Wildlife Diary and News Blog 2018 - notes from a small wood. Observations from Groves Bank, Groves Dyke and Groves Coppice, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England Scroll down for the current News Blog (but first, please help with this campaign): www.Fight4Whitby.com is the website for the fight to properly maintain Whitby Harbour and provide a proper new Tourist Information Centre (now that they have got rid of our old one). Please visit to check progress ('News') and to donate towards our legal cost. ...................... 11 November 2018 100 years of remembering A wet and windy day at the war memorial at Dock End in Whitby, where the sliver of Norwegian granite set in a plinth of local sandstone reminds us all of Whitby's wartime links with the Resistance movement in Norway. The software problem is now less of a problem, and may return to normal service soon... 11 August 2018 FIVE Apricots All this dry sunny weather has made my trained (along the post and rail fence) Apricot feel at home and this summer the total crop has increased from 3 to 5 - AND they were delicious. We picked 3 today for breakfast, leaving the other 2 to swell a bit more. Ran out the electric string and spent just over an hour sawing the 6 lengths of Cherry cordwood into 15-inch drums. After lunch we split and stacked them into the woodshed, as well as Silver Birch drums, all felled early this spring. 22 July 2018 Cider bottling again Far too hot again and even worse that TDH. IT sez 24 degrees C outside and just about the same indoors. We dodged from shade to shade, patio parasol to raftings to veranda, and back again, carrying buckets of Camden solution and tap water to sterilise the bottles and then rinse them out again. Then capping them, then carrying them indoors to store. Today's c25 small bottles are being labelled 2017b, as distinct from the first batch of 2017a. 21 July 2018 Beating a Blackbird Over breakfast we saw an intruder within the fruit cage and rushed out to evict it before it ate ALL the Goosegogs, Blackcurrants and Redcurrants. The Goosegogs were most at risk, so we excluded that bush from the cage and rebuilt it, more securely than ever, around all the remaining and heavily-laden bushes. We then sacrificed our hands and arms to stripping off the Goosegogs (while there still were some) and took them indoors to wash (our blood off!) and blanch them all. About 10 litres in all, which is a good crop from just 1 bush - Goosegogs, that is, not blood! 5 Crumbles later and we had had enough of a warm kitchen on a super-hot day. Yet still B spent far too long weeding the spatio (south patio) gravel bed. Mad dogs and... 17 July 2018 A shower of rain! We had a drop of rain overnight, our first for many a day (about 1/4 inch all told) but when we got to Helmsley outdoor (and heated) swimming pool, we found the town had many muddy but dried-out puddles on the roads, following an inch of rain overnight and a few flooded roads. 16 July 2018 Pollarding the swamp Oaks ID and I spent one of the hottest days of the year working in the now dried-out 'swamp' below the high voltage leccy wires. Normally we would be ankle-deep in water but not this summer. The past month's drought has removed ALL water so we felt safe enough to top the self-sown young Oaks which are normally too risky for any but the fully trained, qualified and equipped Leccy Lads for Northern Power Grid. Just to make life interesting, there was a light shower for 5 minutes, which had very little effect. All told, we now have some 20 or 30 Oak branches up to 12 feet long, all stacked-up against the Oak and the Whitebeam at the start of the North West Passage, for burning in the winter of 2019/20. ... 16 June 2018 Catching up again Two things have happened: My whizkid GK is currently working on this website to archive some of the News Blog (should download faster now) and to update the version of WordPress which I use, so please be patient... We have had friends staying and have been having a very enjoyable week out and about with them, enjoying all that the North York Moors has to offer, including (a few days ago): 13 June 2018 Red Kite over White Horse inn RoseDale Yes, we were about to be handed our lunch plates when there was a cry from EEJ of 'Red Kite above', so plates were thrust back at the startled staff as we grabbed our binoculars and looked up - What a beauty! 31May 2018 Summer again - 5th try 30 May 2018 Thick, thick cold grey fog 20 May 2018 Tomatoes in We prepared the Tomorite grow bags on the Tomorite irrigation trays and planted 3 Tumbling Toms into the bag on the veranda wall - not to mention Broad Beans in Veg Bed B and Peas in Veg Bed C. Still unable to locate any Broccoli plants... Darby and Joan, the pair of Mallard now living in my pond, dozed the day away, while a Buzzard circled high overhead and was later mobbed away by a Carrion Crow. FAR too hot and sunny for gardening. 19 May 2018 Tom and Rosies' tops Harry and Megans' wedding The hot, sunny weather was perfect in Aislaby this morning for great-nephew TR's marriage to RT in Aislaby church. After a lively, modern service with lots of audience participation, we all strolled down to Aislaby Lodge for a magnificent Reception in the gardens, the marquee and the (very!) newly refurbished Family Barn. 16 May 2018 Third attempt at Spring fails again Cold and grey with a Northerly wind again, so off to Pickering for a swim - only to find Pick cold and grey as well. After our swim, we admitted defeat and required a very nice, very warming Full English Breakfast in Café Stop to warm us up again. 15 May 2018 House Martins return - again this year Having been and gone again once this year, the pair of House Martins were again flying around the house and chittering under the eves in the early morning. And then they vanished again, perhaps back South to where the flies are, now the cold weather has returned again again. 13 May 2018 Stove logging Sycamore Wet overnight and much cooler, so we sawed the Sycamore from the cord into 15-inch stove logs and started the west wall in the lower half of the woodshed - which we should start using in Feb or March of 2019. 12 May 2018 Introducing Phil and Stu, the compost twins The great Broccoli search started at Homebase and ended with a promise of 'Next Thursday' at Viccy Farm, so we went for lunch at Sleights River Gardens. Then we shifted all the gravel in the dumpy bag (still perched on top of the steps) to the newly created compost corner. The two identical big, black compost bins now stand by side in a special gravel bed. The lids are interchangeable, so one is now labelled Phil, while the other one is labelled Stu... And when Phil is fully filled, then it will be time to swop the lids and let the contents stew, while the other bin-full of lovely compost is dug into the beds as soil improver. All 3 tons of gravel have now been moved, the veg garden gravel is complete, and some is left in the yard for future use on the south patio... We were delighted to see a Buzzard over Littlebeck, a single first Swift high over Sleights, but not a single Swallow or House Martin anywhere. 11 May 2018 Pickering swim and lunch A quick and relaxing dash to Pickering for a nice relaxing swim after a busy week. 09 May 2018 Hot, dry and sunny So off to Pickering for a nice relaxing swim, followed by our first balcony lunch of the year at the Garden Centre. Almost perfect, but no Gardener's Platter yet. 07 May 2018 Hot gardening CM strimmed all the grass, while I teetered on the gangplank of 6x2 inch edging planks, pulling the damned Zebra Weed out of my pond. Once done, we cut and screwed the planks to create the new compost corner of the veg garden. Afterwards, I emptied the outer compost bin into the inner one, moved the near empty bin inside to stand by its mate, and then started reloading it. Then more gravel shifting. 06 May 2018 Too hot to garden, so bottle Hot, dry and sunny again today. We started with a little genteel gardening: planting Runner beans, and starting again (for the 3rd time) the Peas and Broad Beans (bloody wildlife). Not to mention using the weed burner on the paths around the veg garden. Then into the shade to scrub the labels off wind bottles, sterilise them, rinse them and fill them with last year's Sleightly Blackcurrant Merlot, Sleightly Redcurrant Rose and Sleightly Red and Blackcurrant Roselot. 15 bottles all told, and quite nice, too. 5 May 2018 Lunch al fresco Another hot, dry and sunny day so we took off to bag the best table by the river bank at Shepherd's Hall in Lealholm. A toastie and a Shepherd's Platter kept us going as we atched the Mallard, the House Martin (1 only) and the Dipper. Then on to Great Fryupdale for a cuppa at the Yorkshire Cycle Hub, this visit we were enjoying it out on the veranda, admiring the magnificent view. Then off on a road I have never driven on before, around the very head of the dale, then up onto Glaisdale Rigg (but still no Skylarks), then down Caper Hill to see Thomas Hartus and his yatstead. 4 May 2018 The gasman has been-eth The nice Amber gasman came as promised and looked at the obsolete gas fire in Droves Dyke sitting room. He took measurements, showed us a range of possible replacement fires with living flame, of course, and we picked one. It might even be fitted next changeover day... AND I cured his hayfever, for which I hope he will be eternally grateful... [Boots over-the-counter non-drowsy own-brand hayfever remedy, which I accidentally discovered 10 years ago, after suffering annually for 60 years. Delighted to discover them but furious that the NHS didn't think to tell me they existed]! 02 May 2018 Cold, wet and windy but the Chuckle Brother returned We disregarded the rain and went up to the long-felled Cherry tree to bring some down to the wood yard. Then up again with the 2-person cross-cut saw, to saw the too-big lumps into almost too-big to barrow down lumps. The wind eased, but it was too late for a bonfire, so we carried on as the rain cleared. By mid-afternoon it was almost dry and sunny, and we had succeeded in bring down most of the Cherry for sawing into stove logs next winter's fuel supply. Met readings April 2018 MA mixed month, mostly cold and cloudy but with a short mini-heat wave towards the end. Max 76 degrees F, Actual 58F, Min 31F. Precipitation 2.4 inches. 29 Apr 2018 The Goth from the East Cold and strong winds from the North East have returned for the Spring Goth Weekend, so not too much promenading. We sat back and admired the new Whitby Arbour in the front garden of Groves Dyke. It does look good, but then we are biased, having shifted a couple of tons of gravel to create it and freshen-up the car park. 28 Apr 2018 Finishing the new Whitby Arbour More bits of wood from Homebase, then collect the new 4-foot bench from Victoria Farm Garden Centre and then a delightful day of DIY to put the bench together (our very favourite job - NOT) and fix it within the new arch, to create the new Whitby Arbour. And very nice it looks, too. Even if we do say it ourselves. Sitting down frequently to rest, we noticed a VTO Wren (Vertical Take Off) carrying moss to the edge of my roof - and into the old House Martin nest there! Oh dear, that may put the poor old House Martins off - if the chilly weather hasn't already. 27 Apr 2018 Dreary, damp and cold So we had to take some Whitby Guidebooks up the valley and we had to eat a Small Fryup breakfast at The Cycle Hub in Fryupdale, followed by a potter around KMS (Kirbymoorside). No suitable 4-foot bench found, until we got back to Viccy Farm garden centre. 26 Apr 2018 More gravel and yet more gravel Another ton was delivered this morning, so I spread it on the approach to the polebarn, and then barrowed the last half ton up from the Groves Dyke car park (handy for the new arbour), across the yard to a new site near the pond. Flop! Ordered another ton of gravel for the veg bed, which the driver cleverly hoisted across in a dumpy bag onto the upper level of the fruit lawn, thus saving the carrying up 5 steps. 25 April 2018 First House Martins A pair of House Martins were chittering under the eves this morning, my first here this year. 24 April 2018 First ton The first ton of 20mm gravel ordered and delivered, so I barrowed half of it across the lawn to the new arbour on Groves Dyke lawn. Phew. 23 April 2018 New arch construction I thought I heard a House Martin chittering under the eves this morning, but maybe I dreamt it. None seen. CM and I finished putting the new arch together, set it into position and then collected 6 small sacks of crusher run to fill in the base of the wooden frame it will stand in, topped with gravel. 22 Apr 2018 New shorts broke the heat wave The lovely hot weather for the last few days didn't like my new shorts and this morning we had overcast skies and some heavy showers. Racked the 3 demijohns of last year's Redcurrant Rose, Blackcurrant Merlot and (mixed) RnB Roselot in the veranda, dodging the big rain drops. 21 Apr 2018 First Historic Houses Association (HHA) visit As the hot, dry and sunny weather continued, we set off against the flow of visitors and drove to Scampston Walled Garden, near Malton. A quick tour of the garden, still fairly dormant and without any colour, before we settled down to one of their fabulous Gardener's Platter and a Yorkshire Rarebit overlooking the garden. VERY summery! Then a nice stroll to the banks of the newly dredged lake and back to the plant sales, before cutting cross-country to Thornton-le-Dale and back over the moor to home. 20 Apr 2018 Staithes in a heat wave We took a boot-load of Whitby Guidebooks to Staithes and had a lovely relaxed potter about, dropping off the odd boxful here and there. Home via Runswick Bay and lunch on the deck outside the Sandside Café, overlooking the bay at low tide and the unmanned excavators parked-up waiting for who-knows-what before they start repairing and improving the sea defences. Every small wading bird knows that their activity is governed by the tide, not by the clock, but then coastal defences always cost £millions. 19 Apr 2018 TDM I know it is wrong of me to complain, and I'm very sorry, but today was 76 degrees F, which is just Too Damn Hot for me. Yes, it has been a very long, cold, damp winter. Yes, it did snow here at least once a month for the past 6 months: in Nov, in Dec, in Jan, in the Beast from the East in Feb, in the Mini-Beast from the East in March and then even a snow shower on April Fool's Day. Yes, it has been the coldest, wettest worst winter for 10 years. But today, it was the hottest April Day for 69 years - and its Too Damn Hot! 18 Apr 2018 Indoor swim and outdoor lunch After a nice swim at Pickering Pool, we went to the tea garden at Balderston's Bakery in Thornton-le-Dale and had a lovely, sunny (but shady) lunch. 16 Apr 2018 Groundworks begin CM and I screwed a big wooden framework together for the new Whitby Arch in Groves Dyke garden. We carried it to the front lawn, dug it into place and added the weed suppressing fabric. Now all we need is either a ton of Crush n Run for a foundation, OR to fix the legs into place before the stone goes down. I wonder which should come first..? 15 Apr 2018 Spring gardening Warm and dry and sunny - wonderful. B put the Onions in, then removed all the hedge-laying brash to the bonfire. I, meanwhile, was gadding about in the Memorial Hall at Staithes with a sponsored walk for the Brains Trust, the brain tumor charity. 14 Apr 2018 We wondered lonely as a crowd A nice, dry day with no wind and no fog, so we set off for Farndale to see the Daffodils at their best. We were not alone. Parking awkwardly at Church Houses, we strolled down to the Daffy Caffy (packed) for a bacon butty and then on downstream, through the 15 gates (yes, 15), along the paved path, dodging prams, kids, dogs, families, couples and the odd push bike. The Daffs were magnificent and in full flower. Low Mill was a welcome open space, as was a cuppa in the church hall. THIS is where we should have parked, with a big official car park, the National Park info caravan with a couple of Voluntary Rangers, public loos, etc. The return leg was on the same path, with the same 15 gates (yes, still 15) and many of the same crowds, but this time heading in the opposite direction. Well worth doing, but preferably NOT on a weekend. 11 April 2018 Hedge-laying on the Beech Ian and I spent a very full day standing on the only dry bit of ground (the car park tarmac) and laying the Beech hedge at the bottom of the wood. First we laid one end to the left, then we laid the other end to the right - and then we worked out how to lay a left hand side stem to the right and a right hand side stem to the left, to try and hide the widening parting. This was NOT a comb-over! 9 April 2018 Young Ash pollarded CM used his chainsaw to take the tops off a multi-stemmed Ash which has now topped the electricity and phone wires to the house. While I was sitting in a meeting, he produced a very useful amount of cordwood for our stoves next winter. 8 April 2018 Soggy digging and sparse Frogspawn The weather may have dried up a little but the soil is still sodden. Started digging the new Raspberry bed, but gave up when every spade full of soil removed resulted in another mini pond. Pruned the Blackcurrant bushes into a better goblet shape and dug over the Onion bed. The Frogs seem to have had a poor Spring as well, with a mere 1 litre of spawn in my pond, rather than the usual several bucket fulls. The first Chiffchaff was 'singing' in the wood today. 5 April 2018 First Frogs singing in my pond Sunny, warm a dry today, which makes a lovely change. The Frogs appreciated it too, with a dozen or so cavorting in my pond. Hopefully, there will be lots more in the next few days, if this good weather continues. 3 April 2018 Digging a new 10 foot flood relief drain After an inch of rain yesterday, the stone seat in my garden was awash as the little beck blocked the culvert and then roared across the lawn. I dug a relief drain for 10 feet from under the stone seat, capturing all the escaped water and leading it back overground and into the beck again. 01 April 2018 Cold, wet Easter with snow forecast We sawed the Hornbeam into cordwood, got too cold and suffered for our foolishness. March Met Station 2018 Precipitation 3.6+ inches (overflowing). Max 54 degrees F, Actual 36, Min 24 degrees F (ie 8 degrees of frost). A wet month, with cold Easterly winds which became known as the mini-Beast from the East. Miserable. 31 Mar 2018 Cold and wet again Easter Saturday and the weather has gone backwards. Whitby is very busy, including lots of shivering scooterists (who must have had a miserable ride over the moortop), so sneaked off to a nice café near Whitby and enjoyed a lovely lunch. Took some Whitby Guidebooks to the Abbey for English Heritage and had a chilly high-speed tour of the lovely Abbey House garden, with its magnificent views over the harbour. 29 Mar 2018 Tour of Beckhole and Goathland IJ and I took a carload of Guidebooks to distribute to all the visitor outlets in both villages - a great excuse to drive over the moors and visit some of the nicest places. The village was quite busy, but we still managed to pop into the Mallyan Hotel Tearoom, enjoy a nice scone and a couple of cuppas, and then admire some of the Gnomeman furniture in the hotel lounge. 28 Mar 2018 Grand tour and grand reunion We collected IJ from the Royal Hotel and set off up the coast towards Staithes, delivering boxes of the newly published Whitby Guidebook to Runswick Bay (new coastal defence work has started, costing £1.5m), Hinderwell and the nice new Barn Own Café just before Staithes (where they do a nice lunch). Then up Ridge Lane to Scaling and over the moor to the Moors Centre at Danby. More coffee at the Woolly Sheep café there, where D and RC met us, having just done the Roseberry Topping walk in the rain. Good to see them here! 25 Mar 2018 Gardening weather at last The temperature has finally reached double figures these last couple of days, the chilly wind has dropped and the sun is shining. What a lovely change! B dug over a veg bed (Mid-East bed) for the Onions, but still too chilly at night to plant them, and cleared Moss from the veg garden paths. I de-Mossed the yard and the bit around the bins, brushing, air drying, raking, air drying, brushing, air drying and finally shovelling up, up and away. During our frequent '5 mins' breaks we watched our Buzzard 'Aldrin' fly out of the wood to tackle / court a passing Buzzard, with quite an impressive aerial ballet. Robin, Dunnock and Great Tit were singing, while a Tawny Owl and a Green Woodpecker also called. 24 Mar 2018 Guidebook tour of upper Esk Valley We took a stack of newly delivered Whitby Guidebooks on a grand tour of Castleton, Danby and Lealholm - the ideal opportunity to have a delicious lunch at Shepherds' Hall café and a snack at Yorkshire Cycle Hub at the back of Little Fryupdale. When asked how they had fared during the worst of the Beast From the East, they were proud to say that they had visitors every single day, including 2 long-distance skiers, 2 snow mobiles and a group of quad bikes! 21 Mar 2018 Frost Guard radiators switched off Now that my loft is super insulated but still has the solar hot water system up there, I have taken the precaution of keeping a frost guard electric radiator in each loft. They were switched on sometime before Christmas, and have been on ever since - only using electricity if the temperature falls below 6 degrees C, so that must be nearly 3 months of either frost of possible frost! 19 Mar 2018 Coppicing Ash and Sycamore CM spent 4 hours cutting back unwanted and self-sown Ash and Syc from among the Apple, Pear, Plum, Medlar and Quince trees in the big orchard. It is now in the woodyard and will be sawn into 15 inch stove logs, stacked for the summer and ready to burn next winter... 18 Mar 2018 Very cold and windy, with snow Yes, but not as bad as its big brother. Windchill made it feel like -6 degrees C, so it was SO cold we had to go to Sandside Café and have an All Day Breakfast. Then we stayed indoors and took a 15-minute bird count: Robin 3, Coal Tit 2, Longtail Tit 2, Wood Pigeon 2, Bullfinch 1, Blue Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Great Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 1 (12.30 to 12.45). Bet they wanted an ADB as well! 17 Mar 2018 The Minibeast from the East Bitter, cold, freezing, nithering, perishing, starving - none of these words quite describe how it feels outside today. In fact, it was so cold, that we had to go to Sandside Café for a Full English breakfast for our lunch. This cold snap with strong Easterly winds is also accompanied by snow showers but as the actual temperature is hovering around zero, the wind-chill make it feel like -6 degrees C or even less. Glad this one is only going to last 2 or 3 days, rather than its big brother which lasted a week. 13 Mar 2018 Coppicing the big orchard CM spent 4 hours with the polesaw removing the self-sown Ash and Sycamore from the top of Groves Bank orchard. The steep bank itself is far too wet and slippery to dare try to stand on, but the polesaw can be used from the level path along the very top. He cut, trimmed and dragged more than a dozen useful stems to the woodyard, for sawing into next winter's firewood. 12 Mar 2018 Bonfire in the mud It poured all day so ID and I (mostly ID) lit and tended the bonfire, coaxing it into life and encouraging it to consume all the lop and top accumulated over the past few weeks. 11 Mar 2018 Long reach coppicing Quite a nice dry, mild day so B and I walked up Woodlands Drive to the end of Bank Orchard, stood on the nice dry tarmac and used the extended polesaw to coppice unwanted Ash and Sycamore from between the Apple trees above us. We felled, trimmed and dragged it to the woodyard and then sawed it into cordwood and stacked it. Not content with that, we also felled a couple of the bigger Hornbeam from the unnecessary hedge at the top of the Stickery steps. There will be some nice walking sticks from that! Discovered that our local BATA store has English grown firewood, which is kiln-dried using their own off-cuts by a firm in Hereford. Still quite a long way, so I have now started kiln-drying my own logs - by warming them up on top of my woodburner for an hour or 2 before I put them inside to burn. FAR Greener! 07 Mar 2018 England reconnected to Whitby Has been for a few days, but this was our first attempt to get out of Whitby and the Esk Valley since the Beast From the East left us. The evidence was still up there, with occasional drifts 3 or 4 feet deep still unmelted, while the moortop was mostly brown again. We drove to a farm to buy a few samples of their 'kiln-dried firewood' and were very impressed by the scale and the efficiency of the big modern barns full of pallets of logs. No sign of any kiln so I asked where they were dried and was told that was 'outsourced'. When I asked how far they had to outsource the drying, I was told several places in England and even to the continent. Oh dear. Forty ton lorries speeding up and down the motorways at 70mph to deliver and then collect 'local' logs for drying - not as Green as I had hoped. 04 Mar 2018 Twice as warm again Yes, today IS 4 degrees C and the snow is melting away. Now everything is damp and a cold, raw mist has enveloped us. An improvement? Not sure yet. 03 Mar 2018 Twice as warm... Yesterday was 1 degree C above freezing and today is a whole 2 degrees above. Woopee! The thaw has begun but now it is feeling damp and raw. Bring back all that nice 'dry powder' snow! Tomorrow will be twice as warm as today... 02 Mar 2018 Lunch out The snow has melted a little now the temperature is a whole 1 degree above freezing. We went to Victoria Farm garden centre for lunch, but not many of us had even tried to get out. Shopping with T and D afterwards and Sainsbury's bas 'almost like Christmas' as far as crowds were concerned. 01 Mar 2018 First day of Spring indeed! A bit more snow fell overnight but the wind has got up and is now blowing it around. Not a good day for driving anywhere, so just curl up by the woodburner with a good book - again. Our Amber Weather Warning (Be Prepared) ends today, then we are merely on a Yellow Warning (Be Aware) for the next 2 days. Poor old Central Scotland had a Red Warning (Take Action, lives at risk) and now the South West is also on Red. Good Luck out there! Met Feb 2018 28 Feb 2018 Fieldfare now owns my yard feeders My first close-up Fieldfare of this winter, now one has taken control of my yard and its ground feeder, keeping all the Blackbirds, etc at bay. Only the Grey Squirrel scares it off. 27 Feb 2018 Whitby ok but England is cut off Never mind, they will just have to manage without us for a day or two... I cleared a couple of tracks down my drive and let the weak sunshine melt down to the tarmac. By noon it was possible to get the car out and onto the well-gritted main roads. Lunch out and a bit of shopping gave us a break from the cabin fever. 26 Feb 2018 The 'Beastie from the Eastie' is very pretty The long predicted severe weather arrived overnight and now we have about 4 inches of snow blanketing everything. Looks lovely, but the paths needed the snow shovelling off before I could get more seed and fat balls out for the birds. 25 Feb 2018 Jessie flys by A glorious cold, dry and sunny day so we sawed up the long dead Guelder Rose stems (some of them 4 inches thick) from the clump by the Twigwam in Groves Dyke garden. We burned some in the stove last week and they create a heat that soon warms the whole house up! With snow forecast this week, we might need a bit of extra warmth. As we worked a Buzzard flew over, calling. We could see its jesses (falconer's leather straps) trailing behind, when suddenly 'our' Buzzard flew out from the wood and chased it away. Nice to know that our Aldrin is still in the wood and regards it as his wood. By mid-afternoon we had sawn enough seasoned stove logs, including some Ash and Oak, to see us through this imminent cold snap. 24 Feb 2018 First dry day this year? Perhaps not, but it is certainly the first time I have been able to walk across the slippery Yorkshire flagstones by my pond without being very conscious of not slipping. Winter Olympics indeed! We drove to Malton to collect the newly serviced big strimmer and celebrated its return with an All-day Breakfast at Pickering garden Centre. It was such a nice sunny day that we detoured via Goathland (looking lovely as ever), Beckhole (even lovelier) and Green End (magnificent moorland, as ever) before arriving home just in time for 3 o'clocks. Three Buzzards flew over our wood, calling, and three Bullfinches fed together on the spatio bird table. 21 Feb 2018 Terrace wall - Build Back Better Young CM and his mate have dismantled the collapsing dry stone wall which supports the second terrace of my front garden over the last week, and today they finished rebuilding it better than ever. It looks great and will stop the slumping that would have occurred if left for yet another wet winter. NB: Build Back Better is the slogan used by the Practical Action charity when they provided some minor modern adaptations to re-building the traditional houses in Tibet after last year's earthquake - if all roof beams are 'tied' to the tops of the walls, then next time the roofs won't collapse onto all the families within. Simples. This afternoon we noticed that the big clump of Guelder Rose in Groves Dyke front garden had flopped over and covered the triangle of emerging Daffodils. Perhaps the soil is just so wet that the roots have rotted? Or just pulled-out of the semi-liquid soil? Or that 40 years is as long as Guelder Rose shrubs live, and they all gave up together? Whatever the reason, they had to be sorted, so we waded in from the uphill side and began sawing off and removing the big stems - most of them dead. We left any green ones, provided they were still vertical, so perhaps they may be some survivors... 20 Feb 2018 Usually 0, occasionally 2, rarely 4, but today... 11 Siskins were at my feeding station, the most I have ever seen here in 30 years! They were a wonderful sight and even managed to keep the regular Goldfinches at bay, as they swarmed all over the Niger seed and Sunflower heart feeders. So transfixed was I, that I did a full 15-minute bird count: Siskin 11, Robin 4, Blackbird 2, Bullfinch 2, Coal Tit 2, Blue Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Great Tit 1, Goldfinch 1, Great Tit 1, Long Tail Tit 1, Greenfinch 1, Marsh Tit 1, Wood Pigeon 1 (0920 - 0935, Calm, dry, mild and overcast). 18 Feb 2018 Coppicing the SSSI We finished coppicing the Sleightly Singed Sycamore Item at the back of the woodyard - too near the bonfire. It produced a very good forked stake for propping up the Juniper tunnel, several weaving rods for polebarn and wicker fences and a useful amount of cordwood for next year's firewood. Mild, dry and sunny, we coffee-ed on the veranda (first time this year) and watched a thermal-ing Buzzard get too close to our wood, when our Buzzard went to intercept. Then we went on to remove the collapsed Guelder Rose in Groves Dyke garden, only to discover that the stem has rotted through at ground level and the whole thing has fallen over. More work required to see how much can be left, but yet more cordwood was added to the pile. 17 Feb 2018 Malton to Helmsley via Castle Howard Took the big old strimmer to Malton for its annual service, then popped over to the Courtyard Café for a Yorkshire Rarebit before rounding off the nice dry, mild and sunny day with a stroll around Helmsley - which had to culminate in a Salted Caramel and a Chocolate and Cherry ice cream for the home of Ryeburn Ice Creams. Then up Blakey Rigg and into thick cloud and 25 yard visibility, before passing Young Ralph's Cross and finding ourselves back in the Esk Valley and a fabulous sunset. 16 Feb 2018 Three seasons in one week The Sussex family leaving Groves Dyke this week really enjoyed some wild and windy weather over the past 7 days: They enjoyed some sun, showers, downpours, sleet, hail, gale and frosts in a most mixed-up week. The moortop still has a dusting of snow in the shady places. 11 Feb 2018 Tripod, 2 workers and 1 Primrose Bright, dry, sunny and almost warm, so we dismantled the tripod of assorted skinny lengths in the woodyard and sawed them into stove logs or cordwood. A Robin sang as we paddled through the many Molehills. As a grand Finale we coppiced one stem from the slightly singed Sycamore (beside the bonfire) and noticed the first Primrose in flower nearby. 09 Feb 2018 There's Snow Bunting like show bunting After the Mucky Duck had swept my woodburner chimney, we sneaked off to Sandsend for a late afternoon Sandside coffee in the cold, blustery wind. As we sat at the end table, a couple of LBJs (Little Brown Jobs) landed just outside, but with white patches on their wings. Yes - 2 Snow Buntings! They landed on the sparse grass and mud at the top of the new sea wall and spent the next 20 minutes feeding in full view. Even the café boss came out for a closer look. 05 Feb 2018 Chuckle Brothers saw Cherry at Winter Olympics ID and I slithered and tobogganed our way up the muddy ski jump to the felled Cherry and continued to saw it into more manageable chunks with the 2-man cross cut saw. Getting the giggles may or may not have helped progress, but it was the ideal piece of equipment to mutter 'To me. To you. To me. To me.' to... By late afternoon we were both covered in mud (one of us even more than t'other), well entertained AND the Cherry chunks were small enough to drag down, once it is dry and safe to do so. 04 Feb 2018 Coppicing Sycamore in Bank Orchard The weather improved by midday and we took the pole saw down on the drive to cut the self-sown Sycamore growing at the bottom of the orchard. Not only is the ground far too wet, slippery and steep to work from the orchard itself, but this way we can keep our feet on the tarmac. We completed a whole stool, threw the lop and top up towards the bonfire hollow, and carried the 5 big sticks (the biggest was 6 inch butt diameter) up to the woodyard and added them (in 4 foot lengths) to the cord. The Molehills are spreading quickly, for some reason. It seems to be mostly on the upper lawns, suggesting that the lower ones are too waterlogged to support Worms or Moles. A Buzzard called from up in the wood. Jan 2018 Met 30 Jan 2018 Saying Goodbye to Jenny TS A sad occasion, improved only by the wonderful service with very appropriate music (songs by Rod Stewart, Elkie Brooks and Stevie Wonder) and words, including: 'When I come to the end of my journey And I travel my last weary mile Just forget if you can, that I ever frowned And remember only the smile' (When I'm Gone). 28 Jan 2018 Sawing in the polebarn We used the built-in shaving brake to hold the Willow poles while we sawed them into stove logs and stacked them into another wall of the polebarn. The better, straighter ones we set aside to weave a little more of the wicker wall. A Buzzard flew over in the gusty SSW wind and called as we worked. 26 Jan 2018 Walling and shifting Young CM has been working on the wall of the garden terrace, taking down the collapsing drystone wall, laying the stone out and re-shaping the clay face (more batter!) ready for rebuilding. We carried the cut Willow poles from the Twigwam (now more Twigloo shaped) and stacked them undercover in the polebarn. 'Way back in the 1960s, when Grandma Riddolls was creating her 'new' garden, she employed a local drystone waller called Mr Waller. His first job was to build a wall from the house to Woodlands Drive, to divide the two front gardens. His starting question threw her a little: 'Wheeer's bonnyfass?' She enquired further and, with her expert knowledge of the Yorkshire dialect, found she was being asked 'Where is the bonny face?' ie 'Which side of this new wall is going to be the pretty side, and which the back side?' Thus Groves Bank (her side) has the 'bonnyfass' and Groves Dyke has the other - but now hidden by a substantial Lonicera hedge! 25 Jan 2018 OK, so where are we now? Where does time go? Here we are again, and we seem to have had lots of BT Openreach vans swarming around every other green cabinet in Whitby, lots of rain, some snow, several frosts and at least one gale - but today was mild, dry and sunny - and the ladybirds on my bedroom window frame are on the move, a Robin was singing in the wood and the Snowdrops in the Groves Dyke orchard are now in flower. 05 Jan 2018 Back again - and Happy New Year! What an interesting Christmas this has been: a bit of snow and ice; frequent visits to a poorly neighbour in hospital (70, then 40 miles round trip every few days); an unexpected Christmas visit from the Canadian relatives (lovely, but they were really here for a funeral); an expected New Year visit from the German relatives (really lovely - and how the 'kids' have grown!); then a bit more bad weather and now a few computer problems... Anyway - we are both very well, thanks and we hope you are, too! 27 Dec 2017 Where did Christmas go? It seems Christmas has been and gone, but in a chaotic flash this year. Very odd. We hope you all had a nice, calm, enjoyable and relaxed Christmas - and we wish you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year! 03 Dec 2017 Snow all gone and Super Moon this evening All the snow has gone from around Sleights, but the river is very high, thanks to all the snow melt. BBC Countryfile is filming down at the Salmon Leap, for a feature (tonight?) about the Cleveland Way National Trail. We coppiced some more unwanted Sycamore from the bottom edge of the big orchard, producing 3 useful (4 inch diameter) stems for cordwood. 02 Dec 2017 Escape to England England has been pretty well cut off by the snow on the moor, but today the temperature had risen enough to get the roads cleared. We had a nice day in Pickering, including a newly-discovered antique shop 'Tink's Vintage' (Eastgate) which has a wonderful collection of rescued Teddybears, each with their own story label. We just happened to be in the main street when the anti-fracking march arrived, with a couple of hundred protestors, drums, placards, etc. They chanted outside Barclays Bank, which apparently owns 97% of First Energy, who are doing the fracking nearby at Kirby Misperton. As the placards say: 'Other banks are available.'