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

30 Days Wild 2021 – Day Seven.

07Day 7: A new series for 30 Days Wild 2021, Mindful Mondays, were we take time out of our busy days and slow down, breathe and experience nature each sense at a time. 

Today’s theme for Mindful Monday is to visit a wild place. Over the weekend I decided to visit the RSPB’s Burton Mere on the Wirral. Since David has a new camera he let me take out his old Nikon. It was my first time using a SLR so some of my photos weren’t great but I did get some decent shots of a shelduck, reed warbler and black headed gull chicks. There was a strange gurgling sound from trees high up in the canopy and a host of spoonbills were sunning themselves there. They are curious birds and were getting a lot of attention from the visitors that day.

During our visit we had a fly by from a secretive bittern but both David and I were too slow to photograph this enigmatic bird. 

While walking the boardwalks there were many bees buzzing around and small white butterflies fed on green alkanet, which is a very popular plant for insects. The sound of warblers punctured the sun baked air with their shrill calls and squabbles between coots and moorhens were abundant. 

We only spent a couple of hours at the reserve, but we see something different each time we visit.

What’s your favourite nature reserve near you?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine xx

My Bird Count for RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021!

This weekend was the highly anticipated RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I have been participating in this annual event for the past nine years and 2021 was no different. During the last weekend in January, you are encouraged to sit with a hot cup of coffee and count the visiting birds for this all important citizen science project. This year I had David alongside me, taking fantastic photos of the wonderful array of feathered friends we have visiting our yarden.

I suppose not many people can say a herring gull was part of their count, but Steven saw me sitting by the window and he flew to our wall looking for kitchen scraps, so obviously he had to be the first bird to be counted. We did our count on Saturday, 30th January 2021, 11 am to 12 noon. The weather was windy and drizzly, with a temperature of around 5°. It was a very damp, grey, overcast day which made for counting birds pretty easy. Through the hour, (and all day in fact) the feeders were visited frequently by swathes of hungry birds.

Steven wasn’t the only celebrity that featured during our one hour count. Hoppy the pigeon who, five years ago we rehabilitated after having string wrapped around her feet, decided to help herself to the feeders and frightened the goldfinches away in the process.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch Results 2021

During the hour we counted 11 goldfinches, (a smaller charm than usual), a brave blue tit, four squabbling starlings, an unassuming dunnock (my favourite garden bird) and of course 10+ pigeons gobbling up the food dropped by the others. Six species in total. Perhaps not as many species for other gardens but for an inner city walled yard, I’d say that was a good tally.

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 has now ended but it doesn’t stop me looking ahead to next year. Who knows what 2022’s count will look like, it could have the likes of such feathered visitors as the sparrowhawk, chaffinch, robin, house sparrow, chiffchaff, yellow wagtail and blackbird, all species who have visited the yarden in the past.

How did your RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2021 go? What birds did you see?

Thanks for popping by,

Christine xx

A Perfect Day

It’s a sad day today.

I live in a region of England that has been put under stricter Covid-19 restrictions, meaning that only travel from the region is for work and not recreation.

Thankfully, on Tuesday David had a day off work and we managed to escape to The Lake District for a day out. We brought our gentle giant of a border collie, Riley along with us.

The day started before the sunrise. We drove for 2.5 hours up the M6, taking a stop at Lancaster services for a comfort break. The destination of the day was Buttermere. As we drove past the neighbouring lake Crummock Water, David stopped at a lay-by. The surface of the water was so still it was like a mirror. We got out of the car and headed towards the peaceful, quiet shores of Crummock Water. David got Buzz, his drone out and I ran around with Riley.

The village of Buttermere is much busier. The National Trust car park fills up quickly but luckily there were still a few parking spaces left on our arrival. We paid £6 for four hours, you could pay with coins or by card. We donned our walking boots and rucksacks before taking the short walk towards the lake.

Like Crummock, the water of Buttermere was perfectly still. In all my visits to the lake I’ve never seen it so calm. The sun had burned off the remaining mist and a warm day was ahead of us. It was a very surprising day weather wise. I’d planned on it being a cool autumnal day but in reality there was no wind, the sun was warm and it felt like another last gasp from summer. It was a perfect day!

Following many other people, we took the northern path which passes the lone tree and has wonderful views of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks. We made camp (Camp Riley) at a wide pebbly beach. Before we had lunch, I was going to have a swim, with the hope that Riley would come into the water with me. However the shore sloped steeply into the water and Riley was a little tentative. Not wanting to frighten him, I left him on the shore with David, who had taken Buzz into the air once again, to the amusement of passers-by.

The water was glorious! It wasn’t as cold as I’d expected. Indeed I’d swam in Buttermere previously when the water was much colder! You can read that post, here. I swam for about 15 minutes, but I could have stayed in for longer. It was so lovely. However Riley was getting stressed that he couldn’t reach one of his humans, so I waded out so he could run me around the shoreline in my swimsuit. The sun was so warm I didn’t even get cold nor have difficulty getting dressed, which is a novelty.

Once we had picnicked, we packed up and headed slowly back to the car. It had been a beautiful day. Riley seemed to have enjoyed himself and I’d got a swim in one of my favourite lakes. It’s a day I shall remember and smile at for a very long time.

Have you ever had a perfect day out?

Thanks for your support,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2019 – Day One.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_01Day 1: Though summer may have begun for some parts of the UK, in the NW of England the day dawned overcast with metallic grey skies and later on drizzle.

I’d been busy planning my 30 Days Wild, an initiative by The Wildlife Trusts’ when an event to Meet the Moths at RSPB Leighton Moss was advertised, it was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

David and I spent an hour with the moths of Leighton Moss. The volunteers gave detailed information on these wonderful and diverse pollinators, and opened three moth traps.  Some of the moths displayed was the buff-tip, a camouflage expert, and the striking peppered moth. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I finally got to meet a hawk moth! Afterwards we leisurely walked the trails while listening to willow warblers in the reed beds and watching swifts flit overhead. From the Tim Jackson hide we got a fantastic view of the marsh harrier!

What a wonderful start to my 30 Days Wild!

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #53

Last week I wanted to participate in either a Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins or the monthly #photoanhour organised by Louisa and Jane. However I ended up doing neither. So for this week I have decided to try and gather pictures and gossip for another Sunday Sevens.

Guest:

Last weekend David and I had our first guest staying at no. 49! My online friend Jennifer, who was touring Europe, decided to free up a weekend to visit myself and Liverpool. On her two nights stay with us, she met Riley whom she is a big fan of and took in the sights of the city. It was a fun weekend!

Beatrix Potter 50ps:

In the past couple of weeks I have been successful in obtaining not one, but two 2017 Beatrix Potter 50p’s. Mr. Jeremy Fisher and Tom Kitten have joined my collection.

coins

From 2016’s collection all I need is Jemima Puddle Duck. In 2017’s collection I require Benjamin Bunny. I have just discovered that in 2018 there is another collection of 50p’s produced, featuring yet another Peter Rabbit, Flopsy Bunny, The Taylor of Gloucester, and Mrs Tittlemouse. I wonder if I will find any of them?

Have you collected any of these 50p’s?

championBook I am reading:

At present I am reading How to be a Champion by Sarah Millican. It was on offer on Amazon Kindle for .99p so I could not say no. I’m not au fait with autobiographies, but I can imagine the narrative to be spoken in Sarah Millican’s quirky voice. I can’t say that I’m enjoying the narrative style much. Though being of the same age, I’m finding many parallels with my youth. I can only read further and see where the text progresses.

Have you read this autobiography? What were your thoughts?

Bee in the City:

On Wednesday David and I had a day off work, so we decided to pop over to Manchester and see a few of their bees. We spent two hours walking the trail and spotting 28 bees. There are over 100 to see!

#walk1000miles:

certificate 2018Though I have already accomplished 1000 miles. I am still accumulating my mileage for 2018. This week I have managed a reasonable 30 miles, bringing my annual total to (all the ones), 1,111 miles. I am eagerly awaiting the production of the 2018 medals, so I can add it to my certificate.

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Dodd Wood

With the British weather still not warming up for skins swimming (well for me at least). I forsook a swim and headed instead for a walk with David to Dodd Wood.

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View from Dodd

Dodd Wood, managed by the Forestry Commission, is a fell that overlooks Bassenthwaite Lake. It is part of the Skiddaw range and has an elevation of 502m. It is 50m higher than Catbells and without the scramble to the top!

After an early start, we arrived at the pay and display car park at 10am and promptly paid the £6.30 for all day parking. There is a cafe and toilets on site, and the forest was already busy with walkers and families.

To start our walk, we headed for the lower Osprey viewpoint. Since 2001, Ospreys have been breeding in the area, after travelling from Africa.

Osprey Viewpoint

Lower Osprey Viewpoint

There are two viewpoints at Dodd Wood both equipped with long range telescopes and friendly volunteers. There is also an online webcam where you can view life in an Osprey nest. At the time of visiting the female was incubating three eggs. We didn’t see either Osprey. At the lower viewpoint there are feeding stations for woodland birds such as Jays and Coal Tits. There are even visiting Red Squirrels but when we were there they never showed.

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Woodland Bird Feast

From the second viewpoint David and I walked through an overgrown path that joined up with the way-marked (in green) Dodd Summit route. We took our lunch overlooking Derwentwater before heading up to the summit.

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Viewpoint selfie

The summit had fantastic views overlooking Derwentwater, Bassenthwaite Lake, Skiddaw and towards The Solway Firth, though it was a bit cold and windy on this cloudy April day!

On our way back down towards the car park, we walked along a woodland path with grassy embankments. From one such embankment came the chirrup of birds. At first glance we couldn’t see anything, but then David lifted his camera and pointed to a small round hole in among the moss. There were three open mouths awaiting their parent.

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Nestlings by David Evans

We walked a total of 4 miles, but it sure felt longer! After a coffee, we headed back on the road towards home. We’d had a tiring yet enjoyable day!

Have you visited Dodd Wood? What are your favourite woodlands in the UK?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #5

Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines messaged me on Friday informing me that this Saturday was another Photo an Hour. Though I had nothing planned, I thought it would be good for you to see into an ordinary day of mine. So here goes! 🙂

Photo and Hour – 22nd April 2017

8am to 10am:

Most of my Saturday’s start at 8am. Today was no different. I crawled out of bed sleepy eyed and had breakfast with Artie sitting at the bottom of the bed, with wonderful spring sunshine streaming through the bedroom window.

After breakfast I got dressed and put my ‘face’ on for the day ahead.

10am to 11am:

Saturday is shopping day, so David, mum and I headed towards Asda, or in Liverpool it’s ‘the’ Asda! :p The alarm for the hour sounded when we were heading into the frozen section of the supermarket, so we turned and smiled for the camera! Cheese!!

10 to 11

11am to 1pm:

Since the sun was shining, (though it was cold), David and I decided to take Riley to another local park, Sefton Park. We walked around the boating lake and played fetch on a field full of daisies and dandelions. 🙂

1pm to 2pm:

We arrived home for lunch at 1pm. I sat down with a Tassimo Costa coffee, the last of the hot cross buns and the final chapters of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

2pm to 3pm:

While I took to doing some housework, David started preparing the ingredients for his curry base. He’s cooking Sunday’s dinner, so I left him to it! 😀

3pm to 5pm:

While dinner cooked I pottered about the yarden. I enjoyed listening to the buzz of two bees visiting the lithodora and red campion. Both were hairy-footed flower bee’sthe cream one is a male and the black is a female.

5pm to 7pm:

Saturday’s dinner was a Quorn Sausage and Lentil Cassoulet. I adapted the recipe from Donal Skehan. I used red lentils instead of puy lentils, perhaps I should have used green? Halfway through the meal I gasped, ‘I’ve forgotten to take a photo.’ So I apologise for the half eaten picture of the meal.

6pm’s photo comes courtesy of David. I was upstairs doing something or other. When I came down, David said, ‘there’s a new picture taken for the hour.’ I scrolled through the gallery and there was a picture of Artie, David had taken. Though Artie doesn’t look that enamoured :p

7pm to 8pm:

My last photo of the day. With the sun setting, I pour myself a glass of pinot, David switches his PS4 on. An evening of Classic FM and reading is ahead.

7 to 8

Evening’s entertainment

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend today’s photo an hour?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Scenes from the Lake District. (Ennerdale Water, Buttermere and Derwent Water.)

A rather uninspiring, grey day dawned for our last, full day in the Lake District. After breakfasting on fruit salad filled with mango and blueberries, David and I headed towards Ennerdale Water.

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Ennerdale Water and Angler’s Crag

Ennerdale Water is only 40 minutes drive from Braithwaite. You may have guessed that the week’s itinerary of lakes have been selected solely because swimming is prohibited, due to them being reservoirs! I just had to put up with walking around them instead! (I can’t wait for the weather to warm up so I can take up my swim/walks again!)

We parked the car at the ample (and free) Bowness Knott car park. We visited this spot on our last break to the Lakes, due to Ennerdale being a dark sky area.

The planned walk was the Smithy Beck Trail. It’s low lying (so easy on creaking joints) and takes in a woodland walk as well as lakeside.

We took the woodland path first, and marveled at the great towering Scots Pine trees. We gasped as we saw fleetingly, a red squirrel and then later on a tree creeper. David wished he had brought his big lens, maybe next time!

The path (which was very muddy), took us to the bridge over Smithy Beck Falls where David and I played Pooh Sticks. There was no clear winner. From there, the path meandered towards the lakeside. We picnicked on a bench overlooking Pillar, Steeple and Scoat Fell.

After lunch we decided to head towards Buttermere (another 40 minute drive) and visit the much photographed lone tree. On our last visit, the permissive path had been closed due to nesting sandpipers!

Instead of finding a free lay-by in which to park the car, we headed to the National Trust car park by the Fish Inn, and paid the steep £3.50 for two hours! I didn’t mind as I see it as giving a little back to the region that has kept us entertained with beautiful vistas, walking and swimming.

We spent a good hour at the lakeside of Buttermere, taking dozens of photographs. However, much like the day before the weather turned blustery and drizzly. Chilled to the bone by the wind that whipped over the lake, David and I headed back to the car.

‘I can’t visit Buttermere without seeing Derwent Water!’ I cried. So David fired up the engine and we headed towards Keswick and the Theatre by the Lake parking. (One day I will see a play at the theatre!)

The journey to Keswick (around 30 minutes) took in the mountain pass, Honister, much to David’s consternation. Touted as one of the best mountain drives in the UK. At it’s summit it climbs to a dizzy 356 metres, with a 1 in 4 gradient. The rugged scenery was impressive and we luckily had the winding road to ourselves, as David crunched the clutch into 1st gear. It was times like this that I wished we had a drone!

In Keswick, we paid the £3.00 for two hours parking and walked towards the lakeside. The weather had made a turn for the worse. Heavy clouds obstructed much of the scenery. We made our way towards Friar’s Crag and took pictures along the way. How different out first visit here in October had been!

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Derwent Water

We decided to call our sightseeing a day and headed back towards our B&B, Hermiston in Braithwaite. On arrival Phil and Helen offered more tea, coffee and cake which we received gratefully. We changed from our mud caked clothes and warmed up before heading back to Keswick for our last meal of the holiday.

We had a table booked at the Lakes Bar and Bistro for 5.30pm. We had looked at the menu online earlier and liked a few of the options. On arrival we were asked to chose any table as the place seemed ‘dead.’ I’ve read that when a restaurant is quiet it could be because the establishment is not very good. A little worry crossed my mind. However the meals we were served, though took about 20-30 minutes to come to the table was enjoyable.

David ordered a chicken, ham and leek pie with vegetables, while I opted for the vegetarian goat’s cheese pizza. The pizza made for a very filling meal. I was stuffed after a few slices! David liked his pie but not the butter coated chips. The service was friendly and the food warming, so there were no complaints from us.

We returned to the B&B to enjoy one last shower and recharge our batteries, before our journey home the next day.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

Scenes from the Lake District. (Thirlmere and Castlerigg Stone Circle.)

Breakfast at Hermiston is served between 8am and 9am. As we were the only guests staying with them during this week, we had the entire buffet to ourselves!

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David enjoying the view from the breakfast room

On offer there is a selection of cereals, muesli and gorgeous fruit salad. You can request a cooked breakfast but as David and I are not big morning eaters we stayed with the continental. Phil served us fresh coffee and tea, and as we sat gazing out at the freshly fallen snow on the peaks, we chatted with Phil and Helen about our plans for the day.

I had planned a day around Thirmlere, with a walk up Raven Crag and then a lakeside stroll.

Thirlmere is about 20 minutes drive from Braithwaite. We parked the car in a lay-by opposite the start of the walk, crossed over the road, entered through a gate and began our ascent. It was tough going to start with. We passed another two gates and walked along a path through recently fallen trees, before we walked up steps towards the viewpoint.

From Raven Crag there is unparalleled views of Thirlmere below, and of the snow covered Helvellyn range. We even spotted a Peregrine Falcon flying over the tree tops!

Once we had navigated the route back to the car, we headed further up the road to Armboth car park (and toilets). Parking is free at present due to damage to some of the paths by Storm Desmond last December. We had our packed lunch in the warmth of the car and watched as the weather turned squally.

For the next hour or so we traversed the lakeside path. Some of the going was tough due to boulders blocking the way. Low lying cloud obscured the view and we were soon cold and wet.

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Thirlmere

Deciding that the weather was not going to improve for the rest of the afternoon, we decided to head back to the B&B. On our way we took a whistle stop tour of Castlerigg Stone Circle, just so I could see Blencathra! The snow caps from the morning had melted in the rain!

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Castlerigg Stone Circle and Blencathra

We returned to Hermiston cold and tired. Phil offered us tea and coffee which we gladly accepted and the homemade cake was very restorative. Just what we needed! From the guest lounge we watched as clouds obscured the mountains.

For dinner we planned on popping into Keswick and trying our luck with their only Indian restaurant, Lakeland Spice Cuisine.

They serve evening meals from 5.30pm. We got a table straight away, indeed we were only one of two couples eating at that time. Keswick in March seems to be really quiet, well especially around 5pm! David ordered a chicken tikka masala and I a vegetable balti. David enjoyed his coconut infused meal, while mine at first was tasty but got samey as the meal progressed and there was a lot of oil! A bit more vegetables wouldn’t have gone amiss! I still think the meal we had at India, Kendal a few years back was of better quality.

Fulled by a warming meal, we headed back to the B&B to relax with a film. Hermiston’s guest internet is of a good speed. A full day out in the elements had tired us so we had yet another early night.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x