Touring the Trossachs – Day Two.

I decided to take the opportunity of getting up early to enjoy the silence of the loch and admire the views from the veranda. I took my coffee outside and stood watching the woodland birds devour the seed we had topped up the day before. There were blue, great and coal tits in abundance, nuthatches flew like bullets to peck at the peanuts and chaffinches waited patiently in the trees. It was calming to listen to the bird song and to watch the mist drift from the mountains before me.

After breakfast, David and I packed our rucksacks and headed towards Aberfoyle, and the Three Lochs Drive. A seven mile drive through the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, stopping at a lochan and two lochs along the way. We decided to make a day of it!

The charge per car was £2 which was reasonable given that we spent over five hours driving, walking the trails and swimming in the lochs. Our first stop was at Lochan Reòidhte, the smallest of the three lochs, very picturesque and tranquil. We found water access besides a picnic bench, I took to the murky waters while David gave Buzz (our Mavic Mini) a stretch of its blades.

After a peaceful swim and a gentle saunter through a conifer plantation, we parked up at our second destination. The car park of Loch Drunkie, which had a toilet block. We walked along a path overlooking the loch which finally lead us towards the water’s edge. The fair weather we had that morning began to change and clouds started drifting in. Loch Drunkie, though a nice swim, was very muddy and I crawled out of the water covered in mud!

Our final destination of the drive was Loch Achray, we managed to find roadside parking and I waddled towards the beach with tow float and dry robe in hand. Access to the water was very shallow and I felt I could have walked for miles in knee high water. It was a rather disappointing swim to end the Three Lochs Drive.

Here’s the video compilation of all three swims:

Back at the cabin, we spent the evening wildlife spotting at the feeders. We spied a hungry red squirrel nibble at the peanuts and even a shy, nervous great spotted woodpecker visited.

We went to bed that night, tired but ready for another great day of touring the Trossachs the next day!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Touring the Trossachs – Day One.

David and I have been back home for a week now after having had a wonderful week away to Scotland’s Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. During the holiday, we had some wonderful weather, which makes me think that having to cancel the same holiday last October was a good thing, though at the time it didn’t feel such a positive. Thankfully we managed to book for the same place as was first planned and everything came together perfectly. This is what we got up to on day one of our Scotland 2021 holiday!

Loch Venechar

Our Monday morning began by finishing packing our suitcases and then loading up the car with all our supplies for the week ahead. We left Artie in the care of my mum and embarked on our four hour plus journey north. We hit the M6 at 10am, passing The Lake District before the long slog through the lowlands of Scotland. We stopped off for lunch at Gretna Green Services which was busy with holidaymakers. Our journey passed Glasgow and Stirling before we drew close to our destination for the next four nights, Callander and the shores of Loch Venachar.

We arrived at East Lodge, Cabin on the Loch at the scheduled 3pm. We let ourselves in and quickly orientated ourselves. The cabin has bi-folding doors which opens to a wonderful north-west view of Loch Venachar, and mountains Ben Venue and Ben Ledi. One of my wishes was to stay at a cabin overlooking water and mountains and finally, now I had.

After resting from the long journey, David and I headed towards the rocky, sandy beach for my first swim of the holiday! I’d packed 12 swim suits for this swim holiday, and Loch Venachar was to be my first swim of many that week!

Loch Venechar not only welcomed David and I holidaying in 2021, but was also visited in 1869 by Queen Victoria and her children. The loch is reported to be the home of an each-uisge or water horse (kelpie). Sometime in the 1800’s, fifteen children were playing near the loch and were enticed by the kelpie into the water to their deaths. There is a wood on the north side of the loch called The Wood of Woe. Sadly during my many swims in Loch Venachar, I did not spy the each-uisge, during sunrise, noon or night.

After my swim, we headed back to the cabin to relax. While I had a shower, David spent time photographing the visiting birds on the feeders before we settled down and had dinner, of M&S pizza and salad and watched the sunset.

An early night beckoned as we had three swim planned the next day!

Have you holidayed in the Trossachs?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Birthday Trip!

It was David’s birthday on Monday! To celebrate the day, he wanted to visit a nature reserve to test out his new telephoto lens. So we got up early on a bright August morning and headed up the motorway to … Continue reading

30 Days Wild 2021 – Day Thirty.

82952539_3891626650909438_7747516978942177272_oDay 30: Gaining inspiration from last year’s 30 Days Wild, Wednesdays will be RAW days, meaning Random Acts of Wildness. In this series I’ll be using The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild app, and the 365 Days Wild book to help choose the day’s theme.

For today’s RAW, I’ve decided to check up on my wildflower seeds and hoverfly lagoon.

wildflower seedlings

wildflower seedlings

I’ve had more success with the wildflower seeds than the hoverfly lagoon. Quite a few of the seeds have sprouted and looking good for flowering come the following months. When inspecting the hoverfly lagoon, all I spotted was decomposing grass and leaves with quite an obnoxious smell. I had to cover my nose! I didn’t see any rat-tailed maggots unfortunately, but I’ll keep the lagoon for the rest of the summer and see how it goes. 

I have found this years 30 Days Wild rather hard to complete, especially the final 14 days. I’ve been so exhausted from travelling to work and back and then stresses at home. It’s been a real struggle, but I can say, I’ve achieved what I didn’t think I could, that of posting every day for 30 days! Some of the post may have been below par, but I’ve tried to write about a mix of wildlife and nature in the UK and on my doorstep. 

Here’s a recap of what I got up to!

June 2021 started off with a bang with the Big Wild Breakfast, the following days saw me looking for insects and finding crustaceans, visiting RSPB Burton Mere and Wildlife Trusts’ reserves, Brockholes and Lunt Meadows. I did a litter pick in my local park and took a walk to a nearby cemetery. I spotted a surprising flower growing along the streets of Liverpool, flax and photographed stunning wildflowers.  

I hope you have enjoyed following my 2021 30 Days Wild. It’s been tough!

For the final time, thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine xx

30 Days Wild 2021 – Day Sixteen.

104216871_3891626147576155_1028623781476487668_oDay 16: Gaining inspiration from last year’s 30 Days Wild, Wednesdays will be RAW days, meaning Random Acts of Wildness. In this series I’ll be using The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild app, and the 365 Days Wild book to help choose the day’s theme.

Today’s RAW is, explore a wild place. 

Recently I took Riley for a walk to a local cemetery, one I hadn’t visited in such a long time and yet it’s not far from home. Toxteth Park Cemetery was opened 9th June 1856 and is grade II listed. The cemetery is also a location of Commonwealth Graves with 274 service personnel interred, the majority from the First World War. We took an hour long, leisurely walk around the cemetery with mum alongside and looked at some of the headstones we passed. There were rich families from Victorian Liverpool resting alongside orphans and modern day Liverpudlians. Social history was clearly evident with inscriptions of children not living passed a year, highlighting the plight of high child mortality in Victorian Britain. There was even one grave of a man who had died in an explosion on the RMS Mauretania.

 

But we were there looking for signs of wildlife. There were many bees flying between the headstones and the odd grey squirrel jumping about, but it was the bird life that was abundant. We saw wood pigeons, starlings, sparrows and a thrush. At one stage even a black backed gull wandered along the pathways. 

Have you visited an unusual spot looking for wildlife?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine xx

Spread the Word Not the Weed

This Spring Bank Holiday, an adventure happened!

It had been eight months since I was in the water and was ecstatic when David suggested a day out on the recent bank holiday. ‘Yes please’! I said. I was desperate for an adventure and feeling very stuck in a rut due to Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions. I never thought I would leave the city again!

David and I quickly slipped back into adventure mode. We got up at 6am, a beautiful day was already awaiting us. We drove two hours to Snowdonia, Wales. I was fearful that we wouldn’t get parking as I assumed (and rightly so) that lots of people would flock towards Wales due to the holiday and the lovely weather. Thankfully, all went to plan. It was like the days of old when David and I headed, carefree to the countryside to swim, walk or explore.

I had already decided, weeks in advance where I wanted my first wild swim of 2021 to be. Last March, before lockdown One, David and I had taken a similar trip to Snowdonia in the hope of starting off my wild swim season of 2020, however on the day the weather was against me and I had to make do with sightseeing and photographing these beauty spots.

I’d first visited the shores of Llyn Gwynant in 2016 and since then I had been eager to swim there. It’s taken me almost five years for that wish to become a reality.

I must admit I had butterflies in my tummy on pulling up alongside the llyn. I hadn’t swam in such a long time and worried I wouldn’t be able to cope with the temperatures or the audience. Thankfully, I clenched my teeth and said, ‘let’s do this!’ I wished in 2020 that I had taken the opportunity to swim in this beautiful place before travel to Wales was restricted, I wasn’t going to let it slip through my fingers again. With the mournful call of a cuckoo singing from the hills, David and I sauntered towards the shoreline where two tents had been put up illegally. I wasn’t going to let them deter me, so I quickly made camp and got my swim paraphernalia ready.

The entrance to the llyn was relatively easy, no clambering over rocks thankfully. I just waded in slowly, getting used to the cool waters. I was waist deep in water when I decided to push out and commit to the swim. I was in the water for around 15 minutes. I couldn’t tell the temperature as Terence my thermometer broke in 2019 and the replacement I ordered never arrived. 😦 I surmised around 14 degrees. The water was crystal clear and little minnows jumped for joy in the shallows. I would have jumped for joy too if there wasn’t so many tourists around! I swam about, admiring the elephant rock where intrepid divers jump from. I didn’t stray too far from the shore as I was out of practice and fitness. I enjoyed my time at Llyn Gwynant and so glad I managed to get to swim there, eventually!

Llyn Padarn was another llyn I had visited several times over the years and had not been able to capitalise upon. However the swim at Padarn was a very different experience to that of Gwynant.

A campaign was launched a few years ago by the Outdoor Swimming Society to remind swimmers to ‘spread the word not the weed.’ Swimmers were asked to be diligent in the cleaning of their equipment and clothes when going on swims, as small pieces of vegetation could hitch a ride into more cleaner waters and contaminate them. One such weed, New Zealand pygmyweed has been a scourge in the Lake District. This non native, invasive plant outgrows native aquatic plants and also depletes the oxygen levels in the water causing wildlife to die. The advice regarding #spreadthewordnottheweed is that if you are planning to do more than one swim, then to swim in the order of cleanest waters first and to make sure that all equipment is washed and dried for the next swim. These simple measures can help in the control of the spread of invasive organisms.

With this in mind we headed towards Llyn Padarn which at 11am on a sunny bank holiday was already teaming with holidaymakers and day trippers. I had never seen so many people enjoying the water. There were swimmers, paddle-boarders and canoeists. With the same determined mindset as Gwynant we headed towards the pier and waited for a quiet moment to enter the water. While I got prepared and dressed into a new swimsuit, David took pictures of cute cygnets.

The swim at Padarn reminded me of Coniston. It wasn’t the most enjoyable swim and when I noticed the murky, brown hue of the water I knew this was dirtier than Gwynant. Indeed the water had a very discernible pond aroma. Not very pleasant to tell the truth. I swam about for another 15 minutes but I was glad when I managed to scramble out from the pier. I was able to tick this llyn off my Snowdonia wild swim map but I doubt I’ll be returning.

It may have seemed that the day ended on a down but in reality I was buoyant with being back in the water after such a long time. I hope that it won’t be too long before I am in the water again – and until then…

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

My May

May 2021 has been another rather uneventful month. The weather has been horrendous, cold and wet for most, and the warm weather we have hoped for has been very sporadic.

It was our houseiversary last week. 9 years of having the keys to our lovely home! I still remember the moment I got the call to come and collect the keys to the house on the 25th. It was a hot, sunny May day in 2012. 2012 had been quite a year for me! David picked me up from my then work at the University of Liverpool before heading down to the Dock Road to collect the keys. We got home and opened the front door and stood in shock. ‘What do we do now!’ we thought. Buying a home can sometimes be rather anticlimactic but then a further year and a half of demolishing walls, an outhouse, getting a new roof and exterior doors is hard work! However it is all worth it in the end when you come home after a hard days work to your loved ones and fur/feather babies. I love my home and the life I have made with David! Long may it continue!

Last year before Covid struck and lockdowns were galore, Peter Walker’s Peace Doves were planned to be installed at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. I was excited to see this beautiful art installation of thousands of paper doves with messages of hope and love written on them, suspended from the vaulted ceiling. Then the exhibition was cancelled due to Covid. However there is light at the end of the tunnel. The night doesn’t last forever! This May it was announced that the Peace Doves were once again coming to Liverpool. One negative of Covid’s social distancing is that it has taken away all the spontaneity out of life, one now has to book before going anywhere. Gone were the days when you just woke up and felt like going the zoo. You now have to plan/book days in advance! Anyway, (rant over) I did mange to book tickets to see these Peace Doves. The installation was beautiful and quite moving.

The book I am reading this month, (or trying to read) is Davie Goulson’s The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Planet.

Which ties in nicely with the plants I have bought for the yarden. There were a few casualties during winter so I managed to purchase another salvia and forget-me-not plant to add to my spring flowering plants.

David and I have been watching a few films this month, most notably my favourite trilogy (save for The Lord of the Rings), How to Train your Dragon! I just love the friendship of Hiccup and Toothless. Who doesn’t love Toothless?

I have also caught up with the second season of ITV’s Innocent. The second series is based in Keswick with lovely panoramas of Derwentwater.

David managed to rescue three pigeons in one evening a few weekends ago. He captured and released one which had string around its feet and then quickly took in another two. One ailed sadly and passed away two days after but the second we managed to treat for canker and mites and she was so feisty that she had to be released and for the past few weeks now she has been visiting the yarden daily. It’s so nice to be able to help wildlife once in a while.

In the quite moments of life, I’ve been following an osprey webcam from the Dyfi Osprey Project. It’s quite stressful watching a wildlife cam, you invest so much emotion into it, however it’s been a privilege to follow the ups and downs of this osprey nest of Telyn and Idris as they raise their two young. Good luck to the two bobs!

Surprisingly, an adventure happened at the end of an uneventful May! The Spring Bank Holiday brought with it some lovely warm temperatures of over 23°C and David suggested we go on a day out. I had already decided where I wanted my first swim of 2021 to be and so on the 30th we were up at 6am on a beautiful clear, warm day and headed towards Snowdonia, Wales. We stopped off at two llyns during the day, Gwynant was my first swim of the year and Padarn the second!

May has been a quiet month, how’s your’s been?

Take care,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2021 – Preparation

Hi Everyone!

Today, I am fishing for some inspiration from you guys!

In just over two weeks time it is once again the Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild and it will be my sixth year participating since it’s inception in 2015. This year however, I have little in the way of ideas for blogging each of the 30 days. I think I have become mentally de-stimulated due to Covid-19 restrictions, so I am turning to you in the hope that you can help my creative juices to start flowing again.

I am looking for any ideas you may have around the topic of enjoying nature and wildlife and how I can best blog about it daily for each day in June.

Here’s a few subjects I’ve already blogged about over the years: I took in a bee experience at the Bee Centre Chorley, beach walked and forest bathed, breathed in the scent of a glorious wildflower meadow, swam wild in the Lake District, went on a badger watch at RSPB Haweswater and moth trapped at RSPB Leighton Moss.

So, if you have any suggestions, whether it is a trip to a local nature reserve (I’m sure I can fit in one or two), or a close up focus on a type of bird, mammal or insect, then do let me know in the comments below.

I very much look forward to all your ideas, and thank you in advance.

Stay Wild!

Christine x

My March

I don’t know about you, but March 2021 has seemed a long month to me. Though the evenings have been getting lighter there has still been a chilling nip in the air during the day. March however, is a great month to witness the start of spring, from the birds beginning to sing, to the garden finally waking up. Here are a few pictures of the unfurling plants in my yarden.

March is our anniversary month, and this year was our 15th year anniversary together. David and I celebrated it by sharing a tasty curry.

March is also the birthday month of both my mum and brother Daniel.

The 23rd of March this year was also a National Day of Remembrance. I took the time to remember my dad, Graham who we said goodbye too nine years ago on 28th March 2012.

David had a few days off work in March and we spent many of his days off by walking around Sefton Park. On one occasion, I spied a little grebe on the lake and Riley enjoyed the warm springlike sunshine.

Sadly, I’ve not done any reading this month at all!

Since I am back at work two days a week, I’ve spent the days in between by catching up on some series. I’ve been enjoying Netflix’s The Queens Gambit, ITV’s Unforgotten and David and I have both been having a laugh to SyFy’s Resident Alien.

Having been living together in our home now for the past eight years, some of the paintwork in the rooms are looking a little tired. So to make a start on the project of sprucing up the interiors we decided to paint the easiest room in the house, the bathroom. We decided on a medium grey to replace the purple we had on firstly. It only took us a few hours to do two coats of paint and the result is a fresh, cleaner, more modern looking style. What do you think?

I celebrated Earth Hour by switching off my lights for an hour on the 27th. This WWF campaign is to spread awareness of our carbon footprints. By using less light and energy this reduces harmful Co2 emissions.

I’m not sure what prompted Liverpool City Council to install 11 light art fixtures as part of their River of Light during lockdown, but in need of some stimulation, David and I with a nervous Riley in tow, spent a couple of hours walking around Liverpool’s waterfront.

It’s been a year since the UK was plunged into the first lockdown. How have you coped? It has been a struggle for many. From having too much time on your hands and the boredom and frustration that brings, to working from home and all the pressures it adds to the mental state. Finances have been hit hard and businesses have suffered. Not being able to travel and every day melding into one. It has been a long, dark year but hopefully we can recover and regain some semblance of normality in the coming months ahead.

How have you spent March? What are you most looking forward to getting back to doing?

Take care,

Christine x

My February

Following on from my January post, I thought I would continue the monthly update theme as a new series for 2021. February can sometimes be the coldest and darkest of months. This year’s February began cold and frosty with frigid days and bone chilling nights but the month ended with mild winds and the scent of spring on the air. 🙂

David had a well earned few days off work in February. Whilst still in lock-down we stayed local and took a walk to Liverpool’s Sefton Park with an excitable Riley. David managed to feed a few squirrels and crows with the monkey nuts we had brought with us, while I had a captive audience of geese, coots and gulls enjoying the bird seed I offered them. I love feeding the birds on the lake, it makes me feel such a child again!

In January’s post I commented that I had seen the first, brief visit from the chiffchaff. Well he/she visited again, enjoying the insects on the laurel bush! David didn’t grab his camera quite quick enough, so I had to make do with a grainy photo I managed to get off my phone. Isn’t he so cute? The harbinger of spring?

Even though the mornings and evenings are getting lighter, these February nights seem cold and dark for some reason. This month I’ve been snuggling up in bed most nights and have managed to rekindle my reading. I’ve just finished Cilka’s Journey (a semi-fictional account of a survivor of Auschwitz who was imprisoned in a Russian gulag) and have begun The Glass House a mystery by Eve Chase.

I’m still only working one day a week, so using my free time to watch some series I’ve not seen before. I know I am very late to the party but I’ve been enjoying watching the 90’s American sitcom Friends. I’ve also caught up with the second series of The Bay and the Netflix sensation, Bridgerton.

I know Valentine’s Day is very commercial but I still like to celebrate it none the less. When I was single I would buy myself something nice as an act of self love, and now I’m in a long standing relationship, I celebrate the day by ordering a nice curry so we can both enjoy it. As a little token I bought David this cute little bumblebee (or did I buy her for myself?) She’s so sweet! 🙂

I got my first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine the end of February and I had a few side effects, like shaking and sweating and aches and pains. Thankfully these were short lived and I’m feeling much better now.

To end the month, we got a new patient, Elliott a feral pigeon, who we spotted sitting in someone’s front yard while on a walk with Riley. On our way back from the park, the pigeon was still vulnerable so David caught him and brought him home with us. He’s being treated for canker and coccidiosis, let’s hope he gets better soon!

How have you spent February? Do you like the long, dark nights or looking forward to spring?

Take care,

Christine x