Saturday, 30 November 2013


It's Malcolm's birthday today.  Fifty one years old young...!  With the exception of the eighties-style moustache which has long-since been shaved off, he doesn't seem to have changed at all and still looks as good as he did in the picture below, taking a ride on a Lake District Steamer back in the day.

**** Happy birthday Malcolm ****

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Feeding Frenzy

Walking through another gloomy, misty and dull morning, we headed out to Straw's Bridge again.  As usual, the lake was a melting pot of wildfowl of varying types.  Mallards, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Tufted Ducks, Coots, A Cormorant, Pochards and a few 'domestic' farmyard ducks were competing among themselves for the prize for most vocal bird on the lake.  The winners however, were the Black-headed Gulls - they always win the prize for making a noise.  When an elderly couple arrived with quantities of bread with which to feed the birds, things became frenzied.
Within a few seconds, the couple were surrounded by a seething mass of wildfowl all vying for position.
Some of the birds were taking matters into their own hands (or webbed feet) and attempting to help themselves from their bread bags while all the time, the gulls squabbled, squawked and generally fell out with everything else.  The more intelligent Mallards took advantage of the squabbling gulls and whilst the gulls' attention was diverted by fighting, the Mallard sneaked in a took the bread from under their noses.  It all made for a very colourful - if noisy - spectacle on such a dull day.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013


Just one photo this morning and one which was taken a few days ago as we walked back home following our ramble around Shipley Lake.  Leaving the footpaths of the Nutbrook trail and onto the paths of Shipley View, the first thing which greets the walker at the moment, is a wonderful Maple tree.  This beautiful specimen is always 'good value' but at present, the golden hues of its leaves as they carpet the ground beneath, are second to none.
Almost glowing in the half-light of a gloomy morning, the gold comes alive when the sun emerges from behind the clouds.  Just spectacular, even if a short-lived spectacle which will be gone all too soon.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Safely Graze

Walking through Shipley Park yesterday, we were happy to see that the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has expanded its collection of Highland Cattle and six more of these fine beasts have appeared in a field closer to where we live.  Among this new herd, a charmingly endearing youngster was sticking very closely to its mother, while enjoying the weak sunshine.
Further along our walk and after we had visited Mapperley reservoir and the small village of Mapperley, we passed along Slack Lane where a flock of sheep were safely grazing, back-lit by the same watery sunlight while they munched their way across the field.
Looking back across the fields towards Shipley hill, from where we had just come, the golden sunshine made the view well worth stopping to capture in digital form.
Earlier, as we left the woodland at the summit of this small hill, we had turned to look back in rather more detail at the scene - pretty good it was too.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Reflected Glory

It seems to be the norm these days for our weather to alternate between dull days and bright days.  So, with yesterday's weather being dull, this morning, saw us venturing out for a longer walk under bright, blue skies.  We headed for Shipley Hill and Mapperley Reservoir, where the sunlight was causing the most wonderful reflections on the water.
The few Tufted Ducks which were diving along the edge of the reservoir seemed oblivious to their reflected and glorious surroundings.
Looking back from a little further away and we got a wider view of the colours.
Not only the water was wonderful to look at.  The footpath which circumnavigates the reservoir was looking equally appealing with sunlight filtering through the trees and what's left of the leaves.  A truly beautiful morning and a joy to be out and about in the sun - even if it was a bit chilly.

Thursday, 21 November 2013


The weather forecast for this morning was good, with the promise of blue skies and occasional cloud.  So of course, we set out for a walk and it wasn't long before we were being stung in the face by sleety-rain and a biting wind.  But never mind, we carried on and took in the delights of Pewit Carr local nature reserve as part of our walk.  Before getting to the Carr, we passed around 'Swan Lake', but it has to be said, it should have been renamed 'Goose' Lake today as around seventy Canada Geese were making their presence felt.
Soon after I took the picture above, the majority of the geese took off and flew the few yards across to the other side of the main road and farmer's field with good, green grass to graze upon.  On to Pewit Carr and some shelter under the trees.
This footpath was once the track of a local mineral railway line - as so many seem to be around these parts - but the tracks have long-since gone, to be replaced at this time of year, by a carpet of gloriously-coloured, fallen leaves.  It seems a shame to walk on such loveliness.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013


Our walk this morning, was as bright and sunny as it was dull and murky yesterday.  Over night, the cloud had cleared and the temperature had dropped, so that we needed our thermal hats for the first time this autumn.  The blue sky was glorious as we headed for Straw's Bridge.
As we got to 'Swan Lake', we were struck by the numbers of Black-headed Gulls making their presence felt in their usual, vocal way.  Among these garrulous gulls, a small group of Pochard (Aythya ferina) were to be seen diving frequently into the frigid waters of the lake.  As is often the case, the male birds are by far the more colourful.
The pale, grey back and ruddy-red head is characteristic of this attractive duck and their numbers are boosted at this time of year, by an influx of visitors from eastern Europe and Russia.
Up to around 48,000 Pochard over-winter in the UK, so the eight or so birds which were diving for snails, insect larvae and small fish on Swan Lake this morning, was a good find.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Round the Lake

Things didn't look good this morning.  We set out for a walk with little hope of staying dry, as the clouds threatened rain.  As a result, the light was not good for taking photographs.  Despite the poor light, some autumnal colour was still bright enough to shine out of the gloom.  Firstly, a rather fine Cotoneaster bush reddening as November marches on.
Plenty of berries there for any over-wintering birds which chose these parts to sit out the worst of the weather to come.  The forecast is for much colder weather during the rest of the week and the winds turning round to the north-east will help those birds coming in from northern Europe.  Further round Shipley Lake and we cut our walk a little shorter than normal, still expecting to be rained-on at any moment.  Climbing the hill and looking back, the woods surrounding the lake are still looking good, even in the gloom.
Maybe we will have some snow over the next few days - that should change the scene!

Friday, 15 November 2013

More of Autumn

Our walk this morning was a shorter one, but no less full of colour and spectacle for that.  We set out around the Straw's Bridge lakes as the skies clouded up from their clear, blue start to the day.  Around 'Swan Lake' and under the old railway bridge to the second and third of the lakes, the colours were framed rather well by the bridge.
Leaving those lakes behind, we climbed up the bank of the old railway line to look back on the trees which surround the lakes.  Again, the colours were still quite good.
Looking back to our walk with Jayne on Wednesday, we took in some wonderful Beech trees growing close to the 'Coppice' lake - another of the reservoirs which fed the canal system. These Beeches are always wonderful at this time of year.
And another picture of the Harlequin Ladybirds which were in evidence at Osborne's Pond. This one displays the extraordinary diversity in colour and patterning to be seen in this particular species.  The one I mentioned on Wednesday was more typical with its red-and-black dots, while this one was almost all black with just a few hints of red.  Still beautiful though and shiny as if it had been polished.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


I have often mentioned the lakes which are dotted about Shipley Park and its environs.  Most of these have at one time or other, been used as reservoirs supplying the numerous canals which were once so important to the local industry.  Some were built specifically for this purpose and it was to a couple of these we turned this morning.  Accompanied by our friend Jayne for a nice long walk in the sunshine, we set off along Slack lane to the village of Mapperley and its associated reservoir before traversing Shipley Hill towards the second of our lakes, Osborne's Pond.  The views across the lake were pretty good, as were the trees which surround it.
Our last visit to Osborne's Pond revealed a couple of Harlequin Ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) another of those invasive species which can cause so much damage to native species.  These were soaking up a few 'rays' probably before looking for somewhere to hibernate.
The lake itself was resplendent in the autumn sunshine and what's left of the colours in the trees was being shown off to its best.
After so much dull, dreary weather lately, it has been a real treat to be able to get out and about in the sunny - if somewhat chilly - mornings.  Long may it continue.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


On a bright sunny morning, there are few pleasures quite so satisfying as a brisk walk around Shipley Lake. The lake was once a rather grand fish pond and boating lake, part of the Shipley Hall Estate, the remains of which are still to be found atop Shipley Hill.  Between 1889 and 1966, the whole area was transformed into what was known as Shipley Woodside Colliery. Parts of the old colliery are still to be found, although now held more as museum pieces.  The old pit-head winding gear is probably the most prominent.
Following the demise of the coal pit, the area was left more or less untouched, until it was transformed once again, into the ill-fated American Adventure Theme Park.  Now, where once members of the Miller-Mundy family of Shipley Hall entertained guests in small leisure craft on the fish pond, a replica Mississippi paddle steamer plied its trade across the water.  All that came to an end a few years ago and the area once again changed course, parts of the area being taken over by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust - now managed as the Woodside Nature Reserve.  From the other side of the lake, at this time of year and with the sun shining on the leaves, it makes quite a spectacle.
Water from the main lake, drains into smaller lakes and water courses which run throughout the woods and parkland.  From our vantage point standing on the bridge which once looked out to the Miller-Mundy's boat house, the lower lake was also looking pretty good today.
Our walk this morning also took in some of the woodland which surrounds Shipley Hill and this too warranted a photo or two.

Sunday, 10 November 2013


It's Remembrance Sunday and as the nation bows it's head in remembrance of the fallen, I thought it was good chance to add a photo of that ubiquitous image of remembrance, the Poppy (Papaver rhoeas).
With heavy shelling of vast areas of European land during the First World War, the ground was cratered and disturbed, ideal for Poppies to get a 'foothold'.  So, when all went finally went quiet in 1918, millions of bright red Poppies bloomed among the carnage, forever sealing it's fate as the emblem of remembrance.  Poppies are a symbol of love and martyrdom in other parts of the world too.

Lest we forget

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The Hill

At last, a sunny morning..!  So, not wanting to waste the good weather, we set out fro a longer walk this morning, taking in the delights of Shipley Hill.  One of the old lodge houses which once stood sentinel to Shipley Hall, now known as Nottingham Lodge, was bathed in the morning sun highlighting the contrast between the colourful autumn foliage and the darkness of the wet path.
Close by, a cut-leaf Maple bush is undergoing a remarkable (and rather late) transformation from its green summer gown, to that of more autumnal shades.
Also nearby, a particularly handsome specimen of a mature Silver Birch (Betula pendula) has all but lost its leaves and is now displaying its pendulous and rather spindly twigs and branches.  It is at this time of year that the species name pendula begins to become rather more clear.  Set against the clear and deep blue sky of a sunny November morning, it makes a lovely sight.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Dull Days and Dogs

Once again, the weather seems to be conspiring against us.  We have had so many dull, dreary and drizzly days lately that it it has been difficult to get much of a walk.  This morning however, we set out for a short walk around Straw's Bridge (always best when you are likely to get rained on, as there are bridges under which you can shelter).  The 'main' lake of the area is known locally as Swan Lake, but at times this can seem like a bit of a misnomer.  This morning, swans were rather few in number, but drake Mallards seemed to be everywhere.  Here, several were paying court to just one female bird, who seemed to be taking all the attention in her stride.
On a little further and we came to one of the smaller lakes, concealed as it is behind stands of trees and almost cut off from human interference, except for one small vantage point.  Whilst taking this picture, Malcolm was engaged in a battle of wills with an enormous and rather gorgeous Newfoundland dog which was determined to play with him.  As the dog weighed considerably more than Malcolm, he was keen for it not to flatten him to the ground and jump on him (can't think why), but the more he laughed and tried to keep it 'at arms length', the more of a game she thought it was.  Still, the lake was peaceful enough with it's lone Coot keeping watch on the antics on the shore.
Put the dog down Malcolm, it's time for coffee...!

Monday, 4 November 2013

Looking Back

It's fun, every now and then, to look back at what you have been doing in past years, at this time. So, with that in mind, here are a couple of pictures from our past autumnal escapades.
In 2009, i put a few of my pictures together to make a collage of sights from around the area.  Included in this picture are:  A turning Oak tree, a Starling, Yew and Holly berries, a beautiful Maple (obviously), Guelder Rose berries and Snowberries, Cotoneaster, Rose and Spindle berries, a Pochard (the grey-backed diving duck) and a few general autumnal views.
Another collage was needed to show off some more of the remarkable colours to found at this time of year.  Maples once again form the bulk of this picture, but the beautiful old Beech tree at bottom left, which stands like a sentinel at the top of Shipley Hill, makes a wonderfully brave show during the autumn.
Amazing to think that not too many years ago, the whole of the Shipley Hill area was a scene of industrial and mining devastation.  This old photo was taken sometime in the late 1940's. Shipley Hall, (which was still standing then) was to be found among the trees which can just be seen in the top of this image.  How times change - and not always for the worse..!