Saturday, June 30, 2012
I've been 'confined to barracks' this last few weeks, firstly with a virus which knocked me for six then a bad bout of bronchitis.
Inbetween coughing sessions I decided to have a little foray into the back garden to see how Mother Nature was coping with our weird and wonderful weather.
We had drought conditions earlier on this year and now June has been the wettest on record.
It's so up and down...heavy thundery showers, strong winds interspaced with hot spikes where it's humid or hotter than the continent, we've even had thunderstorms, flooding and hailstones...but mostly rain, heavy rain and lots of it so consequently we've got what I call a 'green year' where the garden is myriad shades of lush green growth with hardly any other colour to it.
What has flowered hasn't lasted long, there are no butterflies, few ladybirds, no hoverflies, not even many flies or bees either so I was pleased to see a white tailed bumblebee on my aquilegia and 'mourning widow' geraniums.
The aquilegia have done well this year but the flowers haven't lasted long, on the other hand the 'mourning widow' geranium has flowered profusely, attracted what few bees we have and then after the flowers have died brought in the greenfinches, goldfinches and chaffinches to it. They balance delicately on the thin stems as they greedily strip the seeds.
When all have been consumed I chop the foliage back to ground level and within a couple of weeks it's flowering and the cycle begins again...in a good season I can maybe do this three times, it's a really good insect and bird friendly plant...I've even seen woodmice collecting the seeds too!
The lovely lime green leaves of the 'creeping Jenny' shine like a beacon through the wet weather but even this hasn't any flowers, it's usually smothered in little yellow blossoms by now but I can't even see any buds.
A beautifully irridescent bluebottle landed on it, it looked so pretty against the foliage that I couldn't resist a photo, they've such rich colouring but I don't like them if they get inside the house!
A mother hedge sparrow brought her family of fledglings to the lilac tree, they sat in the branches and pluffed out their feathers to sunbathe in the shaft of warm sunshine, it didn't last long but they took good adavatage of it all the same. They had that 'I've just washed my feathers and I can't do a thing with them' look!
Down under the soggy undergrowth of the bog garden I spied a frog, it was so unusual.
I thought it was a common frog but they're usually green and blotchy, this one was a lovely shade of orange. I shouted DH to come and look but he was none the wiser.
It hopped into the waterfall and sat there quite happily, the water is off at the moment as DH is relining it when the weather allows.
I googled it later and it is a common frog which apparently can come in quite a range of greenish yellow colours but just lately people have been reporting red and orange varieties too, they're not sure why maybe they're adapting to our changing environment...anyway we're lucky to have out unusual visitor...he's still hopping about and comes down on to the patio at night looking for insects, especially after a rain shower.
In the ivy along the side fence I found a nest, a beautiful construction of woven grass intertwined with the ivy stems, the rim is edged in dried mud and it's built tight in against the fence. It's hidden from view by the ivy leaves and the dried grass blends in beautifully with the silvery old wood of the fence.
It's blackbird's nest.
I've been watching and waiting, first the eggs were laid, gorgeous turquoisy-blue blotched eggs, three of them on separate days.
Then I waited around a month and the first egg hatched, the second the following day and the third the day after.
The chicks are almost ready to leave the nest now, they're losing their down and have feathers. The yellow gape is changing colour and they seem to be permanently being fed by the attentive parents.
Today when I peeped in one of them was flapping it's wings fit to bust so it won't be long before they're off...I'll be sorry to see them go but I'm hoping they stay around the garden until they're bigger.
Seems there's quite a lot going on in the garden even with the rain!
the unusual coloured frog
fledgling hedge sparrow
bee buzzing through the aquilegia flowers
irridescent bluebottle on creeping jenny
a hungry greenfinch
my baby blackbirds are all mouth...lol...
Monday, June 11, 2012
It was quite a nice morning on Sunday, a bit overcast, a coolish wind but dry which makes a refreshing change from the downpours we've been getting.
I hadn't been far for a few days as I have a chest infection which was making me breathless and cough a lot but after getting shot of the bad headache which came with it I was feeling a lot better so decided I could manage a walk along the stunning Bempton Cliffs with their RSPB bird reserve.
We set off laden down with all the paraphernalia we thought we'd need...cameras, binoculars, boots, cagoules, a flask of hot chocolate and my medication!
The reserve was packed to the gunnels, I think everyone else had had the same idea of getting out whilst it was fine...lol...even the overflow car park was full and we had to join other cars parked along the grass verges on the road down to the cliffs...'at least', DH remarked, 'we won't have to pay'...what is he like?
It was actually quite warm and humid with a cool breeze blowing in off the sea...it was also blowing in ominous looking clouds too!
I was warm though and decided to chance it without a coat and so did DH...aren't we brave?
I've never minded getting wet or mucky, in fact, perverse though I may be, I kinda like it!
As it happened, we were lucky and though the sea roke rolled in damping us a bit it didn't rain and it made for a lovely misty picture of the cliffs looking down the coast...ever the photo opportunist!
The stoney well worn path along the cliff top was rather muddy with large puddles every now and then but the view was gorgeous with it's waves crashing far below and the cloudy horizon and the breeze was pleasant even though it wafted the smell of the birds guano towards us instead of away...they certainly smelt ripe!
Winsome gannets, with their beautiful golden heads and pale blue eyes sailed majestically on the wing whilst little guillemots and razorbills with their short stubby wings and bodies made erratic flights to and from the cliff face which was lined with birds.
Some sitting on eggs, others with chicks and yet others still making up their minds!
The cliffs are stunningly white chalk, around three to four hundred feet high, it's a sheer drop straight down to the churning sea below!
Crowds of people armed with binoculars, cameras and big tripod affairs vied for a place at the strategically placed lookout points which look down the sides of the cliffs at an angle. Built right on the edge they offer the best views along the coast.
Each person trying to get their shots and hopefully see the elusive puffins with their pretty multi striped beaks...there was one but it wasn't playing ball for a photo call and winged it out across the open sea.
There were gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and fulmars by the score, the smell was phew! and the noise was deafening!
The nests are pretty precarious to say the least, they aren't even proper nests just bits of seaweed and grass laid flat on the ledge but Mother Nature has helped evolution by making the bird's eggs pointed at one end so instead of falling from the cliff they just roll around in circles on the ledges. Some birds don't even bother with the seaweed and grass and just lay their precious cargo straight onto the rocky ledges. Often they only have one egg so it's a bit of a hit and miss affair.
Some of the kittiwakes already have chicks, little fluffy slate grey bundles poking out from between the parent's legs whilst others were still courting, nodding their heads in unison and bringing in little presents for each other, their raucous cries echoing on the wind.
The little stubby bodied razorbills looked as if they had just started, no eggs, no nests, no nothing! They were perched on ledges sleeping most of the time. I love the way they never face the sea when perched, always looking at the cliff face...maybe it's a bit daunting looking down a three hundred foot drop!
The gannets are so beautiful, they have peachy-golden heads and piercing pale blue eyes which are also edged round in blue. Their feet are black with green stripes up the ribs and their white plumage is dazzling on a sunny day. They use the air up currents to advantage and soar past majestically on the wing at eye level.
It's puffin time and one of the reasons why people go to Bempton but they're pretty elusive. We've been going for years and it's rare to see one as they nest on the cliff tops just outside the reserve area in underground burrows so what you usually see, if you're lucky, is their flight to and from the burrows to collect food for their young. They occasionally land on a ledge but not for long.
Even though they're similar to razorbills in colour, shape and size they're easy to spot if perched as they have wonderful multi coloured striped beaks ringed around in bright yellow and sad pierrot clown's eye faces.
You can tell them flying too as they have a distinctive flight which is easy to spot. Their wings don't seem big enough to fly and they flap them ten to the dozen...lol...I did get a couple of photos of one but he was too far away for my camera and they're pretty blurred!
Across the open flower bedecked meadowland which leads back into the fields behind the cliffs there's an old World War 2 pill box area, it's falling down but is a haven for the small birds.
Skylarks were singing their fluting song, rising and falling as they sang, disappearing down into the meadow and then soaring up to the skies again in joyous jubilation.
Meadow pippits seemed to shiver on thin grass stalks, collecting seeds or just proclaiming their territory with their piercing songs.
Pretty little hedge sparrow flitted around in their family groups and swallows skimmed the surface of the flowers catching insects whilst winging their way silently over the blooming meadow.
Rows of chattering starlings lined the now wire less concrete fence posts, jauntily perched and twittering away they made beautiful animated silhouettes against the greying sky.
Swathes of pink clothed the skyline as the red campions and purple vetch bloomed in glorious colour. It's a bit of a misnomer red campion as it's actually a beautiful shade of cerise pink, there are white varieties too but mixed in with them were some really pretty delicate pale pink ones which I hadn't seen before...nature in the throes of change!
They were interspaced with Queen Anne's lace flowers which seemed to be abuzz with insects and little brown Wave day moths with the wavy pale green line across their wings.
The aged wooden fence along the path was studded with pretty white lipped banded snails, each one glued on the underside of a strut away from the birds, wind and sun.
The sea mist came rolling in late in the afternoon, hiding the cliffs behind it's dew filled greyness. It was 'proper moozy' as we say around here so we reluctantly made our way back to the car, stopping off at a bird feeding station along the way but it was empty, a friendly young man informed us there was a falcon about but we never saw it even though we stayed a while. The birds didn't return either so he was probably right.
Back in the car we had a delicious cup of steaming hot chocolate and then made our way into the town where we ate delicious locally caught fish and fat golden chips...with our fingers, from a white plastic carton (not quite the same as newspaper!!)...as we strolled along the seafront...not good for the diet I suppose but very enjoyable nonetheless!
There's a couple of pictures here for you but most won't load, it says the file's too big so there's a link at the bottom which will take you to my Bempton set on my Flickr page if you feel the inclination to look.
Click on the thumbnails to see the larger picture, then click each in the line at the right hand side for the next one.
one of the smaller gullies where the birds nest
flic.kr/s/aHsjqFrGiS My Flickr link...enjoy!
Thursday, June 07, 2012
You may know, I think most of the world does, that our wonderful monarchy have been celebrating Queen Elizabeth the 2nd's illustrious reign of sixty years with her Diamond Jubilee celebrations and a five day national holiday.
Her reign equalled that of Queen Victoria, our previous longest serving monarch.
Alongside the pomp and splendour of the London events every town, village and hamlet in the country was staging their own celebrations.
The love for the Royal Family and the indomitable community spirit shone through as England showed it could throw a party!
Rain didn't hamper the proceedings...and it did rain, poured down for most of the first two days, but people turned out suitably dressed for the occasion and we still picnicked and played through the sunshine and showers.
Our little village was primped and prettied.
Houses, walls, fences, even people all decorated with patriotic designs and bunting as the village joined together to celebrate.
We had a huge picnic on the playing field, a street party for the children and the organisations all came together to have floats and a procession. There was a vintage car parade, stalls and games, tug of war, it's a knockout, childrens races and a go-kart trial, a hog roast, a dance...phew!
The week-end culminated in our village beacon being lit at ten thirty pm, this happened all across the land to coincide with the lighting of a beacon in London by the Queen herself.
A lot of hard work, a lot of fun and a lot of community spirit have made our village Diamond Jubilee celebrations into wonderful memories for the future.
It was lovely to watch the younger end of the village come into their own...us oldies had done our planning and organising at the Silver Jubilee when our children were small...they did a marvellous job.
It was nice to watch everything come together, and though we helped when we were needed all the strenuous work was done by them. I helped run a tombola and cake stall.
Here are a few pictures, I did take more but the computer's been playing up since a rogue toolbar installed itself after an automatic flash update and won't take them from my camera...I will figure out how to do it!!
my friend's patriotic fingernails...her toenails were painted the same!
a happy child on one of the floats
a float in the village parade, the theme was 'polo' and had the two princes and Kate aboard!
happy little boys lead the parade
this little girl walked the full length of the village happily waving her flags and windmill
primary school children in their Windsor Castle float
vintage Alvis car
vintage Alvis car
vintage Alvis silver hare radiator mascot
Friday, June 01, 2012
We took a ride up to Levisham.
The little station on the restored North Yorkshire Moors Railway is a delight.
You're transported back in time to the age of steam trains and Victorian elegance.
When I was a child my brother, sister and me used to sit or stand on an old drystone wall near the end of our garden and watch the steam trains pass.
We knew all the timetables and even which train it was going to be...they all had names and numbers and my brother knew them off by heart.
We knew all the engine drivers and the firemen with their blackened faces who waved and called to us and sometimes threw us sweets and even chunks of coal for us to take home to our mam.
It was a pastime really train watching, collecting their names and numbers in a little ragged but beloved notebook, writing with a stub of old pencil that dad had given us...it was flat, about an inch wide and an indelible one he used for his work and you had to lick it to make it write, it came out purple then not black like an ordinary pencil...and bragging to friends who hadn't managed to get them.
We'd spend many happy hours just sitting on the garden wall with a bottle of water to share and maybe a stick of rhubarb and an eggcup of sugar to dip it in or, if mam was in a good mood and would take us, actually on the station itself.
We did it with car numbers too, sitting hunched over on the long street kerb outside the front of the house watching for cars which were few and far between in those far off days...lol...so far between we even had a den in the middle of a roundabout...we'd have got run over if we'd tried to play there these days!
Every Wednesday we'd travel by train to town to the weekly market and visit mam's family.
We'd have to be up early and were always dressed in our Sunday best.
It was a good couple of miles to the station which we had to walk. It wasn't so bad going but after a day out the walk back could be tiring. I often ended up giving my little sister a piggy back as she always wanted a carry!
It was easier when my sister was small as mam took the big cream silver cross pram. My sister was in it and my brother sat perched on the handle end...I had to walk and sometimes run to keep up if mam was going a bit too fast. I had to keep hold of the handle too!
We had to load the pram into the guard's van and leave it there while we climbed into a proper carriage.
They were single carriages in those days, no corridors, once you were in that carriage you stayed in that carriage. They seated about eight but we usually managed to get one to ourselves. While mam was supervising the loading of the pram she'd set my brother and me off running down the platform until we found an empty one. We stood in front of it until she came, opened the door and lifted us up the two high wooden steps. She always let the window down a notch or two on the thick leather strap you used to open it.
The carriage seats were covered in a maroon coloured plush velveteen material which prickled the backs of your legs...woebetide if you put you feet up on them, you got a quick slap on the legs!
Some times if the baby was asleep when we got to the station mam put her into the guards van too and we all had to sit in there with the pram, parcels and packages that were travelling who knows where.
We had to find anything we could to sit on...sometimes we were unlucky and sat on the floor but usually it was big square wicker baskets we used often with pigeons inside being transported to the start of a race...they cooed noisily at us through little apertures in the sides.
Awww, lovely memories!
Anyway, Levisham station...
The little pristine station at Levisham was basking in sunshine.
Red, white and blue bunting waving in a gentle breeze as the station was bedecked for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations this week-end.
An air of expectation pervaded as two trains were due to cross in just a few minutes.
Time stood still.
People waited expectantly.
Children clamoured for ice cream.
And suddenly in the distant you could hear it...
All eyes turned towards the now audible sound of the train chuffing it's way along the track through the beautiful valley of Newtondale, sending out plumes of whitey-grey steam as it neared the station.
The driver leaned out of his cab as it rounded the gentle curve.
The crossing gates shut with a sounding of metal on metal.
The train rounded the bend.
Gave another toot of the whistle and chugged slowly into the station.
The 'Cock of the North'.
Steaming magnificently to a standstill.
Passengers alighting or climbing aboard.
Waving from windows or craning their necks to look up and down the pretty flower bedecked platform.
The dining car, filled to capacity.
Serving a three course gourmet meal as the patrons chugged through the open countryside.
Then another Whooo-oo!
And a second train slid alongside the first, but going in the opposite direction.
The driver exchanged his bag with the guard who waved his green flag, tooted on his whistle and both trains chugged slowly down their respective tracks.
Wheels clanked as the track lines were moved.
Crossing gates slowly opened.
Steam dissipated in the train's wake.
And silence descended on the little station still sweltering in the hot sun.
We drove slowly home stopping off in the shade of Forge Valley.
We walked the little beck side and saw a family of Canada geese in a sunlit glade by the waterside, they shepherded their young with care.
It was cool under the trees, we sat on an old tree trunk and watched a dipper fishing, diving from his stone into the cold clear water and emerging with a beakful of insects, taking them downstream to where her nest must have been. She kept coming back, it must have been a good fishing spot.
I enjoyed my day, even Forge Valley brought nostalgic thoughts of my dear dad who used to take us there to gather bluebells and we always went as a family on Easter Monday to picnic and roll our hard boiled eggs we'd decorated.
I must be growing old...lol...I'm living in the past!
Through the waiting room door
Here it comes...
Canada Geese family
The path by the beck
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
When I started back on my Spark eating programme proper again a couple of weeks ago I vowed I'd eat more fruit and vegetables and start drinking fruit teas.
I'm not your quintessential English woman in that I don't drink tea or coffee.
I've always just drank water, lots of it, straight from the tap or flavoured with a little fruit juice, hot or cold I'm not fussy. I also have a low calorie drinking chocolate before bed and sometimes through the winter days when it's cold.
I used to drink coffee now and again, especially when I was out but I went of it about six years ago after a bout of pneumonia.
When I recovered I tried drinking it again and developed a pretty bad headache which lasted two days and put me off big time... I've never drank it since!
Tea I apparently tried when I was very young, my mam said I tasted it with a little sip, declared I didn't like it, refused to drink it and have never had it since!
I've tried fruit teas on and off every now and again for a few years but never really got to grips with them but in March for our ruby wedding anniversary we went to a Chinese banquet.
After the meal was finished we were offered jasmine flower scented green tea.
It came in a little white teapot with a beautiful small handle-less beaker all decorated in the chinese syle with a blue bamboo pattern, it was so pretty it won me over.
I wasn't keen on tasting it, I'd never tried green tea before, but I decided to try it, half expecting not to like it but, wonder of wonders, I did like it...it was such a delicate taste and refreshing too.
The proprietor was delightful, he answered my questions, told me how to make it (only two minutes before you take the teabag out of the pot, don't squeeze it, it makes it bitter and it's even better to use loose tea as there's too much in a teabag), where to buy it...we're lucky we have a Chinese supermarket in town...and I've been drinking it ever since.
I bought myself a little two cup teapot and use it with a pretty cup from my tea service.
Since then I've added more teas to my reportoir.
I looked at the fruit teas in the supermarkets, there were so many to choose from so I bought a selection and surprise, surprise I like them all.
I'm not sure if your taste buds change as you get older but a year ago I just used to say I don't like tea. I know these aren't tea in the conventional sense but I have tried 'ordinary' tea again. I still don't like it but the green and fruit teas are now a regular feature at breakfast time.
I've also developed a taste for unusual combinations.
I've always eaten loads of fruit and vegetables.
I don't dislike red meat but could quite happily live without it. I eat it every now and again, mostly poultry but I do like fish and any sort of seafood and eat a lot of that.
It comes from being from a fishing family, we were brought up on fish, we did have meat but it was mostly fish.
I've found myself being drawn towards experimenting with flavours, instead of just a piece of baked fish (I like it in a foil parcel baked in the oven) I'll add a teaspoon of sweet chilli sauce or bbq sauce or even just a sprinkling of five spice or paprika to the parcels and I love it.
Another favourite is what I call fruit chilli bowl.
It's a big bowl of any combination of raw vegetables and fruits you want to use all tossed in a teaspoon of sweet chilli hot dipping sauce...so yummy!
So far I'm on track, exercising regularly and eating healthily with a steady weightloss so I'm pleased and happy too.
fruit chilli bowl...this one consists of kiwifruit, raw mange tout, cherry tomatoes, melon, red grapes and strawberries....yummy!
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