Posted in Thoughts on life and spirituality

Coronavirus Diaries: Stay Safe, Stay At Home

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Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

I wrote this post on May 9. Since then (June 6), lockdown has eased a little and we can now meet others outside. I met Simon for a walk half way between our two counties and my friend Caroline for a ‘social distanced’ cup of tea in her garden.

The worst thing for me personally are the negative feelings. Thankfully, these are always temporary and don’t last long, my wellbeing is generally okay, but I am aware that the pandemic and lockdown must be affecting many people in so many adverse ways.

If you’re suffering from mental illness and need help, please look up a mental health charity/services based in the country you live in and get in touch with them for advice. (For the UK, there’s https://www.mind.org.uk)

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Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

May 9: Many of us around the world will be going through a weird dystopian phase right now thanks to a virus. In Britain, we are currently in lockdown, it has been called a ‘soft’ one as we are allowed out for exercise.

Even though this is supposedly ‘soft’, this is affecting people badly in so many ways.

In Britain we have a slogan – Stay at Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives. I am working from home but for broadband reasons I work from my parents’ house. We are effectively two reclusive households (living two miles apart) behaving as one.

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Photo by Bruno Cervera on Pexels.com

I go to the small Tesco convenience supermarket about 8pm, it’s quieter then. I have walked the family dogs, Teddy and Molly, in quiet country lanes and in suburban settings, moving away from passers-by – and they from me – as if we all have the plague.

I haven’t seen my partner Simon for nearly two months. A long-distance relationship of ten years, we usually meet every three weeks. I think, hope, we can survive this uncertainty as a couple.

I stay in touch with friends via texts and messages. Maybe I will get the hang of video hangouts one day.

I spend my weekdays working and my weekends with my animals, reading through my To Be Read list, working through a course and writing. There is the decluttering which I keep putting off but needs doing as well…

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My lockdown pile of books

At night, I have started having wistful dreams of visiting secondhand book shops and going for a swim. Choosing a gym.

I am having flashbacks of previous weekends away and holidays, days out and meeting friends and family. The fear of climbing down Helvellyn and other mountains (and the exhilaration afterwards) and the simple pleasure of a pot of tea in a village cafe or browsing in a book shop for an hour.

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I miss seeing Simon and my friends.

Having the freedom to go places without stressing about social distance or ‘is this even allowed?’

I’ve worked in a precarious industry for years so job uncertainty has always been the background for me – but I always thought if and when I got made redundant, there would be other jobs, other opportunities.

Now I’m not so sure.

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Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

Seeing my parents, being around my animals, keeping in touch via technology, nature, reading and writing keeps me going. Being an introvert and happy in my own company helps.

But this is only my story, how are others faring? So far, this virus and the lockdown hasn’t touched me too badly compared to others. Others have died, lost loved ones, lost jobs or businesses… This pandemic will hurt many of us in some way.

The irony is that I felt last year went too fast, I wanted it to slow down. 2020? I can’t wait for it to be over and normality to return.

 

 

 

Posted in Fitness challenges, Reblog, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Trek Diary: Part 1 Oct/Nov 2017

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Rainbow en route to High Peak, Fairfield Horseshoe, Ambleside, Cumbria

I wrote this post a few months after starting my blog, back in 2017. I haven’t been able to go on any big walking challenges this year because of lockdown, so I’ve been looking back at some of my previous adventures.

May 2020

Like many of us, over the years, I have put on weight. Too many treats, over-reliance on my car and not enough exercise has meant a few pounds have been added here and there. But to be honest, this isn’t about weight. It’s about being happy and healthy. It’s a quest to be fit. Me and fitness have never got on. The minute the pace gets faster, I want off the treadmill. But I’m sick of feeling sluggish, of being out of breath too easily. I want to challenge myself next year. Perhaps a fundraising challenge. Maybe a mountain. Possibly a long-distance trek. Something that will motivate me to finally become fit and healthy. And stay that way. For good. Thus begins my bi-monthly trek diary.

Great Whernside – 650m (out of 704m). Three hours

Sunday, October 22 2017

I met Simon at Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales, a pretty little village of stone cottages and picturesque surroundings. Weather was okay to begin with, which was lucky as Storm Brian had been out and about that week. But as we walked along the track towards the hill of Great Whernside, passing a large farmhouse (now a Scout’s centre), the rain began. The drizzle got worse and the stone path gave way to grass – and bog. The higher we got, the boggier the ground became, the wetter my walking boots became (thank goodness they were waterproof), the unsteadier the ground and more blustery the wind. 🌧️

I’m sorry to say we did not make it to the top. Our (roughly) three-hour walk took us to about 650m of Great Whernside’s 710m. But all I kept thinking about was tea and cake! (We had brought water and sandwiches with us but somehow we lost the desire for a cold cheese sandwich on the cold, windy moorland).

We reached the village about 1.30pm and ventured into Bluebell Inn for a delightful pot of tea by the fire, just what we needed after being soaked through to the skin. A trip to Zarina’s cafe for more tea, a sausage buttie (not very healthy, but warming) and a Yorkshire curd tart. When in Yorkshire, eat what the Yorkshire folk eat… My first time eating the delicacy, and very tasty too.

And so my training began. Oh, if only it could be tea and cake all the time! ☕🍰

Walk Facts

1. Great Whernside is 704m (2,310ft) high. We walked roughly three hours from 10.30am to 1.30pm to reach 650m.

2. It is located on the boundary between the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

3. Until 1997, there was no public right of way to the summit of Great Whernside.

Fairfield Horseshoe – Full day (eight hours) 11 miles (roughly) 873m

Saturday, November 4

Today’s challenge was a toughie. A hill walk from Ambleside, where we were staying for the weekend, up Low Pike (1,657ft/508m), High Pike (2,152ft/656m), Dove Crag (2,603ft/792m), Hart Crag (2,698ft/822m) to get to our destination – Fairfield (2,863ft/873m).

And then back down again via Great Rigg (2,513ft/766m), Heron Pike (2,003ft/612m) and Nab Scar (1,493ft/ 455m). I feel exhausted just thinking about it!

We were staying in Ambleside for a weekend and had decided Saturday would be our day for a hill walk. Laden with rucksacks and (for me) hiking poles, we headed away from the town centre. A resident told us we were going the wrong direction and needed to walk towards Sweden Bridge. A quick detour and we were on our way. Up, up, up (so it felt to me)…

Crossing Sweden Bridge took us into fields with Highland Cows, actually my favourite breed of cow with their shaggy red hair, but I always feel a little apprehensive around cows, especially if they have calves. However, these lasses were quite happy to share their fields with hikers.

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Our first hill was Low Pike (1657ft), I would keep stopping and turning to see the panoramic view (a ‘look at the view’ and ‘catch my breath’ stop) of Windermere down below. The higher up, the more expansive the scenery below – Rydal, Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere…

Once we reached Low Pike, S said we were a quarter of the way up. I was surprised, but I should have queried him more on this statistic. A quarter of the way up to Fairfield or a quarter of the way up to High Pike, the next fell? Needless to say the true answer would have disappointed me.

I believe it was around here where there was a short rocky scramble… and my boots got wet in the marsh.

The route to High Pike was along a stone wall, fairly gentle. It was here where it started to drizzle on and off for the rest of the day. And the place where full rainbows were seen. Will we reach the pot of gold that is Fairfield?

I regarded the rainbow as a sign of hope – completing the Fairfield Horseshoe is possible, even for me! 🌈

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We continued to ascend Dove Crag and Hart Crag. Relatively gradual, happily, apart from a scramble section at the top.

At one point, Simon heard a mouse-like sound and I spotted a brisk brown blur from the corner of my eye. Silently, we ventured nearer and observed a tiny shrew scurrying amidst the rocks, before escaping into a hole.

It was hard to know when we actually arrived at Fairfield. The top is very flat, a ‘grassy plateau’ says Wainwright. There are many stone cairns which might be there to help hikers find their way in the mist although Wainwright thought the abundance could actually be a hindrance. Some ramblers were huddled in a stone windbreak shelter when we arrived.

The route down has a clear path. When there is no mist, it is easy to see where one is going.

We were descending Nab Scar when a young couple passed us. The woman was athletic looking, wearing sports clothes rather than rambling gear, and was striding along confidently, clutching a water bottle. The man, lagging behind – so much so I wasn’t sure if they were actually together or not – wore a jumper, jeans and wellies.

When it comes to hill walking, it is a case of walking boots…  yes. Wellies… no. A big no.

Anyway, the pair passed us. Not long afterwards, the woman came back up and approached us, asking if we had any spare water she could give to her partner. Luckily we did. He was lying on the grass next to the path, looking absolutely exhausted. S poured water into the woman’s 1 litre container. Later, we saw them, the worn-out man sitting next to the path. S gave them the rest of the water (the man had already drank the litre Simon had previously given) and three biscuits from the B&B. They thanked us and assured us they would be fine, and sure enough, we later on saw them descending the last section.

It turned out that, while we set off at 9.30am, their hike began after 12noon – in a bid to finish before it got dark, they had no choice but to rush the Horseshoe.

Passing Rydal Hall and Rydal Mount, we opted for a wander beside the river, pleasant until it became dark, started raining heavily, and we took the wrong turning out of Ambleside. An extra mile I could have done without! Still, an exhilarating if tiring walk and I look forward to my next adventure 🏃

Walk Facts

1. On the way to or back from The Fairfield Horseshoe, the hiker goes past Rydal Mount – the home of William Wordsworth.

2. Water is essential for hill walks! And it has a wonderful taste when you’re going uphill!

3. The Fairfield Horseshoe goes up one ridge and down another within a valley. Be careful in the mist.

Sunday, November 5

Stock Ghyll Force, Ambleside – One mile (roughly)

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Legs felt a little fatigued today so we enjoyed a gentle stroll to Stock Ghyll Force waterfall. This is a roughly mile-long woodland walk, 5 minutes from Ambleside. Leaf-strewn (in autumn) paths and steps along a river and woodland takes you upwards towards the waterfall. A very pleasant town walk (although it doesn’t feel urban in the slightest) for tourists and tired-out ramblers!

Walk Facts

1. Stock Ghyll is a tributary of River Rothley.

2. Once there were 12 watermills driven by the power of Stock Ghyll and other streams.

3. Stock Ghyll Force is a 70ft waterfall.

To read about a 2014 Hadrian’s Wall adventure, visit: https://mysabbatical2014.wordpress.com/

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues, Thoughts on life and spirituality

Our World: Coronavirus

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Photo by CDC on Pexels.com

One of the things which is helping me through this strange time is nature. Watching the starlings frolicking about on the lawn and great tits move in and out of their bird box in my garden, presumably feeding youngsters, has helped me appreciate the simple but important things in life.

Ironically, nature is (unless you believe in the 5G theory or that the virus originates from a lab) also the cause of coronavirus.

It is my belief that cruelty to animals and a total contempt for nature has resulted in coronavirus.

The ‘wet markets’ are absolutely horrific from what I’ve heard. They sell dead and live animals in closely confined spaces and the animals are butchered on the site. These markets are extremely cruel – there are no animal welfare standards – and unhygienic. 

Is it any wonder that interfering with the natural world has resulted in this catastrophe?

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Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Scientists all over the world are working on a vaccine.

When there will be a vaccine, I don’t know, but in the meantime many of us are suffering.

We have either suffered from coronavirus itself; know someone who has had it – or even died from Covid-19; are stressing about our jobs; missing our freedom and loved ones; suffering from domestic violence, family tensions, a decline in mental or physical health … The list goes on.

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Photo by Edward Jenner on Pexels.com

My fear is that, for as long as we humans interfere with nature, these viruses will continue to grow, mutate and spread. We are supposed to live alongside nature, not destroy it. I wonder if this attitude of contempt will eventually destroy us, the human species.

 

 

 

Posted in Gardens, Self-sufficiency

Herbs and Bee Bars (update)

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Do you remember a post I wrote a little while ago (it was March 28) called Herbs for the Kitchen? I planted basil, chive and parsley seeds in three little pots. Well, as you can see from the top image, it’s worked. My guinea pigs Tom and Tim were eager to be, well, guinea pigs and experiment with the basil and parsley. They gave it the thumbs up!

My Bee Bar (which I wrote about on April 11) of hyssop, verbena and lavender seeds has started to show green shoots so here’s hoping that soon I will have more food for the bees and more beauty for my garden.

 

Posted in Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Trek Diary – Part 3: February/March – Pendle Hill

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I wrote this post two years ago although I have been back to Pendle twice since then. I find it a fascinating place for its history but it’s also a very beautiful and atmospheric area to walk.  (March 2020).

Pendle Hill is famous among these parts of Lancashire, or should I say infamous? Have you watched Arthur Miller’s The Crucible? Where a frenzy of hysterics erupted in an American society in the 1600s and it was claimed some of the villagers were witches?

Well, something similar happened in Lancashire.

In England, the 1600s was a time of superstition, intolerance and persecution. King James I, who increasingly became more paranoid after the Gunpowder Plot, broadened the Witchcraft Act in 1604.

And so there was, quite literally, a witch hunt.

In 1612, in the Pendle area, Alizon Device cursed a pedlar, and believed she lamed him. An investigation followed and the situation spiralled into a massive witchcraft trial, with other residents being arrested and a nine-year-old girl giving evidence against her family and neighbours. Nine of the ‘witches’ were hanged at Lancaster Castle.

This is a horror story fit for Halloween. Not because there is any ‘devil worship’ or witches on broomsticks or wild cackling, but because a lethal blend of hysteria, superstition, paranoia and persecution got whipped up into a frenzy.

On a happier note, Pendle Hill is also noted as the location where Quaker founder George Fox experienced a spiritual vision.

Back to modern day and, thankfully, more tolerant times.

At Barrowford’s information centre, the woman at the tourism desk was very helpful, giving us not only a map and directions on how to reach Pendle, but details about a sculpture and witch trail.

I always picture Pendle Hill as nearby but it always seemed an awkward place to reach from where I live. We have tried twice before to reach its dizzy heights of 557m. Once, it was snowing. The other time it was pouring with rain. On neither occasion did we reach the spellbinding hill, but only the thereabouts. Perhaps there was a ‘curse’ and we will never reach it?

Barley wasn’t too far from Barrowford and thanks to the helpful information assistant, we recognised the landmarks as we drove past, including a statue of Alice Nutter, one of the witches (or supposed witches, as more likely) in Roughlee.

 

Fellow ramblers know the feeling of reaching a destination and then thinking, have I the right change for the car park? Luckily, Barley car park is very amenable, boasting many spaces, a charming café/souvenir shop, adequate toilets – and parking is a mere £1!

Past the children’s play area, pub, houses and a stall selling free range eggs… Onto a footpath along a river and lo, there is the route to Pendle Hill.

Simon warned me that, on the map, there were tight contour lines further on, meaning a steepness. But I forgot about that as, not long after we started, I sloshed and trampled about in mud and, humiliatingly, even slipped and fell. Embarrassingly, a couple shouted over, are you okay? Yes thank you, I muttered, embarrassed. S, having strided 10 miles ahead (or so it seemed), headed back. I didn’t know you had fallen, he apologised. I grudgingly accepted his apology.

Thankfully the boots were waterproof.

Anyway, no matter, I conquered the soaking wet mud which had no right to trip me up. Now to conquer the steep incline itself. I have dreams (Illusions? Fantasies?) of walking up Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. Not like those crazily fit people who can do the two plus Snowdon in one day. How is that even possible? No, just one at a time for me. I’m not in a rush.

A friend later told me that there were other, more gradual, ways to climb up Pendle Hill. But by then it was too late. Every step was hard. It’s not even a massive hill, 1827ft/557m, but this section was gruelling. I thought longingly of Fairfield Horseshoe’s gradual ascent (certainly in comparison to this incline) until finally I made it. I was at the top!

We walked down a more gradual route. At one point, wondering if we were going the right way. But we finally reached a stream which we followed, ambling along to Barley.

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A cup of tea in the cafe later and we then set off on a Pendle Sculpture Trail. The path takes you past Lower Black Moss Reservoir and stunning scenes of Pendle Hill, then it’s uphill (ah, more steepness!!) until we reach Aitken Wood, located on a slope. By itself, Aitken Wood is a beautiful setting, but here nature meets art, culture and history in one swoop with the Sculpture Trail. We meet a life-size witchfinder, spot metal bats, owl and giant spider’s web and admire The Quaker Tree among many other artworks. Plaques have also been created, illustrating each of the witches. If you pick up a Sculpture Trail leaflet, you could even take part in a competition to win a hotel stay.

So two walks in one this, surprisingly pleasant, winter’s day. So enjoyable that we ventured back a month later. Ironically the weather was worse in March.

I fell again in the mud. Great. Why has it not dried yet?

Snow fell, we turned back half way – and then it stopped and we headed towards the hill again. The hill was as steep as last time. I was as unfit as last time.

I, wimp that I am, asked if we could turn back because of the potential snow.

We were about 10 steps from the top at this point.

We carried on.

At the summit, something was preventing us from walking straight in one line, something threw Simon’s hat away and he, rather comically, had to run after it, and something was trying to push us over the edge of the hill.

Be warned. The hill is possessed – by a terrible gale-force wind. Thankfully, the wind and snow gradually left us alone as we trekked down the path to the cafe where a mug of refreshing tea and a slice of delicious cake awaited us.

Picture courtesy of Simon Hunter20180317_125724

Posted in Gardens

A bar for the bees

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Photo by Palo Cech on Pexels.com

At the time of writing, it’s early days of lockdown and I don’t know how long it will last or whether it will get even worse than it is now. Like many people, I have a lot of worries about it but I’m aiming to live in the present and make much use of my time indoors and in my garden.

Today I decided to grow my Bee Bar Grow Bar. It’s a bee-friendly coconut fibre bar of hyssop, verbena and lavender seeds. I received it as a Christmas present and have been planning to plant it for the last three months.

Happily all packaging can be recycled and the coconut fibre is a sustainable alternative to peat.

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I grew this in March, the instructions say to start it between February and June so this is good timing hopefully.

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I placed the bar in a container and then poured half a litre of water into the tray. When it was nearly dry, I poured more water into the tray and have left it next to my patio door where it should receive sunlight and heat.

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Apparently in a few weeks my bar will have little seedlings and these will grow for a further month before being ready for separation and planting. So I will be keeping a careful eye on both my kitchen herb seeds and this bee-friendly bar of lavender, hyssop and verbena.

P. S Thank you very much Caroline for this thoughtful present! 😀

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Photo by Palo Cech on Pexels.com

 

 

Posted in Gardens, Self-sufficiency

Herbs for the Kitchen

 

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I bought these little herb pots in December and, now I’m living at a time when home and garden life has become more important, it seems like the ideal time to sow these seeds. I have planted parsley seeds before with mixed success, but if it works, I and the guinea pigs will be very happy!

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There are three lovely little china planters sitting on a tray, 10 compost pellets, basil, chive and parsley seeds.

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First, I placed the compost pellets in a container and poured 450ml of lukewarm water.

I left it to stand for about 45 minutes. After this time, I mixed the compost.

I then filled each pot two thirds full with the compost and scattered a sparse layer of seeds – parsley, chives and basil – in a pot each. I then covered each pot with a thin layer of compost.

It now takes pride of place on my kitchen window – a warm, well lit area as suggested by the instructions on the box.

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According to the instructions, it says ‘keep compost moist at all times ‘ and ‘after a few weeks, harvest with scissors as required ‘.

I haven’t used up all the seeds or compost so I’ll put both in a convenient place and re-seed when ready.

Hopefully I will have some herbs for both myself and the guinea pigs in a few weeks!

 

Posted in Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

A wander in Yarrow Valley Country Park

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I had heard of Yarrow Valley Country Park in Lancashire over the years but had never visited, despite it being just over half an hour away. I had also seen photos of kingfishers and field mice inhabiting the reserve so it was obviously a wildlife-rich place. But I often find it’s the places nearest to us that we tend to ignore.

But there’s a first time for everything and there’s certainly a first time for visiting this particular nature reserve, located near Chorley, Lancashire.

Usually nature reserves are maintained by wildlife and environmental charities but the 700-acre Yarrow Valley is actually owned by Chorley Council.

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For all its scenic beauty now, the location has had an industrial background, dating back to the 1300s. By the 1400s, there were at least two mills – a cloth and a corn mill – at the site (called Birkacre). Coal mines (coal was found near the surface) were later established in the valley in the 1500s and 1600s.

At the start of the Industrial Revolution, a cotton mill was built at Birkacre. Up to this point, weaving and spinning was done at home – now it would be done in factories. This proved controversial as domestic manufacturers lost business and in 1779, ‘machine breakers’ destroyed the mill during the Birkacre Riots. Maybe new technology has always been a risk to people’s jobs?

The mill was rebuilt and the focus was now on the textile finishing business (for example, bleaching). A private coal mine for the works was opened in 1880 but, by 1939, the mill and mines were closed and became derelict. It was only in the 1980s when the local council stepped in to create the park.

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There are three self-guided walking leaflets available. Birkacre History Trail (which shows the main sites of its industrial past) is a mile and a half and, according to the leaflet, takes an hour and 30 minutes to complete. This seems a long time for the mileage but it does include stopping and looking and reading about various points of interest.

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The Blue Walk is 4.5 miles long and takes two and a half hours and the Red Walk’s 5.5 miles trail is estimated to take three hours.

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Yarrow Valley Country Park’s Birkacre History Trail

We took a combined History Trail/Blue Walk route. The ponds are referred to as ‘lodges’ and at first I kept expecting to see wooden huts! There are three ponds – Small Lodge, Big Lodge and Top Lodge. Big Lodge, which had an array of swans, ducks and gulls, is the largest and is more like a lake than a pond (pictured below).

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Top Lodge has a reed bed and I suspect that, in better weather, much wildlife can be seen here.

One of the main sights is Birkacre Weir, this enables the water level of the river to be raised. Channels then allow the water to flow into the ponds. On the side is a fish pass, a ladder to help fish migrate upstream. It was built in 2002.

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We visited the park a couple of weeks after Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis and it was possible to see the accumulated rubbish (why can’t people use a bin?) and tree debris in certain parts of the river. But another remnant of the wild weather could be felt by the squelching mud under my feet. Unfortunately, on this occasion, I wore trainers rather than my usual walking boots.

Firstly, it was a country park so I was expecting paths (there are, but there was still mud!). Secondly, I decided to wear my good walking boots, which were in my car boot but then we went in Simon’s car and then…oh, no walking boots. So yes, I missed my walking boots and my trainers were a mucky mess by the time we got back.

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Butterbur, one of the sights spotted at Yarrow Valley Country Park

I write this a month after our ramble and wish I hadn’t been so preoccupied with the mud! Had I known my freedom would become curtailed by coronavirus, I would have treasured this trek more. A lesson to learn indeed. I hope you are all keeping well during these uncertain times.

Information from Yarrow Valley Country Park: Birkacre History Trail leaflet (by local historian Jack Smith).

Yarrow Valley Country Park can be found off Birkacre Road, Chorley, Lancashire. 

 

 

Posted in Chickens, Gardens, Reblog, Self-sufficiency

Down at the allotment

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This is an earlier post I wrote, back in September 2017. I feel like I have learnt a lot about chickens since then!

March 2020

By August 2017, Cosy Cottage’s garden was as chicken-ready as it was ever going to be. Drainage (whether it works or not, we will have to wait and see this winter) set in place; a proper compost heap permanently sited, ready for that delightful manure which would work wonders for the plants; a pond dug, planted (finally) and decorated with cobbles; stone borders transformed into flower beds; the side garden becoming home to a potted floral arena… And of course, the notorious coop taking centre place, proudly standing, no longer an eyesore but a prestigious abode, ready for its lady lodgers.

There was one thing bugging me though.

I didn’t have any practical experience of hens. I didn’t think I was scared of them, but I had never been in close proximity with chickens. What if they pecked? Or drew blood? Attacked me in my bright red dressing gown (apparently they are attracted to the colour red)? What if I, for some bizarre reason, was unable to lift and hold them? Was nervous of them?

This line of thinking was preposterous. I loved my family’s Jack Russells Molly and Teddy, had zero fear of rodents, and was more concerned of accidentally hurting a spider’s leg (although I do hate touching slugs, which I have done by mistake. Sorry slugs).

And yet…

I had tried to enrol on a course but didn’t get very far. I must have read all the chicken books available but what I really wanted was some practical experience… Then a colleague came to the rescue.

J got chickens a year before, six months after he first started working on a coop. In fact, I modelled my coop roughly on his. Except he had a proper plan and I didn’t. Anyway, it took him months to build – which should have warned me that if someone says on a website it takes a ‘weekend’ they are,  ever so slightly, exaggerating (unless Superman or Wonder Woman is building it).

Eventually, his hard work paid off and he had a fine looking coop – waiting for some inhabitants to fill it. Luckily for J, a fellow allotment-holder had four hens he no longer wanted and, once J had his coop up and running, the ladies moved into their new home.

So it was by good fortune that, when J went away, he asked if I could look after them for a week.

Sure, I said, it would be great experience.

And I would get free eggs!

Sweet Caroline, Lucy Muffin, Britney Starr and Lily Sparkles were a bluebell, marans and a white Sussex. Someone unkindly said they had names like strippers – actually it was J, but don’t blame him, it was his daughters who named them!

(The hens were moulting around the bottom area so calling them strippers wasn’t too far off the mark, wear some more feathers in public, girls please!) 🐔🐔🐔

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To say I had a hundred fears (again!) is an understatement. What if they escaped? What if they died (J said to put them in a bin bag and into a bin if this occurred as they weren’t allowed to bury them on the allotment)? A fellow colleague said, how could he say that? How morbid!

But I was glad it was addressed. You know, just in case.

Thank the heavens, it was straightforward. The ladies enjoyed going out into the run when I opened the door (and no one escaped!) And were happy to wander back in when they realised I had lettuce or cabbage, or, a naughty,  very seldom treat, a slice of bread. Britney and Co were hard working and supplied three eggs each day (one wasn’t pulling their weight, I’m not pointing any fingers, Lucy… Just joking, Lucy!)

No one died or got ill. Thank you very much girls.

The coop was fox-proof, so I didn’t need to visit twice a day. It was merely a case of checking they had enough food and water each day.

Of all my fears, finding a hen dead, the four running free and wild over the allotments…

There were actually three real concerns and none really related to the hens.

J showed me the hens one lunchtime at work. The next time me and my parents visited. But could we find the right allotment? Traipsing through other allotments, attracting vegetable growers’ raised eyebrows and suspicious attention, eventually I spotted the landmark sunflower at the front of the coop. Phew!

Second, the keys which appeared to go on strike when it came to opening the shed door for the hens’ feed and corn. I visualised having to go to the Superpet Warehouse for chicken feed. Thankfully my dad came with me the next time and figured out which key to use first. (There were two keys).

Phew!

My last concern was leaving the keys in a safe but clear place for the next helper. I worried I had placed them somewhere too obvious for thieves or conversely, somewhere too obscure for the hen carer.

But when I went back to work a week on Monday, my fears were relieved. I had done a great job, J said, and yes the next helper had found the keys. Everything and everyone was well.

Phew!

I passed the practical test. Now I could get my own hens. 🐤🐤🐤

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Facts of the Day

1. Hybrids are commercial crossbreeds, developed for the battery egg industry in the 1950s.

2. Hybrids include black rock, white star, bluebelle, calder ranger, warrens, isa browns and hy-lines.

3. Popular pure breeds – which are light or heavy, bantam or full-size – include the Buff Orpington (the Queen Mum’s favourite), Sussex and Rhode Island Red.