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.

Saturday 31 January 2009

Temperatures Set To Plummet.

This was the view as I walked to my car after school yesterday and it reflects the way I was feeling, dark and out of focus. A couple of minor things had gone wrong in the day and because I was so tired they kept playing on my mind. And instead of getting straight down to paperwork at lunchtime, I'd had to keep an eye on a child who had been sick, (and then perked right up), so I felt I'd started my afternoon all behind. Later then I found it hard to change the role play area in the classroom while the cleaner was bustling about ( no fault of hers) and I eventually left school feeling absolutely exhausted. Imagine my joy on arriving home to find I would have to go back into town to collect Linas from the train station at 7.00. This was only surpassed by the feelings of greater happiness when due to train delays I would have to pick him up after 10.00. I didn't have the energy to blog or do my sit-ups.

Today, despite the house being invaded by gun-toting airsoft dudes, (Linas, Romas and 2 friends), I'm in a much better mood. It's been cloudy all day long but not too cold, so after washing my car I put in several hours of weeding. There is just so much work to do in the garden. I never know whether to start where the weeds are the tallest and choking the plants or to start where the weeds are tiny, clear a bigger area and know that each tiny weed had the capability to grow into a mighty nuisance. The fact is it all has to be done and today was a good start. Here are my hens waiting at the gate for another bucket of yummy weeds to be added to the compost heap. The marans and the black rock almost look ready to start laying again. I don't expect much from the warrens ( the red hens), they are elderly ex-battery hens that are the last of a group of 14 I got about 5 years ago. Battery farming is a disgusting system and I'm glad that I was able to re-home a few hens. After living a year on the space of an A4 piece of paper the hens are no longer economic and generally end up in pet food or dumped.

The daffodils on the bank behind the house are still looking very cheerful. The other clumps in the garden are only about 4" high.

These 2 rockery sedums are providing tiny splashes of colour among the dusty green and greys of winter.
Talking of winter , temperatures are set to plummet from tomorrow, here are the temperatures according to Metcheck.
Sat 9.00 4C feels like -1C
Sun 6.00 am -1C feels like -6C
Sun 3.00 2C feels like -7C
Sun 6.00 -3C feels like -10C
Mon6.00am -1Cfeels like -7C
For here that is really, really cold. Luckily it is supposed to be dry tomorrow which makes life easier and I'll definitely be taking the car up top tomorrow afternoon so that I can get into work even if the predicted snow has come.

Thursday 29 January 2009

Baby Sheepdogs.

It turned very cold this afternoon and despite Metcheck assuring me it won't freeze tonight I decided to play safe and park up at the top of the hill. It was dark before I got home but at least it is now light when I get in the car at 7.30 in the morning. I like to feed the hens before I eat my breakfast and browse a few blogs, so I'm still stumbling up to the hen run in the pitch dark. The weather forecast for Sunday night is for temperatures to plummet so I've stocked up on de-icer spray and will definitely be leaving the car up top then.
School was fairly relaxed today though I still haven't managed to organise our visit to the police station . Children are funny, this afternoon I was outside with them for their play time and there was a line of 12 little girls all squeaking / shrieking loudly while being pursued around the playground by a group of boys. This went on for quite a time so I did ask what they were doing and was told they were 'baby sheepdogs', I'm not sure what the boys were and I don't think they knew either but it was good to see so much activity. We have a short pe session every day and for a warm up I have the children jogging around while I finish rolling up trousers that are too long, ( for most sessions they just take off shoes, socks and jumpers), and if they get tired they can go for a brisk walk instead. After a few minutes there is a lot of puffing and panting but their fitness is gradually improving. It is sad that these days children have fewer opportunities to run around and spend longer at sedentary activities instead. I was surprised a couple of years ago when I did a survey with a class of 6 year olds and found out that most of them had a tv/dvd player in their rooms and that a fair number ate their evening meal without their parents but in front of the tv. This was in a school in a more deprived area than where I am now.

Wednesday 28 January 2009

Misty Morning.

It was a complete change of weather this morning. yesterday's torrential rain had given way to patchy mist. I get very confused with the correct terminology, up here in the hills we are often right in the clouds, sometimes you can see the bottom of the clouds just skimming the tops of the hedgerows.
This was my first view of the mist this morning, just past the Lewis' farm looking towards Shirwell.
As I drove down to work there were interesting patches of mist/cloud ? but there are almost no safe places to pull in on the main road, ( by main road I mean that it has a white line down the middle and cars can pass safely in both directions, compared to the back roads where you have to drive carefully past other cars or often reverse until you find a passing place) . These photos were taken from the layby at Burridge.

And on the way home (5.00pm) there was a lovely soft sunset, but my camera is frustratingly bad at capturing subtle tones and doesn't focus well in zoom.

The day turned out warm and was a balmy 12C this afternoon. It was warm enough to let the children play outside without their coats. Here you can see them continuing the role play we did last week, shows they must have enjoyed it.

I took this photo at 4.00 as the shadows were starting to creep up. The green is not real grass but a synthetic no-mow that we had laid on part of our field 2 years ago. At first I didn't like the idea that we had synthetic grass but as the real grass is unusable for 8 months of the year being too muddy the no-mow has proved worth having.

Tuesday 27 January 2009


We have only lived here for 15 years, which makes us residents but not locals, are definitely not social animals being content with living quietly as a family 6 miles outside of Barnstaple but it is surprising how many people we know and how everyone seems to have some sort of connection. (Barnstaple is a big town with a population of 35,000) This was brought home to me the other day when I went shopping on the day that Claire had her baby. I went Brian Ford's a large local discount supermarket, Claire's brother is a floor manager there (connection 1) and though I didn't see him I had a chat with Jenny a checkout supervisor there. During the day Jenny is the lead teaching assistant at a Sticklepath Primary School on that side of town where I worked regularly for years (connection2). Jenny is one of these amazing people who can quell a class of 30 challenging 10 year olds with a few quiet words, she lives on the estate and knows every family, mums, dads and even grandparents. We chatted about Claire's baby ,my job and Chris the other reception teacher in my school who used to go to school at Sticklepath and then worked there as a teaching assistant when I was there, before going on to teacher training. (more connections)

Not quite finished. This is my last old landrover, I always had landrovers till recently and through the advice of the chap who runs the local Games Workshop, where my boys used to help at a Warhammer Club, we started taking the landrover for repairs to a landrover specialist at Bideford. After many happy years of reasonable repairs Barney closed his workshop and moved to Barnstaple. And now his little girl, who I used to see in her playpen, is in my class, (another connection). Not only that but when Granny came to pick up the little girl one afternoon I recognised her from the days when she was a year 6 teacher at Sticklepath. Chris remembers being taught by her as well as later working with her. Full circle I think.
Despite having very few people that we could say are friends it is surprising just how many people we know and know us. That will be something we will miss if we move away but if I continue to teach then school automatically brings so many people into your sphere.

Monday 26 January 2009

Fun On The Ice.

Having come to the end of the Strictly Come Dancing series, we have switched channels and now are watching Dancing on Ice.We like the fact that the competitors do have to work to improve their dancing/skating skills. Last night we were in absolute tears of laughter at Todd Carty's attempts to skate, and then the judges' comments set us off again. All the other competitors are managing lifts and fancy moves but poor Todd hasn't quite mastered the basics.

And not surprisingly the public voted Todd back on for another week.

As a youngster I would sometimes go and skate at the Richmond rink (where I chipped my wrist bone), and at school I even managed to persuade several friends to sign up for ice skating lessons so that a teacher had to drive us down to the rink at Streatham. I'm a very unco-ordinated person but I figured it would be more fun than the 'sports' on offer at school. The nearest rink here is down in Plymouth, 2 hours away. I wouldn't mind having another go though knowing me I'd fall and break something. At Christmas several places around here offer 'ice skating' but when I took all the youngsters along we were most disappointed to see it was on plastic slabs not ice and we didn't bother.

Sunday 25 January 2009

Foolish Frogs.

After a grey start the sun came out today and as Peter was incarcerated with an algebra module of his degree I took the chance to do some work in the garden. As the bog garden was in the sun that's where I decided to start clearing and weeding. Originally we had a shallow pool here but you can't defeat the inexorable power of moving water and over the years the stream has deposited enough gravel to fill the pool. Normally the stream is just a few inches deep but can rise a foot or more in heavy rain. The bog garden is home to lots of astilbes, arum lilies and some primulas though they don't seem to like the regular flooding. On the other side of the stream, which may belong to my neighbour, I've planted/dumped anything that might grow.

I spotted this frogspawn in the ornamental pond. This early frogspawn regularly gets killed by the bad weather that we get in February/March. I've taken a bucketful into the conservatory as usually when we take frogspawn into school after the half term holiday there is not enough time for it to develop into froglets before the Easter holidays. This way we might actually see some little frogs.

Some of the winter flowering heathers are covered in flowers. I've taken to heathers since I discovered they can grow straight in the clay and are slug resistant.

Saturday 24 January 2009

Memories of Cheddar Gorge.

Had a fairly nondescript Saturday, went into town, went to all the places I intended to but didn't achieve a lot. I had a final look around at clothes but I think my brain is wired so that I can only look at goods that have been reduced (apart from Primark) and the January sales are finally petering out. I may have sounded as if I'm really into clothes but it's mainly for work that I buy clothes. I'm one of those people who would be happy wearing the same outfit every day, in fact during the summer holidays I tend to wear 3 versions of the same outfit, shorts and sleeveless t-shirt - a pyjama version for sleeping, running shorts and usually a black t-shirt for the beach,walking or when people come to the house and a very tattered set for gardening when I am often lugging rocks around, working on my knees or sitting on the ground.
I spent most of the afternoon doing planning for next week as this is a week when I can't just lift the planning from last year's files. I left the cooking to Linas as he and Gemma are home for the week-end. Romas had to be picked up from the bus station in the evening and I had to wait for 45mins as his bus was diverted to do the Instow run as well. And that was my Saturday.
So now I thought I'd post some photos from my files. After the sea my next big landscape love is seeing rocks pushing through the earth. As Cheddar is mid-way between home and our friends' we've met up there several times for walks in the gorge and the surrounding countryside.
Just a few miles from the gorge is the village of Priddy with a real old fashioned pub which for some reason we call The Slaughtered Lamb, it always has several open wood fires and we meet up there for some real ale before we go off for a walk and a picnic. Last time we went to a place called Ubley Warren and discovered a beautiful area of mini-gorges, about 10ft deep. Some people were using these as practice climbs and there were several shaft entrances leading to the vast cave system that is under the whole area.

My mate Kate.

We always end the day by driving back down through the Gorge itself. The village of Ceddar is incredibly touristy and that end of the Gorge is always full of tourists but the far end is not so bad. One year in the autumn it was almost deserted and as we drove with music from LOTR playing loudly the atmosphere was incredible.

Friday 23 January 2009

Friday Fun.

If you guessed roof tiles you were nearly right. These slate tiles, about 1cm thick have been used to make a decorative cladding on the walls of a restaurant in Mortehoe. This type of wall covering is often seen in coastal villages to help protect the walls from the winter gales and driving rain.
And a few more photos from last Saturday's walk.

And now for today's highlights. Claire and Trefor brought Baby Henry into school for us all to ooh and aah over. He was asleep for most of the time even though it was a bit of a case of playing Pass the Baby so that everyone got to hold him for a time. I don't think I've actually held a baby since mine were little, 19 years ago. You forget just how small they are. 

He is a good looking baby, I'm not one of those people who think all babies are beautiful. (Two of mine were chubby Churchills and one was a little wrinkled Buddhist monk but they have all grown up to be handsome young men.)
I really like my Fridays because not only is it the end of the week but in the morning I schedule observation time where I watch the children at their independent activities and record anything of note. I took a lovely photo of 3 of my boys who had asked me to staple some paper together and were busy writing books about Jack and the Beanstalk. I was particularly pleased because there is a national issue about boys not being so keen on writing. The whole set-up of the class encourages lots of independent writing.  We also had a fun time in the hall when instead of PE I set up roads with the PE mats, a zebra crossing and road signs and the children took on the roles of policemen, a lollipop lady, cars, families and builders and we had a major structured role play time. In the afternoon I had my PPA time and got a lot of work done in the staff room. I then stayed on at school so that I could make a start on a display of some of the paintings and photos from PC Gareth's visit last week. When I came home I did my 500 sit-ups. 

Thursday 22 January 2009

A Trip To The Dentist.

Exercise advice. Do not do 1000 sit-ups unless you want a carpet burn on your bum.  Okay you can stop laughing now, it's only a little burn but I'm glad today is a rest day as I had to go to the dentist after school to have a temporary filling repair as well as my crown stuck back in. Half of the filling fell off before I got home but I've an appointment in 2 weeks to redo the filling properly. Still no sign of when I will be going to the Dental Hospital in Bristol to have my root filling done. I shall stick to just doing 500 sit-ups each day and maybe do more exercise with my hand weights.
Today the radio was giving out severe weather warnings for wind and rain with possible flooding. The temperatures were much higher than yesterday and at one point it was sunny and warm. Not for long though.

This was the icy road yesterday morning with Peter disappearing off up the drive. Once I got going I didn't dare stop to take any more pictures.

Back to today. I arrived 15 minutes early for my dental appointment by Tescos so I gave myself the challenge of finding something worth photographing in the grubby car park with failing grey light. And these are the result.

Ivy growing on a tree trunk is always worth a photo.
Somebody at the next door garden centre is obviously into topiary and has made a living sign.
This weather vane was on top of a wooden structure at the garden centre.
Follow the golden lights.......
....... into the shrine to consumerism,
(I think this structure looks a bit like a Japanese shrine.)
..... where you can spend your hard earned money almost 24/7.
Tesco, the biggest supermarket chain in the universe, well there is at least 1 in every town in the UK, they're also to be found on the continent, in Eastern Europe and the USA. Actually I quite like Tescos and it was noticable that they have really increased their range of discount or value goods. Best buy tonight was 5 energy saving light bulbs for 40p. This was some kind of special promotion with one of the energy companies.

Finally a mystery photo from my files. Can you tell what it is? All will be revealed in the next post.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Icy Roads.

For the first time I've left my camera at school. I was out of routine as I went on home visits to see my 3 new children. Also I was rushing to leave earlier than usual so that my walk down the hill wouldn't be in the dark. Knowing my luck there will be something totally dramatic tomorrow morning, snow or a field of deer, and I won't be able to record it. Instead I'm posting some photos taken in Barnstaple last Saturday morning when the sun was shining.

This is Castle Mound rising from the cattle market car park. It wasn't actually a castle but more of a look-out fort built in the days of marauding vikings and other pirates. ( This part of the coast was actually raided by pirates who had sailed up from North Africa). When it was first built there were no trees and the sides were almost vertical. The wooden palisaded fort could only be reached by ladders which could be hauled up to make the fort secure. Nowadays there is a gentle path winding upwards which leads to .... a seat.
The red brick library is quite out of character for this part of the country but obviously someone in the council thought it would look smart.
The elaborate stone building is now the Heritage Centre, it has also been a masonic lodge but originally it was the traders' hall for the docks which were to the left. At one time Barnstaple was a big shipping centre with ships going out all over the world. Now the river is silted up and the docks have been filled in and are a pedestrianised riverside area. The ugly pink building on the top of the hill is the local college. We have so many family connections with that place though it's not a very good college. I did a computer course there when I returned to teaching. Peter started doing electrics and plumbing there ( till he nearly cut off his thumb), and also worked there as a building dept technician and later an IT technician. All the boys did their 6th form education there and Linas did the first 2 years of his degree there.
I spotted this interesting wall which used to be a grotty old building but has been improved by some imaginative stencilling.

Back to today, the ice was MUCH worse than yesterday. Even the top of the drive was thick with ice but as it is fairly level it was possible to drive along it VERY slowly. The country road was also iced over and I crept along at 10mph slowing to a cautious 5mph at the bends. What caught me out was the fact that the main road was also fairly icy and hadn't been gritted. I had a bit of a wobble when I first turned onto the main road and another when I went through Shirwell. It was noticeable that the cars coming out from town were driving at normal speeds while those of us coming in from the hills were all much slower and anyone turning in off the back roads was driving even more slowly. Peter had a difficult journey in to Exeter, the Link Road hadn't been gritted and and eventually he came to a long tail back due to a big pile-up. He made the daft decision to take the back roads and ended up crawling his way to Exeter with a few narrow escapes.  Romas' college bus didn't turn up but he stuck his thumb out and got a lift with a neighbour into Barnstaple. For peace of mind I've left my car at the top of the hill again though the heavy rain should mean higher temperatures. I'm just not taking any chances.
And....  I finally managed to do 1000 sit ups. It took an hour (back to back soaps), but I just wanted to see if I could do it. Probably won't do that many every night.

Tuesday 20 January 2009

Trapped By Ice.

What a morning! Last night I looked at metcheck and the lowest temperature was 1C at 6.00. Being a worrier I thought about leaving the car up the hill but was assured that it would be fine to leave the cars down in the yard. Imagine my horror when  creeping out feed the hens in the dark at 7.00 this morning I find the valley road iced over. The fields were covered in clumps of hailstones which had fallen overnight. TOTAL PANIC, how was I going to get to work? We'd used up the last of the road salt so we tramped up and down the hill with buckets of hot water and the last of our table salt. Our neighbour came out on his quad bike which drove over the ice with no problems, and put down salt on the road, ( he was expecting horse boxes later in the morning). I phoned my headteacher at 8.00 to say what had happened and eventually got in just after 9.00. The back roads were icy but the main road was clear and in Barnstaple there was not a hint of ice. Tonight I'm taking no chances and the car is at the top of the hill. Our neighbour gloomily told us that 'significant' snowfall is expected in February. So long as it is in the half-term holiday.

Tonight there was a very pretty pink and grey sunset. I love being able to see the see the sea every day even if it is just a glimpse in the distance.

On the way in this morning I could see that the hills of Exmoor were white with snow / hail but I was so late I didn't stop to take any photos. I managed to catch these photos on my way home as I had left earlier than usual so that I didn't have to walk down the hill in the dark.

Monday 19 January 2009

More from Morte Point.

The seals were not to be seen on Saturday so I thought I'd photograph some of the sheep that roam across the headland. They are very agile and can often be seen perched on the cliffs above the waves. They generally don't fall off the cliffs unless people disregard the dogs-on-leads request and allow their dogs to spook them when they may fall over the edge. This particular breed of sheep has much better 'cliff sense' than the previous sheep that were kept on the headland, who would fall off for a past time and have to be rescued (expensively) by the coastguards or cliff rescue. I know this because David Kennard whose sheep these are came to talk at our WI a few years ago. ( www.sheepdogvideo.co.uk ) David is a very intelligent young man who followed his dream. He wasn't a local but came every year with his family for a summer holiday on a farm at Mortehoe. As a young man he returned and was employed by the farmer and had the opportunity to learn how to train sheep dogs. Eventually he took over the tenancy of the farm and when farming declined economically he diversified into writing books and making videos about his sheepdogs and they are excellent. In this way he and his family can still run the farm. When he came to talk to us he brought one of his dogs and she sat there watching his every word.

If you are wondering the coloured marks are from a pad strapped to the ram so that the farmer can tell which ram has ......... had his way with the ewes and when to expect the lambs.
If you look closely you can see lots of white blobs on the grass, these are not tufts of sheep's wool but blobs of foam blown up from the sea.

Funny moment from school today- I've just changed the role play area in my classroom from a post office into a health clinic, (the school nurse came last week and did general height /weight/ sight checks). One very small girl was sitting on a chair in the 'waiting room' with her hands clasped over her stomach, "This baby is coming soon." she announced. A few minutes later she was helping the 'Doctor' to cut open her tummy with a pair of plastic play scissors. Childbirth is obviously featuring high in their thoughts at the moment. In our central play area we have a 'Police Station' so there is a lot of 'robber catching' going on at playtime but we haven't put out the play handcuffs as they caused a few problems last year.