Friday, December 29, 2023

Looking Back

 As the year draws to a close I thought I'd find a photo from each month this year to remember things we'd done and places we'd visited.  It was hard to choose which ones to use as there were so many.  I thought we'd had a quiet year this year with no long holidays and just two short breaks.  We seem to have pottered about quite a bit locally and within a day's reach.

January - Snow and a foxy visitor to the garden.

February - Snowdrops at Rode Hall, Cheshire.

March - Kingfishers nest building at the Wolseley Centre, Rugeley, Staffordshire

April -  Rhuddlan Castle, Denbighshire, Wales

May - Riding the trams at the Tramway Museum, Crich, Derbyshire.

June - Creswell Crags, Creswell, Derbyshire.

July - Boscobel House, nr Brewood, Staffordshire.

August - Sunflowers at Barlow, Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

September - Scallop Shell, Aldburgh, Suffolk

October - Fly Agaric toadstools at Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent

November - Trent and Mersey Canal at Westport, Stoke-on-Trent

December - Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire.

Unusual visitors to our garden this year have included -

A pair of Mallards
 A Great Spotted Woodpecker

A ring-necked parakeet

and a Red Legged Partridge.
We only managed a couple of short breaks away this year as we had quite a bit of work done in the house through July and August.  In April we spent a few days in Rhuddlan in Wales and visited the castle there as well as visiting nearby St Asaph cathedral, Denbigh castle and the RSPB reserve near Conwy.  In September we went a bit further afield into Suffolk and visited Sutton Hoo, Woodbridge and Aldeburgh.
All for now.  Take care.


Sunday, December 24, 2023

Just a Little Bit Festive

The weather has been awful these last few days, wind, rain and then wind and rain again.  We have managed a couple of local walks between raindrops but almost got blown away on one of them.  Many places were closed because of the high winds, incuding the Trentham lakeside walk.

We walked to the local park yesterday but I didn't take many photos so I thought I'd take some of a few of our favourite decorations which are here and there around the house.  

Cheerful Cards on the mantlepiece

Other festive items along the radiator shelf

The Christmas tree is a small one, rooted from the top of a larger tree.  It will go out in the garden early next year.
We have nurtured it over the last month since we bought it and now it is decorated with some of our favourite things and is in the conservatory rather than the living room. 

Favourite decorations include the mouse above from the Chatsworth Garden Centre. We took my step-sister shopping it was Christmas 2015.  She was registered deaf/blind so needed help with shopping. The next year she was diagnosed with dementia and has been cared for in a safe home ever since.

The newest decoration Fox in a Winter Jumper from Waitrose. As a lover of foxes I couldn't resist.

Hare from the Token House in Nottingham one of my favourite shops and one of my favourite animals.

Not sure where the bird house came from.  I wish I could remember.

I remember buying this cat in a car but can't remember where, most probably a garden centre.

A snowman crocheted by a dear friend.  She has been in hospital but is home now and we wish her well.  She also made the Gingerbread man below.

Well, I think that is all now.  I always feel slightly sad at this time of year as I remember Christmases past and those we shared them with.  So many awful things are happening in the world at the moment that it seems hard to be frivolous.  Cards are sent, telephone calls made and contacts made with 'absent friends and cousins dear' a favourite saying of one of my late cousins.
All for now.  I wish you all peace and joy and hope for the future. 

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Wintertide and Waxwings

 We are back home from a couple of days away visting relatives, old haunts, churchyards and cemeteries.

I managed to find suitable holly wreaths on a stall at Bolsover market.  So many memories of living close to the little town as a child and teenager came back to me.  It is much changed (lots of new housing and big new supermarkets) but somehow exactly the same too.  Bolsover Castle was closed so before we started for home we visited nearby Hardwick Hall.  I grew up in a small village close to both these wonderful buildings so they are part of my childhood memories.

A saying I remember from childhood is 'Hardwick Hall more glass than wall.' Hardwick Hall is run by the National Trust whilst nearby Hardwick Old Hall is cared for by English Heritage, it was closed the day we visited.

The old hall is just over the garden wall from the newer hall.  Hardwick Old Hall was built between 1587 and 1596 by Bess of Hardwick but in 1590 before the old hall was completed Bess began to have built the new hall using noted architect of the time Robert Smythson.  Apparently the two halls were used together for quite a time to complement each other.  The old hall was partially dismantled in the 1750s as by then the Cavendish family preferred living at the family seat at Chatsworth.

Inside Wintertide was being celebrated lead by the Lord of Misrule.  We collected our lanterns and proceeded up the stairs.  I'd forgotten those wide stone stairs leading up to the grand appartments above.  It's a place of many stone staircases and walls hung with beautiful tapestries.

In the long gallery the Lord of Misrule bade us to linger and explore in the shadows.  There were areas where you could write down your thoughts as you were asked to remember happy festive times, the people who had been part of those times, to be grateful for joys and happiness experienced and hope for kindness in the future.  There was a shadow puppet theatre at the end of the gallery.

One of the areas used to sit and reflect, to write down thoughts.  The whole display was about shadows, light and reflections. 

 Back outside in the South Gazebo we found traditional Tudor decoratations.

The Kissing Bough, the precursor of mistletoe, was made with twigs and evergreen foliage and sometimes fruit and cones.  The bough was hung over doorways to welcome visitors to the house.

Orange and clove pomanders decorated the window sill below garlands of leaves.

An unexpected 'decoration' were hundreds of dormant Ladybirds high on the ceiling above the door.

Before I go in my last post I promised photos of Waxwings.  These wonderful birds have spent over two weeks feasting on the many berry trees in our little part of the city.  They've been there through wind, rain and snow.  We've wandered down to the local park two or three times in the hope of seeing them.  It was a case of third time lucky last Sunday.  We saw them straight away.  

Waxwings are winter visitors to the UK coming from Scandinavia to feast on seasonal berry trees.  They are such beautiful birds.  I've seen some wonderful photos of them across the various local bird forums and websites and it seems that it is a particularly good winter for them.

  Photos of the Waxwings and internal shots in Hardwick Hall were taken by Paul as my little camera wasn't up to the job.  
Right it's time to go and think about decorating the Christmas tree.
All for now. Take care.

Saturday, December 09, 2023

Getting There

The last week has been so wet and still it rains today.  We've just managed a quick walk up to the local post office and back to buy stamps and post both cards and a parcel. The heavens opened again as we were halfway home so we are now drying off.  I think soup is needed for lunch although it isn't cold, just very damp and windy.  Dull too.  Earlier this week we had a good clear out of household things we no longer needed or used and took them to The Big Shop which is a combined shop and warehouse for a nearby hospice.  We went there as there is plenty of space to park close to the donation point. As we drove along the lanes between Stone and Eccleshall the roads were full of huge puddles with rainwater running off the fields and gushing up from blocked drains.  Some fields had developed small lakes on lower ground.  Some had resident gulls on them.

Holy Trinity Church, Eccleshall
Above and below the High Street Eccleshall is a mixture of shops, cafes and private houses.  Many have the names of their former use.  The Old Bakery, The Old Post Office and The Old Fire Station are just some of them.

Eccleshall's shopping streets were looking quite festive in spite of the rain.  We had a coffee and then a little wander around before returning home.

Preparations for Christmas have included pudding making.  I haven't bothered with a cake this year.  

I did make a cake for a friend's birthday last week and a slice was eaten late afternoon after a lovely lunch.  Just right with a cup of tea to sustain us on our journey home from Nottingham.

Coffee and Walnut cake, a favourite. 

We also brought home one of Robert's 'paperbag' stories which was inspired by fox and badger visits to our garden and the visit of an elderly fox to his own garden.  In this story Eddy the fox has a lucky escape from the dogs  next door with the help of his friend Toby the badger.

Last weekend we had snow.  We walked out in it and down to the park where parents and children were out and about with sledges, all having fun in the soft snow.  We passed many snowmen on our walk.  By the next day it had been washed away by the rain.

Fenton Park

Fenton Park

We moved on from the park to see if we could spot the Waxwings that had been reported as feeding on the berry trees in a small square nearby.  Unfortunately we didn't see any, just lots of people in black with cameras wrapped up in plastic bags patiently waiting.  I've seen some lovely photos of the Waxwings on social media and apparently they are still there today.
Next week we have another visit to make to take cards and presents, again into Nottinghamshire.  We are gently getting on with plans for the coming weeks. 
All for now.