Monday, 27 January 2014


Back out again this morning for a short walk before the rain came once more.  We headed for Straw's Bridge - a path we often take when bad weather threatens - and the paths are so wet and muddy, it's tricky getting home without splashes up your legs and muddy spots everywhere. But the views across Swan Lake, looking into the sun were quite good.
A few hardy Coots were fussing about in the shallows nearby, probably hoping we had food and seemingly unaware of the drop in temperature which left us feeling a bit chilly this morning despite the rather watery sun trying to escape the clouds.
Back home for coffee and time to warm up and dry out a bit and as I looked out the window, a Robin was skulking about in the hedge, trying to keep hidden in the gloom.
The lure of spilt food on the ground beneath the fat-ball feeder above, was soon too much and out he came (or maybe 'she' - it's difficult to tell).

Saturday, 25 January 2014


Home from holidays and the weather here remains mild, but extremely wet.  The footpaths in our area are deep in puddles and mud and in parts are almost impassable.  This morning, we set out for a walk around Shipley Lake and when we got to the Coppice lake, the small drainage canals which cut through the woodland were almost full.
This small channel is usually only a few inches deep as it carries water from Coppice Lake down to the much larger Shipley Lake.  But at the moment, the water is flowing deep and fast.
Everything is wet.  The ground, the trees, the road and the bridge over the channel.  The top of the bridge is coated in a bright green carpet of moss.
Where the water leaves Coppice lake, you can just get a glimpse of the small waterfall which, again, is usually barely flowing, but was in full spate this morning.  A tricky subject to photograph as it was so dark through the trees.

Friday, 24 January 2014


As promised, I will end these holiday reminiscences with a look at some of the plants we encountered.  I mentioned the almond blossom yesterday, but they were not the only flowers we saw.  By far the most common, were those of the highly invasive plant, Bermuda Buttercup (Oxalis pes-caprae).  Indigenous to South Africa - despite the name - this yellow-flowered member of the Wood Sorrel family is taking over everything.
Small and easily overlooked, the strange flowers of the Friar's Cowl (Arisarum vulgare) belong to the Arum Lily family and are quite common in southern Europe.
Among the Bermuda Buttercups, a few plants were trying to get their heads above the suffocating tangle.  Small, purple-striped flowers topped these delicate plants. which turned out to be a rather rare form of Toadflax, known as Algarvian Toadflax (Linaria algarviana).  A nice new 'tick' for me.
Close to these little beauties we found an attractive member of the cabbage family, commonly called Rocket (Eruca vesicaria), these even, cross-shaped flowers give rise to their old scientific name for the family Cruciferae, meaning 'cross bearing'.
Leaving the subject of plants for a moment, another new 'tick' for my life list was a small Cricket found on a seaside plant.  It has taken some finding, but it turns out to be Odontura aspericauda.
So, the sun set on another nice break away - now it's back to wet England.

Thursday, 23 January 2014


As it has been so dull and rainy at home this morning, it's nice to look at the sunny pictures from Portugal.  From the cliff tops, the views out to sea were beautiful.
As the sun appeared and disappeared behind the clouds, it threw some wonderful light effects on the sea's surface as well as those multicoloured cliffs.
Even when the clouds became a little more threatening, the light was still goo enough for some lovely shots.
And down at beach level too we had some great views.
At this time of year, we were not expecting to see much in the way of flowering plants, but the Almond Blossom was already showing through on some of the trees, promising a good harvest of almonds later in the year.
More of the flowering plants tomorrow...

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


As I have said before, the cliffs along the Algarve are particularly attractive - and can be extremely dangerous.  The deep red colour is evident all along and as the cliffs erode, the resulting sand and earth is as red as the cliffs.
To the west of Praia da Rocha, these cliffs have formed some wonderful sights where the crumbling, sandy cliff line has retreated, leaving, in some places, outcrops of harder stone which dot the coastline.
Walking along the edge of these cliffs can be rather precarious.  The edge crumbles easily, so it's not advisable to get too close.  Looking back along the path you have just walked, can be hair-raising when you see that the solid ground on which you stood a few minutes ago, isn't quite so solid after all.
At one spot, a viewing platform has been constructed sticking out over a sink-hole which opens up in the cliff, revealing a vertical drop to the sea below.  The platform has been constructed from an open metal mesh which tests the nerves a little!
Eventually, these sink-holes are eroded further until the seaward side collapses completely, leaving a round gap in the cliff.  All rather beautiful.
Harder rocks are left standing out against the crumbling cliffs.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Skies and Masts

The weather in Portugal was pretty good.  We had temperatures in the mid to high teens and it was mostly sunny.  The few, high clouds for the most part, had the effect of making the skies more dramatic.
Particularly when the sun was low in the morning, or later in the afternoon.
Walking along the cliff-top paths, the Century Plants created a spiky contrast against the sky.
Against the skies around the marinas, more spikes punctured the scene, this time from the hundreds of masts on the boats bobbing in the water.
The colours of the posh waterfront apartments added more interest.
I wonder why they always seem to paint waterfront apartments in such garish hues..!

Monday, 20 January 2014


Walking around Portimão, we were surprised to see several White Storks nesting on the tops of tall chimneys and public buildings.  According to all the wildlife books, these elegant birds are supposed to spend the winter in Sub-Saharan Africa, not returning to Europe until April. So, why were these birds so evidently over-wintering here?
It seems that White Storks have been over-wintering in Europe for some years now.  In fact, the numbers which choose not to migrate to Africa have been increasing greatly in recent years.  In Portugal alone, they numbered about 1,180 birds in 1995 to more than 10,000 in 2008 and numbers continue to grow.  Scientific research indicates that at least one reason for this is the proliferation of landfill sites, providing a vast food source for non-migrating birds.
While in Portimão, we strolled around the town centre and the attractive Praça da República, overlooked by the local government building, the Junta de Freguesia de Portimão.
Close by, the tower of the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição looked over the scene.
Back towards the water front and another public square dominated the view, with a shallow pool and fountains playing in the sun - popular with gulls which took great delight in showering in the spray.

Sunday, 19 January 2014


In common with most estuaries, Where the rivers meet the sea along the Algarve, you find a nice assortment of birds.  At Praia da Rocha, we encountered Sanderlings (Calidris alba) scurrying around on the rocks.
Among the Sanderlings were a couple of Purple Sandpipers (Calidris maritima), but unfortunately, the light was so bad - it was early on a cloudy morning - that the pictures I took didn't come out too well.  Along the coast, we walked to the attractive village of Alvor and there, the estuary is rather more expansive, with lots of mud for wading birds to search for their food.  Here, we found a Greenshank (Tringa nebularia).
The sheltered estuary at Alvor was a haven for small fishing craft and yachts too, several of which were bobbing about on the water or lying, stuck in the mud.
Getting late in the day, we sat for a while to enjoy the scene as the sun went down - and what a lovely sight it made!
Time to head back before it got too dark.

Saturday, 18 January 2014


Praia da Rocha is the over-developed resort area of an otherwise old town of Portimão.  The second most populous town on the Algarve, Portimão is a port town situated near the mouth of the river Arade.  across the river, we had good views of the red-coloured, medieval Fort São João do Arade, originating around 1520.
Onward to the town itself and we walked along the river bank and had another good view across the river to the church of São Sebastião on the other side.  The white painted structure shone even more against a passing storm cloud - as did the gulls circling overhead.
Further on and we passed under the old road bridge crossing the river - one of several bridges.
Next came the rail bridge...
At the far end of our walk and at the point where we turned back, we had a distant view of the newest of the bridges and quite an attractive one too.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Home Again

Following a rather nice week in Portugal, we arrived back in the UK yesterday afternoon and were pleasantly surprised by the sunshine which greeted us as we stepped off the plane.  Usually, when we get back from a holiday, we arrive to driving rain, sleet, snow, plunging temperatures and high winds.  But not this time!
Malcolm and I have been staying in the resort of Praia da Rocha on the Algarve and while the resort itself was nothing to get excited about - typical high-rise blocks of apartments, hotels and general holiday sprawl - the surrounding area was beautiful.  The beach at Praia da Rocha was just what you would expect, acres of sterile sand and blue seas lapping at the shore.
This was the first time we had stayed in this area, a little further west from where we have been previously.  The cliffs however, were much the same as we have become used to on our past visits.  Vividly coloured and crumbling at an alarming rate, leaving behind strange rocky outcrops as the sea reclaims much of Portugal.
Walking along the cliffs can be quite a hair-raising experience, especially when you look back to where you had just been standing, only to find that there was a gaping void below the surface, ready to collapse into the sea at any moment.
Safer by far - and also very popular with locals - was the walk along the sea front at Praia da Rocha.  This takes the form of a wooden boardwalk along the beach and a long sea wall protecting the entrance to the river and the marinas.  A red-and-white striped lighthouse stands watch over the mouth of the river and marked the 'turn-around point' on our short morning walks.
Lots more to come....

Sunday, 5 January 2014


The promise of yet more gales and further heavy rain later today and tomorrow, made us determined to get out and about this morning to make the most of this brief window of good weather.  We set out for a short walk through Pewit Carr to Straw's Bridge with the sun trying to break through the thin, high clouds and with our wits about us because of patchy ice on the footpaths.  Where recent gales have brought down trees, the paths have been cleared of fallen debris and in the case of one old willow, some colourful stumps have been left behind.
If it hadn't been so chilly and damp, I might have tarried a little longer to try to count the rings and see how old this specimen was.  Certainly the trunk had split and divided into at least five parts, all of which had succumbed to the wind.
Our summer walks across the wild flower meadows, are strictly off limits at the moment because the ground is so waterlogged.  But a thin covering of frost on the grass and the weak sun shining on it, made the scene look good - if nothing else!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

New Year

2014 started on a rather wet and windy note so Malcolm and I didn't manage to get a walk yesterday (only as far as the post box).  But this morning dawned bright and clear with our resident Song Thrush singing his heart out to accompany our first coffee of the day.  Then, following breakfast, it was off for a walk through Shipley Park, over Shipley Hill and down to Osborne's Pond.  We thought we would have a good long walk today as things look likely to deteriorate once more after this brief clear spell.  Glad to be out, we were impressed with the sunshine and the way it made the Pines on Shipley Hill, look even more statuesque than usual.
Among the tangle of branches which seem to have become even more knotted together in the recent gales, these stately sentinels, stand watch over South side of the hill, looking out towards Ilkeston.
Close by, a stand of fairly young, silver Birch trees shone in the sunshine, their papery, thin, white bark gleaming against the blue sky.
On the shores of Osborne's Pond, two more fine Pine trees keep a watchful eye on the waterfowl below.
After all the recent rain, everywhere is so muddy and wet that it's tricky walking along some of the footpaths.  The reservoirs and lakes are all overflowing into canals and run-offs and puddles block the paths and force you paddle if you want to get by.  With more rain to come this week - and more gales too - things are only going to get wetter.  Not perhaps, the best start to the year, but at least the continuing mild weather is helping with the heating bills!