Saturday, September 24, 2022

Red Squirrels

It was lovely to see the Red Squirrels at nearby Peak Wildlife Park earlier this week.  


We have plenty of their grey cousins in and around our garden - usually hanging from the bird feeders or burying stones from the gravel path in the grass - but we have only ever seen red squirrels in the wild in Lancashire and in Scotland.  I remember seeing them as a child on holiday on the Isle of Wight.

These squirrels aren't truly in the wild of course but they are free to roam in a large enclosed area through which vistors can walk.

We spent half an hour, completely alone with two squirrels.  Watching them, taking photos and enjoyng their antics as they bounced around, scampering across paths and up and down trees.  It was all quite delightful.

These red squirrels are part of a national breeding programme to enable the build up of a good population for releasing into the wild or to other programmes to enable a growth in the red squirrel population.   These dainty little creatures are the only squirrel native to the UK. 

Red squirrels are small and agile with extremely good eyesight.  They are about 22cm tall and their tail is as long again.  They weigh about 300g.  

 Their luxurious tails, which become thicker in winter, are used for balance, warmth and signalling.

 They develop their distinctive tufty ears in winter.  They have a life expectancy of three to seven years in the wild up to ten in captivity as they receive regular veterinary care and are safe from predators and diseases especially those passed on by contact with grey squirrels.

At eleven o'clock on the dot the keeper arrived with food.  By this time there were other visitors too and the squirrels came to eat.  Apparently they can be quite picky with food and like lots of variety. 

It's Red Squirrel Awareness week from 10th - 16th October when there will be reports from areas that still have a red squirrel population and those groups who run conservation and breeding programmes.
Below are some links to learn more about these enchanting but endangered creatures.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Spotted in September

 A few photos of things that have caught my eye whilst out and about over the last few weeks.

A Painted Lady butterfly at a nearby garden centre.

Rose hips in Tissington, Derbyshire

Sloes at RSPB Consall nature reserve

Chicken of the Woods fungus at Trentham Gardens

Jew's Ear fungus at Trentham Gardens

Unknown fungus at Trentham Gardens 

Above and below Well Dressings at Hartington

Here is a - link - to the history behind the well dressings in Derbyshire.

Autumn Crocus or Colchicum at Hartington
Lords and Ladies at Trentham Gardens
A vintage Rolls Royce at Tissington
The local service bus to Ashbourne via Fenny Bentley passes through Tissington.

I will write more about the two Derbyshire villages we visited in a future post.


Saturday, September 10, 2022

On Harper Street

 A new area of the museum at Middleport Pottery was opened this summer just across the street from the main factory.

 I've written once or twice about the main museum and factory so I'll just write about the new project in this post.

The row of houses are typical of pottery workers' houses of  the late 19th Century and it is thought that they were constructed at a similar time as the factory which was built in 1888.  The houses first appear on a map dated 1889.

The refurbished terrace now houses a self contained community hub called Middleport Matters, studios and creative workshops, a collections store and research centre for the museum and last but not least at the far end of the row above, opposite the factory, the Lodgekeeper's house.

The back view of the row of refurbished houses.  You can see where ground floor extensions have been taken away.  These would probably have been kitchens or bathrooms.  The end three houses have been turned into a visitor experience.

They have been given bat boxes under the eaves which is good.  The whole area is of great industrial archaeological importance due to the nearby canal network. 

The factory stands at the edge of the Trent and Mersey canal.
Let's visit the Lodgekeeper's House or 113 Harper Street.
By 1950 the house was lived in by Mr and Mrs Hall and their three children.
The Lodgekeeper's house has been returned to the 1950s whilst the others have been turned into display and gallery space where you can listen to people's memories of living and working in the area and at the factory.
The house is available on the Heritage trail and you have to have a guide take you inside.  Our guide was wonderful and full of information and she also left us to wander around on our own.  We were there on a Bank Holiday Sunday but we had the place to ourselves.
Downstairs you can view the kitchen, scullery and parlour.

The detail in the rooms brought back lots of memories of visiting relatives as a child and indeed of my own home in the early 1950s.
The patterns in the wallpaper and curtains.  The ducks on the wall and the china display cabinets. The tobacco tins and pipes by a chair close to the fire.  Our guide did tell us that they needed a period sofa and chair for the parlour and were hoping eventually to acquire something of an appropriate age.

In the bedrooms the eiderdowns and trellis patterned wallpaper were very familiar.  I remember the wallpaper in my bedroom was a green trellis with yellow roses.
Dark brown wardrobes and tallboys too.  I remember I had a little dressing table with a pink brush and comb set on it.

The rest of the displays were photograhs of people and places in the area.  Local stories told by local people were activated as we walked around.  Itwas fascinating to hear how they lived and worked in the area.  Tales of school and childhood play.
It was time for a coffee in the canal side cafe and then a look around the shop before we went home.  By now there were a lot more people than when we first arrived so I'm glad we visited the 1950s house first.
Of course writing this now almost two weeks later we have seen changes which weren't thought of then or even at the beginning of this week.  I was born during the reign of the late Queen's father, George VI but I was not quite two years old when Elizabeth became Queen so I really have only known her as our Monarch.  It feels strange that she is no longer there, as if the mortar holding the bricks of this country together has gone and now it's all a little wonky.  
I'm sure all will be well.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Sunflowers in September

 The sunflowers in the garden have grown quite tall.

They  are reaching for the sky

We've never grown any as tall as these. 


We took the seeds from last year's sunflowers which were a darker chocolate brown colour.

There are three plants and each has flowers of a different hue.

They are popular with the bees.

Yesterday we saw a little group of young goldfinches checking them out as they flew into the nearby Tamarisk tree.  We've been putting sunflower seeds in the feeders for ages as the goldfinches seem to prefer them to niger seed and the ground feeding birds benefit from the seeds dropped as the finches crack them in half.
The colours are Autumnal and as the plants sway in the breeze today there is a definite change in the air.

All for now.  Next post Harper Street and the 1950s house at Middleport Pottery.

Thursday, September 01, 2022

Reincarnated Rubbish

 We saw an interesting exhibition at the Brampton Museum in Newcastle-Under-Lyme over the weekend.

The artist Val Hunt used recycled objects to create the pieces which depict extinct and endangered species. 

As a creative recycler she uses all sort of objects in her work.  Things like foil trays, old computer parts,  metal drinks cans and discarded babies' dummies.

Below are some of the exhibits that caught my eye.

Caspian the War Horse was made from skip wood, three hundred and sixty Coventry Evening Telegraphs, drinks cans and charity shop wool.  The Caspian breed of horse is critically endangered.
Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Lapwing, House Sparrow and Nightingale (all endangered)  This exhibit is called 'A Conference of Endangered Birds discussing their future'.

Puffin (endangered)
Anomalocaris (extinct) - a large predator of the Cambrian era.  Made with Coke cans.
Sabre Tooth Tiger (extinct) made from drinks cans

Ichthyosaur (below) and Opthalmosaurus (above)
both reptiles and both extinct.

Blue finned Tuna fish (endangered)
Giant Tortoise (endangered)

Leather-back turtle (endangered)
Chameleon (endangered) made from bottle tops

Terror Bird or
Phorusrhacids (extinct) made with drinks, cans, skip wood, paper flyers and posters from the Edinburgh Fringe.

Terror bird again

Hats and Headwear
My favourite hat - the Helter-Skelter hat.

After looking at the exhibition and the rest of the museum we had tea and cake in the museum's Little Vintage Tea room.
I didn't take a photo inside but this is the outside seating area.