Monday, 29 February 2016

Leap Day

Well, here we are again, at the end of another month and at the end of 'Meteorological Winter'. As if all that wasn't enough, it's a leap day, so we will have to wait an extra day for the start of Spring this year. Having said that, our walk around Shipley Hill this morning would have you thinking that Spring had sprung already. The Daffodils are now opening their flowers, joining the Snowdrops.
We have not walked through the woods on Shipley Hill for some time now, as the weather has been so wet and it's been far too muddy. But following a few dry days, conditions were much better this morning - and what a wonderful spectacle awaited us. Not just the Daffodils...
... But drifts of snowdrops too...
Thousands of them...
All through the trees on top of the hill, carpets of Snowdrops were cheering the scene with unrestrained joy, poking through the leaf litter...
and meandering between the trees like a white river.
Onto the site of the Old Hall, the trees there are just beginning to show some colour too. One cherry in particular was very eager to show off its blossom.
For the last day of Winter, it wasn't at all bad. And Spring doesn't start until tomorrow!

Saturday, 27 February 2016


A few days ago, we found, growing on a dead tree stump, a rather curious fungus. This fungus is reputed to have powerful cancer-fighting qualities as well as the ability to repair the auto-immune system. For such a potentially useful fungus, it looks somewhat unpromising.
Most fungi tend to be fleshy and rather soft to the touch. This one - the Many-zoned Polypore (Coriolus Versicolor) - however, is hard and woody and grows in fan-shaped terraces up the side of the tree trunk. In North America, it is sometimes called 'Turkey-tail' due to it's resemblance to that wild bird's banded tail feathers.
Whether this fungus has any effect in the treatment of cancers, is still open to debate, but it's worth closer inspection anyway.
Further round our walk, we ventured onto Slack Lane and were impressed (as always) by the Highland Cattle which were munching on some fresh hay in the field alongside.
This small group of assorted cattle - one at least had some Belted Galloway in its make-up - were too busy munching the hay to be interested in us, but were enjoying the sunshine as much as we were.

Thursday, 25 February 2016


It was another bright, sunny and chilly morning today. Malcolm and I set off for Osborne's Pond in scarves and woolly hats, which soon became too warm. Looking across the water from beneath the old Oak, we were accompanied by the sound of Canada Geese honking in the stillness.
Everything was bright and blue and very spring-like. The birds were twittering in the branches, which were showing lots of swelling buds.
 Clinging to the trunk of the Oak, a rather colourful Ivy made a lovely covering to the gnarled bark.
Time for an 'arty' shot looking straight up the trunk, into the branches and twigs above. Another gorgeous day for a walk in the country - what a change from all the drab, dull and damp weather we've had this winter.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Frosty and Bright

It was a rather chilly start to the day today. When I made coffee at about 8 o'clock this morning, the thermometer outside, was reading -3.8 degrees, so it was no surprise to see a coating of frost on everything when we set out for our walk. Having said that, the sunshine and deep blue skies made it a wonderful day to be out and about.
Heading out along the old West Hallam railway trail, even the white cattle were enjoying the sunshine.
This little one was especially happy to doze in the sun...
Further along, we passed by Head House Farm and Slack Lane, giving us some lovely views across the farmland towards Shipley Hill.
Clear blue skies and bare branches made a great backdrop and the Oaks were already starting to form buds - very early this year.
Taking a wider view, we got the full panorama.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Bright and Beautiful

More pictures today from our bright, sunny and rather beautiful walk around Shipley Park on Friday, starting with some reflected scenes at Shipley Lake. The water had a covering of thin ice but there was still a little clear water to reflect the trees.
The Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has done a lot of work around this area, clearing scrub, erecting fences and constructing viewing platforms. Perfect for looking at the reflections.
It looks as if the photo is upside down!
In the woodland on Shipley Hill, a strange fungus was growing on a tree trunk. Political correctness raises it's ugly head here as this fungus used to be called Jews' Ear Fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae), but in these PC days, it tends to be known simply as Ear Fungus! Either way, it's an odd looking, jelly-like organism.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Back to Normal

Things have been rather difficult lately. Yesterday, we said a last 'goodbye' to my mother who sadly passed away last week following a short illness.
Getting things back to normal is never easy, but a beautiful, sunny walk through Shipley Country Park this morning, cheered the spirits somewhat, particularly as the Snowdrops are looking at their best right now.
These are to be found growing on the slope known as 'beggar's walk' in the woodland of Shipley Hill.
Bright blue skies accompanied us on our walk and the views across to the village of Smalley and the farmland which lies between, were a joy this morning.
Ice on the surface of Mapperley Reservoir, provided a place to stand for the Black-headed Gulls which are always present there. How they manage to stand on ice without getting cold feet, simply boggles the mind, but they seem to come to no harm.
It was nice to get out and about in the sun this morning, getting back to a little normality after a sad time.

Monday, 15 February 2016


It was bitterly cold this morning, but as Malcolm and I set out for Mapperley Village along Slack Lane, the sun was shining and the sky was blue. At Mapperley reservoir the stiff breeze was enough to cut your face off.
Along the water's edge evidence of yesterday's snow showers was still visible and the water itself was as brown and dirty as ever.
Moving on through Shipley Woods, we approached Shipley Lake and were greeted by the sound of chainsaws and heavy equipment, busy clearing the trees and scrub around the lake. All this clearing seems to be part of the preliminary works before construction starts on the lake-side redevelopment.
Across the lake, it is now possible to see the old pumping shed and head-stock left over from when this area was part of the Shipley Woodside Colliery. It is also possible to see the houses of School Woods Close, Shipley Village.
It's always a shame to see trees being felled to make way for housing developments. In this case it seems worse because almost all the wildfowl of the lake have obviously had enough of the noise and disturbance and have flown away, leaving the lake almost devoid of life. Clearances indeed!

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Sting in the tail

Another beautiful day today. The sun was shining again as we walked out towards Mapperley Village, along Slack Lane and once again, it was rather chilly. Having passed Mapperley and the reservoir, we climbed Shipley Hill to have another check on the Snowdrops.
With a little sunshine on them, they were beginning to open their petals and look all the better for it.
These Snowdrops were growing in small clumps on the western edge of Shipley Hill.
I find you can never tire of Snowdrops....
Now for the reason this blog post is called 'Sting in the Tail' (time to look away Malcolm).
A couple of days ago we had a visitor arrive in our back garden. Despite it being winter, we had a large Common Wasp (Vespula vulgaris) on the patio.
Much to Malcolm's consternation, I managed to snap a few pictures of the wasp before it warmed up enough to fly off again. It all goes to show just how mild this winter has been. Judging by it's size, I think this was a Queen Wasp, no doubt looking for somewhere to start a new colony - something that is usually done around April! No wonder this one was looking a little disorientated.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016


The weather these last couple of days, has improved somewhat. So yesterday, we set out for a stroll to Straw's Bridge with the sun shining and the birds singing. Bright, sunny days in winter usually mean frosty mornings and although not exactly frosty, it was certainly a bit colder than of late.
The hedgerows are beginning to bloom with Blackthorn blossom which always gives good value but this year, being so much earlier than usual and seen against a beautiful blue sky, it looks fabulous.
We were not the only ones to appreciate the blooming Blackthorn. As we walked past, a glorious, male Bullfinch was busy helping himself to the flower buds.
Bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) are famous for their love of flower buds. As a result, they have had rather a strained relationship with growers of fruit trees in particular.
The female Bullfinch is rather drab in colour compared to the more flashy male bird. Indeed, it is often said that British birds are a little dull compared with some of the more exotic species to be found around the world. But, what could be more spectacular than a male Bullfinch in full fig such as this one?
Simply beautiful!

Friday, 5 February 2016


With the weather still very grey this morning, we made the most of things and set out for the small reservoir known as Osborne's Pond. Even the water was looking grey, the result of so much mud being washed in  by all the rain we've had.
The Pines overlooking this end of the reservoir, were doing their best to add a little greenery to the landscape, but they struggled to make any difference to the overall greyness of the scene.
An Oak which keeps the pines company, was already beginning to show some swelling buds, despite the fact that Oaks always seem to be among the last to unfurl their leaves in the spring. Yet more signs of an early start to things this year.
Even a Coot, busy preening itself by the water's edge, seemed to think that Spring was on its way.
We stood watching it for some seconds before it noticed we were there...
Then went back to the more important task of feather maintenance.