Welcome to family, friends and visitors. Here you will find interesting (hopefully) pictures of my part of the world, news of our household and probably, long ramblings about anything that catches my interest.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Silage Time Again.

All across the countryside the contractors are out making a second cut of the silage leaving the fields looking yellow before the grass grows once more. We've had some rain in the last few days but it has stayed warm. Looks as if we are having an early summer again. We've still got another 3 weeks at school - plenty of time for miserable weather to set in. This afternoon it was 'shuffle up' time when all the children went to meet their new class teacher and spend the afternoon in their new classrooms. We generally plan fairly relaxed afternoons so the children will look forward to returning to their new classes after the summer holidays.
This evening, before getting down to more school preparation, I had a quiet time catching the sun up in the scree garden. It is good to unwind just listening to the sounds of our valley; the singing of the thrush and the chink-chink of a flock of finches accompanied by the sound of the horses next door being walked through the yards before being turned out in the fields.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

I'm Back.

At last I've been able to connect to the internet. Someone ! seems to be using up the whole band with constant torrenting. It's not worth arguing about as he'll be in Plymouth from Thursday.Odemera nobilis, a pollen feeder.
It's only Tuesday and I'm feeling so tired. Thank goodness that it's only a few weeks to the summer holiday. After this week I'll be back in the swing of things but right now I'm in school before 7.30 and usually don't leave until 5.30. And more work once I'm home. No wonder I don't relish the thought of full time work.
Peter is now officially retired. From his old job at least. He took his lease car back today and they gave him a send-off at work. He was a bit embarrassed about it but a lot of people turned up to wish him well which was nice. He came home with an engraved tankard and (better still) a lead to work (for me ) in NZ which might turn out to be nothing but might be useful.

Aargh! Only lost one pound last week. Doubly annoying as I had been lower during the week (yes I obsessively weigh myself every day) but I do know where I went wrong. Apart from a few dips into the mixing bowl on Sunday when I made a batch of chocolate muffins to take to work - and one muffin eaten, I have not eaten any extra sugary or fatty foods but I did have more protein than usual. Some cold meats and slices of cheese just made those calories mount up. It's a bit too easy when I come home tired but I'm determined not to give up before I reach my goal. (No wobbly bits!).

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Oh the joys of full -time teaching. It has been another beautiful day but I've had to spend at least 4 hours with my eyes glued to a pc screen doing my school planning for next week. Yesterday I tried working on the lap top outside but whichever way I sat I couldn't see the screen properly and I kept losing track of the cursor. And I was having to navigate around Windows 7 instead of my old familiar Windows 2003. I don't take too kindly to change. A purple leaved hardy geranium in the scree garden.
I was out in the garden until mid afternoon, mainly weeding and hanging up load after load of washing as mysteriously the laundry basket which I had emptied yesterday had filled itself back up. I was trying to avoid the football but couldn't help coming inside to watch the second half of the England match, until the Germans scored their 4th goal. Much despondency in the house.
The evening sun was casting dappled shadows over the garden.

On the house wall the honeysuckle is starting to flower. We now have a proper flowering progression on the walls. First the wisteria followed by the roses and finally the honeysuckle. The roses do continue to flower through the summer but not in such profusion. off for an early night watching anything but football, probably Glastonbury again though I won't stay up so late as last night.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Glastonbury Time.

The weather has been wonderful today. This morning it was 19C in the shade and 30C out in the sun which would have been too hot for me if there hadn't been a cooling breeze. Perfect Galstonbury weather. I've always hankered to go there but yet again I'm making do with the tv coverage. BBC 3 is very good, You can go interactive and flip between 4 stages. A quick flick through and I've selected on Marina and the Diamonds so I can have my own little festival in the sitting room, sound right up and me dancing around as the mood takes me. I'm not very up on current artists but I like most music. Glastonbury has become too mainstream at times but I did think Shakira was great to watch dancing. I'm waiting for the day Romas' band play Glastonbury and then I'll be along as part of their crew. Meanwhile in rural Devon the hanging baskets around the front door are looking good and should get better as the surfinias cascade down sprinkled with trailing lobelia. They lift my spirits each time I come to the front door. Now that I'm at work full-time I want to spend as much as possible of my week-end in the garden. I was having a leisurely cup of coffee this morning when I realised that it would be hard to find anything better on a holiday at some exotic location. In fact when I tried to think what would make it 100% perfect all I could come up with was maybe a secluded beach a few minutes walk away and perhaps family and friends (as long as I wasn't expected to be cooking).
I took advantage of the heat and kept the washing machine running for most of the day working my way through the pile of Linas' washing that has appeared! While I was hanging yet another load on the washing line (in the hens' run) I noticed one of the hens attempting vertical take off in order to snatch redcurrants from a heavily laden branch that was hanging over the fence. I had thought it was the blackbird stripping off the berries.

But this was the culprit, a fat hen. She's the naughty one who sneaks out of the gate if I don't wedge it with a spade when I'm in the run hanging up washing. The 3 hens are doing well laying 2 or 3 eggs every day. I can feel another baking session coming up, a big batch of chocolate chunk muffins for work and home I think.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Lesson Observation Over.

Today's lesson observation went well. Even if my delivery wasn't perfect I was happy with it because all the children were highly motivated, stayed on task and produced some good football chants while having lots of fun. Just imagine 27 children blowing their home-made vuvuzelas after each chant! but they didn't get out of hand and the feed back was positive. Big sigh of relief. Now I shall be concentrating on my year 1 class, freshening up a few displays etc and doing all the end of year stuff. I'm supposed to be science coordinator as well and I know there are some things I need to do for that also. The weather has been absolutely glorious so once I got home at 6.00 I had a peaceful hour sitting quietly in the garden enjoying the sun and birdsong. Linas went down to Plymouth again and has finally sorted out a place to rent while he is working there. Although he is only renting a (large) room, the rest of the house is currently unoccupied while the landlord redecorates so he is getting the house to himself for the time being. He will be making his move down there next Thursday. I'll be at work so Peter will have to drive down with Linas following on his scooter.

After some time sitting and reading I followed the sun up the hillside and went and talked to the ponies.

Ben and Doris look like a right pair of little monkeys. They are losing their woolly foal coats and their faces are dark and silky with the rest of their bodies being rather fluffy.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Weasel Sighting.

Another garden rose.
I had a lucky break today which enabled me to have the afternoon preparing for tomorrow's lesson observation. I shall soon be sitting in bed reading through my lesson plan, oh I wish it as over!
Coming home tonight I startled a weasel on the road. It ran in front of me for a few feet before diving into the long grass at the side of the road. Slightly more brains than the hare I startled a few days ago. As usual with hares it ran in front of the car for quite a while before swerving through a gateway.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Too Busy.

This will be the briefest of posts as I am currently preparing for a lesson observation on Friday.It's a serious business, even the lesson plan covers 3 sides of A4 - typed! And I'm unexpectedly working full-time as well. The weather continues to be fantastic but I've had my eyes glued to the PC ever since I got home. Normal service after Friday.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

An Unexpected Bonus.

I have to admit I wasn't too thrilled at having to leave my cosy home at 9.30 last night to drive into town to pick up Linas from the train station. However I was rewarded with the sight of a blazing sunset, and the pink glow of the sunset reflected on the clouds to the east. Now that I've worked out how to use the manual settings on my camera I have a better chance of capturing the true colours of the sky.
It was still light and warm at this late-ish hour reminding me that we've just passed the summer Solstice. I try not to think about this as now the nights are getting longer. I don't really want to focus on that as it's still another 4 weeks until the school summer holidays. As my life's rhythms have always been dictated by the academic year, ( my school days, uni, the boys' school days and now my work), for me summer starts at the end of July when the school summer holidays start.

Driving into town in this soft light I saw buzzards, rabbits and something that was either a giant hedgehog, small cat or rabbit with short ears sitting on the verge in Shirwell.

On our way back it had finally started to become dark and wisps of mist were streaming over the gaps in the hedges and across the road. This was our valley at about 10.45pm. (Apologies for the blur but it was a hand held 2 second exposure.)
This morning the mist had thickened and one minute I was driving in bright sunshine and the next in swirling mists. That quickly burnt off and the rest of the day has been rather hot.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Lynton Goats.

Valley of the Rocks is famous not only for its rock formations but also for the many feral goats that roam the place. There is always a big furore when the numbers start to increase and the local town council calls in a marksman to cull out some of the goats. There is a section of the townsfolk who dislike the goats because they tend to wander into unprotected gardens and much their way through all the plants. Even though there are notices about asking people not to feed the goats enough people must either ignore the signs or leave their picnic scraps as the goats have a tendency to hang around the parking areas. The coast is more exposed to the sea winds but even there you can see plenty of goats grazing on the almost vertical rock face.

See the dark shape on a rock by the cliff path?

It was a small goat dozing contentedly in the sun.
And from the other side his little furry bottom could be seen.

Eventually he noticed his audience and decided to make a move. After one embarrassed slip while he scratched his cheek on a rock, he scrambled up onto the path and ambled off.

I thought I was only going to manage to lose a pound this week but a couple of days with no carbs managed to take it down to 2 pounds, phew.
Lots of planning to do tonight as I'm teaching full-time for the moment then I've got to haul myself off to the station to pick up Linas from the 10.15 train.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Bull Point.

The good weather is still holding up so we headed out to the coast once more. Not so far this time, just to Mortehoe and round to Bull Point. Just for a change we decided to walk in the opposite direction to our usual walk. From the village we cut down the coombe that runs from the well. There is a group of houses at the top of the coombe with views down to the sea and out to Lundy beyond. I've always said I wouldn't mind living in one of those houses and today one had a 'For Sale' sign up. I checked it out on the web and the guide price is £360,000 for a 3 bed bungalow. It has a garden and a vegetable garden and I could consider living there even though there are other houses close by. But that's a lot of money and as it is going for auction I guess it may well fetch at least £400,000.
A typical well made National Trust stile.

We passed over the top of Rockham Bay but didn't venture down the steep steps that are built clinging onto the side of the cliff.

Our destination was the smaller beach that lies at the head of this coombe (just beyond the left hand edge of the above photo) and then we planned to walk along the small stream before heading back up to the top of the ridge on the right. Walking opposite to our usual route meant we had some steep descents to make. I think they look more scary when you're going down than when you're puffing and panting your way to the top.

This photo was taken from the same spot as the previous one but looking down towards the beach. We plan in the future to continue up the track on the opposite side of the valley and follow the coast path towards Lee Bay.

We gave ourselves a leisurely lunch stop at this beach enjoying the sun and the sound of the waves.

Then it was back inland and up the steeper of 2 tracks to the high ground.
Once home I did some gardening and some work for school sitting out in the sun.
(Lynton goat pics tomorrow.)

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Valley Of The Rocks.

I had to take Linas into town this morning so he could catch a train. He's gone down to Plymouth for a few days so that he can find himself somewhere to live once he starts his new job in 2 weeks time. It's a good time of year to look as the university students will be going home for the summer but he only wants a short-term let as his internship may only be for 2 or 4 months so that may make it more difficult to find somewhere. Peter and I decided to make the most of the good weather and headed out for a walk at the Valley of the Rocks. This is a valley running parallel to the coast with incredible rock formations and a population of wild goats. Being a wide valley with few trees even the small number of visitors about made it feel quite crowded. It is kept in its natural unspoiled state by the National Trust but is actually only 1/2 mile from the town of Lynton.
We walked past Castle Rock and found a rough path leading to a small cove. We stopped to eat our lunch when we were still about 200 ft above the beach as the rest of the path was very winding and difficult (not good for Peter's knee and ankle), plus we didn't fancy the haul back up again.

At this end of the valley there were hardly any people about and the paths were simple tracks. This type of bracken undergrowth is a typical habitat for adders, one of only 3 British snakes (and the only piosonous one) so I was glad I wasn't wearing shorts.

After a pleasant lunch stop contemplating the sea and listening to the seagulls we followed the more popular cliff path back along towards Lynton. In Victorian times this area of the coast was a popular holiday spot as the Victorians preferred walking and enjoying the dramatic scenery to the present day past-times of surfing and sunbathing.

We completed our circular walk by taking the steep path that lead back up over the cliff and into the Valley of the Rocks once more. Will post more goat pictures tomorrow but there's one sitting on the rock stack in the foreground of the above photo.
Down in the valley the only building in sight is a farmhouse? that includes a tea room and enclosed tea garden. A game of cricket was taking place and Peter attempted to make me interested in a game I've always found terribly boring both to watch and play. Still it did look very English. Check out the semi-enclosed area beyond the cricket pitch. A group of glossy Exmoor ponies had decided to graze in this bit of pasture.
Back home I cut all the grass again as the weather is beginning to change and it looks as if I shall be working for most of next week.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Bits And Bobs.

It was another full day at school doing football related activities. My class finished off writing a set of instructions for playing football. I had to admire one lad's brief offering;
1. Warm up.
2. Play the game.
3. See if you win or loose.
But not quite the detailed instructions I'd asked for! The chocolate muffins I made yesterday went down well in the staffroom and the remainder that I left at home have been scoffed too.
Imagine our family 20 years ago. Friday afternoon spent packing the car & caravan with everything needed for a weekend away with 3 small children plus 2 dogs. Peter arrives home from work, jumps in the car and we head off up the motorways. Several hours later we're on small country roads anxiously looking for the small SK signs set up to guide Sealed Knot members to that weekend's campsite.

It wasn't always easy to spot the sign and woe betide if you went too far, lost in a strange country lane! On one memorable occasion we realised we'd overshot our turn off and ended up turning around by first unhitching the caravan, hauling it around by hand and then re-attaching it to the car once that had performed a tricky 9 point turn. It is possible tempers were a little frayed that evening. The caravan was worth the towing hassle as the boys' beds would be made up and once we arrived and found our regiment's spot in the campsite, all we needed to to was put down the legs and we could get the boys into bed. In the early days, from when Vytas was only 3 months old, we slept in a tent - not much fun to put up when you arrive in the dark and wet. We're no longer members of the SK (2 of our boys are carrying on the family tradition) so it was bittersweet to see the markers leading to this weekend's mini muster at Arlington Court only a few miles away. Sadly none of our family or friends are going to be at this muster so we shan't be going to have a look.
Finally, some more pictures from yesterday's walk at Watersmeet.
The stunted and twisted trees that line the slopes of the gorge filtering the sunshine to produce a dappled effect.

Sunlight sparkling on the rushing water. All the bridges are built high up as the flow can increase dramatically in wet weather and large boulders can be carried along by the force of the water. In 1952 34 people lost their lives as a flash flood destroyed houses built along the river's mouth at Lynmouth.

From the bridges we could look down into the clear water and see brown trout. This one was about 18" long.
More snippets heard on the radio.
In the last 5 years the total annual profit for upland farmers has dropped by 40% to just over £10.000! The rich farmers are the ones in the lowlands who are operating massive agri-businesses.
Part of the blame for those horrible squashed together estates of new homes lies with the government as developers only get planning permission if they build to the density of at least 12 houses per acre. No wonder the houses are like shoe boxes with rooms built to minimum allowable sizes. I think it is so that more 'affordable' houses are built but I've just checked local prices and a 3 bedroom estate house in town is around £200,000 while the average pay for those lucky to be in work is £20,000 (local govt figures).


It was such a lovely day today that we decided to drive the 45 mins to Watersmeet, the wooded Exmoor gorge that is the setting for Lorna Doone. The dappled shade in the gorge with a gentle breeze made for perfect walking conditions. The air was filled with the sounds of water pouring over waterfalls and crashing through tumbling rocks.
Watersmeet itself where the 2 rivers join, had a number of visitors (Devon term for tourists) about but most of them seemed to be enjoying a cup of tea on the lawns of the tea house and enjoying the views at that point.

We headed north along the path on the right hand side of the above photo and immediately had the place to ourselves hardly seeing another soul on our 3 mile walk.

The paths are well maintained by the National Trust, the one on the other side of the river was much rockier and good exercise for our knees and ankles.

In some places the paths was right down by the river.

And in others we were high up where one false step would send you tumbling down the cliffs into the river.

Hopefully we'll find the time to make a few more visits to the area. The temptation is always to head out to our local beaches or Morthoe only 20 mins away but there are many beautiful spots in this region. On our way home we checked out the garden where I had seen the golden eagle on Saturday and as there was nothing there today I must have been correct in saying that it was a live golden eagle.
Back home, once I'd done some housework and baked some chocolate muffins to take to school tomorrow (everyone is usually quite stressed by the end of the week and we all the miss our last head teacher's home baking), it seemed a shame to waste the sunshine and I had some time doing nothing more but read a book outside.