An Update on the Yarden

With winter being prolonged, spring has been slow on the arrival. However, the past few weeks in the NW of England (and for most of the UK) the weather has been fair, which has helped the residents in the yarden.

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Honey bee on Salvia

The long winter of Beasts from the East and Pests from the West meant I lost my beautiful salvia to the frosts. The rosemary, marjoram and aquilegia also succumbing.

Though there were some fatalities, with spring well and truly upon us, the resident plants have been thriving! Below is a selection of the flowers that are blooming at this moment in the yarden. Enjoy!

How is your garden growing?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Candlemas

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Candlemas

This Friday was Candlemas – Festival of light. Candlemas has many connotations. For the Christian’s, it represents Mary’s presentation of the young Jesus at the temple of Jerusalem. To others it’s Imbolc, a Gaelic festival signalling the beginning of spring, and since 1886 the day has also been known as Groundhog Day. Whatever your beliefs, the season of spring does seem to be close at hand.

For the past few weeks I have been looking for signs of spring. Thanks to the Woodland Trust‘s Nature Detectives, I have spotted my first blooming willow catkins and snowdrops.

However there seems to be many superstitions regarding this time of year between the Shortest Day and the March equinox. Of the Christian saying:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter will not come again.

This belief means that if the day of Candlemas is bright and sunny, then superstition would determine that winter hasn’t ended for the season. This is also the reasoning behind the Pennsylvania tradition of Punxsutawney Phil. If, (groundhog) Phil see’s his shadow (on a sunny day) then the poor rodent, will predict another six weeks of winter.

This year, both Candlemas was a sunny, fair day here in the NW of England and Punxsutawney Phil (in Philadelphia, U.S.A) did indeed see his shadow. Meaning there could be another six weeks of winter.

I on the other hand don’t believe in these superstitions. I can’t ignore nature. There is so much blossoming around me. From Hellebores and irises, to daffodils (in parks) and crocuses in my yarden. Even in the grasp of winter there is life, all around.

This weekend I have also spotted the visiting chiffchaff to my yarden. He/she is always spotted around this time, flitting about the yarden. This year I was amazed at how brash the chiffchaff was, fluttering at the dinning room window and landing in the window boxes. I’ve managed to get some new footage of this seasonal visitor. We tend to only see the chiffchaff around wintertime.

So whether you think spring is around the corner or six weeks away. Spring will be here in no time, and then fast on its heels will be summer. The seasons of the years go so fast. We need to savour the passing of time.

While I was watching the wildlife outside my window. I enjoyed a cup of tea from my recently bought mug. It is of the same design as my Enchanted Forest plates. I love it!

What signs of spring have you seen? Let me know.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

#walk1000miles

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Welcome to my #walk1000miles post!

This has been the first year I have participated in the initiative by Country Walking Magazine.

For the past 12 months, I have been busy counting my miles daily and tallying my weekly totals. I’ve counted workouts on the treadmill/cross-trainer, walks to work, exercising the family dog Riley and of course holidays and days out with David! My overall mileage for 2017 has been a wonderful 1,316 miles.

In this post I will split the year up into seasons, spring, summer, autumn and winter, and give the miles for each of the three months. It will be good to see how different my mileage accumulates over the year.

So without further ado, let’s begin with my favourite season of all, spring!

Spring: (March, April and May)

With the dawn of longer days ahead, thoughts turn to days outdoors enjoying nature and the sunshine. Highlights from walks this quarter come from much fun with smiley Riley, taking a bimble through the famous bluebells at Rannerdale, Cumbria and many woodland walks.

Total miles for the month = 332.

Summer: (June, July and August)

It’s not surprising that the long summer months were best for my mileage. However what did amaze me was that in June I tallied my highest miles of the year! I think this was due in some way to the Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! This wonderful incentive does certainly make you focus on getting out more and noticing the world around you. Then add the #walk1000miles challenge and you have a partnership that goes hand in hand. During the month of June and into summer David and I ventured to previously undiscovered nature reserves, enjoyed a two night break to the Lake District and went in search of art in the streets of Liverpool and Birmingham!

Total miles for the month = 382.

Autumn: (September, October and November)

I completed the #walk1000miles challenge on the 8th October 2017. I felt kind of numb after I calculated passing the 1000 mile mark! I had not planned on completing two months early but it soon dawned on me how much of an achievement it actually was! Among the many autumn delights, were days out to Snowdonia, North Wales and attending our first ever apple festival in search of British heritage varieties.

One pattern that has come from analysing the annual mileage has been how similar both spring and autumn’s totals were.

Total miles for the month = 321.

Winter: (December, January and February)

The shorter days and darker nights mean that winter miles are the shortest of the year. However there have been a few days out. New Years Day saw David and I head towards Coniston and a visit to Banishead Quarry. A Valentine’s treat of afternoon tea at Jam beckoned in February and December is about all things Christmas!

Total miles for the month =  281

Annual Total = 1,316 miles

#walk1000miles has a wonderful, supportive Facebook page. Through participation on this page I have had a photo published in their magazine and my story also featured as part of their website to advertise 2018’s challenge. It also took me a while to find my name featured on the ‘We Did It’ page of the January edition.

Achieving #walk1000miles in a year is greatly satisfying. My certificate and medal has pride of place on my gym’s wall.

I’ve signed up to do it all again in 2018, and hoping to better 2017’s mileage. I would love to get to wonder-woman status of 2,000 miles, but I aim to achieve a more feasible 1,500 miles. If I manage anything more then I will be satisfied.

How about you? Do you feel inspired to give the challenge a go?

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If you fancy signing up, click the link below and join me and thousands more, walking that little bit more than we did last year!

https://www.walk1000miles.co.uk/

Thanks for reading,

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

Wild October – Week Four + Three Days!

20161022_075401-2It’s the finale of my Wild October!

Though the weather did not play ball towards the end of the week, I packed as much autumn into the days as I could! This dramatic sunrise was a precursor to what was planned!

Phew, what a week it’s been!

Since our membership for Chester Zoo ran out on the 29th of this month, David and I headed back to say farewell to the red pandas! I snapped the colours of autumn as we took the lazyboat ride in Islands and even some painted dogs got in on the action!

This week the garden was visited by this gorgeous looking robin. Also while walking to get the bus to work, I captured some lovely autumnal sunlight through the trees.

Thursday and Friday was our much awaited short break to the Lake District! For months I have been dreaming and planning two jam packed days! Thursday dawned oppressive and overcast yet we made the most of the day and visited Grizedale Forest.

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Friday turned out to be a perfect day! We took in a white dawn at the shores of Derwentwater and later on the sun put in a show bringing all the autumnal colours to life!

14875907_10154199400664200_679149005_oIn the evening we headed towards Loweswater in the hope of chatching a sunset and ended up playing with more leaves!

There will be subsequent blog posts with more detailed information and pictures re: the lakes holiday coming soon!

Our last day in the lakes was spent around Aira Force and Ullswater!

Rather aptly, I have an autumn birthday, clebrated on the 30th. This year I turned 40! (I still don’t know whether I am happy about that fact or not!) I shared the day with all the people I hold dear in this world, and celebrated by making a video, screaming and splashing about in Derwentwater (as you do)!

Diwali, the Hindu ‘festival of light’, this year was also on the 30th, so I lit a candle or two in honour of the festival.

And finally, the 31st October, renowned throughout the western world as being All Hallows Eve, or Halloween! It is the day when the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest.

I celebrated it by dressing up as the devil!

So, that was my Wild October. How did you celebrate yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Wild October – Week Two.

14581436_10154127912644200_6189808715109695428_nThis week has all been about fun with leaves!

At the weekend, I made a special effort to get out of the house. I dragged David and my mum along with me as I went in search of autumn!

We visited Liverpool’s Festival Gardens which I blogged about in June for 30 Day’s Wild. We took a leisurely walk around the Japanese and Chinese gardens before entering the woodland walk. I looked for signs of autumn, collected fallen leaves, fir cones, sycamore seeds and other seasonal detritus. I even relived my childhood by kicking leaves and blowing dandelion docks.

Back home, I arranged all that I had collected on a makeshift nature table. I was able to ID a few leaves. Maple, oak, birch and beech but I could not ID all, maybe you can do better?

dsc_0105-2While wondering what to do with my harvest, I was enjoying the writings of two fellow bloggers. Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed, writes about the nature in her garden and has many fascinating insights into moths and hedgehogs. Emma on her Discovery Hub, blogs and vlogs many facts about wildlife. Check them both out for more information!

During the week. I utilised the leaves I had collected to a) make a crown and b) make animal collages, though I have not got much artistry talent.

You may have wondered why the leaves change colour at all? Here’s a useful inforgram to explain things, better than I could!

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I thought the touching Shakespeare sonnet, 73 was in keeping with this theme.

That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

So, as the nights are drawing in and the cold air makes me want to hibernate, I will end the post with Vivaldi’s Autumn, from his Four Seasons. Enjoy!

What, if anything are you enjoying about autumn?

Christine x

‘Tyger, tyger burning bright’.

The title of this blog is a line from a William Blake poem, The Tyger. It came into my mind when David and I last visited Chester Zoo‘s Islands. This time, we did go in search of tigers, Sumatran Tigers in fact. It has been a joy to follow each stage of Islands as they open to the public. After visiting Panay, Sumba and Papua in phase one, it was then the turn of Monsoon Forest a few months later, and now Sumatra is finally open with the introduction of the tigers to their new enclosure.

Sumatra at Chester Zoo Islands

Sumatra at Chester Zoo Islands

It was my birthday on Friday, 30th October, so David and I ventured forth to Chester Zoo in the drizzle. However once we arrived at the zoo, the sun started to fracture the grey clouds. As we ventured towards Islands and reclined on the Lazy Boat Ride (which I love!), the sun’s rays shone, unseasonally warm upon us.

The downside to the tiger enclosure however, was that the glass windows that feature in the outside part of their home, was full of frost and condensation. Perhaps it will be a forthcoming issue for the zoo in winter months? Fellow guests commented about this to the keepers, though I don’t know of how they can combat it. We have been to other zoos that have also had condensation on the windows. I think this is a universal problem for most zoos. It did make for poor viewing of the tigers who were sat on a rock right opposite the frosted window!

However, it was not just the tiger enclosure that suffered from condensation, the new orang-utan enclosure (yet to be occupied,) also had issues with this.

We ventured around Islands twice in the hope that the condensation would lessen as the day warmed up, but alas it didn’t.

The army of volunteers that populate Islands needs a mention, they offer a friendly, helpful and informative service and they make the Islands experience even more fulfilling.

We visited Monsoon Forest twice on our tour of Islands, the Sunda Gharial is an enclosure that is always busy, (I’ve still not got a good picture of them). There are more free flying birds introduced into the tropical forest and looking over the canopy of plants really gave the impression of being in a forest.

Monsoon Forest

Monsoon Forest

Part of Monsoon Forest is the Tripa Forest Research Station. I’ve commented on this before but I really love the authentic feel to the place.

Tripa Forest Research Station

Tripa Forest Research Station

During our visit to Chester Zoo we purchased a joint yearly membership, at £135. This means unlimited visits and special days when family and friends can come along with members and pay half price admission. Then there is the 10% discount in shops at the zoo and one visit a year to a number of zoos in the scheme, including Twycross Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park! I am so happy we have the membership again. We can visit Islands whenever we have a free weekend. It will be nice to see Islands evolve throughout the seasons. 😀

I’ll end by sharing the William Blake poem.

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?