Apples Galore!

The nights are drawing in, the geese are flying south and there’s a smokey chill in the air. Perfect time for an apple festival!

This weekend (13-14th October 2018) was the annual Apple Festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. The reserve has two orchards with more than 100 fruit trees, including apple, plum and pear. We first went last year, you can read about that visit here. This time we brought our parents along and had such a good time. The festival seems to just get better!

Being eager beavers, we arrived (on the Sunday) just before 11am when the volunteers were all having their huddle and pep talk in the barn. They were very welcoming and guided us through the displays of dessert and cooking apples. On the day there was an opportunity to go on a walk of the heritage orchard, spiralize apples and taste apple leather, a delicious cooked and dried delicacy. It made me think of stewed apples.

In a room adjacent to the barn there was a machine for pulping apples and an apple press. Here they offered apple juice to sample and purchase at £2 a bottle. In future they hope to also make cider from the apples that are left to waste. Sounds a good plan to me :p

Due to this years hot summer many of the heritage varieties had already been harvested, though there were a good number of Discovery Apples available. I promised myself that I would be more adventurous in my purchases this year. So after I had purchased a selection of Discovery and Ellison Orange, I went on to buy, Russets, Sunset, Lady Sudeley and Ribston Pippin. The costing of apples was very cheap (at 4 for a £1) and I wouldn’t have minded paying more.

I also purchased some cooking apple varieties such as the iconic Bramley Seedling, Lord Derby, Arthur Turner and the humongous Mere de Menage. I think I will be eating and cooking apples for the foreseeable future.

Mere de Menage

Mere de Menage

I really enjoyed my time spent at the apple festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. I will undoubtedly visit again next year. I believe these heritage orchards are vital in keeping the history of British apple growing alive. It’s just a shame that future generations will mostly only know supermarket bought apples and not the variety, taste and texture of traditional/heritage apples.

What is your favourite apple? Have you visited a local fruit festival?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants!

This weekend, the streets of Liverpool have once again been taken over by Royal de Luxe’s giant marionettes. They first visited in 2012 and again in 2014.

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This time David and I only managed to pop into town to see the ‘uncle’ giant asleep on his raft. The crowds of 2014, were more than topped this time around, which put us off.

uncle

Royal de Luxe

Did you manage to see any of the visits from the giants? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Christine Lucas

This weekend was a weekend much like David and I used to have before my Father passed. Maybe life is slowly getting back to how it used to be?

It was the weekend of Liverpool’s ‘Sea Odyssey‘ where the streets were given over to the puppetry of French company Royal de Luxe.

On Friday as David was in work all day with a headache, I followed, in anticipation online the progress of the Little Girl Giant as she walked through the city to King’s Dock and the ‘Uncle’, diver coming from the sea to walk the streets towards Stanley Park, Anfield. David being so kind later in the evening took myself, Daniel, his girlfriend Jo and my Mum around the city, to see the sleeping giants.

On Saturday, David and I got up early to head into town before the crowds, so we could get a good spot to see the Little…

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A Day on the Isle of Skye

I don’t know why, but I’ve found it rather hard to write this post. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the day was marred by the weather? Or that I was generally disappointed in not taking in a swim? Either way this post has been a long time in coming.

Skye was some three hours drive from our base at Fort William. On our drive west we passed many lochs, some more picturesque than others. I found the view of Loch Cluanie rather rugged and industrial. I later read that it is a reservoir for the generation of hydro-electric power.

eilean donan

Eilean Donan Castle

On towards Loch Duich, we passed signs for The Battle of Glenshiel, where British Governmental Forces faced and defeated Jacobites, who were supported by a Spanish regiment during a rebellion in 1719. During this insurgency Eilean Donan Castle, was partially destroyed, having been taken by the Spanish as their headquarters and subsequently bombarded by the British Navy. For 200 years the castle lay ruined until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and restored the castle to its former glory.

We crossed the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh and progressed north towards Portree. On our journey along the A87 we stopped to admire some Highland Cattle. They drew quite a crowd!

From Portree we headed towards the Old Man of Storr. We got to this iconic rock formation at midday, and even though rain filled clouds obscured most of the Trotternish Ridge and the car par was full, we luckily found parking in a lay-by further along the road.

The landscape of oddly shaped pinnacles and rocky buttresses that make up The Sorr was created by an ancient landslide. We followed the path from the car park up towards these towering outcrops. As we gained height, swathes of cloud swirled around the Old Man. It made for very atmospheric pictures. The area had a mythological feel to it, and I could imagine armies of Orcs from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings appearing from out of the mist.

During our two hour walk there were no views of the Sound of Raasay or of Loch Leathan as cloud obscured everything the higher we got. There came a point when even the Old Man was concealed. It was time to call it a day, so we headed back to the car. We found that on our ascent our backs got completely drenched by the rain, whilst on our descent our fronts got the same treatment. We returned to the car with three layers of clothing sodden.

I’d planned on a walk to Loch leathan to embark on another Highland swim. However the dark, dreary weather had taken it’s toll on me and I decided that a soaking at the Old Man of Storr was enough for me that day. We agreed to leave the area and head south, trying to escape the approach of tropical storm Helene.

Our final destination on Skye was Kylerhea, part of Scotland’s Forestry Commission. From the car park there is a short walk to a wildlife hide which overlooks the strait towards the Scottish mainland. The hide is billed as one of the best places in Britain to see otters, dolphins, sharks and the mighty white-tailed sea eagle. On this dismal day all we saw was a seal popping up for air, a grey heron and many sea birds that were too far away to identify.

On leaving a darkening Kylerhea, I felt that the visit was rather a waste of time. However on the three hour drive home we agreed that we had manage to see all we had planned with the exception of a swim. Though the weather may not have been kind to us on Skye we did enjoy the sights we saw, even if we were drenched to the skin!

Have you visited Skye? Any fond memories?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – July to September

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books.

The summer months for me always seem to be the hardest when it comes to reading. Even when we’ve had such a wonderful summer as 2018. This year, I’ve managed to sit in the yarden and sunbathe while delving into a novel or two, but my tally is still low compared to cooler months.

This quarter I have managed to read nine books. Much better than last years quarter but no where near my tally for April to June this year. Here’s what I read this quarter.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

After what seemed like an age, I finally managed to get my hands on this Costa award winning novel and it didn’t take me long to love it! Eleanor is a young woman struggling to cope with a traumatic event from her childhood. She has been mentally and physically scared and her out look on life is shaped by her past. This book is not only about survival but about facing and dealing with daemons. It is funny and sad but ultimately it is about redemption.

What are your thoughts if you’ve read this novel?

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

As a suspense novel, the narrative just didn’t grab me. Perhaps it had a lot to live up to after Eleanor Oliphant? Even so, despite the tension, this Stephen King-esque failed to hit the mark. There were some weird episodes but I couldn’t feel for the characters and was left feeling deflated at the end of the novel. It felt like a poorly written M Night Shyamalan script.

The Ice Twins – S K Tremayne

This was a novel suggested by my mum. The premise was of twin sisters, where one had died. A year on the surviving twin begins to believe she is the dead sister. Did they get the identity of the dead twin wrong? The narrator, Sarah is estranged from her husband and still mourning her daughter. Angus (the husband) inherits a house on a remote island on the west coast of Scotland and moves the family there. This isolation brings the psychological drama to a head. It was a quick read but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Tess Gerritsen’s Playing with Fire.

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Surprisingly I enjoyed this political satire. George Orwell wrote his critique on the Russian Revolution but in theory it could be a reflection of any revolution. The animals of Manor Farm have had enough of being ruled by farmer, Mr Jones and stage their own revolution led by the intellectual pigs. However as time progresses, life under the new regime seems at odds with the origins of the revolution and to stop the dissenting farm stock the pigs unleash a brutal regime which cripples, maims and kills many of the cast. You can’t but be sympathetic to the likes of Boxer and Clover who are ground down by the machine that the pigs enact. The final act of betrayal is when the pigs are seen to walk on two hooves. This can be read that the pigs are just bad as the humans they hoped to replace. It is a piece of writing that makes you think!

Have you read this satire, what were your impressions?

Sarah Millican – How to be Champion

I am not a reader of autobiographies. I only downloaded this book as it was on offer for .99p. It took me a while to get into the narrative but I quite enjoyed it in the end. Sarah isn’t much older than myself and I noticed we did similar things and used the same items when we were both growing up in the 1980’s.

Outlander – Diana Gadaldon

I’m still slogging my way through this tome, and there are several more sequels in the series! Though a good premise, of a woman from the 1940’s travelling back in time to Jacobite Scotland, however I found the narrative boring. I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of the series. Perhaps the TV adaptation is better?

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

Swim Wild – The Wild Swimming Brothers

I delved into the realm of wild swimming again. This time I quite enjoyed reading about the tales of the three brother’s expeditions, of swimming the entire length of the River Eden and the maelstroms around Norway and Scotland. The narrative is fractured by personal reveries and memories of growing up by the author, Jack Hudson, but I found it a nice book to read none the less.

If you’d like to read more of the Wild Swimming Brother’s adventures, then follow the link to their blog.

Me Before You – JoJo Moyes

I bought this book on the recommendation of comedienne Sarah Millican, from her autobiography (see above). I got into the first person narrative quickly enough and really enjoyed the banter between Louise and Will. Both characters are scared but in different ways. I liked how the writer sculptured their unlikely relationship and the ending had me shedding silent tears. I am a softy sometimes!

If you have read the book? Seen the film? What did you think?

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

I thought I would give this sequel to the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson a go. I really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the other sequels not so. So far it seems a slow burn. I’ll let you know how I go.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Glencoe and Loch Etive

Since holidaying in the town of Fort William our journey to and back home passed the famous Glencoe valley. The Three Sisters need no introduction. Bidean nam Bian as they are also named, create the picturesque and iconic scene which so many travellers have photographed. On our journey home we had to stop off and take a picture of this wondrous mountain range.

glencoe

However before we headed towards the Glencoe valley, we paid a short visit to Glencoe Lochan, some 20 minutes drive from Fort William.

Glencoe Lochan is a man made lochan created by Lord Strathcona in the 1890’s. Lord Strathcona was governor general of Canada before returning to Scotland. He created a landscape planted with North American trees to aid his homesick Canadian wife. However Lord Strathcona’s attempts failed and the couple later emigrated to Canada. Today some people comment that the lochan looks like a miniature Lake Louise in British Columbia.  I had planned on a wild swim here, but on the day the water looked brown and uninviting and there was no easy entrance into the lochan. Sadly I gave this swim up and made my way towards Glencoe and Glen Etive.

glencoe lochan 1

Glencoe Lochan

Glen Etive is some 30 minutes drive along the A82 from Glencoe. The Glen is accessible via a winding single track road with passing places. As we drove deeper into the Glen, a white rapid River Etive surged to our left. In the distance low lying clouds drifted enticingly over the loch. There is a car park to the north end of Loch Etive with some access to the loch-side. On arrival I noticed a distinct salty scent to the air, thus being because Loch Etive is a sea-loch.

loch etive 1

Loch Etive

We made our way to the shoreline and stood on a sandy beach overlooking Loch Etive. Though the entrance looked inviting, I wanted somewhere more secluded. So we headed south towards a small ruined jetty, where once ferries docked. Having found a decent entrance point I began my rigmarole of getting ready for a swim. I don’t know whether it is because I chose poplar viewpoints to access the water but whenever I go for a swim, I always seem to draw a crowd. Loch Etive was no different. While I was fighting the rain and midges whilst trying to strap various accouterments to my person I noticed a man with a dog watching from the jetty, then a young couple joined him. Then to my horror a man with a fishing rod was seen poking his head from the jetty wall. From experience and reading stories from others’ I know that swimmers and fishermen do not mix! I was fearful of confrontation! Thankfully, I kept my distance and the fisherman seemed to go back to his watch.

The entrance to Loch Eive was deceptive. Though the shallows looked rocky, it soon smoothed out into a bed of sand and seaweed. Much like Loch Lomond, I walked out into the water. I really enjoyed the swim in Loch Etive and was in the water for around 15 minutes. Terrence the thermometer clocked 13° but it felt much warmer.

While swimming, the man with the dog walked to the loch-side and stood chatting with David. His dog (a terrier) barked at me, and I wanted him to come swim with me, but he wasn’t that kind of dog. So I swam alone. As time passed the rain grew heavier. Worried for David, I cut short my swim and stumbled back onto land, where I hurried into my Dryrobe® and threw everything into my rucksack. I would get dry and changed in the relative warm confines of the car.

Loch Etive was my final swim in Scotland for 2018. Perhaps I can get up again next year?

Have you swam in a Scottish Loch? Visited Glencoe and the surrounding area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

What’s That Coming Over the Hill?

It wasn’t a monster… that David and I saw at Loch Ness but unwelcoming waves. I don’t like swimming when it’s windy as the chop knocks me about a bit. Not to mention throws spray up my nose and into my mouth. Unfortunately the day we had chosen for my Loch Ness swim dawned squally. Determined to face the swell we headed towards the shores of Loch Ness.

loch ness3b

Loch Ness

The drive from Fort William took two hours. We headed north-east along the B852 towards a lay-by overlooking a stony beach. The rain that had dogged the morning cleared away to leave broken clouds drifting over the large expanse of loch, sadly the wind prevailed.

Fun fact: Loch Ness contains more water than all the lakes/llyns of England and Wales combined! Though it isn’t the deepest lake, that accolade goes to Loch Morar. Loch Ness is pretty large and only second in size to Loch Lomond.

I was excited to face Loch Ness and to swim in its salt tasting waters. However my dream didn’t turn into the reality I had hoped. The stony beach was shallow and the waves crashing onto the shore were that fierce I couldn’t stand, let alone swim. I sat down in the shallows and clung for dear life to a rock as the swell knocked me for six. Whenever I thought the wind was dying down, a large wave took me unawares. The swim turned out disappointing. I decided to call it quits after 10 minutes of being battered by the wind and water. I’d rather be safe than nursing contusions or worse. It seemed there was only room for one monster in Loch Ness that day!

Have you visited Loch Ness? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #10

It is with many thanks to Louise at Ramblings of a Roachling, for informing me of the future dates for #photoanhour on Instagram. I knew there was one planned for when we came back from holidaying in Scotland. So on Saturday 22nd September I logged onto Instagram and noticed other Instagramers posting about #photoanhour. I decided to join in. So here’s what I got up to during my 12 hours of day!

Photo an Hour – 22nd September 2018

8am to 9am:

My Saturday began like any other day, with coffee and granola. However my day could so easily have begun at 6.30am when we were rudely woken up by headbutts from Artie wanting us to get up!!

9am to 10am:

This Saturday we went shopping at Asda for our weekly shop. We haven’t been here for a while, as we have been ordering a delivery online most weeks. It was a shock to the system to be honest! We had become used to our food being delivered every week!

10am to 11am:

Since we missed Artie’s 4th birthday, as we were away in Scotland, we decided to buy him a present of a new scratch post. The other one he had had since he was a kitten and was looking sadly worse for wear!

11am to 12pm:

We took a visit to #purplecarrot for organic Discovery Apples. 😁 As soon as I knew they had them in stock, I was round there at the soonest opportunity! You all know by now my penchant for Discovery Apples! 😀

12pm to 1pm:

We popped in for a visit to David’s family and received cuddles from their Newfoundland Bennie. 😁

1pm to 2pm:

On our way home, we stopped off at Lister Drive Fisheries and bought some finch food for our aviary.

2pm to 3pm: 

Lunch was with a cup of tea and sampling the Discovery Apples I had bought from #purplecarrot. I love the cat ornament David’s mum gave us from her recent holiday.

3pm to 4pm:

I had a date with Henry! A quick clean of the house was much needed!

4pm to 5pm:

I took to chopping lots of vegetables, ready to be roasted for the evening’s dinner. 😊 We were making roasted vegetable parcels. Always a hit in our house!

5pm to 6pm:

While the vegetables were roasting, I set the table. I like a nice, romantically lit dining room.

6pm to 7pm:

Dinner of scrumptious roasted vegetable parcels with salad was mmm… tasty!😁

7pm to 8pm:

I spent the remainder of the evening catching up with composing blog posts.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge, and thank you for reading,

Christine x

My First Scottish Wild Swim – Loch Lomond

Ever since I started wild swimming, my desire to swim in a Scottish Loch has been like an itch I couldn’t scratch. This September, as an early birthday treat we decided to head to Fort William for a few days in the Highlands.

The journey north from Liverpool passes Loch Lomond and the Trosachs National Park via the A82. The plan for the day was to travel the six hours to Fort William with a stop off at Loch Lomond for my first Scottish wild swim!

loch lomond 4

Loch Lomond

Four hours into the journey we stopped at a parking point (near Inverbeg), with views of Loch Lomond. With the amount of preparations I do now, I can’t just have a quick swim. Stripped to my swimsuit, I firstly have to inflate Doughnut and fix it to my waist. Then don my neoprene boots and gloves to protect my extremities. Also, I now have a beanie hat to help keep the heat in. Then I strap Wilson, my waterproof camera to my chest. All this I do before I even head towards the water!

Wrapped in my Dryrobe® I waddled like a penguin towards the shore. The shore I chose to embark on my first Scottish wild swim was of soft shingle, with Ben Lomond on the opposite side. The weather on the day was cloudy, but not too cold. I was prepared for frigid temperatures, but in reality the water temperature was around 14°. I can safely say I’ve swam in colder waters!

With David taking pictures and video on shore. I waded out into the water. I always seem rather nervous before I head into the water. Perhaps it’s because I don’t know what to expect from the water’s bed? Is it going to be blissful soft shingle like Llyn Cwellyn, or rocky as hell and a scramble to get in like Derwentwater? Thankfully my first Scottish wild swim was the former. The shingle beach slopped down in increments and I walked out until the water lapped around my neck.

I thoroughly enjoyed my swim in Loch Lomond. I swam back and forth along the shoreline and even managed to dunk my head for an underwater shot. Much fun was had and I really didn’t want to get out. However we had to travel a further two hours to our accommodation for the three nights stay.


We booked our accommodation via Airbnb. I had never used the website before until my friend Jennifer informed us that her European trip was booked through the website. After doing a search of the Fort William area, one accommodation seemed promising. A self catering apartment overlooking Loch Linnhe called Glenloch View. With much deliberation we decided to book, at £248 for three nights, it was cheaper than the hotels in the region. Check in was via Lock-box, so we never met the proprietor. However on arrival there was a vase with fresh cut flowers and a bag of tasty fudge for us. The ground floor apartment was clean and bright and very new. It had a lobby where boots and wet clothes could be left to dry. The living room/kitchen was open plan and had nice views of Loch Linnhe. The kitchen had an oven, microwave and fridge/freezer, and everything you needed to cook evening meals or even a cake! The double bedroom and bathroom was at the back of the apartment. There was TV with Freeview, a stereo and Internet. The apartment was very comfortable and we did not want to anything. I’ll end this post with a few pictures of the apartment.

Have you stayed in Fort William? Booked via Airbnb? Even swam in a Scottish Loch/Lochan?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

The Oak Tree Experiment.

On my walk to work I pass a row of oak trees. At this time of year, I noticed they had dropped lots of acorns on the ground which crunched underfoot. This got me thinking. Perhaps I could rescue a couple and experiment to see if I could grow one of them? So, I gathered a few on my recent walk and took three decent looking acorns home.

After doing some research I noted that acorns should be brown when planting. Mine were green, so I don’t know whether they will grow or not. Either way, I found a spare pot in which to plant the acorns. I made three small holes and planted the acorns before covering over with soil. I sprinkled some water and have left the pot in a sunny area. I shall update you on the progress of these little acorns and see if any of them will grow.

Have you been successful in growing a tree from seed?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #54

Recently, I’ve been itching to write a blog post but I’ve not had any new material. So the next best thing is to compile a Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins and update you on that I’ve been up to this past week!

#walk1000miles:

I’m still counting my miles. This week I managed to walk 42 miles, bringing my annual total (to date) to 1,265 miles. I also attached my 2018 medal to the framed certificate. You can get your medal from the #walk1000miles shop.

Party Time:

David and I attended a party to celebrate the elopement of my cousin and his wife. They married earlier in the year in Las Vegas, with an Elvis impersonator officiating. The party at Leaf had a Las Vegas theme. There was also a photo booth for the guests to play around with.

Collecting:

Recently I obtained another Beatrix Potter 50 pence. This time it was Benjamin Bunny who I found in my change!

Book I Am Reading:

I am currently reading, and enjoying Swim Wild, a book written by the Wild Swimming Brothers, Jack, Calum and Robbie Hudson.

Terracotta Warriors:

I treated mum to a visit to Liverpool’s World Museum to see the Terracotta Warrior exhibition. I didn’t take that many pictures this time as I had already visited the display in March with David. You can read about that visit here. Mum seemed to enjoy the exhibit and I managed to see the Golden Horse of Maoling, which wasn’t featured in the display when I visited in March.

Another Sparrowhawk Visit:

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Female Sparrowhawk

This Friday, just after evening dinner, I looked out towards the yarden and spied a female sparrowhawk. It was the same female who visited and snacked on a starling not two weeks earlier! You can read more about sparrowhawks here. She was sitting on the roof opposite, watching as all the goldfinches flittered past, wanting their evening meal. In turn, David and I watched her for about an hour. She sat patently, awaiting an easy target. Unfortunately, (for her prey) she did get a kill. This time it was a baby goldfinch. It’s a sad spectacle but also fascinating to witness. This female now knows lots of birds visit the yarden. I wonder if she will visit again in future?

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x