Thursday, 31 March 2016

Home-patch First

Malcolm and I set out for a slightly shorter walk this morning, taking in the lakes of Straw's Bridge once again. at 'Swan Lake', we were delighted to see 26 Mute Swans of varying ages on the lake.
The sunny weather and blue sky made a wonderful backdrop to this magnificent male or Cob swan. who seemed only too pleased to pose for photos.
Heading home again, we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of a bird which is a first for us on our 'home patch'.  Sitting in a tree above the reed beds of Pewit Carr, was a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta).
A small member of the heron family, the Little Egret is a recent colonist to Great Britain and they are still mostly confined to the South and East coasts, with a few spreading to Wales. They first bred in the UK in 1996, but have been seen here since about the mid 1980's.
They are beginning to spread further north as this individual proves. I had heard reports of a Little Egret being seen at Shipley Lake a few weeks ago, but heard nothing since, so it was a great surprise to see this one today.
We were not the only ones to be taken by the sight of a Little Egret this morning. Another couple had stopped to view this still rather rare bird.
The British population of Little Egrets is increasing all the time and currently stands at some 660 - 740 breeding pairs and an over-wintering population of around 4,500 individual birds (figures from the RSPB.)
Let's hope this one is just the first of an 'advance guard' of a resident population in the area.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Sunlit Wood

After a few days not getting out and about, Malcolm and I stepped out this morning for a good walk around Shipley Hill. At last, the weather has brightened up a bit and despite the rather chilly wind, the sunshine made it seem warm and Spring-like.
Daffodils were everywhere. Nodding in the breeze and turning their yellow trumpets towards the sun, filtering through the branches.
There seem to be a lot more Daffodils this year. Last Spring, most of the plants were 'blind' with very few flower buds. But this year.....
Among the Daffodils, Bluebells are beginning to show their hand with the promise of better - and bluer - things to come.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


Well, that's Easter out of the way for another year and as usual, all the traditional things have been going on. Family gathering for Easter Dinner, chocolate eggs and hot-cross buns have been eaten and the weather has turned cold, wet and windy!
Easter greeting have been sent from Malcolm's family in Switzerland too. Irma and Fritz have been enjoying a Swiss Easter.
And so have their chickens...
Hopefully, the weather will improve a little now that the Bank Holidays have finished and we will be able to get out and about a bit more.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Horns and Bells

We had to get out and about without delay this morning as the forecast was for rain by mid-day, so we set out to do 'the farm walk'. Along the old railway lines, where the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have cleared so much of the scrub away, a herd of White Park Cattle were taking things easy.
Many of these good-looking beasts have some pretty impressive head-gear, making them look rather more fearsome than they are.
Among the adult cows, were a few adorable calves. This one was just beautiful....
With a just the beginnings of its own pair of horns.
Yesterday's walk took us up and around Shipley Hill to see what was in flower there and to our great delight, the Pieris bushes were starting to bloom.
Taking a close look at these beautiful little bell-shaped flowers, it is obvious to see the Pieris' close relationship with the much smaller Heathers.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

10 Years On

It's our anniversary today. Malcolm and I had our Civil Partnership ceremony on this day ten years ago. Where has the time gone? Our walk this morning took us to the lakes of Straw's Bridge and the blossoming Blackthorn growing around swan Lake.
We had only a short walk because after getting home for coffee, it was out again to pick up fish and chips for lunch, washed down with a glass of celebratory bubbles.
We must do this more often!

Monday, 21 March 2016

Colts and Dogs

This morning, Malcolm and I set out for a good walk along Slack Lane to Mapperley Village, then up and over Shipley Hill. We were delighted to see three Ravens as we approached the hill, indulging in some display flying and tumbling through the air as they left the woodland and flew off across the farmland. Too far away to be able to get a photo, they immediately reminded me of the medieval folk ballad 'The Three Ravens' first published in 1611. I love this version sung by Sarah Leonard which was used in Simon Schama's 'A History of Britain' on the BBC.
Leaving behind the ravens, we marched on and soon found a patch of bright yellow Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara).
These beautiful flowers open fully in sunshine, so this morning's dull conditions were not conducive to a good display, but they were nice to see even so. Used medicinally to treat coughs and chest conditions, they also contain some toxic chemicals known to cause liver problems.
A little further along, we found large numbers of Dog's Mercury (Mercurialis perennis). Not as showy as the Coltsfoot, they are nonetheless among the first spring flowers to appear each year and help to 'green up' the woodland floor at this time off year.
A member of the Spurge family, their flowers are inconspicuous and they have been known to be poisonous for centuries. Only a few hours after eating them, drowsiness, vomiting and stomach cramps and kidney problems will develop and death has been known to occur (first reports of death from poisoning by Dog's Mercury date from about 1693).
So, enjoy the plant, but don't eat it!!!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Lonely as a Cloud

In complete contrast to yesterday's weather, this morning started dull and cloudy, but soon the sun broke through and by the time I set out for a walk, it was warming up nicely. With the sun shining on me, I set out for my walk through Shipley Park and up the hill. Among the trees on top of the hill, the Snowdrops are still blooming bravely.
Set against a backdrop of bare trees and blue sky, they looked beautiful. Turning the other way, the sun was filtering through the trees almost washing out all the colour.
The bare trees also means that any sunshine manages to get down to the derelict remains of the folly on Shipley Hill.
Famously, this round building was constructed so that Prince Bertie (later King Edward VII) would have somewhere discrete to indulge in his various sexual liaisons when visiting the Miller-Mundy family at Shipley Hall. Whatever the truth is, the remains now make a romantic ruin among the woodland, particularly when not shaded by summer tree-cover. The building was never complete, but built as a decorative, ruinous folly by the Miller-Mundy family.
Wandering 'lonely as a cloud' and making my way out of the trees, I took the lower route around the base of the hill. It was lovely to see a large mass of Daffodils nodding in the breeze and enjoying the sunshine.
Along these slopes, trees have been planted in memory of various people and small commemorative plaques are dotted about among the Daffodils too.
With the sun shining on them, this 'host of golden daffodils' were glorious to see.
Enough of this romanticism! Time to turn homeward and a hot cup of coffee.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016


I woke up this morning with the sun shining around the blinds and our local Song Thrush singing his heart out. As it was looking so good, I thought a nice walk around Shipley Hill would be in order, but the best laid plans often go wrong and by the time I had finished breakfast, it was drizzling and rather nasty. So that put an end to my plans.
Instead, I thought I would post a couple of pictures from a our recent stroll through Pewit Carr.
After such a wet and rather stormy winter, one or two trees have succumbed to the wind, especially those which were suffering from disease.
This Willow was showing signs of rot in its heartwood making it weak and vulnerable.
All that dead wood will provide a haven for all sorts of wildlife, proving that even in the face of death, nature has a use for everything.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Foggy, Foggy Dew

Following a really foggy start to the day, things were beginning to improve a little by the time Malcolm and I set out for our morning constitutional. As we got to Mapperley Reservoir, the mist was still hanging over the water and we were amazed by the number of Black-headed Gulls, bobbing about on the surface.
Being something of a geek, I thought I would make a stab at counting them and I can confidently say that the photograph below contains more than 500 gulls.
Later, we passed Shipley Lake and there were at least as many gulls floating about there too. It must have been the fog which had forced the gulls out of the skies (it seemed to be having a similar effect on the planes at east Midlands Airport too).
On the way, we walked over Shipley Hill, taking in the Snowdrops in the mist. By now, the sun was beginning to break through the mist and filter through the trees onto the Snowdrops.
Banks of these flowers are still looking good in the woodland and the misty conditions gave things a somewhat ethereal feeling.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Marble Machine (music instrument using 2000 marbles)

Taking a break from my usual posts, I found this on YouTube the other day.
It has to be one of the most amazing machines ever invented and the chap who made it, a genius! Have a look.....

Monday, 7 March 2016


A bitter wind kept us from getting too warm this morning despite the sunshine. But as we walked along Slack Lane towards Mapperley Village, the Gorse flowers were bright and cheerful and giving off a slight scent of coconut.

Onward past Mapperley Reservoir - still looking decidedly muddy - and up Shipley Hill to check on the Snowdrops and Daffodils. On the Southern slopes of the hill in the part which was known as 'Shoulder of Mutton Wood' in bygone days, the daffodils were looking pretty good.
Like last year, there seem to be a large number of plants without flower buds, but those that have flowers make up for those that don't.
 One more photo before we turn for home and a warming cup of coffee.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016


With the start of March, the weather has taken a turn for the worse and it has become wet and windy again (not to mention bitterly cold). So I thought we'd cheer things up a bit with a few more pictures of the wonderful Snowdrops on Shipley Hill.
You can never have enough of these lovely little flowers...
You can never have enough Cherry blossom either, so a couple more of the very early flowering tree on the site of the old hall.
The pink flowers seemed to be competing with the bare, red stems of a large Dogwood close by.
Much smaller, but no less beautiful  are the flowers of the Alder trees which are also starting to appear. The male flowers are far more obvious in form of catkins, dangling from the branches, but look closely and you will also see the diminutive, red female flowers too.
Lets hope the weather picks up a bit again in the next few days and we can once more get out and about in the sunshine.