30 Days Wild 2019 – Day Nine.

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_09Day 9: I’m returning to my painted lady caterpillars as they embark on the next stage of their metamorphosis.

In the past week, four of the caterpillars made it to the top of the cup and hung down in a J shape. The process from caterpillar to chrysalis only took a day but I left them to harden for three.  One little guy never made it to the top so I scooped him up and left him on the floor of his new habitat.

In two weeks time hopefully all five will emerge from their chrysalides as butterflies!

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

Scotland Wild Swims

Just a quick post today. A big thank you to David who slogged for over a month on a video compilation of my three loch swims. I think he’s done a fab job!

Thanks David!

Christine x

 

Doughnut’s First Swim!

It was the first outing of my orange tow float, and to celebrate this momentous occasion I walked 1.5 hours to Stickle Tarn, in the Langdales (and 1.5 hours back) to test it out!

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At Stickle Tarn

On a particular down day I decided that my swim kit just wasn’t complete without a tow float. I had read that COWS who swim at Derwentwater had asked swimmers to don a tow float so tourist boaters could see swimmers. For the sake of safety I decided to buy a Lomo tow float with pouch (other brands are available). It was only £19 including postage and arrived not two days after I ordered it. I was very happy with my purchase and was excited to test it out.

So when an impromptu break to the Lake District beckoned, the tow float came with me, along with a brand new Regatta rucksack. All this swim kit needs to be carried and the rucksack I had just wasn’t adequate.

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Regatta Rucksack

Our walk started from The National Trust Stickle Ghyll car park off the B5343 (nearest postcode LA22 9JX). David and I, didn’t know how long it would take to walk the route with a swim and picnic, so we paid for all day parking at £7.00. While David calibrated his steady cam I sat and enjoyed the woodland birds visiting the feeders a NT volunteer had put up. I even saw a yellowhammer but was unable to photograph it due to the poor zoom on my S6!

We followed a path from the north end of the car park. Passed a gate which traversed towards Stickle Ghyll and a path that had been stone pitched, that led steeply upwards. There were many plunge pools that looked inviting along the route.

We crossed a bridge which overlooked a hydroelectric scheme, that harnessed the power of the ghyll, from there the path steadily gained height. There were many scrambles which I wasn’t too happy about. However I manged to scale the rocks and overcame the stepping stones across the turbulent ghyll, before we took the final steps towards the tarn.

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Stickle Tarn

The summits of Harrison Stickle, Pavey Ark and Pike O’ Stickle once formed the outer rim of a volcano. Many a climber has enjoyed ascending Jake’s Rake. I preferred to sink my body into cold 14°C waters. It was an ancient volcano after all!

I lasted about 15 minutes in the water before I decided to call it a day. While I looked the part, my technique let me down, with turbulent waters I struggled. The water was cold, and the wind that chopped the waters was equally as cold. I suffered badly from shivers on land afterwards. The tow float had a good swim and remained visible. Also the pouch with dry bag kept my phone dry (which I used to measure my swim), even after a capsize! David kindly filmed me swimming, the result can be seen above.

Once warmed up and had lunch we took the descent back to the car park. However we missed the boulder crossing at the ghyll and ended up looking for a way across further down. David found a site he thought was broach-able. For his long legs it was, but I failed in this leap of faith and hit the side of the ghyll. David reached for my left arm and as he kept a hold of me, to stop me from falling down the waterfall, I felt my tendons twist. I managed to climb onto dry land, having taken an impromptu dip in the ghyll. My boots were soaked and I was in the water up to my knees. I had just got dry, and now I was wet again! Add to that a throbbing wrist and I could be forgiven for giving up on the remaining plans for the day. However I did not. I fought the injury to go on a second swim that day.

I am happy to report that the remaining journey down the ghyll was uneventful. Thankfully there were free toilets at the car park and I managed to change into fresh swimwear.  I will write about about my second swim of the day in my next post.

Have you visited Stickle Tarn, or had an unexpected swim? Fallen into fast flowing water?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day Eight

twt-30-days-wild_countdown_08Day 8: It’s Friday! The focus of today is to ID a plant.

On the 30 Days Wild Facebook page, here. There was some debate as to whether a plant was the deadly nightshade or the woody nightshade (bittersweet). I had noticed a purple flower among the wild roses whilst on my walk to work and thought I would take a closer look.

The plant in question has purple flowers with a yellow stamen. The leaves are a broad heart shape.

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Bittersweet

There is much confusion online about this plant. However a few informative videos on YouTube helped me identify the plant as the less harmful woody nightshade or bittersweet.

Apparently the flowers and berries of the deadly nightshade are completely different to the bittersweet. I doubt it would be wise to attempt to eat either plant’s berries.

 

Have you come across the deadly nightshade or the bittersweet?

Thanks for reading, and stay wild!

Christine x

 

 

A Close Up With – Birds of Prey

My last close up with – is of my encounter with a varied feathered few, during a half day falconry experience at Gauntlet Birds of Prey, Knutsford. 2011 seems such a long time ago, but I still remember their Lanner Falcon, Sally digging her claws into my scalp as she tried to bully me!

The half day experience comprised of firstly learning to tie the falconers knot and then handling a few birds, from owls to kestrels and falcons.

After this meet and greet there was a chance to fly a vulture and the end of the experience was a walk with harris hawks. I loved it and have always wanted to do a similar experience in future.

Have you had a bird of prey experience? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Close Up With – Bottlenose Dolphins of Cromarty Firth

A while back I wrote about my face to face encounter with Red Pandas at Paradise Wildlife Park. It got me thinking of the many wildlife encounters I have had over the years. The first memory that popped into my head was the 2011 encounter with wild Bottlenose Dolphins in Cromarty Firth.

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Bottlenose Dolphins Cromarty, Scotland.

In 2011, David and I incorporated a Grand Tour of Scotland to our travels. We started in Stirling, then headed to Inverness before returning south to Edinburgh. While B&Bing on the Black Isle we booked an hour+ long tour with EcoVentures to see their local pod of Bottlenose Dolphins.

On the day I remembered we were kitted out in waterproofs. After a safety briefing we were escorted towards the RIB.

David and I sat near the back of the RIB which didn’t detract from the experience. The RIB coursed into Cromarty Firth and then followed the headland where there were nesting birds. Within 30 minutes of the trip we came close to a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. Though we didn’t see any Harbour Porpoises or Pilot Whales on our trip, the Bottlenose Dolphins more than stole the show. They followed the RIB as it coursed through the water. It is a memory I shall cherish all my life.

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Bottlenose Dolphins

Afterwards, back on land, poor David succumbed to seasickness, but the memory of seeing these wonderful creatures in their habitat more than overcame the discomfort. The below video shows some of the best moments we experienced.

Have you experienced dolphins close at hand?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #46

I love sharing my weekly news with you in the form of a Sunday Sevens. 🙂 Thanks to Natalie at Threads and bobbins for creating the series. This week has been rather uneventful so hopefully I’ve managed to scrape enough pictures together to keep you interested.

A few days off work:

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great on the days David and I took off work this week. It simply rained all day Monday. Despite this we took Riley on a 4.6 miles walk around Sefton Park. It may have been wet and dreary but we enjoyed the exercise and being outside. There were many crows flying about, tufted ducks on the lake and crocus and daffodils brightened up the gloominess.

Tuesday dawned in much the same light as Monday, however as we drove to Formby the clouds cleared and a warm spring sun came out. It was lovely on the beach. The air held the hope of warmer days to come. Riley enjoyed his run and loved the freedom of the beach.

I calculated that Riley has walked/ran 13 miles this week!

Which brings me nicely to my #walk1000miles. I’ve managed to walk 36 miles this week, bringing my annual total to 398 miles! If you are joining in the challenge, how are you doing?

Spring:

Though it doesn’t seem like spring has arrived for most. This week in the NW of England it has felt very springlike. David and I spotted some lovely crocus flowering in Newsham Park. How gorgeous are those blooms?

Music:

Last week I was approached by Kerry Andrew who kindly asked if she could use a clip of my Buttermere swim in a music video she was creating. I agreed. The completed video went live a week later.

You are Wolf (where Kerry is vocalist/composer) have created a video that evokes the essence of memory and of a time gone by. I was surprised at how much of my clip she used and in hindsight I could have offered her much more. It seems Kerry is a keen wild swimmer herself! While writing this post, I did some research and discovered that You are Wolf create Alt Folk music and Kerry has performed pieces from the recent, Robert McFarlane book, The Lost Words. This book with beautiful illustrations by Jackie Morris, is one I am looking forward to reading. I particularity liked Kerry’s rendition of Bluebell.

Kerry has also written her debut novel Swansong which I have added to my list of books to read!

Book I am reading:

This week I have embarking on Ben Okri’s Booker Prize novel The Famished Road. I discovered Ben’s poetry when he featured in the enjoyable Future Learn course Literature and Mental Health. The novel looks a big read. Have you read it? Let me know what to expect!

Baking:

This weekend David baked a cake. He cooked a chocolate sponge with a filling of half peanut butter and half chocolate, with a chocolate ganache covering. The cake was very sweet.

So, that was my week, how was yours?

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.

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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

Goodbye 2017…Hello 2018!

Happy New Year from Christine, David and Artie!

Here’s the annual video of our memorable moments of 2017!

I must say 2017 has been a wonderful year! From joining in #walk1000miles, to seeing Hans Zimmer at the Liverpool Echo Arena. We may have had our sad moments but the happy times more than compensated for them. The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Day Wild was indeed wild, with barefoot beach walks and making our first elder-flower champagne. We visited new nature reserves and of course no year would be complete without a wild swim or two.

I want to thank you all for coming on the journey with me!

I wish you good health, wealth and happiness in 2018.

Thanks for all your support,

Christine x

Product Placement – Haith’s

* This post comes courtesy of Haith’s – Bird Food Specialists since 1937. If you want top quality bird seed and feeders from a British family run business, then Haith’s has all the products your garden birds need!*

Recently I was approached by Haith’s to review some of their products. I have to admit I was secretly flattered that my opinion mattered, so I agreed. Within a few days three products arrived via post neatly packaged, there was much detail to keeping the products safe in transit.

goodiesThe products to be reviewed  were: 

  • MultiFeeder Plus: a feeder which holds not only seed but water and two fatballs, ideal for attracting different species of wild bird or for hungry birds during the winter.
  • Fat balls (small): I was kindly gifted six of these suet balls to trial, which come helpfully with no nets.
  • (Original) wild bird food: Compiled from a recipe dating back to the 1960’s.

I was eager to fill the feeder up and see how my numerous garden visitors would receive the need addition.

The multifeeder needed to be constructed. The instructions included were easy to follow, even I could follow them! Indeed I managed to fit the parts together without asking David (the product expert) for help! There is a domed cover to keep the larger birds at bay and to keep the rain from ruining the seed. The inner well can be used for water or other types of seed or mealworms. The two fat ball holders have sharp spikes in which to pierce the suet to the feeder.

The fat balls came all individually wrapped in cardboard packaging, to prevent them from crumbling, and the wild bird food, filled with high-energy sunflower seeds and wholegrain cereal, is packaged in a sealed brown paper bag.

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Haith’s bird food comes SuperCLEAN™, which means in production they eliminate dust and husks which can damage birds respiratory tracts.

Once the multifeeder was filled with water, wild bird food and fat balls, it was time to hang the feeder outside and see what the visiting garden birds thought of the fare on offer.

What the birds thought of the multifeeder:

It took a while for the birds to take to the new feeder. They were scared of the dome. Though we had one intrepid fledgling starling enjoying the fat balls and seed.

Over the coming weeks, the dome started to attract other birds. Like a blue tit and fledged goldfinches!

At this time of year, end of summer/beginning of Autumn my garden is awash with bird families after a busy year of breeding. Fledgling starlings still with their baby feathers are hungrily looking for food, and suet fat balls are their favourite foods. Goldfinch young with their brown heads are all vying for sunflower hearts, whilst house sparrow families look for smaller seeds and cereals.

The wild bird food and fat balls were a hit with all classes of bird.

What I thought of the multifeeder:

I didn’t care much for the detachable fat ball holders, as once the fat ball had been pecked and became crumbly, then the fat ball easily fell off and was lost to the voracious beaks of pigeons. The six fat balls were soon devoured this way, they only lasted a week in my garden!

Being made of plastic, I was a little worried for the durability of the multifeeder. However we discovered that it was more robust than we gave it credit for as it survived a fall of 1.5m without shattering. We have very raucous starlings who don’t have much in the way of table manners!

The two trays for different types of food or water is a good feature. Come winter you could feed suet pellets in the small dish while still offering normal seed or sunflower hearts in the other. There are many variants yet to be tried.

Overall, the multifeeder is a good addition to any feeding station. The starlings loved it, and I liked how robust it was. I will monitor how many birds take to the multifeeder during wintertime and do a short follow-up review. I can see many tit species enjoying the differing feed on offer and we have yet to see a robin this year.

I thank Haith’s for this opportunity to sample their products.


Links:

If you are interested in purchasing any of the products included in this review then follow the links to the individual pages.

Haith’s website offers more bird foods, such as peanuts, niger and livefood. If you would like to see their entire range follow: https://www.haiths.com/bird-food/

To hold all these different types of food, there is a designated page for all of Haith’s feeders, including feeding stations, window feeders and tables, follow this link to see their range: https://www.haiths.com/bird-feeders/