acceptable.

My first port of call for research was Kate Rew’s book Wild Swim, and Daniel Start’s Wild Swimming. Both books, (with stunning photographs) offer insightful recommendations on places to swim by region.

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Kate Rew is founder of The Outdoor Swimming Society, an invaluable website with information for anyone interested in wild swimming. Part of the website is a Wild Swim map, an interactive map of the UK where people post reviews on swims with helpful hints, (I’ve even added a couple!)

Many Google searches came up with information on safe swimming. One was by the NHS, and another from The Lake District National Park, which gave a list of lakes that you could swim in and those that you couldn’t! It’s a website that has informed my many Lake District wild swims.

Another website on Lake District swimming that I frequent is the blog Swimming the Lakes. This lady planned to swim across all the lakes and tarns in the Lake District. Her blog posts have once again helped in my wild swimming choices.

YouTube was another invaluable resource. Just search swimming in the Lake District and you get hundreds of hits! One channel that whetted my appetite for swimming in the Lake District was Trek and Run Online. Their videos of swimming in Buttermere and Derwentwater inspired me to take a dip in both lakes myself, resulting in happy memories.

One aspect of wild swimming I have not covered is of course hypothermia. Though not a blog I followed from the beginning, Open Water Woman has this topic covered. Her detailed post is well worth a read and very insightful.

So my research determined that I could go wild swimming, but what should I wear? What equipment did I need? I did not like the idea of wearing a wet-suit so that was out of the equation. I wanted to feel the cool water lapping at my skin. So skins it was then.

I can’t explain the excitement I had when I went shopping for clothing for my first swim in 2016. I had a basic list.

  • A swimsuit
  • Goggles (which I have never worn)
  • Neoprene boots/shoes (I didn’t want to cut my feet on rocks and stones as I waded into the water)

David thought I was insane but humoured me.

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First swim at Derwentwater

Since my initial swims, my ‘kit’ has expanded. A simple bathing suit is ok for swimming in summer but come autumn, when temperatures drop you find your body needs extra protection.

  • Neoprene gloves are a must for colder waters. My hands burned when I swam in Derwentwater during October, enough for me to research hand protection.
  • A towel from home is just too bulky. I now have two microfiber towels from Mountain Warehouse. They are easier to carry in my rucksack when going on a hike before a swim.
  • To document my swims, David gifted me a GoPro type waterproof camera. The quality of video is excellent! I named it Wilson (of Cast Away fame) as I almost lost it on a swim in Ullswater.
  • A thermometer is a must if you want to know what temperature of water you are swimming in. I purchased a quirky child’s tortoise thermometer who I have called Terrence.
  • Since purchasing my first swimsuit. I have bought many tankini’s. I prefer the fit of shorts and top to an all in one.

And finally.

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The last piece of kit that I now own is a dryrobe! I have been after a changing robe for so long but could not justify the cost, as I only dip, not compete. For Christmas David kindly gifted me my very own dryrobe. It’s a kids advanced (as I’m a shortie), and it is spacious enough for me to get dry and changed in. I am eager to get back to swimming to try it out!

Not satisfied with just swimming in the Lake District I went in search for information on swimming in Wales. Vivienne Rickman Poole‘s blog documents her many swims in the llyns of Snowdonia. I’ve managed to do two swims in Wales in 2017, Llyn Cwellyn and Llyn Cau. I hope to add to this tally in 2018.

I’ve found many Facebook pages relating to wild swimming. Outdoor Swimming Society has one, COWS or Cumbria Open Water Swimmers is a good page for the Lake District and nearer to home #ChesterFrosties have an inspiring page too. I’m sure there will be one for your area too!

The take home message of this post is to be informed, swim within your limits, be courteous to others and enjoy the experience. For my first swim at Derwentwater, I felt apprehensive about entering the water, I took my time and slowly edged into the cool May waters. I knew I didn’t have a strong upper body so I kept to the shoreline. It’s only when you feel stronger and confident that you can swim for longer.

I hope this post has been informative? I have accumulated my knowledge over two-three years and will continue to learn. Perhaps I have inspired you to give wild swimming a go? If you do, let me know how you get on?

Thanks for reading and stay safe,

Christine x

Exciting Times Ahead – 2018!

I did a similar post looking forward to the new year of 2017, so I thought I would follow the trend and do a 2018 one too! There’s so much I have already booked for the new year! If all goes to plan 2018 is measuring up to be one wonderful year!! Here’s what’s to come in the year ahead.

Of the many events already filling up the new calendar are two concerts to see the Liverpool Philharmonic in action.

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Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Recently whilst in town, I walked past a billboard advertising the return of a short run of Khaled Hossieni’s The Kite Runner at the Liverpool Playhouse. After reading the book and missing the first run of this acclaimed play, I just had to book tickets this time around.

Another much anticipated event happening in Liverpool in 2018 is the ticketed China’s First Emperor exhibition. Highlighting artifacts from the emperor’s spectacular tomb.

Street Art:

2018 is measuring up to be a fantastic year for street art trails. Here are just some of the Wild in Art trails I hope to visit.

We have visited the lovely city of Norwich in the past, to see their gorillas and dragon trails. From the 24th June to the 8th September 2018, the city’s streets will be graced by colorful hares in their, GoGo Hares trail.

Nottingham have an imaginative trail called Hoodwinked, this year. The sculptures in the shape of robins are an inspiring take on the Robin Hood name! I can’t wait to see them!

Also, Manchester has a swarm of bees hitting the streets this summer in Bee in the City.

These are just a few Wild in Art trails happening in 2018. Will you be going see any of them?

And continuing:

This year I will carry on with initiatives such as:

2018 is the centenary of the end of WW1.

There will be forthcoming displays of Wave and Weeping Window by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper in the NW Region. The Weeping Window will be at Stoke on Trent’s Middleport Pottery in August/September and the Wave will be at Manchester’s Imperial War Museum September/November.

Follow this link for more destinations in 2018. Will you be visiting any of them?

As yet there are no holidays planned, but I do have some ideas. I just need to book time off work and to plan them!

What events/holidays are you looking forward to in 2018?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #40

Happy New Year!

I know it’s a bit late but I thought I would do a quick Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

This first week of 2018 has been all about the #walk1000miles challenge. David and I had a few extra days off work so we utilised it by going on two walks!

My total miles for the week has been a very reasonable 34 miles. If you have signed up for the challenge, how are you doing?

A Year in Books:

I spent most evenings this week reading and finishing A Parliament of Rooks by Karen Perkins. Unfortunately I did not enjoy the book as I had hoped. It seemed that every new chapter, the characters were cracking open a bottle of alcohol and the end was rather disappointing. There didn’t seem a reason why the protagonists were being ‘haunted.’ It wasn’t a very satisfying ending if you ask me. Have you read this book? Perhaps you enjoyed it more than I did?

Yarden:

We may be in the grip of winter but there are many signs of spring. The hellebore in the yarden has been blooming since mid December. I think the flower heads are so pretty!

Future planning:

Looking ahead to summer and The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild, I’ve recently purchased an illuminated mini beast centre to help in my exploration of the insect world this June. I’ve not tested it yet but the solar powered light looks bright enough to attract some moths. Hopefully!

Busy buying:

While doing the weekly shop I could not help but buy this beautiful new dinner set from Asda. It was only £15! The design is of an enchanted woodland and indeed the pattern is imaginary! The martens have antlers and the foxes have crow wings!

And finally:

Today has been a gorgeous, bright winters day here in the NW, so David and I took a leisurely 1.6 mile walk around Festival Gardens.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild Swimming – A Few of My Favourites and Looking Ahead!

2017 was the second year of my wild swimming adventures. I thought I would do a post reminiscing about some of my favourite swims of 2016 and 2017 and then look forward to some swims planned in 2018!

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Swim Map

Bowscale Tarn:

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Bowscale Tarn

One highlight from the 2017 season was my swim at Bowscale Tarn, where I went in search of immortal fish but only found a rubber trout! :p

Derwent Water (or Derwentwater): I prefer the latter spelling.

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Derwentwater

You can be forgiven for forgetting that all this ‘madness’ stems from a crystal clear winters day in 2016. When I visited Derwentwater for the first time and wondered what it would be like to dip my toe in its silky waters. Two years later and I have swam at Derwentwater twice.

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Swimming at Derwentwater

My second swim, during a cool autumn morning is one of my best wild swimming memories. The early morning light that caressed Cat Bells made the morning seem ethereal. My hands burned with the cold, hence wearing neoprene gloves from then on!

Rydal Water:

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Rydal Water

There must be something about early morning swims. Another highlight from my 2016 season was a 9am swim at Rydal Water. With wisps of mist still lingering on the hills, I shared the dawn of a wonderful day with a weary but majestic swan.

Blea Tarn:

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Blea Tarn

I was almost deterred from swimming at Blea Tarn (the Langdales) as it is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. However I waded in slowly and respectfully. Blea Tarn was a delightful swim with a nice graduated entrance into the water. The views were good too. 🙂

Buttermere:

You can tell which lakes are my favourite as I swim in them more than once. My first swim at Buttermere in 2016 only made me want to visit again in more favourable weather, which came a year later. My 2017 swim at Buttermere turned out to be one of my longest that year, of around 20 minutes. Though in hindsight I maybe shouldn’t have stayed in so long, even though it was a bright but cool autumn day. The shivers on shore afterwards were fierce!

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Buttermere

Wastwater:

No wild swim was more epic than at Wastwater. Another of my longer swims, Wastwater was graced with wonderful scenery. It’s a lake I want to return to.

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Wastwater

2018:

There are so many Lake District swims I want to embark on in 2018. So here’s a small handful.

  • Tarns around the Old Man of Coniston – Blind Tarn and Goat’s Water.
  • Bleaberry Tarn – Buttermere
  • Elterwater and Loughrigg Tarn

Llyn Cwellyn:

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

Inspired by the blog of Vivienne Rickman Poole, who regularly swims the 100+ llyns of Snowdonia, in 2017 I embarked on my first Welsh swim. If I was to suggest a body of water for a beginner to wild swimming, Llyn Cwellyn  would be my suggestion. The water’s edge was close to the car park and the entrance into the water was the best I have experienced. The soft shingle beach gradated slowly, meaning you could walk straight into the water and chose which depth you felt confident with. I spent a good 15 minutes in the water with RAF jets flying overhead. It was a good introduction to swimming in Snowdonia.

 

2018:

I’ve not been as successful with swimming in Snowdonia as I have in the Lake District. Many llyns are still on my bucket list. Perhaps in 2018 I will be able to tick off Llyns Glaslyn, Llydaw and Teyrn?

Scotland?

The Kelpies

The Kelpies

It’s been a good few years since I have visited Scotland. The last time I was there I toured the majestic Kelpies. I have fond memories of standing at the lakeside of Loch Ness, Lochy and Lomond, but never thought I would be eager to go for a swim!

Film maker and keen wild swimmer Calum Maclean, has been swimming around Scotland and documents his escapades for Outdoor Swimming Society and his TV series on BBC Alba. His love for the sport is infectious. Perhaps in 2018 I will be able to get back up to Scotland and go for a swim? Here’s hoping!

 

Have you swam in any of the many lakes, llyns, lochs or loughs of the UK? Do share your stories.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

#walk1000miles

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Welcome to my #walk1000miles post!

This has been the first year I have participated in the initiative by Country Walking Magazine.

For the past 12 months, I have been busy counting my miles daily and tallying my weekly totals. I’ve counted workouts on the treadmill/cross-trainer, walks to work, exercising the family dog Riley and of course holidays and days out with David! My overall mileage for 2017 has been a wonderful 1,316 miles.

In this post I will split the year up into seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter, and give the miles for each of the three months. It will be good to see how different my mileage accumulates over the year.

So without further ado, let’s begin with my favourite season of all, spring!

Spring: (March, April and May)

With the dawn of longer days ahead, thoughts turn to days outdoors enjoying nature and the sunshine. Highlights from walks this quarter come from much fun with smiley Riley, taking a bimble through the famous bluebells at Rannerdale, Cumbria and many woodland walks.

Total miles for the month = 332.

Summer: (June, July and August)

It’s not surprising that the long summer months were best for my mileage. However what did amaze me was that in June I tallied my highest miles of the year! I think this was due in some way to the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! This wonderful incentive does certainly make you focus on getting out more and noticing the world around you. Then add the #walk1000miles challenge and you have a partnership that goes hand in hand. During the month of June and into summer David and I ventured to previously undiscovered nature reserves, enjoyed a two night break to the Lake District and went in search of art in the streets of Liverpool and Birmingham!

Total miles for the month = 382.

Autumn: (September, October and November)

I completed the #walk1000miles challenge on the 8th October 2017. I felt kind of numb after I calculated passing the 1000 mile mark! I had not planned on completing two months early but it soon dawned on me how much of an achievement it actually was! Among the many autumn delights, were days out to Snowdonia, North Wales and attending our first ever apple festival in search of British heritage varieties.

One pattern that has come from analysing the annual mileage has been how similar both spring and autumn’s totals were.

Total miles for the month = 321.

Winter: (December, January and February)

The shorter days and darker nights mean that winter miles are the shortest of the year. However there have been a few days out. New Years Day saw David and I head towards Coniston and a visit to Banishead Quarry. A Valentine’s treat of afternoon tea at Jam beckoned in February and December is about all things Christmas!

Total miles for the month =  281

Annual Total = 1,316 miles

#walk1000miles has a wonderful, supportive Facebook page. Through participation on this page I have had a photo published in their magazine and my story also featured as part of their website to advertise 2018’s challenge. It also took me a while to find my name featured on the ‘We Did It’ page of the January edition.

Achieving #walk1000miles in a year is greatly satisfying. My certificate and medal has pride of place on my gym’s wall.

I’ve signed up to do it all again in 2018, and hoping to better 2017’s mileage. I would love to get to wonder-woman status of 2,000 miles, but I aim to achieve a more feasible 1,500 miles. If I manage anything more then I will be satisfied.

How about you? Do you feel inspired to give the challenge a go?

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If you fancy signing up, click the link below and join me and thousands more, walking that little bit more than we did last year!

https://www.walk1000miles.co.uk/

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Goodbye 2017…Hello 2018!

Happy New Year from Christine, David and Artie!

Here’s the annual video of our memorable moments of 2017!

I must say 2017 has been a wonderful year! From joining in #walk1000miles, to seeing Hans Zimmer at the Liverpool Echo Arena. We may have had our sad moments but the happy times more than compensated for them. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Day Wild was indeed wild, with barefoot beach walks and making our first elder-flower champagne. We visited new nature reserves and of course no year would be complete without a wild swim or two.

I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with me!

I wish you good health, wealth and happiness in 2018.

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x