As I have earlier mentioned, plants and hens sometimes – often – don’t go together. Either the plants don’t like the chickens and end up poisoning them (Thankfully I think my bantams are too canny to eat poison, touch wood) or the hens like the plants – too much, unfortunately, as it can often be a case of a nibble here, a nibble there, and suddenly the greenery has vanished into thin air.
One solution is to get a fruit tree. The tree leaves should be too high for hungry hens to forage and a tree bearing fruit is always a useful plant for a garden.
So here’s a big welcome to Cosy Cottage’s conference pear tree.
No, Mabel, it’s not for you to eat.
Facts of the Day
1. The conference is ‘reliable and self-fertile… It has long, pale green fruit.’
2. Other varieties of pear are Jargonelle, Beurre Hardy and Marguerite Marillat.
3. The pear’s ‘natural home is in the countries around the Mediterranean – it needs more warmth and sunshine than an apple tree’ if it is to fruit well.
Information courtesy of Growing Food by Anna Pavord
My assumptions that all dogs were ready and eager for a walk (based on my own experiences with canines) were dashed after I encountered the lovely residents of Animal Care. Staffie-cross Cleo was an overweight old lady who waddled along at her own pace, plump jack russell Della wanted to be bribed to walk an extra five steps (no delicious titbits for you, Della, you’re meant to be on a diet!) Emma was a beautiful, gentle lurcher who preferred to sniff the fascinating smells at her leisure and chow chow Millie was too hot in her fur coat on a summer’s day to venture far. There were, of course, the younger boys and girls who reminded me more of my own two rascals (sorry, Molly and Teddy, I mean jack russells!) Bouncy Roxy, a black lab-type; well-named Bullet, a lurcher who wanted to run; amiable jacks Nelson and Bella; and…
This comes from my earlier blog, written back in 2014 during a six-month sabbatical from work. It was a break which was needed and came at the right time for me. I didn’t write about all my experiences but some I did, and it’s quite nice for me to look back on those memories. I thought I would reblog some of these earlier little adventures. 🙂
Trudging up the highest hill of County Meath, we knew it would be worth it once we got to the top. It was tougher for my dad, who is in his 70s, than me ( I had once climbed Snowdon). But reaching the Loughcrew Cairns, an ancient burial site located at the top, was worth it. On our way down we encountered a coachload of passengers plodding up the hill. Some were of elder years. I would imagine that, although County Meath is no Snowdonia, they would still have found it hard going. But sometimes a steep difficult journey is worth the reward at the end. Our trip to Ireland started two days earlier. I was chief driver, a Hyundai i10 and ferry was our means of transport, and dad was navigator. Kells was our destination. I have an ambiguous view of Ireland’s roads. The country tracks are riddled with potholes…
I may not have met Robin Hood but I did encounter another famous citizen of Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood Forest a few weeks ago – the Major Oak. This elderly and magnificent tree is at least 1,000 years old, has a 10m trunk and a canopy of 28m. It is so large, old and, unfortunately, vulnerable, that it has to be propped up and fenced in. But it is a truly grand sight indeed.
The Major Oak may be King of the Forest, but there are more than 1,000 ancient oaks in this woodland, making them ideal habitats for wildlife. To my eyes, they so looked like works of natural art!
We saw many hollow oaks, the heartwood is decayed by fungi such as beefsteak fungus and chicken of the woods. These hollow oaks are excellent habitat for wildlife, including insects.
To age a tree, one needs to count its annual rings. For the old trees of the forests, the Rspb, which manages the nature reserve in a partnership, looks at tree girth or diameter at breast height so the oaks don’t need to be felled. The above tree was over 100 years old, a mere youngster in these environs.
As for Robin Hood, the most famous man of Nottinghamshire? It is believed he lived in around 1200 – at least, this is when the stories start – at a time when the forest covered 100,000 acres. He is seen as a heroic outlaw, avoiding the clutches of the Sheriff of Nottingham and robbing from the rich to give the poor. It is hard to tell whether he really existed, whether the character is based on a real man or if there is no basis in fact. Whatever the case, Sherwood Forest definitely exists, even if it feels as if it belongs in a beautiful legend. And the ‘Merry Men (and ladies) are its stunning oaks and accompanying wildlife.
Parsley is a delightful savoury treat – for humans, guinea pigs and even for chickens. The girls had been proudly presenting me and my family with freshly laid eggs so it was my turn to treat them. I bought three reasonably priced parsley plants in a supermarket and planted them in the side garden, otherwise known as Hen Garden.
The ladies headed straight for the herbs. In the space of less than two hours, the parsley was no longer to be seen. It had been eaten, trampled on, demolished and vandalised.
(I call them ladies but that sort of behaviour is not very ladylike really. Is it Dottie?).
And it did make me think, my back garden is pretty much green with many plants (unfortunately many weeds and unidentifiable ones too) – Hen Corner in contrast is brown and barren except for a few lonely specimens such as an apple tree.
It wasn’t always such a forlorn desert.
Where has all the greenery gone?
Then I spotted Mabel gobbling up yet another leaf from one of the lucky plants still standing.
During our weekend stay in the lovely market town of Richmond, Yorkshire, we embarked on a long trek from the quaint village of Muker to the highest pub in Britain. Alas, I was driving later so I couldn’t have a wine (although on such a walk like this, I tend to have a thirst for water rather than alcohol!)
Muker is situated in Swaledale, in the Yorkshire Dales. All Creatures Great and Small vet James Herriot called it, “the most beautiful part of England”.
The first part of our journey out of the little village is particularly memorable. We stuck to a flagstone path through hay meadows, bordered by dry stone walls, and squeezing past ‘squeeze stiles’. Along the way, bypassing the old-fashioned laithes (cowhouses). The meadows are still managed in a traditional way, which is wonderful for biodiversity. From what I read in my Country Walking magazine, these upland meadows are rare and there are only 1,000 hectares in the North of England.
Alas, as it was February, we missed out on the vibrancy and colour which it appears to have when the wildflowers are blooming. So, note to self, come back in spring.
The next leg of the journey is by the River Swale. We were lucky to spot Oystercatchers and two dippers and Kisdon Force – the waterfall – is a gorgeous sight.
We reached a signpost advertising tea and cake, tempting but we had a job to do so we had to decline our invite to Keld and its tasty delicacies … Interestingly, the sign shows we walked some of the Pennine Way and The Swale Trail (not a walk I’m familiar with) crosses here too.
The river stroll turned into a more swampy moorland trail.
We would look at the map. “Not too far now,” Simon would say in a bid to boost morale. We started to believe we would see the beautiful sight of the pub – like an oasis – at the bottom of every incline.
I ventured, “I hope the pub isn’t too busy and we will find somewhere to sit.”
And then another thought struck us both.
What if the pub was closed and we would have to eat our cold cheese sandwiches out in the cold?
The pub eventually made its appearance, just when I started to wonder if it had closed down and was demolished or that it was an old wife’s tale told to gullible hikers.
But look, there on the horizon, was the inn. The Tan Hill Inn. A lovely sight. Somewhere to sit, a nice cup of tea, a snack…
It was busy (it appears popular with bikers) with a long queue but we found a seat, and enjoyed a hot drink and much-anticipated snack.
I would have been quite happy to stay there for a good while longer but it was time to head back.
I realised that the landscape wasn’t as natural as first assumed. All around are the signs of lead mining, spoil heaps from shafts underground.
These days the pub is frequented by bikers, tourists and hikers. Back in the day, it would have been miners who were regulars.
Later on, I fell in the mud. This tends to happen a lot on my walks!
There are a number of derelict farm buildings. Later I read about Hartland, which is supposedly haunted, and Crackpot Hall, a farmhouse and mine office. I wish I had read about these two features beforehand as now I try to recollect which empty structure was which. This was another curious sight… An old bridge but with possible outbuildings behind?
Other curiosities included a rusting tractor skeleton and this unusual tree within a tree…
All in all, we walked about 17 miles in total that day. It was time to go back to the cottage for a warm shower and a pizza takeaway.
Facts of the Day
1. Tan Hill Inn dates back to the 1600s and is Britain’s highest pub at 1,732 feet (528m) above sea level.
2. During the 1700s, it was used by miners. The last mine on Tan Hill closed in 1929. The pub used to be surrounded by miners’ cottages. These were demolished.
3. On December 31, 2009, New Year revellers were snowed in and were unable to leave the pub for three days!
4. Start planning at least one long-distance hike this year
5. Buy trainers for exercise classes
Since the start of 2019, I’ve set myself monthly goals to get fit. So in February, I set out the above goals. Did I succeed? Umm, no. I didn’t get the trainers, I kept procrastinating about planning the hike, I forgot about the yoga. Even the simple ‘do something active every day’ was sometimes forgotten about. What I have learnt though is that when I get distracted in my life – for good and bad reasons – the fitness regime gets forgotten about and left to one side.
On the positive side, although I did not reach 100 miles (coat-on, I’m sure I would have exceeded it had I counted every step I did), I reached 88 miles, nearly 100 and better than January’s 74 miles.
Pictured: A scene from the Muker walk
River Swale walk, Richmond (6 miles or thereabouts)
Muker to Tan Hill Inn and back (17 miles on my pedometer!)
Walk to Brockholes Nature Reserve (11 miles)
Walk into Preston city centre (8 miles)
88 miles. Running total: 162 miles (I’m also aiming to walk 1,000 miles by the end of 2019).
I had the same goals as last month but it gets worse instead of better! (Now you see why I didn’t update this post earlier!) I walked a grand total of 58.1 miles, just over half of my target. Nowhere near good enough.
58.1 miles. Running total: 220.1 miles
Pictured: A view from the Sherwood Forest woodland walk
Sherwood Forest woodland walk (7.4 miles)
Ainsdale Sand Dunes (6-7 miles or thereabouts)
The one goal I did achieve in March was to plan at least one long-distance hike this year.
So in May, Simon and I are planning to walk the entire Cuckoo Way/Chesterfield Canal – 46 miles – in two days! The 240-year-old canal traverses Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire.
In June, my friend Caroline and I are planning to walk Preston’s Guild Wheel. It will be 21 miles in 2 days and encircles the city of Preston.
Perhaps the Guild Wheel should have come first on the fitness schedule?! ☺️
So, as you can see, now I really do have to get a reasonable level of fitness.
So for April, I have the similar targets to before but as there is a goal I have made it harder. Will the proposed weekend hikes focus my mind? Let’s see…
1. Aim to walk 100 to 125 miles
2. Do something active every day for 5 minutes
3. Set aside 15 minutes 3 days a week for yoga (I’ve tried to make this more achievable by aiming for 3 rather than 5 days)