12 Hours of Day #4

It is thanks once again to the lovely Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines for informing me of this Saturday’s #photoanhour challenge. I don’t use Instagram much, so here’s my photo an hour in blog form.

Photo and Hour – 18th February 2017

8am to 9am:

It always seems that these photo an hour challenges fall on days when I have nothing planned! My Saturday began like every other day, with me getting up to make my breakfast. Granola and black coffee, a perfect start to the day!

9am to 10am:

We visited my mum (next door) and spotted a lone daffodil standing proudly in her back yarden.

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The weekly shop

10am to 12 noon:

Saturday is usually grocery shopping day but once we had unpacked the day’s purchases, David and I headed for the M62 and for garden centres/pet shops around Widnes. One of the garden centres we frequent, White Moss stands opposite the imposing Fiddlers Ferry (coal) power station.

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Fiddlers Ferry Power Station

12 noon to 1pm:

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Clipsley Pets and Aquatics

Sadly we did not find what we were looking for in Widnes, so we drove to pet shops in Warrington, before stopping at Clipsley Pets and Aquatics, in Haydock. We have been visiting Clipsley for the past three years and have bought most of our aviary from them. We visited today with just the intention of looking!

1pm to 2pm:

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Whose in there?

Travelling home seemed to take ages, more so with excitable new friends sitting in these boxes! 😀

2pm to 4pm: 

After a busy morning, the afternoon was much more relaxing. David and I watched on while our new friends settled into their new home. Welcome to the aviary, Set (Gouldian Finch), Leaf (Blue Faced Parrot Finch) and Paris (Owl Finch). How beautiful are they? After all the sadness of the past few weeks, they have made me so happy! 😀

4pm to 5pm:

With the sun trying to break through the clouds, David and I pottered about the yarden. I re-planted an Euonymus Japonicus which was looking sad at the front of the house.

5pm to 6pm:

After doing some housework and before cooking the evening’s meal, I enjoyed a moment of calm by looking up at the clouds coloured by the setting sun.

6pm to 7:30pm:

This evenings dinner was a one pot stuffed pepper casserole. I just substituted the beef with bulgur wheat and topped David’s off with a chicken breast. It made for a wholesome meal.

7:30pm to 8pm:

I ended my photo an hour challenge by sitting in the living room and watched as the finches paired up and explored their new surroundings.

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Finch aviary

How have you spent your Saturday?

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

Christine x

Of Swallows and Shallows.

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Wast Water

It was August Bank Holiday here in the UK, and once again David and I headed up to the Lake District. The weather, unusual for a bank holiday turned out to be pretty impressive. Blue skies, hot sun, we couldn’t ask for a better day!

We were up before sunrise (again) and headed out at 6am for our three hour drive! Our destination was the lakeshore of Wast Water, touted in a 2007 ITV poll as Britain’s Favourite View. The scenery is indeed inspirational. To the north, Wasdale Head features the giants Yewbarrow, Great Gable, Lingmell and Scafell Pike. Along the eastern side, Whin Rigg and Illgill Head form the Screes. To the south is a leisurely lakeside walk towards Low Wood and Lund Bridge. It was this path that David and I took on our arrival.

A cool breeze that blew across the lake, created the perfect opportunity to try out my new fleece in preparation for autumn and winter walks.

At the southern point, under the shade of trees I noticed roses scattered along the lake-shore. It got me thinking how many have faced a watery death at Wast Water. After an online search I found that in 1976 a woman had been murdered and her body was dumped at Wast Water, only to be found eight years later still preserved.

In 1945, three airmen lost their lives during a nighttime navigational exercise which saw their Gruman Avenger crash into the Screes. And again in 1973 a Piper Cherokee G-AZYP also crashed into the Screes with no survivors!

Wast Water is the deepest lake in England at 258 feet (79 m) and is a divers haven. Yet even as recent as 2013 the body of a diver, in search of the infamous gnome garden was found. So nothing for me to be worried about then as I planned on doing a swim!

David and I found a nice stony beach on the western side of the lake, where later we would enjoy a scenic picnic with coffee. The choice of location to swim was actually a poor one as the water was very shallow. (No sign of the deepest lake here!) I found I had to wade quite some distance, slipping over mossy rocks before managing to swim. You may be questioning my type of swimwear, especially for a lake that is renowned to be the coldest. I had plans to do not just one swim but two!!
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The water wasn’t as cold as I was lead to believe. Indeed I stayed in the water for my longest swim at around 20 minutes. I breast-stroked with mountainous giants before me and floated looking up at the blue sky as swallows and grey wagtails flittered past. It was indeed a magical experience. I stumbled back onto land giddy and blissfully happy! I could have stayed at Wast Water all day but I had plans of swimming another tarn!

20160829_122344From Google images and maps, Greendale Tarn looked like it had everything going for it. It was isolated, surrounded by mountains and didn’t look like too much of a walk. However with my rudimentary walking skills at best, a two hour walk there and back ended up being three! There is free parking for about 10 cars next to the cottages at Greendale. The start of the walk overlooks the Screes of Wast Water. The going was steep to start off with as the path wound around ferns and bracken. We past Herdwick Sheep who made walking over the boulder filled path look easy. I stumbled and tripped my way upwards, while to our left was the fast flowing Greendale Gill.

Two hours later and we were standing beside a tarn with disappointment on our faces. Instead of finding a peaceful idyll, we gazed upon a body of water that looked reedy. A pond-like smell emanated from the surface. If there were any trout in the water they were well hidden. I could not find an entry point that didn’t have reeds lacing the banks. It was very off putting and I decided (sensibly?) to forego a second swim, much to my consternation! However, looking at the positives from the day, we had enjoyed the walk, even if I did crawl most of the way up and slipped on the way down! The picture of Greendale Tarn makes it look so much more appetising than it really was!

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Greendale Tarn

Wast Water maybe my final swim of the year, what with September and autumn around the corner. I do hope not. Maybe I can squeeze in another swim before it gets too cold?

What do you think?

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week Four

o0OhgWNNIt’s been a rather depressing week here in the UK. To escape the dirge from the media I have dived headlong into wildlife and The Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild. Below is an account of my fourth week, the last full week of June. I have tried to find light within the gloom!

 

Day 22: Wednesday

Sing a rainbowOn the 30 Days Wild Facebook page, someone had created a collage of rainbow colours taken from nature. I thought I’d try one. All pictures are taken from the yarden. Featuring: antirrhinum, honeysuckle, foxglove, jasmine, campanula, erysimum and lithodora.

Day 23: Thursday

This week has been National Insect Week, an initiative to encourage people to learn more about insects. In celebration of this week, I have been putting out insect pitfall traps in the hope of catching sight of the creepy crawlies that make the yarden their home. Unfortunately on both occasions, the traps were empty, probably because they were not the best traps.

Since we have had some fair weather these past few days in the NW of England, I decided to try my hand at a moth light trap. During the day we see many Cinnabar Moths, but I wanted to see what night moths we attract to the yarden. I draped a white sheet over two chairs and positioned a light directly behind and waited for the darkness to deepen.

It was almost 11.30pm when it became dark! I could see many micro moths fluttering but no hawkmoths which I had hoped/wanted to see! As the stars and planets twinkled from the indigo sky, the light trap only attracted one small moth. I think it was a Webbing or Common Clothes Moth!

Though moth sightings were thin on the ground, David and I did manage to have fun in the yarden. David took to photographing the stars and dodgy ‘ghosts,’ while I enjoyed the perfumed scent of the air. Everything feels so calm at night, unlike the madness daylight hours tend to bring.

On clearing up the equipment for the night, as David was in work the following day, a beautiful marbled moth fluttered towards the light. I was half in the house, half out as it danced around the halogen bulb. Sadly we didn’t take a picture, so I don’t know what type of moth it was. I feel I have some unfinished business with moths in the yarden. I hope to maybe fit in another observation session before June is out! Needless to say my dreams were full of moths that night!

Day 24: Friday

The weather this June seems to have conspired against us! Today was another one of those days with sparse sunshine and heavy showers! With having little ‘get up and go,’ I turned to the ‘wild’ cards for inspiration. The card I chose, search for mini wildness, suggested to look for lichens and forests of moss in pavements. So I decided to take a closer look at the liverwort growing in my yarden! (I didn’t know it was liverwort until I started researching it!)

The type of liverwort in the yarden is called Marchantia polymorpha. Apparently they like compacted, wet, acidic soils. Bad luck for my camellia, but the liverwort does look nice as a green base for the plant in its shaded pot. I shall evaluate how the plant is growing and if the liverwort is effecting it in future!

Day 25: Saturday

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I usually make lard cakes for the birds come winter time, but as I did this task for last years 30 Days Wild, I shall replicate it this year too!

I used a block of lard (it’s usually cheap in the supermarkets). I then microwaved it for 3 minutes until it was liquid. Threw in handfuls of mixed seed, (you can use peanuts and fruit also.) I then bulked it up with wholemeal flour. I used the suet holders with paper lined templates and scooped the fat mixture into these. I left to solidify. I shall hang them out tomorrow!

 

Day 26: Sunday

I never thought I was a big technophile but participating in this years, National Unplugging Day, I have discovered I turn to my computer and phone more than I care to. A typical day usually starts around 7am, the alarm on my phone wakes me up! While having breakfast, I scroll through Facebook and look at WordPress. Throughout the working day I communicate with David  via email. I text my mum, even though she lives next door! I use the timer on my phone and playlists on my laptop while I am working out. I also use the timer when I am cooking. I have many books downloaded to my Kindle. I turn to Google whenever I have a question. During 30 Days Wild I have been hooked to my blog feed, looking for new posts from fellow bloggers. I wind down to BBCi and music on YouTube. All day I have Classic FM playing in the background!

So, participating in this initiative is going to be both challenging and enlightening!

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My unplugged day started at 9.30am. I had asked David when he got up an hour earlier to wake me after 9. I awoke at 9.15am and lay there waiting for my wake-up call. I snoozed and woke up again fifteen minutes later. Still no wake-up call. I was walking down the stairs to make breakfast when David came out of the living room. ‘Oh you’re up!’

‘Yes, where was my wake-up call?’

‘I didn’t know the time,’ meaning he had been busy playing GTA5! I shook my head! I took my breakfast and a hot cup of black coffee back to bed. It was a Sunday after all! While relaxing, I perused the pages of my paperback of Katherine Mansfield short stories. Though I had to fight the urge to reach out and grab my phone!

To counter the boredom I had moved the household chores from Saturday to today. The opposite was done for my session on the treadmill, which I did on Saturday as I use my laptop for motivational music! At 10.30am I climbed out of bed, got dressed and made a start on the cleaning. I dragged Henry around the house and wiped/disinfected surfaces and floors. The whole task took me three hours, with lunch in-between!

I spent the afternoon in the kitchen. I baked bread, which I shaped in the form of butterflies and made a very healthy, (and tasty) pan of blind scouse, (vegetable stew). I got David to take pictures of the finished article! I really missed my phone for taking pictures!

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There wasn’t much opportunity for communing with the wild, as persistent rain arrived in the afternoon. I watched from the kitchen window the birds visiting the freshly filled feeders, of which there were:

  • 2 House Sparrows (males)
  • 2 Goldfinches
  • 1 very disheveled Blue Tit
  • 1 Dunnock
  • 8 Starlings, (1 was a baby)
  • Many Pigeons!

I also saw Tree Bumblebees brave the rain to forage from the campanula flowers.

Come evening, I chatted to David while he cooked his lunches for work that week. All day he had been teasing me about not using technology. At one point he even came down the stairs with the laptop, and said ‘aww but you can’t watch!’ Meany! I then relaxed by reading some more Katherine Mansfield stories while enjoying a nice cold glass of pinot grigio.

10pm arrived. I cheered and ‘wooped!’ I had survived a day without a phone or laptop! (It was hard!) A text off my mum was waiting for me saying, ‘welcome back to the technological world!’ It was an enlightening initiative. One I would repeat. I find that technology is so habit forming! It’s so easy to reach out for that mobile device, have information at your fingertips. I do think that it contributes to a general lack of concentration and an inability to face boredom. I already don’t like phones at the dining table. I may encourage David and I to have technology ‘black-holes,’ times when we don’t use phones or computers, in the future.

Did you participate in the day? How did you fill your time?

Day 27: Monday

I felt a bit jaded today. In the afternoon Artie and I popped out into the yarden, to see how the plants were getting on (the lily and passion flower have flowered at last,) and to listen to wild sounds. It also gave me the opportunity to sip in the wild, I indulged in a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

I closed my eyes (but not for long as Artie was on the prowl) and could hear the wind rushing through the trees. A plane thrummed overhead. Goldfinches twittered, pigeons cooed, and a family of house sparrows, babies begging, flew onto a roof nearby. The yarden was filled with bees buzzing softly and the dunnock shrilled his song loudly!

Day 28: Tuesday

To end this post I took inspiration from the 30 Days Wild app. Of the 101 ‘random acts of wildness’ I chose look up at the clouds. I actually did this activity yesterday as today the NW of England is shrouded with increasing cloud and the threat of further rain!

Of the clouds gracing the evening sky yesterday, I noticed cirrus (fair weather cloud) and cirrocumulus, (could precursor rain). It shows how contradictory British weather can be!

Final thoughts:

I really don’t want to mention the EU referendum, the result made me sick to the stomach! However like many, I will make a comment.

At present the air is thick with depression! I avoid the news the best of times, but my Facebook page is full of doom and gloom. It makes one want to reach for the razor blades! But we have to endure, what else is there? (Those razor blades look inviting). We have survived plagues, famine, wars. We will endure this!

Life probably will be tough, for a while, but we will recover, (we have to). Instead of the constant backbiting, we must forego bad blood and look to a future, a future we can only make good if we work hard, together!

There has to be a life outside of the EU. We had one before, there will be one now. Though many of us did not vote to leave, we have to make the most of this decision. Perhaps we can learn from the EU and build a better Britain, with transparent laws, human/worker rights, wildlife protection and a more uniformed distribution of wealth throughout the kingdom? Perhaps I am dreaming, maybe not with this government! I have not followed any of the hype surrounding the referendum. I have felt disgusted that we have been placed in this position! But the unthinkable has happened and we have to deal with it. Not with a culture of blame but one of acceptance and action.

I don’t know why but the whole farce calls to mind a soliloquy in Hamlet. To be or not to be!

Hamlet:To be, or not to be–that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–

No more–and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–

To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

Only two more days until the end of June! Come with me as I approach the finale of 30 Days Wild 2016 and see what wonders I find!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scrambling and Swimming

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For weeks I have wanted to return to Derwentwater in the Lake District. This time to walk the path towards Catbells, overlooking the lake and then to picnic at the lakeshore. Early on Sunday, David and I headed back up the M6 to Cumbria, hoping to do just that!

The two hour drive ran without hiccup. Unlike the last time we attempted to go to the Lakes. That time they shut the M6 due to a fuel spillage and had to re-tarmac the carriageway. Thankfully not this time!

There is a limited amount of free parking by the signed Catbells path. However we passed a field that had been opened up for visitors to the area at £3 per car, for the day. I thought that was reasonable. Saying that, we managed to get a spot in the free car park!  There is also a bus that passes through on its way to Buttermere or you could walk from Keswick. There are many possibilities.

For around 1.5 hours we followed the path towards Catbells summit. The views from the path were spectacular. I wanted to do the walk just to see them! The sun shone warmly down, while fluffy clouds scudded past. There was one part of the path where we had to crawl on hands and knees to climb over a rocky spot. I don’t like climbing. I’m even worse at it than walking! There was a second more treacherous section just before the summit which curtailed any further attempt from me! Though young children and dogs happily leapt over the rock towards the top!

We headed back along a safer route towards the car to pick up supplies for our picnic by the lake.


Can I let you into a bit of a secret? I had an ulterior motive for heading back towards Derwentwater. It all started in February when David and I took a walk around Llyn Idwal in Snowdonia. I stood on the shingle beach, looking at the clear fresh water and imagined what it would be like on a warm, summers day. Of sunbathing and paddling in the lake.

The seed had been planted.

A week later saw David and I, up at the crack of dawn to visit Haweswater and Derwentwater, in the Lake District for the first time. I fell in love with Derwentwater and I wondered what it would be like to put my toe in its waters?

Later, after watching hours of YouTube videos and researching swimming in lakes/rivers in the UK, I was hooked! David thought I was mad! A week ago I purchased a swimsuit, neoprene shoes and goggles. I was all set to go swimming, but where? Though the lake can be busy with boat traffic and the shore popular with dog walkers, I chose Derwentwater to be my first!

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I was a little trepid to begin with. I worried about the temperature of the waters and wondered if I should postpone for a warmer day. However I wanted to attempt it. I had dreamed about it for weeks! I had worn my swimsuit under my clothes on the walk, so I had no real excuse not to try. The day had been pretty amazing up till then. Embarking on my first ‘wild’ swim would be the cherry on the cake (figuratively speaking)!

I didn’t enter the water gracefully. I slipped on a stone and plummeted onto my backside! The air was laced with my nervous giggling! I hadn’t been in water since I was a teenager, (a long, long time ago). I attempted the breaststroke and found that my legs and arms wouldn’t coordinate! I’d forgotten how to swim! However I gained in confidence. My long term memory kicked in and I remembered the technique. I managed to swim backwards and forwards with mayflies flying off the surface of the lake and wonderful views all around. David, who was happily dry onshore, watched on taking photographs.

The lake water was surprisingly mild for a cool day. I found it strange that there were eddies of warmer water here and there. I didn’t stray too far from the shore, my upper body isn’t that strong. I didn’t want the day to end in disaster, not on my first time!

I climbed out after 10 minutes and got dressed. I sat snuggling with David on the lakeshore, shakily cradling a hot cup of coffee. I felt buoyed by the occasion! Buttermere next!

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We ended the day with a little woodland stroll, where we heard the calls of a cuckoo, saw a carpet of bluebells and watched sheep and their lambs get fed. The whole day was wonderful. I went home thoroughly tired but energised. I am eager to go on my next walk/swim.

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Have you been swimming in a lake or river? Have any suggestions on where best to swim or of beautiful scenic walks to take?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Hans Zimmer – Live on Tour

03_HANS-ZIMMER_live-on-tour-2016_Foto_Steve-GilletI first realised the music of Hans Zimmer in The Lion King (1994), the soundtrack earned him his Oscar! I didn’t care much for the songs of Elton John but the orchestrated pieces were breathtaking. He managed to convey all the emotions in the film; love, terror, heartbreak and joy. Listening to Stampede, if you close your eyes you can imagine the buffaloes bearing down on Simba.

Over the years, I have accumulated many of his soundtracks. Fan based videos on YouTube are a great source to go to, as well as Wikipedia and Amazon. I could list all of his soundtracks, but I won’t. You can read more here.

Biography search results suggest that during his early career, as well as writing themes for BBC TV shows, (Going for Gold being one of them), he produced and featured briefly in the video of The Buggles’s number one hit single, Video Killed the Radio Star (1979) which was a theme from my early childhood. So even though I was not aware of Hans Zimmer as a composer, his music contributed to the soundtrack of my 80’s.

In 2001 he received great acclaim for his soundtrack to Gladiator. I was a little slow on the uptake but since then most of my free time has been filled with the music of Hans Zimmer. For me, he seems to be the go to composer whether you want to be energised as in the rollicking tracks of Inception or to have a good cry, the music from The Dark Knight Rises seems to hit a particular cord with me.

No other living composers music has had such a profound effect on me as does Hans Zimmer’s. So imagine my excitement when his Live on Tour was advertised last year! For many years, it has been a dream of mine to see the music of Hans Zimmer being performed by a live orchestra, but for the man himself to be performing on stage also is something I never comprehended.

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In London two years ago Hans Zimmer did ‘trial’ arena shows because he didn’t believe ‘anybody would actually show up’. I was tempted to go but the cost, not just of the tickets but of travelling and accommodation put me off. So last year on the day tickets were released I eagerly snapped up a couple for the Birmingham date. It may have cost a small fortune but to have a dream come true, it was worth it! A month later I was reeling as they released a new date in Manchester, but that is by the by. Birmingham it would be!

April 12th 2016: Being my nosy, inquisitive self I already knew what to expect come the day of the concert. I was looking forward to One Day from Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight medley.

The Barclaycard Arena was relatively easy to get to by car but due to certain roads being closed in major roadworks we left with plenty of time. Inside we were subjected to bags being searched and the boys being frisked! Once finally past security, I bought my programme which was £10, in London it had been £15! Then went in search for our uncomfy seats.

We sat in eager suspense for 40 minutes, then the lights in the arena dimmed and an excited hush murmured from the crowd. Hans Zimmer, his guests and a 70 piece orchestra took to the stage just after 8pm, even though there were still a lot of empty spaces in the audience. People were still being shown to their seats while the choir sang 160BPM from Angels and Demons, which irked me somewhat. I took some pictures but they weren’t very good. I wish I had taken my camcorder but didn’t know whether photography was allowed.

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What I like about Hans Zimmer is that he collaborates with (and mentors) people from diverse musical backgrounds and this concert was no different. It felt more like an ensemble production rather than a one man show.

The first set went too fast! I almost blinked and missed it! It was wonderful to hear so many favourite themes. We were entertained by Gladiator, Czarina Russell sung it so beautifully. The Lion King performed by Lebo M made everyone teary and Tina Guo flicked her hair as much as she did the bow across her cello for the Pirates of the Caribbean medley. The sound was impeccable, not ear tingling as in some concerts, and the lighting was inventful, in the second half of the show it became more akin to a rock concert!

There was a 20 minute interval. We went to stretch our legs before the darker second set began, which was filled with superheroes, inhuman guitar riffs and drums that reverberated through your body.

Even though at times there was a lot of bombast, the quieter moments where Hans Zimmer talked anecdotally about his career were more intimate, even in a big arena space.

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The Dark Knight medley did not disappoint. I sat through it tapping my feet and grinning, much like the Joker. I felt bereft when Interstellar pipped up. I knew that the show was drawing to a close. As the final triumphant bars of Stay vibrated around the arena, Hans Zimmer stood conducting from the front. The note faded and he took a bow as everyone in the audience stood to their feet. Some of us stayed standing knowing that he would come back onto the stage for an encore. I was surprised that quite a few people left before he came back to perform the medley from Inception. ‘Fools,’ I thought as Mombasa lit up the stage like a rave. The night ended with Time. If there was a piece of music that was written to describe the human condition, then Time would be it! Heart-achingly painful and yet so brief. The night ended on the wave of Hans Zimmer’s hand and the audience standing to its feet once again.

There are moments in life when I wish I could push the rewind button and relive the experience again and again. This concert was exactly like that, if I had a fairy godmother I would suggest Manchester! :p However I will just have to make do with watching the videos I took and others like them on YouTube. I hope you enjoy the concert compilation I have mixed below and any feedback is appreciated.

In the future, I look forward to Hans Zimmer’s next installment for the Ron Howard film, Dan Brown’s Inferno. I wonder if it will be just as good as his Da Vinci Code soundtrack?

I will end the post with Hans Zimmer’s own words taken from the concert programme. I found them very profound.

‘Concerts are in real time…I get to be…part of you; and you be a part of me. Only in this very moment does this exist. We’re lucky, in these tumultuous and violent times, to have art and music to lean upon and unite us. At this very moment it is at its most essential. It breaks through the boundaries…and just allows us to be people united in common enjoyment and pleasure for a few precious hours. My hope is that tonight my music speaks to you personally, wherever you are in your unique story.’

© 2016 Christine Lucas.

Up Before the Lark.

Knowing that David had Thursday off work, I had high hopes that we would have another great outdoors adventure! David was in agreement, however he pinned his hopes on seeing the sunrise hit the mountains around Haweswater Reservoir, Cumbria, (inspired by Thomas Heaton‘s Youtube post.

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The Rigg and Haweswater

Unfortunately, the bugbear for me was that we live at least two hours drive from Cumbria and the sunrise on Thursday being at 7.11am, meant that I had to get up at 4am!! I’m a terrible sleeper at the best of times, so I knew this plan would seriously upset my circadian rhythm.

Despite this hiccup, I longed to get out of the house and breathe the free air again! So I agreed. The alarm clock sounded at 4am and I crawled out of bed after a fitful sleep, for breakfast and to get dressed.

By 5am, the car had been packed and so we hit the road.

It took us just over two hours to get to Haweswater Reservoir. We parked up with the first rays of dawn touching the tops of the mountains. We scurried up Swinside Common in the hope of catching the moon above Kidsty Pike, but alas we failed and only had sore calves to show for our climb.

We spent over an hour taking hundreds of pictures in -7° temperatures.

With it being just after 8am, we drove to Derwentwater for a two hour leisurely walk along the banks of the lake, with Blencathra (Saddleback) looking resplendent in the winter sunshine. We took the route to the lake via Kewsick and took the road towards Portinscale then on towards the Adventure Centre. There is free parking but this can get very busy.

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Derwentwater is fast becoming my second favourite lake in Cumbria. The lakeside was so tranquil, it healed my soul. I thoroughly enjoyed the walk.  I got covered in mud on the return journey but it was worth it as I even had a go of a swing tied to a tree by Hawes End Jetty. The Jetty can be found by taking a path through woodland as you walk towards the Adventure Centre.

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There were many ducks and geese quietly drifting on the lake. The woodland walk was graced with the drumming of woodpeckers and the cackle of blue tits. On our journey back to the car David spied a pheasant feather lying on the ground, so I took it as a memento of our lovely day.

I am busily planning the next adventure. Do you have any suggestions of where to go?

Christine x

Rhosydd Slate Quarry at Cwmorthin

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Christine at Cwimorthin Quarry, photo by David Evans

Friday, David had planned a day off work. We had intended on visiting the Lake District but the Metoffice‘s weather prediction was as usual, rain…

So after hours of trawling the internet, David discovered an old, abandoned slate mine in North Wales. With the weather forecast looking grim we decided it would add to the desolate atmosphere of the quarry and it’s buildings.

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Rhosydd barracks

So as Friday dawned we prepared for our journey. It took just over two hours to travel from Liverpool, through the Wirral towards Queensferry and onto the A55 towards Conwy. From there we took the winding A470 south towards Betws-y-Coed and then towards Blaenau Ffestiniog and the village of Tanygrisiau, (please don’t ask me to pronounce them!)

980px-BlaenauFfestiniogMap

Visiting Tanygrisiau, whose Welsh name means ‘below the steps,’ you can’t help but notice it’s past industry in slate mining. There are many towering ‘mountains’ made of slate in the area. The village, before the industry ended had three major quarries which traded black slate across the world. The village has an exhibition mine, Llechwedd Slate Caverns which hold underground tours.

With all the unseasonal rain we are having here in the UK, Tanygrisiau to me looked like a land of waterfalls. Everywhere you looked there was a raging waterfall booming!

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Cwmorthin Waterfall

We parked the car just before the Cwmorthin Waterfall and it’s viewing platform. There is a gate saying no unauthorised vehicles and to keep to the footpath. A kindly shepherd later on informed David that if we visited again to park our car at the cafe for safety. We photographed the Waterfall first which was through a gate to the left of the main footpath.

Then we followed the waterlogged path along Llyn Cwmorthin towards the ruin of Rhosydd’s Methodist chapel.

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From there we followed the steady incline towards more ruins and past another waterfall.

20160122_133255The mist closed in around us and doggedly we continued to tread on broken rocks and slate towards the top. Luckily for us the rain held off and the only bugbear was the squalling wind. The path seemed to go on and on, but as we took the drop down, the vista opened out and there standing before us, enshrouded in cloud were the skeletal remains of the houses of industry of Rhosydd Quarry.

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The low cloud drifted in on the wind which made visibility poor, though it did indeed add to the desolate mood of the area. The ground was soft underfoot but on a dry summers day I am sure there would be more exploring to do.

Our little walk took us around two hours! I think I held David up somewhat with my lack of walking clothes. However, I persevered and my feet didn’t get too wet. We both look forward to visiting the area again in the future and maybe spend more time searching the ruins.

Have you been on any unusual walks?

Christine x

© 2016. All photographs by Christine Lucas except where mentioned.

Islands at Chester Zoo

On Saturday David and I headed towards Chester Zoo for our pre-booked members preview of their new ‘most ambitious’ development, Islands.

Chester Zoo. Islands

Chester Zoo. Islands

The premise of the new enclosures, of six South East Asian Islands, is for them to be an immersive exhibition where the visitor is to be the ‘intrepid explorer!’ The project has taken over five years and cost in the region of £40 million! It is the ‘biggest’ development in the history of UK zoos! It opens to the public on the 13th July 2015 but I think that is slightly premature as there are still building works going on, a few of the Islands are not completed and only the Visayan Warty Pigs are in their enclosures. The Sumatran Tigers and Orang-utan’s have yet to be relocated!

I thought that the opportunity for members to see the new development before it opens to the public was a nice gesture on behalf of the zoo. It was an opportunity I jumped at, though I was a little trepid on finding out that not all of the animals were in their enclosures and that the Biome – Monsoon Forest was not open.

Our allocated time was 11am. With ticket in hand David and I headed for the queue at the entrance of the new development. There was an excited buzz in the air from the other zoo guests.

The adventure begins!

The adventure begins!

The sun shone down and I regretted bringing my jacket and not having sun screen on! The Islands that are open to the public in this first phase are: Panay, Bali, Papua, Sumba and Sulawesi as well as the Lazy Boat Ride. 😀

The first Island you encounter on your exhibition, is Panay with its white Coral Sands! It is based on a real island in the Philippines.

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The vegetation changes as you enter Bali.

Bali

Bali

The Island of Sumba is where you catch the Lazy River Boat Ride. It can be a very long wait on busy days, but we only queued for about 5-10 minutes! They despatch two boats at a time each carrying up to 17 explorers! David and I hopped into one and enjoyed the leisurely cruise. For me it was the most enjoyable part of the experience! It will be even better once the project is complete and the animals are happy in their new homes! For now we enjoyed the warmth of the sun, drifted past the Visayan Warty Pigs and watched as the new enclosures and exhibits were being developed.

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Our preview lasted just over half an hour. Some people stopped off at Sulawesi and lunched at Manado Town. I was really energised by the experience and look forward to visiting again once the project is fully completed. It will be a shame that by that time our membership will have run out by then!


Afterwards we had lunch at the Red Pandas, two of whom came out for bamboo.

Male Red Panda

Male Red Panda

We went to visit the Giant Otters but because there were too many people at the enclosure we decided to leave them for another day. I haven’t been to the zoo for a while and forgot how busy of a summer it can get!

We enjoyed seeing lots of baby’s. One was of a Spectacled Owl chick who was bigger than its parents and Red Breasted Geese chicks. We also saw the recent Giraffe calf and the Onager foals. The pictures below were taken by David!

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Even the two baby Asian Elephants were kidding about in the mud!

I always love going to Chester Zoo, even if we only stay a few hours we always get to see something new! I will be sad when our membership runs out, perhaps I can bend David’s arm and renew again soon? :p

30 Days Wild…Week Four.

As I embark on the last week of The Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild, it becomes important more than ever, to continue to value and respect the wildlife that is around us.

Monday:

I find it difficult to enjoy nature while I am out and about going to work. However today I snapped a picture of a flower that was gracing the gates of my employment. I did a quick Google search and found that it was a Rosa canina, or Dog Rose which is a deciduous shrub.

White heart shaped petal flower

White heart shaped petal flower

Tuesday:

James Horner

James Horner

Though not nature orientated, I woke up this morning to the sad news that composer James Horner had died in an aeronautics accident. I admired Horner’s music well before Hans Zimmer’s. My first CD of his, was his stunning American Civil War soundtrack to the film Glory!


The weather turned out to be half decent today. In the afternoon I managed to sit out and potter about my garden. The Passion Flower has grown ‘madly’ again and has hundreds (maybe an exaggeration) of buds on it! There are also purple flowers on the Hebe!

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Wednesday:

I decided to follow a suggestion from the 101 ‘wild’ things to do which was to watch a nature webcam. Years ago I used to visit a websi from a farm in Yorkshire, called Marlfield. The website is called Lambwatch. (It’s best viewed on IE.) I checked it out today and found that they not only have one webcam pointed at a field, which during spring is filled with lambs, but have three others! One of which was a webcam in a Swallows nest. Knowing I love Swallows I spent a good hour watching the brood of about 4 growing baby Swallows.

I wonder if the visiting Swallows near me will also be feeding a brood of similar size? I shall have to wait until they fledge, it was mind July last year! I shall keep my eyes towards the sky!

Thursday: – Norwich… ‘a fine city!’ (Indeed!)

Thursday was the beginning of our night away to Norwich to see the Go Go Dragons street art exhibition! Mum kindly looked after Artie while we were gone the night.

It was not the first time we have gone on a hunt for dragons. The first was in 2010 in Newport!

Newport dragon 2010

Newport dragon 2010

We set off on the M62 around 9am. I didn’t see much nature along the motorways, save for a few silhouettes of Buzzards and Kestrels hunting and along the A11 there was a field full of purple and white foxgloves!

We got to Norwich by 1.30pm and spent the next two hours walking around the city streets. The weather was very humid and come the evening the sun shone through heavy laden clouds.

We first visited Norwich two years ago when we popped in, on our way to Colchester, to see their Go Go Gorillas trail.

Go Go Gorilla - Optimus Prime

Go Go Gorilla – Optimus Prime

I was impressed by the artistic talent, so much so that come news that dragons were going to grace the city’s streets I had to pay them a visit!

The dragons I think even surpassed the gorillas! Here are just a few from the first day!

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With tired feet we made our way to the B&B for the night. We stayed at the same B&B, 175 Newmarket Road, and incidentally the same room as two years ago!

175 Newmarket Road, Norwich

175 Newmarket Road, Norwich

For the evening’s meal we went to The Merchant’s of Spice, curry house north of the River Wensum. David ordered Chicken Tikka Pasanda, which was flavoursome while I had the Vegetable Karahi which was filled with peppers, green beans and new potatoes. The naan was nice though was drizzled with a lot of butter! The atmosphere of the restaurant was luxurious and the ambient music was not overpowering. The service was efficient and they cleaned unused plates and cutlery swiftly. At the end of the meal we were once again handed orange soaked hot towels to wipe our hands, always a plus in my book! 😀

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Friday:

We had breakfast early on Friday so we could leave the B&B and head into Norwich before 9am! While we were packing I noticed a colourful Jay amongst the tree canopy around the house. It moved too quickly for me to get a picture so one of David’s taken on a day trip to Yorkshire Wildlife Park will have to do!

Jay

Jay

I must comment that Norwich has fully embraced planting for wildlife and on most of their roundabouts and along the sides of dual carriageways there is an abundance of wild flowers!

We spent the next four hours walking the city’s streets with map in hand! The positive of following a trail map is that you get to see parts of the city you wouldn’t necessarily see! There are some lovely churches and narrow tudor-esque streets in Norwich. However the north of the city is a bit derelict, like many towns. We found ourselves in a part of the city that was covered in graffiti! We did not feel safe! So we hurried back south towards the river.

We saw 31 dragons on the Thursday and the Friday we saw a total of 32! So we saw 63 out of the 84 dragons on the streets, though we did see several more but could not take photos!

Here are some of my favourite dragons from Friday’s hunt!

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Even though we never got to see the whole 84 dragons, I found following the trail map more satisfying than going to see them all in one place which we did last year when we went to Aberdeen to see ‘all’ the dolphins!

Wild Dolphins

Wild Dolphins

Here’s a selection of some of the art work found on the dragons and of David and myself posing with our favourites! 😀

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After lunch at around 1.30pm we said goodbye to Norwich and set off on our journey home, and what a ‘long’ journey home it turned out to be! Instead of the 4.5 hours it should have took us, our journey lasted over 7 hours! Arriving home around 9pm!

There was news of the M6 being shut around junction 16 and then the A14 was at a snails pace. There was nothing to do but to try and stay cheery, listen to the radio and try to keep hydrated and well fed. We took regular breaks. We tried to get the sat-nav to navigate around the blocked part of the M6 but it wanted us to go further afield into Wales, so we decided to see what was in store for us on the motorway!

We paid the £5.50 to go on the M6 toll and the first junction was at a stand still. I thought that it was a waste of money but once we past the first junction it was smooth travelling until the M6 toll merged into the M6. Then the travelling was in fits and starts, so much so that I got a migraine with the stress. I thought we would never get home and my phone decided to die! We stopped off at Keele Services and had a fast food dinner! It was not what I had planned. I had planned something more healthy, after the curry the night before, but there was nothing to be done. So a Burger King it was. I had a vegi wrap while David had a chicken sandwich and chips. I also had a Costa coffee which, with the Zomig I had taken, helped ease the migraine!

For the next two hours, though fuelled, we continued on our slow journey home. To break the monotony David said I should take some pictures of the Cheshire countryside.

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On our arrival home, we were welcomed by a familiar sight. Artie looking out of the window at us!

Artie welcoming us home

Artie welcoming us home

Saturday:

Back home to ‘normality!’ I found that the Passion Flower had started to bloom! There was one sitting proud for all to see! I look forward to many more budding!

Passion Flower

Passion Flower

For Saturday’s dinner I made a healthy Roasted Pepper and Bean soup.

Ingredients:

  1. Two pointed peppers sliced in half
  2. One red onion sliced in quarters
  3. Two garlic cloves
  4. One chilli chopped
  5. 500ml of reduced vegetable stock
  6. Tin of choppd tomatoes
  7. Tin of cannellini beans
  8. Pepper to season
  9. Serve with wholemeal bread

Method:

  1. Put peppers, onion and garlic on a roasting tin and roast for 20 mins on oven 200°/gas mark 6
  2. Chop the chilli
  3. In pan put in stock, chilli, tomatoes, and beans and warm to simmering
  4. Once skin is blackened on peppers take out of oven, strip and chop
  5. Return chopped, peppers, onion and garlic into pan
  6. Season with pepper
  7. Cook for 20 minutes

I served the soup with Wholemeal granary bread that I had made and David had shaped into dogs!

Red Pepper and Bean Soup with Dog shaped Wholemeal bread

Roasted Pepper and Bean Soup with Dog shaped Wholemeal bread

Sunday:

I spent today’s lunch with our finches. We let them fly around the living room at weekends. Here’s a selfie I took with Chocolate our Bengalese Finch, she was getting very close to me!

Chocolate and Christine

Chocolate and Christine

More webcams! This time from Paradise Park in Cornwall. They are streaming a webcam from their Red Panda den. Their female panda has had cubs. You can view the webcam here: http://paradisepark.org.uk/events-and-news/webcams/

I think I am going to have to attempt to separate the Borage seedlings either today or sometime during next week! Look how much they have grown in a month!

Borage seedlings

Borage seedlings

There are only two more day’s of June and 30 Days Wild, but I will continue to admire the nature that is around me in the coming weeks/months. Will the Borage and Teasel seedlings bloom? How many Passion Flowers will I get? Will I see any fledgling Swallows? Only time will tell!

30 Days Wild… Week Two

As I guessed rightly this week’s nature sightings were not as abundant as last week.

Monday and Tuesday were filled with travelling to and from work and the bit in-between. I am not enjoying work at present, I am feeling rather undervalued and the travelling tires me out. I really need a holiday!

While at home, I did manage to take some pictures of David’s rockery plants!

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Wednesday:

The weather changed for the better and it was a happy return to bright sunshine and warmth. After work, David, Artie and I sat in the back garden for an hour and soaked up the sun. The garden was filled with the sound of bees happily enjoying the ‘wild’ growing Siberian Bellflowers and Cat Mint. Even the small Golden Mint Moth made a glad return.

Siberian Bellflower

While potting some Poppy seedlings into bigger pots I noticed a Small White butterfly flutter by. That is the first butterfly I have seen in my area! We tend not to get too many butterflies with being terraced houses. I look forward to my Buddleia flowering and maybe will get to see more butterflies?

During the evening while calling at my Mum’s I noticed how calm the air was and looked up to wonder at the wispy Cirrus clouds drifting leisurely overhead. I read later from the Met Office website, that Cirrus are high level clouds, some 18,000 to 40,000ft. The name comes from the Latin for lock of hair. The clouds are part of a warm front, though looking at the Met Office’s prediction for the weekend, it looks like the warm spell is going to be (yet again) short lived. 😦

Example of Cirrus

Example of Cirrus taken from science-edu.larc.nasa.gov

At 10pm the results of the vote for Britain’s national bird were announced. It was not really much of a surprise as the gardener’s friend, the Robin took first place with 34% of the vote! The Barn Owl (12%) was second and my favourite the Blackbird (11%) came third. The Blue Tit came in at a lowly 8th position.

Britain’s National Bird results

  • Robin 34% (75,623)
  • Barn owl 12% (26,191)
  • Blackbird 11% (25,369)
  • Wren 9% (19,609)
  • Red kite 6% (14,057)
  • Kingfisher 6% (13,922)
  • Mute swan 6% (13,480)
  • Blue tit 6% (13,123)
  • Hen harrier 5% (12,390)
  • Puffin 5% (10,674)

Thursday:

It was yet another scorcher of a day in the NW of England. I rushed home from work to enjoy my garden. The garden is a bit of a sun trap so as I reclined under the sun’s rays I listened to the Goldfinches visiting my Mum’s garden and I smiled at the comical begging of their young. I have still yet to get good footage of the baby Goldfinches this year, so a clip from a previous year will have to do.

I was grateful to see that the Swallows were in full force today. I watched in awe as they swooped between the rows of houses chasing bees. They were that close you could see the blue sheen on the Swallow’s body. They are beautiful creatures and quickly becoming one of my favourites.

Later, David (who had been snapping pictures of bees) and I enjoyed our dinner al fresco! It was nice to relax with the setting sun and to feel the calmness of evening after a hectic day!

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For dinner I attempted to make a Turmeric and Lentil Soup as seen on Deliciously Ella’s webpage. I followed the recipe to the letter however it will not be a soup I will make again. I think it had too much mixed herbs in the recipe and ended up tasting very earthy. It was much like taking a mouthful of soil! However, I did enjoy the preparation of the cannellini beans and button mushrooms in spices such as turmeric, cumin and mustard seeds.

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

You can obtain the recipe and method here: http://deliciouslyella.com/turmeric-and-lentil-soup/?fb_ref=Default

Friday:

The morning started off brightly but the weather soon changed to a dreary, heavy day. Alas there was not much ‘wildness’ going on! Yesterday David brought home from work a play tunnel for Artie. It’s huge but Artie seems to like it! Here he is in his ‘cube’. 🙂

Artie in his play tunnel

Artie in his play tunnel

Saturday:

The rain that the Met Office predicted did not arrive. 😦 I was a bit peeved as I had wanted to (if the weather was fair) taken a drive to Lancashire to follow the Pendle Sculpture Trail, however, the day trip will have to do for another day. I ended up staying at home and after shopping, did some house work before spending two hours in the garden. The weather was overcast but the cloud broke occasionally and the sun briefly would peak through. The temperature was mild and so I planted my Foxglove seedlings into bigger pots (I hope they survive!) while keeping an eye on Artie as he stalked flies and enjoyed the outside space. I am quite blessed that he does not look to climb onto the wall.

Artie smelling the chives!

Artie smelling the chives!

I spent a good time trying to photograph the bees visiting the garden and noticed some Tree and Garden Bumblebees, (there were also many Red Mason Bees!) I also snapped a Cinnabar Moth resting on the Salvia and a Harlequin Ladybird, though they are an invasive species it was fun watching the little fella fly about the garden plants!

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As Artie and I were in the garden for a long time, the poor birds could not come in and taste the seed on offer. We have up to three House Sparrows visiting the feeders, (they have adapted to feed from the hanging feeders), though they were thwarted this afternoon! They sat on the roof and called angrily for me to leave the garden, as too did the numerous charms of Goldfinches! A poor confused baby Goldfinch even landed on the back door and chirruped before spotting me and flying away! Poor thing!

Every now and then the calls of the Swallows filled the air and they would dart acrobatically through the air! At one stage a Magpie swooped past the garden and beneath it the body of a Swallow! It energised me seeing their flight! 🙂

Around 4pm it grew cooler, the wind picked up and so I took myself and Artie back indoors. It was good timing as I had to prepare for the evenings dinner!

I planned to make a Roasted Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto. I wanted to make something ‘healthy,’ and pearl barley is a wonder food! It is helpful in lowering cholesterol, protecting against heart disease and diabetes! I couldn’t find one concise recipe for what I had imagined, so I made my own! Once cooked however it needed a few tweaks, which the recipe below has! I at first used sweet potato which in additional to the other ingredients seemed too much, so I have reduced the amounts!

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Serves 4.

Risotto:

  • One onion chopped
  • Two cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • 250g Pearl barley
  • 1.5 litre of reduced salt vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to season

Add the onion, chilli (if using) and garlic into a pan and sauté. (I put in the onion and then chilli and cooked for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic as it tends to burn easily.) Then add the barley and stock in increments until all soaked up! (I put in half a litre at a time until the barley was cooked!) Cooking could take up to 40 minutes so leave plenty of time, no need to rush! Salt and pepper to season.

Once the barley is cooking turn your interest to the vegetables.

Roasted Vegetables:

  • Two peppers (any colour), de-seeded and cut into strips
  • One small carrot, peeled and chopped
  • One small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes halved
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • Salt to season
  • (You can chose your own type of vegetables to roast, the above is just a suggestion!)

Place the chopped vegetables in a roasting tray, drizzle some olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and cayenne (if using). (I got my hands in and covered the vegetables with the seasoning.)

Then on an oven, 200°/gas mark 6 setting, roast vegetables for 20 – 30 minutes.

Serve barley on a bed of wilted spinach and place the roasted vegetables on top! (I also quickly fried some chopped button mushrooms and added to the roasted vegetable topping.

Enjoy!

Sunday:

Another overcast day. A day that David say’s is a ‘headache’ kind of day! The usual suspects visited the garden feeders today and below is David’s footage of baby Goldfinches being fed by it’s parent!

I wonder what ‘wild’ things I will see or get up to in the following week? Bring on week three!