Friday, 30 June 2017


We've been going mad over the last few days as the almost constant drizzle and chilly temperatures, have contrasted dramatically with the weather only a week earlier. But, things had improved a little this morning, so we set out for a walk around Shipley Hill, glad to be out and about once more.
On the Northern side of the hill, the road which was once the carriage drive up to Shipley Hall from Mapperley Village, is lined with Lime Trees.
These lovely trees are all in full flower right now and their scent enveloped us as we walked past them, down the hill.
Accompanying the scent, was the sound of thousands of bees, all busy collecting nectar and pollen from the millions of tiny Lime flowers.
From here and through the Limes, we looked out across the countryside which was, until recently, opencast mines.
At the bottom of the hill, we came to Mapperley Reservoir. Here, we stopped to watch a family of Great-crested Grebes. The youngsters, ever hungry and demanding food, still have their distinctive , striped heads, making them look like animated humbugs.
Close by, a Mandarin duck was picking at insects on the water's surface. I though at first, that this was a female bird, but on closer inspection, it turns out to be a male bird in eclipse plumage and therefore not displaying its more usual gaudy colours.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

More Wild Flowers

The highways and byways are still full of Summer flowers and their associated insects. Unfortunately, the very hot weather last week, has shortened the life of some of the more delicate flowers. Among the worst hit have been the Bee Orchids, so when Malcolm and I set out to check on them yesterday, we had to search long and hard to find any. Those Bee Orchids still with flowers, are looking a little tatty now.
Growing among the gravels of the old Theme Park car-parks, these little orchids seem to thrive in the seemingly hostile conditions. They are certainly not alone either. Close by, we found lots of brilliantly coloured, star-shaped flowers belonging to the Yellow-wort.
Much more imposing and definitely more dangerous to get close to, are the Spear Thistles. Their wonderful, mauve flower heads are also beginning to open now.
The thistle head is made of many hundreds of individual flowers, each of which was producing pollen, looking like little dusty tips.
Along the old railway lines of the 'Farm Walk' the other day, we encountered another statuesque plant. This time, the stems and leaves were covered, not with harsh spikes like the thistle, but with soft downy hairs. Held high above the leaves, the bright yellow flowers were beginning to open. They belong to the Great Mullein.
Above our heads as we walk around the countryside, we have noticed the flowers of the Common Lime Trees. In their case, it isn't the flowers which first attract the attention, but their heavy, sweet scent. Closer inspection reveals a lovely little flower, but it is their glorious perfume which fills the senses.
The footpath around Mapperley Reservoir, is dominated right now, by the blue flowers of the Meadow Cranesbill. There are thousands of them...
Always good to see in full bloom, it is unusual to find truly blue wildflowers at all, let alone so many of them.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

A Closer Look

Our walk this morning, gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at some of the less obvious flowers. Among the most commonly seen at the moment, are those belonging to the Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium.)
An imposing cousin of the carrot, this stately plant, gets its name from the smell of the flowers which is supposed to resemble that of a pig - although, I've never noticed a particularly 'piggy' smell. Their flowers show the characteristic of having larger petals on the outer edge of the umbel, giving the individual flowers a rather asymmetric shape.
Along the old railway lines of 'the Farm Walk', hundreds of tiny, pink flowers are dotted all over the place. These belong to the Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea.)
A very pretty little flower, it is a member of the Gentian family and fairly common in the UK and is said to have medicinal properties when made into a tea, helping gastric and liver problems.
The Pea family is well represented in the English countryside, with everything from ground-hugging trefoils, to 100ft tall (introduced) Robinias. But among the most numerous of the peas, are the various Clovers. Firstly and most commonly seen around these parts, is the White Clover (Trifolium repens.)
Always popular with pollinating insects, the tiny, individual flowers start off white, but turn pink as they fade and wilt after pollination.
Closely related is the Red Clover (Trifolium pratense.)
Here too, the flowers open pale pink and fresh, but darken as they age. You see, it pays to take a closer look!

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Weeping Window

Departing from our normal routine, Malcolm and I, joined his mum for a trip into Derby this morning. The principal reason was to take a look at the temporary art installation called 'Weeping Window.'
Made from several thousand, hand-made, ceramic poppies, this is a small part of the much larger installation which featured so memorably at the Tower of London back in 2014.
Commemorating the First World War, it is appropriate that it should be sited at the Silk Mill as the mill was used not only for grinding corn, but also for making medical supplies during that period. Both, essential to the war effort.
The poppies themselves make a magnificent sight as they seem to tumble from the window, down the side of the building and spill onto the ground below.

Drawing quite a few on-lookers, all with cameras at the ready to capture this display.
All rather poignant and definitely worth changing our routine to take a look at.
The Poppies are there until 23rd July.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Birds and Dogs

Following a scorching few days, during which Malcolm has been revelling in the heat and I've been getting grumpy, this morning dawned cloudy, breezy and all together cooler. So, we set out on our walk, to take in Mapperley Village, Reservoir and Wood. At the reservoir, we had lots of company come to see if we had anything to eat...
There are usually several Canada Geese to be seen (and heard) on the reservoir, but this morning, there were an unusual number of them. One in particular seemed keen to get a closer look at us...
and soon came in for his close-up!
In the woodland around the reservoir, Dog Roses are in full bloom, their beautiful scent wafting about on the breeze as we passed.
This bush seemed to have particularly deep pink flowers which were just crying out to be photographed.
More birds next, but this time a diminutive plant called Birds-foot Trefoil. Low-growing and very common, it is easy to overlook this little stunner.
Sometimes known as Bacon-and-Eggs because it has both orange and yellow flowers on the same plant, it gets its name from the shape of its seed pods which are supposed to resemble a bird's foot.
Tomorrow looks like it's going to be hot again so there will probably be not much walking done until it cools off again.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Wildflower Meadows

The height of Summer, brings a glut of wildflowers in the British countryside. Around these parts, we are very lucky to have a plethora of wildflower meadows and grassland. Pewit Carr is, as always among the best.
Huge numbers of Buttercups are accompanied by Common Spotted and Marsh Orchids as well as various Sorrel, Clovers and Meadowsweet.
As you would expect, it's the Orchids which draw the attention more than most.
Among the biggest and most outlandishly flamboyant flowers in the meadows and hedgerows at the moment, has to be the Ox-eye Daisy. Our walk this morning took us past a large number of these statuesque beauties.
As they swayed in the stiff breeze, their flower heads were proving to be very popular with Bees and Hoverflies too.
Close to and indeed growing among the Ox-eye Daisies, hundreds of Perforate St. John's Wort were also beginning to open their bright yellow flowers.
With all this colour and floral richness, it's sometimes difficult to know which way to look first.
Lots more to come yet, have no doubt!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Long Walk

The warmth of the day today, made us want to take a longer walk and to take the flask with us. So, we set off along the Nutbrook Trail, heading firstly for Shipley Hill. From the hill, we turned along Bell Lane, walking towards the village of Smalley. I did this walk earlier in the year, but as Malcolm was away at the time, he hadn't yet taken in this new route. The open farmland in the area was variously filled with grassland and fields of Wheat and Broad Beans and we walked along accompanied by the songs of Skylarks and the now quite rare, Yellowhammer. When we reached Smalley, we stood to take in the pond at Smalley Dam.
The pond and dam, was created in the late 18th century by John Redford of Smalley Hall.
Following restoration and much clearing out of silt, the area was given to the village by its then owner, in 1990. It is a delightful little waterway and well worth stopping to for a while.
Turning back home, we headed back along Bell Lane to Mapperley and paused for coffee under the shade of the trees around Mapperley Reservoir. From the shade, we looked out, through the surrounding foliage, at the sunny meadows beyond.
The fence-line was decorated with the seed heads of Cow Parsley...
And the whole scene was framed with Hawthorn leaves. All extremely beautiful.
We covered a little over 8 miles this morning and by now, we were getting rather hot and sweaty, so we headed for home.