Wildlife Diary and News Blog 2019 – notes from a small wood. 

Observations from Groves Bank, Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage and Groves Coppice, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England

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05 Apr 2020     Oak before – what Ash?
The annual race between the Captain Cook Oak and the Big Leaning Ash, both easily checked from the kitchen window, has, like yesterday’s Grand National at Aintree, been cancelled this year. One fell over and the other was not allowed due to Covid-19. But it does look like the big Oak is slightly ahead of the nearest young Ash – so ‘only a splash’ this summer.
Hotter today so Summer may be its way and I turned off all the heaters in my house. The vertical Damp Proof Course is now dug-in along the back of the extended Raspberry bed and the canes are ready for cutting and planting, once the soil has been raked back again.

03 Apr 2020     Pesky wind
Not a bad day, but spoilt by a chill breeze which kept driving me back indoors. Between warming coffees by the wood burner, I continued snipping and bagging the fallen Guelder Rose, sawed and bagged more of the over-spalted (ie slightly rotten) Ash lumps, arranged a new, local Whizkid for the superb GK to transfer this ‘elderly’ website to, and noted a few birds from my kitchen window: Blue Tit 3, Goldfinch 3, Bullfinch 2 (including a very Hi-Viz male), Dunnock 2, Wood Pigeon 2, Coal Tit 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1, Great Tit 1, Long Tail Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1, Pheasant 1, Robin 1, Wren 1, (1.45 to 2pm). Later, I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming far up Woodlands Drive – if only because its faint drumming was NOT, for once, drowned-out by constant traffic noise through the village.

31 Mar 2020     Back online again – WOOPEE!
A great BIG THANK-YOU to Whizkid GK, who has just rescued this ‘elderly’ website. Now all I have to do is catch up with the missing two months…

01 April 2020     5 cords, 2 pallets and a hoop of Ash stove logs
A very successful day resulting in the above (some 15 cubic yards) of stacked Ash, all seasoning nicely for next winter and the one after that… There is still a heap of long-dead but slightly rotten Ash lumps beside the woodshed, and 2 ever-decreasing heaps of un-split-able lumps on the Knotty Step. Given a bit more time (and weather) to reconsider the error of their ways, they may yet be useful…
That mystery bird was present again, but we couldn’t ID it last time either.
The Green Woodpecker yaffled from up in the wood throughout the day, the Chiffchaffs called incessantly and the young self-sown Hazel in the woodyard was transplanted in the SW Cant. Phew!

28 Mar 2020     230 annual rings counted and marked in decades
Wetting the cut stump of the fallen Ash tree makes counting the rings a bit easier, and a brass screw was put in to mark every 10 years. 230 years old and finally, finally the impossible angle it maintained since I first saw it in the early 1970s, will be no more. Thank-you big fella, for all that lovely firewood.

24 Mar 2020     Split, barrow and stack
A long day but a very productive one. ALL the big 3 and 4-foot diameter discs have now been done. The mystery bird in the wood was evident today but impossible to ID it.

23 Mar 2020     Lockdown Day
Today the Prime Minister announced that everyone MUST stay at home to limit the spread of the pandemic Coronavirus. Luckily, there is LOTS to do in the house, garden and wood!

22 Mar 2020     First Chiffchaff at Groves Dyke garden this year

20 Mar 2020     Shutdown Day
Today the Prime Minister announced that all pubs, clubs, cafes and restaurants MUST close immediately to limit the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

18 Mar 2020     Outdoor meeting in my polebarn
We met undercover in case it rained and all sitting 6 feet apart, as we shivered and discussed our response to the pandemic.

16 Mar 2020     Just time for a quick game of Hide and Seek
Young H and A enjoyed another game in the wood, before an early lunch and then setting off for the long drive to Cairnryan and the Belfast ferry. Safe Home and come back soon!

13 Mar 2020     A short break with family
Great to have the WIL family staying next door. Time to catch up, play hide and seek, walk, talk, play hide and seek, and eat – not to mention exploring the coast and moors. Great to see them here and the weather almost obliged.

11 Mar 2020     Woodshed full, cords started
Now that the woodshed is full, we started building stacks of split logs where the cords would normally be filled with 4-foot long poles to season. Ian wielded the splitting axe skilfully while I provided the barrowing and stacking. We completed 1.25 stacks by mid-afternoon. Phew!

08 Mar 2020     Mount Donald removed on International Women’s Day
To mark the occasion, B barrowed the rebuilt heap of freshly split stove logs down to the woodyard, where I built them into a Stac Donald III. We needed a few more to top it off, so I split a few more drums from the Black Run.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker male was on the peanuts and a Buzzard flew overhead in the warm, blustery winds. The Daffodils are still in flower, as are the Snowdrops and the Crocuses. The Captain Cook Oak is starting to look a bit fuzzy around the top as the buds open, and the rival Big Leaning Ash no longer exists for comparison. When it keeled over in December it gave up the annual race with the neighbouring Oak, so now we will have to find some other pairing to see what kind of summer we will have. Presumably, this time last year it was ‘Ash before Oak, in for a soak’ which would explain why the roots just rotted way and the magnificent Ash is now an ever- growing stock of stove logs for the next several winters…

06 Mar 2020     Good news comes to those who wait…
After waiting patiently for a couple of years, KR my favourite builder / joiner appeared to arrange the replacement of all the ridge tiles on both Groves Bank and Groves Dyke, as well as relining the chimney on my wood burning stove. It looks like May or June this year – woopee!
B waited in all day for a delivery – only to be told it would be next week.
ID was suddenly available and full of energy, so he came and spent a few hours splitting yet more of the big drums / disks into yet another Mount Donald, bless him!

23 Feb 2020     Split, slither and stack
We split a few more of the BIG Ash drums, half drums and quarter drums – the quarter drums are just about moveable with the help of a cant hook (woodsman’s lever) –and slithered in the muddy grass as we heaped them up to dry in a rough stack. Covered by a tarpaulin to keep the rain off, today is dry enough to peel it back for a few hours and add a few more stovelogs on the top.

19 Feb 2020     Solo Encore
ID came back to split a few more drums for a few more hours. Wow, wonderful work thanks!

18 Feb 2020 Double act
ID and I spent a great day working on the big fallen Ash tree. First we split and barrowed and stacked the stovelogs on the lower West cord (he split and I barrowed and stacked – badly), then we used the 2-person cross-cut saw to cut the shattered electricity pole into 2 usable lengths. These will become new gateposts for the wickerwork fence a couple of yards away, while the shattered lengths of the 10-inch diameter pole will be left as testimony to the power of the falling Ash tree.

16 Feb 2020     Storm Dennis the Menace has gone
A wild, wet and windy night with 1 inch of rain added to my rain gauge since yesterday afternoon. The River Esk has been over the road between Briggswath and Ruswarp, but has now gone back to its normal course. Wet indeed, but we have seen it even higher. We roped-off the sawn-up Ash to divert th

is afternoon’s newly arrived Groves Dykers away from the temporary stacks of logs. Still mild but the blustery wind and the general raw, damp air and slippery ground makes any outdoor work unpleasant.

15 Feb 2020   Indoor walkies
It absolutely poured all day, so we pottered around the Big Shed stores for a bit of exercise. Still offshore SW gales here, so no spectacular seas on this side of the country. By late afternoon West Yorkshire and the Pennines (60 miles west of here) were already flooding and the Army was mobilised to the Calder Valley to help the Environment Agency erect temporary flood barriers.
NB: A week later, the Whitby Gazette reported that this had been the ‘wettest February day ever recorded in Whitby’ and we can well believe it. Hundreds of Flood Warnings aroung England and York is on high alert.

14 Feb 2020     Valentine Day strikes
By way of a change, we drove the 25 miles to Stokesley and the very new (after their disastrous fire 2 years ago) Strikes garden Centre. Very impressive it is too, with a bigger and better centre than ever. AND a very nice café it is, so we had a pleasant lunch and a nice stroll about before Storm Dennis strikes tomorrow…

12 Feb 2020     Build the wall!
At the risk of sounding like a President Trump supporter (perish the thought) I had a lovely day splitting and stacking bits of the sawn-up Ash tree into another ‘wall’ within the upper end of the woodshed. So now the lower half of the woodshed is completely full, and we have another 3 internal walls in the walking stick drying upper shed. If I sort out the sticks a bit more, we might have room for another 2 walls. The Buzzard flew over the wood and called, the sun shone, the air was still and the day was not too warm.

10 Feb 2020     Proof-reading and Raspberries
While I proof-read the Whitby Guidebook 2020 and then compared notes with another hawk-eyed member of the Whitby and District Tourism Association, CM framed the newly-extended Raspberry bed, ready for B’s cuttings to be planted out when the weather improves.

9 Feb 2020     Storm Ciara
This was a BIG one but luckily, once again, Whitby got off lightly. Elsewhere there were 200+ Flood Warnings, the most extensive Weather Warning the Met Office had ever given (covering ALL of the UK), 93mph winds (Southerly), no ferries operating in the Channel or in the Irish Sea, many flights cancelled and many trains cancelled. Appleby has flooded yet again, the 4th time in the last 10 years and the Yorkshire Post front page challenged the Prime Minister to actually DO something. I seems that declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and then doing absolutely nothing about it may not be enough!
I painted the cut ends of the 6 big planks with PVA glue, to prevent them splitting as they dry out.

8 Feb 2020     Split and Stack
Another half day of splitting the fallen Ash tree drums into stovelogs and stacking them in the woodshed – followed by a nice lunch in the conservatory of the Victoria Hotel in Robin Hood’s Bay by way of reward.

7 Feb 2020     Split and Stack
B and I split and stacked a second ‘wall’ of stovelogs within the upper woodshed.

6 Feb 2020     Planking the 8-foot Ash trunk
The 4-foot chainsaw was in use again today, this time on the nice, straight-grained section of the Ash trunk which was ‘too good for firewood’. Each plank is 2.5 inches thick, 8-foot long and a couple of feet wide – superb table tops!

5 Feb 202     Day 2 of Everything Trees logging
Another superb day’s work by the boys, sawing up the lower section of the big fallen Ash tree. They are in discs rather than drums, and even so each disc had to be sawn in half and then in half again to make them almost ‘manageable’. The original path up the steps to the lower transformer is now reopened, even if it is covered inches deep in sawdust! The now vertical face of the stump faces the path and the tree rings will be marked out in decades – once the lovely firewood has been saved.

3 Feb 2020     MnM send off
We gathered at Groves Bank this evening to give M and M M a good send off, with fish and chips and a bottle of wine. We will miss them when they emigrate to Shropshire, but hope they will return to Whitby for their holidays…

02 Feb 2020     Spring clean the wood stores
With the fallen Ash tree supplying so much wood, we spent a showery afternoon sorting the various bits of dry and not-quite-dry stovelogs in the polebarn. Now everything is rationalised and restacked into just 2 diagonal bays – leaving LOADS of room for all the ‘new’ wood to be added. Then we tidied-out the upper half of the woodshed to create more space for EVEN MORE logs (having filled-up the 6 ‘walls’ within the lower woodshed yesterday.

01 Feb 2020     Woodshed walls completely stacked
I split the green Ash logs from the fallen Ash (rotating around 3 chopping blocks) while B carried the resulting stovelogs and stacked them into a ‘wall’ in the lower left of the woodshed. We kept going for quite a long time on the lovely bacon butties and super coffees from Tides in Sandsend. Apart from the ‘wall’ of last winter’s stovelogs on the lower right, the lower woodshed is now full to the brim.

Jan 2020 Met records…

31 Jan 2020     Fallen Ash trunk cleared – and Brexit Day
We worked hard all afternoon to clear all the sawn drums / discs away from the fallen trunk, before the rain expected in a couple of days, and leaving it ready for Peter Everything Trees to plank it up next week. The trunk is up to 4-feet diameter, so as the chainsawed drums get shorter and become discs, the weight of each is still substantial. I split the drums and rolled the halves and quarters down through the Woodyard Pollard to where B was gathering them just above the Woodshed for further splitting. Some of the really big discs refused to split, so they were moved just a little and stacked at an angle against the disc below. The trunk is now cleared for next week, we were exhausted and sufficient unto the thingy is the whotsit thereof.

30 Jan 2020     Logs to Polebarn
Like coals to Newcastle, I moved 10 wheelbarrow-loads of big bits from above the Willow Arch to the Polebarn, ready to be worked on when we are rained-off outdoors. They need to be further split and stacked for a year to season.

29 Jan 2020     The Black Run
ID and I had a very enjoyable day of splitting the great big lumps of chainsawed Ash into slightly safer halves and quarters, before rolling them down the hill, through the Woodyard Pollard, to the woodyard. They ricochet from pollard to pollard in a most exciting way, before coming to a rest above the woodshed. Drums proved TOO exciting, as they tended to keep on rolling rather further (and faster) than intended! Luckily, I didn’t have to cycle home and then go spinning afterwards!

28 Jan 2020     The man with the 4-foot chainsaw
Peter and Philip did a great job, starting from the thin ends of the 200-year old fallen Ash tree and sawing it into manageable lumps. The 15-inch drums soon became shorter as their diameter increased, and they were more disc than drum. Phew!

23 Jan 2020     Ravenscar to Whitby VIP
We were delighted to welcome IJ back to Whitby for her January visit. The sun shone on the Raven Hall Hotel as her carriage arrived, but low cloud on the moortops limited the magnificent views of the moors themselves. We lunched on excellent Haddock and chips at the White House Hotel, with yet more scenery to admire. Then a quick tour of Hidden Whitby (Fishburn / ‘The Railway’) before dropping her off just outside Trenchers (many a happy meal there with IJ and DT) to enjoy Whitby on foot. ‘Safe Home, I’.

20 Jan 2020    Sprawk sees off the gullible
Strange calls from a Black-headed Gull made me look up, to see our resident Sparrowhawkrawk …

19 Jan 2020     Perfect woodworking weather
Now that high pressure has settled over the UK, we have had 2 lovely calm, dry and sunny days – but with a sharp frost overnight. Both days we have sawn and stacked: yesterday the long poles from the leccy pole replacement were all sawn into 15-inch stovelogs and stacked in the woodshed for next winter; today we carried on gleaning the long-dead branches from the fallen Ash tree, dragging them down the steep (still slippery) slope, sawing them into stovelogs and bagging or stacking them, too.
Great to be working out of doors, the only disadvantage being the low sun seems always to be in our eyes! Surprised we didn’t see nor hear Aldrin, the local Buzzard. Nor, indeed, the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker which always seemed to be about this time of year. They have, however, been almost daily visitors to my feeding station, with a liking for peanuts.

15 Jan 2020     Storm Brendan in York
Ok, so we were only in York for a short break, while Storm Brendan worked its way across the British Isles. Cool, wet and very windy, we enjoyed the dry spells as we explored the near empty streets of this lovely medieval city – even the Shambles were nearly empty. Some attractions are closed for all of January, some are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays in January (guess which days we were there), and some were open as normal. But very expensive. Still, even the staff of all these holiday attractions need a holiday of their own.

08 Jan 2020    The perfect bonfire day
ID and I had a super day, clearing the brash created by the Leccy Board (Northern PowerGrid, actually) after their superb job of replacing the shattered electricity pole and restoring our electricity. The tracks of their Mog have almost recovered but the scrub cleared to widen the path has been lying in the woodyard for a month. Today was the perfect day to sort this heap into useful firewood (both dead for instant stovelogs and green for stacking) or bonfire fodder. ID got the fire going, tended it lovingly and kept it well fed all day, while I sorted the heap. By mid afternoon the heap was gone, the wood supply had increased and the bonfire was dying down nicely. Phew!

07 Jan 2020     The man with the 4-foot chainsaw
Mr ‘Everything Trees’ popped in for a quick look at the c200-year old Ash tree which fell a month ago. He reckons that the large bracket fungi on the lower trunk probably mean that it will be pretty rotten inside and not worth sawing-up. The plan is to start sawing at the thin end, logging the branches as they go into 15-inch drums for me to split. When he gets to more rot than wood, then they will just abandon the rest of the Big Stick. This may mean realigning the path around the rotting mass, but all will be revealed in a month or two when he and his mate will spend a whole day on the job.

01 Jan 2020     May 2020 be your perfect vision of health and happiness
Yes, we seem to have survived both Chrissy and New Year, with any dry days spent getting the dead Ash branches under cover. What a lorra, lorra nice, ripe firewood! And lots more still to do…

Dec 2019 Met info:

24 Dec 2019     Happy Christmas everyone
Having done everything (?) we took the afternoon off and had a nice stroll at Runswick Bay, soup and a sandwich at The Royal pub there, then a very pleasant stroll around Staithes. Today is dry, mild and calm as high pressure sets in for a day or two of peace and tranquillity (?).

We wish you all a Happy Christmas and may 2020 be a perfect vision of health and happiness for all.

23 Dec 2019     Deadwood stockpile
A drier and brighter day, so we suspended Chrissy preparations and spent a very useful couple of hours sawing off the smaller branches and getting them into manageable lengths to carry / slide down the muddy slope to the woodshed or to the polebarn. Having spent many years drying-out on the tree, it seems a shame to let it get soaking wet again by lying on the ground. After a good session, the paths were too slippery (and we were too exhausted) to do any more, so we stopped and continued with ‘the imminent feast of Christmas’.

19 Dec 2019     Catching-up on Christmas
After 3 frosty mornings, last night was wet and very windy. This morning was a complete contrast, with a temperature of 10 degrees C. The River Esk is in full flow and the water is roaring over the Salmon Leap weir down in the valley below.
The early morning train restarted this week, after a gap of 30 years. Once again it is possible to leave Whitby at 6.30am and arrive in Middlesbrough by 8am. Now we just need a heavy snowfall to force the 1 person per car engine commuting motorists off the roads and back onto the more environment-friendly Network Rail and a single diesel engine pulling 150 passengers…

15 Dec 2019     Lovely ripe stove logs
Another dry day so we worked on the long-dead-but-on-the-tree Ash branches, which are now on the ground. We filled14 big yellow Sainsbury ‘sturdy’ bags a couple of days ago, and today another 10 or more. Lovely stuff! Needs a bit of drying-off to get rid of the soggy bark, but otherwide near perfect.

08 Dec 2019     Back online again!
That long, eh? Sorry about that, but the upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 wiped out some of my logins, including this one, for about 3 weeks or more. Then last week, on a calm night, the 200 year-old Big Leaning Ash tree which I have known since the early 1970s suddenly and silently became the Big Lying Down Ash tree.

Since it had been leaning over the leccy and phone wires for the past 50+ years, that meant no leccy for 48 hours. Once Northern Powergrid replaced the splintered pole and their wires, then it was worth alerting BT, who re-wired my phoneline within 24 hours. Very impressive and a great big Thankyou to both.

We gathered up as much ‘long-dead but on the tree’ Ash branches as possible and got them under cover asap, which will give us some extra and instant firewood. Lovely stuff! My neighbours each got a bag by way of apology for cutting off their power for just 24 hours, and one has offered to chainsaw the smaller branches into 15 inch drums after Christmas. The main trunk is 4 or 5 feet in diameter and is now lying across the slope above the Woodyard Cant, and will require a very expensive professional with a very large chainsaw to saw some very wide 15 inch drums. All in all, there should be several year’s worth of (almost) free firewood…

13 Nov     3 steps forward and several back
Today I had my elderly laptop upgraded from Windows 7 to Windows 10. It seems I may even have to start using Chrome, even though I hate it almost as much as I hate Gmail. Luckily, the upgrade has knackered all my emails, so now I can’t Send nor Receive any at all. Progress or what?

08 Nov 2019     Bit damp
The national news is full of the flooding in Doncaster, Sheffield, etc. Odd that at 10 am the BBC News is still showing video taken in the dark last night… What’s 4G?? The Northern Poorhouse, or what? Still, after 4 inches of rain on the Pennines (60 miles West of here) in the past 24 hours, what can one expect? Nothing will happen about Climate Change until the capital cities of the world, incl London, have some serious flooding – and THEN the politicians will sit up and actually do something about it!

06 Nov 2019     Working in t wood
ID and I had a very pleasant day, repaiting a tread on the Captain Cook bridge, then felling a sickly Gean (Wild Cherry), logging it up (almost) and getting it under cover in the woodshed. Not nice weather but a very nice day’s work with very good company.

Oct Met Summary
This has been a very wet month, with the rain gauge almost full on at least 3 occasions, and the ground is completely saturated. The Total Rainfall for the month was at least 5.7 inches. The Max was 15.7 degrees C, the Actual on the 1st of the following month was 9C and the Minimum was 2.7C 

28 Oct 2019     First Chacka Chacka Chacka
A frosty morning walk around the wood and this familiar sound was heard as my First Fieldfare flew over the wood in a flock of about 20. Winter is almost here, but the sound of winter Thrushes also reminds me of birding in Dublin 50 years ago when I was introduced to ‘moon-watching’. Lying on our backs on the sea wall on the shores of Dublin Bay, watching the moon through binoculars and counting the little black dots of night migrants as they passed across it’s face, as well as listening and learning their distinctive contact calls. ‘Seep’ for Redwing, ‘Shir-ee’ for Blackbirds and ‘Chacka Chacka Chacka’ for Fieldfare. Now you try explaining that to a couple of doubtful Dublin policemen at 2o’clock on a frosty morning!

26 & 27 Oct 2019     Soggy Goth, Sunny Goth
Yesterday it just rained and rained and rained. We emptied the rain gauge again (another inch in 24 hours) and edged past the half-flooded road between Ruswarp and Sleights, admired the river immediately above and below the Salmon Leap weir (almost the same height) and then set off for Pickering and a Full English Breakfast to cheer ourselves up. What an unpleasant day, especially for the poor Goths.
Today the sun is shining and the sky is cloudless, as we pottered in the garden, sawed cordwood in the polebarn, gathered a few more Raspberries and the last of the Rhubarb, moved the still-flowering Tomato in the Potato pot from the edge of the pond to under the raftings, cleared the inlet to the pond and snapped the redundant beanpoles into kindling. What a lovely day, especially for the Goths – and the Illuminated Abbey look fabulous!

25 Oct 2019     At our Witz End
It rained hard all day and we tipped an inch of rain out of the rain gauge, if only to make room for even more to come. So we bought a newspaper each and went to Witz End Café at Sandsend, ordered coffee and settled down beside their big, hot woodburner and spent a very pleasant hour or two catching up with long distance Brexit, etc.

21 Oct 2019     Autumnal Window birdcount
Not a very nice day with grey skies after a cool night and the occasional shower. From my kitchen window (same view as Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage kitchen window) from 0945 to 1000:
Blue Tit 1, Bullfinch 1, Chaffinch 3, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 2, Goldfinch 4, Great Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 2, Robin 1, Wood Pigeon 2.
Total: 19 individuals of 11 species.

20 Oct 2019     Season of rain and mellow fruitlessness
A wet, grey day but mild. There are few Apples on the trees and the few there are tend to be small and dry. Last year’s crop was similar (another heatwave and droughty summer) and hardly worth the odd pint of Apple juice we pressed. Between showers we picked the very last of a good crop of Tomatoes, collected a couple more Raspberries and then the entire crop of Blueberries: 15. Not bushes, not bushels, not gallons, not litres, not pints, not tubs, not handfuls – just 15. Berries.
We also bowsawed the final few bits of cordwood felled and stacked last winter, namely  20 or 30 skinny Oak branches and a dozen bits of Hawthorn. The woodshed is now just over 2/3 full of stove logs ready for burning this winter and the woodyard is now empty, save for a few bits of summer windfalls for winter 2020/21…

19 Oct 2019     Firelighters – Warning!
Having won a local NSPCC raffle we had a very enjoyable afternoon tea at the Mallyan Hotel in Goathland (and admired their Gnomeman furniture in the hotel lounge) before heading for Pickering. I bought some excellent firelighters ‘Homefire Twizzlers’ (made of wood shavings and wax) and headed for home. On opening them I was greatly impressed to read on the back of the pack: ‘Warning: Flammable’. Good, innit?

17 Oct 2019     Buzzards vs Crows
I was collecting some stove logs from the woodshed when noises overhead  made me look up – WOW! It was quite spectacular and I’m not sure who was chasing who, nor even why, but the aerial display over the wood lasted several minutes and was very spectacular.

14 Oct 2019     Lost and Found
This website went missing completely for a few days, but thanks to eagle-eyed reader IJ and computer whizkid GK it was swiftly returned to its normal location. Not sure where it went yet, but it may have been on a cloud that drifted off…

09 Oct 2019     Big Ash windfall now dismantled
A lovely autumnal day for ID and me to deal with that big limb that dropped off the Leaning Ash. I had thought that it would have to wait for the man with the chainsaw, but we decided to have a go with the 2-person crosscut saw. Even though the fat end of the limb was some 15 inches thick, we soon cut it into manageable lengths, dragged them down to the woodyard and hoicked them up onto the sawhorse. In almost no time (well, almost) we had several 15-inch long drums. Then we used the Norwegian technique of setting the drums on end, within a rubber tyre. This holds them upright and stops them falling over as the splitting axe splits them into manageable stovelogs. Or kindling!

03 Oct 2019     Face-up to climate change
In the good old days, we just didn’t know any better, so we didn’t do the right things – and now it is all catching up with us. Sadly, even now that we do know, not everyone accepts that we also have to make fundamental changes to how we live our lives. If we don’t, then the consequences could be terrible.

Sept Met Data

29 Sept 2019      Too wet, wet, wet to walk
Pouring non stop overnight and all of today. My rain gauge was saying 0.5 of an inch of rain so far this month, but now it sez 1.5 inches! So that is an inch of rain in just over 12 hours! It may be too wet to walk outdoors, but we did stroll around both B&M and Aldi this morning and my pedometer already sez 2,600 paces today, so that’s not too bad considering. And still raining… 6.1 meter tide due abut tea time and now the River Esk is rising rapidly. Perhaps we should drive down to Whitby harbour and take a look in a couple of hours…

28 Sept 2019     Outdoor lunch at Runswick Bay
It was another mild-if-not-warm day so we headed for Runswick Bay and enjoyed a sandwich on the café balcony. This was followed by a stroll on the beach, doing a ‘5-minute Beach Clean’ with the ltter picker and bag provided on the slipway. To our delight, we found almost no litter at all! Just the odd half dozen scraps of plastic – so either everyone is constantly litter picking here, or else the 6 meter tides over the next few days have swept it all away.
Then a stroll around the village, where we noticed that North Lea (SA’s childhood haunt) is occupied and the door and windows open. We sat on ‘our’ bench to admire the view and then shared it with another couple (who mistakenly thought it was ‘their’ bench). Still, possession is 9/10s of the law and we were there before AND after they left.

25 Sept 2019     Dolphin pod seen from the shore
As B and JC returned to Whitby from Sandsend (their regular walk) this afternoon, they were able to watch a pod of 4 to 6 Dolphins playing with the Yellow Boat just West of the West Pier. Perhaps even the same pod that FCW and I saw from the mini-Endeavour earlier this month? It used to be that one had to travel miles offshore to see any marine mammals, but perhaps they are just getting closer…

24 Sept 2019     House Martins going, going…
Today is the first day in months that I have NOT seen nor heard ‘our’ House Martins. They raised 1 brood of 4 earlier this summer and all 6 could be seen flying in and out from under the eaves, with lots of excited ‘chittering’ as they chatted in the nest. Then there was only 4, so I assumed the parents had set off for Africa and (as normal) left the  youngsters to follow later. But then there was only 1 for a week or two, so I assumed it was a young Tail-End Charlie – until it was joined by 3 others, which had to be 3 youngsters from a second brood. The single parent did a great job for a few more weeks, then left the young family behind. They stayed another 10 days, feeding up and gaining strength. Then 2 of them left a singleton for a day, before it too decided that our Summer was finally over.

22 Sept 2019     Tyranosaw saws stove logs
The warm, dry and sunny weather continues, so we laid out the big reel of  leccy string and turned the 2 remaining part-cords of 45-inch Ash and Sycamore cordwood into three 15-inch stove logs each – enough to fill nearly half a wall of the woodshed. Bit too hot for the job, but  we worked in 5-minute shifts, with 10-minute rests in the shade and now the woodshed is almost, almost, almost full. Just a bit more Oak, plus the big windfall Ash, and it will be overflowing just in time for the winter…

21 Sept 2019     Super moors and coast day
We sat in the warm sun by the River Esk at Lealholm and enjoyed our cream scones as a Cormorant dropped into the deep pool and started fishing. Then a nice potter around the village and back via the stepping stones. Drove up Glaisdale Rigg, past Hart Leap to the head of Glasidale and admired the Queen of the Dales, before dropping back down to Beggar’s Bridge and then the Art Café in Grosmont (and another cuppa). Then into Whitby for a tour of the harbour, including the beginnings of the new flood wall along part of upstream Church Street. Super day – but still no Dippers.

15 Sept 2019     New wildflower meadow seeded
For the past 3 weekends we have forked, scattered a native British wildflower seed mix with sand, then added soil and raked over, to one of the long, narrow terraces below Groves Bank. ‘Enough seed for the whole terrace’ was exhausted after the first third of the terrace in the first week. The same amount of seed was used on the second third, in the second week – and this week we discovered 2 packets of Yellow Rattle seeds so we planted them individually throughout the final third of the terrace. Then we watered them in, just before the rain did it for us. No more strimming of that terrace until June of next year, by which time we will know if it has worked or not. A labour-saving technique? We will see…

14 Sept 2019     Our Whitby Day
Now that all the Little Dears are back at school, we thought we would have an enjoyable stroll around Whitby. The long overdue repair work on the Piers is almost complete, but the East Pier is not yet reopened to the public. The footbridge from the East Pier to its Extension (removed in 2001 by Scarborough Borough Council) is due to be replaced in the next few weeks, but the new ‘Banana Bridge’ (a triangular lattice-work of diagonal struts) will be vastly different from the original, plain girder bridge. So much for SBC promises of ‘identical to the West Pier linking bridge’ and so much for Listed Building protection!
The West Pier is almost completely reopened for public access and we strolled to the far end of its Extension in the vain hope of seeing Dolphins.

NB: Catching-up on several notable events, including 4 Dolphins seen from the mini-Endeavour, sheeting the new Shrubbery terrace, picking Raspberries, weekly Helmsley swims, etc, etc…

11 Sept 2019     Three windfalls
ID and I spent a super day in the wood. We trimmed and dragged down 2 different Ash windfalls from near the top of the wood. They had been down for many weeks, in full leaf, so had evaporated much of the sap already. Once down, we sawed them into 15-inch stove logs with the bowsaw and stacked them in the woodshed. After lunch we dealt with the BIG windfall Ash limb, which dropped several day after the last gale. Some 14-inch diameter at the fat end, we bow-sawed it from the skinny end, dragged it to the woodward and converted it into stove logs, too. The fat end we have left for CM and his chainsaw…

04 Sept 2019     Dolphins just off Whitby!
FCW and I fancied a Whale Watching boat trip out of Whitby, but should have booked it months ago. Failing that, we got on board the Bark Endeavour (the 40% replica of Captain Cook’s ship) and motored out and towards Sandsend. On our way back and just short of the West Pier, a pod of Dolphins appeared and played around the boat. We were all spellbound! There were definitely 4 all at the same time, and possibly 5. Wonderful!

03 Sept 2019     Helmsley swim and Riveaux Abbey
We took FCW with us for a swim and then drove to nearby R Abbey for lunch. Afterwards, we explored the ruins and enjoyed the grounds in the sun, learning that several ‘pigs’ of lead stripped from the roof and destined for Henry VIII actually escaped when a building collapsed on top of them. They were rediscovered under the ruins in a 1920s excavation. One of them was used to re-lead the stained glass rose window destroyed in the fire at York Minster, and another still resides in the museum at Riveaux.

August Met data
A hot and dry month, with a Max of 26 degrees C, an actual 09.30 hours of 14 C and a Min of 9.8C total rainfall was 3/4 inch.

26 August 2019     Hotter in than out
This morning at 08.45 the temperature in my house was 23 degrees C and the temperature out-of-doors in the shade was 22C. AND the day is young…

25 August 2019     Peas, beans and might have beens
Horribly hot again but we managed to pick our legumes in our legless (3/4 length) trousers. The score was 7 small tubs of Broad Beans, circa 20 Runner Beans and as for Peas: circa 16 stems, c8 pods and 1 of them had 8 very, very tiny Peas. Which we ate. All the other pods had been gnawed open and emptied, probably by Wood Mice or Bank Voles. Bloody wildlife!

24 August 2019     Butterfly Count
Our 3 Buddleia bushes (dark purple, purple and white) are on their 2nd crop of flowers and in 10 minutes at noon (far too hot for 15 minutes) we counted: Peacock 7, Red Admiral 5, Painted Lady 3, Small White 2, Small Tortoiseshell 1. Then we snipped off the dead flowers to encourage yet more flowers – and butterflies – to appear. The Sedum plants are only just beginning to flower now.

18 August 2019     Poor Regatta week, lucky Folk Week – shrubs
Now that Regatta is well and truly over, the summer weather has returned. Warm, dry, sunny and very windy. We spent much of the day planting out the various potted shrubs we have been collecting (and watering!) over the last month. The lowest of my lawns, between the well-established Heather bed and the giant Juniper, is now the new shrubbery, with a selection of insect and bird attracting species eg Fuchsias, Cotoneasters, a Hebe, an Escalonia and a Berberis – some 15 plants in all. Now for some semi-permeable and weed-suppressing membrane, a layer of woodchip and a few years to fill-out…

14 August 2019     A bit ‘back end-ish’
It may be mid-August and calm but today has been cold, grey, damp and very autumnal. Ugh! Despite (or because of) this, my bird feeders have been very busy. A 15-minute count from 0945 produced: Blue Tit 3, Bullfinch 3, Blackbird 1, Chaffinch 1, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 4, Great Tit 2, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 2, Robin 2, Wood Pigeon 1 (20 birds of 11 species).
The male Greenfinch, the only Greenfinch I have seen for many, many months, decided to put in an appearance long after my official bird count.
So grim this evening, I nearly lit the wood burner – in mid-August!

10 August 2019     Wild, wet and windy for Whitby Regatta
Disappointing weather for Whitby’s biggest event of the year, with SW gales and heavy rain across the country. Doubtless some of Regatta will continue, but just how much remains to be seen. AND it seems that there was even a Southern Powercut, with millions affected. I refuse to use the Americanism of a ‘power outage’. If it is any consolation, up here we were all having our usual power ‘inage’ for a change.
NB Now that the high voltage leccy cables over the moortop from Pickering have been undergrounded and all the rusty pylons removed, surely power cuts should be less common?

04 August 2019     Too hot to garden
But we did anyway. While B trimmed the Box cloud hedge and tended the veg, I tried to weed the gravel bed on the South Patio (Spatio). TDH.

Met details for July 2019
A wet month, yet with a record-breaking heat wave: Thurs 25th was Whitby’s hottest July day for 15 years (29.8C) and that night was Whitby’s hottest ever overnight temperature at 21C. The UK’s highest ever recorded temperature was that Thurs with 38.7C in Cambridge (10 degrees hotter than unbearable Whitby!). My Max and Min for the month were Max 28.4C, Actual 20.2C, Min 9.3C. Rainfall was 1.5 inches.

30 July 2019     Yorkshire Moors or Yorkshire Dales?
Yes, I know. It is confusing. Whitby is in the North York Moors National Park and today we had warm, dry, sunny weather. Unlike the Yorkshire Dales National Park in the Pennines, some 60+ miles west of here and on the far side of the Vale of York. The Dales made the national tv news today with torrential downpours, massive hailstones, landslides and even a (small) road swept away.
While they were dealing with that, I did 3 loads of laundry and dried them all on my wind and solar-powered clothes lines in the garden.
The other problem about the Yorkshire Moors, Dales and Vales is that the North York Moors are internally separated from each other by dales (reading from the West and down the Esk Valley: Westerdale, Danbydale, Little Fryupdale, Great Fryupdale, Glaisdale, Newtondale and Little Beck), while the Yorkshire Dales (Uredale, Wensleydale, Nidderdale, etc) are internally separated by moors… Nurse!

29 July 2019     Midsummer bonfire
After a night of steady rain, the fire risk in the wood is very, very low today so ID and I lit the mega bonfire now that the bird nesting season is almost over. It went well and we tended it throughout the afternoon. By late afternoon we were collapsed in the patio chairs, drinking loads of coffee, eating ice cream and keeping an eye on the gently smoking ashes. just to top the day off nicely, 2 Buzzards called and thermal-ed upwards over the valley and out of sight. Super day.

28 July 2019     Goosegogs galore
Today we released the high-security fruit bushes from their netting and started picking the fruit. 2 pints of Blackcurrants (1 side of 1 bush), 3 of Redcurrants (2 bushes) and 7 of Gooseberries, locally called Goosegogs (from 1 bush). The rest of the day was spent securing the 1 Blueberry bush (still unripe) and topping n tailing, washing, blanching, drying, boxing and freezing the fruit.

 26 July 2019     The Northern Powercut
While Boris and the media did ‘The North’ and promoted the Northern Powerhouse (we all think the Northern Poorhouse) we tried to do the usual Frantic Friday holiday cottage changeover – until the leccy went off in late morning and everything stopped. We stopped for lunch without a hot drink, then tried to use the Ebac carpet sweeper, abandoned the laundry and then dashed out to the supermarket – shut. They were all closed, locked and abandoned with empty car parks. No lights. No tills. No bar codes. Good, innit. Power was restored after a couple of hours, but it really does show just how completely dependent we have become on basic leccy.

20 July 2019     ‘The Eagle has Landed’ + 50
Yes, it was 50 years ago today that those words were said by the first man on the moon. I was walking the Pennine Way that summer, possibly even in late July. Amazing! I have called my local Buzzard ‘Aldrin’ and I last saw him overhead a couple of days ago, so well done, Buzz!
Also landed today were 7 dumpy bags of lovely logs from our old supplier S from Pickering / Kirbymoorside direction. We moved and stacked 4 bagful’s today, the others can wait until tomorrow…
This morning was also the clearing-out and defrosting of my freezer, revealing a few items of home-grown fruit and veg from 2015 – woops!
From the heights of human space rocket achievement, via traditional wood-burning, to the depths of my freezer and the world scandal of food waste, and all in one day, too. Busy day!

19 July 2019     Hardwiring survey today
Today the local electricians arrived and spent a couple of hours testing all the hardwiring in Groves Dyke. Much better than the national bunch last time who sent their ‘nearest contractor’ from Doncaster (c60 miles away!) and the poor chap had to return daily for 3 days because his boss didn’t have the correct bathroom light in stock!

18 July 2019     My Congratulations to the CJS
In response to Kerryn’s memories (see 01 July 2019 below) here is my article which she published in the CJS today:

Inspired by Kerryn’s recounting of how the CJS Team came together Niall has been digging into the memory banks and has put together some of his recollections of the earliest days of CJS.
I was delighted to catch up with Kerryn and all the news from the CJS Team last week. Yes, she has been running it longer than I ever did – and been doing it very well, too! Thanks to the CJS Team it is now much bigger, even better and far more complex than ever before.
Her memories of the early CJS days sparked a few of my own, even earlier memories. I remember:
When a very small job ad for a Ranger in a national newspaper would cost about £1,000 of a charity’s hard earned fund-raising, which I thought was horrific, so we offered free job ads
When every weekend Anthea and I took crates full of a 1000 freshly-printed CJS Weeklies, each in an A4 envelope, to fill the big, double-sized Post Office pillar box in Whitby town centre – just as the drunks were leaving the clubs in the early hours of Sunday mornings – exciting, but without incident
When a hard copy of vitally urgent artwork could only get to us in time by high speed motorbike from Leeds (the ‘Northern Regional office’ of a large agency) over the 70 miles to our house in a village in the middle of the North York Moors – not the biker’s usual urban delivery, I imagine
When the arrival of a fax machine needed another phone line, and then payment by phone using plastic needed yet another phone line, then the advent of email and the interweb – which needed British Telecom to install a ‘bundle’ of 8 more copper phone lines all working together as one
I even remember the government-funded Business Advisor who came to see us in full production one day and described the CJS as a ‘kitchen table operation’!
My, how times have changed! But the mixed oakwood which Anthea and I planted in 1982, is still growing strongly and now supports my many wildlife neighbours, and my firewood from coppicing and thinning. ‘Groves Coppice’ has vigorous young growth, new shoots and lots of surprises. It has developed and matured, its biodiversity has increased, it has become established as a major feature in the countryside and its long-term future is secure – just like the Countryside Jobs Service.
I am delighted to congratulate Kerryn, Tracey, Amy, Carla and Katie on the 25th Anniversary of the Countryside Jobs Service and I wish them, you and the countryside every success in the future…
Niall Carson
Catch up on Niall’s latest exploits by reading his blog. Here:

OR – catch up on the latest news from the CJS here:  [why won’t it hyperlink??]

17 July 2019     Moon + 50
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 to the moon. Last night there was a very impressive 60% eclipse of the moon. There was also a late night ‘Sunset and Moon Eclipse Swim’ at Helmsley outdoor heated pool, which we considered but didn’t attend.
Today we did have a wonderful 10/10 swim at Helmsley pool, with the bonus of a Buzzard seen from the water.

15 July 2019     Plasticine and pyjama belts
Hot. As poor CM strimmed the grass and trimmed a hedge, I finally returned to our (CC and NC)  childhood contraptions and designed, cut, drilled and bolted (would have been Plasticine) a brand new Heath Robinson plank-bridge thingy to span my garden pond. About 20 feet long and 12 feet wide, its just a bit too long for a single 6 x 2 inch plank, essential to reach the back wall to weed out the few Brambles and Nettles. Far too much ‘dip’ by mid-plank, so a cross plank was added to provide a sky-hook to suspend a rope (would have been a pyjama belt) to correct this. The weeding was quite exciting but went well, yet still no flow from the inlet spout. Moving a big clump of Monkey Musk, I realised its roots had grown up the inside of the plastic pipe and plugged it completely. So much for ‘prefers running water’! Once replanted nearby, the water ran freely again and the pond was back up to full height in a few hours later. Mystery solved, thanks to good, old traditional Plasticine (think Playdough) and pyjama belts technology!

14 July 2019     Last of the summer Strawberries
Overcast and mild this morning, clearing to warm and sunny later. I sawed a few bits of Ash cordwood and stacked it in the woodshed, while B trimmed the Box hedge into an even bigger and better cloud hedge. The clippings filled a couple of compost bins (but it will settle) and required yet more coffee and biccys. Then we removed and stored the anti-Squirrel / anti-bird wire netting lid from the high security Strawberry bed and picked the last 20 Strawbs. Not a good year for them, but there are a few ice-cube trays of Strawbs in the freezer. The Blackcurrants are also having a poor year, but Gooseberries are looking hopeful and Redcurrants are abundant and reddening-up nicely.

10 July 2019     Broom plus Stick = ?
Good to see MD back here again. He needs to make a few broomsticks for a village event (Harry Potter-Esk?) so we checked out the text books: Hartley and Ingleby ‘Life in the moorlands of North East Yorkshire’ and Seymour ‘Traditional Crafts’. Apparently there are 3 ingredients: Broom or Heather, Stick and ‘lappings’ so we went into the wood and cut a few branches of Broom for the twiggy ends. Then up to the Middle East coppice for a few Hazel rods. A bit of trimming-up and a discussion about the modern equivalent of Ash lappings (plastic cable ties or metal jubilee clips?) and it was time for lunch.
The afternoon was spent with 3 strimmers completing the wildflower meadow management at Larpool walled garden.

01 July 2019     Countryside Jobs Service is 25 years old!
This is what Kerryn published on the CJS website today:

This year is a very special one for CJS, it’s our silver anniversary!
You might have noticed that this year is our 25th birthday (no? really? perhaps we should have mentioned it a bit more?!?) – in fact it’s actually this week. We’ve always counted the first edition in July as ‘our birthday’ edition as the very first Countryside Jobs Service was printed and sent out to readers on 1 July 1994, although being a print edition by first class post most were actually received on Monday 4 July. However, things ran a little more slowly back then, no internet or email just pen and paper (or dot matrix printers) and snail mail.
Earlier this year in conversation with Niall over a cuppa whilst watching the pheasants decimating the spoils from under one of the many bird tables at Groves Bank he commented that I’d been running CJS for longer than he had. It was a total surprise, I had no idea so much time has passed – where does it all go? So we thought that whilst you all know how he and Anthea set up CJS you haven’t heard much about how the current Team all came to be here. Find out how at…/you-might-have-noticed-t…

And my response was published in the CJS on 18 July 2019 (scroll up)…

Met for June 2019
A very mixed month with cool, damp weather as well as a record-breaking heat wave. My new Max and Min thermometer can get direct sunshine in very late evenings in mid-summer and I suspect my reading of 28.4C may be too high for this reason, so I will claim: Max 26.2C, Actual 15C, Min 7.5C. Rainfall for the month was 3 inches, but again there may have been some evaporation!

22 June 2019     New purple towels for Groves Dyke
After a couple of shopping trips to Scabborough we now have enough nice, new, fluffy and very purple (think Heather!) towels for the holiday cottage. We also called in to 3 different garden centres and picked up a few more interesting items, not to mention a nice lunch.

18 June 2019     Hayfever Hi
My miracle cure Loratidine tablets seem to have stopped working, so I’m now going to try something new. Meanwhile, the plan was for ID, B and me to spend the morning in the wood, which we did. Not much was achieved but we did manage to layer some of the Hazel rods at the upper side of both the Scoresby Hazel Cant and the Mid-west Hazel Cant. The success rate is poor, but by pegging the rods down to the ground (and scraping the bark off one side) we may be able to extend the coppiced areas uphill. We also replaced an upright on the Cook Bridge handrail, carried down some firewood and sawed it up into cordwood.
After a prolonged lunch (to avoid the pollen and the midday sun) we started to load the car with strimmers and all the kit to cut the grass at Larpool walled garden. Stopping to buy some nylon line at 3 different shops en route used up almost all the time available, so it was too late to begin, so we achieved precisely nothing. Except for buying the line. Oh dear. Hayfever befuddlement strikes again – time I was sitting my life-defining end-of-year exams again. Whoever invented the Academic Year did not, clearly, suffer from hay fever!

17 June 2019     Purp!
First signs of Bell Heather are now in bloom on the drier parts of the Moors, but it will be a few weeks more before the main covering of Ling starts to bloom and the entire Moortop is a magnificent purple again. Nice day out in Helmsley, with a swim in the lovely newly refurbished outdoor (heated) swimming pool. Road works seem to be everywhere, as the County Council Highways Dept crams them all in between the end of winter /Easter rush and the start of the school summer holidays.

11 June 2019     Flaming June has been extinguished
Lots of Flood Warnings in England and Wales – but strangely dry in the North York Moors… It seems we really are the driest National Park in the country (or am I tempting fate?).

10 June 2019     Dry swim in Helmsley open air (heated) pool
A lovely swim under threatening skies, as a couple of thirsty Swallows dipped down for several sips of water. Light showers as we had lunch in Helmsley, pottered about the charity shops and then drove home. Light the wood-burner to cheer things up a bit, as rain threatened but never appeared.

[Catching up after a great week of birding with EEJ and CJ]

18 May 2019     Shopping day in Scarborough
On the lookout for 2.5 new sets of nice, fluffy purple towels and eventually found them at Dunelm Mill. This involved dropping off boxes of Whitby Guidebooks at a very, very foggy Ravenscar and then a sunny lunch at Dean’s garden centre in Scarborough, which is never a hardship. New towels next Friday!

16 May 2019     Oak still far in front of Ash
The Oak trees in the wood have all been in full leaf for well over a week, while the poor ole Ash trees, including the big leaning Ash, are still only just starting to begin to commence the early stages of leafing over. Otherwise, they look ok, so its unlikely to be the dreaded Sudden Ash Death disease which is sweeping the country. Even the Ash trees at the far end of the National Park are far behind as well, so it’s pretty widespread, whatever it is. Hopefully, just confused by our warmest-ever February, Aren’t we all?

14 May 2019     A Whitby Day
While Buttercup (the Twingo) was being serviced and MOTed, I had a lovely potter around town. Buns from Bothams, a Glaisdale pork pie (the best in the world) from Landers, a coffee (and buns) at John Freeman Studio, up the 199 Steps (yes, all still there), visit the new café at the Abbey gatehouse, down on the free-but-temporary Secret Shuttle Bus to Dock End, a cinder toffee ice-cream from Beacon Farm, then back to the garage. VERY pleasant.

13 May 2019     Dry, sunny and warm at Al Fresco’s
It took 5 of us to cope with coffee al fresco on the patio, with an early appearance of Aldrin the Buzzard being harried by a Carrion Crow. A spectacular dog-fight ensued, until they drifted into the territory of our local pair of Carrion Crows and the intruder Crow was soon sent packing, leaving Aldrin to carry on wafting over the wood.
ID brought 2 more sticks (Unique Walking Sticks for sale at Dunsley Hall Hotel) and we sawed and stacked what was in the woodyard, before bring down the last of the windfall Ash and doing it, too. Then some gleaning of ‘dead but standing’ Ash, Oak and Blackthorn, before sawing and bagging that for immediate use (chilly nights, occasional grass frosts).
Finally, we coppiced a dozen long, straight rods from the Middle East Hazel Coppice and finally, finally, finished-off weaving the South wall of the polebarn, where the windfall Willow from Groves Dyke is now cut and stacked for next winter.
Finally, finally, finally we collapsed in the shade and ate Magnum ice creams.

11 May 2019     Lunch at Riveaux Abbey, coffee at Sutton Bank
A lovely day out, taking Whitby Guidebooks to the other National Park Visitor Centre above James Herriot’s favourite view, Sutton Bank. Not quite warm enough to sit outside Riveaux’s noisy café, but still a lovely spot. Then on to Sutton Bank, down to the Mouseman at Kilburn, back up the ‘notorious’ Wass Bank (But why ‘notorious’? Far less hairy than the steep road down to Kilburn!), into Helmsley to admire the almost finished refurbished heated outdoor swimming pool (can’t wait!), then Ryeburn ice-cream before driving back in a real thunder-plump. Dry again by Pickering and ‘what rain?’ by Whitby.

09 May 2019   Chain-sawing in the polebarn
The 4th wet day this week and CM is rained-off most of his jobs this week, so he spent a couple of hours chain-sawing the Willow from the front lawn. I completed the last of 8 loads of laundry, all of which had to be dried indoors this week – three cheers for the wood-burning stove. Tumble dryer? Only in urgent emergencies!

06 May 2019     Wet spell begins
Completely overcast, light drizzle nearly all day, cool. A 15-minute bird count from the kitchen window 1.15 to 1.30pm gave: Blackbird 3, Robin 3, Blue Tit 2, Bullfinch 2, Chaffinch 2, Great Tit 2, Mallard 2, Wood Pigeon 2, Coal Tit 1, Collared Dove 2, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 1, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, plus 1 Bank Vole.

05 May 2019     Swifts return
Delighted to see our first 2 Swifts flying over the River Esk and our garden, together with about 20 House Martins. No Swallows yet…
Much less swiftly, we sawed, split and stacked the last of the Willow from the beck. It was surprisingly reluctant to split, with lots of knots and twists from where it was leaning over the beck. The woodshed is now 2/3 full, with just less than 1/3 still to burn this Spring, and just over 1/3 now seasoning for next winter…

04 May 2019     Tour de Whitby
We checked the routes and the times for both the Women’s and the Men’s Races, planning to avoid any delays on our trip to Guisborough, but got a great (if unwanted) view of the women hurtling along the Guisborough road and down towards Egton and the waiting steam engines at Grosmont level crossing. Seems the cold, wet and windy weather delayed them and we were stuck in an endless queue of traffic as dozens of Police motorcyclists and stewards created a very impressive rolling roadblock for them. It was high tide with a strong Northerly wind by the time the Mens’ Race went through Sandsend, with the occasional big wave overtopping the road. Seems they’ve never encountered that particular road hazard before – but then it happened again on the final sprint along the North Bay in Scarborough!

01 May 2019     Mayday – good or bad?
Great that a House Martin has safely found its way home from Africa or worrying that it is still only one House Martin so far…
ID and I took the longest pole saw up to the awkward Cherry just above Derry (‘the Oak grove’). We have, over the last 3 years, opened up the poor confined Whitebeam by removing a Cherry, an Ash and now another Cherry. But this one is awkward, with an 8 inch limb branching out against the natural fall of the main trunk, so normal felling would just drop the whole thing on top of the tree we are trying to rescue. Perhaps, if we can saw off that offending limb with the pole saw at full stretch, it would fall clear… which it eventually did, letting some more sunlight onto the Whitebeam. We spent the rest of the day sawing it into manageable lengths (both), carrying them down (ID) and using the 2-wo/man crosscut saw to saw into 15-inch drums and stacking under cover in the woodshed. Phew!

Met Readings for April 2019
It has been a very dry month, with ‘Extreme Fire Risk’ banners on all the moor roads. The heatwave over Easter led to record numbers of visitors – and possibly a record temperature, too. Max 22.9 degrees C (74F), Actual at 9.30am 16C (60F), Min 1.5C (34F). Rainfall 0.4 inches.

30 April 2019     First House Martin of the year
Great to see ‘my’ House Martin flying excitedly around the house and up under the eves to last year’s nest. Only one? It arrived late in the evening and is the very first Hirundine I’ve seen near the house this year.

29 April 2019     See, saw and stack
I worked my way through the cord of Ash branches, sawing them into 15-inch long stove logs and stacking them into the woodshed, which is now 1/3 full of this winter’s felling / thinning / coppicing. The good news is that it is also almost 1/6 full of last winter’s felling, which we haven’t used yet. Forgive my maths, but I make that nearly almost half full.
CM strimmed all the lawns, part of the wildflower bank and covered the small burnt patch (on the lawn by the gateway) with the turfs from the newly dug Raspberry bed. We checked the Mason Bee egg-laying tubes and removed 2 which were clay-capped at both ends, meaning they now contain eggs, and replaced them with empty tubes. The capped ones are now stored in the laundry and they will all be sent back to the Mason Bee Project Office in September. Woopee!

28 April 2019     Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Strawberry
While I pulled the horizontal Rhubarb stems and made some Rhubarb Crumples, B planted the Lettuce, weeded the Strawberries and moved some Raspberries. Some heavy showers last night, as Storm Hanna swept us with her tail, and the rain gauge now reads 0.4 inches so far this month. Cool, overcast but with a Buzzard soaring over the house, so that’s ok.

27 April 2019     Oakley Walls to Danby Moors Centre
The newly erected ‘Extreme Fire Risk’ banners on all the moor gates seems to have done the trick, with occasional heavy showers to damp everything down a bit. Lapwings (perhaps 4 at a time) were flying around the moor roads, with just a single Curlew flying across our route. Gone are the days when either species was seen standing along the verge, with one or more every 100 yards for miles on end.

26 April 2019     Pick swim, lunch, Goathland and Beck Hole
After a nice swim we had a toastie in town, a potter around the shops and then finished-off distributing Guidebooks to the rest of Goathland. Could have done with a fully-trained assistant, IJ! Sadly (gladly!) the Birch Hall Inn in Beckhole was closed, so we may have to go there again…

25 April 2019     Snow? And Oak before Ash
Just before dusk last night there was a flurry of ‘snow’ past the windows as a blustery wind got up. It turned out to be a flurry of Apple blossom and Cherry blossom off the orchard! This morning it was finally clear that the Captain Cook Oak leaves are bursting just a tad before the Big Leaning Ash buds – so ‘Only a splash’ then. Having said that, we had heavy showers this afternoon, which is probably the first rain we have had this month.

24 April 2019     Guidebooks to Goathland
After a swim at Pickering and lunch at Thornton-le-Dale, we carried on distributing Whitby Guidebooks around Goathland – where memories of ITV’s ‘Heartbeat’ and Aidensfield are still flourishing. We ran out of Guidebooks, so we will just have to go back again to finish off the village and visit the hamlet of Beckhole as well… any excuse! After years of ‘training’, we hope IJ will be able to join us next year…!

22 April 2019     Another hot, sunny Bank Holiday
Sometimes we have hot, sunny weather and sometimes we have Bank Holidays, but it’s not often that they coincide. TDH* again for me. Lunched by the riverbank at Chain Bridge Café in Ruswarp, but only 1 Swallow hawking over the weir. *Too Damn Hot.

21 April 2019     Warmest Easter Sunday on record
Another new record for the UK, and just a few days after Sir David Attenborough’s documentary on Climate Change (which gave the human race just 10 years to make significant changes before a climate tipping point is reached) – and the News is full of how nice it is to have a hot, sunny Bank Holiday weekend (and never even mentioned the Attenborough documentary). Ok then, humans – good luck…

20 April 2019     Heat wave continues: 22.9 degrees C!
Almost too hot for me, but B enjoys the heat. Frantic phonecall from Whitby Park and Ride where they have just run out of Whitby Guidebooks. But I gave them 10 boxes on Thursday! Took them another 12 boxes to see them through (?) the Easter Weekend. They now have 4 shuttle buses running – and 2 of them are double deckers!

19 April 2019     Mists and mellow Froglessness
Another lovely misty morning, clearing as the hot sun burns it away. Only seen 1 Frog in my pond so far this year, and that was weeks and weeks ago. Very odd. No spawn this year. Guidebook distribution again, this time with lunch at the Shepherds’ Hall café, followed by coffee at The Hub in Fryup. Any excuse!

17 April 2019     Mason Bee pupae out and Helmsley check-up
The weather is much more settled now, without any overnight frosts, so I put the 2 dozen pupae out to stay (they had been commuting daily between the outdoor hatchery and the indoor conservatory). Then off to Pickering for a swim before lunch at Beck Café in Helmsley. A nice potter around Helmasly Walled Garden (still a bit too early) and then peer over the new wall at the newly tiled open air heated swimming pool. Excellent! All it needs now is the contractor off site and some nice warm water added…

16 April 2019     Guidebooks up the coast
A nice day spent distributing hundreds of Whitby and District Tourism Association’s free Guidebooks to Hinderwell, Staithes and Runswick Bay. See and click on Online Guidebook. Where is IJ this year?  I could do with my usual assistant…!

15 April 2019     Winter tyres off. Summer tyres on
Summer or not, it’s too late now! Hope we have no more overnight frosts…

14 April 2019     Top soil indeed!
Cool, sunny with showers and a pesky cold wind. Poor Goths!
Having bought a brand new ‘planter on legs’ (Lidl £19.99) yesterday, and searched for peat-free compost to fill it with (Lidl had run out locally), I foolishly settled for 2 small bags of ‘Topsoil’ from a garden centre. It didn’t say it was Peat-free, but I was assured that it ‘probably was – and if not, it was from a well-managed peat bog’. Ha! As one-time Warden of Brackagh Bog National Nature Reserve in Co Armagh, how does anyone think you can strip the peat from a bog and still think it is ‘well managed’? All you can ever do is wait another 10,000 years for it to grow back again… Assuming it was peat-free, I foolishly bough a couple of bags and tipped them into the new planter. It looked good – apart from a few bits that might have been poorly composted stems – or bits of peat bog. Oh dear!

12 April 2019     Guidebooks and Award frames
We continue to deliver boxes of Whitby and District Tourism Association’s 2019 ‘Whitby Guidebooks’ all around the area, to hotels, shops, etc, etc. Only 49,000 to go… We also found 2 matching picture frames for the newly delivered ‘Customers’ Choice Award’ for Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage (for Reevoo scores of 9.5 or 10/10 over the past year) and also for the slightly older ‘Green Award’ (from Wyndham Vacations Inc) which Groves Dyke has had for a few years. Both Awards are now proudly displayed in Groves Dyke.

10 April 2019     Taz, Oz, fence and log
Catching up with ID after his month’s holiday in Australia. Sounds wonderful! We repaired the top fence, where the naughty neighbour’s horses have been breaking into my wood for grass and shelter (who could blame them?). After lunch we crossed the swamp (still dry) to saw up and retrieve the windfall Ash from the last gale. Useful logs, too! We saw where Amey tree surgeons (for Northern Powergrid) had trimmed the Willows (from Flag’s Folly) which had grown too near the high-voltage lines. Little stove-value in the Willow logs, so just not worth the effort of dragging them across the swamp and down to the woodyard. The Ash, on the other hand, is very well worth the effort, so we did!

09 April 2019     Catching up again
Just back from a lovely few days in the lake District, where Spring is about 2 weeks behind the North York Moors. First Chiffchaff when I walked around my wood this morning. Bright, dry, sunny and calm. A 15-minute bird count (09.40-09.55) from my kitchen window gave: Bullfinch 2, Robin 2, Blackbird 1, Blue Tit 1, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1. Also Rabbit 1, Bank Vole 1.

01 April 2019     April Fool vs Brexit in the House of Comedians
This year April Fool’s Day has been cancelled, because nobody can tell the difference.

Met records for March 2019:
March really was ‘In like a Lion and out like a Lamb’ this time. Storm Freya at the beginning of the month, then cool, then the beginnings of Spring after the Spring Equinox. Max 18.6C, Actual 15C, Min 1.4C (my old Fahrenheit Max / Min thermometer is now suspect, but it sez: 58F, 50F and 42F, which is clearly wrong as far as the Min is concerned)!

25 March 2019     Threatened Mason Bees arrive
Once CM had strimmed all the grass for the second time this year, we put up the new Mason Bee release box and the nesting tubes (immediately above) on the front of the potting shed. They have to be in full sun, especially morning sun, with no shade, so that was about the only place. Now we wait until the Apple blossom is out AND the temperature has risen to 12 to 14 degrees C, when the pupae will open, the tiny mason Bees emerge, feed, grow, mate and then lay their eggs in the perfectly-designed tubes. Come September, the end of each tube will have been capped to protect the eggs within, and we can post them back to to be counted, overwintered and redistributed (with another batch of tubes) next March…

24 March 2019     Finches can’t read
Delighted to still have both Bullfinch and Goldfinch using my feeding station daily, but why are they eating the ‘wrong’ seeds? Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands and noted that the finches on each island were all slightly different, with each species adapting to exploit the particular seeds on each island: one species with big, heavy bills for cracking the big seeds found on one island, and a different species on a neighbouring island with fine, tweezer bills for opening the tiny seeds there. Based on this, and other evidence, he wrote the ‘Origin of Species’ and introduced the Theory of Evolution. All good so far. So why are my Bullfinches eating the tiny Niger seeds, while my Goldfinches on the big, chunky Sunflower hearts?? Hence my ‘Birds can’t Read’ Theory! Perhaps they just need ‘extra’ items in their Spring diet?

21 March 2019     Super Moon
At midnight last night the bright, bright moonlight cast deep shadows across the lawns, and this morning there was the first proper dawn chorus. It could be Spring.

20 March 2019     Spring Equinox 50/50
Bright, dry, mild and a bit sunny so today really does feel a bit like Spring. The Green Woodpecker has been calling from the wood for several days, the Roe doe was feeding around the woodyard yesterday evening, the Marsh Marigold is bursting into flower in my pond and the Bank Orchard is a magnificent show of Daffodils just now.

17 March 2019     Phil and Stu the compost twins
Our first nice day for a bit of gardening and the 2 compost bins came into their own. While Phil is filling, Stu is stewing, so when Phil is finally filled, Stu will have stewed and he can be emptied onto the veg patches, and then the lids swopped, so the new and empty Phil can be slowly filled, while the new and full Stu can slowly stew…
We forked the compost into the 3 veg beds nearest the beck and planted the Onions in the Far West one (A).

14 March 2019     Siskin returns
A single Siskin feeding on the Niger seed feeder was a welcome return for this species. Still windy but also very sunny.

13 March 2019     Storm Gareth last night
A VERY wet and windy night, with over 1.5 inches of rain since the start of this month. Luckily, the wind was from the North West so we were nice and sheltered down here. A walk around the wood was a walk on a carpet of newly-snapped twigs, but no major trees or branches came down overnight.

12 March 2019     New Whizkid sorts my elderly laptop
Thanks to CG and 2 hours of health-check today, my laptop is now sorted and is working properly’ for the first time in yonks. Redundant programs have been identified and uninstalled, viruses have been removed and everything is running SO much better than before. Unlike my local GP Health Centre, which seems to be on its last legs, under-funded and under-staffed and very, very keen for me to use their new online services for all my health needs. NEVER! If they think I would ever entrust my healthcare to all this NHS ‘high tech’ in general, and my very elderly laptop in particular, then they are very mistaken.

11 March 2019     Logging-up, then Whitby Harbour
CM spent a couple of hours chain-sawing the felled Ash for cordwood, and the leaning Willow for stove-logs stacked under cover in the woodshed. This afternoon I attended the 2nd Whitby Esk Estuary Water Quality workshop. This is funded by the Environment Agency and organised by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust – in the person of AC, daughter of RC who Anthea and I knew at the New University of Ulster Bird Club, and also spent 2.5 weeks with on an uninhabited island (Inishnabro) in The Blaskets, Co Kerry as part of a Joint Universities Seabird Expedition ‘way, ‘way back about 1970. Wow!

Great to see another generation taking the reins…

10 March 2019     More cold, wet and windy
Not a nice day to be out, so we drove to Scarborough and spent the day in the garden centres and big shed stores. Lots of walking involved, but all indoors.

05 Mar 2019     After Storm Freya
The storm itself didn’t seem so bad here (did I sleep through it?) but there have been a few windfalls. An 8-inch diameter Ash fork above the swamp split and snagged across a nearby tree. I was able to saw through the strap (see-saw!) and make it safe. Also collected lots of snapped-off long-dead Ash branches, scattered throughout the wood and sawed them into stove logs for immediate use. Then felled a 6-inch diameter Ash which had become very unbalanced and was threatening the woodyard bridge and woodshed. Another busy day.

04 Mar 2019    Willow down and out
The leaning Willow which stood in the beck beside the patio and threatened the weirs, the flume, the clothesline and the Langdale greenslate patio table, is now down safely, logged-up and carried out of the garden, into the woodyard and stacked safely in the woodshed. Busy day!

02 Mar 2019     Potting, sawing and stacking
While B replanted the patio pots at Groves Dyke, I started sawing and stacking the long-dead Apple and dodgy Willow. Then a nice stroll around the wood, returning with more long-dead Oak and Ash to saw, bag and take indoors to the stove. Breezy. Then off to Perry’s River Gardens, which reopened today for the season, to celebrate with Apricot Flapjack and Manchester Tart. The show of Daffodils in Groves Bank Orchard is absolutely magnificent just now, thanks to all the strimming last autumn by CM.

01 Mar 2019     Just Nature’s way
Since this was the warmest UK February on record, and February last year was the really cold Beast from the East, then this is just Nature’s way of telling Donald Trump that Climate Change IS real and IS happening, and we really ought to do something to slow it down a bit. But then I’ve been saying that for decades and nobody wants to actually change anything significant, so – Good Luck.

Met Records for February 2019:
A remarkably warm month, described by the Met Office as ‘The warmest Feb on record in the UK’, with 20.2 degrees C at Kew. My new digital max and min thermometer reads:
Max 16.1 degrees C, Actual 9.30am today 8.7, Min 2.2 (but occasional grass frost).

27 Feb 2019     Orchard replanted at Larpool walled garden
Together with the Endeavour Rotary Club of Whitby and the Whitby and District Development Trust, we planted 11 half-standards of traditional varieties of local Apple, Pear and Gage. Weather was perfect, warm, dry and sunny. Step 1 of a new community garden for Whitby…

24 Feb 2019     Woodyard cant almost pollarded
We worked in glorious weather to pollard (ie coppicing above deer-browsing height) the Ash and Sycamore patch (ie cant) just behind the woodyard. Lots of useful firewood stacked in cords for next winter, as well as a ‘habitat heap’ of cut Elder (useful for wildlife, drinks of Elderflower cordial and Elderberry wine – but useless as firewood).

19 Feb 2019    Super Daffs, splitting, stacking and moon
Yesterday and today have been sunny and pleasant and a joy to be out of doors. The First Dozen Daffodils are in flower, together with Snowdrops and Crocus, with the First Hazel and Willow catkins on the garden and woodland trees. CM has almost finished coppicing the self-sown Ash and Sycamore saplings in Groves Bank orchard (despite the precipitous slope) and the resulting cordwood is now moved to the woodyard and stacked. I finished splitting the windfall Ash from last autumn’s gale and it’s now safely stacked in the woodshed. What a super day – with another Super Moon due this evening (and possibly another grass frost by dawn).

17 Feb 2019     Hope, Daffs and Catkins have now sprung
Many, many thanks to GK my Whizkid, who has just solved the editing problems with this site. Woopee! No stopping me now…

07 Feb 2019 Hope Springs Eternal
There is hope that the editing problems on this elderly WordPress website may soon be solved and that the News Blog will continue with new editing software…