Thursday, 30 June 2016

Days 28-30: Grebes and wildflowers

The month has flown by and today marks the end of 30 Days Wild. I've enjoyed it so much and it's seemed much less onerous than last year. Maybe I was more relaxed about it or maybe more inspired? It definitely helped being on holiday for part of the month as I had more time to be creative.

Before I call it to a close though, I have the final three days to share.

Day 28: Three become two. I have sad news that one of the baby grebes has disappeared, apparently snatched by a gull. I have a feeling that the lake might not be as abundant in fish as needed as the chicks are increasingly being left alone as both parents search for food. Again and again they dive beneath the surface and come up empty. I'm keeping everything crossed that I'm wrong and the two remaining chicks survive :(

Day 29: A wildflower wasteland. One of my first posts when I started blogging 4 years ago was about the patch of wasteland I pass on my way to work which had been transformed into a pictorial meadow. Over the following years the grasses took over and the flowers gradually disappeared. Over the winter, the area was bulldozed and fenced off. It was a surprise then that I noticed some of the flowers were back. I'm thinking that the bulldozing churned up the ground and spread and reactivated the dormant seed. On my way home yesterday, I stopped to take a closer look: well, as close as you can get through a wire fence.

Day 30: Show your support. I wanted a way to mark the close of 30 Days Wild without it just fizzling out. In the end, it seemed fitting to thank the Wildlife Trusts for organising this initiative by becoming a member so I went online and signed up with Lancashire Wildlife Trust :) Can't wait to receive my membership pack and newsletter to find out what's going on in my local area.

Many thanks to the Wildlife Trusts and to all of you who've been following me through the month. Same time next year? x

Monday, 27 June 2016

Day 27: Make a rosemary wreath

Day 27 and time for something creative. While gardening yesterday, I'd pruned the rosemary bush and it seemed a shame to waste all the sprigs even though there are still plenty more.

I found this watering can in the garage when we moved in and it seemed the perfect place to store the sprigs while I decided what to do.

After a bit of deliberation I decided to make a wreath so, as soon as I arrived home this evening, I set to work. The hoop is an old metal coat hanger.

I used some garden wire to attach the rosemary sprigs around the hoop and used whatever else I could find to decorate it: alchemilla mollis, penstemon, lemon balm and clematis.

Ta-dah! I'm really pleased with it and, of course, my hands smelled amazing afterwards :)

I've also tried this idea which I saw in a magazine. The idea is that the heat from the candle releases the fragrance of the leaves. The jury is still out on this one: it looks pretty but, as I sit here sniffing the air, there's no hint of rosemary.

Last but not least, an update on the baby grebes. As you can see, they're still doing well and sticking close to mum :)

Day 26: Tend the garden

Day 26 and no time for anything special for 30 Days Wild as the garden needed some attention: weeding and dead-heading.

Hoverfly on geum

Rosemary beetle feeding, unsurprisingly, on my rosemary bush. I thought it was really pretty with its shiny blue and red stripes. Of course I then found out it's a pest!

The marsh (?) orchid is almost fully in bloom.

This cocoon was on the underside of a gooseberry leaf. Does anyone know what it is? I'm wondering if it might be the magpie moth I saw recently?

How do snails manage to scale the prickliest of plants? My fingers were stabbed several times just harvesting the berries.

And here's what I harvested, 1.1kg, and there are still more on the bush. It's been a really good harvest again this year.

Hawthorn shield bug

I suppose I should have tried to do something more exciting on the last weekend of the challenge. However, in some ways it's also fitting as it shows you don't have to go much further than your front door to enjoy nature :)

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Alnwick Castle

It's been three weeks now since we came back from our Northumberland holidays and I've finally managed to sort through some of the several hundred photos. One of the great things about blogging is that you get to relive all those moments which now seem so distant they might never have happened! There are still all the posts to write but today I have one of our days out to share.

One of the reasons we chose to stay in the small town of Alnwick was its proximity to lots of places we wanted to visit and especially the castle and gardens. The Castle was a mere 10 minute stroll from our cottage. There are a couple of entrances but we approached the Lion Arch via the park.

There have been castles on this site since 1096 though most of what you see is from the 1300s. It has been the home of the Dukes of Northumberland for over 700 years and they still live in part of it (mostly during the winter when the tourists have gone home). Here we're looking at the inner section which houses the State Rooms. We did have a look around those but there was no photography allowed. It was interesting to see the rooms the family does still use, complete with TV and beanbags for the dogs!

There were lots of free tours and activities to sign up for and we chose the location tour: Harry was our guide. He explained that, as the Castle is so pristine, it has proved a popular location for TV and film-makers. It's most famous as being Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films but has also featured in things like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Blackadder and Downton Abbey.

This is the Inner Bailey. The grass has regularly been dug up to give the rough dirt feel of a medieval castle. I think he said Downton Abbey had filmed in this part (I've never watched it myself).

I do remember that the archway is one of the oldest parts of the castle, dating from Norman times (11th century).

This lantern features towards the end of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves when the evil abbot is pushed from a window in a tower. We were fascinated to hear that his plunge actually featured three different locations. The view as he exits the window was filmed in France, the middle part was Durham Cathedral and it's only the final part that was filmed at Alnwick as he plummets past the lantern. I'll be watching out for it next time I watch the film (one of my favourites).

Out now into the Outer Bailey where the flying lesson in the first Harry Potter was filmed.

The lion carved on the wall is original and the director liked it so much it was kept as the symbol for Gryffindor.

At this point the tour ended and we were left to wander. But what's this?

Why it's Professor Dumbledore! (with broomstick training in the background)

And not only the Professor but Harry Potter himself! They were there to demonstrate some magic.

The young man playing Harry was brilliant and wandered around between performances happily chatting with visitors and posing for photos.

Magic tricks over we strolled along the gun terrace.

At the end was an exhibition to mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown who landscaped the surrounding parkland. The lure of the river and fields proved too much so we ended our visit and headed out of the castle.

The Lion Bridge features a statue of the Percy Lion. Percy is the family name of the Dukes of Northumberland and their lion always has a straight tail.

Lovely views down the river Aln.

We strolled along the river through land known as The Pastures.

Tufted ducks

Children were making the most of the hot weather, playing in the weir.

One last look back at the castle before we retraced our steps and headed back to the cottage. The castle is worth a visit though it's relatively small compared to other castles and there's not as much to see as I expected. I'd definitely sign up for all the free activities to get the most from your visit.

Hope you enjoyed that. I have so much more to show you but, for now, I'm off to have breakfast. Enjoy your Sunday. x