Thursday, January 11, 2018

Peak Wildlife Park

Just a few of the animals we saw last week at the Peak Wildlife Park near Leek.
Meerkats - great fun to watch.  I think the photo bottom right of the collage should be entitled 'Alexander and Sergei begin their journey to the centre of the earth'.  Apologies to those readers who don't know of the Meerkat adverts here on British television.

Fluffy Wallabies, their fur bushed out because it was so cold. It seems apt to have wallabies here as up until about twenty years ago there were wallabies on the Roaches in the Staffordshire Mooorlands and many people still remember seeing them.  They first arrived in the mid 1930s when Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Courtney Brocklehurst established a small private zoo in Roaches Hall, Upper Hulme.  Information from a label on on 'Wally' found in Lud's church 1st December 1993,  now in a glass case at the top of the stairs in the Nicholson Institute and Library in Leek.

Humbolt Penguins, charming creatures even though the aroma of their fishy dinner was overwhelming.  There is an area where you can watch them swimming underwater. The little visitors and their parents loved them and the viewing area was always busy.

A whiskery Otter of the Asian short-clawed variety.  When we last visited the Peak Wildlife Park there was one lone, male otter who had lost his mate.  Eventually, another one was found for him and when we visited there were now five otters in the little family.

There were three of these sheep in the paddock but this one seemed to take a shine to us and came down to the fence to meet us.  I think they are Swiss or Valais black-nosed sheep.  They have such cute faces.

Ring tailed lemurs - we spent ages watching them and their antics. There were also black and white ruffled lemurs and black lemurs, interestingly as with blackbirds the female is brown.  The latter two types were quite shy but the ringtail lemurs made up for that and played to the crowd - well us and two others.

Last but not least fluffy bunnies.  I do like a fluffy bunny and these were huge!  Each one had its own little home.

Hard to choose a favourite from these but I think the Otter would have to be at the top of the list. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Mistle Thrush

Yesterday we saw not one but three of what we are fairly certain are Mistle Thrushes flying around the trees in between the Trent and Mersey canal and the larger of the two lakes at the nature reserve at Westport.

I only had my little Canon camera with me as we hadn't expected to stop for a walk on our busy morning of shopping, getting my hair cut and taking Christmas cards for recycling.  We also had loads of used stamps which I'd been collecting for ages and so we took them to the Westport Lake Visitor Centre for the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust.

After a coffee and toasted teacake we walked around both lakes and it was there we spotted the Mistle Thrush which had the brown head, pink legs and white edges to the tail mentioned by the RSPB on their bird identification site.  It isn't a song thrush and we are fairly sure the one above isn't a Fieldfare which when we first spotted the birds we thought they were. I'm so glad the bird was close enough to take a photo of and that it stayed long enough whilst I fiddled with my camera with extremely cold fingers.

According to the RSPB the Mistle Thrush has a red UK conservation status which means it is a highly endangered species.

Here is a link to the RSPB  and more about endangered birds. 

Also this week I have registered for the Big Garden Bird Watch which will take place this year on 27th to 29th January.  We have been participating in this survey for quite a few years now and it is always an enjoyable thing to do, you can do the survey in your own garden or a nearby park or reserve.

Here is a link to more information.

As we walked around the lake we spotted a pair of Little Grebes or Dabchicks as they are also known.  They were too quick and also the angle of the sun made it impossible to take any photos with the camera I had with me. It was great to get out in the fresh air and I'm so glad we decided to walk for a while.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Into the New Year

Blue skies on our walk yesterday such a contrast to the driving rain and gusting wind howling around the house this evening.

I'm just popping in to say thank you to all the people who visit this blog, thank you for your continued support, comments and blogging friendship throughout last year, in fact for the last few years.

I hope there are many blue skies to come for us all in this new year.

 Welcome to 2018,  may it be a good year for all of you.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

After Christmas

The last few days seem to have consisted of food, brisk walks, good books, listening to music and the occasional watching of television and more food.

We had prepared a lot of the Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve the filling for our usual Chestnut and Red Wine Puree en Croute was made ready to be covered in puff pastry the next day, a few mince pies were made with what was left of the pastry.  Vegetables like Brussels Sprouts and Red Cabbage were prepared with just the root vegetables left to peel on Christmas morning.

For our joint Christmas present we had sent for Ancestry DNA kits in November, when there was a special offer, and duly sent them off.  My results came back on Christmas Eve but Paul has to resend his for some reason.  As I expected my results showed my links firmly in the Midlands,  Forty four percent Great Britain - Northern England and the Midlands. Twenty Two percent Western Europe and twenty percent Scotland, Wales and Ireland.  Nine percent Scandinavia, Finland and North West Russia and five percent Iberian Peninsula.  I have yet to work out the connotations of this but I seem to be made up of little bits of possibly Roman, Norman, Celt and Norse with later British/Midlands influences.  I find it absolutely fascinating and there are several second, third and fourth cousins whom I can contact which I may do in the New Year.

I found television programmes I wanted to watch a bit thin on the ground this year but we did watch Maigret in Montmartre on Christmas Eve.  We also watched The Highway Rat, Dr Who (just Paul) Upstart Crow and Victoria (just me) on Christmas Day.  I've spent most of the time reading a collection of short stories by P D James and the latest 'Fethering' mystery by Simon Brett. I've also just started The Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz.

I'll leave you with a few photos of Geese spotted on one of our walks

and a few photos from our visit to the World of Wedgwood's Magical Christmas.

How was your Christmas? Have you had a great time?  I hope so. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Happy Christmas

Wishing you all

a Peaceful and Joyous Christmas 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Out and About

Things were a bit slow last week as the snowy weather stopped us from going too far. The road we live on was very icy for most of the week, the wheelie bin collectors who normally come on Tuesday finally emptied our bins on Friday afternoon. We cancelled driving over to Mansfield a couple of times but finally got there on Thursday to visit family.  Avoiding the A50/A38 route because there had been several accidents reported on those roads recently we drove through country roads via Ashbourne, Matlock and Clay Cross to Scarcliffe, the small village I grew up in, to put a festive wreath on my Mum and step dad's grave in the churchyard.  

The church of St Leonard dates from the early twelfth century.  The school I attended as a child isn't far from the church and was very involved with the church through the school year.  The Vicar used to come to the school to talk to us and occasional visits to the church were made.  Sunday School was held at the Vicarage.  I remember the vicar during my time at the junior school was The Reverend Jeremy Wootton and his housekeeper was an elderly lady (or so she seemed to me as a child) called Miss Heatherington. Funny the things you remember! Our teachers at school were Mrs Groves and Mrs Phipps, the school secretary was Mrs Russen and the cook was Mrs Coupe.  With only thirty five pupils the village school was like a large family.

One story we learnt at school was the tale of Lady Constantia de Frecheville who with her small child was lost in darkness in the nearby woods.  She was guided to safety by the ringing of the curfew bell at the church.  She left land to the church which would pay for the curfew bell to be rung each night to help others who may be lost.  There is a monument to her in the church but of course the church was locked whilst we were there and we were short on time but I have found a link to a blog where the writer has recorded a visit to the church in 2016 whilst it was open for History Open Days and there are photos of the monument there.  Northern Vicar's Blog

The churchyard was full of pheasants. Of course as soon as I came ambling around the corner they scattered to the four winds, especially the females.  Just a few male pheasants carried on pecking at the grass regardless of a striding female wearing padded winter coat and wellies, clutching a very prickly holly wreath.  I left Paul in the car to ring family to tell them we were running a bit late as we had managed to get behind every slow vehicle you could think of down the country lanes. When I rounded the corner he was standing on the grass in front of the church with phone held high, unable to get a decent enough signal to make a call.

I'm sure those pheasants in the churchyard would not have been amused at the feathers to be found in the wreath on the door to the Emma Bridgewater factory shop and cafe.  It was very pretty though.  Inside the seasonal decorations seemed to be made up of pheasant feathers and large, dried allium heads which must have been from the little walled garden at the back of the shop as I saw them there in the summer.

Of course we couldn't resist the cafe and it was about time that we had our first mince pie of the season.  Very tasty they were too.  I loved the Robin mug, so cheering and festive.

Meanwhile back home the foxes have been active lately, visiting the garden during the day time, especially when the snow was on the ground.  The fox below is one of this year's cubs, a little female, she has a lovely bushy tail with a black tip and black or very dark brown fur on her lower legs.

Last weekend we headed up to Little Moreton Hall to listen to Piva singing their Tudor Christmas songs.  We go every year and their performance always starts Christmas for me.

I'll be back with more about this visit later, meanwhile I wish you all a Peaceful and Joyous Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Snow Days

Days at home due to the snow concentrate the mind into doing the festive 'need to do' jobs you've been putting off, like writing Christmas Cards.

We now have a pile of them to post and hopefully tomorrow we can don our hats, warm coats and wellies and walk down to the post office to send them on their way.

 Whilst I was sitting at the kitchen table writing the last few cards, held back to put letters or notes inside, Paul made Welsh Cakes and they were delicious with afternoon tea whilst watching a silly but entertaining Christmas film.

 This morning we woke to another fall of snow.   Paths were cleared to the bird feeders which needed topping up ready for the cold weather ahead.

 The garden looks wonderful in the snow and it's so quiet and peaceful too under its fluffy white blanket.

No animal or human footprints as yet.

First bird at the ground feeder is old Mr Blackbird with his white feathery neck markings, he's been in and around our garden for a few years now and entertains us with his melodies in Spring.  I hope he makes it into next year.

Next to the feeder is the fearless one legged Robin.  He or she does have a second leg which hangs loosely under their body.  It often comes close to the kitchen window and stares in as if to say 'come on! you are late with those breakfast buggy nibbles this morning.'   Perhaps he/she would like a side order of meal worms too.

When the Goldfiches come in every perch on the feeders is taken and the one in the middle starts to form an orderly queue for a perch to get at the sunflower hearts which the finches around here seem to prefer to niger seed.

The next visitors were a pair of Greenfinches.

and a Chaffinch, it's definitely a Finch day today.

 Of course there are also Starlings. 

Who fight to get to the window feeder

 Another Robin peering to see what is left after the Starlings have visited.  Most of these photos were taken through the conservatory windows which had steamed up slightly due to me ironing......

..........and Paul making cheese scones for lunch.  We've had homemade soup for lunch for the last couple of days carrot yesterday and celery on Friday and I've really enjoyed those and cooking and baking certainly keeps the kitchen warm.

Later this afternoon I'll sit with a good festive book, I can't say what it is as I've bought a copy (mine is from the library) as a present and I know the person who is to receive it reads this blog.  In complete contrast I also have a book on my Kindle called 'One Summer in Tuscany' by Domenica De Rosa who as Elly Griffiths writes the wonderful murder mysteries set in Norfolk featuring forensic archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway and the equally entertaining Stephens and Mephisto novels set in 1950s Brighton. 

This novel is a departure from those mentioned above and is more romance/humour in the vein of Judy Astley and Trisha Ashley but it is an escape to sunnier climes which compensates for the snow outside and it is about a creative writing course held in a castle near Sienna. 

Staying in on snow days isn't so bad but I will be glad if we can get out and about again tomorrow.