Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Earth stood hard as iron.

In a complete contrast to my last few postings, today's offering is rather lacking in colour. We woke up this morning to find that a hard frost had gripped the countryside around us. The temperature had dropped overnight to -5.8C and was still well below freezing when we stepped out into the fog.We decided to take a walk around Mapperley Reservoir. The paths at this time of year are usually too muddy to negotiate but with the frost, they were as 'hard as iron'. The plants were covered in the frost making them look rather festive if - as in the case of this gorse - spikier than normal.Talking of spiky, the barbed wire fence looked rather more unwelcoming than usual, but at least it was draped in it's own Christmas tinsel!The hedgerows and trees loomed out of the fog giving the whole area a spooky look, especially as it was so quiet around this morning.All we were missing was the snow. Malcolm wasn't convinced but even he had to admit that it was fine walk and despite the temperature, it didn't seem so cold without a breeze.Well, that's it for another year. 2009 is threatening to overtake us and before we know it the Easter eggs will be appearing on the supermarket shelves. So, a very Happy New Year to you all from Malcolm and I.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Colour for New Year

At this time of year, it's nice to see a bit of colour. Although there isn't much to be seen in Britain at the moment, the flowers were still looking good in Fuerteventura. Along the winding roads around Betancuria, we found many bright flowers both cultivated and growing wild including this tiny Helianthemum canariense.
Tiny flowers seemed to be the order of the day as we saw with this Lycium intricatum. The purple flowers were only about 3mm long to give you some idea of scale.Cultivated flowers were everywhere. At the impressive viewpoint overlooking the Valle de Santa Ines we found some spectacular Echiums.
Also the wonderful, bright, daisy-like, yellow flowers of the Nauplius intermedius.In the lovely Little town of Pajara, the Bougainvillea was glorious. Although a native of Brazil, this plant has become such a common sight in the Mediterranean area that it's difficult to imagine it coming from anywhere else.Many different colours were in evidence but surely the pink were the most vibrant.Another colourful tree (as yet I haven't been able to identify it - sorry!) was in full bloom in Pajara and looked beautiful.I'll get back to you when I've identified it!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

More Fuerteventura!

The old capital city of Fuerteventura was Betancuria before 1834 when it moved to Antigua and finally to the present capital of Puerto del Rosario. Looking at it today, it is hard to believe that such a small village was ever the capital of the island.
The church in the centre of the village was, like most Spanish churches, white-washed and rather beautiful. The main door to the church is deeply carved and very ornate.Behind the church there is a small lane of typical old Canarian houses with wooden balconies overlooking the church and the village square.The gardens of the village were looking pretty and well-kept even in the middle of December. This plant which turned out to be a 'Popcorn Cassia' or Cassia Didymobotrya particularly caught my eye. It doesn't look bad for a member of the pea family!
A few miles from Betancuria is another small town called Pájara. Again, this town has a wonderful church at it's heart. The church, or Iglesia Nuestra Senora de la Regla to give it it's correct title looked good from the outside with ornamented door and surround.Inside however, it was quite beautiful. Highly ornate and decorative, it was just what you would expect of a traditional Spanish church.It was very dark in the church so photography was not easy (I will not use a flash in such places as I think there are few things more annoying to others), but the pictures turned out well.Back out into the daylight again and another view of the village around the church. It was quiet, the birds were singing, what a lovely place!
That's it for today. I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful new year.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Into the blue

As Malcolm will tell you, I am fascinated by how blue the sea can be. Having been brought up in Norfolk near The Wash, I grew up thinking that the sea was a sandy, muddy, brown soup which was frequently covered in a thick, brown foam of an indeterminate nature! So I am always enthralled by the blue of the sea and in Fuerteventura, the sea was rough enough to show off theses colours beautifully.The breaking surf highlighted the pale turquoise even on the dullest of days......... And the when the waves broke on the rocks, great clouds of spray blew into the air and soaked you if you got too close!Lovely to watch, but I wouldn't want to be in a small boat (or even a large one for that matter) trying to come ashore with a load of fish, would you?Yet more to follow.....

Sunday, 21 December 2008


As promised, some more photos of our travels around Fuerteventura. Ajuy is a small fishing village in the south-west of the island. As is usual for Spain, the houses are white-washed, the fishing boats are brightly painted and the sea is blue - if a little rough the day we were there!
There some fascinating rock formations around the cliffs of Ajuy. Despite the island being predominantly volcanic, some of the sandstone cliffs have been weathered and worn into some fantastical shapes with caves eaten into them.On a smaller scale you can see the sandstone has been cut through and looks like filigree in places.
Precarious walkways cling to the cliff edges and afford the visitor some fine views of the seashore and cliffs. The caves are quite awe inspiring.One of the caves at the end of the path took me by surprise in its scale. Like a mighty, natural cathedral, it looked magnificent from high on the path. The constant roar of the waves crashing on the rocks in the cave entrance echoed around it. The size of the cave can be seen if you notice the figure of the person at far right of the picture.Again, the rocks around the cave mouth were spectacular and colourful. The clear lines of strata in the rocks show successive volcanic eruptions and upheavals in the earth's crust.More pictures to come..........

Friday, 19 December 2008

Back again!

After a couple of weeks in Fuerteventura, we have returned with some good memories and nice photos to share. We stayed in Caleta de Fuste but toured around the island to see as much as possible in the time we had. We certainly enjoyed some great views... Driving through the winding roadways around Betancuria and again down near Pajara the views got better..At the northern end of the island there was a great view across the sea towards Lanzarote.Over the next few days I will add some more pictures and comments, but I need to sort them all out be continued (as they say!)

Friday, 28 November 2008

Frosty morning

What a beautiful morning for a walk. The sun was trying to break through the early morning mist, it was frosty and crisp and once the mist cleared the sky was blue, the sun shone and it made you feel glad to be alive. By 'eck though it was chilly!
A layer of frost covered everything and with the mist laying in patches around the parkland everything was 'beginning to look a lot like Christmas...'Small patches of ice dotted the grass where horses hooves and excited dogs had made depressions in the soil and water had lain overnight. The patterns made as the sunlight reached the ice were rather beautiful.Further along the walk the sun's rays were breaking through the alder trees and shining through the mist making curtains of light.

This theme was repeated a bit further along the Nutbrook Trail as this shot through one of the bridges illustrates.Looking straight towards the sun through one of the trees you could have been forgiven for thinking you had stumbled onto the set of E.T. and were about to come face to face with something from outer space!Even the skeletons of the hogweed, covered with frost, looked like small star-bursts or fireworks.Finally, towards the point where we turned for home, a small pond in the woods offered some wonderful winter reflections. The water surface was almost like a mirror except for an occasional drop of water from an overhanging tree causing ripples to spread across it. Time for a hot cup of something I think!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Lets go fly a kite.

As the Mary Poppins song goes, 'Let's go fly a kite....' and that's just what a small group of people were doing this morning near to the visitors centre at Shipley Park.A very professional bunch they were and the 'stunt' kites were being flown fast and low, in close formation and looping-the-loop. Wonderful to watch, but we were on a 'mission' today and needed shopping so we pressed on. It was a good long walk of just over eight miles and the coffee break in Heanor before we turned back home was most welcome.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Winter reds (whites and oranges too)

With the sun shining on us again this morning it was just the right weather to capture some of the brightest colours left in the hedgerows. The berries which are left are still pretty vibrant in the sun. This is proved by these Cotoneaster berries which were growing around the perimeter of the old theme park and colliery as mentioned in a previous post.There certainly is an abundance of them in spite of the recent cold weather and the constant depletion by birds.
Close up, they look juicy and tasty - especially if you are a Blackbird.
It isn't just the Cotoneaster which has many vibrant red berries still attached. The Dog Roses have many rose hips and, although they are beginning to wither a little, they still have a wonderful colour and a high-gloss finish.While on the subject of Dog Roses, we also came across this small object growing among the bare branches of one shrub. Looking like a tiny birds nest, it also has a reddish hue. It is actually a gall produced by the Diplolepis rosae Gall Wasp and is better known as a Robin's Pincushion.
Further round our walk and in the grounds of the 'Nottingham Lodge' of the old hall we found a tree with some very exotic fruits. These figs sadly have no chance of ripening but they were abundant. Many years ago the tree probably supplied quite a crop when it was being looked after properly.While we have departed from the 'red' theme of our berries and fruits, another common sight in the hedgerows at this time of year are the Snowberries Symphoricarpos albus. Malcolm tells me that as a child he and his friends used to pick these white, juicy berries and by squeezing them, would try to squirt them at each other! What a little horror - I blame his mother!!!!!!!Reddening a little again, we next came across thousands of Pyracantha berries. These are starting to look a little 'past their best' but still look like a tasty snack for the birds.Lastly, we found among the tangled mass of brambles some twining stems of the Woody Nightshade plant Solanum dulcamara. Also known as Bittersweet it has rather beautiful purple flowers with yellow stamens but the egg-shaped fruits which follow are among the best red colours you will find. They are also very poisonous!