My journal and my life

Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Post #34 Winter Swim

This is where Hayley should have been, but there she was – gone!

Pleasley Woods

Entering woods from a different direction, I’d forgotten that this path led to an open glade, complete with a pond.  Hayley hadn’t forgotten – she’s a labrador water diviner – I’m sure her dad must have been a seal, her mum an otter.  As she suffers with hip dysplasia, I tend to keep her away from water in winter, but by the time I reached her, she’d actually broken through a thin layer of ice & done this:

A pond full of logs

Hayley has a mission, she has to rescue any branch or log drowning in the water & will amuse herself for ages retrieving pieces of wood, even submerging her head completely to reach them as they bob under water.  There was a large log that proved particularly difficult as it’s girth was too big for her jaws & all she ended up doing was spinning it round & round. So frustrating 🙂

Winter pond

After a good roll in the grass, she selects her favourite branch from the newly rescued wood pile & patiently carries it back to the car.  She’s never happy to leave it behind, but if brought home, she’d set to & shred the wood into little pieces with her teeth.

Carrying a favourite stick home

We have a routine once home, I have to sit down with Hayley on my lap for the first half hour of her exhaustion, otherwise, she follows me round & won’t settle.

Post #33 Local Panorama

One of my favourite walks close to home is on a former colliery site, now a country park & one of many in the area.  These sites are great for dog walkers & cyclists, but their existence means the mines, industry & employment has gone, which is sad.

These parks have great views as you’re actually walking on the pit tip, the slag heap of waste left behind when the mines were dug out.  There’s little nutrient in the great mounds of grey shale, so only hardy grass & scrubby bushes can survive.  It’s not at all suitable for crops, but sheep often graze & there were some woolly brown ones enjoying the sunshine today.  It was a parky morning, clear & bright but icy cold, frosty underfoot so not too muddy.

Brown Woolly Sheep

I love the evidence of history that can be viewed, a full 360 degree panorama from the top of the hill.  Looking east over the top of my house, there’s at least two coal fired power stations on the horizon – the steam from the cooling towers indicating the direction of the wind.  Moving southwards & focusing a little closer, there’s a small valley with the towers of a former textile mill peeping above the trees.  The cotton mills were initially powered by the river Meden which had cut through the limestone & created the vale.  Later they were steam powered, fueled by coal from the mine, delivered by rail & it’s still possible to walk part of the route.  The old mills have been featured on the Most Haunted programme.

Notts Derbys Border

Moving on, just below the horizon & again higher than the trees of Sherwood Forest, the pair of headstocks from the former Clipstone Colliery can be seen.  The workshops were demolished when the pit closed, but the headstocks left intact as a historical monument, although a local MP now wants the land redeveloped.

Pleasley & Hardwick

Continuing south west & the five modern wind turbines featured in my post #5 can be seen on the horizon – no steam from these clean machines!  Further westwards & Hardwick New Hall nestles above the trees.  A grand Elizabethan house built by Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury – Bess of Hardwick, a magnificent woman who outlived four husbands & amassed their wealth.

Post #31 Good News Stories

I haven’t taken the photos today as I’ve had a busy day working, end of month invoicing for a client.  But there’s two news stories that made me smile over the last couple of days.  People randomly having good luck & possibly coming into large amounts of cash – how absolutely wonderful for them 🙂

A retired couple in Northumberland had been planting pansies in a 2,000 year old Roman coffin for 30 years!  An ornate marble sarcophagus was sat in the garden of the house they bought in 1982 & not listed in the deeds – I wonder if the vendors have watched the news?  It’s apparently almost identical to another Roman sarcophagus in the Galleria Lapidaria in the Vatican & may be worth as much as £100,000 – brilliant!

Sarcophagus

Then today, the news reported a man & his dog had found whale vomit on Morcambe beach, also possibly worth £100k!  The hard lump of ambergris is used in the perfume industry, especially in very high-end scents.  How on earth did anyone discover that fact?

Sperm Whale Vomit - Ambergris

The foul smelling substance is secreted by sperm whales, possibly to protect their intestines from he irritation caused by the beaks of their prey, squid & cuttlefish.  Once vomited, the ambergris can float around in the sea for years, gradually hardening & developing a sweet smell.

Well, I’ve learned two pieces of trivia – what ambergris is used for, & rather morbidly, that sarcophagus means “flesh-eater” in Greek.

Post #30 Eat Your Greens

Most labradors will eat anything, they’re veritable dustbins! My previous golden lab Amber was anybody’s for a strawberry. Strawberries, apple, orange, grapes & any vegetable apart from celery. She was a hoover, nose to the ground snuffling up everything she came across.

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This is a photo of my current lab, Hayley on a walk today. She loves green vegetables & we give her the crunchy centres of cabbage & broccoli stalk, but she won’t eat red veg – red for danger perhaps? Anyway, such is her love of brassicas that here she is, tugging & pulling up the remains straight out of the ground in the field!

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Post #29 Kiruba the Elephant

Meet Kiruba, my Asian elephant 🙂

Adopt an Elephant

As mentioned in my last post, on impulse I signed up to adopt a tiger on the WWF website.  As this only cost a few pounds per month & as I’d seen a news report about the dreadful poaching of elephants, I wanted an elephant as well.  How can anyone kill such magnificent & noble creatures?  It brings tears to my eyes, but the soft toy reminds me that I’m doing a little towards protecting the species.

Kiruba is around 40 years old with a son called Anand & a daughter Tula.  She’s the matriarch of a tribe of about 20 elephants living in the Corbett National Park at the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India.  The population of Asian elephants hasn’t declined quite as much as the tigers as there are approximately 40-50,000 left from 100,000 in the year 1900.  They are still on the endangered list though & there’s nothing quite a cute as a baby elephant is there?

They make good soft toys – when we were babies, my brother didn’t have a teddy bear, he had a cuddly toy elephant called Empt, which he carried everywhere holding onto his trunk 🙂

Post #28 Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright

This is the newest addition to the household – meet Kamrita 🙂

Adopt a Tiger with WWF

She’s a Bengal tiger, about 9-10 years old, with two cubs (a male & a female) & she lives in the Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal.  I’ve ‘adopted’ her through the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) after watching one of their ads on TV, which followed a read of the book ‘Life of Pi‘, which may be a blog subject itself.  Tigers abound!

It’s not expensive, only a few pounds each month to become one of Kamrita’s adopters, but it felt so good to do so.  I don’t usually have cuddly toys, just a couple bought for me by family, but I wanted a reminder of the magnificent beauty of these endangered animals.  Now I can carry-on smiling as I stroke her, knowing my money is going to a worth-while cause.

Like all tigers, Kamrita has her own individual pattern of stripes & the WWF can monitor where she is when she crosses an infra-red beam, thus triggering a camera.  It’s important to keep an eye on tigers in the wild as they’ve declined in numbers from more than 100,000 at the turn of the century to as little as 3,200 today – a reduction of more than 95%!

Post #26 Midnight Snow

Many of my posts have been about the weather & particularly snow!  However, when spending all day in front of the computer working for my clients, other than walking the dogs daily, I don’t always have the opportunity to do much else.  Much like most people I assume?  I enjoy my work & have chosen to be a Virtual Assistant as I’m a good PA, I love being organised, I have a great relationship with my clients & enjoy the variety of my workload.

Snow & Trees

Anyway, back to the daily photo – this is the snow as it was first thing in the morning.  I was actually walking in a snow storm at 2am in the morning which the dogs thought was great!  The light was bright, but I hadn’t taken my camera or phone.  The wind was blowing from the wind turbines (see post #5) & as there was virtually no traffic noise, I could actually hear the whiney, swooshy hum as they turned.  There were a few cars on the road & it was interesting to note that the snow ploughs came along in threes, just like buses 🙂

On the track, I was sheltered from the wind by the bushes either side & thoroughly enjoyed trudging through the virgin snow.  It was so exhilerating – something to knock of my bucket list perhaps?  Having a friend with mobility difficulties who’s slowly progressing towards being permanently wheelchair-bound, I always feel so very grateful when walking, fully appreciating the fact that I can.

Post #25 Snow Dogs

Dogs love snow, it sends them whappy!  Whilst it’s difficult for us to trudge through the drifts, the dogs chase snowballs & each other.

Snow Dogs

There’s always hares on the field where we walk, but they usually ‘hare’ off & are quickly camouflaged.  The dogs half-heartedly run after & then give up.  Today I could see many against the snow at the opposite side of the field which was criss-crossed by their distinctive tracks.  The dogs were snuffling in the scrapes where the hares had rested, revealing the ground underneath.

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After an exhilarating walk, I had a good day, dipping in & out of two or three clients’ work all day, plenty to keep me busy working from home. It’s Friday with more snow forecast & as I write this, it’s already more than an inch deep – more fun for the dogs 🙂

Post #24 Feed the Birdie

Blackbirds love cheese 🙂  I had a bird table at my last house, but left it behind when we sold & moved.  Then I lived with my son, his wife, small back yard & a cat or two so it wasn’t really fair to attract birds into the garden.  Since moving here to my own home, a bird table has been on my shopping list.  When the weather turned to ice & snow, I left bird food on the top of a wheelie bin at the bottom of the garden where I could see the birds from my window.  Perhaps not as attractive to look at as a bird table, but at least the birds were fed, & that’s what matters.

How do the birds know where to come for food when it’s not been there before & how do they know it’s edible?  Is it extremely keen vision or do the birds see you pottering about, leaving scraps behind?  No sooner as I’d put a mix of crumbs, cheese & sultanas on the bin & retreated to the house, I was watching a blackbird tuck in.

The following day, the fourth with snow on the ground, a number of hungry seagulls were wheeling around my garden, beady eyes on the food.  However it appeared that there was insufficient room to land on the bin as they soon departed.

Flock of seagulls

At a previous house many years ago I remember watching a sparrow hawk plummet into the hawthorn hedge immediately outside the window.  It quickly grabbed a sparrow & flew off, almost before I realised what had happened!  In the garden of another home, there was a holly tree full of red berries until one winter afternoon a flock of birds descended & loudly stripped it bare in a matter of minutes.  They were bigger than sparrows, but smaller than a thrush & later research revealed them to be redwings, a member of the thrush family.  According to RSPB information, redwings overwinter in the UK, but are rarely seen in gardens, except when snow covers the fields, their usual habitat.  We were privleged to witness their brief arrival & fight to prevent starvation.

Redwing

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