My Wildlife Moments of 2018

Following on from Sharon at Sunshine and Celandines wonderful post, I decided to once again compile some of my wildlife moments. There have been so many highlights this year, some however I was unable to capture on camera. There was a lone cormorant at Liverpool’s Sefton Park. Angry avocets flew over us on a visit to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and we even spotted a bat flitting about Wavertree Playground whilst walking Riley one evening. Below are just a small selection of wildlife moments from 2018 for you to enjoy.

The first wildlife wow of 2018 was in February when I saw a chiffchaff trying to land on a window box. I quickly got my camcorder and managed to film the annual visitor. I only see a chiffchaff once a year. Around late winter, they must make a pit stop in our yarden as they fly to richer pastures. It was a nice visit none the less.

Staying in the yarden. You would think that to see nature in the city is to seek out a local nature reserve or park. However it seems that nature finds a way of being present even in a city yarden. Our little pond which has thrived this year was home to a common frog. He/she managed to eat themselves from being a tadpole to an adult. We were lucky to see the frog even once as they are nocturnal. I wonder if our yarden is still home to this little frog. I do hope so.

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Common Frog

Our flourishing yarden has recently become a hunting ground for a female sparrowhawk. This beautiful specimen of raptor was seen a couple of times unfortunately enjoying her dinner. A poor starling was on the menu one day and a baby goldfinch another.

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Female Sparrowhawk

Our alleyway during the summer was a plant-fest. Sprouting through the cracks of the cobbled stones, wildflowers grew. One huge shrub grew outside our back door. I identified it as a black nightshade.

I had heard of the nightshade plant but never its siblings. Whilst walking to work one day I noticed a bittersweet nightshade, often confused with deadly nightshade.

My favourite colour is blue so when I saw it flashing on butterfly wings I was ecstatic! There were many common blue butterflies fluttering about the meadows at Pennington Flash.

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Common Blue Butterfly

Participation in 2018’s 30 Days Wild by The Wildlife Trusts‘ produced many wonderful wildlife sightings. At Port Sunlight River Park we saw so many six-spot burnet moths that it made up for never seeing them before. We also saw our first linnet and house martin and watched as a kestrel hunted, whilst the air was filled with the calls of skylarks. The area was so rich in wildlife that we will definitely visit again.

During a visit to Brocholes in the hot June weather of 2018, we spied oyster-catchers around the Nook Pool, many spotted orchids blooming and even a shy roe deer hiding in the tall grass!

On our few visits to Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve we spied many Lapwings nesting and greylag geese.

Even after 30 Days Wild I still remained focused on wildlife. On a short visit to Pickering’s Pasture we spotted a stunning wildflower meadow!

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Pickerings Pasture Wildflowers

Over the summer on our jaunts to local nature reserves we spotted numerous dragon flies and damselflies. Below find a small selection of what we saw.

Autumn brought with its smokey chill and vibrant leaves, many mushrooms appearing in nooks and crannies. I managed to spy a shaggy ink cap mushroom whilst walking to work. I’m not a mushroom expert so after a Google search I found that this short lived mushroom is edible.

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Shaggy Ink Cap Mushroom

As the nights grow darker and summer seems just a memory I look forward to seeing colours emerge from the hard winter soil. This crocus field really brought a cheer to an otherwise dull February day.

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Crocus field

What were your wildlife moments this year? Here’s to many more in 2019!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Apples Galore!

The nights are drawing in, the geese are flying south and there’s a smokey chill in the air. Perfect time for an apple festival!

This weekend (13-14th October 2018) was the annual Apple Festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. The reserve has two orchards with more than 100 fruit trees, including apple, plum and pear. We first went last year, you can read about that visit here. This time we brought our parents along and had such a good time. The festival seems to just get better!

Being eager beavers, we arrived (on the Sunday) just before 11am when the volunteers were all having their huddle and pep talk in the barn. They were very welcoming and guided us through the displays of dessert and cooking apples. On the day there was an opportunity to go on a walk of the heritage orchard, spiralize apples and taste apple leather, a delicious cooked and dried delicacy. It made me think of stewed apples.

In a room adjacent to the barn there was a machine for pulping apples and an apple press. Here they offered apple juice to sample and purchase at £2 a bottle. In future they hope to also make cider from the apples that are left to waste. Sounds a good plan to me :p

Due to this years hot summer many of the heritage varieties had already been harvested, though there were a good number of Discovery Apples available. I promised myself that I would be more adventurous in my purchases this year. So after I had purchased a selection of Discovery and Ellison Orange, I went on to buy, Russets, Sunset, Lady Sudeley and Ribston Pippin. The costing of apples was very cheap (at 4 for a £1) and I wouldn’t have minded paying more.

I also purchased some cooking apple varieties such as the iconic Bramley Seedling, Lord Derby, Arthur Turner and the humongous Mere de Menage. I think I will be eating and cooking apples for the foreseeable future.

Mere de Menage

Mere de Menage

I really enjoyed my time spent at the apple festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. I will undoubtedly visit again next year. I believe these heritage orchards are vital in keeping the history of British apple growing alive. It’s just a shame that future generations will mostly only know supermarket bought apples and not the variety, taste and texture of traditional/heritage apples.

What is your favourite apple? Have you visited a local fruit festival?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – July to September

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books.

The summer months for me always seem to be the hardest when it comes to reading. Even when we’ve had such a wonderful summer as 2018. This year, I’ve managed to sit in the yarden and sunbathe while delving into a novel or two, but my tally is still low compared to cooler months.

This quarter I have managed to read nine books. Much better than last years quarter but no where near my tally for April to June this year. Here’s what I read this quarter.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

After what seemed like an age, I finally managed to get my hands on this Costa award winning novel and it didn’t take me long to love it! Eleanor is a young woman struggling to cope with a traumatic event from her childhood. She has been mentally and physically scared and her out look on life is shaped by her past. This book is not only about survival but about facing and dealing with daemons. It is funny and sad but ultimately it is about redemption.

What are your thoughts if you’ve read this novel?

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

As a suspense novel, the narrative just didn’t grab me. Perhaps it had a lot to live up to after Eleanor Oliphant? Even so, despite the tension, this Stephen King-esque failed to hit the mark. There were some weird episodes but I couldn’t feel for the characters and was left feeling deflated at the end of the novel. It felt like a poorly written M Night Shyamalan script.

The Ice Twins – S K Tremayne

This was a novel suggested by my mum. The premise was of twin sisters, where one had died. A year on the surviving twin begins to believe she is the dead sister. Did they get the identity of the dead twin wrong? The narrator, Sarah is estranged from her husband and still mourning her daughter. Angus (the husband) inherits a house on a remote island on the west coast of Scotland and moves the family there. This isolation brings the psychological drama to a head. It was a quick read but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Tess Gerritsen’s Playing with Fire.

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Surprisingly I enjoyed this political satire. George Orwell wrote his critique on the Russian Revolution but in theory it could be a reflection of any revolution. The animals of Manor Farm have had enough of being ruled by farmer, Mr Jones and stage their own revolution led by the intellectual pigs. However as time progresses, life under the new regime seems at odds with the origins of the revolution and to stop the dissenting farm stock the pigs unleash a brutal regime which cripples, maims and kills many of the cast. You can’t but be sympathetic to the likes of Boxer and Clover who are ground down by the machine that the pigs enact. The final act of betrayal is when the pigs are seen to walk on two hooves. This can be read that the pigs are just bad as the humans they hoped to replace. It is a piece of writing that makes you think!

Have you read this satire, what were your impressions?

Sarah Millican – How to be Champion

I am not a reader of autobiographies. I only downloaded this book as it was on offer for .99p. It took me a while to get into the narrative but I quite enjoyed it in the end. Sarah isn’t much older than myself and I noticed we did similar things and used the same items when we were both growing up in the 1980’s.

Outlander – Diana Gadaldon

I’m still slogging my way through this tome, and there are several more sequels in the series! Though a good premise, of a woman from the 1940’s travelling back in time to Jacobite Scotland, however I found the narrative boring. I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of the series. Perhaps the TV adaptation is better?

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

Swim Wild – The Wild Swimming Brothers

I delved into the realm of wild swimming again. This time I quite enjoyed reading about the tales of the three brother’s expeditions, of swimming the entire length of the River Eden and the maelstroms around Norway and Scotland. The narrative is fractured by personal reveries and memories of growing up by the author, Jack Hudson, but I found it a nice book to read none the less.

If you’d like to read more of the Wild Swimming Brother’s adventures, then follow the link to their blog.

Me Before You – JoJo Moyes

I bought this book on the recommendation of comedienne Sarah Millican, from her autobiography (see above). I got into the first person narrative quickly enough and really enjoyed the banter between Louise and Will. Both characters are scared but in different ways. I liked how the writer sculptured their unlikely relationship and the ending had me shedding silent tears. I am a softy sometimes!

If you have read the book? Seen the film? What did you think?

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

I thought I would give this sequel to the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson a go. I really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the other sequels not so. So far it seems a slow burn. I’ll let you know how I go.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

12 Hours of Day #9

With being unable to participate in July’s #photoanhour on Instagram, I made certain I would for Augusts’. Though, I didn’t have anything exciting planned, the day didn’t turn out too bad. Thanks to Louise at Ramblings of a Roachling, for informing me of the dates. Much appreciated! So here’s what I got up to during my 12 hours of day!

Photo an Hour – 18h August 2018

8am to 9am:

Just after 8am my alarm sounded. Time to get up! I started the day as usual with black coffee and granola. This time I added some blueberries and raspberries to the mix. It was a tasty and filling breakfast.

9am to 10am:

While David went out to get his hair cut. I made a start on the housework. I vacuumed all the floors and cleaned the bathroom before David came back.

10am to 11am:

Turning my hand at cleaning the dining room, I heard a raucous noise from the yarden. The bird feeders were inundated by starlings, sparrows and goldfinches! What a racket they all made!

11am to 12pm:

I had the idea that a blueberry bush would be a welcome addition to the yarden. I could grow my own fruit come next year. Growing vegetables has been a bit hit and miss, so maybe trying my hand at soft fruits would be better? (I’ll let you know next year). So with this plan in mind. David and I headed to Rivendell. Unfortunately they didn’t have any blueberry plants, but I ended up buying a raspberry and bramble.

12pm to 1pm:

A bit disappointed at not getting a blueberry plant, we headed to Lady Green Garden Centre. Here, there was a choice of blueberry plants, some at £17 and others for £25. My eyes widened at seeing the full berries on a £25 plant. The other plants were all fruitless. It was evident which plant I would come home with, even if it was a bit pricey! I also purchased a penstemon and verbena for the hungry pollinators.

1pm to 2pm:

We came home laden with plants to a happy Artie. I don’t think he likes being left alone.

2pm to 3pm: 

After lunch I embarked on potting the newcomers to the yarden.

3pm to 4pm:

I was still in the yarden, admiring my new purchases and enjoying the warm sunshine. I plucked the ripe berries off the blueberry plant and ended up with a bowl full!

4pm to 5pm:

Housework and gardening can be hard work. So I took a break with a cup of tea and a read of the newly arrived copy of the September edition of Country Walking Magazine.

5pm to 6pm:

While dinner cooked I took time to admire the sunflowers in a vase of cut flowers.

6pm to 7pm:

With dinner I enjoyed this glass of bubbly cava.

7pm to 8pm:

For pudding I mixed strawberry ice cream with a sprinkling of more blueberries (Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory comes to mind) and raspberries.

8pm to 9pm:

A bonus hour, as it seems I can’t count! I joined David in the study/guest bedroom and planned a forthcoming trip to Scotland. I am so excited!

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8pm to 9pm – planning a trip to Scotland

Thanks to Janey and Louisa for setting up the challenge.

How did you spend your Saturday?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

The Weather Didn’t Deter Us!

A few weeks back David and I played hosts to my friend, Jennifer, who traveled from the USA. She stayed with us for two nights and voiced her wish to go hiking with David and myself. So, I planned a little tour of my favourite part of the Lake District, the northern fells.

Weeks before, the UK had been in the grip of a month or so long heatwave. However on the dawn of our little excursion to Cumbria, the day broke overcast with showers and winds of 50 mph forecast.

It was a 6am start. We breakfasted, packed the car and headed out of Liverpool by 7.30am. David drove two hours up the M6. As the day lengthened it became apparent that the predicted showers would be a predominant feature of the day, with heavy, prolonged incidents. Swathes of showers swept across the countryside, as we pulled the car into a free parking space alongside our first stop: Castlerigg Stone Circle.

Castlerigg Stone Circle was raised in the Neolithic period, about 3000 BC and overlooks the Thirlmere Valley south, towards Helvellyn and north to Skiddaw and Blencathra. You can read more about the circle here. Castlerigg is only 30 minutes walk from Keswick, but on a dreary July day we managed to find parking right outside, even at 10am!

From Castlerigg we drove the 30 minutes to Buttermere, where we would spend most of the day. On arrival, I was surprised at how quiet the village was. We even managed to get parking at the National Trust car park behind the Fish Inn, paying £8 for all day. From here we donned our waterproofs and rucksacks and headed for the planned hike to Wainwright, Rannerdale Knotts.

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Rannerdale Knotts Walk

The walk to Rannerdale Knotts took us two hours through woodland and up hill. Once past Ghyll Wood the trail gained height quickly and from our viewpoint we could see the weather once again closing in. Low clouds, full of drizzly rain swept in and obscured any view of Buttermere and Crummock Water from the trig point.

The top was a bit of a scramble which (as you know) I don’t like. We managed to scurry across Rannerdale Knotts and even descended without slipping on wet stones. The walk though hindered by the rain was not ruined. We arrived, unscathed at our next destination: Crummock Water.

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Jennifer at Crummock Water

Crummock Water means the Crooked Lake and reflects the lakes shape. It’s 44m deep and nestled between Buttermere and Loweswater. The clear, cool waters make for a wonderful swim which I can vouch for as seen here.

After a quick lunch, we ventured to Buttermere and traversed the path towards the lake’s southern point. We passed the Lone Tree and even managed to walk through the tunnel, which I had never done before. Jennifer and I were hopeful of going for a swim, but the wind chopped waters and cold wind made me abandon this plan. Instead we enjoyed views of Haystacks and High Crag from the shore.

From Buttermere we drove the 30 minutes back towards Keswick, to visit my favourite lake of all, Derwentwater. We parked at the Theatre by the Lake and then walked the path towards Friar’s Crag.

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Jennifer and Christine at Derwentwater

At Friar’s Crag we enjoyed views towards Castle Crag, Catbells and Walla Crag. It was nice to share my love of Derwentwater with someone new.

We then headed into Keswick and sought shelter from the rain and wind in the restaurant of The Old Keswickian. We enjoyed a restoring meal of fish and chips before heading home. It was a fun filled day. One that I have enjoyed reliving for this blog.

Have you shared your love of a special place with a friend?

Thanks for joining in my reminiscence,

Christine x

No Room at the Car Park…

No matter how much you plan a day out, even after getting up at 5.30am and driving for two hours, sometimes things just don’t go to plan. That was what happened to David and I recently, as we ventured to Pen-y-Pass car park, Snowdonia.

The plan was to walk the Miner’s Track to Snowdon and take in three swims, Glaslyn, Llydaw and Teyrn. However on arrival at 8am, staff were putting out orange bollards with signs saying full! Other car parks along the A4086 were also full. We were not the only disappointed visitors that day. There were many cars trying to park on verges as we drove to a new destination.

I had to think fast. Perhaps I should have suggested Idwal and Ogwen, (still llyns I’ve not swam in), but I thought the Idwal car park would be just as busy as Pen-y-Pass. So I decided we should drive on towards Llyn Dinas and see if there was any available car park spaces. There was! We paid £2.50 for the privilege of four hours. In hindsight we could have had free car parking further up the road, but we were going by my memory and that’s not the best at any time.

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Llyn Dinas

From the car park there were free toilets, only one for women, (be prepared to queue), the men fared better. We then walked south west along the A498 towards Llyn Dinas. Llyn Dinas boasts an all accessible pathway but that was further up the road and I had no map. There were many accessible routes from the road to the llyn but none with a good lake-shore until I found a site with a wide shingle beach. Not totally secluded but closest to, we decided to make this our camp.

Llyn Dinas is named after the nearby hill fort Dinas Emrys, which has mythical connections to the Arthurian figure Merlin. Merlin is reputed to have been recruited by king Vortigern who having fled the Anglo-Saxons was constructing a fort. Vortigern asked Merlin ‘why after building the fort would the construction come crashing down the next day’.

Merlin said that there were ‘two dragons or vermes who lived in a pool’ where the fort was being erected. It was they who destroyed the building. Once the dragons were freed the fort was constructed. In 1954 and 1956 the area was excavated by Archaeologist, Dr H. N. Savory who indeed discovered a pool inside the fort. Whether the myth has some foundation is debatable. Vortigern himself was supposed to have hidden the Throne of Britain beneath a stone at Llyn Dinas. Though this story seems to tally with a stone that was set to mark the boundary between three land cantrefi or borders.

On my swim I did not meet any dragons nor many people. The llyn was peaceful at 9am. The sun was warm and the water notched 20-22°C. It was the warmest wild swim I had ever experienced. I stayed in the water over half and hour and in hindsight I could have stayed in longer. I emerged from the water before the canoeists arrived. It was a most pleasurable swim.

I don’t seem to be as successful with my Welsh swims as I have been with my Lake District swims. There are so many llyns I have not attempted yet. Perhaps when the weather gets cooler I can reattempt the Miner’s Track?

Have you traversed the Miner’s Track to Snowdon? What were your impressions of the area?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-six

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_26Day 26: It’s back to work this week after a lovely break. One positive to working in Stockbridge Village is that there are a few social enterprises, such as Mab Lane Community Woodland and Woolfall Heath Meadowto enjoy.

I visited Woolfall Heath Meadow before work and spent a leisurely half an hour walking around the circular path through grassland.

It was a hot day, the thermometer reaching 24°C. The area was very quiet and I only saw two people walking their dogs. As I walked along the path, soaking up the rays of the sun, the chirp of grasshoppers sounded at my feet while willow warblers sung from the shelter of nearby trees.

The River Alt runs through the site and I sat overlooking a reedbed while watching as red admirals fluttered past. There were many meadow browns flying over the meadow but non stopped still enough for me to take a picture.

Of the flowers I spotted were, bindweed, thistles and field scabious. Bees enjoyed the ever popular brambles.

Do you have a community development like this one near you?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-three

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_23Day 23: Today was going to be all about lavender. I had planned a day out to Inglenook Farm to see their lavender fields. However since spring was late this year, it means that flowers are late in blooming, so we aborted the visit and I was left with nothing to fill today’s 30 Days Wild post.

Unfortunately it feels like a bit of a cop out, but I am reverting to a staple #randomactofwildness; that of capturing something blue. It may not have been the blue of lavender but I have many blues in the yarden.

From borage and vipers-bugloss, to a blue summers sky and rockery plant, Lithodora Heavenly Blue.

Have you photographed anything blue recently?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

P.S: I promise tomorrow’s post will be a bit more wild!

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twenty-two

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_22Day 22: National Insect Week runs from the 18th to 24th June 2018. So for today’s 30 Days Wild, I decided to go in search of insects in the yarden.

I peered under ivy and lifted rocks in the hope of finding some arthropods but all I found was a few frightened spiders.

I did have many flying insects visiting the yarden. Bees featured heavily. I saw my first honeybee of the season and a leaf-cutter bee foraged from flower to flower. A strange looking wasp also ventured into the yarden but didn’t stay for long.

I didn’t see any beetles, nor sight or sound of ants. They all must be hiding.

Have you done anything for National Insect Week?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x