Of Princes and Fairies.

An early start to Friday beckoned as David and I headed out on a North Wales adventure.

Our destination for the day was Beddgelert Forest. According to 18th Century lore, Gelert was a dog of Prince Llywelyn the Great. One day, on returning from a hunt Llywelyn found his son’s crib overturned. His boy gone! Gelert was discovered with blood around his mouth. Llywelyn in a fit of temper, quickly slayed the dog to later find that Gelert had saved his son from the jaws of a wolf. Gelert is said to be buried on the bank of the river Glaslyn. 

Beddgelert Forest, with panoramic views of Snowdon, a walk and cycling trails, and even a secluded lake, sounded too good to be true! I thought with it being the school summer holidays that the area would be teaming with day trippers, how wrong I was. On arrival at the free car park, we discovered we were the only visitors there, (it gets busier during the afternoon.)

The walk is a circular route through the forest and around Llyn Llywelyn. The walk is just under three miles long, on easy navigable pathways and took David and I two hours to complete, (with a pit stop for refueling). 🙂 I was excited to visit the secluded llyn as I was intending to do my first Welsh wild swim there! However on arrival the beautiful scenery was being destroyed by deforestation and the lake was coffee coloured. The smell of decomposing matter only added to my consternation. The question was whether to swim or not to swim! I decided not to swim and felt cleaner for it!

Along our walk we did see lots of wildlife. There was an abundance of butterflies; commas, red admirals, peacocks and ringlets were among the ones I spotted. There was heather, field scabious and self-heal growing along the paths with dragonflies darting about like mini helicopters! I’d never seen so many! The star sighting of the day was a goldcrest flitting about the conifers.

At noon we decided to head back along the A4085 for an impromptu visit to Llyn Cwellyn – the fairies lake! We’d visited Llyn Cwellyn the previous year. You can read about that adventure here. There are many lakes in Snowdonia that are associated with tales of menfolk and fairies. Llyn Cwellyn is just one of them. A man happened upon a group of fairies dancing at the shores of Cwellyn. Entranced, the man joined in with their dance. After a while he grew bored and decided to go home. On his return to his village he discovered that his parents had died, his sweetheart had married another and he had been gone for seven years! At this revelation the man died not long after, lonely and of a broken heart. It seems time for fairies is much slower than our own!

cwellyn

Llyn Cwellyn

However being lost in time was the least of my worries. It was midday, and I feared the Snowdon Ranger car park would be full. We had also seen that there was only one shingle beach from which to access the llyn. I imagined the lakeside path to be full with families enjoying the scenery. How wrong could I be? Luckily we found parking and paid the £2.50 for four hours, though we wouldn’t be there that long (unless we discovered some fairies!)! Many walkers headed towards Snowdon, so on arrival at the shore, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was deserted! It was just David and I and the lake!

swim1

Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

I was determined to kick start my Welsh wild swims, so from the shingle beach I waded out into cool, clear waters. The entrance into the lake was one of the best I’ve experienced. The llyn’s bed was soft shingle and I walked out until I was neck deep in water. Terence said the temperature was 17° but it felt colder due to a mean wind that whipped across the surface. I swam watching butterflies flitter across the water and floated on my back while RAF planes flew high above. It was a most enjoyable swim, one of the best this year and no I didn’t spy any fairies!

As I shivered back on shore the only disappointment was that Wilson (camera) hadn’t recorded my swim. We estimated that I was in the water for 15 minutes.

So our adventure turned out to be a day of ups and downs. Ultimately it was a perfect day for my first Welsh wild swim. There are around 200 llyns in Snowdonia alone. I won’t get to swim all of them, but at least I have made my first attempt.

Where do you think I should swim next? Have you tried wild swimming? What were your experiences?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Advertisements

30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 2

o0OhgWNNI have to admit, I am struggling with this years 30 Days Wild. Having already invited nature into my every day life, I am finding it difficult to share with you anything new. I don’t have much time at present for many wild adventures and I am fearful of repetition. So I apologise if I write about something I have already blogged about in previous years!

 

Day Eight: Thursday.

Today was World Oceans Day. A day to celebrate the wonder of our oceans. Though I didn’t participate in any events, I did sign up for the Plastic Challenge, an initiative by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS). The challenge runs from the 1st to the 30th of June. Perfect for 30 Days Wild! The pledge is to give up or cut down on single use plastics. I have already started the cut back as I purchased a reusable water bottle. I shall also be wrapping my lunch in tinfoil or grease-proof paper. Do you have any other ideas on how to cut back on plastics?

We already know that microbeads are bad for the environment and wildlife! These small beads of plastic are in face-washes to toothpastes and are easily washed down the drain, ultimately ending in the seas and food chain. I have recently changed some of my skin products to a UK brand sold in Asda called, nspa. They use natural ingredients such as passion fruit seeds and rice to exfoliate instead of using microbeads.

What natural skin care do you use?

Day Nine: Friday.

One of the many Random Acts of Wildness is to read a nature book or magazine, so I decided to purchase Chris Packham’s memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar. I’m almost near the end and though I am enjoying it, I did find it hard to get into, as the first few chapters are heavy with long sentences of description that could have very well been written in only a handful of words.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Day Ten: Saturday.

Saturday’s are always busy but this evening was allotted for bottling the elderflower champagne. On Friday after work we went to give the mixture a stir and found a thin film of mold on the surface, (after 5 days). I read that it was time to strain and bottle. Straining took over an hour!

Firstly I lifted out the remains of the elderflower heads and then David poured the cloudy mixture into a pan through a thin gauze tea towel before funneling the sieved liquid into sterilized bottles. We loosely tightened the tops and left them in a cool place to carry on fermenting. I shall open a bottle on the last day of 30 Days Wild to see if the mixture has brewed. 

Day Eleven: Sunday.

Inspired by Sharon’s 30 Day’s Wild post, here. David and I headed to the beach in search of treasures. Of course Riley tagged along too! After our beach combing, we came back with a hoard of stones and shells!

Day Twelve: Monday.

Last Year I sent away for free wildflower seeds from Grow Wild, an initiative by Kew Gardens. I still had one packet of seeds left so I planted them in March. The annuals and perennials are now flowering, corn chamomile, common poppy and red campion among the selection.

Day Thirteen: Tuesday. 

I chose looking for newborns as my random act of wildness for today. However I only managed to film a baby goldfinch visiting the garden feeders. On my many walks to work, I have seen begging baby blue tits and a stunning fledged blackbird!

Day Fourteen: Wednesday.

While taking Riley on his many walks around Sefton Park, we have been mesmerised by a couple of swallows who seem to glide effortlessly over the field, hunting insects. I decided to take my camera on our latest walk to see if I could capture them. The park was busy with people enjoying the fine weather, so I only captured a short clip. Swallows are hard to follow as they fly so fast and turn direction in a split second.

Facts:

  • Swallows are summer migrants arriving from Africa from March onwards.
  • Spend most of their life on the wing.
  • Can cover 200 miles in a day and fly at speeds of up to 35 kilometers an hour.
  • Have a lifespan of three years in the wild.

Summary: 

This week I have been much more relaxed in my approach to 30 Days Wild. I have taken time to notice the flying bees and scurrying beetles while walking between bus stops to work. Listening to roosting goldfinches in the park while throwing the ball for Riley to chase has filled my heart. Just smelling cut grass has calmed my nerves.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back: at week two in previous years.

2015:  Spending time in the yarden and National Bird results.

2016: Drawing a dunnock and baking turtle shaped bread.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

‘The Road Goes Ever On and On.’

20160212_132108 (2)

Friday the 12th February was International Darwin Day. Coincidentally David had taken a day off work, so we both headed off on our second adventure to Wales. Again we drove towards Snowdonia National Park, this time to Llyn Idwal.

The valley or cwn around Llyn Idwal is recognised as Wales’s first National Nature Reserve and a site of special scientific Interest. The area is famous for its rock formations (moraines) and rare plants. Notables, the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary, visited Llyn Idwal to prepare for his ascent of Everest. Happily, I also read that Charles Darwin also visited the area before embarking on his voyage on the Beagle.

So on the day, David and I walked in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest men.

However the weather didn’t measure up to the forecast and when we arrived at the National Trust car park (off the A5,) there was a thick blanket of white cloud all around. We paid £5 for the day as we didn’t know how long it would take to walk around the lake. There is a charge of £2.50 for four hours for people who are more experienced and more equipped! As you can see I still sported my Parker!

DSC_0004-1-2

Photo by David Evans

The first thing you notice is the snow capped mountains, (Glyderau or Glyders.) It was nice to finally see some snow! The designated path takes you over a stream with a pretty waterfall.

20160212_134530 (2)

Then the path meanders around most of the glacial, fresh water lake. We took the path anti-clock wise.

20160212_114547 (2)

Most of the path is navigable except for the Idwal Slabs and boulder field which is beneath the towering heights of the Devil’s Kitchen. I am no climber (some would say not much of a walker, either,) so David left me to explore.

20160212_124959

While David was scurrying over the rocks like Gollum, I turned and appreciated the view of the lake below me. The name Idwal comes from the myth of the Gwynedd princes. Idwal’s father, Prince Owain one day entrusted the care of his son to Nefydd Hardd (a bondsman.) However under his care Idwal drowned in the lake. Some tales tell of Nefydd’s son, Dunawd, having pushed poor Idwal into the lake due to his jealousy! As punishment, Nefydd was forced to give up his lands and was banished from the kingdom of Gwynedd. Owain, in his sorrow named the lake after his son. The tale recalls that no bird will fly over the lake because of this tragedy!

20160212_130114

Llyn Idwal

We found the area very popular with tourists and walkers alike, and as we took our leave of Llyn Idwal, there were coaches full of students arriving, all hoping to do what David and I had done. Walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin.

Do you like to go walking? Where are your favourite walks in the UK?

Christine x

The beginning of…

…my fortnight off from work did not go to plan! Monday morning dawned forebodingly as I found lying at the bottom of the finch aviary my beloved Romeo!

Romeo

Romeo

There was no indication that he was ill. He was a little quiet and fluffed up on Sunday but by the next day David and I were saying our farewells and burying him under the Pieris Forest Flame. 😦

The aviary did not seem to be the same after his little character had gone. Chocolate his mate was quiet and the other finches seemed to know of his absence.

Come Thursday, David and I took a trip to Clipsley Pets and Aquatics in St. Helens and acquired a new friend for Chocolate, a Bengalese called Fudge and a new member of the finch family, Pi, a Cut-throat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On Tuesday, I had the urge to cook something. I think it was to fill the void of sadness that Romeo’s sudden passing had left. So I merged a few recipes I found on-line to make a Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup. The result was not unpleasant, though it could have done with a bit more of a kick. I fixed the recipe in line with this. If you don’t like spice/heat then reduce.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of vegetable stock. I used reduced salt
  • 300g of red lentils
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 small red chilli, chopped
  • One potato, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • Tin of tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp of curry powder, and one tsp each of cumin, turmeric and coriander
  • 100 ml of milk
  • 1-2 tbsps of olive oil
  • Optional: Some cooked basmati rice to serve

Method

  1. In a large saucepan heat the olive oil, then add the garlic, onion and chilli to the pan. Fry over a gentle heat till soft.
  2. Add the potato, tomato, tomato puree and spices to the pan and fry gently for another 5 mins, stirring regularly.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients, stirring well, then pop a lid on the pan and simmer the soup for approx 15 20 mins, or until lentils are soft.
  4. Pour the soup into a blender and blend at high speed till smooth and creamy. Alternatively, blend only half the soup for a chunkier texture.

I served with home-made wholemeal bread rolls.

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

Curry Spiced Red Lentil Soup

At the start of the week the weather had been appalling, but nearing the weekend things started to look up! David had also taken Thursday and Friday off from work, so on Thursday we headed to Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Tower of London Poppies… but that will do for another blog post!

A-MA-ZING!!

Can I say that one more time?

AMAZING!!

I’ve been talking about the experience all afternoon and evening! I simply can’t get over it! It’s always only me that sees it! I’ve joked with David that I must be ‘high’ on something! That quinoa last night must have been infected with mould, as this afternoon, after preparing my Sunday dinner, I looked out of the kitchen window to see if there was any bird activity at the feeders and there it was! A Sparrowhawk!

I wish I had my camera to hand as it’s just my word to say that it was in the garden, but there it was attacking whatever was sheltering in the Laurel Bush, probably a Sparrow or Starling!

I gasped in amazement and then it turned its orange eyes towards me before it spread its wings and flew off.

I have seen a Sparrowhawk in the area before, in 2012, the day of my father’s funeral. Today, one was in the garden looking for it’s lunch!

The whole incident happened so fast that I am writing this account so as to remember it!

I have no pictures myself of the Sparrowhawk, so I have had to borrow from Google/YouTube. The below footage is by Brian Ewen.


After some reading I have discovered that if a Sparrowhawk is in your garden then it is a sign of a healthy population of birds/prey. I like to see it as a healthy micro-system. I have put feeders in my garden to encourage small birds like the Blue Tit, Dunnock and Goldfinch. This in turn has encouraged Pigeons and Starlings to visit. This movement and frenzied activity has alerted the next stage of the chain. The predator, like the Sparrowhawk.

The system is very like that of my planting for bees, butterflies and moths. Their presence in the garden has brought the arrival of Swallows to feast on the abundance of insects. It certainly shows that we are all interconnected.

I have read that some people dislike Sparrowhawks being in their neighbourhood. I have to accept that even Sparrowhawks need to feed otherwise they will starve to death.

On the RSPB website it states that Sparrowhawk numbers were heavily in decline due to pesticides used in farming from the 1950’s onwards. Thankfully, numbers seem to be on the increase due to the banning of certain chemicals. The RSPB also states that the predation of Sparrowhawks on songbirds has ‘no or little impact on songbird populations.’ The Wildlife Trust produced a report on the predation of songbirds and concluded that songbird ‘numbers over the last few decades should not be blamed on predation by Sparrowhawks and Magpies.’

In my area there are not just Magpies, but other crows and Seagulls present. Recently, there seems to be a healthy balance of numbers from the smaller birds. I counted at one time, up to, if not exceeding 20 Goldfinches, 10 House Sparrows and over 20 Starlings, mostly fledglings. Pigeon numbers seem to be increasing steadily also.

The presence of predators therefore does seem to indicate that there are a healthy number of smaller birds. Chris Mead from Jacobi Jayne & Company states, ‘numbers of Sparrowhawks are controlled by the numbers of their prey.’ I like to think that since I have been encouraging Goldfinches, House Sparrows and Starlings to my garden that I am creating a healthy ecosystem where there is enough prey numbers for a predator to flourish. Time will tell if the Sparrowhawk will return.

I have been researching the presence of Sparrowhawks in Liverpool, and have come across a number of blogs from 2010 and 2012 stating Sparrowhawk sightings. It’s not uncommon for Sparrowhawks to predate in city gardens. However, I just find it amazing that one appeared in my inner city garden, though more like a yard than a garden!! I am feeling proud that I have made a little oasis in a rather built up area. 🙂


And in other news:

I seemed to have been on a health kick recently. I have been treadmilling, doing squats and abdominal workouts daily. I don’t know whether this is the fact that I have lost an inch around the chest and half an inch from the waist. Either way I think healthy eating has helped.

Lentils are a great source of protein and low in calories. They lower your cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. So, today I made a Vegan, Spicy Lentil Soup. I got the recipe from Cookie and Kate. Though I changed a few quantities and added a potato and green beans.

Ingredients:

  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • 1 small potato, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • Handful of green beans chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 400g can of diced tomatoes
  • 200g of green lentils
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock, reduced salt. I used two cubes
  •  ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion, celery and potato and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, (about 5 minutes.)
  3. Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, (about 30 seconds.)
  4. Pour in the tomatoes, green beans and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, in order to enhance their flavour.
  5. Pour in the lentils and stock. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
  6. Transfer 450ml of the soup to a blender. Protect your hand from steam with a tea towel placed over the lid and purée the soup until smooth. Pour the puréed soup back into the pan and warm up.
  7. Remove the pan from heat.Taste and season with more salt, pepper. Serve immediately.
Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

The soup turned out really well. Though it looked more brown than the original recipe. (It doesn’t look very appetising from the picture, but believe me it was very appetising and healthy). It made four bowls, so have enough for tomorrows dinner. 😀

Have a pleasant week ahead.