Monday, 28 September 2015

True Colours

Once again, this morning's walk was dominated by the beautiful sunshine, blue skies and the fabulous colours of the turning leaves.
As I said last time, the Maple trees are by far the most showy and always give great value...
At times, it looks as though the colours have been painted on and are not natural at all. This small Maple, which is buried deep among the surrounding Ash trees, has leaves which are deep pink
Further round our walk, there were more Maples, this time more 'out in the open' and with the sun shining fully on them, the colours shone red and gold.
Quite beautiful!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Autumnal Colours

With Malcolm safely back home and the sun still shining we set out for a walk to Mapperley Village, the reservoir and Shipley Hill this morning. Everywhere, the colours of Autumn are beginning to look their best.
As always, the Maples are the best and showiest of the seasons players.
Walking around the reservoir the other day, it was clear that not all the trees are turning yet. In most cases, the green of summer is still the dominant shade.
With the sunlight filtering through the canopy, it all looked surprising un-autumn like.
Even the matriarchal oak trees are still hanging on to their green leaves, despite their ripening acorns.
In the fields around the area, the Highland Cattle were enjoying the sunshine too. The cute little calf mentioned before, was certainly having a good time, relaxing in the sun.
Indeed, it looked as if he was having difficulty keeping awake.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

New Paths

The sunshine this morning, made me want to get out and about for a slightly longer walk, making the most of the better weather. So, I set off through Shipley Park, up and over Shipley Hill, heading for Bell Lane.
We have explored some of Bell Lane in the past when walking from Cinder Hill and the Visitors' Centre, to Mapperley Reservoir. But, according to the map, the lane carries on up to Main Road, Smalley, crossing what has become a vast open-cast mine and I have often wondered how far you can get along the lane.
Just a few yards further on from these pictures, there is a barrier across the path with various warnings to beware of the heavy plant which goes with the mining territory. One can still get through and carry on along the lane, but you have to wait for an attendant to usher you safely across the divide. I decided not to bother with that and turned back, whereupon I discovered another new track leading off Bell Lane, so I decided to see where it led.
This new path is bordered on one side by a high fence keeping you away from the mine workings and by the trees which surround Mapperley Reservoir.
The hedgerows hereabouts were full of the ripening fruits of the Black Bryony plants.
Occasionally, you could glimpse through the hedges to the mine workings beyond - or to be more accurate, what is now being turned into more country park following the coal extraction.
Eventually, we should be able to extend our walks over all of this 'new' parkland, but for the moment, we must be patient and wait for UK Coal to finish their work.
There will be more to come from this morning's walk...

Monday, 21 September 2015

Misty and Mellow

Continuing with yesterday's theme of early morning mist, here are a few more pics from my walk to Shipley Hill.
As I reached the woods on top of the hill, the mist had cleared through the trees and as the sun began to filter through the leaves, all was quiet, still and somewhat 'other worldly'.
Back out of the trees and looking across the surrounding fields, down the hill, the mist was again the main feature as the small disc of the sun tried to peep through.
It was all very picturesque...
As the taller trees had their 'heads' out of the mist and while it began to clear from the bottom up, you got the impression of 'bands' of mist floating in the air
And the sun was starting to have a greater influence by now.
This early in the morning, there were not many people around as you can imagine, just a few early dog walkers and a couple of joggers loomed out of the mist. I got a couple of odd looks from some of the dogs as they crashed out of the undergrowth and were startled to find me pointing my camera at the dawn. Clearly they were not expecting to see anyone this early either.
Time to head for home and a nice hot coffee - no finer way to start the day!

Sunday, 20 September 2015


It was an extremely early start to the day this morning. Malcolm was off to the heat and sunshine of Portugal for a few days of 'heliotherapy' before Autumn sets in. Not being a great fan of sunshine, heat or the sandy beaches, I have decided not to join him this time, so having dropped him off at the airport, I returned home just as the sun was rising and struck out for a walk up Shipley Hill to see the sunrise. It had been a chilly night and the early morning mist  was still hanging about.
In parts, the mist was thick enough to be more like fog, but the sun was trying to burn through.
Among the trees on top of Shipley Hill, I was above most of the mist, so the sun was a bit brighter as it filtered through the leaves.
It was all rather gorgeous...
and just got better...
There will have to be more of this to come.!

Friday, 18 September 2015

For the Birds

Since the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust took over the running of much of Shipley Park, there have been some great improvements made to the countryside. Great strides have been made in providing for our feathered friends, not least of which has been the planting of several meadows of plants which provide wild bird seed. Close to the visitors' centre on Shipley Parks, the bird seed meadows have been spectacularly beautiful.
There must be dozens of different plants here, all grown for their prolific seed production and to provide food for the birds during the lean times of winter. Just in this small patch there are flax, chicory, corn marigold, wheat and any number of others.
Of course, the seed production is its main purpose, but you can't help but be impressed by the floral display too.  In other parts of the country park, displays of a different kind are in evidence. Just as colourful, but not in this case because of the flowers, the Pyracantha bushes are in full fruit with some f the brightest orange and red fruits to be found.
Not so numerous, but possibly taking the prize for 'reddest berries', one much more diminutive plant is doing its best to be seen among the hedgerows. These delightfully shiny fruits belong to the Bittersweet or Woody Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara).
A relative of potatoes and tomatoes, this fruit is poisonous to humans, but can be tolerated by a few birds, who distribute the seeds widely. Thrushes seem particularly fond of them apparently.

Thursday, 17 September 2015


Last week, following our jaunt up to Middleton Top, we struck out for a walk around Cinder Hill, Shipley Hill and the surrounding parkland. It seems only a few days ago that we were strolling through the meadows around here, admiring the orchids. Last Friday however, the mowers had been busy and the meadows had been reduced to rows of hay.
No doubt the few days of sunny, warm weather, helped no end with the hay-making and while being warmed by the sunshine, the smell of the hay was sweet and delicious.
Thankfully, the tractors were about, picking up the hay and baling it into those now familiar round bales covered with black plastic. Why does everything have to be covered with black plastic these days?
Elsewhere, the Highland cattle were enjoying the good weather too. These two were more than knee-deep in golden grasses, heads down and munching away.
Only the strange, unearthly sound of Malcolm 'mooing' at them, made one of their number look up as if to wonder what was happening and give us a disapproving look.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Ducking and Diving

As promised, today we return to the Cromford Canal and its inhabitants. Among these were one or two diminutive birds to be seen darting about between the ducks and swans. These tiny, gorgeous and charismatic birds are Little Grebes or Dabchicks (Tachybaptus ruficollis) and it proved very difficult to get a good photograph of them. In the end I managed only one decent shot before it dived again to chase fish.
As usual, the most numerous birds to be seen floating about on the canal, were the Mallards. Fighting for position so as not to miss out on the bread being fed to them, they seemed to be everywhere at once.
They were all fairly tame, which made photographing them a lot easier than the Little Grebes.
One or two were even more tame than the rest.
And one in particular, decided to get out of the water and stand at our feet, so that we might get a better view.
Yet another, not wanting to be out-done, took a more direct approach and demanded attention.
"Now, where would you like me?  Are you sure you've got my best side?"

Monday, 14 September 2015

Up to the Top

Continuing our trudge up the hill to Middleton Top, we eventually reached our goal and arrived at another of those engine houses.
This is the last surviving complete winding engine house and the building contains the two original beam engines built by the Butterley Company in 1829. Along with the tall chimney and two huge boilers, it makes an impressive sight even today.
Parked outside on a small section of track, an old and dilapidated piece of rolling stock still stands as a reminder of what was once a no doubt a very noisy, dirty and rather dangerous place to be.
Thankfully, things have changed somewhat since those industrial, far-off days and the area is now much more peaceful and altogether more attractive.
Heading down once more (a good deal easier than the climb up), we were again impressed by the views across the valley towards, in this case, the village of Riber and its imposing, hill-top castle.
You always assume castles to be ancient structures, with medieval battlements and knightly tales of derring-do. But in this case, nothing could be further from the truth as the 'castle' was built by one John Smedley in 1862 and is known locally as 'Smedley's Folly'. During its time, the building has been a home, a boys school, a storage facility for the Ministry of Defence and in later life, it was a zoo, specialising in exhibits of British wildlife (I seem to have a vague recollection of visiting the zoo as a child on a family holiday to the area. Little did I think then, that I would be living just a few miles away in later life). Today, it has been transformed into apartments and holiday accommodation. Here's a 'zoomed-in' picture...
And so it was back down to rejoin the Cromford Canal and to sit with a picnic and enjoy the antics of the ducks on the water, more of which tomorrow...