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!

Friday, 21 November 2008

A Walk in the Park

Again it has been a nice day today so, to take advantage of this, Malcolm and I had a short walk around Locko Park. The parkland is part of the 300 acre estate of Locko Hall near derby.
Soon after we left the car and started our walk we were 'inspected' for our suitability by this fine-looking sheep. As the sheep didn't take further action, I think we passed his stringent entry exam and continued our walk!Although not the most spectacular stately home, Locko Hall has a look of grandeur about it.The estate has been inhabited by local land owners since the 11th century although the main hall as we see it today was built in 1720 by Francis Smith of Warwick. The grounds were landscaped around the turn of the 19th century.The fine lake is home to many birds although the Canada Geese had abandoned it for now in favour of grazing the adjoining fields.Running from the lake is a stream which Malcolm told me was the source of the Lees Brook, in which he used to play as a child and which gives it's name to a local school, surgery and many other places in the area.At the end of the walk and our 'turning round' point, we got to the gate houses of the hall. Two beautiful stone-built houses and a large sign reminding us that the gates are closed at 7pm sharp! The houses are now private dwellings but the one on the left of this picture seems exceedingly small.Back to the car and time to warm up. The wind was bitterly cold this morning and looks like it's going to get even colder over the weekend. More information about Locko Hall to be found HERE.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Sunshine days.

A beautiful day for a walk. The sun was shining and although it was windy, Malcolm and I had a great walk around the Shipley Estate again. Winter has taken hold of the trees now and there seem to be fewer and fewer leaves clinging to them - particularly when it's as windy as it was this morning.
What few leaves remain seem to be attached to the Beech trees and in the sunshine are still shining golden and beautiful.Walking through the grounds of the old Hall (mentioned previously), you stumble upon the disused cemetery of the Miller-Mundy family.
Among the last 'inhabitants' of the graveyard was Squire Edward Miller-Mundy whose first wife had caused a scandal and sensation in Victorian England by running off with the then Earl of Shrewsbury. Edward's second wife left the estate after his death and later, had his remains removed from the grave in the family plot and moved them to North London. It is said that his ghost can still be seen around the estate but who believes these things......................................?Getting back to reality we return to the wonderful views around the estate and particularly the magnificent Beech trees which were swaying in the wind this morning.

Some of the felled and fallen trees look as if they have been on the ground for many years. Of the more rotten ones a few have some extremely beautiful fungi growing on them.The 'Bracket' type fungi are hard and woody to the touch. Even the fungi support algae and mosses which grow on the fungus as the fungus grows on the dead wood.Viewed from beneath this one looked like angel's wings in the dappled light beneath the trees.What a lovely day for walking. I was 'bounced' by an over-excited Spaniel, then I was slobbered on by a Bloodhound and finally I was licked to within an inch of my life by a mad Chocolate Labrador. While Malcolm got back looking as clean as when he left the house, I looked like I had barely survived an explosion! Something wrong there I think. Happy days!

Monday, 17 November 2008


Britain has a fantastic variety of wildlife and it is easy to overlook some of the more familiar birds and animals. Even the most mundane are often extraordinarily beautiful if you take the time to look. Among the easiest to identify are the Canada Geese.
Always eagre to get in amongst the bread bags and ready to give you a 'look' if you don't come up with the goods!Frequently living alongside the geese are, of course, Mute Swans. Among the heaviest flying birds in the world, it is unsurprising that they take so long to take off. Everyone loves swans.Wherever there are ducks, geese and swans you will find people feeding them and this in turn attracts the Black Headed Gulls. Noisy and sometimes aggressive they are not everyone's favourites but again they are quite beautiful birds if you take the time to notice. Not much evidence of the black head (actually chocolate brown - not black) during the winter.

Keeping with the water theme, you can often see Great Crested Grebes on ponds, lakes and rivers. Spectacular diving birds they are truly at home in the water and in breeding plumage there are few birds as colourful.Another colourful water bird but not often seen is the Red Crested Pochard. More likely to be seen on ornamental lakes than in among the mallards!Hunting along the edges of most still or slow-flowing water will be a Grey Heron. Statuesque and despite it's overall grey appearance, again rather beautiful - although not if you are a fish, frog, lizard, small mammal or bird.Far less frequently seen is the Black Redstart. This one was 'snapped' in Spain not Britain but they are around - you just have to look a bit harder!Turning away from birds for a moment, who can fail to like Grey Squirrels. They have such a bad reputation, mostly because of their almost total ousting of our native Reds. But like almost every case of introduced species decimating our natives, it is not the animal's fault - it's ours. We humans have an unsettling habit of screwing-up the natural balance and then blamimg nature for the problems caused. OK I'll get off my soap-box now.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Quick walk

The weather hasn't been brilliant over the past couple of days and although we have been out and about walking, it has been so dull I havn't taken any pictures. Today however, has been very nice so we had a quick walk this afternoon just as the sun was beginning to go down. We don't like going far at the weekends because everywhere seems so busy with other people, so we just walked down to what is called the Manner Floods - and what Malcolm refers to as the Bog-Wash! There were some good reflections in the late afternoon sun but it was beginning to get rather cold.So as the tufted ducks, coots, swans and gulls started to get ready for bed, we headed for home and a hot cup of tea. Just time for a quick snap of this Alder tree sprouting 'catkins' ready for next springs early growth - how the years fly by......we must be getting old!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

High Peak Trail

It was such a lovely day today, that Malcolm and I decided to have a short trip out to walk some of the High Peak Trail. We parked the car at the Black Rocks car park and took the westerly route along the trail, up to Middleton Top and beyond. The trail follows the old Cromford and High Peak Railway which was opened in 1830. Much more information HERE.The trail is crossed numerous times by other rail lines and roads and some of the bridges which were built to carry them are rather beautiful - in an 'industrial' sort of way!There are some steep inclines along the old railway line and these are hard enough to walk up so you can only imagine how difficult it was to get some of the old steam trains up them. The incline up to Middleton Top is particularly steep - about 1 in 8 - and was scaled with the aid of steam powered beam engines hauling wagons up the gradient. The Old engine house is still there with the old beam engine inside, although it was closed to visitors today. When you look behind the engine house with its impressive chimney, you can see the 'fire boxes' where the coal was burned to produce the steam to power the machinery. You then get a better idea of the enormous amount of power that was needed to drag these wagons up the hill. The wagons would have been chained to huge cables which acted like pulley wheels. Some of these can still be seen in the 'wheel pits' along the trail. It was while we were looking around these buildings that we found that we were being watched from the other side of the wall!These magnificent highland cattle seemed to thoroughly enjoying the sunshine, even if they were distinctly unimpressed by our attention.
The views across the valleys are wonderful from Middleton top. Here you can see over towards Matlock Bath - in the middle of this picture.Just above the white buildings in the foreground and to the right of Matlock Bath you could just pick out the remains of Riber Castle as you can see from this 'zoomed-in' picture.From here too you could see back to the Black Rocks near Cromford, where the car was parked. It's funny, when you stand on the top of Black Rocks, you feel like you are on top of the world, but seen from here, it doesn't seem so high.