30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Twelve

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_12Day 12: This Tuesday I sieved the elderflower concoction into bottles ready for the next stage of the fermenting process.

Sieving is sticky business! The sugar water gets all over the place and it can take a while to sieve every last drop!

The next stage takes eight to ten days.

This part of the process is the most dangerous where Bottles can become distended or even explode with the amount of gas released by the yeast!

elderflower champagne

Elderflower Champagne

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Thanks for reading, and keep wild!

Christine x

 

The recipe used was from the Woman’s Institute.

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30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Eleven

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_11Day 11: For today’s Close Up Monday, the species in question is the tiny but mighty tadpole.

In our minuscule wildlife pond we have at least two tadpoles. It has been thrilling to see them develop. At present they have grown their limbs and will soon emerge from the pond. Let’s look more closely into their life-cycle.

A female frog or toad can lay up to 50,000 eggs known as frogspawn. Tadpoles are the larval stage of the cycle and hatch from around 1-3 weeks. They eat vegetation and have adapted jaws to do this.

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Tadpole with legs

The tadpoles in our yarden have been undergoing a fascinating metamorphosis. Unlike the butterfly, who goes into a crystals to morph, the tadpole changes before our very eyes.

Lungs develop, gills vanish, and limbs grow. I thought one of our tadpoles looked pretty mean! You can see its limbs clearly in the picture. Over time the tail is absorbed and the frog/toad becomes terrestrial.

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Lifecyle of Frog/Toad

Frogs and toads are Anuran which means tail-less. Their skin is permeable to water meaning that if a frog is thirsty they just have to jump into water, while toads just need to find a muddy spot in which to absorb moisture through their stomachs. Frogs and toads are carnivorous and eat mosquitoes, files, snails and other invertebrates. Frogs reach maturity at three years old whereas toads at four. Frogs can live up to eight years and toads 12 years. I found most of my information from the Woodland Trust website, here. and Arkansas Frogs and Toads.

Do you have any frogs/toads living in your pond?

Thanks for reading, and keep wild.

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Ten

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_10Day 10: This Sunday David and I ventured to Brockholes, 50 minutes drive from Liverpool. Brockholes is a nature reserve on the site of an old quarry. It opened in 2011 and is managed by Lancashire Wildlife Trust. This 250 acre reserve has trail paths, forest walks, lakes, wetlands and a floating visitor centre.

We spent a leisurely four hours nature spotting. The highlights were: seeing a fleeing roe deer, hundreds of darting blue damselflies, dragonflies spotted over the Nook Pool, and an oystercatcher and lapwing from The Lookout hide.

Have you visited Brockholes? What was your impression?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

 

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Seven.

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_07Day 7: For 30 Days Wild, Thursdays will be known as Throw Back Thursdays.

In 2015 I snapped a picture of a blue sky. 2016 saw us visit Liverpool’s Festival Gardens and in 2017 I joined in with the Great British Bee Count. For 2018 I decided to continue with Friends of the Earth’s Great British Bee Count.

I didn’t have much time in the yarden this evening but I did manage to spot three different species of bee in five minutes of counting. Here’s what I spotted.

  1. Tree Bumblebee (and a dark variation)
  2. Leaf Cutter Bee
  3. Buff Tailed Bumblebee

Have you participated in the Great British Bee Count? What has been your star bee species this year?

Thanks for reading, and keep wild!

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Three.

downloadDay 3: This Sunday David and I (with Riley), ventured to Liverpool’s Festival Gardens in search of elderflowers. We walked 2.6 miles looking for full blooms and thankfully came away with 25 flower heads.

Once back home I cut the heads from the storks, grated the zest from four lemons and boiled a kettle.

Since last years recipe had mixed results, I opted to try another recipe. The recipe I followed was from The Women’s Institute.

  • 25- 30 full Elderflower Heads in full bloom
  • 2 kg Sugar
  • 2 lt Water
  • 4 Lemons, juice and pared zest
  • 1-2 tbsp White Wine Vinegar
  • Dried Yeast, pinch

Method

  • Boil the water and pour onto the sugar in a large previously sterilised container.
  • Stir until the sugar dissolves, then add cold water up to 6 litres.
  • Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently.
  • Cover and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. At this point, check and if it has not started to ferment (a few bubbles) add a pinch of yeast.
  • Leave the mixture to ferment, covered for a further four days.
  • Strain the liquid through a muslin lined sieve into sterilised champagne glass bottles. Seal and leave to ferment in the bottles for a further eight days before serving, chilled.

I will keep you updated on the champagnes progress.

Have you tried making elderflower champagne/cordial?

Thanks for reading, and keep wild!

Christine x

 

High Winds and Temperatures!

The Sunday of this years Spring Bank Holiday, saw temperatures rise to the mid 20°’s. However the westerlies were gale-like and even though they were refreshing from the heat of the sun, they did knock us about a bit as we climbed though Burtness Wood and on towards Bleaberry Tarn. Bleaberry Tarn was the destination of our walk. We watched as many continued up the staircase-like steps towards Dodd and Red Pike, but David and I decided that the walk to Bleaberry Tarn was enough for us.

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Bleaberry Tarn

Our day began at 6am. A two and a half hour drive was ahead of us. Thankfully the roads were quiet and we made good timing, arriving at Buttermere around 9am. Even at that time, Buttermere was humming with walkers and day trippers alike. We found a space at the National Trust parking by the Fish Inn and paid £8 for all day parking. Then paid 30p for toilet privilege before we began our walk from the car park.

We followed the path towards Buttermere before heading right, over a bridge and left through a gate towards steep steps through Burtness Wood. The tiring two hours walk took us 497m through woodland and then over a boulder field with views from the paths overlooking a glistening Buttermere and Crummock Water.

We passed the unfortunately named outflow, Sour Milk Ghyll, the second of that name, (the first we encountered at Easdale), before we came upon a corrie surrounded by Wainwright’s, Red Pike and High Stile. There were many people enjoying a well earned rest before Bleaberry Tarn and David and I did the same. We picnicked and rested at the waterside, looking at mountains all around.

I think Bleaberry Tarn has been the smallest body of water I have swam in (to date)! Where we picnicked the water was very shallow. There was also a captive audience which I wasn’t happy about. I prefer to swim in more seclusion. We decided to walk to the western side of the tarn. From there the entrance to the water was better, less stones to scramble over and the water was deeper. From here you got swimming pretty quickly which was a godsend as the water, though 16°C felt pretty chilly.

A good two hours was spent at the tarn. I swam in clear, silky waters, floated before craggy peaks and a burning hot sun and even braved dunking my head for an underwater shot!

Our return walk took one hour. Hot and tired, David and I enjoyed an ice cream from Croft House Farm Cafe, before we struggled past cars that were parked on double yellow lines, on our way out of Buttemere and Lorton.

Bleaberry Tarn was a most enjoyable swim. The second of 2018. I wonder where my 3rd will be? Have you any ideas on where I should swim/walk next?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

An Introduction to Wild Swimming

I was thinking the other day, that of all the wild swims I have posted about, I have not included a beginners guide. So here’s how I read and learned about the wonderful ‘sport’ of wild swimming.

After the initial interest, (visiting the shores of Llyn Idwal and Derwentwater) and of being tempted into the silky waters. I Googled whether it was indeed acceptable to go swimming outdoors in the UK. I discovered that there was a time when there were hundreds of lidos (outdoor pools) in the UK and people didn’t bat an eyelid if you were spotted swimming along a river or paddling in a lake. Today’s mindset that swimming outdoors is dangerous, comes from after WW2 when heated indoor pools became the norm. Thankfully people like Kate Rew, The Wild Swimming Brothers and even Robson Green, are helping swimming outdoors, known as wild swimming, become much more acceptable.

My first port of call for research was Kate Rew’s book Wild Swim, and Daniel Start’s Wild Swimming. Both books, (with stunning photographs) offer insightful recommendations on places to swim by region.

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Kate Rew is founder of The Outdoor Swimming Society, an invaluable website with information for anyone interested in wild swimming. Part of the website is a Wild Swim map, an interactive map of the UK where people post reviews on swims with helpful hints, (I’ve even added a couple!)

Many Google searches came up with information on safe swimming. One was by the NHS, and another from The Lake District National Park, which gave a list of lakes that you could swim in and those that you couldn’t! It’s a website that has informed my many Lake District wild swims.

Another website on Lake District swimming that I frequent is the blog Swimming the Lakes. This lady planned to swim across all the lakes and tarns in the Lake District. Her blog posts have once again helped in my wild swimming choices.

YouTube was another invaluable resource. Just search swimming in the Lake District and you get hundreds of hits! One channel that whetted my appetite for swimming in the Lake District was Trek and Run Online. Their videos of swimming in Buttermere and Derwentwater inspired me to take a dip in both lakes myself, resulting in happy memories.

One aspect of wild swimming I have not covered is of course hypothermia. Though not a blog I followed from the beginning, Open Water Woman has this topic covered. Her detailed post is well worth a read and very insightful.

So my research determined that I could go wild swimming, but what should I wear? What equipment did I need? I did not like the idea of wearing a wet-suit so that was out of the equation. I wanted to feel the cool water lapping at my skin. So skins it was then.

I can’t explain the excitement I had when I went shopping for clothing for my first swim in 2016. I had a basic list.

  • A swimsuit
  • Goggles (which I have never worn)
  • Neoprene boots/shoes (I didn’t want to cut my feet on rocks and stones as I waded into the water)

David thought I was insane but humoured me.

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First swim at Derwentwater

Since my initial swims, my ‘kit’ has expanded. A simple bathing suit is ok for swimming in summer but come autumn, when temperatures drop you find your body needs extra protection.

  • Neoprene gloves are a must for colder waters. My hands burned when I swam in Derwentwater during October, enough for me to research hand protection.
  • A towel from home is just too bulky. I now have two microfiber towels from Mountain Warehouse. They are easier to carry in my rucksack when going on a hike before a swim.
  • To document my swims, David gifted me a GoPro type waterproof camera. The quality of video is excellent! I named it Wilson (of Cast Away fame) as I almost lost it on a swim in Ullswater.
  • A thermometer is a must if you want to know what temperature of water you are swimming in. I purchased a quirky child’s tortoise thermometer who I have called Terrence.
  • Since purchasing my first swimsuit. I have bought many tankini’s. I prefer the fit of shorts and top to an all in one.

And finally.

colour-guide-dryrobe-range-Small

The last piece of kit that I now own is a dryrobe! I have been after a changing robe for so long but could not justify the cost, as I only dip, not compete. For Christmas David kindly gifted me my very own dryrobe. It’s a kids advanced (as I’m a shortie), and it is spacious enough for me to get dry and changed in. I am eager to get back to swimming to try it out!

Not satisfied with just swimming in the Lake District I went in search for information on swimming in Wales. Vivienne Rickman Poole‘s blog documents her many swims in the llyns of Snowdonia. I’ve managed to do two swims in Wales in 2017, Llyn Cwellyn and Llyn Cau. I hope to add to this tally in 2018.

I’ve found many Facebook pages relating to wild swimming. Outdoor Swimming Society has one, COWS or Cumbria Open Water Swimmers is a good page for the Lake District and nearer to home #ChesterFrosties have an inspiring page too. I’m sure there will be one for your area too!

The take home message of this post is to be informed, swim within your limits, be courteous to others and enjoy the experience. For my first swim at Derwentwater, I felt apprehensive about entering the water, I took my time and slowly edged into the cool May waters. I knew I didn’t have a strong upper body so I kept to the shoreline. It’s only when you feel stronger and confident that you can swim for longer.

I hope this post has been informative? I have accumulated my knowledge over two-three years and will continue to learn. Perhaps I have inspired you to give wild swimming a go? If you do, let me know how you get on?

Thanks for reading and stay safe,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #38

This week’s Sunday Sevens, (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), comes mostly from the Lake District where I’ve had a wonderful few days away with David.

B&B: Yet again we stayed at Hermiston Guesthouse in Braithwaite for our two night stay. We were given the very comfortable Latrigg double room!

Birthday: This third ‘Lakes holiday’ of 2017 was a birthday treat. Phil and Helen, the proprietors of the guest house, gifted me a bottle of bucks fizz to celebrate!

Wild Swimming: Of course I planned some wild swims alongside our many walks. I spent a wonderful impromptu 20 minute swim at Buttermere! The water temperature was about 12° but in the sunshine it felt much warmer. However the shakes on shore afterwards were some of the worst I’ve experienced. It was hard to drink my hot cup of coffee!

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Buttermere

#walk1000miles: Even though I have completed the walk 1000 miles challenge, I am still counting my mileage. David and I walked a good seven miles around Haweswater where there are gates made for giants!

On returning home, among the post was my completers medal! Yay!! 😀

Derwent Water: Of course no visit to Keswick would have been complete without visiting the shores of Derwent Water. I think this picture of the Borrowdale end of the lake is among the best I’ve taken.

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Derwent Water

Tux: Unfortunately on our arrival home, we were dismayed to have had yet another death in the aviary. Poor Tux, who was our eldest owl finch, was found at the bottom of the cage. We have buried her in the yarden with her partner Troy (who died earlier this year).

I’ll finish this post with a photo of the beautiful flowers David bought me for my birthday!

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

Sunday Sevens #34.

This weeks Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins, will be coming to you from the Lake District.

B&B: We seem to spend more time exploring the northern part of Cumbria than any other area. Keswick is our town of choice and we have been visiting the same B&B in Braithwaite (10 mins drive from Keswick) for the past three breaks. Hermiston Guesthouse is run by the lovely and welcoming Phil and Helen whose five bedroom establishment is situated before the grand Skiddaw range. This time we were given the quiet ground floor room, Whinlatter, with views of their garden. Hermiston has become a home from home and every stay is just as comfortable as the previous.

Wild Swimming: We spent a few days in the Lake District to mainly do some more swim/walks. Swimming in Blea Tarn was a highlight of the break and one off the ‘to do’ list!

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Angle Tarn

#Walk1000miles: I actually thought my mileage this week was going to be good, but I have only managed 27 miles. A big chunk of that was aided by a five hour hike on Friday around Angle Tarn, more to follow on that epic day! My annual total is now at 710 miles. Not long to go now!

Wildlife: While walking around Beda Fell David spotted this gorgeous Golden Ringed Dragonfly at the side of the path. He was a big one!

Local produce: On the way home we decided to stop off at Grasmere to buy some famous gingerbread. Sarah Nelson in 1854 created the recipe which is still being used today. The gingerbread is a curious mix between a biscuit and a cake. If you like ginger then you will like this. I found it enjoyable with a cup of tea.

We also bought a couple of small bars of Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake but haven’t tried them yet.

Food: No visit to Keswick would be without visiting my favourite lake, Derwentwater, (sorry Buttermere.) We spent a lovely evening sitting on a beach, enjoying the views, with swallows somersaulting overhead, while eating fish and chips from The Old Kewsickian chippie.

So, that was my weekly highlights, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 4

o0OhgWNNIt’s the last full week of the Wildlife Trust’s, 30 Days Wild. How fast has June flown?! Though it’s been a challenge this year. However, I think I’ve managed to make my week four, wild with diverse activities.

If, like me you are looking for inspiration on where to visit, why not try the Wildlife Trusts’ Nature Finder app? With over 2000 nature reserves it’s a helpful aid to search for the wild!

Day Twenty-two: Thursday.

Plantlife have launched The Great British Wildflower Hunt. Their aim is to help more people identify wildflowers. They have downloadable identification sheets with helpful pictures and information on 20 popular wildflowers. You can do two counts. One in the city and the other in the countryside. I opted for the city.  I was able to count a very respectable 13/20, though there is still a lot more I could learn about wildflowers.

Have you joined in this count? What were your highlights?

Day Twenty-three: Friday. 

A week ago I planted some of my accumulation of freebie wildflower seeds. One pack I received with my 30 Days Wild mailing, the other I requested via Nestle Cereals. In just seven days my seeds have sprouted into seedlings. Hopefully they will flower come August!

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Seedlings

Day Twenty-four: Saturday.

Today as we were visiting local pet shops I decided to visit a nature reserve we drive past every-time we travel from Liverpool to St. Helens. Stanley Bank is a nature reserve with an easy 1 mile walk. It’s part of the larger Sankey Valley Country Park. On a rather grey day there wasn’t many insects on the wing. There were however lots of wildflowers gracing the path as we followed a stream, watching a pied wagtail flit from bank to bank. There were lots of bird song from the canopy of trees above our heads. I could identify a blackbird, blue and great tits and wood pigeons. Here’s a few pictures I took of our short woodland walk.

Day Twenty-five: Sunday.

The plan for today was to visit Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve near Crosby. I had planned the weekend around the weather forecast which said that Saturday was to be drizzly and Sunday just a grey day. However Saturday’s visit to St. Helens remained rainless while waking up on Sunday the rain fell like rods. Feeling a little miffed to say the least, I dawdled breakfast and then left for Lunt at 10am, when thankfully the rain started to ease up.

Only 40 minutes drive from Liverpool, Lunt Meadows is 77ha of land along the River Alt. It is a relatively new reserve being only opened to the public since 2015. The habitats include wetland and fens. During our visit we only saw a handful of other walkers, mainly with their dogs. David and I took a leisurely three hours to walk around the reserve.

During excavations of Lunt Meadows archaeologists discovered a rare Mesolithic settlement by a group of nomadic stone-age hunter gatherers who lived in the area 8,000 years ago. It made me think of what their life must have been like and what they would think of the area today. If you are interested in what the archaeologists found, you can read more here.

While walking along the River Alt, we enjoyed watching swifts swoop past us. It made me feel dizzy watching them as they skimmed over the water. I later read that they live their life of the wing, even sleeping whilst flying! Butterflies we had disturbed fluttered before us. I was excited to see my first sighting of a large skipper! The air was filled with the chatter of warblers and the hum of bees. At one stage even small toads hopped across our path. We managed to pick one up and its padded feet felt cold and wet. Here’s just a small selection of pictures David and I took of our wonderful visit.

We will definitely visit Lunt Meadows again, hopefully in better weather!

Where is your favourite nature reserve?

Day Twenty-six: Monday. 

Inspired by a photo featured on Thomas Heaton’s photography YouTube by Cora Iwanowsky, David set out in search of a garden snail to photograph. He searched our yarden, under overhanging plants and behind pots. After selecting the right model, he gathered stones from our fireplace and placed them in our fountain. He then positioned the model at the pinnacle of the display. He quickly took some photographs before putting the snail back in the yarden, none the wiser of what had just occurred. Here’s David’s attempt.

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Snail on Stone by David Evans

David’s antics got me thinking about garden snails and that I knew nothing about them. So here’s a few facts about these abundant garden friend or foe.

  • Are classed as a terrestrial gastropod mollusk.
  • Are native to Europe.
  • Have a flat “muscular foot” that helps them move, aided by the release of mucus to reduce friction (hence snail trails).
  • Feasts on plant matter and debris.
  • Has nocturnal habits and rests during the day.
  • During hot periods they can retract into their shell and seal it shut, this induces a hibernation state and they can remain like this for several months.
  • Most hibernate during the winter.
  • Their fastest speed is only 1.3 centimeters per second.
  • They are hermaphrodite (both male and female) but need another snail for sperm transfer.
  • Can lay up to 100 eggs and up to six batches a year.
  • Are a food in France and Spain.

Who would have thought the common garden snail could be so fascinating! Their induced hibernation amazed me!

Day Twenty-seven: Tuesday. 

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The RSPB’s Wild Challenge, is an initiative to get children and families that little bit more wild. I think it is a great resource once 30 Days Wild has ended. There are three levels of challenges, bronze, silver and gold, with a list of activities to achieve before each level is reached and a certificate awarded. Having a wild sleep-out, learning about moths and going on a bug safari are some of the activities you can participate in.

Have you signed up for this challenge? What are your thoughts on the initiative?

Day Twenty-eight: Wednesday. 

As we were visiting family this evening and didn’t have much time available for anything too wild! David and I decided to take Riley to Newsham Park. Riley having not been to this park before, was excited at all the new smells. He even chased and barked at the congregating seagulls. Indeed it was weather for seagulls as it had been raining all day. The field we let Riley run free was sodden with water and soon Riley and our feet were soaked too! The park boasts two lakes, a band stand and Newsham House which Queen Victoria visited during her reign. However, all we managed to visit on this dreary evening was the gardens.

Summary:

Even though the weather was unsettled this week, we did manage to see lots of wildlife. Highlights for me was visiting Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and seeing that my wildflower seeds have sprouted.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?

A Look Back:

2015:  Passion Flowers and a trip to Norwich

2016: Moth sighting and no tech day

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x