Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Another End

Here we are again, at the end of another year - and it seems to be only about three weeks since the start of it!  Tradition dictates that we should have a look back at the highlights of the past year, so here goes.
It has been a good year for new 'ticks' on my life lists. Here are a few of them.  In March, while visiting the island of Gran Canaria, we saw Canary Island Chiffchaff...
and Laughing Doves.
We saw Purple Sandpipers in Praia da Rocha and a Crested Tit in Villamoura.
Moving on to other things, we encountered Rosy Garlic in Newquay...
and Greater Celandine in Mapperley Wood.
With Common Scurvy-grass, Sand Sedge and Algarve Toadflax among many others, it has been an excellent year for new plants on the list.
The prize for 'Cuteness' this year must go to the delightful Water Vole which we saw in April.
 Too cute for words!
So, all-in-all, a very good year and here's to another good one in 2015.
to all who deserve it.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Still Below

As promised, today there are more pictures of the very chilly scene around these parts. Back to yesterday's walk and as we strolled along Slack Road towards Head House Farm the views across the fields, back towards the estate were rather bone-chilling.
Further on and we got to the old railway tracks of the long-defunct West Hallam Pit lines.  Here too the scenery was distinctly Arctic.
Where some of the trees have been felled to clear the ground of too much vegetation, a large stand of Silver Birch trees were stark against the blue sky.
This morning's walk took us up and around Shipley Hill.  The plunging temperatures have left the muddy ground easier to walk on. Snow still lies deep and crisp and even close to the old hall's water tower.
Heading home again and the mist was hanging around the trees near the (future)  Nutbrook Coffee shop.
Closer to home, the sun was shining through and glistening on the ice crystals clinging to the hawthorn bushes. All rather beautiful.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Well Below

Once again, we have been told that this year has been among the warmest on record,  but this morning,  Mother Nature seemed to be trying to redress the balance a little.  We set out for our walk with the thermometer still on showing -4 degrees and a brilliant blue sky ensuring that everything in the landscape looked stunning.
Leaving our estate behind, we set out to do 'the farm walk'.  But before we made it onto the track which takes us to Head House Farm, we walked past some simply beautiful scenes.
With the sun on our backs, it didn't feel as cold as it actually was but we were having to be very careful on the slippery footpath.
On to the farm walk and along the old canal which is just to left in the next picture, hidden by the trees.
A small flock of assorted sheep were trying to find the grass at the far end of the field on the right, but they didn't seem at all perturbed by the snow, frost and cold.
Because there had been - and still was - a slight mist in the air, every surface was covered in a glistening coat of hoar frost.
More to come tomorrow....

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Let it Snow

It is traditional for there to be snow at this time of year - traditional, but not likely. Last night however, we had a good fall of the white stuff, leaving us with a carpet of fresh snow to trudge through on our walk this morning as we set out for a stroll around Straw's Bridge. Luckily, the sun was shining too - always a good thing in the snow.
A little further along the path, a few of the willow trees had lost branches during the night with the weight of snow. Thankfully, the snow had nearly all dropped from the trees by this morning and we didn't seem to be in any danger as we passed by.
The paths were treacherous enough without the added possibility of being poleaxed by a falling branch.
Adding a little 'bloom' to the above picture brought out the wintry scene even more and the addition of a little artificial lens flare to the sun peeping through the trees, is always good.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Swanning About

Once again, we set out in a strong wind and with surprisingly mild conditions making our thermal hats, rather surplus to requirements. Given the likelihood of a few days without a long walk, we decided to make the most of this morning and set out for Osborne's Pond and Shipley Hill.  As we approached Osborne's Pond, we were met by three Mute Swans.
The three of them seemed to be in no hurry to get back to the water, choosing instead to stand there giving us a questioning look as we tried not to disturb them too much and edged past them.
No doubt these beautiful birds were more interested in whether we had any food secreted about our persons.  In contradiction to the Christmas tale, these three 'wise men' were more concerned with any gifts we might have brought for them.
Anyway, that would seem to be it until after the festivities.  So...

to all who deserve it.

Sunday, 21 December 2014


Here, in Ilkeston, at 11:03 this evening, the winter solstice will occur.  These days, the solstice passes us by almost unnoticed, but this was not always the case.  For millennia, the shortest day has been celebrated with feasting and partying as a way of marking the point when the days begin to lengthen and we look forward to the onset of spring. Most famously of course, the celebration of Christmas was 'superimposed' upon the winter festival in an effort to offset the pagan celebrations of Saturnalia  and Natalis Invicti (two ancient Roman, winter celebrations).
The pop group Jethro Tull, had a Christmas hit with Ring out Solstice Bells in 1977 (was it really that long ago?).

Happy Solstice to one and all..!

Friday, 19 December 2014


Walking around Shipley Lake this morning, we were enjoying the sunshine and marvelling at the amount of rain which had fallen during the night.  As we looked across the lake, a flock of ducks flew in and circled at a height seemingly weighing up the best place to touch down.  Eventually, they decided this was a good place to stay and began dropping out of the sky.  Dropping so far in a short time, involves a certain amount of whiffling.
Whiffling is an ornithological term and describes the behaviour whereby a bird (usually ducks, geese, waders and a few others) slips sideways in the air, folding its wings a little and zig-zagging as it drops rapidly out of the sky.  Whiffling is always spectacular to see and this flock of about one hundred Wigeon (Anas penelope) treated us to a wonderful display of aerobatics as they dropped to the lake and joined the few Shovelers (Anas clypeata) which were already floating about.
It was difficult to get a good picture of these beautiful ducks as they kept to the middle of the lake, some way off, but even at this distance they are gorgeous birds.  The male birds have a pink breast, a grey body and yellow forehead.  White wing patches show well in flight adding to the colourful picture.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014


Out and about again this morning, we decided to brave the threatening skies and struck out for Straw's Bridge and to see if the footpath through Pewit Carr had dried up a bit.  Thankfully, it had, so we soon found ourselves walking around Swan Lake to the accompaniment of a hoard of squabbling gulls.
As always, it only takes the appearance of a bread bag, for the Black-headed Gulls to accumulate in large numbers and to attempt to dominate the scene.
The battling had begun.  Even the couple of Mute Swans seemed to be intimidated and a little bemused by all the squawking and fighting going on around them.  It was all very exciting.

Saturday, 13 December 2014


The title of today's blog post was suggested by Malcolm. It came to him as we were both slipping and sliding our way back home after walking through the nearby farmland this morning. The mercury was still below minus 1 when we set out and as it was still so frosty, we decided to try a path, some of which is often too muddy to tackle in the winter. We were fortunate that the mud had frozen hard enough for us to walk on without sinking in.
Our route took us along the old West Hallam Colliery lines towards Head House Farm. Normally, the fields here are full of cattle, but this time, they were given over to sheep.
Most of the sheep seemed to be enjoying the bright sunshine as they lay on the ground or nibbled the frosty blades of grass. It all made for a beautiful, wintry picture.
Carrying on the 'picture' theme, I wondered what the same scene would look like with a little digital manipulation, to turn it into an artist's impression....
Not bad!
Time for us to turn for home and tackle those frozen puddles, leading to some impromptu and pretty good impressions of Torvill and Dean and the title of this post.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Wet - Wetter!

It must have rained quite a lot during the night. That much was clear as I gazed out of the window first thing and saw the footpath opposite our house, under water. So, we decided not to tackle a long walk through Shipley Park in favour of a short walk through Pewit Carr once again. Recently, it has become impossible to walk to Straw's Bridge along the designated pathways as the District Council has started doing 'necessary water management works' to the area and in the process have completely destroyed the paths and the surrounding grassy areas. With this in mind, we would take the 'detour' through Pewit Carr - or so we thought.
It turned out that this way was blocked too, by water from the surrounding, flooded woodland.
No getting through that way either!  Crossing the old Nutbrook Canal, it was clear that water levels had risen much higher than normal and the canal was doing its best to expand its boundaries into the surrounding trees.
It all looked rather muddy, dirty and misanthropically chilly.
Realising we were not going to get any further, we had to curtail our walk and return home for coffee instead.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Icy Blast

Following a night of heavy rain and high winds, this morning dawned bright and breezy - and very cold. So it was a rather chilly walk around Pewit Carr and along the Nutbrook Trail. The wind was bitterly cold as it seemed to slice through us, so it was nice to get out of the wind as we walked through the trees of Pewit Carr.
It's almost impossible to imagine the railway lines running through these woods and the trucks and trains which rumbled along them in days gone by. A touch of 'black and white' might help the effect...
Out of the trees and heading back towards the Nutbrook Canal and the views across the wild flower meadow was 'wintry' to say the least - as well as wet and very muddy.
Out onto the Nutbrook Trail as we headed for home, the tall willow trees were creaking and groaning in the wind as we passed, hoping they didn't drop on us as walked by.
Time for a warming cup of coffee..!

Monday, 8 December 2014


With space exploration once again hitting the headlines and with talk of the possibility of landing on the Moon again, it was rather appropriate that we were treated to the glorious sight of the Moon as it rose last night.
The major drawback of astronomy at this time of year, is the cold.  To be in with a chance of seeing anything at all, you always need a clear sky and at this time of year, that usually means freezing to death.  So it was a huge relief to be able to get such good views last night, from the comfort of our bedroom window - even if that meant having to contend with a few twigs of the Hawthorn tree getting in the way as in the picture above.
Managing to overcome that difficulty I still managed some fairly decent shots, despite being taken through the double glazing (with gas prices as they are, I wasn't risking opening the window and heating the street).
My camera, although perfectly good for my usual, general photographic needs, is not really equipped for astronomical photography, but in spite of this,  I was rather pleased with the outcome.  Many of the lunar features are perfectly clear and I have listed a very few here...
  • A: the Mare Crisium or Sea of Crises
  • B: The crater Tycho, named after Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe and measuring over 53 miles across.
  • C: the Mare Serenitatis or Sea of Serenity. On the Eastern edge of this area, both Luna 21 and Apollo 17 landed.
  • D: the bright crater Copernicus.  Some 58 miles across and of course, named after Nicolaus Copernicus.
  • E: the Mare Tranquilitatis or Sea of Tranquility.  This was the landing site for the first manned mission to the moon in 1969 and from where Neil Armstrong said "The Eagle has landed".
  • F:the dark spot of Plato, a lava-filled crater about 68 miles across.
  • G: the very bright crater Aristarchus. This crater is named after Greek astronomer Aristarchus of Samos and is about 25 miles in diameter.
And all that, visible from our bedroom window.  Who would have thought..!?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


The sunshine, which has been in such short supply recently, was most welcome this morning as we turned our feet towards the lakes of Straw's Bridge and Pewit Carr. We were not the only ones enjoying the sun.  This Greylag Goose seemed to be very contented just floating around on 'Swan Lake'.
So contented it was, that after a few minutes it appeared to start nodding off.  Eyes closed and head drooping, all was peace, tranquillity and reflected glory.
On the grassy bank, a pair of Mallards were equally somnolent in the sunshine... at least the female was, while her partner kept a sharp look out.
Out on the water, the Mute Swans which give this lake its name, bobbed about as well.
After a while, this magnificent bird (and its reflection), began to give in to the drowsiness induced by the sunshine.