Sunday Sevens #42

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Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series, Sunday Sevens. Here’s a quick update on my week.

Walking the Dog:

I thought I’d begin this week’s post with our run with Riley. It seems like every weekend when we arrive at Sefton Park, it hails on us. Today it was also blowing a gale! Riley didn’t seem to mind though as we followed his path around the park. We had a good 2 mile walk and even spotted parakeets flying from the tree tops.

#walk1000miles:

Tying in neatly with dog walking, is the #walk1000miles challenge. This week I’ve been feeling pretty lazy. Though recently recovering from a chill, I’ve had no excuse to not crank up the miles. However I’ve just felt to tired. I think the coldness of February is filtering into my bones, making me want to hibernate. I keep dreaming of warmer days. They will be here soon. I just need to get through the winter months. My weekly total has been 27 miles, bringing my annual mileage to 196 miles.

A Year in Books:

This week I’ve picked up Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. I can’t remember who suggested it to me but at present I am enjoying the story and characters. I think this book will be bitter sweet. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Aviary:

This week sadly our little aviary has become one less as we found Paris, one of our male owl finches, had passed away. He had been fluffed up for quite some time. I had hoped it was just with the cold, but it must have been with some illness. He was adorable and my love affair with owl finches will continue. I think they are so beautiful.

A New Friend:

Keeping with the avian theme. This week I’ve been trying to gain the trust of a visiting robin. He’s pretty brave and sings softly to me as I hold out the bird food to him. Sadly I’ve not been able to have him eating from my hand but he has been hopping close by. He watches me as I lay the food out and when I turn my back he jumps down and helps himself to the fare. I’ve been enjoying his daily visits. Long may they continue.

Shopping:

Saturday was all about shopping. David and I headed into Liverpool city centre before driving through the tunnel to Cheshire Oaks, where I managed to get a white fleece from Mountain Warehouse. David was looking for waterproof jackets, this was one of his favourites.

Yarden:

I thought I’d finish this post with an update on the yarden. I have one lowly snowdrop blooming. It looks rather chewed upon but at least it has made a show. I have a few more iris flowering and thought their petals looked nice with raindrops on them.

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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Colour Bingo!

27503153_10156137451853281_3427213563140472877_oDrawing inspiration from The Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives worksheet – Colour Bingo. I decided to go in search of colour in the yarden. I’ve cheated a little as my camera phone isn’t great at shooting wildlife, so I have used both pictures from my phone and also ones David has taken in the past. Ultimately they show the colours that are in the yarden and of those who visit it.

The first colour that caught my eye was red. The red of these laurel berries. How vibrant are they?

 

Black was a hard colour to find. I could have opted for wet soil but at the time I was perusing the yarden a solitary starling flew to the feeder. I found a picture David took a few years back. Starlings look black but they have iridescent feathers and are coloured in brown, green and and blue!

I was going to plump for a photo of a pigeon for grey but then the dunnock visited, so I decided to use him for the colour grey. I couldn’t find a good photo of the dunnock so one from a video grab will have to do.

I noticed these yellow blotches on laurel leaves. Every leaf looked different.

Green was the easiest colour to find in the yarden. There is still so much foliage about. I liked the pretty rain drops on these poppy seedlings.

Though the robin’s breast would have been ideal for red. I decided to choose the robin for brown. While I was mooching about the yarden, he sat watching me from the tree. Probably waiting for me to throw food for the pigeons so he can snatch some for himself.

Cream was another difficult colour. I opted for the cream chests of the visiting goldfinches.

For white I chose this bud from the camellia bush. There are many buds on the shrub. I am hoping for a good show this spring from the camellia.

borage

Borage

I couldn’t find anything for pink, but I did spy a borage flower braving the winter. I decided to incorporate its blue instead.

Perhaps you too can join in the colour bingo? Let me know what colours you find?

Thanks for reading,

Christine.

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

Sunday Sevens #41

This post’s a bit late, but it’s been a busy weekend and I’ve not had chance to sit down and write. So here’s my Sunday Sevens devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Walking the Dog: 
The highlight of the week has been walks with Riley.

Today we visited Sefton Park in all kinds of weather. While the daffodils bent their heads in the wind we jogged and walked in the snow, sleet, hail and rain! We had fun though and added three miles to my annual mileage.

#walk1000miles:

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This week I managed 35 miles, bringing my total to 108 miles! I also ordered the 2018 badge. If you are partaking in the challenge, how are you doing?

TV:

house

I have recently been enjoying the BBC 2 programme A House Through Time. Presented by David Olusoga, featuring a house in Faulkner Street, Liverpool. The programme is in four parts and follows the lives of the people who lived in the four storey house.

A Year in Books:

I am currently reading Tom Hank’s Uncommon Type, a collection of short stories with a typewriter mentioned in every one. David informed me that Hanks collects typewriters hence the love for them in this collection of stories. Have you read the book? What were your thoughts?

Night Out:

On Thursday David and I took a trip to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. The orchestra performed a varied programme. The low point was a premier of Stephen Pratt’s Symphonies of Tide and Time, which sounded discordant and seemed to have no theme whatsoever. Lithuanian violinist Julian Rachlin performed Brahms’ Violin Concerto enthusiastically, while the high point of the night was Elgar’s Enigma Variations. It was lovely to hear Nimrod played poignantly and variations 11 and 12 were both fun and melancholic respectively.

Classic FM Hall of Fame:

Hall of Fame

It’s that time of year again, when voting is open for Classic FM’s Hall of Fame. This year I voted for:

  1. Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony
  2. Elgar’s Enigma Variations
  3. Massenet’s Meditation from Thais

Even though we are in the midst of winter I am looking for signs of spring. I have not seen snowdrops yet, but I have seen daffodils and willows showing their catkins. Have you seen any signs of spring where you are?

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #40

Happy New Year!

I know it’s a bit late but I thought I would do a quick Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

This first week of 2018 has been all about the #walk1000miles challenge. David and I had a few extra days off work so we utilised it by going on two walks!

My total miles for the week has been a very reasonable 34 miles. If you have signed up for the challenge, how are you doing?

A Year in Books:

I spent most evenings this week reading and finishing A Parliament of Rooks by Karen Perkins. Unfortunately I did not enjoy the book as I had hoped. It seemed that every new chapter, the characters were cracking open a bottle of alcohol and the end was rather disappointing. There didn’t seem a reason why the protagonists were being ‘haunted.’ It wasn’t a very satisfying ending if you ask me. Have you read this book? Perhaps you enjoyed it more than I did?

Yarden:

We may be in the grip of winter but there are many signs of spring. The hellebore in the yarden has been blooming since mid December. I think the flower heads are so pretty!

Future planning:

Looking ahead to summer and The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild, I’ve recently purchased an illuminated mini beast centre to help in my exploration of the insect world this June. I’ve not tested it yet but the solar powered light looks bright enough to attract some moths. Hopefully!

Busy buying:

While doing the weekly shop I could not help but buy this beautiful new dinner set from Asda. It was only £15! The design is of an enchanted woodland and indeed the pattern is imaginary! The martens have antlers and the foxes have crow wings!

And finally:

Today has been a gorgeous, bright winters day here in the NW, so David and I took a leisurely 1.6 mile walk around Festival Gardens.

That was my week, how was yours?

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?

walk

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

30 Days Wild 2017 – Finale

o0OhgWNNSadly, it’s the end of June and the finale of The Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild! Though it has been a challenge this year, I have enjoyed stretching myself to experience nature through different activities.

Initiatives like this makes you more appreciative of nature. Whether listening to birdsong, smelling a fragrance or IDing a tree or plant. It gives colour to our lives.

Day Twenty-nine: Thursday. 

As I’m writing this my skin feels so itchy. It’s psychological. I decided today to have a look at the washing-up bucket pond we set up last year. In the space of a year, the rockery plants have grown, and we had to change the oxygenating plant as the mare’s tails died. I’ve never pond dipped before so I didn’t know what to expect. The pond is not very big so I just used a glass to scoop up some of the water. I beheld hundreds of strange floating, twisting insects. In hindsight I should have took a video but a blurry picture will have to suffice.

After some research I was shocked to find that the little critters are all mosquito larvae. Images of malaria breeding insects came to mind. I read that there are approx. 30 species of mosquito in the UK. Only females drink blood as they need the protein in blood to create their eggs. In warmer climes they are the biggest killer of humans. Makes you thankful the UK is often cool!

They are often the first to colonize a new pond and other pond life and birds eat these insects. So I’m wondering, is it a good thing for these insects to be a part of my wildlife yarden? What do you think? Perhaps I need to get another oxygenating plant to help clean the water some more? Some advice would be most appreciated.

Day Thirty: Friday.

For the final day of 30 Days Wild I decided to open a bottle of the elderflower champagne and toast to the wild!

As I have never tasted elderflowers I didn’t know what to expect. The bottle kindly didn’t pop, and what was decanted into champagne flutes was a fizzy, light coloured liquid that had a hint of zest and a floral bouquet. It reminded me of grapefruit. David said the drink was refreshing but my mum said it was an acquired taste. I enjoyed it, but don’t think I could drink a lot of it.

Have you made elderflower champagne? What was your experience?

Summary: 

My third year of participating in 30 Days Wild has been a memorable one. From blissfully hot summer days to endless days of rainfall. My favourite highlights included, making elderflower champagne, beach combing on Crosby Beach, strawberry picking on the Wirral and visiting Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve.

What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing over the course of the month?

Looking ahead: there are still many activities to keep wild well into the summer months and into autumn and winter too. Taking part in the annual Big Butterfly Count, which begins 14th July to the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch come January. There is no excuse for us to not stay wild!

What future activities are you looking forward to participating in?

A Look Back:

2015: Moths and butterflies

2016: Dancing in the rain and IDing weeds.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

A Tale of a Dunnock and a Robin

This spring our yarden has once again been visited by dunnocks and robins. David had the inspired idea of putting my action camera in the ground cage feeder, in the hope of getting some footage of our little feathered friends. The trial was a success and we got some wonderful footage of a visiting dunnock (who seems a little poser) and a flighty robin.

Robin:

Voted the UK’s National bird in 2015, and featured at number 7 in the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch 2017. The robin is recognised by many due to their red breast. Their sweet song can be heard all year round, not just in the spring. Both sexes look alike but their young are speckled brown. However cute they look they are very territorial and can fight to the death!

They are of similar size and have the same diet as the dunnock, hence chasing dunnocks from gardens.

Dunnock:

I have to admit, the dunnock is one of my favourite birds. This small, quiet bird flickers about the undergrowth snatching at insects. The male’s short, yet cheery song is mostly heard of a spring but I have heard them singing come Christmastime. They are, like the robin, a ground feeder, eating insects and berries. They will eat seeds and suet come winter. Their nests are often parasitised by the cuckoo. They have colourful sex lives, most are polyandrous (one female to a number of males) or polygynous (one male to a number of females). This ensures that more than one mate will tend to the young.

I have been bowled over by how good the footage of the dunnock and the robin is. It is definitely a technique we will attempt again, perhaps on the hanging feeders!

Which garden bird is your favourite?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

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

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

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Ennerdale Water and Angler’s Crag

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Derwent Water

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

 

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

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

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David enjoying the view from the breakfast room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thirlmere

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

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Castlerigg Stone Circle and Blencathra

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x