Goodbye 2017…Hello 2018!

Happy New Year from Christine, David and Artie!

Here’s the annual video of our memorable moments of 2017!

I must say 2017 has been a wonderful year! From joining in #walk1000miles, to seeing Hans Zimmer at the Liverpool Echo Arena. We may have had our sad moments but the happy times more than compensated for them. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Day Wild was indeed wild, with barefoot beach walks and making our first elder-flower champagne. We visited new nature reserves and of course no year would be complete without a wild swim or two.

I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with me!

I wish you good health, wealth and happiness in 2018.

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x

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2017 – A Year in Insects

This post was inspired by reading Grantham Ecology’s post 2017 in Bees. I haven’t seen as many bees this year, so I thought I would post about the other insects I have seen in 2017 too. I hope you enjoy!

I am forever learning about the inhabitants of my yarden. This year I discovered a new insect, it was enjoying the lavender I had planted. It was a spittlebug, or frog hopper, (also known as cuckoo spit). They are identified as garden pests but this little fella didn’t seem to be doing much harm.

I was also excited to see my first seven spotted ladybird this summer. After I saw one I saw a few enjoying the aphids in the yarden.

On our travels David and I saw lots of blue damselflies but none were more striking (not to mention huge), than the golden ringed dragonfly.

I do love spotting butterflies but have not been as successful in photographing them. However the beautiful comma butterfly stayed still enough for me to snap a picture.

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Comma butterfly

We did manage to capture the cycle of caterpillar to chrysalis and then to an adult. Unfortunately our large white butterfly didn’t have a long life as it came out of it’s chrysalis with a deformity.

Though bees weren’t in number in my yarden in 2017 there was quite a lot of diversity in species. I photographed eight different species, from early sightings of tree bumblebees to the spectacular hairy-footed flower bee. Honey bee sightings were down this year but the number of common carder bees were up. They were active right up until the end of October! I’ll end this post with a collage of some of the bees that have visited my yarden in 2017.

Here’s hoping there’ll be more visitors in 2018!

Have a very happy new year!

Christine x

A Year in Photos – 2017

Phew! What a year!

I think 2017 has been a wonderful year for David and I! What an adventure 2017 has truly been! I will think back at all the wonderful places and sights we have seen and feel blessed we were able to share them together! Here’s my twelve pictures that sum up our 2017!

January:

2017 started with an eight mile walk around Coniston. We took a detour to visit Banishead Quarry.

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Banishead Quarry

February:

Not everything was plain sailing in 2017. We suffered five deaths in our aviary. Poor Tarn, a Blue Faced Parrot Finch was one of the hardest to bare.

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Tarn

March:

I treated mum to a special birthday afternoon tea at Liverpool’s Jam restaurant.

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April:

Riley enjoyed many walks with David and I in 2017. None more so than at the beach!

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Which way should we go?

May:

I embarked on my first wild swim of the season! Crummock Water, was choppy, chilly but exhilarating!

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Swimming in Crummock Water

June:

June was all about The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild. Part of the month long celebration we took a trip to Claremont Farm on the Wirral to pick our own strawberries!

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Strawberry picking

July: 

July was a fun filled month. We went wildlife spotting at Mere Sand’s Wood, took a visit to Birmingham’s Big Sleuth and had a two nights stay in the Lakes. A ten mile walk around Beda Fell and Angle Tarn Pikes was exhausting!

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Angle Tarn

August:

Following in much the same vein as July, August seen many more days out. Partaking in my my first Welsh wild swim was simply outstanding!

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Swimming in Llyn Cwellyn

September:

The dawn of autumn saw David and I head towards Morecambe and Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve in search of more wildlife.

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Grey Heron

October:

I surprised myself by completing the #walk1000miles challenge some two months earlier than expected. I completed on the 8th October 2017. 1000 miles + has been walked to date!

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Walk 1000 miles medal!

November:

The only highlight of this dark, dreary month was a theatre visit to The Liverpool Empire to see the 10th Anniversary of War Horse.

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December:

December is again undoubtedly all about Christmas. This year David and I played host to family for Christmas dinner. I have to admit it’s been a very tiring month! Here’s to a more relaxing start to 2018!

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Merry Christmas

I wish you all good health and happiness for the new year ahead! Let’s make 2018 a year to remember!

Thanks for your continued support,

Christine xx

A Christmas Recital

progammeFriday, 15th December I treated my mum and I to a Christmas Recital at the parish church, St Bridget’s. Tickets were £5 per person. The performance was by local soprano Gussie Knopov, accompanied by pianist Per Nielsen. I think the appeal of the evening was due to following Wirral soprano Charlotte Hoather’s blog and also wanting to support local events.

The performance was at 7.30pm. We wrapped up warmly from the cold, with fairy lights flashing from darkened windows, we walked along damp roads towards St Bridget’s. The church was busy with people when we walked in.

Soprano, Gussie Knopov, a former member of the Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir, has trained in Manchester and Edinburgh. In 2016 she started her undergraduate studies at the London, Trinity Laban Conservatoire.

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Gussie Knopov and Per Nielsen

Gussie was accompanied by Per Nielsen, who from his Linkedin page has an impressive CV of working at Archbishop Blanch and Liverpool Hope University. His credits also include studio recordings for National Danish Radio and Radio Three.

The programme featured songs from the stage, among them were My Fair Lady and Jesus Christ Superstar, interjected with Christmas carols such as Ding Dong Merrily on High and Oh Holy Night. I found Gussie’s diction was clearer on the more classical pieces, (showing her training in action), such as the two Schumann love songs and her rendition of Bizet’s Habanera which she chose to do as an encore.

The programme also featured Per Nielsen’s masterful skill on the keyboard. One highlight was his solo performance of Debussy’s The Snow is Dancing from The Children’s Corner. Through Nielsen’s retelling you could imagine snowflakes dancing in the air.

The interval was a bit longer than the 20 minutes billed, but there was refreshments of wine, cordial and cake to make the wait all that more sweeter.

The event was better than I had anticipated and the caliber of both performers was outstanding. Nielsen’s experience was glistening and Gussie has a bright further ahead! All the best to them both!

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Gussie Knopov and Per Nielsen

I’ve not attended events locally before but I would definitely look out for more in future.

Have you attended a similar event?

Thanks for reading,

Merry Christmas!

Christine x

My Wildlife Moments of 2017

It’s with much thanks to the lovely Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines that I’ve complied this post. Sharon wrote about all her wonderful wildlife moments of 2017 and there were many! Which made me think of all the wildlife moments I have seen this year. So without further ado, here’s my wildlife moments of 2017! Enjoy!

Undoubtedly the highlight of the year has to be the sparrowhawk visit. He may have only stayed in the yarden for about 10 minutes but those 10 minutes were ultimately thrilling! There’s nothing like a close encounter with a raptor to make you feel exhilarated! Here’s the video of him again surveying the area.

Another beautiful bird we saw this year was the great crested grebe at Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve near Ormskirk.

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Great Crested Grebe

During our time at Mere Sands Wood we also saw many toads crossing our paths and I learned a new wildflower, self-heal. Looks similar to french lavender.

A walk along the famous Rannerdale bluebells was a peaceful way to spend a Sunday.

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Bluebells at Rannnerdale

At Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve near Crosby, we spotted our first large skipper.

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Large Skipper

Summer’s fruits were abundant at Claremont Farm on the Wirral. David and I spent a wonderful time foraging the sweetest, juiciest strawberries.

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I love summer due to the fact that the swallows come back from their epic journey from South Africa. I loved watching them swoop effortlessly through the air, turning somersaults after insects on the wing.

Our elder-flower champagne, though didn’t stay fizzy for long, was all homemade. I enjoyed foraging and identifying the elders for their flowers.

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Elderflowers

During a visit to Formby Beach with Riley and David we witnessed a spectacular starling murmuration. Not the best picture but I wanted to include it as a wildlife highlight. 🙂

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On our many visits to the Lake District this year, David and I saw many dragonflies. None more magnificent than this golden ringed dragonfly! He was a beast!

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Golden Ringed Dragonfly

Also in the Lake District on a walk around Blea Tarn, I spotted a summer visitor in the shape of a pied flycatcher (well I think it was?) Another poor picture from my phone as David didn’t have his camera at the ready.

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I’ve shared many wild swims with small fish this year. Those at Brother’s Water really liked the silt I dredged up when I entered the lake.

A visit to an apple festival at local nature reserve Gorse Hill was educational. I didn’t know there were so many varieties of British heritage apples. Will definitely have to visit again next autumn!

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On our visit to Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve we were lucky to see this field vole skittering among the reeds in the riverbed.

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Field Vole

No list of wildlife moments would be complete without my favourite garden bird featuring. It has to be the dunnock. We are very fortunate to have this little fellow gracing our yarden. He is a ground feeder so easy prey for stalking cats. I constantly watch him when he visits!

What wildlife moments have you experienced this year? Here’s to many more in 2018!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

SUPERCLEAN™ – But What Does it Mean?

* This post comes courtesy of Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. If you want top quality bird seed and feeders from a British family run business, then Haith’s has all the products your garden birds need!*

So, you’ve decided to start feeding the birds visiting your outdoor space, (be it a garden, yard or balcony), and that’s a good thing. But there’s so many different types of bird food that you don’t know where to begin!

There’s seed for finches, soft food for robins, peanuts for tits and suet for starlings! The choice can make your head spin!

But did you also know there’s different qualities of food too? There’s the cheap supermarket bought versions which are full of dust and germinate once fallen on soil.

Then there’s SUPERCLEAN™!

Haith’s kindly offered me some of their Premium Wild Bird Food to sample. Or more importantly my visiting garden birds to sample! They sent me a bag of SUPERCLEANseed and another bag of uncleaned seed. You can tell the difference straight away from the pictures taken by David below. The uncleaned seed had pieces of wood, dust and seed husks whereas the SUPERCLEAN™ looked polished and wholesome. Which seed would you prefer too feed your birds?

Why do Haith’s SUPERCLEAN™ their foods? 

The reason Haith’s SUPERCLEAN™ their seed is due to studies by Professor John E Cooper DTVM FRCPath FSB CIBiol FRCVS, who found that birds who ate abrasive materials easily damaged their respiratory tracts. This damage in turn leads to increased vulnerability to illness and disease.

Haith’s kindly asked me to help spread their message about SUPERCLEANand the importance of feeding good quality seed to wild birds. The below info-gram is helpful in explaining their process.

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And if all that isn’t enough they have birder and conservationist extraordinaire Bill Oddie explaining the process.

And how did the SUPERCLEANseed fare? On a freezing winter’s day, with snow forecast, the wild birds needed all the high energy seed they could get. I filmed many goldfinches on the feeders and a very cheeky pigeon helping himself to the seed on offer from the Multifeeder!!

If you would like to see the variety of bird foods from Haith’s follow this link: http://www.haiths.com/

What are your opinions on bird seed?

Thanks for reading?

Christine x

War Horse – Liverpool Empire

I find it hard to write reviews as everyone’s experience is individual. However, I just wanted to share with you all what I thought of The National Theatre’s production of the 10th Anniversary UK tour of War Horse.

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I booked our tickets some two years ago after reading the book by Michael Morpurgo and watching the acclaimed Steven Spielberg film. I found the book largely more emotive than the film. Though come the day of the stage production I had somehow forgotten the plot of both book and film! I recalled battles of World War One and the part horses took in the human struggle.

Our visit to the Liverpool Empire Theatre, was not without hiccup. I thought a good 40 minutes would be enough to get us through the busy streets of Liverpool and to parking at St. John’s shopping centre. Unfortunately I had not accounted for the popularity of the Christmas market and Saturday afternoon shoppers! By 2.15pm we were stuck in traffic by Lime Street Station. The matinee performance started at 2.30pm! I began to slowly panic!

‘If there’s no parking spaces here, we’ll have to go to Liverpool One.’

‘But that’s miles away!’ I said. ‘We’ll be late.’

‘You go ahead then. I’ll catch up with you once I’ve parked the car!’

‘But you’ll miss the beginning of the show!’

‘You’ve waited two years for this,’ David reasoned. ‘It’s better if you go; at least one of us will see the start. They may not let us in until the interval if we are both late!’ I sat with a heavy heart, as rain showered down upon the window screen.

‘You don’t mind?’ I asked. ‘I’d rather both of us see the show.’

‘You go ahead.’ David was rational but my heart lingered until I handed him his ticket and kissed him good luck. The cold wind buffeted me as I stumbled through a thickening crowd. My feet splashed through puddles. I noticed the traffic in Lime Street was at a stand still, car horns blaring (as if that would help!) The stench of roasted meat from the Christmas market on St Georges Plateau was heavy on the air and made me balk. As the clock ticked I worried for David. In my rush I turned an ankle, and cried out into the cold, grey afternoon. I made my hurried way towards the theatre where I showed my ticket and then in bewilderment looked for my seat.

The Empire Theatre is a bit of a maze, with automatic doors and signs that are not very helpful. I thankfully managed to find my seat before the show started and sat hoping David would be following soon after. The lights dimmed and a young horse puppet (Joey) pranced around the stage. I couldn’t settle. Every-time I saw someone enter the shaded theatre I thought maybe it was David. However some 15 minutes into the show, after the auction scene, I saw David walk past. We laughed afterwards that he could have entered the auditorium shouting ‘Christine, where are you?’ but in reality I wondered how to catch his attention while he found a seat at the front. We sat the first half of the show separately.

For War Horse itself, the show was amazing. I thought it much better than the Lion King a few years ago. Perhaps having no assumptions of the show helped? The puppetry was superb, the story emotive and the stage production highly visual. The acting from the company was top notch and though there were no tears there was a lump in my throat at the end.

What makes War Horse a successful stage production is the multi disciplinary team behind it. From stage design to lighting effects. The score by Adrian Sutton though subtle was effective to promote emotion. John Tams’ folk songs bring the essence of rural Devon to life, (though I wasn’t too enamored with the songs within the play.) I loved the artwork by Rae Smith evoking powerful symbols of World War One. The lighting by Paule Constable was breathtaking! A scene that stood out for me was when when Albert and co. ran in slow motion towards the enemy. From the mist they emerged to run into the bullets and the shells. When the men fell one by one, it was painful to watch. It felt realistic.

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Talking about realism the puppetry by Handspring Puppet Company was outstanding. You connect instantly with Joey. Albert’s reaction to Joey is a reflection of our own. There are other puppets within the show, from swallows flying in the peaceful Devonshire sky to a cheeky goose who received a lot of laughter for his aggressive antics. But the horses is what many have come to see. The scenes of war are the most vivid and stay with you long after the show. I cried in dismay when Joey was caught among the barbed wire in No-Mans-Land. You forget that they are just puppets.

The play has the human condition at the very core. From the dogged determination of  Albert, to the sadness that drives Arthur Narracott and the despair of Friedrich Müller. Joey and Topthorn suffer in a man made situation.

If you have the opportunity to go see War Horse, then I would highly recommend it. As a spectacle it is a feast for the eyes! Don’t forget to take your handkerchief!

Have you seen the show? Read the book or seen the film? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

*Pictures taken from various productions of War Horse.

RSPB – Leighton Moss

LOW RES Leighton Moss map

Itching to go out walking again, I was looking for ideas for places to go to this weekend. I don’t know why but sightings of bearded tits at RSPB Leighton Moss popped up on my Facebook wall. So I decided to look at their website and planned on taking a few hours walking along their trails of woodland and reed-bed habitats.

Leighton Moss is the largest reed-bed in the NW of England. They have breeding bitterns and is the only home to bearded tits in the region.

We visited after a 1.5h drive, on a cloudy mid-September afternoon. Unfortunately too late to see the bearded tits on the grit feeders. However we did manage to see plenty of other wildlife, predominantly garden and woodland birds.

Among the many feeding stations we passed, we managed to spot hungry blue, great and long tail tits. A friendly robin sang to us for food but we had none. There were many chaffinches having squabbles, but the stars of the day (for us) was a small marsh tit and surprisingly bold nuthatches!

We also saw goldcrests flittering about the trees, but they were so fast that David couldn’t get a picture! Maybe, one day!

Leighton Moss has many walking trails to choose from. David and I did them all save the salt-marshes as they were not on the main reserve. For the three hours we were there, we put in a reasonable four miles of walking.

We stopped for lunch at a bench on the Causeway path, and watched as house martins swooped overhead and red and blue dragonflies darted about. Even the odd speckled wood butterfly made an appearance.

Of the many hides on the reserve I was very impressed with Lilian’s hide. It looked newly made and was very spacious, with bowed windows looking out towards the reed-beds and comfy seating. David snapped a good photo from here of a grey heron.

Not far from Lilian’s hide is the nine metres tall skytower, which gives unparalleled views over the reed-bed towards Morecambe Bay.

The path leading from Grisedale hide offered us two wildlife experiences. The first was on noticing something moving inconspicuously in the reeds, we looked a little closer to find a tiny field vole. He was so cute!

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Field Vole

Further along the path we were surprised by a sudden splash of water! We did not see what made the noise but there are otters residing in the area. I’d like to think we startled one as we made our way along the path.

Overall, I enjoyed our visit to Leighton Moss. At first the £7 per person admission fee for non members seems a little steep but there is free car parking, a shop and cafe in the visitor centre, with the reserve open from dawn to dusk. So £7 for the whole day is good value for money especially as you can walk around the paths as many times as you like and rest a while in the hides.

Membership at £4 a month would be viable if we visited these places more often, but alas only every now and again do we visit an RSPB site. Perhaps that is something to be rectified in the future?

Have you visited Leighton Moss reserve? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Product Placement – Haith’s

* This post comes courtesy of Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. If you want top quality bird seed and feeders from a British family run business, then Haith’s has all the products your garden birds need!*

Recently I was approached by Haith’s to review some of their products. I have to admit I was secretly flattered that my opinion mattered, so I agreed. Within a few days three products arrived via post neatly packaged, there was much detail to keeping the products safe in transit.

goodiesThe products to be reviewed  were: 

  • MultiFeeder Plus: a feeder which holds not only seed but water and two fatballs, ideal for attracting different species of wild bird or for hungry birds during the winter.
  • Fat balls (small): I was kindly gifted six of these suet balls to trial, which come helpfully with no nets.
  • (Original) wild bird food: Compiled from a recipe dating back to the 1960’s.

I was eager to fill the feeder up and see how my numerous garden visitors would receive the need addition.

The multifeeder needed to be constructed. The instructions included were easy to follow, even I could follow them! Indeed I managed to fit the parts together without asking David (the product expert) for help! There is a domed cover to keep the larger birds at bay and to keep the rain from ruining the seed. The inner well can be used for water or other types of seed or mealworms. The two fat ball holders have sharp spikes in which to pierce the suet to the feeder.

The fat balls came all individually wrapped in cardboard packaging, to prevent them from crumbling, and the wild bird food, filled with high-energy sunflower seeds and wholegrain cereal, is packaged in a sealed brown paper bag.

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Haith’s bird food comes SuperCLEAN™, which means in production they eliminate dust and husks which can damage birds respiratory tracts.

Once the multifeeder was filled with water, wild bird food and fat balls, it was time to hang the feeder outside and see what the visiting garden birds thought of the fare on offer.

What the birds thought of the multifeeder:

It took a while for the birds to take to the new feeder. They were scared of the dome. Though we had one intrepid fledgling starling enjoying the fat balls and seed.

Over the coming weeks, the dome started to attract other birds. Like a blue tit and fledged goldfinches!

At this time of year, end of summer/beginning of Autumn my garden is awash with bird families after a busy year of breeding. Fledgling starlings still with their baby feathers are hungrily looking for food, and suet fat balls are their favourite foods. Goldfinch young with their brown heads are all vying for sunflower hearts, whilst house sparrow families look for smaller seeds and cereals.

The wild bird food and fat balls were a hit with all classes of bird.

What I thought of the multifeeder:

I didn’t care much for the detachable fat ball holders, as once the fat ball had been pecked and became crumbly, then the fat ball easily fell off and was lost to the voracious beaks of pigeons. The six fat balls were soon devoured this way, they only lasted a week in my garden!

Being made of plastic, I was a little worried for the durability of the multifeeder. However we discovered that it was more robust than we gave it credit for as it survived a fall of 1.5m without shattering. We have very raucous starlings who don’t have much in the way of table manners!

The two trays for different types of food or water is a good feature. Come winter you could feed suet pellets in the small dish while still offering normal seed or sunflower hearts in the other. There are many variants yet to be tried.

Overall, the multifeeder is a good addition to any feeding station. The starlings loved it, and I liked how robust it was. I will monitor how many birds take to the multifeeder during wintertime and do a short follow-up review. I can see many tit species enjoying the differing feed on offer and we have yet to see a robin this year.

I thank Haith’s for this opportunity to sample their products.


Links:

If you are interested in purchasing any of the products included in this review then follow the links to the individual pages.

Haith’s website offers more bird foods, such as peanuts, niger and livefood. If you would like to see their entire range follow: http://www.haiths.com/bird-food/

To hold all these different types of food, there is a designated page for all of Haith’s feeders, including feeding stations, window feeders and tables, follow this link to see their range: http://www.haiths.com/bird-feeders/

Sunday Sevens #32

I haven’t written a Sunday Sevens in a while, and I so love doing them. So thanks to Natalie at Theads and Bobbins, who devised the wonderful series, and here’s my seven (plus a few more), for Sunday!

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New work space

DIY: Last weekend, David was busy sprucing up the guest bedroom/study. We spent most of Saturday driving back and forth from Warrington’s IKEA to purchase box cupboards which would conceal all our detritus. I think he’s done a fantastic job! We have so much more storage space and a bigger work surface.

#walk1000miles: I think it’s always nice to update you all on how my walk 1000 miles challenge is going. This week I have managed to rake up a reasonable 34 miles, (my best tally so far!), which brings my total for the year so far to 601 miles! My miles are mainly made up of hours on the treadmill, walking between bus stops, lots of scanning in work (the scanner is at the opposite end of the corridor from the office) and walking the dog. I think Riley appreciates the increase in walks. He is eight now and carrying a few extra pounds due to being neutered when he was three. I thought I was doing the right thing by neutering him, but no one told me he would put on weight after it! Anyway, Riley (and myself) has loved his park runs and visits to Crosby Beach, even if the wind was fierce the last time we visited!

Collecting: It’s been a while since I found a Beatrix Potter 50p. This week while counting the petty cash in work, my boss and I found a third collectible, Squirrel Nutkin! How cute is he?

Pets: This week our Blue-faced Parrot Finch, Forrest has been laying eggs. Her mate Leaf has been busy lining the nest with feathers and straw. I wonder if any of the eggs will hatch? We shall see in a fortnights time! I’ll update you all!

Book I am reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I’m only 50 pages into the book but it’s accompanying me while on my daily commute to work. I am enjoying the characters so far. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Culture: This Saturday (17th) was the day Hans Zimmer and his Live on Tour came to Liverpool. This was my second time of seeing him live on stage. You can read my review on the Birmingham 2016 concert here. Though it was the same programme as his European tour, there were subtle differences. The orchestra and choir had been paired down. I personally preferred the energy of the Birmingham concert, but there was the same chat by Zimmer with anecdotes on the films he had scored. The lighting was just as fierce but I think there was less camaraderie between the principal performers. The Liverpool audience were a little too vocal for my taste but the show of phone torches after Aurora was touching, though I wish he wouldn’t talk over all of it. It is a beautiful composition, reminiscent of the vocal version of Barber’s Adagio for Strings. My two favourite pieces did not disappoint, in fact One Day from Pirates of the Caribbean Three brought tears to my eyes. The Dark Knight medley was just as energetic and inspiring! I felt blessed to see my music hero live onstage!

Have you been to see any live music recently? What’s your experience of arena tours?

Days out: The weather this weekend has been beautiful. Perfect summer days filled with lots of warm sunshine and mild clear evenings. I must say it has been a very full weekend! I was going to end the post with Hans Zimmer’s concert but I just wanted to share with you my wonderful Sunday.

After visiting Claremont Farm in the Wirral and picking our own juicy strawberries. David and I headed for the coast and Thurstaston Beach, to have our lunch overlooking the sandy estuary. I’ll write more in my 30 Days Wild – Week 3, but for now here are some pictures of our wonderful day.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x