Wednesday, 31 August 2011


Malcolm and I got home from our quick visit to France, at about 1am this morning.  We would have been home earlier, but as always, the French side of the channel tunnel crossing delayed things.  Why is it, however busy things are, on the English side of the channel, things are always efficient and quickly dealt with, while on the French side, no-one seems to know what is going on and they care even less?
Coupled with the usual French inefficiency, we were confronted with an over-zealous, British customs official who was determined to make things extremely difficult for us.  This large, officious, sour-faced woman with about as much good humour in her as maternally-outraged Rhinoceros, seemed determined to prove to the trainee officers with her, that we were the most heinous criminals on the face of the earth.  To this end, she asked to see in the boot of the car, questioned us about our year's supply of cheap plonk (despite there being no more than our legal allowance) with a look which said "I don't believe a word you're saying".  She even asked us how long we have owned our car and quizzed us about a couple of cartons of fruit juice!  What THAT had to do with anything, just boggles the mind.
What a pity this frustrated woman didn't take more notice of the hoodie-wearing chavs with a boot load of Beer and Vodka and pockets full of Cannabis, or the (probably) Cocaine-snorting, pin-striped, insider-trading city type in the Maserati sports car, then she might have met her daily target rather than picking on two, innocent chaps just trying to do a bit of shopping before hauling our sorry arses back home.
Enough bitterness (not likely!) for now.  After our long car journey yesterday and the stiff joints we both suffered from it, it was nice to get a walk this morning.
Things were rather Autumnal this morning and the reflections in the lakes of Straw's Bridge, were lovely.

Thursday, 25 August 2011


A few days ago, I mentioned the lack of rain we have had and the parched ground and drying lakes and brooks.  Well, What a relief!  At last we have had some significant rainfall.  During the night it rained a good deal, in fact when I woke at about 4 o'clock, it was pouring down.  Later, looking out onto the garden, the plants seemed to be sighing with the relief of it all.  The grass was looking greener, the Fuchsia bush was drooping under the weight of rain drops and the outdoor Tomatoes were glinting in the early sunshine.
We are still a good way off the amount of rain we need.  The soil is barely damp on the surface and is still dry just couple of inches down, but it's a start and at least the tomatoes will be able to swell a bit more.  Maybe Malcolm has been doing his rain dance after all!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011


Don't look Malcolm...!!!
Looking around the garden this morning, I came across this Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) clinging to a garden cane.
There are three species of Wasp native to Britain, Common and German Wasps and the Hornet.  Common Wasps are normally identified by an 'anchor' shaped black mark on their face, while the German Wasp has three small black dots.  This individual however does not display the 'anchor' shape and as such confused me a little.  The other means of identification is to look at the dots on the wasp's back.  In a German Wasp, these are separate from the black stripes, but on the Common Wasp, they are joined to the stripes as can be seen in the picture above.
This wasp seemed to be having some problems as it did not move at all while I pointed my camera at it.  Maybe it was not feeling well, a problem which would be shared by Malcolm if he looks at this!

Sunday, 21 August 2011


Warm sunshine accompanied our walk this morning.  We were joined by our friend Kay for a longer walk around the parkland, Mapperley Village and Reservoir before returning via Shipley Hill.
As it seemed to be my call this morning where and how far we walked, it turned out to be a 6 mile stroll around the countryside, taking in some of the walk I took on Friday.  It also turned out to be a good chin-wag with Kay and Malcolm met some old work colleagues from his days in the Bank.  Not a bad way to spend the last day of being 43 years old as tomorrow I shall turn 44.  Where on earth did the years go?  

Saturday, 20 August 2011


More hedgerow fruits this morning.  The Hawthorn bushes are laden with ripening berries - actually not berries, but 'pomes' containing a single seed.
Maybe it's a sign of a bad winter ahead (maybe not), but there seems to be a glut of them this year.
They certainly look good in the sunshine, glowing a brilliant scarlet against the foliage.  Beautiful!

Friday, 19 August 2011


A gorgeous day for a walk today.  The few clouds made the sunshine a little hazy but it was warm and beautiful.  Unfortunately, I was a solitary walker this morning as Malcolm had an appointment with the doctor (more of which, later).  So, I set off around Shipley Hill and decided to walk around the bottom of the hill today rather than going up and over.  The views are quite good even from lower down the hill.  Here, looking towards the village of Mapperley.
Carrying on around the hill took me through the woodland and out onto the path down towards the village itself.  The village once played it's part in keeping the 'riff-raff' away from the Shipley Hall and in the next picture, the two old gate-house lodges can still be seen shining white in the sunshine.  There once was a gate across the road between the two lodges ensuring no-one got through who shouldn't.
Returning home through the village and along Slack Lane, I crossed the farmland towards one of the crossings of the old Nutbrook Canal.  At this point there was once a lock gate, but now there is just a rickety bridge and a - rapidly drying - ditch full of Reedmace, Water Forget-me-not and Water Mint.
There is still just enough water to keep these wetland plants growing.
Back home to find Malcolm had got home before me.  Following his visit to the doctor with a painful shoulder, he has been diagnosed as having something with a long name, had the first of three steroid injections (ouch!) and been told to rest his arm completely for three days.  Poor old soul!  As proof, he even has a small plaster covering the injection hole....
Ouch, Ouch, ooohh and ouch again!

Thursday, 18 August 2011


The forecast for today was to be wet, at least in the afternoon, but as yet, there is no sign of any rain.  This has been the pattern this summer.  We have had rain forecast many times, only for none to arrive.  Even when it has rained, there has been so little of it, it has barely dampened the ground.  Normally, we would be complaining about too much rain, but things around these parts seem to be getting rather serious.  Nowhere is this more evident than at Straw's Bridge or 'Swan Lake' as it is known locally. Ordinarily this lake has water up to the edges, but right now, there is a good 8ft of 'beach' around the edges.
There are some very large Koi in the lake somewhere, but we have not seen them for some months now.  No doubt they have retreated to the deeper parts in the middle of the lake as their world shrinks around them.  The other consequence of so little water is the proliferation of algae around the margins.  Thick, green and slimy, the algae and the stagnant water have started to smell now too.  The surrounding wetland, so important for wildlife, has suffered too as it is no longer 'wet' land.  The paths have started to crack and even the tarmac surface on the trail footpaths is splitting as the ground dries and shrinks around it.  If things don't change soon, goodness knows what will happen.
Lets just hope for rain.  Maybe I'll send Malcolm out to do a rain dance in the back garden and see if that will help!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011


Better weather today meant that a walk was in order.  So, off we set for Shipley Lake and a complete circumnavigation if it.
The hedgerows are filling with fruits just now.  I have mentioned the Blackberries and Lords-and-Ladies, but there are also many others.  Pyracantha, Blackthorn (Sloes), Rowan, Snowberry, Buckthorn, Cotoneaster and Honeysuckle are joined by thousands of Ripening Rose Hips.  Plenty for the birds and small mammals to feast on.... as well as us in the case of the Blackberries!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Stuck in!

Fists things first....... A Happy Birthday to my Mum.  73 today!

We had high hopes of getting a walk this morning, but with drizzle falling and a strong, cool breeze blowing, we're stuck in for the moment.  So, here are some pics from earlier walks.  Firstly the Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis).  This one, growing along the old railway lines of West Hallam colliery.
Also known as Gypsy Rose, Blue Button and Lady’s Pincushion, they are a great favourite with the butterflies. The scientific name 'Knautia' is derived from the seventeenth century botanist Dr. Knaut and the common name 'Scabious' comes from it's once being thought of a cure for scabies, a blood purifier and treatment for eczema and other skin diseases.
Secondly, the Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
I have mentioned the ancient uses of this plant for treating the wounds of injured soldiers, but it was also used for treating nose bleeds.  Conversely, it was once thought to be the harbinger of death in Wales.  It was thought that if this plant was brought into the house, death would follow!

Sunday, 14 August 2011


Earlier in the year, I mentioned the large numbers of Lords-and-Ladies (Arum maculatum) plants which seemed to have sprung up around the area.  well, now that the flowers of these woodland beauties have long-since gone, the spikes of bright red berries are showing through in the gloom of the woodland floor.
The berries are extremely poisonous, but that didn't stop the likes of Culpepper using it in various ways as herbal remedies.  He referred to it as Wake-Robin and said that the leaves could be used .. 'either fresh and green, or dried, being eaten and taken, is a most present and sure remedy for poison and the plague'.  He went on... 'A spoonful taken at a time healeth the itch; and an ounce or more, taken at a time for some days together, doth help the rupture; the leaves, either green or dry, or the juice of them, doth cleanse all manner of rotten and filthy ulcers, in what part of the body soever, and healeth the stinking sores in the nose, called polypus'. 
 As for the berries, he says... 'the juice of the berries boiled in oil of roses, or beaten into powder mixed with the oil, and dropped into the ears, easeth pains in them: the berries or the roots, beaten with hot ox-dung and applied, ease the pains of the gout: the leaves and roots boiled in wine with a little oil, and applied to the piles, or the falling down of the fundament, ease them, and so doth sitting over the hot fumes thereof'.  I think if I had any problem with my ears - or for that matter - with my 'fundament falling down', I should think twice before settling for these treatments!

Thursday, 11 August 2011


There is no other word to describe today's weather.  It is the sort of day for which the word 'muggy' must have been conceived... Warm, wet and windy.  We set out for a walk with few hopes that we would stay dry and indeed we were right.  Clutching our waterproof jackets ready to don them at a moment's notice, it wasn't long before we needed them.  However, the rain was light and with such a strong wind blowing, it didn't last long and before we knew where we were, the sun was out again and were sweating again.  All the while, the skies remained threatening, glowering and menacing overhead.
Lets hope we have better luck tomorrow.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A Rose...

... by any other name would 'taste' as sweet.  Well, not quite, but it was time this morning, to start picking blackberries from the local hedgerows.  Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) are part of the Rose family and actually are not true berries.  They are an aggregate fruit made up of many, little 'drupelets'.  A drupe is a fruit made up of a central seed surrounded by a fleshy part or pericarp.  Well known drupes are Peaches, cherries, olives, almonds, etc.  But for now, these plump, ripe, sweet little members of the rose family just look perfect for the picking.

Sunday, 7 August 2011


We took a nice walk through Shipley Park and around Mapperley Reservoir this morning.  We set out in a strong wind - and a chilly one too - but soon the sun started to peep from behind the clouds and things warmed up a bit. The views across the farmland were rather good and the clouds were rather picturesque looking back towards the village of Mapperley.
Looking the other way, on our way back home a little more blue was beginning to show and things were warming up a bit more - especially when you managed to get out of the wind.

Friday, 5 August 2011


After being 'rained-off' yesterday, we had a good walk today along the Nutbrook Trail this morning.  Usually, we stick to the trail around Shipley Park, but this morning, we headed south in the direction of Kirk Hallam.
The trail is crossed by several old road bridges and in some parts, traces of the railway lines which once ran along here can still be seen in the embankments.
Near Kirk Hallam, the lake known locally as the 'Beauty Spot' offers a quite, secluded bit of water amid the bustle of roads, joggers, cyclists and a scum-bag on a (probably stolen) motorbike!

Thursday, 4 August 2011


Things have certainly come a log way since Tom and Jerry did their musical best with Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody..
Then, things were drawn by hand the skill involved with getting picture and music to coincide can only be wondered at.
Nowadays, things are different.  The skill is still there, but now it's with the aid of a vast amount of computer processing power.  I came across a company called Animusic recently on You Tube.  Just look at this...

Wednesday, 3 August 2011


Too warm to do very much this morning and we had to do a little shopping, so it was a quick walk into town before returning via Victoria Park and the shady trees to be found there.  Like most towns in Britain, there are not very many parts of Ilkeston which could be described as 'nice', but Victoria Park is probably the best bit.
From there, it was back home for a delicious lunch of pasta with our own, home-grown Garlic (small cloves but powerfully flavoured), Tomatoes (from vine to stomach in about 20 minutes) and Basil.  It doesn't get much better - or fresher - than that!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


Close to home, there is a series of six settling pits which act as filters for water from (we think) surface run-off and slurry from near-by farms.  Water is always pouring into one end and the 'solids' are settled out as it flows from pit to pit along the series before flowing out the other end into the Nutbrook.  From Google Earth the pit look like this.
Around these pits runs a high bank covered in Orchids, Broom bushes, Apple trees, Birches, Hawthorns and thousands more plants.  The pits themselves are home to swans, coots, ducks, gulls, moorhens, etc.  Dragonflies flit around the area like miniature helicopters and a few butterflies make use of the clover flowers.  The view, looking east towards the village of Mapperley is pretty good too.