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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15 August 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 August 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…

August Met data

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…