Saturday, 26 February 2011

A Week in the Peaks

We have just returned from a great week in the Peak District. Having been as far as Nottingham many times before, we somehow had never seemed to make it as far as the Peaks. We rented a lovely cottage in the village of Baslow which we used as our base for the week. Although the weather was grim at the beginning of the week, including some snow, we still managed to get out on some great walks. The highlight of the week however was the Thursday when the rain stopped, the clouds parted and the sun shone. Having attempted to do the Tissington Trail earlier in the week only to find it was snowing, we made the most of the break in the weather.

The Tissington Trail is a purpose made cycle track and footpath on what used to be the Buxton to Ashbourne railway line. What surprised me however was that it has been open for recreational purposes since the early 1970's. We cycled up hill, climbing something like 700 metres over the 13.5 miles from Ashbourne to Parsley Hay where we stopped for lunch. The track does continue a bit further from there, and also joins the High Peak Trail, but we'll have to leave that for another day.

Road bridge crossing the Tissington Trail

Road bridge crossing the Tissington Trail

Tissington Trail, just north of Tissington station

Tissington Trail, Hartington signal box

Back home now it's back to business as usual. We've just about unpacked everything and I even managed a short 10 mile bike ride today, albeit in the rain. This is part of my attempt to be able to get into a suit that I need to wear to a family wedding at the end of March. I fear however that my wife and one of the kids is at this very moment at the village market buying cakes.

And probably the most exciting news since being home is that I finally attracted a Goldfinch to my bird feeder. I did try and get a photo but managed to scare it off in the process.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

A heron in Hyde Park

The mixed weather this week has meant that getting out and about and finding some space has been more of a challenge. So far this week I've only managed one brief escape which was to Hyde Park during my lunch break. The weather was awful but I was rewarded with this magnificent Heron.

Heron, Hyde Park

I'm sorry to report that the new bird feeders in the front garden do not seem to have attracted any birds whatsoever, but the established one in the back garden is still going strong and I saw my first starling for ages - I remember as a kid we always had loads in the garden but it's been a while since I've seen one.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Making the most of the weather

I'm really glad that I managed to fit in both a bike ride and a walk yesterday while the weather was good, as today it's really horrible. The bike ride was a pleasant 24 miler across West Berkshire, with a few small hills but nothing too torturous ... although I do ache this morning, but that's probably more to do with my overall lack of fitness rather than over doing it yesterday. The birds were responding well to the change in weather and my favourite sighting of the day was a couple of nuthatches searching for insects on a tree trunk. Once again I seemed to have many of the roads and tracks to myself, which was surprising given the glorious day. Below are a few snaps I took on the ride ...

Lone wood

To road to somewhere

Silhouette of bare trees against winter sky

I have now installed a bird feeder in my front garden, which has cover provided by the buddleia, so hopefully the same goldfinches that are always feeding in the garden a few houses along the road will also visit mine.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Clear blue skies and goldfinches

What a marvellous day today - crisp and frosty to start with, then warming gently throughout the day but still with a nip in the air. I managed to find some 'space' today when I squeezed in a short lunchtime bike ride. A shame my time was limited as I'd have loved to have gone further. With the weather improving and the evenings becoming lighter, it will soon be time to get out in the garden and do the tidying that we never did in December because of the snow. I still have loads of twiggy dead-heads to remove but thought I'd take a quick picture of the one below before I did. We're not sure what this plant is, other than it's a bit like a cross between a teazel and a doc leaf, with yellow flowers. The birds love the seeds in the autumn/winter, and groups of ladybirds seem to hibernate amongst the seed heads in the winter.

Having spotted some Goldfinches in a neighbour's garden I am determined to get some in mine. My plan of attack is to place as additional bird feeder in the front garden, near the Buddlleia to give the birds some cover as they flit to and from the feeder, as I think the feeders in the back garden are too exposed ... watch this space.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Snowdrops and punctures

The newly purchased bird food has had some success. A pair of Robins are now frequent visitors, along with Blue Tits, Coal Tits and Long Tailed Tits. The nyger seed however does not seem to have attracted any newcomers whatsoever. The special nyger seed dispenser is quite shiny and catches the light as it blows in the wind, which I'm wondering if it's scaring the birds?

The weather is none too inspiring at the moment but I have managed to force myself to leave the house and get some exercise. Did a great 5 mile walk yesterday after work, and a 12 mile bike ride today. Bike ride was great, even with a puncture, which fortunately I had close enough to home so as not to have to mend it on the roadside. There was plenty of wildlife about during the ride, but of course none of it sat around long enough for a panting cyclist to dismount and get the camera out. However, these snowdrops were not going to get up and run off, so I made myself content with these instead.

Snowdrops on the roadside

Since my last post I have managed to pick up even more CDs inspired by Rob Young's 'Electric Eden' book, including 5000 Spirits by The Incredible String Band, which is a current favourite on the iPod. I'm hoping to be able to track down a few more next week and once again I'm working up in London for 2-3 days.
Being the world's slowest reader, I am struggling to conquer my book mountain. I am still reading 'News From Nowhere' by William Morris, along side 'Electric Eden'. Even reading on the early train into London has become a struggle and I am dozing off more frequently than usual.

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