Category Archives: Nature

You get out of it what you put into it

Heading into June I can’t help but beam with a big smile as the hard work put into the garden is finally starting to give back. In early Spring we were blessed with the Daffodils and these were followed by the Purple Tulips at the end of April. This was their first appearance since I planted the bulbs in the Winter. I’d even decorated the garden with Plum Slate Chippings and these were pushed aside as the bulbs revealed their green tips.

   
 

We have been truly blessed by the wildlife that have used our garden as their Kitchen. The birds didn’t take residence in our nesting boxes however we are now starting to see their babies feed. Last week we had the baby Starlings join us which is quite fitting as we love Game of Thrones!! 

We created a hotel for our Solitary Bee and are pleased to announce the babies survived and emerged from their little tunnels. This was put back out in the same place last month and this week the same bee has returned to start this years batch. On closer inspection we actually have two bees both using the homemade hotel. This is pretty exciting, I love it when nature appreciates what humans try and do to assist in their lives.

   
 

At the beginning of May we dug up the worst part of the lawn and lay some new turf. It was one of the most knackering of Bank Holiday Weekends experienced but that was purely down to the Clay. The benefits of this hard work are now clear especially as I gave it the first cut, this means it is actually growing! We spent the best part preparing the ground with sharp sand, ground purifier, feed, and fertiliser with top soil. The photo below shows it from before we started to the first lay right through to its first cut.

   
   

The BBQ’s have started and we even bought the Chiminea that I’ve been desperately after. These are the moments that you truly enjoy what you have. As I reflect back to the title of this post it’s clear for all to see. Understand that the hard work you put in to whatever you do in life, will eventually pay back. As I walk around the garden I think back to the work put into it over those many hours. 

   
 

Right before I wander back out into the Sun we are currently enjoying I must apologise for the long absence. If truth be told I’m finding life is very busy right now but please be assured I will still be writing and when I get the moment to write then I’ll be here again.

Thanks

Mark 

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Birdwatch Update Spring 2015

We have had some fantastic birds visit our garden throughout Winter and Spring this year. They are certainly busy in their own little world as we are starting to head into the nesting season. The Blue Tits have already inspected our bird nesting boxes as we hope this is the year they take up residence. I thought it was only fair to share some of the amazing photos that we’ve captured to show the variety of feathered friends we have sharing our garden.

  

Our Blue Tits are busy sharing the suet coconuts together.

  

The original Robin regularly feeds off the ground around our feeding station.

  

The Dunnocks love a wander hopping amongst the plants.

  

The Bullfinch proudly puffs his chest showing off his prominent colour.

  

One of the Starling family are always around eating the suet and worms.

 

We love our Pied Wagtail always bopping along the ground being scatty as ever.

There will be further photos as we head into the Latter Spring months.

Mark  

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2015

This weekend (24th – 25th January) was the weekend for all those interested in nature to do their bit and watch for those birds who enter our gardens across the United Kingdom.

For those readers familiar with me and my blog, you will understand how important I value the wild and nature. Last Spring we tried our best to encourage birds into our garden by providing them with feeders and nesting boxes. Since then we have stepped it up a notch and have provided our gardens birds with a nonstop supply of seasonal food throughout 2014 and into this year.

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It is hoped that by doing this it will also give us a better chance of seeing birds nest this year. I was lucky to receive a present of a new bird feeder stand which allows for numerous treats to be displayed prominently in our garden. In the lead up to the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend I’ve kept it full to maximise our viewings over the weekend.

The RSPB guidelines for a successful and accurate Bird Watching experience is to time yourself for an hour and to only count the birds you see at any one time or snapshot of your viewing parameter. This will ensure you don’t duplicate birds seen and also give you a better chance of counting what you see accurately.

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We did a couple of Bird Watching sessions, one mid afternoon on the Saturday and one this morning as I write on the Sunday. It is quite interesting and exciting to see the birds habits by breed and type. Some are very much on a timetable and the regulars in our surrounding trees find the best moments to swoop in and grab their treats as the day passes by.

The results were really quite interesting and we’ve seen numerous different breeds of birds over this weekend. Some I knew we had visited before and some that surprised me. The spot of the weekend was a beautiful Chaffinch with its blazing maroon chest proudly displayed. Our cheeky Robin made a couple of appearances chasing away the Blue Tits and Sparrows whenever possible.

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So what were our weekend Bird Watching results? I’ve taken the highest figure of each variety to ensure accuracy and as per the RSPB rules. The results are as follows: –

3 x Blackbirds
6 x Blue Tits
1 x Chaffinch
1 x Coal Tit
2 x Great Tits
5 x House Sparrows
2 x Long Tailed Tits
1 x Robin
1 x Song Thrush
1 x Wood Pigeon
2 x Starlings
1 x Pied Wagtail

As the list confirms we have a garden full of activity and as I write up my blog I can’t believe the amount of Starlings I’ve just seen swoop down and snap up all of the Meal Worms I put out this lunchtime.

It is important to ensure that those like me who encourage wildlife into their gardens maintain the food supply throughout the year. It is obvious to see that these birds are now relying on our garden as a source for food. Stopping this will only harm them and potentially reduce the numbers and species that live on our planet.

#RSPBBigGardenBirdwatch

It’s been one fun weekend and I’ll be helping the RSPB with their amazing efforts.

Mark

Apologies for the Quiet

I must apologise to my followers for this moment of silence. I know there isn’t a need to do this, however I want to. I am extremely proud to have over 80 followers and I feel the very reason you followed me has been put on hold, well this has ended tonight.

As I appear from the shadows it is at the time of year the world we live in takes on a festive holiday filled feeling. So what have I been up to and how is 2014 concluding as we head into the final throes of the year.

I’ve had some fantastic weekends and day trips away with my fiancé which included a fun weekend exploring Leeds for a family members birthday. Leeds is a fantastic city and one that we both love. Who knows what the future holds with regards to this awesome city….

Last Tuesday we went to London and visited the Tower of London Poppies. We tried to go a fortnight ago but couldn’t quite battle our way through the crowds. This time around we were able to walk right around the tower and saw some amazing sights.

I have a couple of my favourite photos below:-
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I witnessed Northampton Saints lose against Exeter last Friday which was slightly surreal. It’s the first time I’ve seen them lose and now the disappointment that Leeds United provide has been mirrored at Saints.

Towcester Mill has had a handful of visits as the nights draw in, it’s very cozy inside. It’s a shame we can’t quite enjoy the long evenings in the amazing gardens. It’s a good job the Winter Beers are on tap, there will be some reviews coming up soon!

Our hedgehog who became our fourth family member has gone into hibernation. I do have a photo from last month below as he made the most of our feeding station. We also seem to have a new kitten who visits our garden. It’s all go round our neighbourhood!

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So what does the rest of November hold? Firstly it’s a certain special persons birthday. I can’t say anymore as it will spoil the amazing plans I’m rapidly compiling as next weekend approaches.

Work is going very well. I am into the fourth month of my new job and so far so good. I’ve always wanted to be a Branch Manager, now I have it, I won’t be letting go of it!

Ummmm oh and my Dad ran his first half marathon. He is running 2 more and his first Marathon as he raises money for Cancer. Please check out his sponsorship page and if you feel generous then please send him a message or even better a donation.

https://www.justgiving.com/Paul-Barrow3/

Phew! I promise I’ll write again soon! It’s far too hard trying to fill so much in one blog post!

Mark

In The Woods 2014

After a truly magical and breathtaking experience last year, we were very fortunate to have friends join us for this years most beautiful festival. In The Woods Festival oozes mystery, tranquility and brings a small gathering of people together in the most surreal environment within some of the most picturesque woodlands.
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Putting last years memories aside in an attempt to be surprised again, it was clear to see a new theme without altering the dynamics previously enjoyed. The woodlands beautifully laced with colourful flowers and bright golden lights leading you along the magical footpaths.

At the entrance there were some bright pink, yellow and blue cactuses positioned amongst the natural green plants. A couple of footsteps later there were trees graced with the largest material letters spelling out ITW14.

There were cardboard masks hung by wooden pegs on strings hand painted for people to wear. The pathways winding with many other areas to explore. A material filled tree designed to look like a flowing waterfall was one of the most eye catching pieces. Our friend we met at last years festival had designed a sign that spelt out “But I Love Hymn” a fitting reference to the music we enjoyed during the weekend.

Last years record playing corner was replaced with a lovely little record shop which sold music from the bands playing. You could listen to them on Vinyl and I bought a CD from the band
Francobollo which had a hand drawn cover, a lovely little momentum of the festival from a new band I discovered.

On the first evening we participated in the Pub Quiz which was highly entertaining. Despite accruing a team of ten people we still managed to avoid winning. Either way it was a great chance to mingle whilst drinking some of the local ales they had on tap.

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Later on we went into the Silent Disco, this is a new concept for me. I’ve always wanted to try one and was unsure what to expect. It transpired to be one of the weirdest yet enjoyable experiences I’ve known. I was presented with some headphones that had 2 channels on them. Whilst listening to the music you could hear the people around you singing either the song I was listening to or the one on the other channel. One things for sure I can’t get Junior Senior or Shanks and Bigfoot out of my head!

The music was amazing and some of the bands I really enjoyed discovering were Francobollo, Juffage, Ichi and Febueder. The styles and genres on both sides of the spectrum gave the pallet a mixed variety. The stages are called The Quarry and Laurel Lounge, one is surrounded by trees and slopes that you can perch on a log whilst the others in a clearing within the lush green trees.

During the Saturday there was a chance to experience hands-on craft. We created a vinyl print which was cool to print whilst others were making garlands from plants and greens acquired from the woodlands. There was even the opportunity to draw a naked person. Art, Craft and Its diverse nature combined to offer a beautiful cocktail of opportunity for people like me to have a go.

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The Spinney is a part of the woods where you can sit down on hay bails listening to musicians play and sing whilst wearing headphones. It creates a spooky and chilling atmosphere because without wearing them all you can hear is the vocals and key presses on the keyboard. We heard Sivu play and his style encapsulated the surroundings beautifully.

The curtains for ITW14 drew down on Saturday evening with the most anticipated bonfire spectacle. A large plunger with sticks of dynamite were the decoration for an impressive effort. Within minutes the flames were dancing high into the dark sky flicking off fireflies and angels to keep the stars company afar. It was the surreal and comforting end to a beautiful event.

Thank you once again for making it so special and I haven’t even mentioned the amazing food on offer! Another portion of Cauldron cooked Beef Curry was enjoyed and we managed to sample the cakes in the Coffee, Tea & Cake hut before they sold out on the Saturday Morning.

One criticism and I hate to make it was the increased allocation of tickets taking the event over 1,000 people. This is too much, you could tell the strains this put on certain parts of the festival, please go back to how it was in 2013.

DarcyB

Snowdonia Long Weekend

Following on from my blog written 1085 Metres above sea level on the summit of Mount Snowdon, I have been gathering my thoughts. On what was a truly amazing adventure we had the pleasure of enjoying one of the most picturesque of places visited to date.

The drive to our campsite was beautiful. As soon as we passed the Welsh border, we were greeted with winding roads offering some beautiful views. Mountains, open rivers, streams and fields full of nature on show setting a lovely background story to what lay waiting for us.
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Cae Du is a beautiful campsite, very neatly presented within a border of the Snowdonia Mountains. This campsite offered spacious pitches and a well stocked shop. The prices were good value considering the remoteness of this site. The facilities on this well maintained site included basic toilets open 24 hours with more modern and newer washing facilities open between 7am-10pm. The views all around the site were breathtaking and there were some lovely parts we walked around on the site including a secluded mountain stream.

Saturday was our judgement day as we climbed Mount Snowdon. Following on from my previous blog, I can confirm the decent was far more demanding than I thought it would be. My fiancé had to strap a heat pack to my calf and help me carry our numerous stretches to aid my tight calfs and sore ankles. Despite the aches I am still feeling, I wouldn’t have swapped this experience for anything.

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On Sunday we headed to the local village called Beddgelert. This village was so beautiful and the walk from our campsite took around ten minutes. This is a very lovely place and the walk into the village took us along a rocky river which was overlooked by some very attractive houses. One snap shot of this walk seemed to take us back to Greece, this picture is below.

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We had a walk around the shops and bought a couple of pieces from a craft shop. There was a lovely ice cream parlor where we sampled some delightful flavours. I had a strawberry, melon and Cointreau Ice cream which was amazing. We spent some time chilling at one of the local pubs and watched the world pass by as we rested our achy legs and bodies.

There is a sad local story to this village which played a huge part in the naming of Beddgelert. My story is very rough and if I’ve missed anything I do apologise. A prince dating back to the 1300s lived in this village and he had a loyal dog as his pet. One day he came home to find his empty sons cot covered in blood, the prince feared the worst and slayed his faithful companion Gelert. The prince frantic over the death of his air to the throne was in despair. It wasn’t until he searched the house that he found his son unscathed and the blood was from a wolf that had tried to attack him. The wolf was killed by his loyal dog Gelert. It is said that after this event the prince never smiled again. Gelerts grave remains to be seen today, the photo below shows his grave as well as a statue of Gelert.

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We had a couple of meals in Beddgelert which were decent and enjoyed the lovely feeling this village gave us. The streams were beautiful and the sunshine lit up all the flowers and bright colours around the streets. This is a place we will visit again and one little treat we didn’t expect to find. The final night at our campsite was chilled and we played a couple of games of Scrabble before settling down. The rain was heavy and kept us awake but by the time it settled it gave us time to get some sleep ahead of our journey home tomorrow.

Before we got on our way home we decided to visit a place called Portmeirion to have a walk around the coastlines or that’s what we thought it would entail. Our adventurous streak got the better of us and once we walked around the streets with brightly coloured painted houses and pools filled with piercing blue water we found ourselves thrown into our own adventure.

Portmeirion is spanned over 70 acres and whilst most of it is mapped, we decided the sign pointing to a Ghost Garden was too much of a temptation to resist. Off the map and past the Dog Cemetery we were trying to find, we found ourselves clambering through Rainforests filled with bright plants, loud wildlife and areas that not even the most local of residents had passed.

We finally got stuck as we were presented with a steep sandy bank down around 30 feet of cliffs. We managed to clamber down safely and the walk led us down to the beach. Fortunately the sea was out and we could enjoy a lovely albeit lengthy walk back to the village centre. It was one adventure, one we didn’t expect to participate in, however it was bloody good fun.

Portmeirion turns out to be quite a famous place with many tv programs filmed there. These include The Prisoner and Doctor Who. It certainly offers a lot and we did enjoy some lovely cake in their cafe. It is very quaint and a strange thing is that some of the buildings have windows painted on them, now that is weird!

The drive back was pretty boring in comparison to the amazing long weekend we experienced. Snowdonia we will be back. Thank you!!

DarcyB

1085 Metres Later

As I sit here sipping my coffee on the summit of Snowdon I find myself reflecting. This challenge we set ourselves has been one amazing journey, one that through strength, determination and togetherness we managed to navigate.

1085 Metres altitude over rocky terrain and hazardous pathways behind us it’s certainly a sense of achievement. It’s far too early to even think about the return journey back down the route we have taken, one thing is for sure it will be a bit less demanding on the body and my legs.

The views have been truly breathtaking as the climb gradually saw us see the world from different heights and views. Great Lakes turning into puddles the further we headed upwards to the summit. The weather has been kind to us, some moments when the sun peeked around the clouds it became too hot, the overcast conditions for most of the climb a welcome present.

This is one of those moments you need to savor and I will certainly do so, it is when you do something as epic as this you begin to wake up the adventurous monster that lurks within my soul. This has certainly reminded me of the Grampians that I climbed in Australia but it is nowhere near comparable. This has been one awesome adventure, another one to the long list I am lucky to be compiling with my fiancé. Life is good!

DarcyB

York City Adventure – Part 2

Bank Holiday Monday promised a day of sunshine and dry weather, this was the reason for deciding not to pack a jacket with me on our second day exploring York. I cooked us a couple of sausage sandwiches to ensure we started the day with a full stomach, the sun was out as we left the campsite to head back into the city.
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Today was going to be another day of new adventures, one that started by walking around the first part of the city walls. 75% of York is surrounded by the original Roman walls and these have been modernized in parts and repaired to allow walking access along them. The turrets with arrow slots paint exciting Images in my mind as I could see the Roman Army defending York from these points in history. This is when the weather decided against following the forecast and the first light showers hit us. I was determined not to allow these showers put me off as we left the City Walls and headed towards York Minster.

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York Minster is an impressive building, whose walls contains a lot of stories and historical events. Richard the Thirds young son was buried within these walls decorated with numerous examples of breathtaking interior design work. We decided not to visit the tower but that didn’t dampen the experience. There is a display that shows the work that is currently being undertaken with one of the largest stain glass windows. They are removing the panels one by one and cleaning them and resetting the panels. Each panel can take up to 1,000 hours with a cost of over £10,000 to repair. York Minster costs £20,000 per day to run and operate which is hard to imagine but after exploring it you can understand why these costs exist.

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York Minster has had to have some major foundational restoration work carried out. The East wing started to sink with cracks appearing in it. The Minster was saved with hard work and over £250,000 raised to carry out the emergency work required. Some of the bolts driven into the foundations are visible as we walked under the basement of the Minster.

We grabbed a drink in the Guy Fawkes Hotel bar which is another historical landmark in York. Guy Fawkes stayed here before his involvement in the failed gunpowder plot. I learnt so much about the story of what happened, I didn’t realise he was Catholic and wanted to lead the revolt to put a Catholic head of the monarchy in place. We “plotted” our next part of the day before deciding to head into Stonegate.

At 35 Stonegate there stands another haunted house. This place has had some convincing reports and reviews so with some gentle persuasion I managed to persuade my Fiancé to join me. The woman who managed the place gave us a brief introduction before our tour started and we were left alone.

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The tour lasted around half an hour as we were led around by audio commentary around the rooms. Some of the rooms were in darkness as I tried to take photos with my phone. There were a couple of instances where I felt a strange sensation. When I sat down on the bench in a room surrounded by old masks and various artifacts I felt a sharp cold sensation on my back.

The tour carried on up narrow stairs and darkened rooms. In the attic I thought I saw a golden sparkle in the corner of the room where a child’s cot sat. It was very obvious and something else that added to the feeling I was being watched. The final room had a large table with leather seats positioned around it. The table was set up for a seance with a glass globe positioned centrally on it, this room felt wrong. As we left Lisa my fiancé felt a bit faint as we made our way to The Punchbowl pub to grab some dinner. A couple of delicious cheeseburgers later and we were back on our way to explore York Gardens.

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York Gardens have some amazing ruins and colourful plants within the grounds. We had a lovely walk around and couldn’t help but be amazed by how some of these arches were still standing. The sun came out as we enjoyed the calming atmosphere that these gardens brought us. We walked through them to the other side before we rejoined the City Walls to finish off our day in the city.

The final night chilling at our Campsite was enjoyable as we ate cheese and crackers whilst finishing off the film American Hustle. The weather during the night was terrible as the heavy rain bombarded our tent, fortunately for us this stopped in the morning. Getting the tent packed up in dry conditions was a relief and we were soon off on our way home.

Thank you York for a truly amazing long weekend, we did so much but have so much more to come back and do.

DarcyB

Natures surprises

There have been some strange sights and also some wonderful sights in our garden these last few days. We decided to clear out the old pots and get our garden in some shape ready for this Summer. Where we have grown our own vegetables in the past, this year it’s a lot simpler with focus more on plants and nature. We have had our fair share of birds in the garden, but sadly following on from my previous Blue Tit update I am sad to confirm that our nest boxes are empty this year. Despite this there have been some interesting developments within our gardens walls.

Last year there were no end of stories in the UK’s press relating to False Widow Spiders. These stories now seem to have died down, probably because of the colder months. I joked that it would be typical if my first encounter would happen as soon as they were out of fashion. Whilst emptying out the soil I had bagged to fill up the troughs I saw my first False Widow Spider. It was about the size of a 50p piece and the body was dark with a light pattern across it. The legs were quite muscular and the shape something similar from the film Arachnophobia. I managed to be brave and removed it from the garden, however a couple of days later another one appeared in our house by the front door. My fiancé duly sucked it up with the vacuum and I disposed of the evidence once returning back from work. I do have a photo below, I wonder how many more will appear now the weather is warming up. From first appearing in Devon, it’s safe to say the False Widow has made it to Towcester, much to our annoyance.

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Moving onto a more pleasant story, the one involving our Solitary Bee. On Sunday whilst out in the garden this bee was flying into a hole on our Garage Wall. It kept returning and because of the obvious reservations of it nesting within the mortar, I blocked the hole up. The bee then tried to unblock it to no avail, it then turned it’s attentions to elsewhere. The bee flew into our conservatory and made a beeline (excuse the pun) to some bamboo we have and flew into the hollow innards. After removing the bee again we decided to read up on what it was trying to do, what we discovered was quite fascinating.

The bee was trying to find a place to collect pollen and lay eggs. The bee will create chambers within the nest area so each one contains enough pollen for the egg to hatch and grow from. Because of this frantic behavior demonstrated we created our own nest and placed it near the hole in the garage. This needs to be South facing as Solitary Bees are cold blooded which makes sense as to why it had chosen these places. The sunlight that hits the nest during the day will keep
It warm during the night.

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We used three pieces of Bamboo and glued them using a glue gun. They were then wrapped tightly in twine and the bamboo smoothed out on the inside with a file. This was secured in place so that it couldn’t fall down. Within 5 minutes of hanging this up our bee returned. Since doing this there are five chambers with obvious signs of nests in them, at least we have something nesting in our garden. Let’s see if these hatch safely, one things for sure we have helped our Bee, who still remains unnamed.

Once the pots start growing I will post some photos. I’ve decided on planting a couple of tomato plants as the corner on our patio is a sun trap. This will hopefully see us grown some red toms this year after a couple of disappointing years attempts.

DarcyB

Blue Tit Update – March

Following on from my post about putting up the bird boxes in our garden, there has been a hive of activity going on.

March is typically when Blue Tits will start to feed themselves in preparation for the busier nest building month of April. With the weather being so mild it could be easy to think the nesting season has already started. The chorus of bird songs filling our blossom trees around our garden are a pleasant reminder that we are in Spring.

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There have been some long visits to our Peanut filled bird feeder and this photo taken on Mothering Sunday confirms our local Tits are starting to feed themselves up for a busy April.

We have had a couple of the Blue Tits visit our Bird Boxes and in the early mornings there have been sightings of garden greenery being taken into the boxes. It’s not clear if they have taken residency or put down their deposit 🙂 but they are getting close to making a choice.

It’s very exciting and I hope to have some further positive updates and photos should our Blue Tits decide upon a home for their Nest Building. More updates to follow next month.

DarcyB
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