An Apple Festival – Gorse Hill Nature Reserve

This weekend David and I visited Gorse Hill Nature Reserve in Ormskirk. The attraction was their annual apple festival. Since 2005 an organic orchard has been established with heritage varieties such as the Ribston Pippin and Worcester Permain.

apples 1

Worcester Permain

The 2017 apple festival ran from Saturday 7th to Sunday 8th September, with opening hours of 11 to 4pm. We arrived around 12 noon after a half hour drive from Liverpool. There was free parking. Sadly Saturday was a bit of a wash-out weather wise. It was cold, wet and dreary all day. Though there were a good number of people enjoying the cakes and coffee in the cafe.

On the day, there were regular tours of the orchard with interesting histories of the heritage apple species grown onsite. An apple press demonstrated apple juice production with the opportunity to purchase the juice at £2 a bottle and there was even access to a short woodland walk.

Firstly, David and I headed towards the barn where the main attraction was, the produce of some 100+ fruit trees from the orchard. There was an apple tasting table where you could taste samples of the likes of Sunset and Katy. I tried the Ribston Pippin but found it too hard. I then tried the Ellison’s Orange and it was a much softer, sweater texture.

From the taster table we perused the produce, there were varieties such as Egremont Russet with its rough skin, Brambley and the humongous Mere de Menage.

The main reason we went was so I could obtain some Discovery apples as they are a personal favourite. However for the past two years I have not been able to buy them in the supermarkets. Sadly they are a seasonal early, are usually ripe during September and unfortunately spoil very quickly, hence only seeing them early autumn. Indulgently their taste and smell conjure up memories of childhood, the nervous excitement of returning to school after the long school holidays, (still felt some 30 years later). Of sitting in a darkened room with the curtains open, the street lights outside making the room glow orange, the gas fire burning warmly and children’s programmes blaring brightly on the TV. The sense of safety is overpowering. I’m still wearing my school uniform of royal blue cardigan and navy skirt while biting into an apple that has soft flesh, the pulp bruised pink and the taste sweet yet tart. I’ve been following this echo for so long….

We went on the short woodland walk along Cabin Wood. Since the weather was against us, there was no head nor tail of any insects and the air was silent of bird song. I can imagine of a spring or summers day the air teaming with life. Instead, we wrapped our arms around ourselves and enjoyed the many sculptures along the path.

ellison orange

Ellison’s Orange

Returning to the apple barn I decided to buy some Discovery and Ellison’s Orange, both had the scent of autumn to me. In all I bought 12 apples and at 4 for £1, the total cost was £3. I felt that was really cheap. I was ready and willing to pay more.

In hindsight I wish I had bought more of a variety, but I had intended to get Discovery apples and Discovery apples I got!

I am happy I have discovered this little gem of an orchard and will definitely visit again.

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

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Advertisements

30 Days Wild 2017 – Week 1

o0OhgWNNIt’s June, and that time of year again! Time for The Wildlife Trust’s wonderful initiative, 30 Days WildInspiring us all to get that little bit more wild! This is the third year I’ll be participating and I have to admit, I was a little excited for June to arrive. I learned so much during 2016’s 30 Days and enjoyed immensely the camaraderie of the online community. If you’d like to follow fellow participants, then click on My Wild Life Bloggers, and join in the discussion!

Day One: Thursday.

What could I do for the opening to my 30 Days Wild? With it being a long day at work, I decided to participate in Friends of the Earth’s, Great British Bee Count. The count runs from 19th May to 30th June and helps gather data on how healthy (or not) the British Bee population is.

gbbc-2016-teaser-2.jpg

So once home, and dinner cooked, out I went into our yarden and stood hovering around the plants I know are popular with the bees. I’ve found that bees tend to like blueish coloured flowers. Among these plants are bell flowers, cat mint and chives. In just one small corner I counted five tree bumblebees, in an inner city yarden I find that amazing! There were also sightings of buff tailed bumblebees and I happily saw my first mason bee of the season. The yarden is usually awash with these cute little bees, all knocking each other from the flowers but I’ve noticed numbers seem to be down this year.

Have you participated in the Great British Bee Count? If not, you can download their free and easy to use app here, and start counting. 🙂

Day Two: Friday.

The Wildlife Trust’s encourages Random Act of Wildness. These Random Acts, be it for a few minutes or hours, are designed to add a little bit of nature to our otherwise busy lives. You can find their free downloadable app with 101 inspiring suggestions here. One such Random Act is find a creepy crawly. So after work I looked among the plants and undergrowth of our yarden, actively seeking creepy crawlies. I found two to photograph. One was a seven spot ladybird and the other a scarlet lily beetle. One is deemed a goody by gardeners and the other a baddie! I’ve Googled some interesting facts about both.

Seven Spotted Ladybird:

  • The most common ladybird seen in Europe.
  • Has a lifespan of a year.
  • Can eat up to 5.000 aphids during their life.
  • Secretes a fluid from their legs that is distasteful to predators.

Scarlet Lily Beetle:

  • Is not a native species to Britain but has been colonising since 1939.
  • Often seen on lilies and fritillaries and causes damage to these plants.
  • Overwinters in soil cover.
  • Studies have shown females find plants by scent.

Do you have any more curious facts about either species?

Day Three: Saturday.

Garden-BioBlitz-2017

This weekend was the annual National Garden BioBlitz. I took part in this survey last year. You can read how that went on here. This year I didn’t have as much time available, so I snatched an hour here and there. The aim of the project is to count the plants and animals that have arrived in the yarden ‘of its own accord’. Whereas I counted 54+ species of trees, shrubs, alpines and perennials I had planted. I only counted 21+ of flora and fauna that had arrived in the yarden of their own steam. Among them were:

Flora: bell flowers, foxgloves, poppies, herb robert and the annoying sticky weed!

Fauna: goldfinches, starlings, magpie, bee-fly and a spittle bug.

Out of the 20 species to look out for, our lowly little yarden chalked up 5/20. We were able to tick off, house sparrow, mason bee, tree bumblebee, garden snail and seven spot ladybird.

Did you participate in this survey? What wonders did you find?

Day Four: Sunday.

Last year, I participated in Wild October, an initiative started by 30 Days Wild’s Facebook page. The aim was to enjoy the changing season of Autumn. During the month I gathered fallen leaves and other detritus from a local park and displayed them on a nature table. This year for 30 Days Wild, I decided to do similar but with flowers and grasses I found along a woodland walk in Liverpool’s Festival Gardens. Of Course Riley had to tag along too. 🙂

While researching for this post, I was saddened to read that Festival Gardens has been earmarked for redevelopment, with shops and a ferry terminal in the pipe works. I do hope they don’t build on the already established park. The park as it stands has lovely lakeside paths and woodland walks and was created back in 2011 so the wildlife has had time to establish themselves. Redevelopment would mean a loss of habitat for wildlife and the opportunity for the residents to get closer to nature.

Have you lost a valued place of nature to redevelopment? Let me know your thoughts on this?

Day Five: Monday. 

Everywhere I look there are elders and their flowers growing all over the city. Waving seductively at the sides of roads, gracing parks, and even surprisingly, growing down my road! So I decided I would try my hand at making some elderflower champagne. I don’t know whether it will work as I’ve never done it before, but I thought. ‘I would give it a try’!

There are just so many recipes and videos on YouTube that I didn’t know which one to follow. So I sort of made a conglomeration of a couple!

Ingredients:

  • David and I foraged 10 medium sized elderflower heads.
  • Used 6 litres of water. 1 litre boiled and 5 cold.
  • The zest and juice of two lemons as well as two halves thrown in for good measure.
  • 750g of sugar (I used granulated).
  • 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar.

Method:

  • After sterilizing a bucket David measured the sugar and dissolved into 1 litre of hot water.
  • While David stirred the sugar solution I trimmed and cut the elderflowers from their stalks, shaking any bugs off.
  • We threw the flowers into the bucket and added the zest and juice of the lemons.
  • Then left in two lemon halves in the mixture.
  • Poured the litre of sugar solution onto the elderflower and lemon and then added 5 litres of cold water.
  • Finally added the white wine vinegar and gave it a good stir.
  • Covered bucket with a tea-towel and left solution to (hopefully) start fermenting.
  • Stir the mixture once everyday until you see bubbles or fungus. Then sieve and bottle up. Be careful to leave gaps in top of bottles and monitor as the natural yeast in the elderflower and the sugar can cause the bottles to explode!

I will keep you all updated on our progress.

Day Six: Tuesday. 

Since it’s been raining for the past two days, I decided to do a little research on the topic. The Met Office offered a helpful info-gram. This video here, is helpful too.

18839681_10154858969474209_2378920853499210813_o

Five Facts:

  • It rains due to warm moist air cooling and condensing to liquid.
  • The shape of a rain drop is actually like a jelly bean.
  • The average speed of a rain drop is 14 mph.
  • Petrichor is the smell of rain as it hits dry ground.
  • Rain falls from weather fronts (two differing air masses) whereas showers stem from clouds.

Day Seven: Wednesday.

20170606_171300 (2)

Saving a buff-tailed bumblebee

With this deluge of rain we are having, means the poor wildlife seem to be having a hard time. The rain makes it harder for birds to forage for seeds and insects for their nestlings and bees become sodden and lethargic. It always seems to be buff-tailed bumblebees we find clinging to flower petals in the hope of finding shelter. Here’s what you can do if you find one.

The RSPB state two tablespoons of granulated sugar to one tablespoon of water. I think that is a little excessive. We only use teaspoons. One teaspoon to half a teaspoon of sugar. Place the sugar water where the bee can sit safely and drink. You will be amazed at how quickly the bee perks up.

Our little bumblebee was also wet and cold so we warmed her by the radiator before releasing her back safely into the yarden.

Have you tried reviving tired bees? How did it work for you?

Summary:

Nature is supposed to be natural, not forced, however this being my third year of participating in 30 Days Wild, I have felt pressurised to do activities which I haven’t done in previous years. Have you felt the same?

I did enjoy foraging for elderflowers and counting the bees. It’s amazing that even a small urban yarden can attract a variety of wildlife.

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

A Look Back: at week one in previous years.

2015: Mint moths and buying homes for nature.

2016: Bee facts and growing maris bard potatoes.

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Aira Force and Ullswater

20161029_123736-2

Ullswater

Before journeying home, I planned to stay a little bit longer in the Lake District. Even though the day dawned grey and showery, we stuck with the itinerary and headed towards Aira Force and Ullswater. Neither we had visited before, so we were in new charted territory!

We parked the car at High Cascades car park. I thought it was reasonably priced for the day at £6.50, other car parks in the area charged a lot more!

14881428_10154199464254200_1485365380_o

Aira Falls

The path took us along well designed paths that lead towards the viewing platform and steps to Aira Force. The whole area felt like a Victorian park, and after some online research I found that the area was indeed landscaped, though earlier than expected, by the Howard family in the 1780’s.

The woodland walk was pleasant and the area seemed very popular with other tourists.

We spent a good hour walking the meandering paths, following bubbling streams and watching fast flowing rapids.

Above the shade of trees the clouds broke and an unseasonably hot sun glared down.

After visiting Aira Force, a walk along the Gowbarrow trail was planned. We took the route anti clockwise. I don’t know whether this was a good thing or not, though come our descent we were faced with very steep steps, so going up would have been a struggle!

We walked a narrow path, with wonderful views of Ullswater below. The destination for lunch was the Memorial Seat and cairn.

After a well earned rest, where we were either too hot or too cold, we continued on an exhausting two hour hike around Gowbarrow. At 481m it was 100m taller than Walla Crag, and boy did it feel it! We kept walking and walking. The map I had didn’t correlate to anything in front of us. There were times when I thought we were lost, and then the weather turned and the cloud came rolling in!

20161029_135857-2

Gowbarrow Summit

However we managed to find the summit of Gowbarrow and though we stumbled on our descent, we could see the car park and David’s shiny red car awaiting us in the distance. It was a welcome sight!

I have never felt so utterly spent after a walk as I did after Gowbarrow. Perhaps is was due to the fact that I hadn’t rested after a hectic day around Derwentwater, the day before. Whatever it was, when we found free parking alongside a grey Ullswater, I was in two minds as to whether to embark on my final swim or leave the total for 2016 at 9! All along the walk to Gowbarrow I had been imagining the swim in Ullswater. I felt apprehensive. The swims in Bassenthwaite and Loweswater had made me worry about how cold the water would be and would I enjoy the experience. I know I hadn’t enjoyed Loweswater!

20161029_154658-2

Ullswater

Though my mind debated and my body felt tired, I knew in my heart that if I didn’t take a dip in Ullswater, (a new lake to add to the tally), then I would feel I had cheated myself. I had come this far, a few minutes of discomfort would be worth the exhilaration afterwards! So David and I headed towards the shore. The choice of entrance was not the greatest. I had intended on swimming from Glencoyne Bay but we had parked a little further up the road and the entrance was rocky and very shallow. It took me a while to waddle into water deep enough for me to submerge my body.

Though the water was cold, it did not feel as icy as Derwentwater. Indeed after a few strokes I felt warm. I began to enjoy myself. I took Wilson (waterproof camera) with me and snapped a few shots. I was later astonished to find that I had shared my swim with hundreds of little fish. I had not felt them swimming through my fingers like I had at Easedale.

What happened next was due to my own laziness at not wanting to stumble across bricks and rocks to hand Wilson back to David on shore. I have discovered that I can’t breaststroke while holding the camera, so I placed Wilson on a stone that protruded above the water. The water was relatively calm, so I left Wilson while I continued to swim back and forth along the shore. On the other side of the lake a ferry chugged along.

Before I knew it, David was shouting ‘wave,’ in alarm and I was buffeted by a huge swell churned up from the ferry. I watched in horror as Wilson was knocked off his rock and I kicked stones and bruised my legs scrambling towards shore to find him. David directed me as to which direction he thought Wilson had been swept in. I waded in panic, shivering in the cold. I was about to give up when I saw Wilson bobbing in the shallows. I was so relieved. I did not want to lose my new camera. It was a lesson well learned!

The event had upset me almost to tears. Cold to the bone, I cut short my swim and returned, mightily relieved to the shore. David and I were thankful I had not lost my new camera. David joked that it reminded him of the film Castaway, hence the name Wilson.

Up until the incident, I had been enjoying my swim in Ullswater. It makes me determined to return in the future. I will just have to find a way of fixing Wilson to my body so I can swim unhindered.

I hope you have enjoyed my short, but full excursion to the Lake District? Have you been to Aira Force, walked Gowbarrow or around Ullswater? Let me know what lakes/walks you think I should visit next.

Thanks for reading,

Christine x