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.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012


It was cold and wintry this morning but sun eventually broke through to give us a brighter afternoon. Climbing the hill at mid-day I could see the remnants of the snow at Blackmoor Gate. The air temperature was 0C but the only scrap of snow around was a small pile that had slid from my car on Monday. I had a fun afternoon at school teaching the children how to read simple co-ordinates and then after school we had a useful training session on how to deal with children that have extreme behaviour problems.
Coming home there was even a touch of colour in the sky. The temperatures are set to plummet tonight and while the road is dry for now I have parked at the top of the hill again. I'm working in the morning so I don't want to be worrying. One good thing about being at work is that it is so warm. Most of the time in the classrooms I get so warm that I only wear a sleeveless t-shirt.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Yes And Yes.

We did have snow last night. When I looked out of the window late at night I could see at least 2 inches of snow covering the grass. During the night the snowfall turned back into sleet and by morning most of the snow had gone. I had an early morning phone call asking me to cover for a sick colleague so by 7.30 I was marching up the hill to the car. I could see more snow on Exmoor but the roads were clear. Once I had driven along the top of the hill as usual there was no snow to be seen to the south. It rained all day long and on the homeward journey the rain became sleet once I reached Shirwell and right up on our hills it was trying to snow again.
The local news this evening had pictures of much heavier snow out at Blackmoor Gate and on Exmoor. The weather warning is now for a drop in temperature causing dangerous icy roads. I'm glad that once again my car is at the top of the hill. I had a quick look at the news stories on the web which always seem to be so much more dramatic than the tv. They were talking of temperatures dropping down to -10C this week, I hope not because although I love the beauty of the snow the cost of keeping warm is worrying. Not to mention water pipes freezing (though Peter insulated everything he could this summer), and dangerous driving conditions.
I was right about the sea anemone. I found a marine wildlife group site with pictures that led me to think that it was a Daisy anemone and because it is quite a rare species there was a request to report any sightings. I sent off photos and details and got an answer back confirming that it was a Cereus or Daisy anemone and information about 2 other unusual species that have been found on Barricane Beach. So my rusty brain can still drag up information from a marine ecology unit in my degree 35 years ago.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Snow ?

This morning it was cold and grey but we decided to go out for a walk anyway. By the time we got in the car it was raining lightly so we thought the beach would be a better choice than up on the cliffs. As we drove along the rain looked suspiciously like sleet but that did not deter us. The rain wasn't too bad at Barricane Beach and we had a gentle amble around, picking up yet more shells and enjoying the sea air. There were some men out fishing off the rocks but they didn't seem to be having much luck and were starting to pack up their gear.
At Barricane Beach it is fun to explore the many small rock pools.

As usual there were beadlet sea anemones,

the green snakelocks sea anemones, which will sting

and this anemone which might be a different species or more probably an older brown beadlet.

After our walk we stopped at Tescos to pick up a few things and there I met a friend who I haven't seen for a long time. I don't know if people do this in other parts of the country but in Devon it is common to see a group of people having a long conversation in the supermarket. Even Peter spotted someone he hadn't seen for many years and had a long catch-up with him. As we drove home the rain was now definitely sleet, almost looking like snow. Being ever the worrier I looked at Metcheck and it was forecasting sleet through the night and then the temperature dropping to give us snow. That was enough for me so I donned waterproofs and drove my car to the top of the hill. Although the road was clear the fields were beginning to turn white. I left the car in a gateway with the de-icer under the car (in case the locks freeze). I didn't even have to walk down as a friend came by on his way to visit our neighbours and he gave me a lift in his Landrover. It is dark now but the last time I looked the grass at the back was also beginning to turn white. - Just been out and the sleet has turned back to rain but I prefer not to take any chances. Now to start a wood fire so we can have a cosy evening.

Saturday, 28 January 2012


It has been almost sunny today. In the morning I caught up with some sleep while Peter went off for an early morning row. My afternoon was spent out in the garden happily weeding the rocky bank. I'm working on this first as it is mainly planted with different varieties of hardy geranium which will be flowering in spring covering the hillside with pink, purple, blue and white flowers. These are the ideal plants for this garden as they are hardy, slug resistant and grow well. If they were growing in proper soil I would be able to chop them back after they finish flowering to encourage a second growth of flowers but it didn't happen when I tried it. Jack came over for a visit and we went down to look at the frogs (hidden) and frogspawn in the little pond. Elwen came and did her party trick of slurping up frogspawn. Thank goodness the cats are out at night as I hate to think what effect frogspawn has on a cat's digestion. Paul has set up a web cam so Jack can watch the local wild life and as well as a fox, a hare, a badger, a badger and a badger, Patch has been seen fishing for trout! I'm making good progress with the weeding and the end (for that section) is in sight. For a break I sat with my cuppa watching the clouds. During the week the wind has been blowing from the west but now it has veered round to a northerly wind. I suppose that means we will be getting some colder weather. As it is the weekend we have a wood fire burning merrily and Peter is cooking up a supper including fresh sprouting broccoli from the garden.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Muddy Roads.

I had a moment of panic this morning when I heard the weather person give out a yellow warning for icy roads in Devon and Cornwall. I had to go out and check with a torch before Peter went off in his 4 wheel drive Rav possibly leaving me stranded at the bottom of our steep hill. But when I went out it was fairly mild and the road was clear. I didn't have such good luck coming home. The farmers have been out muck spreading and the road at the top of the drive is a sea of mud and slurry. As I slowed to turn the corner my little car slid gracefully across the road. Luckily the road was empty and I stopped before hitting the hedge. There has been a lot of blue sky today with fluffy clouds being blown along by the strong wind. But once again my journey home brought me under a big black cloud and I just managed to take a few pictures before the rain started falling.
Nothing else of note today as I have been teaching all day.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Cold And Wet.

It has been a day of heavy showers. I was about to wrap up and go outside to do some more weeding when yet another shower struck and this time it was hail. Somehow doing my paperwork seemed to be a better option. I had to go into town before work to yet again send a recorded delivery letter to the student loan company. They keep on asking for the same forms to be filled and claiming that they have never received them so now I am taking no chances. Poor Romas is still waiting for the rest of last year's money.Coming home I got stuck under another dark rain cloud and now the temperature seems to be dropping again.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

An Early Start.

I still find it a bit of a shock to the system to be driving off to work in the dark. Not even a hint of a sunrise this morning, only a faint lessening of the pitch black night. It was too dark to see any of the countryside but it was interesting to identify the little groups of lights dotted around the landscape. To the east about 5 miles away was the line of lights on The Station Inn at Blackmoor Gate. As the name suggests this was once a gate onto the open moor. Nowadays most of Exmoor is farmland with smaller areas of moorland on the hill tops. Blackmoor Gate was named after the Blackmore family one of whom, R D Blackmore was the author of Lorna Doone. Photo of the turbines over Barnstaple from the web.

As I reached the top of our drive I looked to the west and for the first time saw the red lights marking several of the 22 wind turbines, 2 miles away at Huntshaw Cross. They have been up and running for a while now but only at half speed. The trial period is about to end and they will double their speed which will no doubt more than double the amount of low level (like a giant cement mixer) noise from the motor and the rhythmic thrumming & high pitched whirring from the blades. I find it bad enough to see this industrialisation of our beautiful landscape and can only imagine what it must be like, in terms of noise pollution, to live near them. A local farmer near Bowden Corner has applied for permission to build a 200 ft high turbine. This size of turbine would produce 20x the amount of electricity he would need for his farm whilst destroying the peace of the countryside. Along with many local people I have made an official objection to the council and hopefully this creeping industrialisation will be stopped. It's not as if these turbines are that energy efficient as they need a secondary power source as a back up in times of low wind speed and health & safety regulations stop them from being run at fast efficient speeds.

Then as I turned to the south, 10 miles away was the vertical line of red lights on the TV transmitter at Huntshaw Cross while much closer nestled down in the valley were the twinkling lights of Barnstaple. Here and there scattered across the landscape were small groups of lights from villages and farms. So even in the dark there is still plenty to see.

I spent the whole day at school and came home early through the light drizzle that had been with us for most of the day. Looking towards Blackmoor Gate the landscape had an almost oriental quality with the hills fading away in the distance.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

It's Raining.

Rain, rain, rain all day long. It was far too wet to do any gardening so I spent the morning doing mundane things like tidying up. I also had a fun time planning another dance lesson for my Year 2 class. I am not naturally graceful or athletic and as a very tall child of average (not willowy) build I always felt I was more elephant than elegant. I had ballet lessons at primary school but as a teenager dance was not part of my world. Going to a few discos and later clubs doesn't really count. I did become part of a folk dance group, where I met Peter but that was it. Which is a shame because I would really love to go/have gone to classes but too many joints are crumbling now. So I know that I have little technique or experience but I have had great fun teaching children the basics of listening and responding to music and creating their own moves within a genre. This year with the Dance Festival coming up and our current school theme of 'Space' I am exploring street dance. Using YouTube to learn some basic steps and avid watching of Got to Dance I am sure we shall have fun and be able to come up with a Robots vs Aliens dance for the festival. I took these shots from the same spot as yesterday to show the even cloudier conditions.
At least it is still quite warm.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Is It Winter?

I thought it was supposed to be winter, and then I found this large (2") caterpillar munching away on the artichoke plant. I'm not too sure what species it is, the nearest I can come up with is a lappet moth. Once I had taken a mug shot I moved it to the field before it ate all of the artichoke which is already looking rather ragged. We've had some heavy showers today but it stayed dry through the morning giving me time to do some gardening. I was able to clear a satisfying amount of grass roots before time stopped play and I had to get ready for work. I would much have preferred to stay grubbing about on the hillside but that doesn't pay the bills.
It was fairly wet during the afternoon and then began to rain heavily on my way home. I had been thinking about doing some more gardening as it was still light but not in those conditions. I'm not that keen. Driving down into our valley the clouds that I could hardly see the other side of the valley.

I took some lazy photos (through the car window), on my way down the drive. There is a buzzard sitting on the left of the middle of the tree and a whole flock of smaller birds, starlings/finches? sitting above it. The little birds flew off when I stopped but the buzzard stayed put as there was a whole field between us.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


I was tree hugging this afternoon. Not through a desire to commune with nature but because when you are on a wobbly ladder which is leaning against a wobbly tree, hanging on for dear life seems a sensible option. The tree in question was one of the 2 willow trees at the bottom of the hen run. I don't know which variety they are but they grow 6-8ft every year which would lead to them becoming far too big for the garden. So each year I have to cut off all the branches. The whippy whithys are great if you need them for basket making or craft work but to me they are just a nuisance. This is one job that cannot be left. I had been hoping to do some more weeding as I have realised that once I have my surgery I will need a proper break from gardening so I must get things under control now but this needed doing.I had thought all the roses were over after the last brief cold spell but there are 2 flowers on the climbing rose that covers the front of the house.

No change in the weather today, it has been not too cold but dry and windy. Great for a Sunday morning lie-in listening to the Archers and watching the trees waving in the wind. Peter went to the gig club for fitness assessment (they are taking the gig championships very seriously), so there wasn't time for a walk hence the gardening.
While I was up the ladder I noticed that the brambles had returned to the strip of land on the far side of the hen run so I donned my extra thick gloves and had a bramble session. Luckily the soil is soft and I had cleared that bit last year so it wasn't too hard going. The Rambling Rector, a very vigorous rose only suitable for trees or big barns, is doing well and has rooted down back into the soil. It flowered for the last 2 years but has taken 10 years to get to this stage so possibly was not the best choice. I shall think of it as a legacy for future residents of this place when hopefully it will romp through all the trees on that boundary covering them with bunches of small white roses. I also took a bow saw to some of the overhanging trees as I am fed up of nearly having my eyes poked out by the blackthorn.
After a hard gardening session it was good to sit by the scree garden with a cup of tea and watch the clouds scudding across the sky. A pair of bullfinches were feeding on the drive, they are little dumpy sparrow sized birds and the male was an amazing bright red right up to his black cap. (I used my fuzzy photo and trusty bird book to identify them.)
Now for a relaxing evening in front of a wood fire, watching Dancing on Ice and eating prawn stir fry cooked by Peter. (He doesn't like gardening and I don't like cooking so it all works out.)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Rivet, Rivet.

The recent milder weather has got the frogs revving up in both senses of the word. Walking quietly in the garden it sounds as though a couple of bikes are being revved up and already the little pond is half filled with frog spawn. Trying to get a photo of the frogs is a matter of creeping up the steps and hoping they don't spot me. (Zoom in on the picture to spot 14 frogs.) As soon as one does there is a great commotion and splashing as the frogs dive to the bottom of the pond.
Most years a cold spell, sometimes even snow, in February or March freezes and kills most of the frogspawn but enough survives to keep going from year to year.
It is very windy today with the wind roaring in the trees but there was enough of a break in the rain for me to get outside to do some weeding. Not as much as I would have liked but probably enough for my back. Kneeling down and weeding isn't the problem, it's the standing up and trying to walk afterwards that is so hard. I find weeding very satisfying especially when as today I am working on a scorched earth policy and digging right down to get every root out. I didn't do such a thorough job last year (teaching full-time took up most of my time), and it was too easy for the couch grass to re-establish itself. Hopefully a second weeding in spring before I move some ground cover plants from another part of the garden should keep that patch more garden than field.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Busy Day.

Thank you to those who posted kind comments about poor old Smudge. I know that in the scale of things losing a pet, even a much loved pet, does not compare in any way to the sorrow over the illness or loss of a family member or friend but it can still be upsetting. As we worked in the dark, digging a hole in the ground, I thought of the many people who would be digging such a hole for a truly sad reason.How fortunate I am to be living such a placid life in a safe environment where the loss of a pet is a reason to mourn.

(Scroll down to see the photos I was going to post yesterday.)

Thursday, 19 January 2012


Soon after Peter came home tonight I found Smudge outside with a badly broken leg. I scooped up Smudge, yelled for Peter and we drove straight down to the vets' in town. From there we had to make a phone call and drive to their other surgery on the other side of town. Sadly at his age, nearly 14, and being pretty decrepit there was no alternative but to have him put to sleep in my arms. Then we brought him home and he is now buried under the trees by the vegetable plot.

Thursday - 1st Blog.

Here is Thursday's interrupted blog.

There's no going back now. I bought the ferry tickets for our trip to St Mary's (largest of the Scilly Isles), this morning. The Scillonian looks to be about twice the size of the Oldenburg that takes us to Lundy and was built locally at Appledore. Driving home tonight, after a staff meeting and a successful bargain hunt at the Co-Op the light was fading fast so I stopped at a lay-by to try and capture the night sky.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Tent Arrives.

It was a lot warmer today but also rather wet. Going up the hill I drove into the cloud layer before reaching the road and it wasn't until I was nearly in town that I escaped the clouds to drive underneath them instead. The rain got worse through the afternoon and as we were in the middle of some work I didn't bother taking my class out for a run around in the rain though usually we do go out if it is not raining too heavily. Once again I left school before 4.00 and the driving conditions were almost the same as they had been at mid-day.
Coming home I found that our new (second hand) tent had been delivered. I have taken it out of the bag and put the poles in but I'm waiting for Peter to get home to set it up as it is much easier to clip the bendy poles in when there are 2 of you. At first I was shocked by the orange colour but that is only the inner tent. I thought we were going to look as if we were sitting in a life raft but the outer cover is in fact grey and a bluey green. The cats had a fine time leaping about on the crackly plastic and attacking the waving poles as I clipped them together but I've fed the cats and thrown them out so all is peaceful and there are no chances of little puddles on the inviting plastic.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Gobble, Gobble.

It was colder again this morning so Smudge, the old man of my cat gang, was quick to climb into the warming oven of the Rayburn.
And once again the sun warmed the day up. Later I went to the Post Office to send a parcel before a relaxed afternoon in school. At the end of the day I was out of school so early that the sun hadn't really started setting. I drove down to Bowden Corner to take some hazy shots looking out towards the sea.

As I was about to go back to the car these 3 turkeys, obviously survivors from Christmas, spotted me and came gobbling over. They are funny birds.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Coldest Night.

Last night was the coldest night of the winter. It wasn't so bad down here in Devon but even so we had a frosty start to the day. Yesterday on our way back from Morthoe we had been passed by a gritter and been sprinkled with road salt but that was only on the main road. Our little country roads are never treated, we just have to drive very carefully. Coming home this evening Paul was out on his quad bike putting salt on the hill to prevent the black ice that stays all day in cold weather.
The ground was too cold for weeding so instead I got on with hoovering. That's an excellent way to get warm, by the time I was halfway through I had shed my 2 fleeces and was working in a t-shirt. Then off to school for the afternoon. It was bright and sunny and even felt quite warm.

No Monday staff meeting this week so I was able to drive home in the sun stopping near Ashelford Corner to take a few photos.

Back home the frost still lingered in those parts of the garden that were in the shade for most of the day.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

A Walk On The Cliffs.

It was a good day for a walk today even though Peter had worn himself out rowing first thing. We went off for our favourite walk around Morte Point. There was a very cold wind from the south-west so for once the shady side of the headland was not so cold.
As we were well wrapped up we stopped for coffee right on the headland. The path is that flat area which has been cut from the rock and then bends around to the right.

I sometimes think my camera is a little optimistic with the turquoise blue it gives for the sky, I don't have any filters set but maybe I need to make some adjustment. But all said it was sunny.

This was from exactly the same spot but looking out to sea back along the path towards the point. Our conversation today was all about our trip to the Scilly Isles in May.I think half the fun of a holiday is in the planning. In this case we have the double challenge of keeping costs down and also camping for 5 days but being limited in the amount we take. That will keep me busy for a while.

Once home there was only time for an hour of weeding before it got too dark to see what I was doing. Now for a warm evening watching Dancing on Ice and enjoying a prawn byriani.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Keeping Warm.

At last our wood burner is back in service. The doors have been virtually rebuilt, the T-piece at the base of the flue has been replaced and the back of the inside repaired. It was a much bigger job than we first envisaged. Tonight we have a log fire burning as the weather is getting a lot colder. This morning we had the first proper frost of the winter, no incentive to get up early on a Saturday.
This afternoon I wrapped up and got on with the weeding. The day was middling, neither sunny nor totally grey and as usual it looked a lot brighter when I got outside.

This bank beside the drive is now ready for spring. I shall simply work my way around the rest of the garden whenever possible.

Going to spend a nice warm evening watching a film in the warmth of the fire.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Another Early Start.

It had been a clear night so it felt a lot colder this morning and we had to pour water on the windscreens of our cars to clear the thin layer of ice there. The sun was just coming up as I set off for a full day's work.

There were quite thick areas of mist nestling in the valleys. It was an exciting start to the day, especially when driving down the side of the long valley that leads into Barnstaple. In places the mist rolled across the road but for a lot of the time the road was higher than the fluffy mist banks. Unfortunately there are no safe places to stop and take photos there without having to walk some way which when it is cold and you're on the way to work is not really an option.
I had a fairly hectic but fun day with the children as they all designed and made rockets from a mountain of junk material.

The day itself was bright and sunny, typical that I was working for the whole day. That's twice in one week. Returning home I was nearly blinded by a golden sunburst in my rear view mirror and by the time I turned up the back roads the sky was looking, not spectacular, but pretty.

Here's hoping that we will have some good weather this week-end as well.