Tuesday, 30 November 2010

On this day...

On this day in history, King Edmund II (Ironside) died in 1016.  The title of King then passed to the Dane Cnut the Great.
In 1835, Samuel Langhorne Clemens was born.  He was better known as Mark Twain and wrote Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
In 1853, during the Crimean War, the Russian fleet attacked and destroyed the Turkish fleet at the battle of Sinope. 
In 1897, Thomas Edison's own motion picture projector had its first commercial exhibition.
In 1936, London's famed Crystal Palace was destroyed in a fire. It had been built for the International Exhibition of 1851.
Most importantly, in 1962,  a certain Malcolm Andrew Pryce was born in Derby.
What a little angel he was............. I wonder what happened!
Happy Birthday Malcolm.

Monday, 29 November 2010


As the ancient rhyme says:
The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.
The rhyme is believed to date back to the 16th century and indicates our long-lived association with and love for this common garden bird.  It also brings to mind the plight of our feathered friends at this time of year and I couldn't help feeling desperately sorry for them as I watched a group of 6 Long-tailed Tits yesterday.  It had just started to fall dark and the temperature, which hadn't got above freezing all day, had begun to plunge even lower, when the little creatures appeared.  All at once they descended on our fatballs and started to feed furiously for a few minutes desperately trying to take on a few more precious calories to see them through the night ahead.
Certainly, there didn't seem to be much comfort to be had in amongst the snowy branches of the countryside, so where these little birds 'keep themselves warm' is anyone's guess.  Keep putting the food out!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Colder Still

I had to take a second look at the thermometer reading this morning.  Descending the stairs, bleary eyed as usual at about 8 o'clock this morning, I couldn't believe that the temperature was reading -10.4ÂșC.  I think the lowest it has ever been.
Our walk yesterday took in some wonderful scenes through the woods along the old drive to Shipley Hall.  Unusually, the snow had fallen through the trees and was settled on the ground beneath them.
The lack of any colour from leaves and flowers, gave the scene an almost monochrome feel.  It wasn't until we left the cover of the trees, that we began to get a little more colour again.
This became clearer as we looked out toward Shipley Hill.  It was looking a bit frosty up there.
Snow had stuck to almost every north-facing surface, picking out the shapes of the bare trees and highlighting the redness of the berries remaining.
As it is the first Sunday of Advent today, Malcolm has brought out his new nativity scene and very nice it looks too.  (The 'star' and reflection were added by me afterwards).

Saturday, 27 November 2010

White Stuff

Well!  After the bitter cold of yesterday, it should have come as no surprise to wake up to a blanket of snow this morning.  But, what a scene greeted us as we squinted out first thing.
Then the sun started to rise and a pale, orange light was shed all over.
It just got better and better.....
Couldn't wait to get out and about in it, despite the biting cold, made all the more bitter by the breeze which was picking up.  The wind shook the branches and knocked the snow onto our heads and into our eyes, but who could complain on such a morning?
Bright, red Rose Hips shone from the bushes in the low sunshine like rubies in a snowy setting.
Getting back home for something warming - as well as the coffee!  We were presented with more jewels, this time orange ones glistening in their plumpness from the Pyracantha in our garden.
The birds will no doubt be very pleased to find these during the cold snap.

Friday, 26 November 2010


There are some mornings when it is pure joy to be out and about.  In the summer months, this can be down to warm sunshine, birdsong and the scent of hedgerow flowers.  This morning however, the joy came in the form of a clear, bright, blue sky, the crunch of frozen ground beneath our feet and the face-biting, ear-numbing, feet-freezing cold.  Still well below freezing as we set out, it was a truly beautiful day.
A frosty coating was on all the twigs and fallen leaves and the Hawthorn berries resembled crystallised fruits in the shop windows.
Not everyone was pleased with the weather.  Malcolm would have preferred it at least twenty degrees warmer for a start.  The poor birds on the lakes of Straw's Bridge were equally unimpressed by it all.  Ducks, coots and gulls all stood on the frozen surface wondering what had happened, while the swans tried to keep small patches of water free from ice and sheltered under the overhanging Alders.
Glorious sunshine glistened off the iced lakes, setting the scene for the Coots' interpretation of a 'Torvill and Dean' routine.
Back home for a hot coffee and a (medicinal?) tot of something from the Brandy bottle I think!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


What a morning!
Malcolm and I set out for longer walk this morning with the sun shining and a good layer of frost on the ground.  Earth didn't quite stand 'hard as iron' but it was, nevertheless, hard enough for us to walk along paths which would normally be too sloppy and muddy during the winter months.  Among the best pictures this morning were of dead Oak leaves, still clinging to the branches and edged in sparkling ice crystals.
Last night was clear and crisp and the moon shone brightly through the bare branches of the Hawthorn at the front of our house.  In this picture the branches are edged with orange light from the nearby street lamp.
The sun was streaming in first thing and the sight of a colourful 'Sun Dog' in the sky betrayed the presence of ice crystals high in the atmosphere too.
One more little 'jewel' from our walk around the countryside.  This time, a Robin (Erithacus rubecula), seen amid the branches of a Willow along the old Nutbrook Canal.  Singing it's thin and rather plaintive song, it cut a sombre and melancholy image as I tried to get close enough to get a good picture.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


There can be few birds more familiar to us all than the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos).  This morning, as we took our walk around Straw's Bridge lakes, there were several of them, as usual, waiting for the food to arrive.
From the first time our parents took us in our push-chairs to toss bread at the ducks in the park, Mallards have been the best known and among the best loved birds in Britain.  They are also our most numerous duck with up to 127,000 breeding pairs resident and at least 370,000 individuals over-wintering here.
These males - or Drakes - are displaying their newly acquired colours after their rather drab 'eclipse' plumage.  The Green of the head and blue of the Speculum feathers in the wings, glow in the pale, Winter sunlight.
What a dull world it would be without these charming characters to brighten up our lives and to pester us for bread every time we venture anywhere near the water's edge.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


One for mum today.
Mum loves the music of Andre Rieu so, in the absence of any pictures from our walk this morning (shopping again -Christmas you know), here is a funny little video from Andre and his orchestra.  The Theme from Harry Lime, played on a Zither.....

Saturday, 20 November 2010


Yet again, we have been enveloped in mist and murk as we walked around Shipley Lake this morning.  In need of something to brighten the day, I thought I would post some pictures  took yesterday, of spiders' webs covered in dew.
Tiny drops of water clung to the threads of the webs and grew slowly in the fog.  Diamonds amidst the gloom.
Back home and there were even more jewels hanging between the shed and the fence, determined to add some glamour to the dullness of the day.

Friday, 19 November 2010


Once again, Malcolm and I set out for our walk this morning in the mist and fog.  Damp and cold, the fog hung around the trees and flowed across the fields like a thick blanket.
When we got to the Manor Floods (Malcolm's Bogwash), it was difficult to see across to the other side.  The sounds of squabbling Coots drifted over the water, through the mist.
Grey was the colour of the day and I was glad I had put my hat on as the temperature stubbornly refused to rise.
Even the Black-headed Gulls on 'Swan Lake' were not looking happy as they huddled together on the fence waiting with unusual patience for someone to turn up with a bread bag.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


Another dull and overcast day.  Once again, it's looking as if it will not get fully light all day, so no nice, country walk this morning.  A little more Christmas shopping instead seemed to be the order of the day and after struggling around the crowds (did everyone have the same idea as us?), I thought we needed a little cheering up.
So, to that end, here is a short video/slide-show of some of my photos of bright and cheerful flowers.  The pictures were taken from around Shipley Park and also from the Eden Project.  It turns out it's two and a half years since we went there - another example of 'tempus fugit'.
Anyway, enjoy the flowers....

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Yesterday saw Malcolm and I dropping Malcolm's mum of  at the airport for her holiday in the sun and warmth of Spain, while we went on to King's Lynn, to see my mum.
The drive was 'interesting' as we encountered dense fog and frosty conditions.  Looking across the fields of Leicestershire, reminded me of some of the pictures I have taken over the last few years, of fog on Shipley Park.  This one from two years ago - it was cold then too.
And this, from a few weeks later on the last day of 2008.  Amazing how quickly time flies, it didn't think it was that long ago, but there you are!

Sunday, 14 November 2010


Piercing, searching, biting cold (as Charles Dickens would have put it) as we set out for our walk this morning.  Although the thermometer wasn't much lower than four degrees, the dampness of the early mist, made it feel much colder.
The scene which greeted us was dark and gloomy as the sun struggled against overwhelming odds to pierce the mist.  We walked out towards the lakes of Straw's Bridge and returned through the local nature reserve of  Peewit Carr.  The huge quantity of water which dominated the scene a few days ago has dispersed and the canal and wetlands are back to their more usual levels.  But it remains very wet under foot.
Back home for hot coffee I think!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Short and Sweet

A while ago, I was introduced to the Simon's Cat website by Mary Youngs ("thanks always for that Mary").  For those not familiar with it, have a look at the videos on the site (HERE) and, if you've ever been the owner of a cat, or have ever spent some time in the same house as a cat, you will appreciate how exactly, they match the real-life antics of our feline friends.  Well, there's a new video on the site, called 'Lunch Break'.  How Typical!

Friday, 12 November 2010


Once again, it was rather breezy this morning, but the sun was shining as we set out for a walk.  It's nice to get out for a proper walk after a couple of days of 'not very much'.  As we walked around Shipley lake, the wind blew and tried to denude the trees of the few leaves which are left after the gales of yesterday and last night.  Among the few which have retained some of their foliage, were these tall and stately Silver Birches (Betula pendula).
Their white trunks seem to gleam in the half light of the woodland as they sway like metronomes in the wind.
Birches have been used for a number of purposes over the years.  It is even possible to make wine from the Birch sap.  The bark of the Birch contains a chemical called Betulin, which has proven effective in the treatment of tumours, various lymphatic conditions as well as tuberculosis.  There is still much we can learn from the seemingly mundane and 'everyday'.
The thing we learned most this morning, was that it was nice to get out of the wind and into the lee and shelter of the tree-lined paths as we headed homeward for coffee.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


We didn't hold out much hope for a walk today.  When we woke this morning, it was blowing a gale and trying to rain.  It had been pouring down during the night and everywhere was waterlogged.  Soon after breakfast, the rain began to fall again, so we decided to stay in and see if things improved.
By lunch time, things had improved and, although the wind had increased, the rain had stopped and we braved the elements and set out for a walk to town.  Wonder upon wonder, we managed to get there and back in the dry, but rather buffeted by the gale.  So, no photos today, instead, a piece of music with an appropriate title, from Sarah Brightman.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Nothing's simple

It was time to treat ourselves again this morning, so we set out for a 'full English' cooked breakfast at Tesco - as well as to do a  little shopping.  Over the last few months, Tesco have had an offer where, if you buy an eight-item breakfast, you get a bottle of Tropicana juice at a discounted price to go with it.  This offer is still in place, but, alas they had run out out of Tropicana.  So we thought we would settle for a good, strong coffee instead.  But, the coffee machine wasn't working.
Eventually, we got our breakfasts - still very good value despite the lack of an offer - and enjoyed our eggs, beans, hash browns, tomatoes, mushrooms, fried bread and, in Malcolm's case, bacon.
Then it was into the store for a little retail therapy.  Good news, there was an offer on Mr Kipling's Mince Pies.  Buy one get TWO free!  So with our basket heavier to the tune of three boxes of festive pies and several packets of hearing-aid batteries (for our friend Winn) which were reduced from £4 to £2, but actually went through the till at £1 per pack of 6 (we should have bought more!), we quickly grabbed the few other necessaries and headed for the checkout.
Here, things were not so simple.  The brain-dead, ditsy, peroxide-blonde cashier seemed more interested in her copy of the 'Shop-workers Union' rule book and mopping up a miniscule amount of spilled milk than in serving the customers.  Maybe there is a section or sub-section somewhere in her "comrade's book of union rules" which states that she is not actually forced to do the job for which she is paid and for which she had originally been employed.  Nothing would surprise me anymore.
With austerity measures kicking in everywhere and all of us having to 'tighten our belts', I would like to suggest that businesses everywhere should look at their staff and begin by kicking out those individuals who are neither use nor ornament.  I could happily suggest several members of Tesco staff who should be first in line for the 'chop'.
Rant over........for now anyway!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Water Everywhere

After the deluge which was Monday, there is water everywhere.  The footpaths are saturated, the verges are flooded and the dry ditches are no longer dry.  The Nutbrook canal, which is usually just a small stream, is today a raging torrent threatening to break free of it's banks in places.
Looking back from atop the ridge seen in the picture above, it is clear to see how full the old canal is.  The overflow channel to the right, is usually at least a foot above the water-line and makes the dry platform for dog owners to throw sticks into the water for their dogs to fetch.  But not today.
Looking the other way, you see one of the flooded pits which form the nature reserve of Peewit Carr.  Here again, the water is trying to leave its usual home and is looking at taking over the grassy banks.
With the strong and cold wind added to the mix, by now it was time to head back home and get warm and dry again.

Monday, 8 November 2010


I was just wondering what to make the subject of today's blog, when I espied a small creature climbing up the wall.  We've all seen these little creatures from time to time, but few of us have taken any notice.  It is, in fact a Woolly Bear, the larval form of the Varied Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus verbasci).  Here seen magnified 10 times.
A nasty little pest in the home, it feeds on natural fibres, damaging carpets, clothing and furniture.  Fortunately, these days, most of us have far fewer 'natural' fibres on which it can feast.  The wide use of polyester, nylon and the like, make our homes less vulnerable.  This picture of it's head end and clearly showing the bristly hairs which give the Woolly Bear it's name, x60.
The larvae usually hatch from eggs in bird's nests, but they will also be found in stored fabrics.  The larvae then take 1 to 3 years to develop into adults, which feed on flower pollen before mating, laying eggs and starting the cycle again.
I got rid of it after taking its photo.  We may not have much in the way of natural fibres these days, but I don't want what little we have, eaten by a Woolly Bear!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

It's beginning.....

..... to look a lot like Christmas!

This morning, we have purchased a new Christmas Tree, with lights and baubles, much to my delight and, I suspect, a certain amount of incredulity on Malcolm's part.  It's SO exciting, but I have to restrain my festive cheer for another month. Drat!
Returning to now, the fat-ball drama is being played out regularly at the front of our house.  At this rate, we will be bankrupted by Sparrows within the next six months.
Like a highly trained military outfit, the sparrows perch in the hedgerow opposite, keeping an eye on us and then, in one, full-blown frontal attack, they launch themselves across the road and land en-mass, squabbling and chirping.
Then the 'heavies' arrive in the form of Starlings.  These raucous troops descend with stealthy precision and launch a stabbing attack on the fat-balls sending a shower of small fragments onto the ground like a snow-storm.
It isn't until the Starlings arrive that you get some idea of what 'shock and awe' tactics mean.  They screech at each other and at the Sparrows, destroy the fat-balls with ferocious accuracy, then disappear into the hedgerows again before anyone has the opportunity to fight back.  What a spectacle!

Friday, 5 November 2010


With the sun trying to peep through the clouds this morning, Malcolm and I set out for a walk around the old theme park site.  There are a huge quantity of Cotoneaster shrubs around the area and the old car-parks are full of Rowan trees, Dog Roses and the like, so it was with some over-optimism, that we went in search of Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus), a bird which I have yet to add to my 'list'.
It was very wet under foot following all the rain we've had during the past few days, but it was very mild and the views across the fields were well worth the effort.
This panorama shows the area which had previously been taken up with a brickworks during the days of mining. It also clearly shows the golden hues of the Autumnal trees, something which can be seen well, closer in.
As I mentioned, the Cotoneaster bushes are laden this year, a magnificent feast for a multitude of bird species as well as a number of small mammals.
There are several different types of Cotoneaster, some have smaller berries, but what they lack in size, they more than make up for in numbers.
Despite all the free food around, we were not lucky enough to see any Waxwings this time.  But, despite the mud-caked shoes and the ever-present danger of slipping on fallen leaves, the colours were wonderful and a good time was had by all (well, by Malcolm and me anyway).