Friday, April 26, 2024

Five for Friday

 Seems ages since I did a Friday five so here goes.

Tulips - this bunch of Tulips has lasted for ages.  I love the different colours together.  A bargain from Aldi for days of visual delight.  They have gone all gangly and sculptural now and some petals are dropping. It will soon be time to say goodbye to them.

Foxes - We popped up to the Peak Wildlife Park to renew our membership and went straight to see the Artic Foxes.  There are four of them now and all in their winter coats. I like the way that they always seem to be smiling.

At home Mrs Fox is a regular visitor to the garden as she takes time out for a rest from guarding her cubs.  Not a great photo as it was dusk and she was right at the top of the garden.

Talking of Mrs Fox - Signora Volpe is a series I have been watching on UKTV with Emilia Fox in the title role.  It is, of course, much like Murder in Provence or the Madame Blanc Mysteries, a tad unbelievable but visually delightful and takes you away from reality for a short while.

As does reading and I've been doing a lot of that.  I've just started the latest Elly Griffiths book set in Shoreham-on-Sea with the usual trio of characters we met in The Postscript Murders and Bleeding Heart Yard.  Natalka, Benedict and Edwin are searching for the killer of local authors with the help of their detective friend DI Harbinder Kaur. 

We popped back to Hem Heath woods to see if the bluebells were in flower.

 They were.  More on these in a later post.

The pond desperately needed cleaning up it is being done a little at a time so its inhabitants aren't too disturbed.  The Marsh Marigolds are in flower and the Flag Iris are coming along.  Lots of newts were found, all smooth newts. 
Also two dragonfly larvae and quite a few snails.

There's still a lot of clearing to be done.
Wishing you all a good weekend.

Thursday, April 25, 2024


 A short walk from the car park at the Leek and Rudyard Railway, following the railway line, gets you to Rudyard Lake.

From the first train stop, called The Dam, you can walk onwards at the side of the lake or turn left onto the bridge and down by the lake on the opposite side where there are visitor facilities.

We walked along by the railway.  Just us and a few dog walkers.  Well I say a few but each of the walkers seemed to have several dogs.

 It was quiet, sunny and for once quite warm.  There were several birds calling. 

We heard Chiff Chaff, Robins, Wrens, GreatTits and also a Nuthatch.

We spotted a Heron and also a swallow, swooping over the water.

We stopped for a while on the other side of the lake and sat outside with a coffee and shared a piece of banana bread.

 The lake was built by the Trent and Mersey Canal Company. under the guidance ofJohn Rennie, to supply water to the Caldon branch of the Trent and Mersey Canal.  It was begun in 1797 and completed in 1800.  It still supplies water to the canal system it was designed for. It is now owned by the Canal and River Trust.

 It was here that Rudyard Kipling's parents, John Lockwood Kipling and Alice MacDonald met.  Here is more about the Kipling connection.

Writer George Orwell visited Rudyard Lake between the two world wars when he was researching for his book The Road to Wigan Pier.  He didn't think much of it. 

'Not a soul anywhere and bitter wind blowing. All the broken ice had been blowing up to the South end and the waves were rocking it up and down making a clank-clank, clank-clank.  The most melancholic noise I ever heard.'

Thank goodness we had bright, Spring sunshine for our walk.  Next time, if the train is running, we may take it to the other end of the lake.
All for now.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

The Mayfly Throne

 In one of the local city parks at Burslem you can find a sculpture called The Mayfly Throne.  

  It's by local sculptors Andy Edwards and Philip Hardaker and was inspired by the life cycle of the Mayfly.

It replaces a statue of a water nymph which was donated to the park in 1894 by Sir Henry Doulton. It was vandalised in the 1960s and taken away for repair but never returned.

The Mayfly sculpture was unveiled in 2012. It sits on the original plinth the top of which was decorated by pupils from three local schools.  I assume the idea of throne is  because you could possibly, if small enough, sit between the wings. 

The Mayfly Throne isn't a replica of the orgiginal as a detailed photograph of it couldn't be found.
Andrew or Andy Edwards is famous for many sculptures including the one below.

I took this photo when we visited Liverpool in June 2016.

Also locally on The Brampton in Newastle-under-Lyme the WWI  nurse inspired by author Vera Brittain writer of Testament of Youth who was born there in 1893.

For once it was a sunny morning when we walked in the park although very cold so gloves and scarf came out of the drawer again.
More blossom trees.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024


The blossom trees are flowering along the River Trent at Trentham Gardens so we thought we would take a few photos yesterday morning before all the blossom is dashed by rain and wind.  It has been very windy here over the last few days although we did manage a sunny if breezy walk on Sunday morning.

As I was typing this post there was a huge clap of thunder like a whip crack overhead, for a moment I thought the window had broken.  We are now being bombarded by hailstones the size of frozen peas.  A bit more than April showers I think.  I managed to rescue the towels from the line, just as wet as when I put them out this morning.

I'm so glad we photographed the blossom yesterday.

Wednesday, April 10, 2024


For the last couple of weeks a small bird has been appearing on and around the patio usually at lunch time and again in the early evening.  It hops around the plant pots on the patio and amongst the heather and other plants in the beds before flying off to the same corner of the garden.  We wondered if it was nesting in the hedge behind the rhododendron in the top lefthand corner of the garden. . Every time we've seen it we haven't had a camera handy to try and catch an image of it.  We thought it looked like a Chiffchaff.  Looking at the RSPB website it appears that Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers can be easily confused.  Chiffchaffs have darker legs than the Willow Warbler and this bird has dark legs.  

This lunch time imagine our delight when two birds turned up and hopped around the patio happily pecking in pots and cracks between the flagstones.  Paul managed to take a few photos but only one was clear enough to be of use as they were taken through glass with pouring rain outside.  It does look as if there is a pair and that they are nesting not far away.

If we could hear its call we could be absolutely sure it is a Chiffchaff as it is very distinctive.  Here is a link to a short video from the British Trust for Ornithology about both birds.

In my copy of A Country Woman's Journal by Margaret Shaw* her entry for 24th June 1928 reads

Saw a Chiff Chaff for the first time in my life - he was hopping about on the top of the fruit cage and on the pea sticks. 


In her book A Year Unfolding.  A Printmaker's View  Angela Harding writes of the Spring Hedgerow.

April brings in blackcaps and the chiffchaff returns; this is another sign of Spring.  High in the branches is the chiffchaff chirping out its name in a short staccato rhythm.

The poet John Clare (1793-1864) wrote a poem about the Chiffchaff or 'chippiechap'.

Here is a link to the poem.

* apologies for some reason I wrote Mary Shaw, it's actually Margaret Shaw.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

A Woodland Walk

It's raining again today but over the Easter weekend we did have a couple of rain free, mostly dry days when walks could be taken and some garden tidying could be done.  The garden wheelie bin was full.  We now have to pay for collections and had done so a few weeks ago but hadn't received a sticker for the bin.  It was due for collection on Tuesday and we put it out not knowing if they would take it without a sticker.  Thankfully they did.  The sticker arrived in the post about three hours after the bin had been emptied.

On Saturday, as the sun was out and the sky was blue we decided to walk in our local Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Reserve at Hem Heath woods.  We parked at the World of Wedgwood (V&A Stoke) and  had a morning coffee in the Six Towns Cafe Bar before heading into the woods.

In just a few weeks time these woods will be full of Bluebells but for now there were Lesser Celandines along the paths.

We walked down to the pond listening to the birds.  A Woodpecker was heard but not seen and there was song from Robins, Wrens and Blackbirds.  
Some of the paths were very muddy but we had changed into more suitable footwear to tackle them.

We didn't see any waterbirds but we did see signs of Flag Iris.  This will look wonderful in a couple of months time.

On the way to the pond we passed many trees that had been chopped down.  There has been a programme of work over the winter to tackle the presence of Ash dieback disease on several of the Trust's reserves including this one.

It was sad to see so many trees had been felled.  The Trust have taken down those trees considered to be a high risk to safety.  Mostly along the paths.

Ash dieback is a fungal disease for which there is no cure.  It was first discovered in Europe in 1992 in Poland and reached the UK in 2012.  Symptoms of the disease are dead branches, blackening leaves and discoloured stems with diamond shaped leisions where fallen leaves were.  This causes the tree to weaken and drop branches and to eventually collapse.  The disease is spread by the wind.

On a happier note there are these beauties to look forward to in a few weeks time.
Definitely something to return for.

The photos of bluebells above were taken on previous visits.  A walk amongst them has become a yearly ritual.