RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2019.

Over the weekend I joined in with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch , a wildlife survey which is in its 40th year. Us Brits first started counting our garden birds for an hour in January back in 1979 , when the RSPB joined forces with good old Blue Peter. The survey proved popular and is still going strong, with over half a million people joining in every year.

This was my second year participating , so here’s what I saw on Saturday in my little back yard.

1 Starling, 3 House Sparrows, 2 Bluetits and 1 Blackbird.

Although this seems a small tally, I’m quite happy with the results. Last year I had a dunnock visiting in the hour instead of a starling. Since then I have seen quite a few starlings fighting over the fat balls as well as visiting Long-tailed tits, Great tits, Coal tits, a Robin, Dunnocks, a Wren, a Mistle thrush and even a Jackdaw. You just never know who will turn up in the hour.

On Sunday I went to my sisters to see who would turn up to her Big Garden Birdwatch. We were all very cosy sat by the window with our brews and biscuits. She put on quite a spread! As Yvonne and her family live in the countryside, we hoped a good variety of wildlife would visit.

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All set for the birdwatch.
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Bluetits.
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Robin.

Despite it being quite windy outside , the hour was pretty eventful, mostly because two mischievous Grey Squirrels came a calling. This prompted my sister and nephew to resort to trumpeting party blowers at them in order to scare the rascals away. They kept returning though. πŸ˜‰

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Cheeky visitors.
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Coal Tit.
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Nuthatch.
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Chaffinch.

Here’s what we saw in the hour on Sunday.

5 Bluetits, 3 Chaffinch, 3 Coal tits, 2 Great tits, 5 long-tailed tits, 2 Robins, 1 Wood pigeon, 1 Nuthatch & 2 Grey Squirrels.

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Chloe the cat. Avid Bird Fan.
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Bluetit & Long-tailed Tits.
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Great Tit.

Straight after the hour two blackbirds and a pheasant arrived! But we didn’t include these late arrivals in the results.

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Female Blackbird.
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Pheasant.

Did you participate this year?

What is your favourite garden visitor?

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Sunday Sevens 27th January.

Sunday Sevens is a collection of seven or more photos from the last seven days.

Last Sunday Wil and I were still in Edinburgh, where we had spent the weekend for Wil’s birthday. Sunday morning was spent exploring the monuments on Calton Hill. Well worth a visit! I will have to get round to writing a proper post.

Calton Hill.

Our favourite meal in Edinburgh and a tick off my bucket list, was this lamb Wellington at The Witchery by the Castle. Talk about melt in the mouth dining , in a sumptuous setting.

Lamb Wellington at The Witchery

Back home to a foggy England. I have actually had the week off work, due to having some holidays to get in before the end of March. Wil took Monday off and we went for a misty wander round the Pendle Sculpture Trail.

Tree Nymph on the trail.
Swans on the Riverside path. πŸ˜‚

Clitheroe had one gorgeous bright cold frosty day which Hugo and I made the most of , with a long walk by the Ribble. I was amused when these two swans emerged from the river and promptly plonked themselves on the path in front of us.

Cranachan.

Even though I have been in Scotland this week, I didn’t try Haggis or the traditional Scottish dessert Cranachan. Made from double cream, honey, oats, whisky & raspberries, cranachan is a simple pudding to make….even for me. πŸ™‚ Delicious not only on Burns Night.

Noticed a few clumps of snowdrops whilst out and about this week. And discovered some hiding in my flower beds, once I tidied them up a bit. If your interested, here are a few links to snowdrop walks & weekends. Not sure I will get to go to one myself this year, as were on with decorating the bedroom.

Lytham Hall, Lancs.

Hornby Castle, Lancs.

National Trust Snowdrop walks.

Goldsborough Hall, Harrogate.

Hopton Hall, Derbyshire.

National Garden Schemes snowdrop days.

Ruby red Amaryllis.

I will leave you with this cheery amaryllis, a Christmas present that is now blooming beautifully. πŸ™‚

Thanks to Natalie at Threads and Bobbins for devising Sunday Sevens.

New sculptures on the Pendle Sculpture Trail.

Pendle Sculpture Trail in Aitken Wood near Barley is a great little walk that is brimming with eye catching sculptures. I’ve blogged about this trail before here , and it’s now somewhere we love to bring Hugo. Over time some of the sculptures have naturally eroded but a few more have recently been added too. We visited on a foggy Monday morning, driving through the village of Downham and over a misty Pendle Hill.

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Witches on the trail.

There is ample parking in the car park in Barley ( Β£1 charge) which has a cafe & information centre. No maps featuring the new art installations were available on our visit ,but hopefully this will be remedied soon. To access the Sculpture Trail we made our way through the village , passing the Pendle Inn on our left and then Barley Garage, before following the signs up past two reservoirs and on to Aitken Wood.

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Another witch on the garage.
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A collie keeps a watchful eye on us.

The original Sculptures are very much inspired by the tale of the Pendle Witches. In the 1600s nine local women and one man were accused of witchcraft and tried and hung in Lancaster, as part of the Lancashire Witch trials. Of course they were no doubt innocent victims of the superstitious times they lived in. Other sculptures are inspired by the natural world and there are yet more, with a hint of the supernatural about them.

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Could this be a fir cone?
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Bracket Fungi , maybe.
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Mischievous boggart.
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Bat.

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Any eye-deas?

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Witch Finder General.

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The fog really adds to the atmosphere of the walk don’t you think? At one point I heard some bizarre sounds, that Wil and Hugo seemed completely oblivious to. Some very strange clickings & chattering’s from deep in the woods. Maybe I was letting the surroundings get to me, but I didn’t investigate further. Wil said I had probably heard a toad. Hmmmmm!

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Into the woods.

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I was definitely starting to believe I was in a Grimm’s Fairy tale by this point. More and more supernatural beings were emerging from the fog.

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There were years written on the circular flags. Possibly denoting the time passed since the Witch trials.
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Black Dog.
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Dryad ( tree nymph).
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Unicorn.

Also dotted around the woods are several ceramic plaques, one for each of the accused witches.

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Ceramic sheep skull plaque.
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Tiny fairy on woodpecker.
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Loved this one of the Pendle Witches.
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One of a flock of male and female Crossbills.

As we were leaving Aitken Wood I heard a lot of activity in some conifer trees. Looking up, I saw a flock of crossbills , my first ever. A magic moment indeed.

Are there any interesting sculpture trails near you?

Photo An Hour January 19th.

So I was in the beautiful Scottish Capital when #photoanhour was happening over on Instagram on Saturday. Time to join in and post a few photos of my day. πŸ™‚

First of all I had the best ever lie in. Usually I am up and about before 7am. Being away from our pets for a weekend meant no early morning wake up calls. Definitely bliss on Saturday. By Sunday though, we were missing the noisy little blighters, and fussing over every cat and dog we came across. πŸ˜‰

So anyway here is how Saturday panned out in Edinburgh…..

9am ~ As we had strolled up the Royal Mile on Friday, today we decided to head over to the New Town for breakfast. We passed the impressive Scott Monument, a stunning gothic pinnacle.

10am ~ Found an Italian cafe , which I can’t remember the name of. Good coffee though and tasty breakfasts. πŸ™‚

11am ~ It was a bracing cold day, so where better to head for some warmth, than The Glass Houses at The Royal Botanic Gardens. We kept toasty as we explored the ferns, tropical plants & cacti.

Noon ~ Time for a brew in the Terrace Cafe, and a nice slice of cake. πŸ™‚

1pm ~ We had headed out of the centre of Edinburgh to a lovely neighborhood called Stockbridge, which has a wealth of independent shops and cool cafes. This bookshop called Golden Hare Books on St Stephen Street has so many titles to choose from…and a cosy wood burning stove.

2pm ~ Not far from Stockbridge is Dean Village, a picturesque and very Instagram able residential area which we found by following the waterside path. The beck is known as The Water of Leith and the buildings are quite beautiful.

3pm ~ There are no shops or cafes in Dean Village, so we retraced our steps back to Stockbridge and found Smith & Gertrude , which is all about cheese and wine. We indulged!

4pm ~ I’m glad we had walked everywhere today because we also ate a lot and drank a lot! These are cocktails at an almost hidden subterranean bar called Bramble on Queen Street in the New town.

5pm ~ Back at the hotel slobbing out and watching Dogs Behaving Badly. The eerie violet light can only mean, we are stopping in a Premier Inn. I actually thought I had booked us into the Hubs By Premier Inn nextdoor, but somehow I hadn’t. Not sure what happened there!

6pm ~ A quick shower before heading out.

7pm ~ A snapshot taken on the Royal Mile. The cathedral is st Giles Cathedral and on the left is the Mercat Cross. Look out for the tiny unicorn on the top.

8pm ~ Pudding at an American Diner on the Royal Mile.

9pm ~ Sad to say I am now tucked up in bed. I was thinking about starting my new book, but I’m absolutely knackered!

I’l be back with more from Edinburgh soon. Thanks to Janey and Louisa for organising #photoanhour.

30 Before 50 Bucket List.

I’ve wrote my new Bucket List, though I can’t say I’m loving the title! But yes I am now 45 years old and having written a 25 Before 45 Bucket List when I was a mere age 42, I thought I would continue with the bucket listing lark, through the rest of my forties. πŸ™‚

There were a few items on my previous list that I never got round to ticking off, so I have included some of them on here. I would still like to swim in a lido, see the Northern Lights and try a Dutch pancake in Amsterdam. And there are plenty of new ideas too, such as watching a starling murmuration, collecting sea glass from the beach at Seaham in County Durham and eating ice cream in a vintage ice cream parlour. I’m excited to get cracking!

And I’ve already crossed two things off my new Bucket List. I managed to take a photo of a Barn Owl that was hunting in the field next to my sisters house ( wow, they are such beautiful birds) , plus I went to watch a movie in an old vintage cinema , which has definitely made me want to do more of the same in the future. πŸ™‚

My Bucket List.

Watch a film in an old vintage cinema.

Climb ten more Wainwrights.

Eat out at The Witchery in Edinburgh.

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I’ve only done two Wainwrights ever, so hopefully having them on my bucket list will encourage me to do more!

Go on a guided wildlife walk.

Swim in a lido.

Walk The Dales Way.

See the Northern Lights.

Try a Dutch Pancake in Amsterdam.

Collect sea glass on Seaham beach.

Dutch Pancakes in Amsterdam. Image from Pinterest.

Stop in four quirky holiday lets.

Go wild camping.

Afternoon Tea at Cloud 23 in Manchester.

Explore more of the Outer Hebrides.

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Barn Owl in my sisters croft.

Stay a few days in the Peak District.

Go to the No 6 Festival in Portmeirion.

Photograph a Barn Owl in the wild.

Ride a street car in Lisbon.

Watch a starling murmuration.

Go Ice skating outdoors.

Make an honesty box meal.

Yellow Street Car in Lisbon. Image from Pinterest.

Be Nine stone.

Visit Dungeness in Kent.

Eat ice cream in a vintage ice cream parlour.

Cycle round the isle of Cumbrae.

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Meet Felix the Huddersfield Railway Cat.

Go for a cream tea at the home of the Yorkshire Shepherdess.

As you can see, I have left a few gaps in my list, in case I think of a few more things I would like to do.

Do you have your own list?

Have you seen or done anything that I have mentioned here? x

Foggy walk to Holcombe Tower.

I wasn’t sure that I would post about this walk we did last weekend from Ramsbottom and up through Holcombe onto the Moors, as it was such a foggy day that we saw no views to speak of. But there again it was quite atmospheric ambling through the mist searching for the Peel Monument, a tower erected in memoriam to a famed son of nearby Bury, the conservative MP and twice prime minister ‘ Sir Robert Peel’.

We had originally planned to do this circular moorland walk but due to the fog we only got as far as the tower, which was literally obscured by the murky gloom. After following a few confused looking walkers up the hill, we turned round and took a wall side path to the right and after a few minutes the tower loomed above us, emerging from the mist like a great grey ghost. On a clearer day I bet the surrounding views are impressive. The monument is sometimes open to the public and has a viewing platform, from which to admire the surrounding Lancashire and Manchester countryside.

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Walking up through Ramsbottom to Holcombe village and past the Shoulder of Mutton Pub. We had parked at the train station car park.
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The Tower stands 128 feet tall !
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Some of Holcombe Moor is looked after by the National Trust.
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The fog got thicker the higher we went.
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The tower emerges from the gloom. You can just about see that it is pretty tall compared to the diddy humans at its base.
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The tower is only open to the public when flying a white flag. This obviously wasn’t one of those days!
Apparently one of Sir Robert Peels achievements was the introduction of the Metropolitan Police Force. This may explain their ‘ Peelers ‘ and ‘ Bobby’s ‘ nick names.
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Eyeing up sandwiches…. obviously. πŸ˜‰
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Believe you will find Holcombe Tower, even on a foggy day. πŸ™‚
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Back in Ramsbottom ~ Edward Allington’s Tilted Vase Sculpture.
Refreshments in Grind & Tamp.

In the end we only managed to walk 4 miles because visibility was so poor. However this is a great reason to return and try again. πŸ™‚

Have you ever had a foggy walk?

January β™₯️

The month of January can be a wee bit meh. The sparkle and celebrations of Christmas are over and done with, so what is to be done ? Possibly go back to the gym, join weight watchers ( my depressing January thing once upon a time) or go into full on hibernation? I say do none of those things. Embrace the winter months. Get out and explore. Snuggle up with a good book or two. Engross yourself in a riveting boxset. Make hearty stews. Drink winter warming brews. This month sounds so much better already. πŸ™‚

Watching ~ The Marvelous Mrs Maisel.

I’m presently loving The Marvelous Mrs Maisel on Amazon Prime. I can really get lost in the retro fifties glamor, the whimsical storylines and the laugh out loud moments.

Midge Maisel is a well to do Jewish New York house wife whose life falls apart when her husband leaves her for his secretary. Reeling, Midge accidentally finds therapy in stand-up comedy, almost unheard of for women in those days. This show is a visual treat with fabulous characters and is written by Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of Gilmore Girls. I definitely recommend. ❀️

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One of my birdie visitors.

I’ve signed up to do the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch , which I had fun participating in last year. If you have any feathered visitors in your yard or garden or even in your local park, it is definitely a great help to take an hour out of your time to just sit and observe who turns up. The Big Birdwatch is on over the last weekend of January. Make sure you fill up the feeders beforehand. Then put the kettle on, relax and watch. You can sign up here.

The best January days are bright and cold.

I’ve also signed up to do the #walk1000miles challenge again. There’s a fantastic Facebook page with a wonderful community of experienced and inexperienced walkers. Lots of walks ideas on there and motivational stories too. Just think, by the end of January there will be an extra hour of daylight, so more time to enjoy the outdoors. I’m certainly looking forward to that!

Hubs by Premier Inn ~ Royal Mile, Edinburgh.

I always think January is a good time to organize a mini break. Though that might be partly because it’s my other halves birthday. πŸ™‚ Seriously though, what better way to combat the winter blues than a couple of nights away. Out of season breaks are usually less expensive and I was beyond pleased when I found Hubs By Premier Inn in Edinburgh. I’ll tell you if staying in such a bijou room is a good experience, later in the month!

Head for the warmth ~ Palm House at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

If it’s cold outside, and it often is in January , head for the warmth. A great article in this month’s the Simple things magazine has some toasty suggestions including….

Winter Swim in one of the heated open air pools or lido’s that are open out of season. outdoorswimmingsociety.com

Admire tropical growing palms, ferns and flowers in the warmth of an ornate Glass House.

Book a break at Sherwood Center Parcs and experience a treetop sauna.

After a brisk walk on the beach, grab a blanket, buy some fish n chips and eat them on the prom in a wind shelter.

Google pubs near you with a roaring fire. Nothing beats a tipple of your choice in front of a crackling open fire.

My own suggestions ~ wrap up warm in a beach hut, relax in a Turkish baths, head to an independent cinema that serves hot drinks whilst you watch a movie and/or drink coffee with cats in your local cat cafe.

What are your January plans?