Wednesday, February 27, 2013

52 Weeks of Happy - Week Eight

Strange little 'happy' things this week as I've spent most of it struggling to shake off a cough and cold which has made me feel quite low.  I don't think I went out of the house from Wednesday until Monday, so it was lovely to get out of the house today and walk around the lake at Trentham Gardens.  Later I ventured into the garden at home to do a little clearing up and to see what has been happening there over the last few weeks.  It was wonderful in the sunshine!

1.  In the gardens at Trentham the first signs of the swathes of daffodils that appear each year are visible in the sunlight under the trees.  It really did feel as if Spring was on the way.

2.  A little blue primula growing in our garden - such a vivid colour.

3.  Both cats out and enjoying themselves in the garden after a long winter of curling up as close as they could to the radiators or us.

4. The first shoots of rhubarb, it won't be long now until the first rhubarb crumble of the year.

Link to the blog where  '52 weeks of Happy' started. Each week you find just four things that have made you happy to share.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Duffield Castle

It was bitterly cold as we climbed the steps to the top of the knoll overlooking the centre of  the little town of Duffield.  Here we found all that remains of the once mighty Duffield Castle.

It is hard to imagine that on this spot, where all there is to be seen is the mixture of modern tarmac and some stones placed there by Victorian antiquarians after archaeological excavations in 1886, stood a castle keep so large that it was, in the 12th century, second only in size to the White Tower at the Tower of London.  The administrators of the site say now that it is possibly the third largest medieval keep in England.

It was founded by Henry de Ferrers in the 12th century as a motte and bailey fortress and had a short and turbulent history.  It was used as a stronghold by the de Ferrers family when they staged rebellions against not one but two Kings, Henry II and Henry III.  It was destroyed in 1266 after a battle which took place close to Chesterfield.  The battle happened after the de Montfort rebellion of the previous year.  After Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester was killed at the battle of Evesham in 1265 some of the Barons who supported him re-grouped in Derbyshire but were finally defeated and the baronial wars of that era finally ended.

The first castle was destroyed in 1173  but a few years later William de Ferrers had a large stone keep built on the motte which was thirty metres square with walls five metres thick.  He also had a huge deep well placed inside the keep.  The little mound above is the safety cap over the well.

The bailey has been built over and what is left of the walls of the keep is under protective tarmac.

The site is now managed by the National Trust who are hoping to undertake new archaeological excavations to discover more about the site.

Apparently on previous excavations earlier remains have been found that take this area of the town back even further.  Finds from the excavations revealed a pre-Christian burial site and a Romano-British settlement.  I'm looking forward to finding out more.

The de Ferrers family owned much land and property across Derbyshire and into Staffordshire including Tutbury Castle which I wrote a post about - here.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Sometimes when you are out taking photographs you manage to capture something quite unexpected

This happened to me the other day!  We'd been walking along the canal towpath trying to photograph the Dabchicks or Little Grebes.  They are quite small birds and you can find them easily enough by listening out for their constant chatter but my goodness are they swift!  They dip and dive and hide under the vegetation, turn their backs on you and move so quickly under the water that you have no idea where they will pop up next.  It is hard to focus on them and take a photo before they disappear again.  This one lingered for just a short while under some vegetation on the bank opposite to the towpath but I managed to capture an image of it.  I glanced at it and just thought it had a leaf in front of its face but when I finally downloaded my photos I could see that it was in fact a small fish in its beak, perhaps a minnow?  That was unexpected!

Here is a link to the RSPB's page on Little Grebes and you can listen to their chattering on there, it is quite distinctive.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

52 Weeks of Happy - Week Seven

I'm getting later and later each week with my four 'happies'  and as my mother used to say 'I'll be meeting myself coming back if I'm not careful.'  So here goes with four things that have cheered me up or made me smile this week.

1.  There have been some wonderful sunsets heralding some cool but more importantly dry and sunny days.  We've been able to get into the garden to start tidying up a bit and although it is still quite soggy it is beginning to dry out just a little and there are signs of life on some of the plants we thought perhaps we'd lost because the ground is so wet.

2.  Lovely red tulips - they are just reaching that point where they start to open and bend a little and become quite sculptural in shape - I love that.

3.  A new car for us - well it isn't brand new but it is only four and a bit years old.  We had been searching for ages for something suitable to replace 'little car' which had been limping along since we'd had it mended after our bump just before Christmas.  It was ten years old and we'd had it from new I'll miss it but I'm quite happy with the new one.

4.  A pile of books to read, in fact I've read two of them already, always makes me happy.  I'm reading one on my kindle at the moment but I'll be back to these soon.

Link to the blog where  '52 weeks of Happy' started. Each week you find just four things that have made you happy to share.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Shadows and Reflections

This morning the sun shone as we walked 

It was a morning of great beauty

A morning of infinite possibilities

Just the kind of morning for which I'd been waiting

for what seems like ages and ages

I found myself drawn to photographing reflections and shadows as we walked.

Reflections in the water of the Caldon Canal

as we walked along the towpath near Consall Station

The glimmer of the sun in the water gave the reflections a look of ephemeral fragility

Whilst the shadows, in comparison, were strong and long

I wish I could capture and bottle the feeling of mornings like these so that I could un-stopper and release them, like racing pigeons from their lofts or doves from their dovecotes. to cast brightness over the dismal grey mornings that may be lurking just around the corner before Spring is finally here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Seeking Shelter

The icy blast of winter is still with us. The pond, which last week was twitching with spring like activity,  has frozen over again.  The garden lies under both curtains and carpets of snow, all the birds are feeding frantically to take in enough energy to last through the long, cold night. Sparrows and goldfinches vying with each other to get a perch on the feeders,  robins, tits and chaffinches performing their fluttering, grab and run method of feeding. The thrush is seeking shelter in the tree close to our conservatory window,  watching whilst I put out a few meal worms and hoping that it can reach them before the blackbirds or starlings spot them. The blackbirds, in great anticipation, have built a nest in a tree just the other side of our holly hedge.  Surely Spring is just around the corner, still tantalisingly out of reach, but it will be here soon, won't it?  Please?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

52 Weeks of Happy - Week six

As the saying goes I'm 'better late than never'  with this week's four 'Happy' photos.

1.  It was lovely to get out and walk in the light snow yesterday after Sunday's constant rain kept us indoors.  We needed fresh air and exercise which was what we got although I did struggle for the last section towards home as I'm still getting tired out quite easily.

2.  Not one but two lots of theatre tickets bought and plays to look forward to.  'Rutherford and Son' with Northern Broadsides at the New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme in March and The RSC's 'The Winter's Tale' at The Regent Theatre in Hanley in April.

3.  Both cats have kept me amused this week with their snow and rain avoidance tactics and indoor playfulness.  The senior yowling at 3a.m. I could do without though.

4.  Arkwright Duck!  I bought my Arkwright at Cromford Mill before Christmas and it was pleasing to read in the Peak Advertiser we picked up when we visited Buxton a couple of weeks ago that already £70,000 of the £250,000 that needs to be raised for the Mill has been gathered so far from the sale of the ducks. 

Link to the blog where  '52 weeks of Happy' started. Each week you find just four things that have made you happy to share.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Flowers In the Hot House

I'm short of inspiration for blog posts at the moment as I must admit I'm feeling unwell and slightly out of kilter.  It has been such a grey, dismal week weather wise and I haven't had the energy to do very much at all.

So I thought I'd show you a few photos I took the week before last when we visited Buxton Pavilion.

The flowers were in the hot house or conservatory at the Pavilion and were so pretty and cheerful.

 I thought I'd share them with you on this grey, wet and rainy day - well it is here anyway.  I'm sure some of you will be having far worse weather wherever you are in the world.   One thing about today is that it doesn't feel particularly cold - yet!

It was lovely and warm in the hot house and people were just wandering around taking in the colour of the flowers and sheltering from the cold outside.

I loved the pattern on these leave.  I think it is a Maranta or prayer plant.   Of course there were other things in the hot house as you'll have seen from my last post where there is a link to the artists website.

They were attracting quite a lot of attention too!

I hope that wherever you are you are having a lovely weekend.

Monday, February 04, 2013

52 Weeks of Happy - Week Five

I'm a bit late with my four happy things this week but my excuse is that I've been waiting for news that had the potential of making me very happy indeed.  That news came through at 10a.m. this morning.

It is of course the confirmation that the bones found under the Leicester County Council Social Services car park were those of King Richard III.

1.  The finding of the remains of Richard III
You all know from many of my posts over the years of my interest in Richard III and when we visited the dig in the car park in Leicester on my birthday last year I had high hopes of the bones being found and they were. Once found there has been the wait whilst essential tests have been done and now we have the confirmation.  I find all this so exciting and am looking forward to seeing the documentary about the findings on Channel 4 this evening.

2.  Meeting Louise
On Tuesday we were visited by Louise who came for lunch after which we visited the Potteries Museum in Hanley to look at the Staffordshire Hoard exhibition which we followed with a visit to Emma Bridgewater's factory shop and cafe where we sat is squishy sofas drinking hot chocolate.  It was lovely to see Louise again and we were both surprised to realise that is two years since we last met.  Where does the time go?

3. Visting Buxton
On Thursday we drove over to Buxton to walk in the country park near Poole's Cavern and Solomon's Temple.  First we visited the Pavilion Gardens where in the hot house we saw a wonderful display of dinosaurs amongst the spring flowers or should it be a wonderful display of spring flowers amongst the dinosaurs?  Either way it was a happy experience.

4.  Finding Snowdrops
On Saturday we had a lovely walk at Loynton Moss where we found loads of snowdrops (see my previous post)  - they were such a cheerful sight.

Link to the blog where  '52 weeks of Happy' started. Each week you find just four things that have made you happy to share.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

A Walk at Loynton Moss

Loynton Moss is a nature reserve belonging to the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust.  It can be found just through the village of Woodseaves not far from the Shropshire Union Canal which actually runs along the edge of reserve.  We've walked along the canal towpath in this area a couple of times before as far as Norbury Junction but had never explored the nature reserve.

 There is a small car park, well off the road with an information board and map.  We followed the path across a field and into the reserve taking the path which ran alongside the first of the two woodland areas.

 There was a stile to take you up the hill and then back down to the pond on the other side.  Apparently the trust are gradually returning land which was drained for agriculture back to its wetland state by raising the water levels and grazing the pasture at certain times to encourage habitats that they hope will eventually see the return of wading birds like the snipe and the curlew.

 From the pasture we entered the first of the two woodland areas and made our way round one of the paths. 

 From here we could see the canal towpath and you could actually get down to it but it was extremely muddy so we didn't venture further.

 At last as we headed back to the main reserve path we found what we had come to see


 This side of the woodland was carpeted with their pure white bell shaped flowers

 From a distance they looked like a light covering of snow or frost

 We spent ages just looking and taking photos before returning to the rest of the reserve.  It had been cold up on the hill and down by the pond but it felt much warmer under the trees.

 We traced our steps back to the first wood we had passed.  This was very wet in places underfoot and you could get a feel for what the area must have looked like many years ago.

 It was a good job that we'd worn our wellies as  the boardwalk was almost submerged and once or twice on the path towards the bridge back to the meadow I sank in the mud nearly to their tops

 We've decided that we want to return to walk here again later in the year and perhaps walk along some of the canal towpath too.

It was just so good to be out walking in the sunshine.  On our way back we stopped at the little town of Stone where there was a Farmer's Market with loads of stalls full of wonderful produce and a few street musicians entertaining the crowds of people who were out enjoying the day.