Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Family Gathering

Last Wednesday was quite the family occasion. Like last year, some of Malcolm's family came over to our hotel for a bit of a get-together. The sun shone on us as we sat for a wonderful lunch on the water-front terrace of the hotel.
You couldn't have asked for a finer backdrop to lunch.
The hotel was situated on an inlet of the lake, forming a small marina for yachts, row-boats and areas for outdoor swimming.
Around the mountain 'Niesen', several fighter jets of the Swiss air force were on exercise, leaving con-trails in the sky which caught the sun and formed rainbow coloured streaks.
From the other side of the lake, you get an idea of the hotel's situation. In this picture, it's the traditional style, wooden building on the water-front, to the left of the castle keep. The Hotel's website claims that this is 'the most beautiful bay in Europe' and it's difficult to argue with that claim.
On our last morning in Switzerland and on our way back to the airport, Malcolm's lovely cousin Christine took us to see the old family home in the village of Ebertswil, where she still lives with her family.
Malcolm had not seen the house since the late 1970's so you can imagine, quite a few memories were stirred during our visit.

Monday, 30 May 2016


Sitting on the shore of Lake Thun, Spiez is a delightful little town with a history dating back to the mid eighth century. It is dominated by the Castle which was built around 933. From the lakeside, it looms above the water-front cafes.
By the fifteenth century, the castle was in the hands of the von Bubenberg family and was then lived in by the Lord of Spiez and a Knight of Jerusalem, Adrian von Bubenberg (1439 - 1479). His bronze statue can be found in the grounds.
Also to be found in the grounds of the Castle, is the Romanesque church dedicated to St Laurentius. Originating from around the year 1000, it stands on foundations some two hundred years older.
The bell tower was originally built as a separate structure and later incorporated into the main church building.
Inside, you can still (just) see some twelfth century murals in the apsidal end of the church.
The grave stone of the wife of Adrian von Bubenberg can also be found in the church. The main building of the castle is now a museum and small art gallery.
Around the castle, beautiful gardens give you a good place to take in the view.
Well manicured lawns and beds of summer flowers...
Balustrades look over the vineyards next to the castle grounds.
Beautiful!  And there's lots more to come.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Back Home

After a very pleasant few days in Switzerland, Malcolm, his mother and I got back home last night, a little later than we had planned. Last year's break in Luzern (Lucerne) was wonderful, but this year, we stayed in Spiez in the Bernese Oberland region. We stayed at the Seegarten Marina Hotel and could not have hoped for anywhere better. The view from our balcony was jaw-dropping.
The view was dominated by the 'Swiss Pyramid' of Niesen at 7,749ft and capped with a little snow.
Arriving late on Tuesday evening, it wasn't long before the light faded and we had a night-time view, including a light on top of the mountain.
Much more to come over then next few days as I get round to sorting out all these pictures....!

Friday, 20 May 2016


In the deep shade, by the Nutbrook Trail where once railway lines crossed and re-crossed the canal and the brook, the casual walker can find a lovely patch of Bugle (Ajuga reptans).
This fabulous little blue flower is a member of the Mint family, closely related to the Deadnettles which also grow nearby. Used in times past as a means to stem bleeding, it became popular with craftsmen of all kinds, but especially woodworkers. Hence it has acquired the common name of 'Carpenter's Herb'. It is also popular with many kinds of butterfly including most of the 'Blues', Speckled Woods and Skippers. Popular too, with Bumble Bees as this picture reveals.
Also popular with Bees are Berberis bushes which are in full bloom on Shipley Hill.
Despite the woody nature, prickly leaves and flower shape, they are actually closely related to Buttercups, but whatever their familial connections, they are quite beautiful.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Rose Tree?

It seems a little strange, but the name Rhododendron actually means 'Rose Tree'. Not what we have come to know as a Rose Tree, but there we are. Close relatives of the Heaths and Heathers, Rhododendrons are often large, colourful and extremely beautiful and at this time of year, the old gardens of Shipley Hall are filled with their colour.
With a full range of flower colours, the pinks seem to dominate, particularly round here.
Azaleas form part of the Rhododendron family and are distinguished from the 'true' Rhododendrons by having only five stamens. These pink beauties have ten.
In the warm sunshine on Shipley Hill (which has deserted us this morning in favour of rain), they make a wonderful show.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Cows and Horses

Along the paths, the usual spring flowers are in full bloom right now. among the most common are those of the Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris).
A member of the Carrot family, the white umbels of Cow Parsley are a sure sign that Summer is on its way.
Cow Parsley is sometimes referred to as Mother-die, a name it shares with another common flowering plant in the UK, the Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna). This morning, the warm sun was filling the air with the scent of the Hawthorn flowers.
Hawthorn petals are edible and can be added to salads and were once added to the medieval favourite 'pottage'. It was mentioned in Richard II's 'Forme of Cury' in about 1390.
Now for the Horses mentioned in today's title. I refer to the Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) which is also in full flower now.
Wonderful spires or 'panicles' of flowers, spotted with pink and yellow blotches decorate the ends of the branches. Up to about a foot long, the panicles are usually overlooked if they grow too high up on the tree, but a closer look is always worth it.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Rhododendron Time

I was on my own this morning. Malcolm had an appointment for his annual asthma review, so it was left to me to investigate the burgeoning Rhododendrons on Shipley Hill.
Every year, we wait for the opening of these beauties at about the time the Bluebells begin to fade. The Rhododendrons and Azaleas continue the flow of flowers which start with the Snowdrops, and run through Daffodils, Cherry Blossom and Bluebells until we get to these...
and these...
Well worth waiting for.
On Shipley Hill, the Cherry Blossom is still looking good and this morning, looking through the canopy of blossom, the bright, lime-green of new leaves beyond caught my eye.
What a spectacle! Malcolm will have to see this tomorrow (weather permitting), having missed out today.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Bluebell Videos

Just a quick post today, with a couple of short videos taken on Shipley Hill yesterday. So wonderful are the Bluebells, that a small photo doesn't seem to do them justice. So here's the first one...

and here's the second one...

Monday, 9 May 2016


Another very warm day with blue sky and a light breeze, found Malcolm and I taking a longer walk around Shipley Park and Mapperley Reservoir and Wood. The Cherry Blossom is particularly fine at the moment.
As always, against a blue sky, the white blossom seems to stand out beautifully.
There is certainly plenty of it around these parts.
The cherry trees are not the only thing in full bloom and a glance down to ground level reveals that the Cowslips are also flowering their hearts out in the sunshine.
These little flowers always seem to be simple, yellow things, but a closer look reveals the darker, orange markings on the 'throat' of the flower acting as a guide for bees to find the nectar within.
On Shipley Hill, the first of this year's Rhododendrons are beginning to flower. Most are still in tight bud, but a few have opened their flowers early.
All rather floriferous and delightful.....
With the promise of much more to come, we will have to come back this way again soon.

Friday, 6 May 2016


It has warmed up a lot over the last few days, so this morning, we decided to have a longer walk all the way around Mapperley Reservoir. It's a little difficult to do this walk during the winter as the paths a usually too wet and muddy, but now things have dried up enough to allow a good stroll. Shortly after starting around the reservoir, we were greeted by a small patch of Wood Anemones (Anemone nemorosa).
Wood Anemones are a good indicator of ancient woodland due to their very slow spread - taking about a hundred years to spread just six feet.
Looking up, the trees were beginning to show some pale green new leaf growth, but not enough yet to block out the sky above.
Round the other side of the reservoir, we were surprised by the sight of a male Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) slumbering on the bank with a female Mallard.
There was no sign of a female Mandarin, but this colourful little chap didn't seem too bothered.