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.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

A Quiet Day.

The clocks have changed an hour so we get an extra hour's lie-in in the morning and the nights draw in that much earlier. After a rainy morning the weather dried up and I was able to spend the afternoon weeding the veg plot. The sprouting broccoli is still sprouting and the buddlia cuttings I took last spring have done well. So I shall be able to replace the beautiful almost fluorescent purple bush that unaccountably died last spring. All the other varieties survived the same pruning regime but maybe the late cold snap was just too much for it.
I do not seem to have suffered any ill effect from yesterday's rowing though my stomach muscles are tingling. That's a good sign and hopefully rowing will improve my core strength.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Early Start.

At 7.15 I wondered what I was doing leaving the house on a Saturday morning in the pitch dark when I could have been tucked up in bed. But instead I was off for my 2nd pilot gig rowing taster session. It was still dark when we got to the boat shed and dawn had just begun as we got the gig into the water after walking it along the main road. At least we were spared the embarrassment of dragging a gig on a very squeaky set of wheels, that was the lot of the group behind us.
This time I had asked to sit on the odd numbered side to see if it made any difference to my back. Whether it was that or only being out for half an hour (or not having mown all the grass the day before), but it does not seem to have affected my back and so I shall ask to go out on 'social' ie gentle rows.

Here a wellie boot is being emptied of water. A variety of footwear is worn as there is no escaping having to wade into the river as you get in or out of the gig. Wellies are great but only if you don't walk too deep into the river. Peter wears wetsocks under sports sandals and I had on a pair of wetboots.

I quite enjoyed today's row even though I had difficulty putting the blade of the oar in at the correct angle and not too deep. Keeping time wasn't too hard though I was sitting behind someone who though a club member wasn't doing too well either. I'm surprised the gig didn't go round in circles the way we were rowing on our side. The taster session was for half an hour as so many people would like to give gig rowing a go so while Peter had a second session (they need 4 proper rowers to keep the gig moving while us beginners splash our oars around), I walked back to the car, dried my feet and put my warm Ugg boots on.

The 2 gigs can be seen as little red splodges on the right just under the New Bridge. We had rowed out past the bridge on our little session.

Once we had walked the gig back to the boat shed and settled it down on bits of wood it was a quick visit to the High Street and then home for a breakfast of home-made sausages, 3-cheese and pepper & laver made by Fred who had borrowed Peter's hand sausage maker.

After many phone conversations yesterday the telephone man came to fix our line. It's been an on-going problem for the last 15 years and until they replace all the overhead cables up on the road it will keep on re-occuring. At least we have the phone line without all the crackles and the Internet is up and running.

(Laver - seaweed.)

Here's an add-on to yesterday's post.

We saw quite a few Exmoor ponies on our walk yesterday. I keep on calling Ben, Persey and Doris, Exmoor ponies but actually they are Dartmoor ponies which is another of the 9 native breeds that we have in the UK.

The ponies on both moors run free across the extensive moorlands all year long but each belongs to a farmer. They are rounded up once a year when the foals are marked and the youngsters are taken off to market. Over the years the prices had dropped to very low levels with many ponies ending up as dog meat or being bought by people who couldn't afford to keep them but in recent years there has been a check on the numbers breeding on the moors and on the blood lines.

I wish I'd had my big camera so that I could zoom in on this sweet foal sleeping in the sun.

Unlike Dartmoor ponies which come in varied colours, Exmoor ponies are always brown with a mealy muzzle. They are good natured sturdy ponies and can be ridden by a small adult as well as making excellent driving ponies.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Countisbury Hill.

We had more time for our walk today so we went a little further afield than usual. We started our walk at Countisbury which is just beyond Lynton. The cliffs at Countisbury are the highest in England and once we had walked out onto the hill we had amazing views of Lynton up on the cliff and Lynmouth at sea level.
We planned to walk round the coast path but we had to decide if we would walk right round The Foreland. This is one of a pair of signs at either end of the path indicating that it is not the sort of path to take your elderly aunt along, or even 2 wives both scared of heights and 5 children. But that is what Peter and Sam did one windy winter's day about 18 years ago. They strode off in front and Kate and I brought up the rear praying that none of the children would slip down the slope (only a few hundred of feet to the rocks below) and that neither of us would succumb to vertigo. We survived but it wasn't a pleasant experience. Today however the weather was fine and I am no longer worried by heights so we headed off along the path in the reverse direction to the one we took so many years ago.

At first the 1ft wide path is relatively easy though it is a long drop down to the sea.

But soon we were scrambling along scree slopes some parts of which were quite slippery because of the recent rain. It was very good for the leg muscles having to walk so cautiously.

Rounding The Foreland we were rewarded with more amazing views up towards Porlock Vale.

The path dropped steeply down to an automated lighthouse and we walked all the way round and up this tarmac road. We stopped for a few words with a local man out with his son and a 6 month lurcher pup which was very sweet and friendly.

The next section of our walk took us along the cliff face towards a place called Desolate. It was very peaceful walking along a wooded hillside with the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks below.

After another mile or so we took a path that doubled back, winding its way up the cliff face until we were walking through farm land. (That's The Foreland in the centre of the picture.)

Once again we were out in the bright sunshine through typical moorland.

Down below us we could see The Blue Bull, an old coaching inn where we had parked the car.

We saw quite a few Exmoor ponies out on the moor and cliff tops.

Finally we stopped at this bench, which we had passed on our outward journey, for a welcome cup of coffee.

It was a varied and interesting walk and we felt our muscles had been suitably exercised.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Faulty Line.

The phone is not working and our BT hub keeps crashing so I've no idea how long I can stay on the Internet.

I took my camera back today. The fuzzy eye piece was just a matter of adjusting the dioptre with a little dial but there is definitely a scratch so it is going back to be repaired.

I was not in a happy mood when I went up to my local health centre to collect our prescriptions. The pharmacy was closed from 1-3pm! It was even more irritating when I could hear voices behind the closed shutter as I waited 45 mins for them to open. Obviously patients wanting their prescriptions are simply an inconvenience. I shall be making a complaint to the local health authority as the doctors who manage the finances of the place earn enormous salaries supposedly for providing a service to the patients.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Sucker ?

Peter had a couple of holiday days so he has taken them to coincide with my holiday. This morning the weather was quite nice so we went for a walk down to Bull Point. It was warm enough for me to wear a bodywarmer over a vest t-shirt. Peter on the other hand was wearing a hoody and a jacket and was rather overheated by the end of our walk.
Out to sea we could see a rain shower but it moved off towards Wales.

We didn't tackle the steps down to Rockham Bay today but sat at the top to have our coffee. There were many holiday makers about enjoying this break in the weather.

Back home I got out the leaf blower vac which as I only use it for sucking up leaves should be called a sucker! It is heavy and noisy but it does get most of the leaves up. I find it much more satisfying to work quietly by hand leaving each section completely cleared but the size of the garden and my limited time does not make that possible. I will still have to go over the whole of the scree garden to remove the leaves that got stuck under the stones but I should get through it a lot more quickly. There are still millions more leaves up in the trees waiting to gently waft down onto the garden. They look very beautiful with their gold and orange colours but should I leave them the stones will turn black and the leaves will become a rotten mush.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Some Good, Some Bad.

We had some lovely sunshine this morning which gave me the chance to go outside and clear all the gutters at the back of the house as they had filled up with leaves again. Then I swept up more leaves at the scree garden. At the moment I am doing this on my hands and knees with a brush and pan, that way I can weed between the slabs at the same time, but now that the main bulk has been cleared I'll try using the leaf vacuum again. Maybe it will be good at getting the leaves off the stones. Then it was off to the hospital for more massaging from my lovely physiotherapist. He's pleased with my progress, ie no more dead finger but I have a lot of work to do to correct years of poor posture and get my back muscles loosened up.

Then it was time to head into town for coffee and a catch up with a friend. Today I had mango & passion fruit cheesecake with my cappuccino.

On the way in to town I noticed that the clouds were gathering filling the sky with lovely colours,

and interesting shapes. (That's Dartmoor on the horizon.) Then I realised they also were an indication of a lot of rain to come. And rain it did, luckily I had thrown a jacket into the car just in case my fluffy fleece wasn't enough. When we came out of Lindsay's cake shop it was pouring.

While I was in town I called in at the camera shop and was pleased to find my big Nikon ready to be collected after being repaired. I was not so pleased to find, after spending ages stitching back on my extra long strap which once again had been cut off, that it has come back even worse. The spot on the lens has gone but there are serious issues with the eye piece viewfinder. There is a scratch right in the middle of it and the picture does not sharpen up when you press the button. Even if my poor sight didn't force me to rely on the small viewfinder rather than the big screen I would still be livid that my expensive camera has been returned to me in such a state. Guess I'll be heading back to the shop soon. Luckily the staff in there are very helpful unlike in many shops so I won't have to psych myself up for a big confrontation.

To top off my day it looks as if my washing machine has gone kaput. I've tried twice to do the same lot of washing but all it does it get stuck halfway in the cycle and keep making wooshing noises for several hours. I've switched off the power and I'll investigate further tomorrow.

Best news of all, Linas phoned to say that he has got an IT job covering for maternity leave so he could be there for anything from 6 weeks to 6 months. He has a 2 week probationary period first but I am sure he will do well. At least it is a start.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Weather Alert.

There was a weather alert this morning for heavy rain and possible flooding so my first job of the day was to go up and build my water diverters across the road and (possibly) dig a little ditch into my neighbour's field. That saves me the backbreaking task of raking up our dirt/gravel drive which slopes down to the house. It has been raining all day and the water has not come pouring down the drive so it obviously worked. So today was a good day to start clearing out cupboards in the kitchen. I started with the pull-out wire baskets which hold cleaning materials as well as anything else that got shoved in there, dogs' leads, saddle soap & hoof pick, chick crumbs and lawn seed. Those wire baskets are not a good storage solution and I have to keep most things in large ice cream tubs. Right now everything has been sorted and washed and is drying on the floor infront of the Rayburn. Hopefully now that I have thrown some stuff away and collated the rest the baskets will be tidier.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Jam Today.

It has been dry all day with a warm wind blowing and I was so tempted to work outside but there was jam to be made. I cooked up 4 kilos of jam which should last quite a while. Some friends came round just as I had started so I turned down the heat and kept on stirring while we had coffee and caught up with family news as we don't see them that often. Peter had gone off gig rowing so he missed the visit.
As I had so much blackcurrant puree I thought I would see what else I could come up with. Yesterday I added lots to a basic cake recipe and made the very purple looking cake. I thought it was lovely but Peter didn't like it. Today I put blackcurrant puree in half of some cake mixture and kept the other half vanilla. Then I made cup cakes with both flavours of the mixture. (There was another batch in the oven.) I can freeze these for when we have visitors. I thought a cream cheese frosting with a drizzle of blackcurrant jam might go nicely on them. (Guess who watches Cupcake Wars?)
Yesterday evening we were sat watching Strictly Come Dancing on TV, (we turn into dance experts each year and really enjoy all aspects of the programme apart from the voting), when one of the 'filler' scenes took place on a city farm in London. Imagine our surprise to recognise Stepping Stones Farm, or as it is known now Stepney Farm. We were involved with the running of the farm, nearly 30 years ago, when it had been open for only a year. I served on the committee for several years and was even chairperson for one year.

Photo from Google images.

I used to teach half of each day and spent a lot of my free time beyond those gates, helping to develop the farm, organise events and generally helping our 2 paid members of staff. It was there that I learnt to milk goats and to shear a sheep with hand clippers.

Also from Google images.

We did a lot of work with local youngsters including from the Traveller community. I ran a pony club where the kids cleaned all the tack, groomed the ponies and finally took it in turns to have a lesson on our 3 ponies in this field which was one big field in those days. We also had a number of big open areas to ride on next to us. These were bomb sites from the war. The farm had ponies, goats, calves, sheep, chickens, ducks and rabbits and there were allotments for local people to grow veg.

Each year we would organise a horse show which was attended by youngsters from 2 other nearby city farms, The Mudchute and Spitalsfields Farm. That's me judging in the middle. The black horse on the end is my horse Meg whom I had bought from Lee Valley stables, now upgraded to Olympic standard for 2012, where I used to go for lessons.

There were also a surprising number of horses and ponies being kept privately in Stepney and I exercised and looked after some of those. This is Cream Boy, a section C Welsh cob stallion who was a driving rather than a riding horse and could be 'fun' to ride in traffic. I looked after him for a number of years and I was still riding him when I was pregnant with Vytas, much to my mother's horror.
I may have been living in the East End but I have always been a country girl at heart and as well as the farm and horses I was involved with the Cable Street Community Gardens and the East End Wildlife Group and got to see a lot of the wilder parts of this very urban area. I expect now that it has all been developed and there are no more wild places besides the canals or on the abandoned railway lines.

Saturday, 22 October 2011


I will not be defeated by Blogger so here is the final picture in a post of its own. It's a view of Morte Point taken from down on Rockham Beach.

Enjoying The Weather.

It was so lovely this morning that we abandoned our plans for doing household chores and instead headed out for a nice long walk. We went to our favourite place, Mortehoe, and taking advantage of the free winter parking up on the road we set off towards Bull Point lighthouse.
From the main path we then took a small track that leads steeply downwards towards Kinnevar. (I'm not sure if the name refers to the stream or the whole valley.) The sun shone down through the trees and and it was peaceful walking along the babbling stream. Eventually we emerged from the trees into the wide grassy valley that leads to the beach at Bennet's Mouth. This is the start of the half-term holiday so there were more people about including some large teams of youngsters out orienteering and learning about survival on the moors.

Despite the increased numbers of people it was still very restful to sit near the waters' edge watching the waves crashing in on the rocks and marvelling at the lovely blue colour of the sea.

But by the time we had gone back up onto the cliffs and walked round the coast to Rockham Bay the clouds had rolled in and the sea had changed to a steely grey colour. Today we climbed down the steep wooden stairs to the beach so that we could sit there and enjoy a cup of coffee. We had forgotten to put sweeteners in the coffee but we did had a couple of small slices of cake to go with it. Then it was back up the stairs and more cliff steps till we were back at Mortehoe once more. Logic tells me that there has to be the same amount of ups as downs on such a walk but why does it always feel as if there are far more ups? I was so hot on our return to the car that when we dropped into Tescos to buy a few things I walked around the supermarket in walking boots, jeans (with a big hole in the knee), and a vest t-shirt though I kept my fingerless gloves and wrap around sunglasses on. That's what I'm like.

Just deleted my final picture and now it is refusing to load any more. Aargh!

Friday, 21 October 2011

Early Start.

It was a bit of a shock to the system to be eating my breakfast looking out at the night sky. That's because I was on my way to a full day's teaching. On the up side, by the time I was in the car and driving into town the dawn was breaking and I was able to enjoy the subtle shades of grey and lavender with an occasional tinge of pink. I was a little aprehensive about today's class as it was the first time I had taught the reception children and due to our new single entry system some of them are not even 4 years old.

Previously the younger children would start in January but then would have the disadvantage of only 2 terms in the reception class. The British system is very inflexible and apart from children with specific special needs I have never heard of a child staying back a year though each year there are several older children who would have benefitted from learning in a more play based environment. That's my opinion anyway.

Anyway we had a good day though I did struggle to learn yet another 28 names. Most of the children started the day by calling me the name of our school administrator but I think they know who I am now.

It had got a bit warmer again but was overcast for the whole day. I stopped on my homeward journey to take a few pictures.
It's half-term now so a whole 10 days before I am back at work. Hooray.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Halfway To Jam.

It has been nice to spend a whole day at home. After finishing off those windows and little bits of sorting out my plan was to spend the day making blackcurrant jam. Once I had dug around in the freezer I found I had quite a few tubs of home grown blackcurrants to use up.
While the blackcurrants were defrosting and cooking down I spent a couple of hours in the garden, weeding and sweeping leaves round the scree garden. It had warmed up but I kept my hat pulled down low over my eyes as the midges were out and hungry. I was serenaded by a bold robin sitting in a tree on the edge of the drive. He looked very Christmassy with his festive red breast.

It was pleasant to be working outside but eventually my back had enough of working on my hands and knees and I came inside to push the cooked blackcurrants through a sieve. Nearly 3 hours later I had a large saucepan of pulp and a very sore hand. So I shall not be cooking it all up until tomorrow or even Saturday morning.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A Rainbow !

This evening I brought down the newly painted shelves to the little space under the stairs. It took a while to sort out all the wires so that they now run under the carpet and don't just lie there in a tangled mess.
It has been a day of sunshine and wintry showers just as predicted. First thing this morning I had to run across the playground through a shower of hail. I spent the whole day teaching the Year 2 class and I'm still thrilled to be leaving school before 4.00. Driving home at 4.15 there were more showers so I stopped to take some photos of this rainbow. Looking closely at the picture I can see a hint of a second rainbow in the clouds. (The whole arc of the rainbow was visible but wouldn't fit in the shot.)

Arlington Court can be seen behind the rainbow with the hills of Exmoor in the distance.

Coming down our drive I could just see the rainbow disappearing behind the big beech tree.