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 July 2010

Another Quiet Day.

No change in the weather. Because Radio 4 is quite interesting on Saturday mornings I spent the morning in the kitchen doing more tidying and cleaning (this place might even be reaching a state of normality soon). A lot of time was spent cleaning the hotplate which was mildly irritating as I have done little cooking in the last 6 months and I never fry things (the cause of all that splattered grease). Had a little excitement when the postman brought me a pair of black Ugg boots that I'd bought on eBay. They were expensive for me but less than half the shop price (I knew they would fit because I'd tried some on in Exeter.) Red Admiral on buddlia.
When I did venture out into the garden the air was filled with butterflies. I spotted a common (rare here) blue on the santolia, it was still there while I dashed indoors to get the camera and then I watched it fly up, up and over the roof of the house never to be seen again.
It was back to work on the weeding of path around the pond, the only bit not done would have involved crawling under the overhanging very wet montbretia so I left it. Instead I made a start on pulling out a lot of the native flag iris which are taking over. As I cleared away the foliage I spotted this waterlily that had been hidden from sight. A lot more of the flag iris needs to go as well as the grass and all the dead and nasty foliage in the water.
Linas is back from Plymouth for one night. He came up with a friend as they both had things to do locally and he'll be off again tomorrow.

Friday 30 July 2010

Butterflies and Birds.

Same old weather again without the sun and a bit windier. As I sat at the pc this morning my attention kept getting distracted by the birds I could see out in the garden. First 3 chaffinches were bobbing about on the patio, then some sparrows followed by a robin. A pair of swallows kept swooping past the window but even though I went and checked all the other windows at the back of the house I couldn't see where they were going. I could see a magpie out in the field and a thrush was looking for worms. Peter came into the room and promptly asked what the brown bird with the long beak was - no idea from that description. Finally a tiny wren hopped about on the conservatory gutter. Naturally not one of these birds stayed still long enough for me to take a picture. A ringlet on a weed! in the golden marjoram.
When I did venture outside I was surprised by how warm it was. I'm still weeding the path around the pond, this side is taking much longer because apart from the creeping jenny that has crept all over the path there are more deep rooted weeds that have to be dug out if I don't want them growing back again. And I keep getting diverted and start weeding the beds next to the path. The butterflies are flittering all over the place though the wind is putting them off settling and feeding. When Peter walked past the bed of golden marjoram a whole cloud of butterflies rose up, mostly ringlets and large whites.
Down in the bog garden the astilbes are flowering well though I'm finding it hard to understand why with at least 8 or 9 varieties planted there they seem to be mostly pink or white. I'm sure I've planted some red ones as well. The overhanging branches are making that area a bit too shady so later in the year I'll be getting out my bow saw to make a few adjustments. And apart from some more general tidying up that has been my quiet day.

Thursday 29 July 2010

A Garden Day.

Funny weather today, brief spells of hot sunshine mixed with black clouds that threatened rain. The nicest weather was in the evening when I took a little time to sit and enjoy the view and watch the swallows swooping to catch the midges. The nest is full of chicks cheeping which is reassuring as I was wondering if they had already gone. The nest is in a different part of the outbuildings so I don't know if I'll be as lucky as last year when I was able to photograph the fledglings sitting on a ledge.
I've been outside all day and have been weeding the path around the pond and doing some mowing as well. Next to the pond is my wildflower area which is currently full of flowers, mostly red clover and bird's foot trefoil. The ground there is very poor and wet, ideal for wild flowers not so good for grass and definitely no good at all for vegetables (no topsoil). I mow a couple of paths through the area so that it looks intentional and not just a forgotten corner and I'm pleased with the way it has turned out.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

Tip Time.

We've had a mixture of sun and clouds but it was good to see blue skies. There was quite a breeze so it was good drying weather and I got several machine loads out on the line. I will admit to also finding a sheltered spot and spending time simply reading and enjoying the scree garden. Th butterflies are visiting the bright purple buddlia (my favourite one) but nothing more exotic than cabbage whites, peacocks and some ringlets flitting about.
The blackcurrants have been hanging like luscious bunches of black grapes so today while the grass was not so wet I picked 6lbs. I had planned to use them in a couple of crumbles when the family come to stay but with so many I think I might have to make some jam as well. I freeze them as they are as they are much easier to top and tail when they are frozen (is that a tip, I'm not sure). I thought that I would pack the ones intended for desserts into separate bags with the sugar and cornflour already mixed in. I'll also mix up some crumble mixture and freeze that separately so that it will be quick to make the crumbles when everyone is here. Tip 1- I always grow my blackcurrants near the hen run so that when I clean out my hens (Tip 2 - deep litter hens on wood shavings usually free from a local joiner/wood store. Its so much easier to clean out), the dirty shavings can go straight on the blackcurrants which are shallow rooted and can use the nitrogen for better fruit production. The local blackbirds were not that impressed with my fruit picking and as I worked at one end of the blackcurrant bed they were at the other picking their own fruit. There are raspberries growing there as well but I'm not sure if the birds will leave me that many. Maybe this year there will be a good wild blackberry crop. We're always a bit later than other parts of the country. Sam - what's the blackberry situation in Gloucestershire? and last year there were none.

I've also started tidying up around the pond. Everything has got very overgrown and needs a good sort out. Already I have cut back all the alchemilla which has finished flowering and was flopped right across the path. A final walk in the evening sunshine to collect the re-cycling box and that was my day.

Tuesday 27 July 2010


Let me tell you about mirt, it's something that affects about half the population including me. It's spread by animals but more so by people, ironically mostly by those who are not affected by it. It's almost impossible to get rid of and if left does not clear on its own but even the smallest outbreak can spread rapidly requiring intensive treatment. Those who are not affected by it tend to be men or children, because if you haven't already worked it out, mirt is mess & dirt and the treatment is that Augean task known as housework. And what led my thoughts in this direction? Scroll back to this morning, having risen early I resisted the temptation to climb back into bed for a few hours sleep after doing my early morning jobs and instead decided to tidy the kitchen. After washing up my breakfast things (such a pleasure not to be faced with a pile of saucepans to do after Linas' cooking) I used the soapy water to wipe down the rayburn. That's a nightmare to keep clean as it is always hot and you can't use abraisives on the enamel surface. Having wiped the rayburn I thought I might as well take down the ornamental plates that sit above the rayburn and give them a wash. Then not wanting to waste that bowl of water I wiped over the wooden cupboard doors. The cupboards are quite high so I got a chair to do the job properly and wipe over all the way to the top and the cupboard lintel. Noticing some dust at the top of the cupboards I thought I'd do what I usually do, get out the hoover and use the nozzle thingy to suck up all the dust on top of the cupboards behind the lintel. I've changed hoovers and this one didn't reach so well so I thought I might first clear the worst of the dust with a damp cloth. This involved me standing up on the kitchen counters and contorting myself to see what was up there. It was YUK, not only plenty of dust but on the side of the kitchen over the hotplate the dust was mixed with a lot of grease!! A couple of hours and many buckets of hot soapy water (and that was after scraping off the worst) later the cupboard tops are sparkling clean. (I shall get some tin foil and line the tops of the cupboards to make cleaning simpler in future.) During that time I spent a lot of time thinking about housework and the concept of mirt and yes I did wonder exactly why I was cleaning the tops of the cupboards. This is something that no-one will ever see but I shall have the satisfaction of knowing it is clean and not a haven for germs or smells. I mostly get fed up with sorting out everyone else's mess because they really don't care. When Peter came downstairs and I told him about the cleaning I had been doing his reaction wasn't 'Yuck' or 'Poor you having to work so hard' or even 'Your poor back having to do all that climbing and twisting'. No it was simply 'Why? No one can see up there and we don't store anything up there' Typical mirt ignorer, it simply doesn't affect him until he loses something and then it must be because I've moved it. Having done more tidying up in the kitchen I headed out for a quiet afternoon in the garden. The morning's low cloud/rain had cleared and though still grey it was warm and dry. I gave myself the gentle task of dead heading some of the flowers while listening to the bees buzzing away in the lavender.
Then I had visitors. My neighbour's 6 year old son and 2 dogs. This is their new hound puppy, Sapphire, Active having gone back to the hunt kennels. The damp spots on the step are where Sapphire had been licking up some of the ants that were swarming on the step, then they would tickle her nose and she would be pawing at her face and sneezing before going back for more.

In the meantime Fred had climbed up on my stone wall,

to get to Elwen who was sitting on the roof hissing at him. Elwen and Patch's mother still lives over at the stables so perhaps Fred was just being friendly. Jack stayed a while helping me with my dead heading before wandering off with the dogs, or at least trying to, it always takes a while for both dogs to follow him. A gentle rain then set it so it was back indoors for some early blogging.

Monday 26 July 2010

Lots Of Shopping.

The weather has been very similar to yesterday, overcast in the morning but sunnier in the afternoon. Peter's foot is playing up so he decided not to go to the gym & pool today but I had things to do so I had a leisurely few hours shopping in town once I'd been to the bank, post office and library. I bought some more pjs/slopping around clothes (all in sale of course), I think one more pair of pjs are going to get the chop and be turned into shorts. I do like those sort of clothes and though I should only be in hospital for 1 or 2 days when I do eventually have my op it will be nice to have new clothes to wear. Still on the hunt for new bras (due to changing down a few sizes), I ended up in Banbury's (a posh-ish dept store) and eventually found a plain white bra that fitted, went to pay and found out it was £37!!! 'No Thanks' I said and went to BHS where I bought 2 for less than half that price. Also bought another long t-shirt, on sale and 20% extra off. While in Banbury's I bought another stainless steel saucepan (on sale) to match a bigger one I bought in sale there last year. This is all part of my plan to move from my heavy cast iron Le Creusot pans, mostly given to Vytas now, that I had been buying since I was married. I might even go and get the smallest pan to complete the set as I had earmarked the money I made from selling some old chairs for good kitchen equipment. Final purchase of the day was 4 big bath towels reduced to £2 each in Primark. A very satisfying shopping day. Back home the weather had brightened up and I did some work in the garden. Pulling up a few brambles, moving some of the grasses from the path and yet more weeding. Now I can enjoy the scree garden without stressing over the work that needs doing. The colour palate of the scree garden is changing from subtle pinks and greys to its more vibrant late summer colours of purples and oranges. Not normally 2 colours I would have close together but I do love all the different crocosmias (and slugs don't). The first of the crocosmias to flower is Lucifer which makes a showy display against the Pampas grass. The pampas grass looks magnificent in a shady corner and does a good job of screening the building at the edge of the garden. Sadly the same cannot be said for the cynara (ornamental artichoke) which normally made another focal point with its architectural spiky grey leaves and flower heads 5 or 6ft high. This year either due to the weather or simply age there is just one stem less than 3 ft high with a couple of small flower heads. What a shame.

This peacock butterfly was enjoying the sun after its long winter hibernation. Some of the buddlieas have begun to flower and all the different sedum plants are covered with flower buds ready to provide a feast for the butterflies and bees. Maybe we'll have some sun later on in the holidays so that I can simply sit and enjoy watching the butterflies. Right now the garden is full of tiny froglets (toadlets?) but they are too quick to photograph.

Only 1 pound lost last week, frustrating but understandable with all the end of term treats. And too much snacking on walnuts and dates. Definitely need to tone up as well.

Sunday 25 July 2010


It was another wet and grey morning, so much so that I got up early, did my chores then went back to sleep for a few hours.Later in the morning it was at least dry so I had a good session finally getting rid of all the weeds that had sprung up in the scree garden and inbetween those slabs that I had worked so hard to clean. I didn't quite manage to rehome the plants that have seeded into the path. It was too hot earlier in the year so that will be my next job.
The lavender and the lamb's (in our family donkey's) ears were full of bees and I saw a few butterflies.
By late afternoon the sun was out and as my back was not enjoying all that weeding I got out a chair and sat in the sun reading a book. Finished off my day by doing the rest of the mowing as the forecast is for more rain tomorrow.

Saturday 24 July 2010

A Nothing Much Saturday.

It has been a miserable grey day today, raining at times, sometimes warmer but mostly cold enough to wear a fleece. Oh well, I've plenty of indoor work to be getting on with. One thing about having people coming to stay is that it forces you to tidy up. The job wouldn't be so hard if my family didn't see the spare rooms as a long term storage facility with guess who to do the sorting and tidying up. And I'm such a hoarder of stuff too, it's been really hard sorting out things to take to the charity shop. I keep thinking 'We might need that one day,' but even with our big house space is finite and I do need to clear stuff out. Not my clothes of course, my clothes come in a range of sizes and I've had a few happy hours trying things on and finding more clothes that fit me and a few favourites that are way too big. They'll be packed away for the day when I might need them. The scree garden needs a good weeding but the rain set in this afternoon so I sat and finished turning up my shorts. They've turned out well and the fabric is heavy enough that they can be worn as a pair of beach shorts as well as pjs.
Today was the first time in nearly 20 years that I haven't spent this Saturday in July driving my boys to Lithuanian Scout Camp in Hampshire. When they were young I stayed with them in the family camp for the 10 days but once they were old enough to stay in the boys' camp I was simply the taxi service. For the last few years both Vytas and Romas have been camp leaders and they are still there this year but have made their own ways there from the Midlands. After that they are off to do their own things- SK musters, playing in festivals (Romas) and work (Vytas) and will come down here in the middle of August.

Friday 23 July 2010

Back To Mole Valley.

It has been sunny all day, first time for over a week so a cause for celebration. I made a start on pulling up the weeds around the scree garden that have shot up to enormous heights in the last 4 weeks and this evening I got about half of the mowing done. In the afternoon Peter and I drove over to Mole Valley farmers, my favourite shop, £60 gone in a flash on cat food, corn, cat wormers, a new broom handle, duct tape and a gun cleaning kit. Mostly essentials and there was so much more to be tempted by. Where else would you find every variety of work boots or row upon row of riding boots both long and short. I loved the coloured wheelbarrows, if I needed a new barrow it would be hard to decide between the pink or purple and certainly no cement mixing in one of those. They have a whole range of these bright coloured stable items; buckets, brushes, tack boxes etc. Just the thing for the horsey daughters of well off families.
These are just the fun wellies for kids. Peter was off eyeing up chainsaw parts and gun accessories while I wandered the horse section trying to think of a reason why I might need another body warmer but the prices were enough to put me off.
After Mole Valley we drove back to Barnstable, Peter went off for another gym session while I had a couple of hours strolling around the shops visiting the library (£4.80 for 4 days overdue!!). I bought a few things on sale including some cotton pj bottoms which I shall shorten into pj shorts - I find that the pj shorts that you buy tend to be a bit too short for my comfort so this way I get the perfect fit.
I can't believe that this is the end of the first week of the holidays though they didn't start until Thursday which is why I haven't got much done. There's a long list of indoor jobs to do on the whiteboard, hopefully to be done before our visitors come mid August.

Thursday 22 July 2010

A Wildlife Day.

It's been a day of some sun mixed with very heavy showers. During one of the sunny spells I had a good go at the hanging baskets, all the recent heavy rain had prevented me from daily dead heading of the surfinias and the flowers had also had a good battering as well. When I finished my hands were sticky so I turned the tap on to wash my hands. I looked down to see something fluttering in the plug hole. My first thought was that it was a leaf that had dropped from my arm, then it was 'Euch' as I thought a small brown frog was in the sink. Only then did I realise that it was a tiny bat which had somehow fallen into the sink and down the plug hole. I carefully scooped it onto a tea towel and took it outside to see what the situation was.
At this point I was pretty sure that it was dead, I mean it doesn't look good does it? The sun went in at this point and it started to get cold again so I put the bat in a container in the spare room. After an hour there were some signs of life but when I put the bat in my hand it felt pretty cold. Bat and box were put in the warm airing cupboard and after another hour or so there was a definite improvement.

The sun had made a reappearance and it was hot outside so out went bat, camera and myself to bask in the heat.

After a little crawling around and a few yawns to boost the oxygen,

the little pipistrelle bat spread its wings and flew off. Hooray! A happy ending.

Having posted many pictures of Lundy I thought I would finish with a few more of the wildlife. These small birds, linnets? would sing loudly from a bush only a few feet away.

There were a couples of ponies and foals in a field near us but this small herd roamed free over the rest of the island.

Soay sheep, one of many types of animals introduced by a previous owner of Lundy.

I think the wild goats were a much earlier introduction. There was one cream coloured ram with a magnificent spread of horns at least 3ft across that I saw several times.
And that's the end of Lundy folks, at least until we go there again.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

End of Term.

For Day 4 Part 2 of our Lundy trip look below yesterday's post. I put the photos on yesterday and saved them but didn't realise that the post would come up there.
Yesterday was the last day for the children at school and today , though it was an official working day for the rest of us, had been left as an optional sorting out day. As I was moving rooms for my colleague I needed to do a proper tidy and sort out everything in the big walk in cupboard before carrying stuff over to the new classroom. I was not best pleased to find that the same had not been done by the teacher in the other room and he now has a very large pile of stuff sitting on my tables that needs sorting before the start of the new school year at the beginning of September. We do have to keep records and assessments for years which doesn't help.
I had an appointment at the hospital later in the afternoon and if I am very lucky I may have my spinal surgery in August, if not it will have to wait until November. It has been raining heavily all day and on my way to the hospital I walked in flip flops through a thunderstorm wondering if lightning would be attracted by my umbrella. I had no jacket and as it was my trousers soaked up a lot of water from the puddles.
That wasn't the end of the day as most of the staff went round to a colleague's house for a barbecue. Peter took over the barbecuing, under a gazebo, the food was excellent and there was a large amount of imbibing. After his cooking stint Peter was able to sit back and watch 14 women letting their hair down with much laughter and dancing out in the garden. A good end to the year. Now there are 6 weeks to sort out the house and garden once more before getting back to teaching. Hooray!

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Day 4 Part 1

The final day of our stay came around all too quickly. The sun had hidden itself behind grey clouds and it looked as though rain would be coming our way. We had to have our bags ready for pick up by 9.30 (it was nice not having to carry them to and from the boat) and we needed to be out of Stoneycroft by 10.00. We made sure everything was tidy before setting off for our final day's walks.Peter and I walked out to the west coast and then south towards the castle.
We came across a small pond/reservoir which had been created when granite was quarried for the buildings. Rain is the only source of fresh water on Lundy and although we had no restrictions on personal use you are asked not to do any laundry. I would think that the immaculate bedding, towels etc are sent to the mainland to a laundry service.
Once we had walked back up to the tavern I left Peter happily ensconced there while I set off to explore the east coast for the first time.

Initially I was thinking that it wasn't so different to our North Devon coast, low trees, bracken, views of the sea etc.

The brown areas that can be seen on the hillside are where the rhododendrons (a foreign invader) is gradually being killed and removed as it was taking over from the native vegetation.

But then I came to the old granite quarries cut into the hill and the wide path that was a railway track used for transporting the granite. Down below is one of the few accessible beaches so of course I had to go down to investigate.

The final part of the way down is a set of wooden steps with a sturdy handrail but just before them is the 'abseil' section where there is a strong rope to aid the climb down about 8ft of rock. In truth you don't really need it on the way down which is perfectly negotiable if you sit on your bottom and scramble down but it was useful on the way back up.

Quarry beach is entirely made up of rounded granite pebbles up to 2ft across. I watched a seal swimming past hunting for fish and spent some time cautiously searching for the perfect small stone to take home as a souvenir. As I balanced on the 'pebbles' I was very aware that it would not be a good idea to slip and twist my ankle. There was probably no phone signal so even if I had been carrying my phone there would be no way of letting anyone know and how could anyone be carried back up the cliff?

If I had had more time I too would probably have added to the collection of 'stone installations' on the beach. Instead I pocketed my stone and climbed about 200ft back up to the path. I then took a breather sitting on a stone at the edge of the path with my legs dangling over the drop. It will be interesting to see if my lack of fear of heights continues in other settings........
Today was the last day of term and although I will be spending tomorrow in school moving stuff from one classroom to another for me at last the summer has begun. And we have been having torrential rain for the past few days!

Day 4 Part 2

Once I had caught my breath after climbing back up to the path I continued northwards my plan being to find a way back up to the top of the cliffs and return to the Tavern across the top of the island. I was not expecting to find myself on what is probably the most beautiful part of the island.
The wide and level track made walking very easy and I was able to enjoy the views across to the mainland even though the air was a little hazy.

As I rounded a corner I came across the first of several quarries cut into the hillside. They were so spectacular that all I could do was stand and say 'Wow'. The vegetation in the quarries had a woodland feel with foxgloves and small trees and the whole scale of the rocks was overwhelming.
This quarry in particular was very poignant as on the central fallen slab is a bronze plaque and a wreath of poppies commemorating the son of the last owner of Lundy who was killed in WWI. (Just visible if you enlarge the picture by clicking on it.)
A wider view along the east coast showing another inaccessible beach. I didn't have the time to carry right along the length of this path, maybe next time?

Another of the quarries on the east coast. I would really like to spend time exploring the quarry (those walls are over 100ft high), and also to sit and take in the atmosphere of the place.

However time was pressing on and I followed the track as it branched upwards to the top of the island. Instead of following the 'main road' straight back I meandered through the moorland following sheep/ pony paths until I came to the largest of the rainwater ponds. Sadly I had not got any bread with me to feed the ducks that came paddling over for a handout. I walked past the herd of wild ponies but didn't see any of the deer that live on the island. Romas and Vicky saw them on one of their walks and were lucky enough to see a couple of fawns as well.
I had just reached Quarter Wall and was in sight of the buildings when it started to rain. I sped up and got to the tavern without getting too wet. We had promised ourselves a lunch of home made burgers and chips from the Tavern and I was looking forward to having a lovely dessert instead as my treat. Imagine my disappointment to find that desserts are only served in the evenings. Even my pleas for one slice of the chocolate tart got me nowhere, I was told that a new one was being baked but nothing was left of yesterday's. I compromised by getting some fudge from the shop.
All too soon it was time to walk down to the landing beach, in the rain, board the Oldenburg and sail back to the mainland.
Apart from the rain it was a calm crossing back, we had hoped for more bounce and spray. At one point we spotted a 2 masted old fashioned schooner on the horizon, being a bit misty and grey it almost looked like a ghost ship. We sailed past Saunton sands, back up the Torridge, past Appledore and docked at Bideford where coaches were waiting to drive us back to Ilfracombe. For some reason we went the long way back going all the way down to Braunton first and then up via Mullacot Cross. Once we were off the Oldenburg I walked over to collect the car, as quickly as possible as it was raining again (double rainbow) and we were back home by 8.00. A truly wonderful holiday where everything was perfect. Now we have to save up our pennies and hope that there is a vacancy that coincides with my school holidays.

Monday 19 July 2010

Day 3 Part 2

Just had to include this fantastic skyscape taken on that day's walk.
The steps back up from the seals were a little dilapidated.

And once past the lighthouse there were a few more steps to climb. I had decided that for my knee it was a case of do or die as I wasn't going to miss out on any of the scenery if I could help it. Luckily my knee didn't seem to get any worse and all the climbing and walking helped counteract the nice meals I was eating.
The northern end of the island resembles a moonscape with the delicate vegetation only just clinging to the underlying rock suffering from both visitors and the harsh weather conditions.

At every turn there was another inlet, this is the west coast which being subjected to the full force of the Atlantic winds only supports low growing vegetation ie grass neatly grazed by the sheep, rabbits and goats.

The surface of this granite outcrop was covered with furry looking grey lichen.

After a full day's walking we enjoyed a chilli (cooked by Peter while I went up the lighthouse again) and then it was down to the tavern for more games of scrabble. There was a large crowd of 'posh' couples in the tavern who were rather drunk and extremely loud with no regard for other people around. So loud in fact that we couldn't hear what we were saying to each other and had to move our game to the other end of the large central table. They got the message at this point and took their children out to look at the sunset. Being wealthy doesn't guarantee good manners!

The diet continues with only a few more pounds to go. Mustn't fall at the last hurdle though the staffroom is full of chocolates and biscuits and we are meeting up for a barbecue at a colleague's house on Wednesday.