News Blog 2011

Wildlife Diary and News Blog 2011 – notes from a small wood.
Observations from Groves Bank, Groves Dyke and Groves Coppice, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England.

11 Jan 2012     SA and MD continued work next to the East Hazel Cant, tidying-up the Hawthorn and all of its lop and top. ‘More lop and top than firewood’ as SA so neatly put it.

After lunch BC and I joined in, and by mid afternoon the two 30-year Oaks and a Field Maple can now see the sun, two scrubby Hawthorn ‘trees’ had completely vanished, a lot of potential firewood was neatly stacked up off the ground near the path, a very large ‘habitat pile’ of lop and top had appeared almost under the electricity wires – and a vast area of ground had been cleared for the Hazel cant to expand into by layering in the summer.

Then many more c20 foot Hazel poles were carried down form the recent coppicing in the Mid-west, sawn into cordwood and added to the west cord.

08 Jan 2012     Another bright, dry, calm and sunny morning with the First Dawn Chorus of 2012. Blackbirds, Robin and Great Tit all sang from the wood and the garden, we later found the First Crocus Flowering (3 of them) and then heard the First Great Spotted Woodpecker Drumming from the top of the wood. It must be Spring!

BC and I saved yet more of the ex-wickerwork stems, sawed them into 16 inch lengths and stacked them as kindling in the polebarn. We also coppiced two more Hazel stools in the Mid-West Cant and carried more poles down to the woodyard. A 15 minute count from the diningroom windows gave: Long Tail Tit 10, Blue Tit 9, Dunnock 3, Robin 3, Great Tit 2, Blackbird 2, Coal Tit 1, all using the feeders. In the distance we also recorded Herring Gull 1, and a Marsh Tit arrived to feed just too late for inclusion. Or not…

07 Jan 2011     Mild, dry and sunny enough for a lovely dog walk on the beach at Runswick Bay, followed by a session of sawing and stacking the ex-wickerwork kindling in the polebarn and then a couple of trips to the Mid-West Hazel cant to carry down more cut poles to the tripod in the woodyard.

06 Jan 2012      Overnight frost then dry, calm and sunny. A Sparrowhawk soared and circled high over the wood as it staked its claim and advertised for a mate.

I welcomed Sparky the black Labrador for a few days, BC waited for the plumber, and SA and MD felled the Wild Cherry, sawing it into 4 foot lengths and stacking it up off the ground beside the path. By also removing 2 smaller Hawthorns they were able to open up a second young Oak – and produced additional lengths of potential firewood. About half a cord, all told, which will season until it is ready for burning in the winter 2012/13.

After lunch Sparks and I shifted a bit of lop and top, while BC continued to wait for the plumber. By late afternoon the 3 trees were down, more cordwood and more lop and top had appeared, the plumber hadn’t, 2 young Oaks had been encouraged and in the early summer there will be room to layer the Hazels, thus extending the cant into the newly cleared ground.

04 Jan 2012     Still a bit breezy, but we four spent the first hour this morning removing the wickerwork from the old fence up the side of the drive, before replacing it with the Hazel rods we coppiced last month. It was surprisingly quick and by lunch time the new wicker fence was almost complete. After lunch we all walked around the wood, checking for any recent storm damaged trees – and glad to fine none. We looked at the next (and final) tree to be felled this winter, a 30-year old Wild Cherry (ie Gean) which is now so big that it is shading out the 30-year old oak just behind it.

We carried down a bit more of the Mid-West Hazel Cant and 4 replacement tannalised posts to complete the new wicker fence, before tidying up the drive and storing some of the old, long dead wickerwork as ideal kindling for all our various woodburning stoves. The new fence looks very smart and gets 2012 off to a very good start.

Happy New Year to all our readers! Hope to meet you at Groves Dyke in 2012…

December 2011 Weather Summary – Unseasonally mild and sunny but with many days of very strong winds, gales and probably even a storm or two: 40mm (1.5 inches) of rain, Max 12 degrees C (53 degrees F), Min -5 degrees 24 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 Jan 2012: 8 degrees C (40 degrees F). On occasions it has be as +12 degrees, making it 24 degrees warmer than this time last year, when it was -12 degrees! 

30 Dec 2011    My feeding station was unusually busy today and a 15-minute count this morning produced Long Tailed Tit 9, Blue Tit 4, Great Tit 3, Robin 2, Dunnock 2, Nuthatch 2, Marsh Tit 2, Coal Tit 1, Pheasant 1, Wood Pigeon 1, Magpie 1.

BC and I carried and sawed more of last winter’s Blackthorn cord and stacked them in the polebarn. After lunch we used the new pruning saw (another lovely pressy, thanks) to coppice another Hazel stool, and stacked yet more potential cordwood and carried down yet more weaving rods.

28 Dec 2011     Another nice day so SA, BC and I coppiced a couple of Hazel Stools in the Mid-West Cant, leaving just the old pollard stem to to support the new pollard stem until mid-summer. The coppicing produced not only another 20+ weaving rods for the replacement wicker fence, but also a surprisingly large number of Hazel poles up to 3 inches diameter. These will be carried down to the woodyard, sawn into 4 foot lengths and added to the cord for seasonong all summer ready for burning next winter.

27 Dec 2011     Strong wilds overnight so BC and I toured the wood to look for any damage. We stacked the Hazel offcuts just above Chimney Bank, planted the Willows (which had been rooting in a bucket of rain water) into the gaps in 4 Flag’s Folly, and also on one side of the Twigwam, and boosted the Willow Arch beside the Woodyard. Also carried down a long dead Ash limb from the leaning Ash.

26 Dec 2011     Our traditional Boxing Day walk was, with hundreds of others, on the beach at Sandsend. We found a parking space, had a lovely walk and even found a cafe table for a well earned coffee. The sun shone from a clear blue sky, the beach was sheltered and the sea almost flat calm.

24 Dec 2011     Having done all those things that ought to be done, and having left undone all those things that ought not to be done, we think we are now ready for Christmas. Ready or not, it will probably happen anyway, so here’s wishing you all:

A happy Christmas, a more prosperous New Year – and lots of visits to Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage!

22 Dec 2011     A lovely dry, calm, sunny and unseasonally mild day with a temperature of 12 degrees C. This is some 24 degrees C warmer than it was a year ago, when we had lots of snow and frost and temperatures of -12 degrees C. A drive around the lower Esk Valley delivering cards and presents was very enjoyable, especially coming back over Sleights Moor and pausing at the top of Blue Bank to admire Whitby Abbey picked out in bright sunlight. Wonderful. Whitby really is ‘the haven under the hill’.

21 Dec 2011     It ought to be the shortest day of the year today but SA tells me that every 7 years there is an adjustment day, so it will actually be tomorrow. He and MD dropped the last Ash tree of this winter, a 30-year old and the middle of a line of three. Now the remaining two will have more room to grow outwards, rather than just upwards until they become too tall for their own good and blow over in a gale. We helped to stack it up off the ground before returning for minced spys [that’ll teach them!] and coffee. A snagged Oak branch was also tidied-up.

09.30 birdcount gave: Blue Tit 4, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Great Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Robin 1 [8/8 cloud cover, cool, overnight rain clearing, calm].

16 Dec 2011     They said it would snow last night but it didn’t. SA and MD sawed off the flopping Crack Willow which was obstructing the path near the top bridge, then got some useful bits of Oak from the smallish branch which came down in the storm last week.

They also installed an old fashioned chimney pot (what a lovely present, thanks) at the top of the steepest path in the wood – hereinafter to be called Chimney Bank. This is after Chimney Bank in Rosedale, the steepest road in England. Reputed to be one in two and a half, the Department of Transport only had 1:3 signs so that is all it ever got. Now that we have lovely European percentage gradient signs instead, I suppose that should be 33%, if not 26.5%!

We carried down more of the Blackthorn cord and sawed it into firelogs.

14 Dec 2011     SA stacked the last of the Ash up in the wood and then covered both stacks of Cherry with tarpaulins to keep the rain off. Cold and damp so an early finish.

We put up the Christmas decorations in Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage, ready for any canny family who want to take advantage of a last minute, half price Christmas and / or New Year holiday… just click Availability on the navigation bar above.

10 Dec 2011     We had a lovely drive in the winter sun to the Old Stokesley Coach Road above Lealholm and enjoyed a brisk stroll amongst the heather and the Red Grouse. Then on to Danby Beacon for a full panorama of the Esk Valley and beyond. A stiff Westerly breeze was creating a considerable wildchill and blowing the smoke from Boulby potash mine chimney horizontally. The ice on the puddles at the Beacon was about 1 inch thick.

Then down to Stonehouse Bakery (closed Sundays!) for some of their lovely toasted tomato bread with pate and a big cup of hot coffee to warm up again. On the way home we drove down the Esk Valley, through Lealholm and Glaisdale, Egton top and Grosmont – just enjoying the winter sunshine and admiring the views.

Once home we carried some Willows (which have been rooting in a bucket of pond water for several months) and planted 8 of them into the 4 gaps in Flag’s Folly, to try to complete the circle of 12 stems. When they all take root, then all 12 can be pollarded and the shoots woven into a Temple of the Winds.

09 Dec 2011     I walked around the wood with SA and MD, looking for any wind damaged trees after yesterday’s gales (none found) and deciding on the next 2 trees to be thinned this winter: a 30-year old Ash just below Flag’s Folly, to give its neighbouring Oak (both planted in the early 1980s) a bit more room, and a similar Wild Cherry, which will let more sunlight into the East Hazel Coppice.

Later today, while BC and I sawed more Blackthorn cordwood into firelogs, they dropped the Ash tree and stacked the bits up off the ground.

08 Dec 2011    Wild, wet and windy today, but not as bad as in Scotland where there was considerable damage.

Today I had my first Christmas Dinner with the local 50+ group. By chance I sat beside a retired farmer from Eskdaleside who, as a 10-year old lad, had helped to carry Romany on a stretcher across the fields from his gipsy style caravan to a waiting ambulance, ordered by Dr English of Netherby in Sleights (my late mother-in-law’s brother).

Romany? ‘Romany of the BBC’ was the very first broadcaster in the world to give a radio nature trail. He was on the BBC Home Service (now Radio 4) and his novel format, recorded live from his Romany caravan parked in some remote woodland, was very popular and inspired a whole generation of naturalists like young David Attenborough, David Bellamy and many others. His stay in Whitby hospital (for a stomach ulcer, I a was told) was soon common knowledge locally and he was asked for his autograph by so many well-wishers that, according to my dining companion, he began to charge 3d / autograph (= 1.75 new pence) to raise money for Whitby Hospital… just another of those amazing local coincidences which I have christened ‘Whitby Connections’. More on Romany…

07 Dec 2011     SA and MD tidied up, carried and stacked lots of wood and we now have a quarter cord of Ash, a half cord of Hazel and a half cord of Wild Cherry, all neatly stacked in the woodyard in separate cordbeds.

BC and I carried, sawed and stacked more Blackthorn firelogs in the polebarn, then split some of the big awkward lumps of Ash to keep the home fires slow-burning in this very windy weather.

05 Dec 2011     Young S returned to finish strimming the far corner of Groves Bank orchard and, after a couple of hours, he returned, job done, to say ‘Don’t go there, it’s lethally slippery on that slope.’ (I’m quite glad I decided not to do it myself this year)!

04 Dec 2011     We carried down some of the Blackthorn cord and sawed it into firelogs in the polebarn, dodging the odd hail shower. 15 minutes birding from my diningroom windows produced 8 Blue Tit, 5 Great Tit, 2 Robins, 1 Dunnock, 1 Longtailed Tit (yes, just 1) and 1 Nuthatch. (8/8 ths cloud, Force 1 Westerly, cool, raw, occasional light hail showers).

03 Dec 2011     We went to the Victorian Weekend at Robin Hood’s Bay today, including a visit to the Old Church of St Stephen (rebuilt 1870) at nearby Fylingdales. Now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust it is open most weekends and well worth a visit to see the triple pulpit (where the vicar would be ’12 feet above contradiction’) and the original Maidens’ Garlands (on a Hazel hoop, as described in Hamlet’s death of Ophelia).

02 Dec 2011     SA and MD tidied-up the recent coppicing, etc, got all the cut wood up off the damp ground before it begins to rot, and carried some 70 or 80 coppiced Hazel rods down to the woodyard. These might be enough to refresh the full length of the wicker fence up the side of the drive in the next week or two. If it is too much, then we can use the extra rods to beef-up the wicker fence at the side of the woodyard – and if we can take the old, long-dead and very dry wickerwork down in dry weather, it will make perfect kindling.

After swimming, BC and I prepared Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage for arrivals this afternoon, as well as tidying the yard, sweeping leaves (almost all down now), etc.

November 2011 Weather Summary – Very mild and dry and sunny: 28mm (1.25 inches) rain, Max 17 degrees C (62 degrees F), Min -1 degrees (30 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 Dec 2011 2 degrees C (33 degrees F) but there was our first hard frost overnight.

30 Nov 2011     Another lovely day today but very windy overnight. Patio chairs and bird feeders lie scattered across the garden and the nice new plastic Niger Seed feeder has been broken. Sorry Goldfinches.

29 Nov 2011     I coppiced one of the 30-year old Hazels in the Western Cant, last coppiced and singled some 10 years ago. Long time since I have done any coppicing, which is one of my favourite woodland jobs.

28 Nov 2011     Bright and dry, 7/8ths cloud cover, Force 2 SW and a 15-minute bird count of my feeding station produced: Bullfinch 3 (still demolishing the Cotonaster berries by the fat ball feeder), 2 Dunnock, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Great Tit, 1 Magpie, 1 Robin and 1 Wood Pigeon.

Still not many finches, partly because there is so much natural food this autumn that I have not started to put out any seed, apart from Peanuts and Niger seed.

27 Nov 2011     Very windy overnight but still mild and dry and sunny. We picked the Tomatoes and removed all the grobags from the spatio, except one. If this weather continues for another 3 days we will be able to pick ripe outdoor Tomatoes in December… The other growbags were emptied onto the veg beds as soil improver.

Carried more firelogs down from the woodyard, especially the big awkward almost unsplittable knees and elbows from the 30 year old Ash. They last longer tham most when it is very windy and the woodburner is swailing away in the gale. Sawed up the dead Oak limb which has been cluttering the cideryard for several weeks. Dug out the 2 new flower borders either side of the little Apricot espalier in Groves Dyke garden. Used the pole saw to remove the many dead branches from Groves Dyke orchard and sawed and stacked the resulting firelogs. Ate the last half dozen Raspberries of the year and then we cut back the canes.

26 Nov 2011     While we have been away, SA and MD have finished the Wild Cherry and started coppicing the Western Hazel coppice. Each Hazel stool has been cut just a few inches above ground level, leaving only a young, straight and vigorous stem to maintain the Single-ing technique. We got some of the wood they had sorted up off the ground and the long weaving poles will be used to replace the wicker fence up the side of the drive. We saw 3 Roe Deer as we admired all their hard work.

Young S has strimmed almost all of the steep Groves Bank orchard, using a steel blade to cut and mulch all of the 2 or 3 year old Bramble stems which my nylon line just won’t tackle. Oh to be young and fit again!

25 Nov 2011     BC and I are just back from a lovely week in the Lakes. Because the weather was so nice and dry and mild, we had to go walking almost every day – but we did have morning coffee or breakfast on our veranda every day, and we were joined one morning by a beautiful Kingfisher which tried one or two branches overhanging the tarn before flying off to fish more successfully elsewhere.

We also saw a very active Red Squirrel in Huntingstile Wood, not to mention Row Deer. Stopping in Bernard Castle en route we discovered lots of antique shops, including one which specialises in Oak furniture by Mousey Thompson and by Tom Whittaker the Gnome Man of Littlebeck (see Other). Details later, when I can find his card… He did tell us about this link to a Pathe News Archive short film of Tom Whittaker working in Littlebeck: http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=1193

17 Nov 2011     KR, the joiner who fitted the kitchen, built the conservatory etc etc at Groves Dyke, spent this morning easing the door bottoms so that they now open and close easily with the new carpet. Interesting that this cottage has managed perfectly well for over 60 years with its original doors and its less luxurious flooring. But now that the standard of furnishings has improved so much recently – it needed half an inch off the bottom of most doors. Progress – or what? The furniture is now all where it should be, the hoovering has all been done and everything is back to normal again – except far nicer than before.

The male Bullfinch continues to demolish the berries on the Cotonaster on my spatio. Those Waxwings had better hurry up or they’ll all be gone…

The mild weather continues, with my car thermometer reading 14 degrees today.

16 Nov 2011     The carpet fitters returned this morning and by early afternoon all the old carpets were replaced with lovely bright new ones. It really gives the whole house a warmer and much more luxurious ‘feel’. All the furniture has been dusted and replaced and the joiner is due tomorrow to ease some of the doors which now drag a bit too much on the deeper pile of the brand new recycled underlay and the better quality carpet.

15 Nov 2011     Fear not, all is well (if a bit busy). Two new carpets went down today in Groves Dyke sittingroom and double bedroom. We had moved all the furniture into the other rooms, then we moved it all back into the newly carpeted rooms, ready for the next rooms to be carpeted tomorrow… Looking good!

14 Nov 2011     The gas man cameth and testeth the gas fire and the gas hob in Groves Dyke and both passeth all landlords’ undertaking.

13 Nov 2011     14 degrees C after overnight rain. 12 Nov 2011     13 degrees C at Sandsend so we walked on the beach, sat outside at a beach gafe and had a coffee sans fleeces. Very odd!

3 Bullfinces on mt Cotonaster berries today, 2 males and 1 female. A Red Admiral butterfly flew in Groves Dyke orchard. We dug up 1 drill of Estema potatoes and over-filled a blur plastic mushroom tray. We propped-up yesterday’s Wild Cherry logs to get them off the ground before the back gets wet and starts to rot, put plastic tree guards on 3 self-sown young Oaks and 1 Hazel growing wild in Groves Bank Orchard, Strained off a demi-john full of Siderian Crab Apple juice – and moved all the twin bedroom furniture in Groves Dyke into the double bed room.

11 Nov 2011     Mild, dry and overcast again. Female Bullfince still contorting itself for the Cotonaster berries. SA and MD dropped the 30-year Wild Cherry at the bottom of Chimney Bank. BC and I stacked some of the Ash logs up off the ground and split some Ash logs in the woodyard.

We also moved everything out of Groves Dyke sittingroom and stacked it in the dinningroom, lifted the old dark brown carpet (and underlay) and vacuumed the floorboards, ready for the new carpers next week.

10 Nov 2011     Heard a Frog croaking in my pond. I spent a couple of hours strimming lawns, hopefully for the last time this year. I also strimmed the top path along Groves Bank orchard, just to make access to the steep bramble-covered slope a bit easier.

09 Nov 2011     The female Bullfinch continues to strip the berries off my Cotonaster just outside my diningroom window.

SA and MD dropped a 30-year old Ash near the Dogsnout Crab Apple Laund, and this has opened up the Laund so that the 30-year old Oaks now get a bit more sunlight. We took 4 drums of the fresh Ash to JW for turning. His fame has (rightly) spread and he has now supplied Selby Cathedral with a turned wooden font (in Walnut from Glos).

BC and I sawed up and stacked the fallen Apple tree from Groves Dyke orchard. Later we were in the kitchen when we noticed a sudden movement of what seemed to be a Blackbird at the back of the Woodyard. We stared at it for ages, trying to work out why this Blackbird seemed so odd – ontil we realised that it wasn’t a bird at all, just one of a Roe Deer’s ears, which it was twitching back and forth!

07 Nov 2011     We went to cut a friend’s hedge and returned well fed and with a trug full of Siberian Crab Apples.

04 Nov 2011     It poured all morning, while I waited for the British Gasman to come and service and inspect the 97% efficient condensing gas boiler in the loft of Groves Dyke. It passed with flying colours and the 16 inches of loft insulation, cavity wall insulation, double glazing and porch make Groves Dyke as warm as toast in the winter.

After lunch we caught up with this News Blog and then sawed some Blackthorn in the polebarn.

03 Nov 2011     A 15-minute bird count from my diningroom windows gave:

Blue Tit 2, Bullfinch 2 males, Blackbird 1, Dunnock 1, Great Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Wood Pigeon 1. The Bullfinches were feeding on the Cotonaster berries next to the fat ball feeder. (9 individual birds of 7 species). Too mild and too much natural food at this time of year for wild birds to have to rely on artificial feeding).

The Day of 7 Billion human beings on the world, for the first time ever – and 1 billion ( = 1 thousand million = 1,000,000,000) of us are already starving. The time interval to the next 1 billion shortens with every additional billion.

See http://www.interactworldwide.org/reproductive_health.html

If the earth is a pie, then the pie diagram suggests that we each have a right to one / 7,000,000,000th of it. But only if it was divided fairly. And in a few more it years, we will each be intitled to 1/8,000,000,000th of it, cos the pie just doesn’t get any bigger.

02 Nov 2011     We swam, de-brambled the last of Groves Dyke orchard, sawed the odd lengths propped up in the woodyard, laid a base layer in the West (Number 1) Cord and experimented with the new Turnip Chopper on a couple of layers of windfall apples in a big plastic trug. Wonderful! Magic! Pity we didn’t have it a few weeks ago, as it cuts through them like a hot Turnip Chopper through apples.

NB: Must remember to build a wooden Inukshuk up in the wood: pronounced (in-ook-shook), a stone monument erected in the image of humans. One of their purposes was to serve as direction markers in the harsh and desolate Arctic. They were a tool of survival and a symbol of unselfish acts of the Inuit people. The Inukshuk symbolizes co-operation, balance and unselfishness; the idea that teaching and group effort is greater than individual effort. Each stone is a separate entity, yet each supports, and is supported by the one above and the one below it.

See www.theinukshukstore.com

01 Nov 2011     I bought a brand new antique Turnip Chopper as a farm bygone from Victoria Farm Garden Centre today (£30). It has a long wooden handle (just like the old tarmac punner we used to use to crush apples before pressing) but a foot with 6 metal blades radiating outwards to a metal ring about 8 inches diameter.

Sept AND Oct 2011 Weather Summary – Mostly mild and dry, with a humid heat wave in late Sept, when we were in Canada: ?mm (? inches) rain as gauge was full and overflowing, Max 26 degrees C (78 degrees F), Min -1 degrees (30 degrees F), Actual at 9.30am on 01 Nov 2011 10 degrees C (50 degrees F).

31 Oct 2011     Took delivery of 2 tons of lovely, dry, seasoned, 16 inch hardwood logs from our supplier in Pickering. Stacked them into 1/8 of a wall of the polebarn. My car sez it is 16 degrees C today, which is unseasonally warm the day before November.

After lunch BC and I pressed the 2 trugs of cut Crab Apples which have been soaking for 2 days. Filled 2 demijohns with sugar and wine yeast added, so next year’s Crab Apple wine is now underway…

30 Oct 2011     The mild,dry sunny weather continues so BC and I walked the old Toll Road to Egton Bridge and enjoyed our Postgate pub sandwiches out of doors at one of their picnic tables. The autumn colours are now widespread throughout the Esk Valley and looking almost at their very best.

Goth Weekend in Whitby, and again next weekend, as the organisers seek to extend the event. Will it become a 10-day annual Goth Festival?

29 Oct 2011     BC and I re-pressed the overnight must and got another gallon of juice. This year’s total droduction is now 5 gallons of eating apple juice, as well as the 5 gallons of cooking apple juice (surprisingly sweet) from Day I. By keeping the two types separate, we may end up with some clear answers about which type of apple makes the best cider / is added sugar necessary / should we just chuck all the apples in together / etc? The proof of the pressing…

28 Oct 2011     Apple-pressing Day II. SR, BC and I sliced, thumped, pressed, rested and re-pressed all the eating apples to hand. Then LG arrived and picked yet more. After letting the mush rest, we pressed it again and got even more juice out. This 3 gallons we added to the 1 gallon of eating apple juice already fermenting for Day I. As an experiment, we put all the mushy must back into the press and left it overnight…

26 Oct 2011     Mild dry weather continues so we did the last bit of Groves Dyke orchard (nearly). Then BC and I picked 2 big trugs of eating apples from the newly de-brambled orchard, ready of cider-making later this week. We also pruned and trained the 1-year old Apricot along Groves Dyke post and rail fence and moved a Cotoneaster from my gravel bed to the island bed in Groves Dyke garden.

25 Oct 2011     Swam in Pickering pool, lunched at The Whole Hog farm shop and cafe on the A64 near Malton, browsed Yates’s and ordered a rambling rose from Roger’s in Pickering on the way home.

24 Oct 2011     A couple of hours strimming did half of all the lawns, half the woodyard, the path around the wood and (now that most Brambles have been removed) 90% of Groves Dyke orchard.

23 Oct 2011     BC and I strolled around the wood to check on the dog-snout Crab Apples. The tree is loaded and they are ripe (the pips within are brown) so we picked a big trugful and set them out on the apple trays in the conservatory. Carried on de-brambling Groves Dyke orchard and almost finished it. And us.

22 Oct 2011     A very welcome Whitby afternoon, turning our leftover Canadian dollars back into GBPs and soaking in all the sights, sounds and smells of dear old Whitby. We strolled along Pier Road and to the end of the West Pier, before walking up the Kyber Pass for lunch at The Royal hotel – did we hear giggling??

Who said ‘It’s nice to go travelling but oh so nice to come home!’

21 Oct 2011     Swam this morning and then started to debramble the Groves Dyke orchard, which has been neglected for 2 years. Chatted to our neighbouring shepherd and discussed a partial hedge-laying of our joint boundary this winter.

At some stage in the past few days we have also trimmed the conservatory hedge at Groves Dyke and pruned and trained the 2 year old Apricot bush on the car park post and rail fence.

20 Oct 2011     All the lawns were white with hoar frost this morning, but it soon eased as the bright sun rose.

19 Oct 2011     We dug up all the Pentland Jevelin spuds from the beck bed and filled 2 plastic mushroom trays. Then we took a second crop of cherry tomatoes from the growbags, before the first frost of the autumn tonight.

18 Oct 2011     BC and I toured the wood and chose some possible Cherry and Ash for felling once the leaves have dropped. Almost everything is still in full green leaf, with just the Beech hedge showing any autumn colour.

After lunch we added another 10 inches of loft insulation to Groves Dyke, on top of the 6 inches already there. This was kindly donated by M&AD from a neighbour. That evening was spent checking the 234 emails awaiting our return – sorry for any delay in replying!

17 Oct 2011   Spent just over 2 hours cutting all the Groves Dyke grass and half of Groves Bank. That just leaves half the woodyard and the path around the wood to do… Mild and dry.

16 Oct 2011     We picked 14 lbs of Cherry Tomatoes from our 6 (peat free) growbags and made several gallons of lovely Tomato Soup (so loved by all our volunteers), using our own Potatoes, Parsnip, Onions, Garlic, Swede and herbs. As a side line, we also made lots of Chicken Soup using our own veg and somebodyelse’s Chicken. Emptied the Potato barrel under the woodshed guttering, but the drainage was insufficient and the spuds were useless. Clipped the Clematis growing up between the houses and made it look presentable again.

15 Oct 2011     Hello again! We’ve been in Canada for a couple of weeks, but SA and MD have been beavering away: They’ve sawn the cord and a half in the woodyard (Ash and Cherry mainly) into firelogs and the woodshed is now full, with additional Ash lumps stacked alongside for future splitting. They have also sorted out the polebarn, put up a nice new shelf for all the bits that used to clutter up the floor, and sawn a cord and a half of Blackthorn above the polebarn and that is now stacked across the end of the polebarn, in a double row. Wow – very impressive, thanks! They have also been working elsewhere, as if that wasn’t enough, AND found and protected a very young Oak seedling for future transplanting into the Appleyard Cants.

The Whitby weather was middling but with a very very warm and humid spell. Our veg have been cropping well, with a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes awaiting our return, as well as a few late raspberries. Still lots of apples on the trees, so we may even have another Apple Day before too long.

Impressions of Canada, or at least the bit around the Bay of Fundy: It’s big. Lots of trees. And then more trees. And yet more trees (I Spy begins to pall very quickly on a long drive). Very long drives. Everywhere is several hours’ drive from everywhere else and even with our cautious ininerary, we still under-estimated the distances. Heathrow is horrible. Nova Scotia is lovely (with lots of trees). Annapolis Royal is lovely ( www.annapolisroyal.com ) and our Bed and Breakfast accommodation was great ( www.tuliptree.ca ) and the tide rises and falls an average of 28 feet every time, powering the only tidal powered electricity generating station in North America with 20 Megawatts produced reliably each and every single day ( http://www.nspower.ca/en/home/environment/renewableenergy/tidal/annapolis.aspx ) and nearby is the Royal Historic Garden, which is also well worth a visit ( http://www.historicgardens.com/explore_about.php ).

We also watched the very impressive Fundy Bore at Truro ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhrhh-tNqX4&feature=related ) and the Reversing Falls at Saint John, News Brunswick ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMSn0HsiQBc&feature=related ). Shame about that ginormous pulp mill on the far bank and enjoyed the wonderful Fundy Parkway ( http://www.fundytrailparkway.com/en/seeit/ ) which claims to be one of the last remaining coastal wilderness between Florida and Labrador (we do hope that isn’t entirely true, but having seen how every other bit of pretty rural coastline there seems to have been bought ptivately, a house built and thus access denied to everyone else, it might be true. Three cheers for our Heritage Coasts and for our National Trust’s Enterprise Neptune). Just to put the tree cover in perspective – 99% of Old Growth forest in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick states has been felled (exactly the same percentage as in the UK). The other 99% of forest cover in the Canadian Maritime states has been felled at least once since large scale commercial logging began c1700.

A few days at St Andrews ( http://www.townofstandrews.ca/contents.php?id=7 ) staying at the in/famous Algonquin Hotel (yes, we know, The Shining – but no problem while we were there)… ( http://www.fairmont.com/algonquin/Photos/ ). We enjoyed the famous Kingsbrae Garden ( www.kingsbraegarden.com ) and whalewatching in Passamaquoddy Bay with Island Quest Marine ( http://www.islandquestmarine.com/ ). Captain Chris managed to get us close to a Fin Whale, with another ‘Thar she blows!’ half a mile away. We had hoped for Northern Right Whale, the species so beloved by the Whitby whalers, which has now increased its world population back up to 350 individuals. We also saw 5 Bald Eagles together, Harbour Seals and Porpoise. Wonderful!

That evening we enjoyed the music of ‘Earthbound Trio’ ( http://www.earthboundtrio.ca/videos ) who combine their many musical skills with their backgrounds in home insulation / smallholding / computer programming to write wonderful songs about life and the environment. Look out for them – and for their ‘Fire in the Wood’ which is all about fracking for oil and gas. A great group and definitely on the way up to much wider appreciation. We even suggested Fundymental as the title of their first CD. I wonder…

After returning to Saint John we took the Digby Ferry ( http://www.acadiaferry.com/ ) back to Nova Scotia and drove to Halifax airport (our satnav said ‘In 216 kilometers turn right’), thus completeing our circumnavigation of the Bay of Fundy and meeting BC’s relatives en route.

Highlight (apart from meeting family and friends): Getting the great big horrid 3 litre Mafia-type black sedan hire car back to the airport in one piece.
Lowlight (apart from  BC’s toothache): Being stopped by the police for turning left in a left only lane with a left filter arrow showing. ‘Failed to yield’ he said!
Most Terrifying: Turning left or crossing any minor crossroads.
Best meal: Slow cooked short rib beef at the Algonquin.
Worst Meal: Deep fried Digby Clams.
Strangest Meal: Freshly baked broccoli quiche for breakfast (very nice, actually).
Best Hotel: Tulip Tree B&B.
Worst Hotel: None.
Best Town: Annapolis Royal.
Worst Town: Saint John (As BC said ‘Just like Middlesbrough but with French subtitles.’)
Best Bumper Sticker: Always remember that you are unique – just like everyone else.
Best Invention: Tim Horton’s bagel slicer (stainless steel and hands-free – every Cooplands should have one)!
Best Landscape: Fundy Parkway and Big Salmon River interpretive centre.
Worst Landscape: Endless miles of urban sprawl with c1 acre / house, thus 10,000 houses cover 10,000 acres – or more.
Best Wildlife: Fin Whales and Bald Eagles in Passamaquoddy Bay.
Scariest Wildlife: The very large animal which marked its very recent presence on the footpath at the far end of the suspension bridge near Big Salmon River!

22 Sept 2011     Dry today and by afternoon I was able to strim all the lawns. Yes, ALL the lawns in one afternoon (2.5 hours), thanks to the now fully back to normal strimmer. I think that is the first time it has performed properly this year, which saves so much time in the few dry days available to me this summer.

19 Sept 2011     Today is Cider Day 1, or at least the first apple pressing day of 2011. We had collected a goodly assortment of apples (and containers) from within a mile or so and these were sorted into Cookers, Eaters and Crab. Previously they were all mixed together, but now we are getting a bit more particular and doing different batches for each.

With BC and MD on punners, SA on press and me on vocals (‘Don’t mix those apples!’) we began to extract some juice. At first it was painfully slow, with our wonderful new press oozing a flow so small that, as SA pointed out, the wasp on the spout was drinking it faster than it could drip into the 5 gallon bucket waiting hopefully below! With a few adjustments (dispense with the pillowcase to contain the pulped apples within the gas pipe / break up the hard caked apple pulp so that the juice could drop through it / use crumpled-up plastic strawberry netting to replicate the layers of straw which let the juice escape the pulped mass / let the mashed apple stand to begin to break down a little before pressing / etc) we soon got the hang of the new press and started producing a decent flow of juice.

LG joined us after lunch and by the day’s end we had 6 gallons of Cooking Apple juice, 1 gallon of Eating Apple juice (there were many fewer of them), 1 bucketful of sliced Crab Apples and no injuries other than blisters. What a successful day!

18 Sept 2011     We spent a lot of time and effort this morning picking not very many Blackberries off the Brambles in the wood. Last year was a poor and wizzened crop, and this year is little better.

17 Sept 2011     SM invited us to pick apples from their trees. Not many eaters from half a dozen small and well-behaved trees, but 2+ great big plastic trugfuls from a big Bramley and a bigger Scarlet Bramley.

16 Sept 2011     While BC and I swam, SA and MD spent the morning putting the finishing touches to our brand new Mark III apple press. This is a sensibly sized four-poster, about 6 feet high and 3 feet square, based on one at Ampleforth Abbey near Helmsley. The frame is made of tannalised 4 x 4 inch timbers, with a platform high enough to get a 5 gallon plastic bucket under (luckily!), a short drum of heavy duty gas pipe to contain the pillow cases of apple pulp, and a wooden piston pressing down from above, thanks to a 4 tonne bottle jack. Ah yes, the traditional ways are always the best…

It is MUCH bigger than the shop bought Mark I version of 3 years ago (too small and fiddly for bigger volumes), MUCH safer than the Mark II version of last year (too big, ugly and dangerous) – so what can possibly go wrong?

14 Sept 2011     SA and MD carried umpteen bags of sand / gravel and cement up to the woodyard and mixed concrete for the nice new sawhorse stance. We got back from swimming just in time to miss the had work, so we took the bowsaw and loppers up into the wood to deal with the 3 casualties of the weekend gales: a snapped-off halfway up young Ash about 5 inch diameter at the windthrown break, a big branch snapped and snagged on a 30-year old Ash in Dogsnout Laund and a young Willow branch snapped and snagged just to the right as one goes up Chimney Bank. We lopped and topped the first, and left the others for later.

The weekend gales were the tail-end of Hurricane Katia which followed the massive (and very damaging to New York) Hurricane Irene and then Hurricane J – anyone know her name? In the USA hurricanes are named in alphabetical order, with female names in odd years and male names in even years.

12 Sept 2011     Enough prevarication! Blowing a gale out there after overnight rain, so my plans for grass cutting have been abandoned and instead I’ve brought bits of this lovely new website up to date. The Visitor Book is now updated and only a few August weeks are still to be typed up in this News Blog…

11 Sept 2011     We picked and froze more Raspberries, picked Corgettes, Green Beans (the last), dug up enough Potatoes for the next few days and then put mini-tree tubes on 2 very tiny Oak and 1 slightly bigger Hazel seedlings in the front garden of Groves Dyke. Now these have been protected from Rabbits and Deer (not to mention clearly marked!), we can wait to dig them up in the winter and plant them into the Upper and Lower Cider Yard Cants to – eventually – overtop and suppress the Blackthorn which is already spring up from last winter’s clearing. Storms tonight.

10 Sept 2011     I cut some grass with the recently repaired strimmer, while SA and MD mixed and poured concrete to form the new level hard standing for the soon to be completed cider press. Having done that in record time, they then dug out a slightly bigger base for the sawhorse in the woodyard.

08 Sept 2011     We drove FCW to Durham and had lunch in the Undercroft refrectory before exploring a bit of city and then delivering her to Newcastle. Surprised that the trip from Whitby to Durham only takes 1.5 hours.

07 Sept 2011      Dry, sunny and warm today. We drove FCW over the moors by High Hamer to Rosedale Abbey and visited the glas-blowing workshop, but sadly they were not doing any demoonstrations today. A lovely lunch at the Blacksmith’s Arms in Hartoft and then up Chimney Bank to Hutton-le-Hole for a stroll around the wonderful Ryedale Folk Museum. Their latest project has now started work on the ground, building a wood-fuelled biomass boiler to heat the about-to-be-extended High Barn to house the newly-aquired 10,000 uncatalogued local items of the Harrison Collection, which opens next spring. Phase 2 of this £2.6m project is to then build the Learning Centre next door to the collection. Not bad for a voluntary project run by 200 volunteers!

06 Sept 2011     Very windy overnight and cooll and grey today. Swallows were flying low over the moor at Ellerbeck, all heading South. We took FCW swimming at Pickering and then lunched at Russell’s Cafe before searching the interesting little shops for a suitable toast rack. Or two.

04 Sept 2011     We drove (via Durham for a short break) to Newcastle airport to collect FCW for a few days at Sleights.

03 Sept 2011     Went to Malton to collect the just repaired strimmer. Had lunch at Leoni’s cafe and then strolled around the town, enjoyed the market and explored Yate’s – the ultimate hardware store. And yes, they did have a touch sensitive table lamp, some cable ties and a pair of axle jacks. Truly the ultimate hardware store. But they didn’t have a toast rack…

02 Sept 2011     SA and MD spent the afternoon digging out a square yard from the Cideryard, ready to lay a concrete base for the new cider press next week.

01 Sept 2011     The TUC family in Groves Dyke had a lovely view from the back windows of 3 Roe Deer as a doe led her 2 youngsters through the car park and up into the wood,
browsing as they went.

August 2011 Weather Summary – A cool, damp and dull month: 125mm (4.5 inches) rain, Max 28 degrees C (82 degrees F), Min 6 degrees (42 degrees F), Actual at 9.30am on 01 Sept 2011 15 degrees C (58 degrees F).

30 Aug 2011     Hello again! Nice to be back and the new site really is a sight for sore eyes, thanks to a wonderful web designer in Northumberland.

Hope you like exploring the new site with its many new features (eg Availability Calendar), enjoy the new Photo Gallery (including the Woodland Walk as photographed by one Groves Dyke guest), etc. Over the next few days we may manage to catch up with the scribbled notes in the desk diary and transfer to this News Blog.

SOLD by me: 
Guest Beds by Treske of Thirsk. Two single beds (one slides under t’other when legs fold down). Made in solid Ash. Immaculate condition. The perfect space-saver in the spare room. Almost unused. Includes 2 original mattresses (1 medium, 1 firm) in perfect condition. Currently priced at £1400 new (see www.Treske.co.uk > Helmsley bedroom collection) but I am asking just £700 or nearest offer. Contact – Sorry, too late!

Weather for July 2011 – when I can find it…

31 July 2011    While BC picked more Broad Beans and Peas, I clipped the inside of the Veg Plot hedge. Then we both sat in the coolth of the raftings and shelled them for freezing, while the Shallots and Onions were left out in the sun to dry off a little before plaiting onto a rope. The last of last year’s crop was finally disposed of last night, having enjoyed an 2010 onion with our tea. A full year of our own Onions!

 

30 July 2011    Another 3 hours strimming, once I had sorted out the partly blocked air filter which had been slowing the strimmer down. Gone are the days of rinsing the sponge filter in petrol, now we have a super, disposable, concertina, gill-like paper thingy. No way to get this cleared, so I just replace it with a layer of J-cloth to catch any airborne bits, and got on with the path around the wood in record time. Methinks a trip to Malton may be required next week for a proper new filter.

 

After a visit to Sneaton Castle to see the temporary exhibition on Whitby’s Yards (ie alleyways, ginnels and snickets), BC and I had an ice cream then a warm, sunny stroll. Then we sat on a very comfy bench (thanks Katie) overlooking the beach and we just relaxed and  watched the waves and the surfers. The waves and the surfers. The waves and the surfers.

 

A couple of hours later, in the absence of any Thermos flask, sandwiches or newspapers, we finally got up and came home again. Oh dear! Old age or what?

 

We picked our own Courgettes, Broad Beans and Shallots for tea and then froze some Peas.

 

28 July 2011    I spent 3 hours strimming, including most lawns. Either this grass is very lush and difficult, or I am getting weak.

 

A physical morning, followed by a very intellectual afternoon: a 1¾ hour phone discussion with my new whizkid about the new Groves Dyke website. I think I preferred the morning!

 

27 July 2011    I joined MD, SA, etc at Sleights Scout Hut to help rebuild it so that the newly restarted Sleights Scouts could soon meet there again after several years. For a ‘temporary’ wooden building now about 60 years old, I suppose it’s not doing too badly.

 

26 July 2011    Swan and lunched again, then home via KMS and Pickering.

 

25 July 2011    Off to Thirsk Market and back to Helmsley Pool in time for a swim, followed by a Vinehouse lunch in the Walled Garden.

 

24 July 2011    BC and I had a lovely drive up the dale to Kildale and then over into Carlton, up Carlton Bank and then something to eat at Lord’s Stone cafe overlooking the Vale of York and the Tees. Magnificent. Then down Bilsdale to Byland Abbey and Helmsley where we had a very pleasant sundowner overlooking the market square. The Black Swan was celebrating 100 years in the Michelin Guide and they were just packing away the vintage cars, which made a great cararet.

 

22 July 2011    While BC and I did the holiday cottage changeover, SA and MD started to bolt together the wooden frame of the new cider press. It stands about 5 foot high and 2 foot square, with a sturdy wooden platform (with pouring lip just above 5-gallon bucket height) to build the ‘cheeses’ of apple pulp onto, and an equally sturdy cross bar above to set the 2-ton bottle jack under. This is looking very good and is far more manageable than the OTT high tech 7-ton twin-winched steel girder gibbet which we used last year.

 

21 July 2011    Dry for the second day in a row (nice change) so I spent 3 hours strimming lawns, the veg patch and the path through the woodyard and around the wood. It has been at lease 2 weeks since it was dry enough to cut and the very lush parts of the wood path made even the big strimmer struggle.

 

20 July 2011    BC and I removed all the protective netting from the 1-year old soft fruit bushes and the strawberries and raspberries. We picked and ate the one remaining raspberry, mixed the red and the blackcurrants to make a decent handful, and BC made a good-sized gooseberry crumple. Delicious. Only the Brassica plot is still netted, with a Large White Butterfly trying to find its way in as we worked.

 

A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over the woodyard and landed in the Big Leaning Ash Tree (hereinafter known as the BLAT).

 

18 July 2011    I spent the day up a step ladder (not my favourite habitat) helping to hang some beautiful old Weatherill paintings of Whitby in the Pannett Art Gallery. This new exhibition ‘The Weatherill Family’ is open free of charge from 23 July to 04 Sept 2011 (closed Mondays).

 

17 July 2011    Wet. BC and I spent the day moving furniture and things in my house and by late afternoon all the downstairs now looks presentable (and all the junk / old files / old filing cabinet / bits and bobs / etc are now out of sight in a newly designated upstairs Storeroom). Much better.

 

16 July 2011    Wet, wet, wet so we improved the weather with an All Day Breakfast for lunch at Victoria Farm. Then drove to Falling Foss for a very short stroll and a coffee. And a slice of lovely iced gingerbread.

 

There we saw a notice for a musical Pie and Peas evening at Falling Foss Tea Garden on Fri 12 August 2011. The Yorkshire Wolds Versatile Brass, a 5-piece brass ensemble, will play a selection of music from 6 centuries, including Mozart to Abba, Gershwin to Lloyd Webber and Scott Joplin to The Beautiful South. By ticket only (£12 / person) available from Falling Foss Tea Garden. Supper includes strawberry meringues and cream. Sounds good!

 

15 July 2011    BC picked our first crop this year of our very own peas, broad beans and potatoes, which we enjoyed for tea (with a bit of somebody-else’s chicken).

 

14 July 2011    I attended the funeral today of Jess Whiteley, who used to live opposite at Groves Hall. She had to move to Bournemouth in 2006 when she was poorly. Nasty things should never happen to such a sweetie. This now makes me the ‘oldest resident’ of Woodlands Drive!

 

13 July 2011    SA, MD and I laid out the membrane alongside the polebarn, ready for the 3 tons of 20mm aggregate (ie gravel) which was delivered after lunch. Got it all spread into a very useful new working area alongside the polebarn, and christened it The Cideryard.

 

BC bottled the last 4 gallons of last years cider. Now all we need to do before September is to construct the new apple press, its timber also delivered today.

 

KR arrived to look at the list of joinery jobs to do, starting with replacing 2 bits of guttering brought down in last winter’s roof avalanche.

 

12 July 2011    BC and I to Helmsley for a swim, lunch in the walled garden and then bought some semi-permeable weed-suppressing membrane from that lovely little old fashioned hardware shop. Bumped into M and AD in the street. We returned via Pickering where we bought some more membrane for the new yard beside the polebarn .

 

11 July 2011    SA and MD digging the new drain alongside the Polebarn. Scrounged a 5 yards of perforated field drain from CR and a bit more from SR.

 

09 July 2011    Ordered Groves Dyke’s new carpet from Drapers Carpets of Whitby. The lounge, hall, stairs and landing and both large bedrooms will all be the same as the current Paprika Tweed in the small bedroom. Wool carpets are now cheaper than manmade fibre carpets – but only because the artificial fibres are all oil-based and the rising price of oil has overtaken the poor old English sheep. Still, if oil, petrol and gas were any cheaper, we would only use them all up even sooner.

 

Ruswarp Gardens Open Day was well supported with about twenty gardens throughout the village open for the day, not to mention stalls on the village green and in the village hall (willow craft, books and both bric and brac), afternoon teas and a Flower Festival in St Bart’s Church. Sadly the English summer weather provided thunder plumps from lunchtime onwards.

 

08 July 2011    A busy day today, with 8 visitors popping-in during the day, some expected and some not. Groves Dyke was successfully
changed-over and this week’s guests settled-in for their 10th annual visit. One visitor finished minor picture-hanging works, another one measured-up Groves Dyke for its major new carpeting, and another 2 dug a drain across Polebarn Yard ready for the new gravelled work area. Phew!

 

07 July 2011    CN removed the old tv / bookshelf from the lounge in Groves Dyke so that we could fit the nice new secondhand (I mean reused) Mahogany tv corner unit, which looks much better. He also built a new bookshelf on the other side of the gas fire for all the displaced books.

 

06 July 2011    BC and I swam in Whitby pool before driving to KMS (Kirbymoorside) to collect the ‘new’ tv stand from Ryedale Antiques. We explored KMS on market day and enjoyed a coffee and teacake in the new cafe / bookshop – which has the best collection of brand new, recently published New Naturalist books I have ever seen.

 

05 July 2011    Tried summer plumage again by having a haircut, nor that summer has arrived. Strimmed all the lawns and half the woodyard in the midday sun and well into the afternoon. Damn grass: after all that rain, it’s growing again!

 

04 July 2011    Five Common Spotted Orchids flowering just SW of the top bridge. Not nearly as many as before we ‘improved’ the habitat by opening-up the canopy to give them more sunlight. Sadly, this only encouraged the grasses, which have outgrown the Orchids. NFR (No Further Action – just let the canopy close in again and shade the grasses out).

 

03 July    Hot and sunny again, but we removed a degenerate Heather from the top of the Stickery steps. Probably c50 years old and only an ornamental variety, it had become so tall as to flop over and leave a ‘spokes of a wheel’ centre now colonised by Nettles and Bracken and Brambles. A large volume of timber was removed and carried up to the woodyard and the bonfire heap. We now have 2 heaps and are waiting for a very wet day before we dare light them.

 

Heard Chiffchaff, Nuthatch, Jackdaw and Yaffle as we worked and enjoyed our first almost-all-home-grown salad of the season. Then we strolled up into the wood and carried down a few bits of Ash for the West cord. Noticed that the typewriter is now almost completely obscured by the coppice growth of the Ash stump it adorns. Amazing just how quick and effective is the ancient trick of protecting young coppice growth from Deer by stacking a few branches across the stump!

 

This evening AD and I sat on a patio in Sleights overlooking Littlebeck towards Battle Banks. Swallows and House Martins hawked high over the valley for flies, when suddenly a dark, fast, small and very pointy Hawk swooped through their midst. Not a Kestrel which hunts for small mammals on the ground, too small to be a Peregrine, too far North to be a Hobby, so it was almost certainly a Merlin popping down from the moortop for a Swallow supper. Wow!

 

02 July    WE called into a Whitby carpet shop to choose the new carpeting for Groves Dyke later this year. The new ‘Paprika’ will replace the old brown Shadow Pile, fitted by NR, the man who trained the current owner of Drapers Carpets in Whitby, who remembered him with affection and respect.

 

A lovely day at Runswick Bay, lunching, strolling, jet hunting and ice creaming by the beach. Hot and sunny but with a very welcome sea breeze. Heard a Curlew calling as it flew past.

 

Fri 01 July    Off to Helmsley for our first outdoor swim of the season. The pool was lovely and warm at 30°C (that’s 2° warmer than Whitby indoor pool!), but sadly, still no refurbishment. Check daily opening this season at www.helmsleysports.org . Then lunch in Helmsley Walled Garden, followed by market day in the square and window shopping, followed by ice cream, of course. Back home via Hutton-le-Hole and Blakey Ridge, Little Fryup Dale and Danby Castle. The Bell Heather is well in flower but still no sign of the dominant Ling.

 

Weather for June 2011: Max 33°C / 92°F, Min minus 3°C / 36°F, Actual at 09.30 on 01 July 2011: 17°C / 62°F. Rainfall: 50 mm / 1.9 inches. A mixed month with several wet days. The weekend of Sun 26 was very very hot and very very humid, eventually ending with thundery showers. Other nights were still cool enough to have the woodburning stove lit – in June!

 

30 June 2011    Lunch at the Stonehouse Bakery cafe in Danby, with their signature dish of toasted tomato bread with pate with salad. Delivered another box of leaflets to the Moors Centre at Danby and then came home via an ‘open garden’ in Barnby. A lovely cottage garden, 19 years in the making. We could do something similar with Groves Dyke garden (which lies downwind of my hay-fever nose)…

 

29 June 2011    Swam and then found SA and MD lunching on our return, having almost finished their ‘foreigner’ job nearby. We trimmed-off the split Willow branch in Groves Dyke garden and then lopped off more of the shadowing Field Maple in Polebarn Cant. They then carried more firelogs down to the woodshed.

 

R&AB reported seeing a Roe doe stroll up the drive, past them in the conservatory, and then off into the woods.

 

28 June 2011    I took 4 more Unique Walking Sticks (@ £5 or £10 each) to Dunsley Hall Hotel, where the ‘Druid Staff’ is still unsold @ £100…

 

27 June 2011    Very very hot and very very sticky. We trimmed the Lonicera hedge by Groves Dyke conservatory, its first trim since it was almost flattened by the roof avalanche last winter.

 

Pat came and completed the Portable Appliance Testing (PAT) for another year.

 

26 June 2011    Bottled the last 5 gallon keg of cider, but ran out of bottles so we had to stop. Perhaps we just keep the rest in the keg and have it on draught? It is labelled ‘More Sleightly Dry Cider’ (a few days later we added 10 teaspoons of sugar to the 4 gallons left in the keg and it has taken the rough edge off it very nicely).

 

25 June 2011    M&KB saw a female Roe Deer with a very young one by her side. They walked down from the wood and past Groves Dyke conservatory.

 

24 June 2011    1st Ever House Sparrow (a male) at Groves Bank / Dyke / Coppice in my 36 years! It was sitting on the wall just outside my dining-room near the fat ball feeder.

 

BC weeded the Strawberry bed while I strimmed the Groves Dyke grass.

 

22 June 2011    Heavy showers.

 

21 June 2011    A nice run to RHB (Robin Hood’s Bay) to sell several feet of Science Fiction paperbacks, and buy ‘Weeds and Aliens’ – no, not another sci-fi title, but Number 43 of the Collins New Naturalist series. Now I’ve got a little bit nearer two of my ambitions: I’ve cleared a bit of bookcase and I’ve added to my New Nats collection.

 

A bit hot, but BC and I then removed several lower branches from a young Field Maple in Lower Polebarn Cant. It is standing about 2 feet South of a nice young Oak just a quarter its size, and while I like the Maple I also like the Oak a lot more. This way the young Oak can get a bit more sun and grow some proper roots, ready for when we fell the Maple in the winter. At the moment the Blackthorn cut over the past winter is coppicing like mad and already a foot tall. It will take some tall Oak standards and a lot of transplanted Ash seedlings about 4 foot tall, to begin to shade out all the Blackthorn and create a more useful Ash Coppice with Oak Standards cant instead.

 

20 June 2011    This afternoon we bottled another 5 gallons approx of Sleightly Medium Cider, mostly into dozens of small green beer bottles.

 

19 June 2011    We bottled a 5 gallon plastic bucket of Sleightly Dry Cider into clear glass wine bottles (15) and clear glass beer bottles (10). This one rates a good 7/10. Rain interrupted play a few times during the afternoon, when torrential, nay tropical showers fell and added over ½ inch to the rain gauge by tea.

 

M&KB, guests at Groves Dyke this week, reported seeing 2 Roe Deer (one with small antlers) from the kitchen window. The deer were standing on the path just below the Willow Arch beside the Woodyard.

 

18 June 2011    We each had 2 tons of 16 inch firelogs delivered from Pickering. Lovely stuff, all exactly 16 inches, all nicely split and all seasoned for almost 2 years. BC’s is now under a tarp to keep the showers off and we stacked mine into a polebarn ‘wall’, where it filled the lower half of one of 3 spans on one side. The other side is already almost full of split Beech and some Blackthorn, so we are well stocked-up for the winter – with another 3 cords elsewhere in the wood as well. Then off to Scarborough for a bit of essential shopping.

 

17 June 2011    SA dropped in with some delicious strawberries and an equally welcome progress report of their other tree-work in Aislaby. The Green Woodpecker has been Yaffling from the front lawn for the past few mornings. It would have been nice if it had waited until I was properly awake…

 

15 June 2011    We went to Falling Foss Tea Garden for a very nice cream scone and coffee.

 

14 June 2011    Off to Pickering for a swim at a reasonable hour (refugees from Whitby Pool’s School Holiday timetable).

 

12 June 2011    BC and I went to the Robin Hood’s Bay Open Garden Day and enjoyed visiting some lovely gardens. Sadly, afternoon rain did put a dampener on the event but they normally raise about £2000 for their chosen charity.

 

10 June 2011    BC and I finished bottling the 4 demijohns: Pure Tingley Cider (9/10), Larpool Plonk (7/10), Crab Apple Wine (dry, 5/10). The 4th, Peapod Hock, made an excellent drain cleaner (10/10 as an excellent drain cleaner, but only 1/10 as a wine). We also moved the 3 x 5 gallon plastic buckets of cider out from under the stairs, where it has been festering nicely all winter, to the veranda. This way it can settle again before racking off into the 5 gallon keg for bottling next week.

 

08 June 2011    BC and I watched for Qwerty the Bank Vole by the typing pool typewriter again, but were delighted to see Imp(erial) the Woodmouse and its young offspring Halfpint instead. The youngster eventually threw caution to the wind and just sat in the middle of the seed and ate everything in sight.

 

After lunch we started to bottle the demijohns of wine and Pure Tingly cider. We were in mid-first one when the thunderstorm rumbled down the dale and we had to run for cover. Do not fear, we kept the 5 bottles of LarPlonk dry and undiluted. And it is rather nice!

 

06 June 2011    Weather improving again and summer may still be here. Qwerty the Bank Vole was popping out from behind the typewriter by my pond for a scattering of birdseed.

 

04 June 2011    By midday the Easterly wind and cloud rolled inland and the temperature dropped about 15°C within a couple of hours. From Summer straight to Autumn? We went inland in search of sun, but had to settle for more cold grey weather and a lovely toasted tomato-bread with pate in Stonehouse Bakery and Cafe in Danby. Great!

 

03 June 2011    Hottest day of the year and TDH! My car sez it was 30°C at Sleights. Hundreds of Bees visiting the flowers on my tall Cotoneaster by the spatio and once the sun was down we used the hose to give the veg plot a real soaking. A good soaking once a week is better for most plants, as it makes them grow deeper roots. If you water every day, most will just evaporate, some will dampen just the surface soil and so the roots will all be shallow and more prone to drought. It seems to be working so far…

 

01 Jun 2011    I cut the grass and after lunch MD arrived and we constructed a very nice and useful woodrack for firelogs in my dining room. It is made of bog standard CLS studding. ie Bog standard = British or German Standard, at a time when these were the only countries with standardised engineering components; and CLS = Canadian Lumber Supplies studding is designed and exported for the framework of internal studwork walls of plasterboard throughout the world.

 

Who was it who said ‘Every day is a day at school’?!

 

Weather for May 2011: Max 27°C / 80°F, Min minus -4°C / 28°F, Actual at 09.30 on 01 June 2011: 17°C / 62°F. Rainfall: 16 mm / 0.6 inches. Another very dry month with just a couple of wet thundery days. Some very warm days but with very cool nights.

 

29 May 2011    Warm and windy again today, after a little drizzle overnight. My rain gauge still shows only ½ an inch so far this month. We strolled around the wood looking for any regrowth other than Blackthorn in the Polebarn cants, but found only Elder. Perhaps we will have to transplant some young Oaks and Ash seedlings to transplant over the Blackthorn stumps?

 

28 May 2011    Strolled down into Robin Hood’s Bay for the first time in a long time. How very pleasant it is! Enjoyed the antique furniture restorer and both of the secondhand bookshops (where we found the odd treasure for not very much).

 

27 May 2011    BC transplanted some Lavender from my spatio into pots and also added mini stakes to the mini Tomatos in the windy growbags. The Yellow Flag Iris in the beck are now in full flower and looking very good. Last night there were 6 Smooth Newts in my pond, but it was a bit cool.

 

25 May 2011    Still pretty windy but the patio chairs, outdoor carpet tiles, fleece and cold frame have now been returned to their original places. Young Tomato plants finally planted-out in the 6 peat-free growbags in front of the house, as well one with a Lidl ‘Growing Salad’ pack of young Lettuces. Growbags and veg beds all given a really good watering.

 

A washed-out Nuthatch came for the seed we scattered around the old typewriter by the pool (it’s a typing pool) but no sign of Qwerty the Bank Vole who pops out from behind the keys. Later, a lovely pair of Bullfinches appeared in the Cotoneaster on the spatio, possibly with 2 youngsters.

 

23 May 2011    Still windyI spent 3.5 hours this morning strimming half the lawns, the path around the wood (second time this year) and the Polebarn Yard, not to mention a path up through the Polebarn Cants (where the cleared Blackthorn is coppicing beautifully from the cut stumps. Pity).

 

22 May 2011    Windy, windy, windy. Or more correctly, blustery, etc, etc. 50 mph Westerly, backing South-westerly and then Southerly winds in this area, 100 mph recorded in Scotland. Very unseasonal. Lots of twigs down, but no branches nor trees.

 

21 May 2011    BC and I painted the woodstore and it does look much better for it. Then we cleared our heads, eyes and lungs by strolling on the beach at Sandsend.

 

20 May 2011    While we all prepared the cottage, SA sawed up the Sycamore from earlier. After lunch SA, BC and I cleared the first dead shrub from the island shrubbery in Groves Dyke garden. The weight of snow had split several shrubs and the hard frost had finished them off. There was a chance it might recover given time, but several months on and it is still as dead as dead as a Dodo, so out it came.

 

BC and I netted the Raspberries and Strawberries, now that the first red Strawberry has appeared.

 

19 May 2011    While BC went to Studley Royal (National Trust) with a Whalers trip, M,I and I took a train from Grosmont to PIckering, explored the town and then back by steam train as far as Goathland and walked down the Rail Trail back to Grosmont.

 

18 May 2011     SA used the polesaw to remove some broken Sycamore branches from West Woodyard Cant. BC, M&I and I went to Ryedale Folk Museum in Hutton-le-Hole and very very impressed. It has been years since I’ve been there but it has grown and improved a great deal. Prize exhibit in my eyes is the new Stone Age Round House which has been constructed full-size at the back of the site, next to a small Hazel coppice. Lots of very neat wickerwork fencing has been added nearby and I feel a Works Outing may be in order…

 

We went on to Helmsley Walled Garden for lunch (they have lost a lot of plants to the long hard winter but replanting is well underway), explored Helmsley and had a lovely meal at the Postgate in Egton Bridge on our way home.

 

17 May 2011     Took M&I to Falling Foss Tea Garden for a lovely walk and bacon butty lunch. Very little water in the foss (ie force or waterfall) and not a scrap of mud anywhere on the paths. I and I gleaned a bit of long dead Apple wood from Dyke orchard and I sawed lots of it into firelogs to mix with the peat.

 

16 May M&IC arrived bearing gifts, including 4 bags of real peat turfs from Co Armagh. Our woodburner likes these!

 

15 May 2011     Slugs and snails have deleted most of our newly planted beans (not decimated, as that would only be a 10% reduction). Environmentally-friendly, ‘harmless to pets’ slug pellets are now in use on the peas and beans bed – but what we all need are even more Song Thrushes (most of which have long ago succumbed to toxic slugs thanks to old fashioned slug pellets). What we really really need, of course, are bean-friendly slugs.

 

We stripped off the grass from another area of the veg garth and planted Broad Beans as replacements. The soil is SO dry – just hold up a newly cut sod and the soil just blows off in the breeze.

 

13 May 2011    Back from a few days in the Lake District. Looks like it hasn’t rained here but it did rain there. We walked over to, around and back from Grasmere one (dry) day and drove to Holehird Gardens one (wet) day. Holehird is a new discovery and lies between Windermere and Ambleside. Run completely by volunteers of the Lakeland Horticultural Society it is now on our list and well worth a visit – but no cafe! See www.holehirdgardens.org.uk

 

In the Lakes we heard a couple of calling Cuckoos ping-ponging across Grasmere, then another one calling one evening in Langdale. These are the first Cuckoos we have heard anywhere for several years, so much have their numbers declined.

 

In Grasmere we sat in the cafe terrace by the River Rothey and threw sandwich crumbs to the Mallards in the water – only to discover that the most successful catcher was actually a male Goosander, looking very fit and hearty and completely out of place.

 

En route across the Pennines we stopped at Barnard Castle and explored the many antique shops, bumping into David Harper of BBC antique shows. Met him again in another shop (Ingnet Antiques) where we called in to admire the Mouseman furniture on sale at huge prices. £4000 for a dresser, £85 for 2 napkin rings, etc. Lovely stuff!

 

09 May 2011    Cut all the grass after a couple of missed weeks. Still hot and dry.

 

08 May 2011    BC and I walked to Grosmont this morning as part of a sponsored walk, met by M&AD and given a lift home again by SA. After weeks and weeks of dry and sometimes hot weather, the rains arrived last night, eased a little this morning and stopped halfway through the walk. Very enjoyable.

 

07 May 2011    Drove to the Moors Centre at Danby today, passing 3 or 4 Lapwings on the moor road (but not a single Wheatear). The same trip 10 or 20 years ago would have had Lapwings standing on the grass verge every 100 yards and several pairs of Wheatear. Lovely Yorkshire fried ham and egg butty for lunch and then a little stroll. Noticed a dead Roe Deer at the side of the A171 (but our freezer is full).

 

Tacked a strip of weed-suppressing membrane along the bottom rail of the back veg garth fence to cover the awkward bit between fence and Raspberries row.

 

06 May 2011    BC and I scavenged the wood for bits of long dead wood to keep the stove going in the evenings. BC rediscovered the heap of Apple wood near the Font of Life and, once the Brambles were cleared, the upper layers were perfectly seasoned. We also found a few long, narrow Ash branches (dead) just above the Major Oak. Carried all these down to the woodyard and snapped / sawed them to keep us going.

 

04 May 2011    MD and SA are off on a ‘foreigner’, clearing some trees for someone in a neighbouring village. BC planted Parsnips and Swedes while I continued to tidy up the sitting room. The veg garth is nearly full and the sitting room is almost empty. SA popped in to say hello and we sat on the veranda with cool drinks and watched distant Herons about a mile further up the valley.

 

The Met Office sez that April was the warmest on record (more than 300 years) and also one of the driest. Wildfires have been raging in the Mourne Mountains, the Highlands, the Brecon Beacons, Lancashire and even Bracknell – which just happens to be the home of the Met Office.

 

02 May 2011    Chilly overnight but then another bright and sunny day – with a very cool Easterly wind. The Slugs and Snails are attacking the newly planted Runner Beans, so additional measures may be required. Too cool to potter in the garden but we had our lunch tucked out of the wind in the tidied-up and now habitable veranda. Much better for long distance birding than the conservatory and a 90% certain Buzzard was seen with binoculars to glide across the Esk Valley about a mile away. Nice change from Blue Tits.

 

Weather for April 2011: Max 23°C / 72°F, Min minus -1°C / 31°F, Actual at 09.30 on 01 May 2011: 15°C / 60°F. Rainfall: 10 mm / 0.4 inches. A very dry April, with

long distance birding than the conservatory and a 90% certain Buzzard was seen with binoculars to glide across the Esk Valley about a mile away. Nice change from Blue Tits.

 

Weather for April 2011: Max 23°C / 72°F, Min minus -1°C / 31°F, Actual at 09.30 on 01 May 2011: 15°C / 60°F. Rainfall: 10 mm / 0.4 inches. A very dry April, with just one wet thundery day.

 

29 Apr 2011    SA returns after holidays in the Deep Southwest and together with MD they tried to get themselves back up to normal strength again by continuing work on step improvements. It is now much easier and safer to walk around the wood, thanks to their work. BC and I sawed odd bits and bobs into firelogs and stacked them either in the wood box (this spring’s fuel) or the woodshed (next winter’s fuel). Rain early, now almost sunny again.

 

28 April 2011    I spent far too long working on the colour scheme for the new Availability Page of the new website. And even tried it out on the current site, despite the difficulties of obsolete FrontPage software which will only operate on 10-year old knackered hardware. Oh to get it all transferred to nice new WordPress on my nice new laptop…

 

27 April 2011    MD started work on the steps below the leaning Ash tree, scraping off the uneven earth tread, bringing it level with topsoil and tamping it all down. He also brought another version of the Burning Qualities of Wood rhyme:

 

The Firewood Poem

 

Beech wood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year.
Chestnut’s only good they say
If for logs it’s laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be.
But Ash new or Ash old, 
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold.

 

Birch and Fir logs burn too fast,
Blaze up bright and do not last,
It is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchtard mound,
E’en the very flames are cold,
But Ash green of Ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown.

 

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom.
Oaken logs if dry and old
Keep away the winter’s cold.
But Ash wet or Ash dry,
A king shall warm his slippers by.

 

25 April 2011 First Mon departure from Groves Dyke and then cleaning ready for the next arrivals. Hot, hot, hot. TDH. Lunch at River Gardens, which was packed to overflowing, queuing out the door and no shade anywhere. Never mind, very nice. Planted Cabbage and Shallots (with the Lady of Shallot?) and then Sparky was collected.

 

24 April 2011    And here we are again to have another go: Today we planted 6 short rows of first earlies Pentland Javelin Potatoes in the new ‘top potato’ bed near the beck – the one spud plot unfenced and open to Deer and Rabbit. We’ll see how it goes this year before digging the other 2 beds. Even after half an inch of thundery rain yesterday evening, the soil a few inches down is still bone dry after a month or more of hot dry sunny weather.

 

A Sparrowhawk soared high over the wood to proclaim its territory. Walked Sparky around the wood a couple of times and carried down a few more firelogs of split Ash to the woodshed. Noticed Red Campion, Bluebells, Ladies Smock (just one, in the beck near the stone seat) and Golden Saxifrage. Heard a Frog purring in our pond and also a report of ‘lots and lots (about 50?) of Frogs all over a tarmac lane near Aislaby during last night’s thundery downpour.

 

23 Apr 2011    Just caught up with ourselves, when a rumbling thunderstorm passed and zapped all of last week’s ‘Diary’! I must remember to press Save more frequently. Never mind, we’ll let the storm pass over and then try again tomorrow…

 

Took Sparky (only visiting for four sleeps) to Falling Foss Tea Gardens, after strimming half the lawns in the midday heatwave.

 

22 April 2011    Planted Peas and Beans in Bed A of the veg garth: Dwarf Runner Beans, Broad Beans and Peas – by which time we felt like a couple of has beans. TDH – Too Damn Hot again.

 

21 April 2011    To sunny Malton to buy a lovely new heavy duty sack truck from Yates’s, the last one and the ex-display model from outside their front door. £25 and with a payload of 200 lbs, that must be 8lbs to the £1. And bright red, to boot. Then back to sunny Pickering for a swim and lunch, before returning to sea foggy Sleights and Whitby. ‘At least 2 coats colder’ as BC put it.

 

Sparky arrived and we walked around the wood.

 

18 Apr 2011    BC and I dug a new 8 x 4 foot Potato bed at the top of the pond lawn. Since spud foliage is not eaten by Deer nor Rabbits, why confine spuds inside the fence? We shall see…

 

Hottest day of the year so far, but we were delighted to welcome F&SL and 2 daughters and 4 grandchildren for some Unique Walking Sticks and a quick look around Groves Dyke. Their first visit for 25 years since they used to stay here. They approved of the changes and loved the Gnomeman furniture. Not to mention the Twigwam.

 

17 April 2011    Hot, dry and sunny. BC and I walked around the wood and noted that this year it is ‘Oak before Ash, in for a splash’, with the Major Oak now opening its leaves long before the big leaning Ash. No Tadpoles in the pond, possibly that overnight frost did for them a few nights ago. Lots of Dogs Mercury in Pole Barn Cants, also Bugle at the top of the wood, Dog Violets, Lesser Celandine, Speedwell. Also a very toxic bonfire, doubly unwelcome at a time of such high fire risk. The young Elm tree in the hedge is now covered in seeds, but still unripe.

 

16 April 2011    BC at Harrogate Spring Flower Show, while I strimmed half the grass – the first cut of the year.

 

15 Apr 2011    SA and MD split the long Beech logs in the polebarn while we dug Plots A, B and D and planted 3 rows of Estima 2nd early Potatoes in D. Also Garlic Sturion, Red Onions and Shallots in B, covered by a fleece to keep the birds off.

 

BC and I then went to listen to Jeremy Hardy at Whitby Spa, his December visit postponed until tonight by all the snow. Brilliant.

 

13 Apr 2011    SA and MD dismantled the heavy steel girders of the gibbet (ie cider press) and stacked them neatly for collection. They also cleaned out the flume in the beck and got it flowing again, which adds lovely sound and movement to the whole garden. BC and I went to Pickering for a swim and lunch.

 

12 Apr 2011    T&C left and I escorted them over the moor to Rosedale, still searching for any more nice moorland birds. Had a superb lunch at the Blacksmith’s Arms in Hartoft, where C and I found the Pheasant sausages absolutely delicious. T had the Gammon steak with Duck egg and declared it excellent.

 

On my way back home I had a very brief but exciting view of a female Merlin powering low over the A169 and off across the moor. Sorry about that, T&C!

 

11 Apr 2011     Pottered around the wood this afternoon before going to The Board at Lealholm for a lovely meal. Coming back ‘the pretty way’, we were lucky enough to see a Short-eared Owl quartering the moor edge.

 

10 Apr 2011    With T&C to Falling Foss Tea Garden for an idyllic bacon butty beside the waterfall. Then a tour of the moors and a sighting of Ring Ouzel, Wheatear, Lapwing, Red Grouse and a sounding of Golden Plover. The hot sunny weather continues.

 

09 Apr 2011     To Bempton Cliff RSPB Reserve just south of Filey for wonderful, heart-lifting sights and sounds of tens of thousands of seabirds already nesting on the cliff ledges. Gannets, Guillemots, Razor Bills and Puffins, all present and correct – and VERY impressive.

 

08 Apr 2011    SA and MD continued tightening Elephants at the top of the wood while I pottered near the house. C and EEJ arrived and promptly noticed a pair of Redstart behind my woodyard. How come I hadn’t seen them?! Good to see T&C again, and find out what other birds are in my patch.

 

06 Apr 2011    We helped SA and MD tighten the top strand of the top fence, where the pony had blundered over. After doing all the fencing for 30 years with a traditional Victorian Monkey Tightener, MD has now produced a brand new, high tech, dead simple Elephant Tightener. Clever things these Elephants. It is a damn sight easier to use, this new contraption, without the 2 pairs of interlocking paws and the cranking lever with double hooks to crank its way along the chain, which gave the Monkey Tightener its name. This simple lever, with a single hinged / gripper jaw and a curved post grab, is MUCH better.

 

So if you see any slack Monkeys about, just look for the super tight Elephants instead.

 

04 Apr 2011    Now that the winter’s fuel is almost gone and we are relying on the last bits of seasoned Sycamore, long dead Holly, green Ash and expensive bought-in Ash, here is a traditional rhyme to help us all remember the burning qualities of some common species:

 

Logs
Logs to burn, logs to burn
Logs to save the coal a turn.
Oak logs will warm you well
If they’re old and dry;
Larch logs of pinewoods smell,
But the sparks will fly.
Beech logs for the Christmas time,
Yew logs heat well:
Scotch logs it is a crime
For anyone to sell.
Birch logs will burn too fast,
Chestnut scarce at all;
Hawthorn logs are good to last
If you cut them in the fall.
Holly logs will burn like wax,
You should burn them green:
Elm logs like smouldering flax,
No flame to be seen.
Pear logs and Apple logs,
They will scent your room:
Cherry logs across the dogs
Smell like flowers in bloom.
But Ash logs all smooth and grey,
Burn them green or old;
Buy up all that come your way,
They’re worth their weight in gold.

 

Certainly, Holly logs are very reluctant to burn and give out very little heat – but then I should have remembered the rhyme and burned them green, like the superb Ash.

 

03 April 2011    Falling Foss Tea Gardens above Littlebeck are now open daily until 31st Oct and we enjoyed a lovely al fresco lunch there (I recommend the bacon butty). Their yurt didn’t survive the worst winter for 100 years, but it has been replaced with a wooden gazebo with lovely views of the little beck.

 

Afterwards we racked 4 demijohns of wine and bottled one of Elderberry. Tastes promising…

 

01 April 2011    Very windy overnight with SW up to 75 mph. SA discovered a pony in the wood, presumably having been whizzed-up by the gales it broke through the top fence. With assistance from M&AD, it was returned to its rightful location and the fence temporarily repaired. Well done to all 4 of them!

 

BC and I returned late today, after a lovely few days in Edinburgh. It was a bit windy on the bridge of the Royal Yacht, but cucumber sandwiches are not even on the Afternoon Tea menu on board. Never mind, the tour was fascinating and the scones delicious. We also looked at the Botanic Garden (excellent), Cramond Harbour Bistro (superb), the National Museum of Modern Art (‘Landform’ is a great achievement, Tracy Emin’s efforts are not), etc. Popped into Alnwick Garden on the way home and had a lovely lunch in their tremendous Tree House – high recommended.

 

Weather for March 2011: Max 18°C / 64°F, Min minus -5°C / 22°F, Actual at 09.30 on 01 Apr 2011: 15°C / 60°F. Rainfall: 05 mm / 0.2 inches. The driest March for many years.

 

30 March 2011    SA cut Beech poles and stacked the firelogs on the South wall of the polebarn. Not to mention splitting Beech drums and stacking them there, too.

 

26 March 2011    We took some boxes of Whitby Guidebook to the Moors Centre at Danby, but it is at least a coat cooler up there. Saw my 1st Curlew of the year up on Oakley Walls.

 

25 March 2011    SA continued sawing up the Beech poles by the polebarn and patrolled the wood with snips, while BC tidied-up the veg patch and then came to help me with the cottage changeover. Much cooler today and overcast, but still dry.

 

24 March 2011    Whitby and District Tourism Association took delivery of 8 pallets of Whitby Guidebook 2011 this morning – about 2 to 3 tons to store, stack and distribute around the area. Warm and sunny.

 

23 March 2011    SA sawing Beech poles, BC and I dug the turf off some more of the new Strawberry bed. Hot.

 

My car says it is plus 14 degrees C today, which is a very welcome 28 degrees hotter than a couple of months ago when my max and min thermometer recorded minus 14 degrees C!

 

21 March 2011    BC did the cottage changeover while I was at a meeting, then we had our 1st outdoor lunch in the sun at the River Gardens in Sleights. Summer!

 

20 March 2011    Less sunny today, but no overnight frost for a change. We dug over the grass strip between the concrete path and the Raspberry canes, ready to become the new Strawberry bed (thus freeing up one of the four 8 x 4 foot veg plots for more veg). The sods we lifted were built into an earth wall to expand the compost corner.

 

After lunch we cleared out the assorted bits and bobs from my conservatory (still in Survival Mode from the worst winter in 100 years). By 3 O’clocks we were able to sit there with the door open and see and hear all the wildlife we have been missing all winter. A pair of Bullfinches worked their way through the edge of Polebarn Cant nearest the Willow Arch, a Jay and a Tawny Owl called from deep in the wood, a pair of Long Tailed Tit hung on the fat ball feeder and the invasion of Pheasants continued. The newly added guards around the young fruit bushes may be in time for most of them, but the Pheasant Plague has already stripped the buds from the newest Blackcurrant bush.

 

19 March 2011    We walked from Grosmont bridge (newly reopened after a huge car transporter tried to demolish it and make a fast getaway (up Fair Head hill!) – not to mention the other 2 later cases of major vehicle damage (isn’t Sat Nav wonderful?) – to a lovely lunch at the Postgate pub in Egton Bridge, and back. Lovely sunny day with First Lesser Celandine in flower en route.

 

Took compost from the heap and the bin, as well as last years (unsuccessful) Strawberry tub, and scattered it over the 3 newly dug veg beds. Tidied-up Pond Patio and made everything look cared for again.

 

18 Mar 2011    SA burned the final bonfire, down in Groves Dyke orchard. We joined-in after lunch and de-brambled the orchard and the bank on the main drive. Lovely sunny day, with lots of walkers strolling along the main drive. We are still avoiding the many Flagholes in the orchard – most people have flagpoles, but we still have excavations made by my last dog, Flag.

 

SA polled the multi-stemmed Hawthorn at the top of his now completed Blackthorn Heading, and noticed the First Primroses in flower along the top boundary of Dyke side and near the beck.  The ‘wild’ daffs are now in full flower and the ‘tame’ ones in the triangle in Dyke lawn are just beginning to flower. Later, BC saw 2 Herons fly upstream and then land in the trees above the weir.

 

16 Mar 2011    SA re-lit the bonfire above Polebarn Cant and added the lop and top from the final section of his Blackthorn Heading. We joined in after lunch and now the tree felling for this winter is complete.

 

14 Mar 2011    Hard frost overnight and a thin layer of ice over my pond, including the Frogspawn. Bright and sunny later. BC dug over 3 of the veg plots and planted some veg seeds in pots and trays, as well as a Lidl Blackcurrant (to replace the Blueberry which didn’t survive).

 

11 Mar 2011    SA completed his Heading through the Blackthorn. He has cut the Crab Apple into cordwood and laid it on top of the 1st Blackthorn cord. The 2nd Blackthorn cord is now almost full.

 

BC and I returned from a few days in Ambleside (we highly recommend Springwell Cottage – see Lakelovers.com), where we had 3 dry days for walking (Stockghyll, Loughrigg, Coffin Road) with not a puddle in sight, 1 wet day for shopping and 1 showery day for birding at Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve. Excellent!

 

In the past week, we were told that the Frogs were still very busy in my pond even though there was hail on 09th. The 08th and 09th were very windy with reused carpet tiles blown from my (slippery) patio up onto the back lawn, and a friend’s garden fence blown down.

 

S and B in Groves Dyke saw Bullfinch, Long tailed Tit and a Nuthatch.

 

04 Mar 2011    Bright, sunny and warm. SA continued his Northward Heading through the Blackthorn and we were all delighted to be joined by M&AD and JMc for lunch. Delicious!

 

Bright sunny and warm, with no coats for the first time this year. The Frogs in my pond are still busy mating and spawning.

 

03 Mar 2011    Fewer Frogs in my pond, but still very busy.

 

02 Mar 2011    Splitting Ash drums (v difficult) so we moved uphill and split the Cherry drums (easier) instead.

 

01 Mar 2011    A lovely bright warm and sunny day, after a nearly freezing night. Frog numbers in my pond have risen again, with 63 now purring away merrily, and 18 distinct dollops of spawn (suggesting 18 females?). This very welcome invasion has been going on for nearly a week now and one can only admire their stamina! Perhaps they arrive in shifts?

 

Weather for February 2011: Max 12°C / 54°F, Min minus -3°C / 26°F, Actual at 09.30 on 01 Feb 2011: 4°C / 38°F. Rainfall: 44 mm / 1.75 inches.

 

27 Feb 2011    Frog numbers in my pond continue to rise, with about 50 still purring away night and day and lots of frogspawn.

 

We had a lovely walk through Mulgrave Woods at Sandsend, ending up with a nice paddle (chilly!) when we found we couldn’t cross the final ford dryshod. Still, nothing like a nice hot bowl of soup in the cafe near the entrance to get us warmed up again. Everywhere in the village was busy, car parks almost full and lots of people on the beach enjoying the sunny weather.

 

25 Feb 2011    While we went swimming in Pickering (the pool there keeps Normal Time throughout the school year, our local pool mucks about with the regular sessions during the school holidays), SA carried on with the new Heading through the Blackthorn towards the NE corner.

 

23 Feb 2011    A grey and mizzly day, but with a few Frogs in my pond for the first time this year. SA continued to clear a narrow path up through the Blackthorn spinny (‘spiney’) above Crab Apple Cant, while BC and I carried Blackthorn poles to the temporary cord and lop and top to the slightly soggy but singed bonfire. SA had kept ‘dead but on the tree’ branches to one side and we piled these on the upbreeze side of the soggy bonfire heap.

 

After lunch, we set fire to the dry mini heap, which soon ignited the main bonfire. SA continued to advance the Heading (another 4 yards) and then we all kept the bonfire burning. I wonder if MD would rather be here than there? The First Ramsoms (Wild Garlic) are now pushing up green leaves in Polebarn Cant. Coming down for a late 3 O’clocks, we discovered a dozen or more Frogs in my pond, all purring away nicely and with the First Frogspawn of the year. Spring..?

 

22 Feb 2011     Half awake this morning, a heard a single Blackbird singing before the sun was up. The First Dawn Solo of the year!

 

Later in the day, 2 Robins hopped about under the Spatio feeder, while a pair (yes, a paired-up pair) of Long Tailed Tits visited the feeder in between visits from a smaller than before Long Tail flock.

 

21 Feb 2011     First Daffodil in flower in Dyke Orchard, by the side of the drive. Lots of Crocus in flower, with lots of Hazel catkins on lots of trees. A rainy day, so BC and I sawed up some of the Copper Beech poles leaning against