Tuesday, 30 September 2014


We are being told by those who know about such things, that this September has been the warmest and driest ever. Certainly, as I was mowing the lawn yesterday, I was struck by how dry the ground was and we were grateful for the downpour which happened a few hours later.
All this dry and warm weather has produced some pretty good colour in the countryside. As always, the best colour seems to be provided by the Maple Trees.
Walking towards Shipley Hill this morning, we were treated to a wonderful show.
Autumn is a beautiful time of year.
Turning for home, our walk took in the old car parks of Shipley Woodside LNR. Here too, the Maples have the edge over all others as they show off their Autumn fashion collection.
 No doubt there will be more pictures of the Autumnal colour in the coming days.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

On The Trail

Part of yesterday's walk, took us along the old railway lines which once carried various minerals to and from the local mines and steel-works. These days, rail tracks have been replaced by footpaths.
Ivy-clad trees and thick under-brush, line the pathway and make it rather dark. Where the trees thin out or where the leaves have fallen sufficiently to let light through however, sunlight manages to filter down to the ground.
The whole effect is that of a tunnel of green with an ever-present musical accompaniment provided by Robins, Tits, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Jays, Blackbirds and many others.
The birds will be glad of the abundant berries in the hedgerows this year. I mentioned a few days ago, just how many fruits there seem to be this year and this statement is borne out by the Pyracantha bushes a little further on. They are laden with bright orange fruits.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Autumn Colour

The leaves around Shipley Park have made a good start toward their festival of autumn colour. Among the most colourful are perhaps the most surprising. When talking of autumn colour, you naturally think of the trees first of all, but this morning's walk revealed some of the best colour coming from stands of Rosebay Willowherb. Red and orange leaves contrasting with the white, downy seed heads above.
On Shipley Hill, the fine old Silver Birch which stands near to the Nottingham Lodge, was keeping a look out over the turning leaves around the fields below.
Zooming in a little closer, we got a good view of the Coppice Woodland in the distance between the trees.
At the far end of our walk, we stopped to take in the scene at Osbourne's Pond before returning home. All was fairly quiet for a change as the Coots were not fighting among themselves and from under the Oak tree, it all seemed tranquil.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Lakeside Berries

After spending much of the morning cleaning the house and vacuuming up the spider webs which seem to be appearing all over the house at the moment, we had a quick walk around the lakes of Straw's Bridge. It had rained over night (thank goodness - we were beginning to need some rain), so everything was a little damp and sparkled in the sun.
The hedgerows are filled with berries of every shape, size and colour. Among the more colourful have to be the berries of the Spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus).
The three-lobed, bright pink fruit of the Spindle, ripens and then bursts open to expose the equally brightly coloured, orange seeds within. The fruits are poisonous, containing - among other things - the alkaloid theobromine which is also present in cocoa and which makes chocolate poisonous if eaten in large enough quantities.
Staying with the red fruiting plants, among the more common and certainly the most well known, has to be the Dog Rose (Rosa canina). The fruits of the Dog Rose are of course known as Rose Hips and these too are very brightly coloured when ripe.
Steering away from the red fruits, we have a large quantity of White Dogwood trees (Cornus alba) around these parts. Native to Siberia, this is an extraordinarily hardy plant and able to withstand temperatures as low as −37.2°C. Not much chance of it getting that cold here - thank goodness.
Like it's cousin the Common Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), White Dogwood is widely planted in gardens and parks, not only for the colourful fruits, but also for its red-barked stems which add some welcome colour to the winter garden when all the leaves have fallen. But for now, we are happy to make the most of their unusual berries.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Cinder Hill

This morning, we were joined on our walk, by our friend Jayne and with the sun shining, we set out for Cinder Hill and the wide, open spaces of Shipley Park. Looking past the hill, the town of Heanor is to be found behind the turning leaves of the woodland.
Zooming in a little, a few more details can be made out.  The rooftops stand out above the trees and the church of St Lawrence at Heanor, stands out above everything.
Looking in the other direction, towards the east and with the sun making things a little more tricky, the large, new wind turbine between Ilkeston and Giltbrook can be seen peeking above the treeline.
Close by, the wild bird seed meadows are still looking colourful.  Many are now setting seed, but some plants are still in full bloom, including the delightful blue Cornflowers and yellow Corn Marigolds. In the bright sunshine, they looked even more lovely.
After a nice walk and having stopped for coffee at the picnic site near Mapperley reservoir, we returned home through Mapperley Wood for a delicious lunch.  All in all, a really nice day!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Shipley Hill

In the mist this morning, we decided to take our constitutional, around and over Shipley Hill. Leaving behind the grassy slopes round the southern side of the hill, we strolled through the trees and into the woodland.
Soon, we became aware of the fungi which are sprouting out of the rotting wood on the woodland floor.
Always a sure sign of autumn, fungi make an attractive - if a little strange - addition to the woodland landscape.
Adding a little more colour to the autumn scene, as we reached the remains of the old hall, the Yew trees provided a slash of bright red.  Their berries almost glowing among the dark green foliage, they will provide a tasty meal for the local bird life.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Coffee Out

Yesterday's sunshine, which eventually broke through the cloud layer covering us, meant that we were able to take the flask with us and sit for a coffee by the Mapperley reservoir.
Sitting on our chosen bench, the view through the small trees which dot the picnic area had a sort of ethereal quality and the slight mist which was still clinging on bravely, only added to this effect. Getting home and looking at my pictures, it occurred to me that a little digital tweaking might do even more.
Walking around Shipley Park, the autumnal hues of the maples are starting to impress the casual passer-by. Here again, the slight 'mistyness' gave an odd quality to the picture.
And again, a little tweaking makes for an 'arty' shot.
All very colourful, with the promise of more autumn colour to come.

Monday, 15 September 2014


Back to more 'homespun' topics, we are once more facing the imminent prospect of Autumn. You can feel it creeping up on you from all directions and Malcolm is not happy about it. I, on the other hand, love the idea. Out and about around Shipley Park, the signs are there. In various places, the local wildlife trust have planted wild bird-seed meadows and they are currently flowering and setting those seeds ready to feed the dicky-birds through the winter.
More bird food is being provided by the myriad hawthorn tress which are to be found almost everywhere. Their bright red berries are abundant and looking luscious.
Every hedgerow is filled with them. Some would have you believe this is a portent of a hard winter to come. I would be more inclined to believe it has more to do with a good summer just passed.
Among the late-flying insects, one spectacular individual can be seen patrolling the waterways in these parts. The Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) is a Dragonfly which can be found on the wing later in the year than any other. Indeed at the southern extreme of its European range, it flies all year round. The female is a fairly plain-looking insect (sorry to be rude about the female of the species), but the male makes up for it, with a display of blood-red to rival any of its insect cousins.
So there's no getting away from it.  Despite the unusually mild weather we are currently enjoying, autumn is on its way.

Friday, 12 September 2014


Running through the city of Edinburgh, the River known as the Water of Leith, is a lovely sight. As rivers go, it is a rather puny affair at only about 22 miles long, but what it lacks in length, it makes up for with beauty.
Along much of the river's length, a footpath allows the casual walker to take in some of the finer points, including rapids and weirs, waterfalls and more.
The village of Dean on the outskirts of the city, is particularly picturesque and not what one expects to find only a few paces from a city centre.
Kingfishers, Herons, Ducks, Moorhens and Wagtails all make the river their home - and who can blame them?
Malcolm seemed to be enjoying it all too...
It all makes for a lovely walk and not very busy either, which made a nice change after the hustle and bustle of the city.
A few bridges here and there, add to the scene. Beautiful!

Thursday, 11 September 2014


At this time of year, with the days shortening and the temperatures dropping, the floral displays and gardens of Edinburgh were looking good. Those of Princes Street Gardens were particularly nice.
At one end, there was a formal flower bed planted in two sections. One part took the form of what looked like a 'Yin-yang' symbol.
Immediately to the left of this a traditional floral clock - in this case, fully working with moving hands.
All very colourful, as were the longer borders which line the walk-way.  Here, Geraniums were still in full flower and made a lovely backdrop to the hundreds of people who sat enjoying the gardens and sunshine while eating their lunch.
At the base of the magnificent 'Scott Memorial', pink Hydrangeas were also adding a splash of colour to the scene.
It was as we were passing the Scott Memorial one day, that we over-heard this conversation, which took place between two women of doubtful intelligence:

Woman 1:  "Who was Walter Scott anyway?"
Woman 2:  "I don't know, I think he went to the Arctic or something."

If this conversation had been between two people from some small, island nation on the other side of the world, you could have excused it. But, to hear such stupidity from two British women just boggles the mind.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


Returning to Calton Hill, we were somewhat startled to find the area far more busy than on our previous visits. The whole of Edinburgh was far busier than before with an abundance of American, Japanese and German tourists. The Germans will never get out of the way, the Japanese are always taking 'selfies' in front of everything and the Americans are loud and know it all! Xenophobia? Never heard of it!
Among the beautiful buildings on the hill is the Old Observatory House. Designed in the 18th century and originally inhabited by architect James Craig and his family, it was taken over for a short time by astronomers until the 'proper' observatory was built nearby.
 The building is currently rented out and not open to the public.
Close by, the Dugald Stewart Monument looks out over the vista of Edinburgh. Dugald Stewart was a Scottish Philosopher and mathematician who was a leading light in the Scottish Enlightenment - that 18th century outpouring of scientific and cultural accomplishments. The inscription reads:
Born November 22 1753
Died June 11 1828
Overlooked by the monuments on Calton Hill, another monument is to be found a little further down the hillside, by the side of the A1 road - the Robert Burns Monument.
The monument once contained a life-size statue of Burns by John Flaxman R. A. who was commissioned in 1824. The statue was later removed because of damage caused by smoke from a nearby gasworks, which was attacking the marble. It is now in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street.
Lastly for today, another picture of the National Monument atop Calton Hill. Always worth another picture, it was a little tricky on this occasion, to get a picture without too many tourists getting in on the act.