Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Early Spring Flowers

At long last, we managed to get out and about once more this morning. After several days of bad weather and 'other things to do', we thought it was time we checked on the progress of the snowdrops on Shipley Hill. We were not disappointed.
It has been very wet over the past few days and yet more rain is forecast later today, so it was nice to be able make the most of this brief window of fine weather. The only fly in the ointment was the stiff breeze which continues to make things a little difficult.
Nodding in the wind, these little marvels are always a great sign that winter is on its way out. Here, on the northern side of the hill, large mats of Snowdrops were standing up bravely in the wind.
A little digital 'bloom' makes them seem a bit ethereal.
As well as the Snowdrops, the Daffodils are also making an effort to open their colourful blooms.
Again, it was a little tricky getting a sharp picture thanks to the breeze.
Back home and in from the cold, we are greeted by the spectacularly red colour of our Amaryllis blooming in its pot on the kitchen windowsill. A gift from our friend Jayne, last year it produced one flowering stem with three individual flowers on the top. This year, following much nurturing and feeding, it has produced two flowering stems, the first of which has four flowers on it with the second one waiting for its moment of glory. I have removed the anthers from the ends of each stamen before they produce huge amounts of pollen and make Malcolm sneeze! This also seems to prolong the flowering period, so that's another plus!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017


At about the half-way point of my walk yesterday, I reached the village of Smalley. The name comes from the Anglo Saxon and means a narrow woodland clearing and is an ancient village, getting a mention in a charter of 1009 by King Ethelred the Unready. Moving forward a few centuries, it is said that while staying in Derby and at the end of their march south from Scotland, Bonnie Prince Charlie's troops visited various nearby villages, including Smalley.
As I approached the village along Bell Lane, I passed a delightful house called Smalley Lodge. This had once been one of the many lodges which policed access to the Miller-Mundy's Shipley Hall Estate.
Nearby, Smalley Dam gave a nice place to pause a moment and take in the small pond below.
The dam was built by John Redford of Smalley Hall at the end of the 18th century but was neglected and silted up until restored to it's former glory in the 1990's. away in the distance, a pair of Mandarin ducks sat on an overhanging branch. The male bird added a bit of much needed colour to this extremely dull day.
Time to turn my feet homeward again and as I approached Shipley Park again, I took a detour away from Bell Lane and across the newly accessible fields which have recently been surface mines. Here too, proper paths have been laid which makes walking much easier in the wet.
This path took me behind Flat Meadow Farm (a view which we don't normally get) and onward towards the Shipley Park visitor centre.
From there, it was back home along more well-known paths and time to put my feet up with a cup of coffee. It had been a good walk, taking in a lot of new sights and a long walk too!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Reformed Landscape

Over the past few years, UK Coal have been extracting coal from open cast mines across much of the land between Shipley and the village of Smalley. Well, this has recently come to an end and as part of the conditions of extraction, the area has had to be returned to grassland and countryside with public access. So with this in mind, I set out this morning to have a look at what's been done. I headed first for Shipley Hill and then along Bell Lane.
The last time I ventured along this road, my walk was blocked by fences and gates designed to regulate access to the mine workings, But those have all gone now along with the mobile offices and the guards who kept you under observation, to be replaced with new animal fencing and a few small ponds. This one had already been occupied by a flock of noisy geese.
 Despite the very grey conditions, it was unseasonably mild and looking across the fields, still very wet. Thankfully, Bell lane has a tarmac surface, so the feet remained dry. In the far distance it was beginning to brighten up, but not here!
From here you can see the chimney of Ratcliffe Power Station standing out against the bright sky.
And zooming in a bit more, the skyline of Ilkeston town centre was visible.
My walk was a little over 9 miles in total and trudging onward, I was nearly half way through and approaching Smalley village. More of which tomorrow.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Snowdrop Time

It's that time of year again, when the woodland floor is becoming decorated with Snowdrop flowers. On Shipley Hill, the first of them were opening their blooms in the gloom under the trees.
That particular patch of Snowdrops always seems to beat the rest into flower, despite being in the most shaded and seemingly unlikely position. But round the corner, on the northern edge of the hill some more were doing their best to catch up.
What better sign could there be, that Spring is on it's way?
While we were looking at the Snowdrops, a movement on a nearby tree caught my eye. It turned out to be a Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris.) Usually rather shy birds, this one seemed not too bothered by us watching it, but we were quite a distance away - hence the 'long view' on this picture. This is a tiny bird, so not easy to photograph at the best of times, so I was nevertheless quite happy with my shot.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Highland Cattle

More livestock this morning as Malcolm and I walked around Shipley Woodside. The Highland Cattle belonging to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust are always good to see. At the moment however, it's even more worthwhile because one of the cows has recently given birth to the most adorable bull calf. Mother and child have been kept inside for a while due to the bad weather, but the appearance of a little sunshine, has meant that the new baby has been allowed out with his mother. She was keeping him well away from us this morning across the other side of their field.
She is certainly an attentive mother, never letting her baby stray very far from her.
Then it was time for a quick wash and brush-up. Baby wasn't too pleased about that, particularly when mother decided to wash behind his ears.
What a little cutie he is and I'm sure he will feature in many more photos in the weeks to come.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Mud and Livestock

At last, we had a little sunshine this morning. It has been so wet lately, that we've not been able to get out and about as much as we would like - hence the dearth of posts over the last few days. But with a bit of brightness this morning, Malcolm and I tried to ignore the mud beneath our feet and the puddles threatening to engulf our trainers and headed for the 'Farm Walk.' A lone horse came over to greet us as I stopped to take his picture.
I was getting the eye from him as if to say 'If you've not got anything to eat, I'm off.'
A little further on, we came across the herd of white cattle taking it easy in the mud with a view of the Ilkeston skyline in the distance.
One particular beast seemed to be enjoying the soporific effect of the morning sunshine as he stood in the mud.
Others were taking it all lying down - at least they didn't mind the mud.
This youngster seemed as interested in us, as we were in it.
Home again for coffee, tip-toeing through the mud as we went.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017


With conditions still extremely wet under foot, Malcolm and I stuck to the tarmac paths this morning and headed for the lakes of Straw's Bridge. We were delighted to find that the footpath running under the old railway bridge, has now been re-opened after a long-standing flooding issue. What they've done is to raise the level of the path, leaving deep water either side.
The water at the sides of this new, raised path, has already been colonised by the ducks and by a myriad of tiny invertebrates which could be seen swimming about in the depths.
At Swan Lake, there were the usual suspects. Mallards, Mute Swans, Coots, Moorhens, Canada Geese and Black-headed Gulls. They were soon joined by a group of five Greylags (Anser anser), which arrived and made a lot of noise. They really are a beautiful bird - although they always appear to be spoiling for a fight, with a look which screams "what are you looking at?"
On the edge of the lake, a Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) was taking a moment to rest in the sunshine. A rather cute little duck, they are nevertheless, quite capable of 'sticking up for themselves' and can often be seen nipping about the other, larger waterfowl and stealing their food while the 'big boys' are busy squabbling among themselves. They appear black and white, but in the sun, their cheeks show a beautiful iridescence.
Back through the bridge, it was nice to see the other lakes once more. While the path has been flooded, they have been out of bounds for us, but not of course, for the wildfowl and the Coots were busy fighting like town-centre drunks on a Saturday night.

Friday, 3 February 2017


Being out and about in the sunshine once more, Malcolm and I took our walk this morning, to Mapperley via Shipley Hill. Following so much rain and generally dull, drizzly and frankly horrible weather, it was still very wet under foot. All was quiet at the reservoir.
The weather forecast had suggested it would be windy today, but as usual, they seem to have got it wrong again.
Turning from the water, I looked down the other side of the road, through the woodland and the water channels which run through it, taking away any overflow.
The woodlands around these parts are all beginning to show signs of Snowdrops to come. In some parts, they will be in full bloom very soon. One plant which is in bloom already, is the Hazel. Always very early to open their flowers, they seem particularly eager to show their true colours this year.
The long, green, male catkins are easily seen, but the tiny, red, female flowers need a much closer look.