Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's Halloween!

Whilst I was speaking to a friend on the 'phone a couple of days ago there was a knock at her door and her husband went to answer it; he came back to say it was 'trick or treaters' who were calling early because they were flying out to Teneriffe on Saturday! Does anyone else think this is slightly bizarre?

Anyway I have a bowl full of little packets of chocolate buttons for all the little witches, elves, ghosts and fairies who may call. The bigger ones wearing scream masks, Dracula teeth or with hatchets in their heads will have to swallow their 'street cred' and manage with buttons too - if there are any left from the first round of little ones of course!

I've dug out my 'Scottish Play' tea towel from the bottom of the drawer, not used all that often, but quite apt for today I think.

However you spend Halloween, have a great time!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Visit to Heage Windmill

In my post about our walk along the last section of the Monsal Trail - here - I mentioned our meeting with a couple of the volunteers on their stall at the Bakewell Farmer's market and our promising to visit the Windmill before it closed for the winter. Well, last weekend we managed to get there.

Heage Windmill stands very proudly on a hill overlooking the village of Nether Heage. From the car park you can see right across the valley towards Whatstandwell and Crich. On the photo below you can see Crich Stand in the distance.

The mill is a Grade II listed building with six sails and a fantail, I thought it might be a smock mill but the information leaflets call it a squat tower mill.

It was built in the 1790s and according to records originally had a boat shaped top or cap, four sails and no fantail. The sails and cap were blown off and destroyed by a violent storm in February 1894 and the owners rebuilt it with six sails.

The mill, which stopped working in 1919, lies just within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site which streches from Matlock Bath and Cromford in the North to Darley Abbey and Derby in the South. It was left abandoned until 1966 when it was purchased by Derbyshire County Council. Heage Windmill Society, which now administers and cares for the mill, was formed in 1996 as a registered charity and volunteers from the Friends of Heage Windmill act as guides and interpreters of the site.

Our guide showed us around the outside of the mill and the miller himself told us about the workings of the sails and set them in motion for us. It was quite a windy afternoon and the noise of the sails going round and round was amazing on the outside and on the inside too. You can see a sail passing by one of the windows on the top floor in the photo below.

The guide was very informative and the miller kept popping in to answer questions too. The Miller is a very skilled man who knows by touch how to grade the flour and alter the settings of the grinding stones to produce different flour textures. He also knows when it is safe to set the sails in motion, something that is learned through experience over many years.

The Millstones used for milling the flour are now made from French stone; the original Derbyshire millstone grit stones are not used anymore because of the small pieces of grit
which would get into the flour.

Because the mill now produces flour for sale to help with its upkeep several Health and Safety regulations have to be followed - many of the working parts have been enclosed to guard against dust and contamination of the flour but there are plenty of 'hands on' replicas of how the mill would have worked before these regulations.

We bought some flour and were given a recipe leaflet to go with it. If you are interested you can read more details about the history and restoration of the mill on the Society's website - here.
This is the first time I've put a video clip on my blog so I hope it works. Apologies for the curious angle at which I took it - I was standing at the bottom of the mound on which the mill stands and not even sure if I was filming at all as I've never done it before.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Feed the Birds

Don't forget that today is the RSPB's Feed the Birds Day - read more about it here

I feed the birds all year round but have bought in extra supplies for this time of year so as well as seed and peanuts they have fat balls, suet and mealworms too.

OK, where are you? Dinner is ready!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Final Visit

We've been to Consall Hall Landscape Gardens several times in Spring and Summer, in fact I've written about it on this blog before. The gardens aren't very far away from where we live, about 15 minutes by car and we'd always planned to go in Autumn, in fact the last time we went the man on the desk said to us that the gardens were spectacular in Autumn so this year we decided to visit. Imagine my surprise and sadness when I visited the garden's website to check the opening times only to read that on 28th of October they were closing for good.

The reason they are closing is twofold; the owner and designer of the gardens Mr William Podmore is nearly 91 years old and the number of people visiting has fallen over the last couple of years making it financially impossible for him to continue, so he has decided to call it a day.

Over fifty years Mr Podmore has created a superb garden of lakes, woodlands, wildlife habitats, summerhouses and follies from what was formerly an industrial site.

The gardens are right next door to the Consall Nature Park and the Churnet Valley Railway - you can hear the steam train - the one I photographed in the last post but one - toot tooting as it passes through the Churnet Valley and stops at nearby Consal Station on its way from Froghall to Cheddleton.

Everywhere you look is a spectacular view arranged by Mr Podmore to maximum effect for the visitor - a constant delight to the eye and the senses.

These are just a few of the many photos I took and I would normally say to whet your appetite for a visit but in this case unless you can go on the next two Wednesdays or this coming Sunday it won't be possible.

I'm so glad that we were able to visit this wonderful garden, which I'm sure has brought such pleasure to its visitors over the last four years since it opened, one last time before it closes and at such a beautiful time of year too.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

All Sorts

The Tulip Tree at the top of the garden is looking quite spectacular at the moment as it has changed its colour from bright green to bright gold.

There are some interesting leaves in the garden - all sorts of attractive colours.

These two visitors pop by every evening to collect and eat any seeds the birds have dropped from the bird feeders - sorry it's not a great picture as I was trying to be quiet and they weren't very still.

Today we spent the morning wandering around Bridgemere and Dagfields looking for a birthday present. We were successful but as the recipient will probably read this post - I'll say no more.

I saw this lovely display in one of the units at Dagfields; we spent ages wandering around the antiques and bric-a-brac stalls and also the second hand bookshop which had some amazing books.

Since my last post all those charity bags have popped through our post box; as I only had a few items to give I had to chose just one of them. I always chose the ones belonging to a registered charity but even then when I put anything out I wonder if they actually get to the proper collector as I know that some people take them when they shouldn't. All in all it is probably better to take the bag to the relevant charity shop as then you know that at least your items reached their destination.

Last but not least a photo taken on our walk last week - I loved the fact that the cattle were almost the same colour as the autumnal trees in the background - yes that is a bull in the middle but there was a sturdy fence between us and it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkins, Steam Trains and a bit of Mime

The Mime artist above was helping to encourage people into the new L'Occitane shop at Trentham Gardens retail outlet. I didn't need much encouragement but he escorted me into the shop anyway. I love L'Occitane perfumes and was bought their 'Eau de 4 Reines' for my birthday this year. For those of you who know Trentham, L'Occitane is in the unit where the Emma Bridgewater shop used to be - next door to the Yankee Candle Shop. The mime artist had a friend playing suitable French music on an accordian - all very entertaining.

Meanwhile, in the Trentham Garden Centre they are getting into the mood for Halloween with loads of witchy, batty and spidery displays inside whilst outside we found these lovely displays of pumpkins and gourds.

It was Steam Train weekend at the Churnet Valley Railway and after our long Sunday morning walk we stopped by on the way home to watch the 2p.m. train leave Froghall for Cheddleton.

Froghall is a lovely station and very well kept by the volunteers who help run this railway.

The sounds and smells of the train as it left the platform brought back some childhood memories of travelling on the railways.

Woosh - it was gone in a puff of smoke under the road bridge and on its way to Cheddleton.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sculptures in the Woods

Last Sunday we headed off to Cannock Chase to walk in the woods. We found this intriguing trail and followed it for part of our walk and then found the end of it on our way back.

It was a community arts project called The Route to Health. I photographed most of the displays and sculptures along the way and have chosen some of the best ones to share with you.

The one above is 'Earth Mother'

I guess we were representing the tortoise and the people flying past us on cycles from the hire shop or jogging past as part of the orienteering event that was happening that day were representing the hare. We were slower but got there in the end.

Walking the dog - there were lots of people doing that, too.

Exercise - good for the heart and mind - keeps you fit and happy.

Keeping happy makes you smile and here is what you use for a healthy smile!

Laugh, dance, listen to music - all healthy pursuits.

We strayed off The Route to Health into the woods.

This was a very busy side of the Chase and the first time we had walked here; there was also a 'Go Ape' type of activity with wires extending out above the paths so you had to dodge people dangling above you as they slid, screaming down the wires as well as trying to keep out of the way of the cyclists and joggers. It was all well organised but not the place for a quiet stroll. The side of the Chase where we normally park is far more tranquil - even so it was great to see so many people out and about and being active. The route to health indeed!

Thursday, October 08, 2009


An Autumn Haiku for National Poetry Day

Wind rustles through trees
Crisp leaves fall upon the ground
where green turns to gold

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Lots to Do

Last week was a fairly busy week. As well as my trip to Leicester on Thursday there was plenty to do at home. Things like taking advantage of the dry weather to mow the lawns for what is probably the last time this season. I managed to get this done on Monday morning and on Monday afternoon I reduced all the shrub and tree clippings in size so they could be put in the garden wheelie bin, we've been waiting for it to be emptied again, I think we could do with a weekly collection at this time of year.

The biggest job in the garden this week has been sorting out the pond. It had got very overgrown during the summer with both flag iris and water lillies taking over; these plants were taking a lot of water from the pond and this plus dry weather over the last week or so had led to the levels in the pond going down.

On Saturday morning we decided to tackle the problem. Water was added to the pond and then all the plants were lifted out, the mud cleared out from the bottom and held in a tray and sifted for wildlife. Plants were reduced in size and quantity and then replaced. We now have a happy pond.

The last of the tomatoes and cucumbers were collected from the greenhouse during the week so on Saturday afternoon I made some Green Tomato Chutney.

Later today I'm going to make some Cucumber Pickle; both recipes from the little book pictured below.

I've also been planting up bulbs for the winter months; pink Hyacinth and Paper White Narcissus which apparently have a wonderful scent. They are now stored in the back of the garage in the cool and dark as per the instructions - I hope they will produce some lovely scents and colour for the dull days of January.

Last but not least I've been knitting wool squares for the project I found on Teresa's blog. I've been using up scraps of wool and I've been knitting them whilst watching TV - things like 'Waking the Dead', 'Spiral.' Nigel Slater's 'Simple Suppers', 'Autum Watch', ' Land Girls' and Sunday evening's new adaptation of Jane Austen's 'Emma'.