Saturday, March 31, 2012

spring photos

Today grey skies, yesterday the last of endless blue skies.  Capturing the cherry blossom in photos with plenty of bees yesterday, my love went to buy some saki  wine to drink underneath them in Japanese style but all to no avail today - far too cold.  Today two circling queen bumblebees on the lawn looking for somewhere to nest, and another campaign by Friends of the Earth to highlight the peril of insecticides that are killing all our bees, both honey and bumblebee.
 Seeds sown sprout herbs for the kitchen, and colour for the garden.  Mostly I grow a certain amount of vegetables in pots, spinach in winter and various pots of salad leaves to go through the warmer months. The lilies poke dark red shoots through the earth, tantalising with the promise of showy flowers in the summer months.  The first foal was born to the gypsy horses, and I watched it from the distance of the Fox and Raven restaurant, it  ran a circular race course of its own making, firstly the old tree by the river and then a shrub  further away, scampering back to its mother for safety - such joy in life.  

chives, parsley, and bought thyme, mint and marjoram

A second flowering

The magnificent old magnolia at the F&R

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bunnies in Newcastle

No I kid you not, wild rabbits living on a traffic island as the cars flowed round, I saw one at the university entrance, completely unconcerned, nibbling away at the grass.  Mostly on the two hour drive to Newcastle one saw squashed bunny on the road, along with a far greater number of pheasants their bright feathers fanned out.

Crossing the river Tyne  The glass building is part of the university

the little rabbit is behind the daffodils
Newcastle on Tyne is a large complex urban town. something I hate and will not be found in normally but this was my first introduction to a Northern town.  It has I believe the second largest retail outlet in Europe called the Metro, in fact we went round it to find Homebase, which we didn't because the place was  so enormous!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grouse butts and stones

Grouse butts, my thoughts on hunting for pleasure are not really printable, hunt if you are starving but for the sake of showing your prowess for killing forget it....  These very well built grouse butts were made in 1929 and look like prehistoric huts with their roofs decapitated.  They stretch in a line to face the sloping bank opposite so that the beaters would frighten the birds into the firing lane.  One of the things about the moors is the glorious sound of the birds in song, especially skylarks.  The last photo shows a pair of black grouse scuttling away amongst the heather.  The ground is still squelchy in places, although it seemed very dry.
The moors are lovely with a bright blue sky above enlivening the dead appearance of the heather, there is colour in parts, the gold of gorse bushes, can be seen occasionally, again I find the gorse bushes prehistoric with there great clouds of yellow but the bees love the flowers.

These are the stones that follow the Murk Mire Moor road, the first two with the square hole are upwards of 8 feet, they stand almost opposite each other at a cross road, and look as if they may have held a wooden post.  The other stones look more 'megalithic' or prehistoric, maybe they have been moved to their present positions.  But as all the stones follow the road marking its path, it could well be to do with markers when the snows fall and obliterate the road.

This eagle eyed sea gull always knew when I put out the bread for the other birds!
A typical farm you meet up on the moors
So what has been happening at the cottage? We managed to get a table and two chairs from Ikea, which were duly made up with a hundred screws and bolts, all slotted into the right places.  The table had been a bit of a worry, has to be small but needed to be extendable as well, Ikea is of course cheap but the worry of putting things together is always there, anyway it looks good! Another piece of furniture was bought this time as well, a distressed cupboard with painted flowers, at least I think it is called distressed but times might have moved on, Vanessa Bell would be pleased with it though.
Small cottages need small furniture and that is difficult to find, we went to an antique dealer, looking for a desk for the attic, and he came out with the interesting fact that in times past, chest of drawers were cut in two to be taken up the stairs.  He also dropped another interesting fact, that some cottages had a 'coffin drop' from upstairs because of the difficulty of getting the body downstairs.  You removed a couple of joints and presumably broke through the plaster and lowered the body through.

The grandchildren were at school in the week so we did not see them so much, except for takeaway meals in the evenings and a couple of visits to Sanders Yard.  They grow apace, the girls always foremost, whilst the two boys are quieter.  Tom if he gets his grades will be going to uni this year,  Newcastle was a second choice but he seems impressed by its large campus, they are coming down to a London uni next month, which is his first choice.......


Staithes is another fishing village of long ago, just one family fishes from the village with the local coble boats, the houses are now mostly holiday cottages.  Very similar to Robin Hood's Bay, and of course Whitby, the river Esk running down to the sea in Whitby, the beck that runs down the small valley in Staithes is the Roxby.  Very nearby is the Boulby potash mines, a mile down, the second  deepest mine in Europe.  A few years back it held the experimental work of looking at  Dark Matter in outer space but the project has since closed down.
The cliffs are Jurassic, and very crumbly, LS went on a fossil hunt and found a piece of rock with several embedded on the top.  The following photos are self explanatory, the sad thing about these fishing villages is the lack of people in early spring, the tourist shops or restaurants shut because of this; a picturesque scene of Olde England fossilized, the one good thing though is the money that comes from such places as Leeds and Manchester in doing up these houses helps preserve them through time.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A beck

The footbridge crossing, with old, gnarled hawthorns guarding the beck 

looking back towards the fells 

the ford across the road 

Frogs mating in a small stream that was culverted from under the road 

looking in the other direction 
I have no name for this beck, ( apparently beck is an = English stream, a brook with a stony or rugged course. It is middle English) but it was set in a beautiful place and blissfully free from any other cars.  If you continued along the lane over the ford you would eventually arrive in Pickering but of course could not go across Holcrum Hole which was further on.  We had come to it over Murk Mire Moor, an elegant description of this moor with its stones set alongside the road, maybe because when the snows fall over the moors the tips of the stones would protrude to guide you on your way.  It also had grouse butts for shooting and black grouse (they were the ones that got shot of course) as well but that is for later on....

This stopping place is very tranquil, one lone motorbiker taking in the scenery, LS talked to him but my attention was taken by the frogs mating, about a dozen, stirring the clay into a milky orange water, the water of the beck itself is brown, cold and clear.

Robin Hood's Bay

Today we did not wake to the mad babble of the 'lunatic asylum' noise of the seagulls on  Whitby roofs as they launched into their spring song, we arrived back in Chelmsford yesterday, in beautiful weather and today there is a crisp frost on the green.
Lots of photos, we explored more of the moors round Whitby, Robin Hood's Bay and Staithes fishing villages. North Yorkshire is a  large place, never quite sure what is a dale or a beck.  The car climbed steep hills, curved round corners that were more than 'Z' shaped and we did not hit any sheep as they ambled lazily across the road.  Saw the family a lot, and I even went to Newcastle with my eldest grandson Tom, as he went to an 'Open Day' at the university, also my son-in-law took me to Ikea whilst there which my beloved will never do.... so all in all a busy few days.

'Dinky' England, shops are of course mostly tourist.

There is of course a great charm to all these little lanes, presumably they used donkeys to deliver goods 

the sea with the tide out 

Robin Hood's Bay, the steep incline you walk down, as tourist cars are forbidden (nowhere to park) 

Pretty cobbled paving pavements between the houses
 Robin Hood's Bay is or was a fishing village, it is quaint and charming, a lot of the houses given over to holiday lets.  There is a fascinating old  story in 1881 told about the rescue of a brig called 'Visitor'  which was  in distress in the bay, and it is commemorated in this plaque........... The photo does not appear to come up but the gist of the story is, that the brig Visitor stranded out in the bay in snowy December was in dire need of rescue so that the brave men of Whitby, 200 to be precise, and 18 horses pulled the lifeboat from Whitby,  a distance of 6 miles over the snowy countryside, being met by the men of Robin Hood's Bay who hauled the ship down into the village, and the rescue was made. Would, or indeed could we do it nowadays, but it gladdens the heart that the human race will go to such ends to help each other.

It was rather a dull day when we visited this village so the photos are grey in aspect, which somewhat coloured my impression of the place.  Why is it called Robin's Hood Bay when it is so far from Sherwood Forest? well that story rests on shaky ground as you can read here in Wikipedia.

Notes to myself....
A dale is of course similar to a valley, it just so happens that N.Yorks being overrun by Danes and Vikings in the past have a different name to us southerners; And so to that encyclopedia of all knowledge Wikipedia I learn that

dale is an open valley. The name is used when describing the physical geography of an area. It is used most frequently in the Lowlands of Scotland and in the North of England, where the term "fell" commonly refers to the mountains or hills that flank the dale.
The word dale comes from the Old English word dael, from which the word "dell" is also derived. It is also related to Old Norse word dalr (and the modern Icelandic word dalur), which may perhaps have influenced its survival in northern England.[1] Dale is a synonym to the word valley, which entered the English language after the Norman Conquest. Norwegian towns frequently use this term: dalekvam,dale.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

"Spring is coming to the Hills"

Well I have to record this, Jim Perrin in today's Saturday's Guardian Country Diary, a fine piece of prose and a reminder that modern writers can capture the essence of our natural world so well.  Particularly like the image of the russet coloured fox flying through the air his bushy tail streaming behind him...... And perhaps what is more important the historical knowledge that flows through the landscape, still to be found in traces; the old Helen Sarn road, stone walls from the Enclosure Acts, robbed Bronze age cairns.
I can remember taking my young son to Llanthony Priory, and walking up the steep path behind, which is part of the Black Mountain range (though some argue that they are hills) we followed a track and came upon  a dead sheep that had fallen into a stream.  Tumbled among the rocks, only the fleece remained the body eaten out by foxes, etc. a macabre experience but so resonant of what happens in true nature.....

Black Mountains: Gravid ewes kneel to chew at sparse fescues. A raven observes, waiting for her annual portion of sickly lambs' eyes

"A sleek streak of russet pelts down the field, making for a friend's hen run. Instead of the expected cacophony, I hear dogs bark as I plod on upfield to seven Scots pines by a ruin. The old enclosure beyond is beech-ringed.This was drover territory, with cattle penned here for the night. One wall has collapsed in an explosion of white quartz, the quarry for which would have been a former cairn from the bronze age on the bluff close by. Every hilltop and ridge-end visible from here has one, white-cored with spirit stone.
Up on Craig Twrch – "Hog's Crag" – two are prominent. I drift off in that direction. A slant line of ascent from Ffordd Helen, most ancient of Welsh roads, is scored across the slope; a stone wall from the time of the Enclosure Acts and a modern barbed-wire fence prevent the use of what had been a right of way through millennia.
The cairns, atop its south-west gable, look down on a hillside pecked with pits of Roman metal-working all around the enormous prone megalith of Carreg y Bwci – the hobgoblin's stone. It is distance, though, that preoccupies the eye. On this clear day I can see Cader Idris and the Berwyn northerly; Preseli in the west; the long rimming southern scarps of Wales from Bannau Brycheiniog and the Brecon Beacons to the Black Mountains on the Herefordshire border, and floating beyond them the lovely, distinctive outline of the Malvern Hills above the Severn plain.
Rough mountain pasture around this sentinel ridge is still winter grey. Gravid ewes kneel to tug and chew at sparse fescues. Overhead a buzzard mews. From a fence post a solitary raven observes, waits for her annual portion of afterbirth and eyes of sickly lambs, to bring to red throats already agape in tree-top nest by the Long Wood. Spring, she knows, is coming to the hills."