Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Unexpected Treat

Once again, it has been a little while since I posted anything on this blog, due mainly to the rather inclement weather we've had to endure. But this morning, it started out dry and bright but bitterly cold, so we set out for Maperley and Shipley Hill. The wind was bitingly cold as we walked along Slack Lane, but despite the chill and recent bad weather, the Hazel trees are all bursting out with catkins.
Always among the first of the year's trees to flower, the male catkins always appear before the tiny, red female flowers. These catkins were producing plenty of pollen.
The countryside is still looking very bare.
On Shipley Hill, the Nottingham Lodge is surrounded by bare branches, but the ground is covered with Snowdrops (more of them soon).
It was near the lodge, that we were treated to an unexpected surprise. I have been reading reports of recent sightings of Hawfinches (Coccothraustes coccothraustes) around Shipley Park, but as yet, I've never seen one. So it was fantastic to finally get a view of a couple this morning.
Sitting in the very top of a tree and at some distance, this one was very difficult to photograph - and it proved to be impossible to get a good picture at all. But even so, you can still see the unmistakable form of Britain's largest finch species. Looking bulky even at this distance and with a bill which can easily crack a cherry stone, this is a formidable bird and rather rare these days. But with an influx of individuals from continental Europe this winter, there has rarely been a better opportunity to see one. You just have to be in the right place...
... at the right time. Even then, you need a little luck!  What a fantastic new 'tick' for the life list.

Monday, 5 February 2018

All New

While settling in to the new year, I have also been rather busy settling into a new computer - two new computers to be exact. My old PC had been misbehaving for some time following a huge update from Microsoft which left several programs not working. So after Christmas, I decided to bite the bullet and have a nice new one. I originally opted for a shiny new Lenovo all-in-one computer and set about transferring all my bits and pieces from the old one - a job which took quite some time. It was at this point that the new PC started crashing and spontaneously rebooting itself for no reason.
So, after a very frustrating couple of weeks trying to fix the problem and getting absolutely nowhere with Lenovo's on-line 'Help and Assistance' (a complete misnomer), it went back to Argos and I am now sitting looking at a lovely new Acer computer with full HD screen and all the bells and whistles I could wish for.

So, it's now time to get back to normal and start posting a few pictures once more - and we start with a short walk this morning, around Straw's Bridge.
Everywhere is very wet following an extremely rainy few weeks, so you have to be particularly careful where you put your feet, but the sunshine was beautiful this morning. As we walked along the old Nutbrook Canal, the overhanging Hazel trees were dangling their catkins over the water, catching the light.
At 'Swan Lake', the bright sunshine was filtering through the dried seed heads of old Phragmites reeds, making them shine like silver.
Near by, the flooded pits which make up Pewit Carr, looked dramatic in the sun against a rather threatening sky which promises some snow later.
All the usual suspects were to be found around the lakes, including these three Mute Swans - complete with their fetching colour-coded leg rings.
One in particular, was very photogenic...
and was happy to have his picture taken. Mind you, if you looked as good as this, why not?
Time for one more snap of the silvery reeds before heading home for a hot coffee and to get warm again.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

End of Break

All too soon, our break away in wind-swept Newquay was at an end. We'd seen plenty of crashing waves.
Some sandy - and almost deserted - beaches...
and even a skulking small bird or two (spot the Wren in this picture).
The natives were friendly - if a little persistent!
And the weather had been very kind to us. We had wondered if it was madness going on a week's holiday to Cornwall in the middle of January. But in the end it turned out to be much better than either of us could have hoped for.
Heading home again on the Saturday, we broke up the journey once more, with an overnight stay at Weston-Super-Mare. Arriving there in the afternoon, we had a stroll along the prom before checking in to the Travelodge. By heck! it was a chilly wind which assaulted us as we walked along.
Despite the sunshine, there were not very many people brave enough (or foolish enough) to be walking along the promenade, so we had a wonderfully quiet time of it.
So, the sun set on a great week away!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Porth and Surf

The major feature of our break in Newquay, had to be the windy weather. When we walked along to Porth on Tuesday, the wind was whipping up the surf into quite a froth.
Looking down from the bridge which crossed this particularly breezy cleft in the rocks, it looked like snow piled up.
And still the surf pounded in.
and crashed on the rocks.
At the other end of Newquay, the beaches were deserted - unsurprisingly!
It all made for some nice photos.
Definitely my sort of weather!
Back at the Hotel and the Herring Gull was still after our food and this time he'd brought along a friend! It almost put us off our scones and clotted cream - almost!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Newquay

We got to Newquay on Monday afternoon and booked in to our hotel. After sorting out the problem of being given a room overlooking the street, when we had booked a sea view, we finally settled in - only to find we were being scrutinised by a Herring gull. I think he just wanted a share of our sandwiches.
Despite the rather stormy weather, we had a good view from our room.
The drama of a stormy sky only added to the view.
We soon managed to get out for a walk in the blustery winds and headed round the harbour.
The familiar 'dragon' roof ornament was standing up to the wind and the gulls seemed to be having a good time.
The waves were rolling in as the skies cleared.
In sunny interludes, the sea was showing a wonderful greenish blue colour - and a good bit of spume.
A rainbow seemed to indicate that a pot of gold would be found near the old lifeboat station.
The ancient Hewer's Hut looked dramatic as it shone white against a dark and glowering sky.
And still the waves rolled in...
Much more tomorrow.

Monday, 22 January 2018

Bath Time

Continuing our walk around Bath, we took in lots of quaint little side streets, many of which were deserted - quite something in such a busy city.
We soon found ourselves amongst the throngs of tourists enjoying the views of the River Avon.
The most photographed thing in this area was of course, the grade 1 listed Pulteney Bridge.
Built in 1774 to a plan by Robert Adam, it is lined on both sides with shops. There has been a weir at this spot since at least 1600 but the present one was built in its 'V' shape during the 1970's.
The new design included a flood defence sluice on the eastern side. There was certainly plenty of water cascading over when we were there.
Having had enough of sigh-seeing around Bath, we spent the night at Weston-super-Mare before continuing on our way Monday morning.
Our route took us along the North Devon coast (another first for me) and having struggled along the very troublesome A39 (Porlock Hill will stay with me for some time!), we found ourselves taking a rest at the pretty village of Lynmouth.
Copious amounts of rain on Exmoor had swollen the river Lyn, making it something of a torrent.
Dodging a shower or two, we had time to stretch our legs and have a look around.
Down to the front...
Then we had coffee in the car at the side of the river to the accompaniment of rushing water.
Then it was time to get on our way again - more steep hills and twisting roads - but more of that next time.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Winter Break

Malcolm and I returned from our mid-winter break yesterday afternoon having spent a delightful week in Newquay. Initially, we wondered if we had gone quite mad by booking a break away in the UK in January. But it turned out to be a risk well worth taking.
We started last Sunday, by driving down to Weston-Super-Mare for a one night stay breaking up the long journey. On the way, we stopped at Bath, a city neither of us had visited before. Of course, we did all the main, tourist sights, starting with the Royal Crescent.
This row of thirty terraced houses was built between 1767 and 1774 and is some 500 feet long. Grade 1 listed, it remains one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the UK.
Number 1 Royal Crescent, is maintained as Historic House Museum.
From there, we continued into the city centre and took in the Grand Pump Room.
Built in the Abbey Church Yard, it was largely built in its present form, at the end of the eighteenth century.
The square is dominated at its eastern end, by the imposing West elevation of the Abbey and the main entrance.

This end of the abbey is well known for its rather literal depiction of Jacob's Ladder with Angels climbing up either side of the main entrance door and window.
Round the corner, we had a fine view of the Abbey from Kingston Parade. Flying buttresses adorn the outside of this beautiful building.
We spent a lovely afternoon exploring the back-streets and alleyways of Bath and stumbled upon Sally Lunn's Eating House. . .
at the end of a fine street, which was unusually, quiet!
There will be lots more pictures over the next few days (lots to sort out).