Friday, 13 July 2018

Drought

Despite promises of rain, we've not had any for well over a month now and the countryside around here is beginning to show signs of drought. The exceptionally dry weather has however, seems to have been a boon for hay-making farmers. Almost every field is currently littered with great round bales of the stuff.
Malcolm and I stood and watched as rolls were being spat out of the back of a machine, being towed by a tractor. All a far cry from the days of the pitchfork-wielding labourers of yesteryear.
No doubt all that hay will be appreciated by the cattle during the leaner months of winter. These characters for example...
Down at Straws Bridge, the water levels in Swan Lake are dropping by the day as ducks, coots, geese, swans and gulls all seem to be getting a bit tetchy in the heat. As usual, the Black-headed Gulls are the most vocal about it, but the appearance of a couple of their larger, Lesser Black Backed cousins seems to act as a steadying influence - for a while anyway.
The rest of Shipley Park is looking brown and parched, even in those places where it's usually quite damp.
With all this fine, dry weather, it's been a good year for the invertebrates. Ringlet Butterflies are everywhere...
... and this pair of Soldier Beetles were getting to know each other better on a thistle this morning.
In fact, they all seemed to be at it.
Having sex on a thistle might be considered something of a risky business...!

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Buxton

At around 1000ft above sea level, Buxton is the highest market town in England. For that reason it has usually been very cold when Malcolm and I have visited the town, but yesterday, we took Malcolm's mother and her friend June there for a day out. It turned out to be warm, sunny and quite lovely.
After doing a little shopping and having a coffee and apricot croissant (a favourite treat), we had a stroll around the park, keeping to the shady paths under the trees as much as possible.
Lots of people were enjoying the weather, sitting on the benches reading or doing the crossword. Some were sunbathing on the grass, but all were having a good time.
Ducklings were picking around the water and a coot was having a very hot time of it, sitting on its nest of eggs, in full sun.
All very nice indeed.
All too soon, it was time to start heading back to the car, via the conservatory.
The floral exotica was in keeping with the sunny weather. These lilies were particularly colourful.
Goldfish swam around the pond.
Then it was back out into the sunshine and off to find Pat and June before heading off for lunch.
A lovely day out!

Friday, 29 June 2018

Summer Flowers

Despite the witheringly high temperatures at the moment, the wild flowers are doing their best to hold their petals up against the sun. Most appear to be bright yellow at this time of year. It has to be said that the Evening Primroses are suffering quite a bit, but this one was still looking good.
Barely standing above ground level, Biting Stonecrops are also battling the drought and scorching sun, but still braving things to put on a show.
Hundreds of tiny star-like flowers form a shining mat of colour among the gravel.
In the same place as the Stonecrops, the tall, delicate stems of Yellow-wort are both aptly named and just about the brightest of bright yellow flowers - so bright, that the camera finds it tricky to focus.
Of course, not all the summer flowers are yellow. There is the Purple of Purple Loosestrife...
the pink of Common Spotted Orchids (this one in our front garden)...
and of course, the white of the Daisies...
Privet...
and Meadowsweet which is just starting to flower.
All rather floriferous!

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Shady Spot

Another bright, sunny and hot day today, so once again, Malcolm and I set out on our walk this morning to find a shady spot to enjoy a view and a flask of coffee. Keeping to the trees as much as possible, we avoided the biting flies and headed towards Mapperley village. Then, it was up Shipley Hill to find somewhere to sit for a while. We found this spot, overlooking the surrounding parkland.
Sitting under the canopy of trees, sipping our coffee and enjoying the sound of birds singing and insects buzzing, we could have stayed for ever - especially with this lovely view.
All round Shipley Park at the moment, the grasses are turning brown as the drought conditions begin to take their toll. This was the view from the other side of Shipley Hill a few days ago.
Close by, where the old open-cast mining has recently been replaced by open fields and more parkland, the huge numbers of Docks are ripening to a beautiful russet shade when seen against the blue sky and the green of a distant copse of trees.
Here too, the grasses are setting seed and ripening to a dusty brown while the stately and spiky Spear Thistles add a bit of welcome colour.
They always reward a closer look - providing you don't stab yourself on their fearsome spines in the process.
With the hot weather set to continue for some days yet, there will no doubt be plenty more opportunities for our walks in search of shade!

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

High Summer

We seem to be experiencing something of a heatwave at the moment. The thermometer is hovering around the 80 degree mark and the sun is very strong. So Malcolm and I took ourselves off to find some shade around Mapperley wood and reservoir this morning. Through the wood, the dappled sunlight was playing and sparkling on the waters which trickle along what's left of the old canal.
Reaching the reservoir, we stood for a while, looking out over the lily pads.
The deep blue of the sky was reflected beautifully in the water, making it look a lot more inviting than its usual, slightly muddy appearance.
Floating gracefully around the reservoir, a group of about twelve Greylag Geese were taking things easy in the heat of the day.
Such a beautiful bird when seen close to.
At the far end of the reservoir, we stopped again to admire the scene and were immediately struck by the vast numbers of fish fry swimming among the lily pads.
Time for one last look at the cooling water, before we made our way, hot and bothered, back home.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Bee Orchids

It's Orchid time again, so Malcolm and I have recently spent some time searching for these delicate and beautiful little flowers. The most abundant are as always, the Common Spotted Orchids.
Growing and flowering close by, are Southern Marsh Orchids. Often tricky to separate from the Common Spotted. This is made even more difficult when the two species hybridise, producing a plant which is neither one thing, nor the other.
The most exciting member of the Orchid family to be found around these parts however, has to be the Bee Orchids.
Much less showy and with smaller flower spikes, these little charmers always seem to hide away among the grasses, making it quite a task to spot them initially.
But once you have got your 'eye in' you begin to see lots of them dotted around the dry parts of Shipley Woodside. They always reward the effort of getting down for a closer look!
No doubt there will be more pictures of orchids to come over the next few weeks.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Last of Norfolk

On our last afternoon in Norfolk, we spent a long time walking along the Weavers' Way once more. This time however, we headed the other way, leaving the Bride behind us.
Once more, the river Bure was dotted with pleasure cruisers chugging up and down, scattering ducks as they went, whilst, looking the other way, we had great views of those huge Norfolk skies.
Out across the fields, a couple of Marsh Harriers were quartering the ground looking for prey. Sadly, they stayed too far away for me to get a picture - typical! We were however, being watched by a few black cattle in the field
Malcolm was enjoying the views and fresh air...
... and we eventually reached Clippesby Mill.
This was another drainage mill and is quite an old building. There was an older mill in place long before it was heightened using wider, more modern, red bricks sometime around 1814. It has a 'Norfolk' boat shaped top - but sadly, no sails now as it stands watch over the river. The sails were removed after the mill was struck by lightning in 1978.
The modern pumphouse next to the old mill, also dates from the 1970's.
During the few days we were away, we were lucky enough to encounter several species which I hadn't seen (or heard) for years. I have already mentioned the Cuckoo, calling from the Willow trees but remaining out of sight. To add to this, we also saw a Turtle Dove and stood listening to its reeling, purring call for some minutes. In the small bit of woodland close to where we were staying, we encountered a Roe Deer as we walked along. I don't know who was more startled, it, or us!
I managed one new 'tick' for the life list too. Not as handsome as a Roe Deer maybe, but no less exciting (for me anyway). This is an Amber Snail.
And so, the sun set on our short jaunt around the Broads. We will certainly be going back again.