News Blog 2002

Maximum and Minimum temperatures for December 2002 as measured at Groves Dyke were:       Max: 52 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degrees Centigrade) and Min: 24 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 Centigrade). Current temperature  40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 Centigrade). A mild and wet month with a 3-day cold spell just before Christmas.

31/12/02    Tuesday. The constant rain eased for an hour this morning and the sun shone weakly. A male Sparrowhawk flew onto a sunny fence post by the woodyard, opened his bedraggled wings and basked in an effort to dry out and warm up. After 10 minutes he found himself in the shadow of the trees, so flew to the next post to continue his recovery in the sun. Yet another short hop was required later and after half an hour he felt sufficiently revived to go and try hunting again. Poor sodden sod.

30/12/02    Time for this computer to go and have it’s annual overhaul, so watch this space…

29/12/02    Sunday. A bright, sunny, mild morning followed by 24 hours of heavy rain. Pity about the gap under the new and incomplete Everest Double Glazing Ltd window in the dining room at Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage – good thing I packed the gap with a tea towel and weighed it down with fossils (Its all the rage you know. Soon everyone will be doing it…). But I’m not sure that the family spending New Year week at Groves Dyke are all that impressed with this new fashion.

28/12/02    Saturday. A chance to get into Groves Dyke and give it a serious cleaning to get rid of Everest Double Glazing Ltd’s brick dust on top of the wardrobes, under chests of drawers, etc before the next tenants arrive at 3pm today for New Year week. They had been warned that all was not well, but they still have no idea what they missed last week!

26/12/02    Thursday. Boxing Day bird count from the conservatory at Groves Bank. Mild, Force 3 SW, drizzle. 10.30 – 10.45. Long Tailed Tit 10, Chaffinch 5, Blue Tit 3, Great Tit 3, Marsh Tit 2, Blackbird 1, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Robin 1. Bank Vole 1.

25/12/02    Wednesday. Christmas Day. Not at all Christmassy weather. Very mild (52 degrees Fahrenheit), grey and a bit of mizzle (mist & drizzle). The tenants in Groves Dyke this week have had an unexpected Christmas present of a free holiday, for which I am sure Everest Double Glazing Ltd will wish to reimburse me in due course…

21/12/02    Saturday. Back from a few days in the Lakes to discover – guess what – that Everest Double Glazing Ltd STILL haven’t finished the seven replacement windows in Groves Dyke! AND they intended to return on Monday 23rd Dec!! AND there is a family booked-in for Christmas week!!! Not even a furious phone call from my hotel in Cumbria to Everest in Leeds did the trick!!!! AND they were still clearing out stacks of timber, builder’s rubble, etc from the house 1 HOUR before the tenants were due to arrive!!!!! And then there were the curtains to hang and the beds to make and all the usual tidying up after 13 man-days of builders in the house!!!!!!

Now you may think that a double glazing company that 1) arrives late, 2) underestimates the job, 3) takes three times longer than planned, 4) sends a bill for the full amount before the work is completed, 5) sends fitters who appear never to have done that kind of window before, 6) changes the agreed work days after I had gone on holiday, 7) transfers the fitters to ‘a more urgent job’, 8) ignores the agreed deadline (3 weeks after they started the ‘4 day job’), 9) sends a Surveyor (at my insistence) to check the work (which may have to be re-done) AND THEN 10) leaves the job incomplete for 2 weeks over Christmas and New Year (both weeks with families in residence for their ‘holidays’) – is one which justifies the slogan: ‘Fit the best, fit Everest’ – but I couldn’t possibly comment.

13/12/02    Friday. Everest are STILL fitting the double glazing in Groves Dyke and SHOULD be finishing today – but then that was what they said LAST week…

But let’s assume they are right this time: All the windows are now double glazed, so the house is fully winterised, and they all open and close easily (for the first time ever). The four front windows have lower sills than before and large, picture windows to maximise the magnificent views of the Esk Valley. The rooms are a lot lighter and brighter as a result and there are no draughts anymore.

The cold easterly wind has dropped and it remains dry and bright.

10/12/02    Tuesday. Still no frost nor snow, just a bitterly cold East wind and temperatures hovering just above freezing. The feeding station has got a bit busier today, with a 15 minute morning watch producing: Long Tailed Tit 6, Chaffinch 4, Blue Tit 3, Great Tit 3, Marsh Tit 2, Blackbird 2, Dunnock 2, Coal Tit 1 and Robin 1. Two Bank Voles scuttled about under the feeders. A Bullfinch and several Blackbirds continue to feed on the Hawthorns behind the woodyard, while a Pheasant and a Rabbit fed at ground level.

Flag helped (?) me stack a couple of loads of fresh Ash logs by the caravan. Being Ash, they will burn well even when green, but they will burn even better with a year’s seasoning.

8/12/02    Sunday. Four Jays went through the woodyard like a team of detectives, minutely checking the new improved woodshed, the chopping block, the cordword stack and Flag’s recent excavations, then flew off to continue their investigations elsewhere. A Heron perched briefly at the very top of the leaning Ash tree, perhaps surveying the crime scene – or maybe just the pond?

My first sighting of a Gritter this winter, flashing its way up the main road through the village. Their arrival in this part of the world usually foretells a frost or sometimes even snow.

7/12/02    Saturday. Trust Everest to arrive just in time for the first winter weather! By Saturday evening they were almost half-way, with the 4 big windows at the front of the house still to do… Colder, with wintry showers and a bit of wind chill.

Alan & I made the woodshed roof properly waterproof, so that splitting and sawing firewood can continue no matter what the weather does. Pruned the big white (even though they promised it would be dark purple) Buddleia on the front lawn and scraped / brushed the moss off the front path.

3/12/02    Tuesday. Everest Ltd have arrived today to start work on double glazing all of Groves Dyke and they hope to complete the entire house by the weekend.

2/12/02    Monday. The new window in the Stickery is complete and has converted the old garage from a windowless dungeon to a pleasant workshop.

1/12/02    Sunday. A Great Northern Diver in winter plumage was swimming just beyond the breakers at Sandsend this morning and a Newt was swimming in the dog dish by the Stickery this afternoon. I set it on the edge of the dish and it strolled off up Woodlands Drive for about 30 meters before finding a suitable crevice in the stone wall (the Newt, not the GND).

Maximum and Minimum temperatures for November 2002 as measured at Groves Dyke were:       58 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Centigrade) and 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 Centigrade). Current temperature  44 degrees Fahrenheit (7 Centigrade). A mild month with just a couple of frosty mornings.

29/11/02    The Lake District was more enjoyable than I thought it might be, with lots of happy memories in lots of special places.


Where the tears of her sky fill the lakes of our love

And the eyes of my lodge see the pikes of our past.

22/11/02    After 36 hours of continuous rain, another dry, mild morning. The Roe Deer are back in the wood and have been leading my poor dog astray – once for an hour and once for half an hour. This morning it was a Tree Rat (Grey Squirrel) on the ground which led him a few yards at very high speed before running up the big leaning Ash tree. Flag was about 8 feet up before he realised he couldn’t climb trees, and came slithering back down again!

There are now 46 steps cut in the steepest parts of the path up the wood. Still a few more required here and there, but I don’t want to overdo it. If it ever gets to 199 steps I’ll have to build an abbey at the top…

18/11/02    The two Nuthatches and the two Marsh Tits appeared on cue for T and C to admire, not to mention the Kestrel, the Sparrowhawk and the Bank Vole. A Green Woodpecker yaffled from up in the wood, but remained hidden in the wings.

16/11/02    Another very pleasant, mild, dry and sunny autumn day – ideal for cutting a few more steps in the wood. Very odd weather this week! Put up the scaffolding inside the Stickery so that I can spend the next few weeks painting wood preservative onto the roof timbers. Relax, no bats. I checked.

15/11/02    Another very pleasant, mild, dry and sunny autumn day, but the ground is sodden underfoot after yesterday’s rain. More steps required to get around the woodland path without any downhill skiing.

14/11/02    Cold, wet and windy some of the day and most of the night.

13/11/02    A very pleasant, mild, dry and sunny autumn day. At dusk two Roe Deer stood in the middle of Woodlands Drive, wondering which way to go, then strolled casually into the paddock and off into the wood. Good thing the Shrewhound wasn’t with me that time!

10/11/02    A bright and sunny day with the most dramatic big black clouds  threatening a downpour at any moment, but never delivering. Still mild and pleasant when C & G and I strolled along the beach. As we drove back towards Sleights from the new roundabout, our view was dominated by a massive black cloud forming a lid across the Esk Valley, firmly anchored on Sleights Moor at one side and Aislaby Moor on t’other. The whole scene was floodlit from beneath this lid by the low sun shining down the whole length of Littlebeck, backlighting Sleights in general and the Esk Hall avenue of Lime trees in particular. Powerful stuff!

8/11/02    Thanks to KH, the Shakespearian mystery (see 2/22/02) has now been solved. The quotation is by Polixenes:

‘Yet Nature is made better by no mean

But Nature takes that mean; so over that art

Which you say adds to Nature, is an art

That Nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry

A gentler scion to the wildest stock,

And make conceive a bark of baser kind

By bud of nobler race. This is an art

Which does mend Nature – change it rather; but

The art itself is nature.’

(Shakespeare’s ‘The Winter’s Tale’ Chapter 4).

Now to bury a copy under the same Cherry tree, together with an explanation and a few other contemporary items…

7/11/02    The mild, dry, sunny weather continues but even I can remember when we used to have seasons that came in the right order. The big leaning Ash is now stripped of its leaves but less exposed trees are still a riot of browns, yellows, reds and golds. Top marks must go to the avenue of Beech trees on Woodlands Drive which are putting on a magnificent show this year. The River Esk is still high from last Saturday night’s rain and the thick Salmon are leaping up the Salmon Leap weir just above Sleights Bridge at the rate of one every few minutes (the bright Salmon use the fish pass at one end of the weir, but it is difficult to see from above).

4/11/02    I have taken to leaving the spade in the wood so that I pick it up easily and cut out 2 or 3 more steps on my pre-breakfast dog walk. (It must be all this nice weather). The autumn gold in the wood and throughout the whole dale is quite spectacular and almost as impressive as my new curtains.

A bird count at the feeding station (mine, too) produced: 0900-0915. 4/8 cloud, bright, sunny, mild, dry and calm. Blackbird 5, Blue Tit 4, Chaffinch 3, Great Tit 2, Robin 2, Dunnock 2, Grey Wagtail 1 (on the patio & pond really), Coal Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1, Wren 1. The Blackbirds were mainly on the berries around the woodyard but included the lawn below the feeders as well. A Bank Vole was also below the feeders while an adult Rabbit, the first seen since the latest round of myxie, grazed around the woodshed. One Magpie and 1 Wood Pigeon on the big Ash tree completed my breakfast cabaret.

3/11/02    Another lovely day after heavy overnight rain. Now that the river is higher the fish are jumping up the Salmon Leap weir, just below Woodlands Drive. Took Flag on the beach where he behaved almost perfectly – apart from ‘borrowing’ a tennis ball from a passing Labrador but was persuaded to return it without too much trouble. Walked him to Upgang, then all the way back to Sandsend and was delighted to discover that the beach hut cafe was still open. So we sat outside, in shirt sleeves (me, not Flag) and had lunch before walking back to Raithwaite Beck. Isn’t Global Warming wonderful? If it wasn’t for the floods, droughts and storms…

2/11/02    A beautiful mild, dry day with heavy rain forecast for later. After sweeping up leaves and clearing drains, we continued to cut steps in the grassy path up into the wood and fit tannalised timber risers. Only the steep section at the base of the big Ash tree still to do and then the daily winter walk will be less of a slippery slide.

Later we spent some time splitting logs from the woodshed into firelogs, having reached the big bits of the old Groves Dyke Cherry tree which split in last winter’s gales. As one bit of stem opened-up under the flying wedge (splitting axe) Alan spotted a small tube within the timber. He recognised it as a message and we quickly extracted the plastic ampoule still intact and removed the message. Hand written in biro on a scrap of paper 4 inches by 3 inches was:

‘This garden was made entirely from grafting, budding & cutting mostly from wild stocks of the hedgerow 1946 to 195(8?). E.W. Maynard, gardener at Woodlands.

You see, sweet maid we marry, and make consiere [?] a bark of baser kind, by bud of nobler birth – The Bard’

Wow! It is good fun to bury a time capsule, but this was even more exciting! The Shakespearian quotation I know nothing about (please email your suggestions) but it confirms that Groves Dyke was the Gardener’s house and Groves Bank was the Forester’s – we always knew that that was who they were built for, but not which was which. Which means that Anthea and I DID live in the ‘Forester’s Lodge’ after all (so we needn’t have yearned after the house of the same name in Little Fryup Dale)!

Maximum and Minimum temperatures for October 2002 as measured at Groves Dyke were:       71 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Centigrade) and 26 degrees Fahrenheit (-3 Centigrade). Current temperature  50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 Centigrade).

31/10/02        Crispy grass on the lawns this morning after an overnight frost. Bright, dry and sunny with hardly a green tree left in the valley. The Oaks especially are still almost fully clothed in autumn gold.

NB: Some visitors to the website have found it ‘Unavailable’ recently. I don’t know why (presumably the Server has been having problems) but it IS still here and things should return to normal soon… hopefully!

28/10/02        Back to normal autumn weather today – mild, dry, calm and overcast. Two white rumps flitted from twig to twig in the woodyard, the rest of this pair of Bullfinches being almost invisible in such a dull light.

27/10/02        Yesterday was a lovely bright, dry, sunny day – ideal for Alan and me to put the new duckboard in position on the woodland path, for finishing the bench seat at the viewpoint at the top of the wood, for cutting new steps on the steepest section of path below the leaning Ash and for cleaning out all the drains, ditches, pipes and gutters in anticipation of Stormy Sunday.

There was a lot of fuss on the radio this morning about violent storms in Wales and England but it was just a bit wet and windy here, so I decided to take Flag on the beach at Sandsend. But it was a different world once we left the shelter of the valley, with a full scale sand storm on the beach itself. Flag and I had well over a mile of beach to ourselves but after 10 minutes of being severely sand-blasted we abandoned the attempt and followed everybody else’s example and went home to recover!

25/10/02        A few days in Jersey were very pleasant, especially my pilgrimage to Jersey Zoo (founded by Gerald Durrell, my childhood hero) and a meeting there with CJ Snail (who Anthea and I adopted many years ago). For the full story (and a photo of CJ in glorious technicolour), please click on Other, then Links, then Countryside Jobs Service, then Other, then CJ Snail.

It has been a bit cooler back here in Sleights, with a couple of overnight frosts – but only just. The wind has brought down most of the apples in the orchard and the current visitors are enjoying the windfalls! Yesterday there were 3 little Toads in the dog dish by the Stickery and today there was just one. And a Newt.

Flag’s photo has been added to the Photo page, together with several other flags…

17/10/02       This morning’s peek out through the curtains revealed a Jay kindly digging up the front lawn and planting acorns. Not really part of the original woodland management plan, but never mind, it was very good of it to volunteer. The rain has stopped, the wind has dropped and the sun is out, so all in all it is a very pleasant autumnal day. The flume is in full flow for the first time in weeks and there are lots of fungi appearing on the damp ground (but none of the few that I can name). Looking around the wood and the dale beyond there are still more green trees than brown, but only just.

16/10/02        The morning after the squally night before, with lots of leaves, twigs and patio chairs strewn on the ground. The first few Redwing of the winter are in the wood, feeding on the haws (Hawthorn berries) after their flight across the North Sea from Scandinavia. Temperature still in the low 50s, but it feels colder in the strong wind.

13/10/02        The minimum thermometer had dropped to near freezing one night but was back up to the mid-fifties most days. A Grey Wagtail visited the pond briefly. Big seas on the beach this morning, with dollops of foam blowing across the sand. No trouble finding a parking space, though. A early morning dog-walker was walking through Sleights station this morning when he noticed a Badger trotting along the platform. They nodded briefly to each other and carried on regardless, like typical railway users. Yesterday and today’s rain is probably the first proper rain we have had here for well over a month.

11/10/02          The Shrewhound has been in operation again, running around frantically in the wood while a Roe doe picked its way carefully to somewhere less disturbed. A stock-taking of firewood as winter approaches has the woodshed 5/6 full of fire logs and 1 cord still to cut up into firelogs. It might be enough, but there are an awful lot of berries on the trees…

9/10/02             The couple staying at Groves Dyke this week were lucky enough to watch an Otter playing on the shore within Whitby harbour. Otters were re-introduced to the River Esk about 1995 and have bred successfully since then. They have been seen from Danby all the way down to the harbour, so ‘Well done Otters’ and ‘Well done J & D!’

8/10/02            OK, I agree – it IS time to light the wood burning stove for the first time this autumn! The wonderful Indian Summer has ended rather suddenly. Its still dry and still no frost, but about 10 degrees cooler than it was. Now the trees are really changing colour! Just across the valley the magnificent avenue of Limes leading to Esk Hall has lost its uniform dark green and become multi-coloured. All the Wild Cherry trees in Groves Coppice are nearly naked this morning and standing forlornly on their bright yellow bath mats of fallen leaves.

6/10/02           Exceptional spring tides at the moment (yes I know its autumn, but spring tides are the ones with the highest highs and the lowest lows, no matter what time of year). This morning the low tide was so low that the beach at Sandsend seemed nearly as wide as it was long! It was certainly a very long walk out to the tideline. Still very busy, with lots of cars and people – and more dogs, now that the ‘No Dog’ areas have ended for the winter.

Bits of Whitby are on flood alert for the next few days as the very high tides may threaten some buildings, but at least the river level is low, the onshore winds are light and the atmospheric pressure over the North Sea is fairly high. Sooner or later, all these factors will be negative and the present Marina car park will be flooded, including all the luxury apartments they are proposing to build there…

3/10/02         The warm, dry, sunny weather continues, with yesterday’s maximum already 71 degrees Fahrenheit! I would just like to say that the weather here is always like this in October – but it wouldn’t be true, so I won’t. Still not much sign of autumn colour, except for the large bunches of red and yellow berries on Whitebeams, Hawthorns and Hollies. One or two Horse Chestnuts are just beginning to show a few yellow leaves, but real change will require a frosty night and there is still no sign of that…

1/10/02         Yet another warm, dry, sunny day with a Chiffchaff singing (?) loudly in the wood. My breakfast coffee in the conservatory was interrupted by a male Sparrowhawk which perched briefly on the patio raftings to recover, having narrowly missed his own breakfast at the feeding station just outside.

Maximum and Minimum temperatures for September as measured at Groves Dyke were:       72 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Centigrade) and 38 degrees Fahrenheit (4 Centigrade).

30/9/02        A peek out through the curtains is always a good idea first thing every morning. Today I found a young Heron crouched on the side of the pond, hoping to catch his breakfast (in vain).

29/9/02        Trimmed the Box hedge yesterday for the first time in a decade – it  now has a long back and short sides. Another lovely warm, dry, sunny day for gardening.

Lots of birds in the wood and garden today, including: Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Chaffinch, Coal Tits, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Great Tits, Jackdaw, Jay, Magpie, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch, Robin, Tawny Owl, Wood Pigeon and a Wren. Not to mention a Kestrel being mobbed by a Carrion Crow. Or the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly. Or the big green / yellow Dragonfly. Or even the Bank Vole.

25/9/02       A male Great Spotted Woodpecker appeared at the feeding station and tried to break through the squirrel defences to eat the block of dripping within, but the metal was too much for him. He moved over to the new globe of peanuts but was again defeated by by the squirrel guard, so he tried hovering at the Niger seed feeder. Not being a Hummingbird he failed and flopped onto the nearest post – which just happened to have the basket of lard on it, so he did find something to eat after all. Men! Shortly afterwards a Grey Wagtail landed by the pond, worked its way across the patio to the beck and sat on the flume for a few minutes.

Later KH noticed a brightly coloured something on the Buddleia bush outside the CJS office window. Closer examination and a reference book identified it as a Garden Tiger moth, not normally seen in daytime. It’s caterpillar is the well known ‘Woolly Bear’.

24/9/02      The temperature dropped to a mere 38 degrees F last night (just 2 degrees cooler than this month’s minimum) but it actually feels cooler and I needed a long-sleeved shirt for the first time in months. Still no sign of autumn colour on the trees. A Treecreeper spiralled its way up the electricity pole in the woodyard, then flew down to the base of the Hazel tree by the beck and started up again, in its characteristic way.

22/9/02     It is hard to believe that a year has passed without my beloved wife Anthea. We should know by now that death is a fact of life, and that each and every life is a journey from random birth to certain death. We should know that each and every life hangs by a single strand of spider silk and can be cut at any moment by oh so many timely and untimely causes. Even when we do know and do accept all these things, they will ease our sadness by just a little.

21/9/02     Half a dozen Long Tailed Tits descended on the feeding station to sample the lard, the very first visit of Long Tails this autumn and, if previous winters are anything to go by, something that will become a daily event. Two Nuthatches carried sunflower hearts down to the trellis, jammed them into the cracks and pecked them to bits. Flag spent an enjoyable afternoon digging up the woodyard in his pursuit of the mythical ‘giant woodmouse’ – which, to his surprise, he eventually caught (and I had to dispatch). It turned out to be a badly injured Common Shrew. Stag Hound indeed!

20/9/02   Taking a mid-morning break (from the CJS printing day) in the conservatory, a Heron landed on the lawn by the beck, paused briefly, saw us and flew away. Never mind, another species for the Bird List! Earlier this morning a Roe Deer doe almost met me face to face at the top of the wood. The sight of me must have been too much for it and it dashed off into the wood, with Flag in warm pursuit.

19/9/02   Many thanks to KH for re-designing and improving this website, unveiled today.

18/9/02   More autumn activity in evidence as a pair of Jays shuttle back and forth from the Major Oak to numerous hidey-holes suitable for acorns. The super crop of plums from Groves Dyke orchard (enjoyed by several guests over several weeks) has now ended, but there are lots of apples for weeks to come…

15/9/02   Holly berries in the wood are turning red, the Whitebeam berries are now orange and the woodland floor below the Fourth Hazel Coup is scattered with opened hazelnuts. Brambles on my own menu last night and the grow-your-own Teasel heads below the bird table have almost finished flowering and are beginning to fill with seed. There are fewer birds at the feeding station now, a 15-minute count this morning producing just 5 Great Tit, 3 Chaffinch, 2 Blue Tit, 2 Coal Tit, 1 Dunnock, 1 Marsh Tit, 1 Nuthatch – and a Bank Vole.

11/9/02   Back from a few days in Northumberland. The new water gardens at Alnwick Castle are wonderful and well worth a visit. A day at Lindisfarne National Nature Reserve produced 1,000 Brent, some duck and lots of waders. An ideal day to set up the telescope, sit on a rock and spend an afternoon letting the flood tide bring the birds up close – and I got a sun tan as well!

7/9/02     ‘Blanket Weed’ is a green algae which grows in ponds and can be a real problem. I removed quite a bit from the pond at Groves Bank and left it on the side to drain. Even next day there was a Water Boatman staggering across the flagstones in the wrong direction, until I rescued it. More Blanket weed in the lowest pond of the beck, now also draining. Barley straw has been added to the pond to inhibit any further algal growth.

4/9/02     The last few dry, sunny days have brought the Thistle heads on well and the tinkling call of the Goldfinch can be heard in the woodland clearings. Still only in ones and twos but hopefully the flock will grow to the 50 or 60 birds sometimes seen in previous autumns. Today may be the last chance to strim the path around the wood while the ground is really dry… [Later: Done!].

31/8/02   Alan and I trimmed all the hedges this afternoon, then went into the wood to remove the last of the Hazel poles cut and stacked loosely when we singled the Second Coppice this spring. Now the two big criss-cross stacks have completely gone, removed piece by piece to the woodyard. Looking back through this diary I see that the second stack has been in transit since 10/7/02 – so that means that I have carried down 2 poles / day, every day for 52 days – which dosn’t sound very much after all! Anyway, the two loose stacks contained enough wood to produce one Cord – a tight stack of logs up to 8 inches diameter, measuring 4 feet by 4 feet by 8 feet (128 cubic feet, nominal) plus lots of firelogs each 18 inches long and now in the woodshed. In fact, I cheat on the ancient and traditional measure of the Cord, cutting each log to 4 feet 6 inches so that it will eventually saw down to three 18 inch firelogs, ideal for the wood burning stove.

Maximum and Minimum temperatures for August as measured at Groves Dyke were:       85 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Centigrade) and 40 degrees Fahrenheit (5 Centigrade).

29/8/02   Only about a dozen Ragwort flowering this year, so each time I see the yellow flower I pull it out by the roots (being careful to avoid the Fleabane, which looks a bit similar). This highly poisonous plant is fatal to cattle, sheep and horses if eaten – not that there should be any of them in the wood. Twenty years ago it would have taken us a couple of days to clear the whole wood, so the problem seems to be under control. Its a pity that other landowners  throughout the UK don’t bother to remove this notifiable weed.

27/8/02   An early morning wake-up call from a Green Woodpecker made me peer out to see him just outside. A youngster, he was working his way systematically along the edge of the front lawn, feeding on ants, then calling his yaffle call as he went.  He had been seen on the back lawn yesterday afternoon, but I went back to sleep anyway. Far too early!

25/8/02   Sundowners in the conservatory to the sounds of a silhouetted Tawny Owl calling from the very top of the big Ash tree and the antics of two Wood Mice bounding across the patio to the bird feeders for their daily gleaning.

22/8/02    Another afternoon of exploring the moors in all their purple glory: Westerdale vis Hob Hole to Kildale, then up Carlton Bank to the Lords Stone cafe at the top. Lots of radio controlled model gliders, a ‘real’ hang-glider and 3 paracending foils all taking off, landing and soaring about in the up draught at the cliff edge. Then through Bilsdale (why are the Rowan trees there laden with red berries, when those nearer home are not so far on?) to Helmsley, then Rosedale via High Hamer to Egton Bridge. Strange how the urban hotspots are all over crowded and the moortops are virtually people-free.

20/8/02    Folk Week in Whitby with thousands of people everywhere, but the cool breeze and cloudy sky on the coast was replaced by calm and sunny conditions inland. A drive along the Stape road led across the vast expanse of heather moorland in all its purple flowering glory, with a pause to march along part of the best preserved Roman Road in England: ‘Sinister, Dexter, Sinister, Dexter.’ Then via Cropton to Rosedale, up hill by Low Bell End and right for the Trough House road and endless purple (and the whole moortop panorama to ourselves) to Little Fryup Dale, where the Bracken encroachment on the Heather seems as bad as ever. Down past the ruins of Danby Castle, across the River Esk by medieval Duck Bridge to The Moors Centre at Danby, where afternoon tea on the lawn was enlivened by lots of cheeky Chaffinches. Then home by Oakley Walls and back to a still bustling Whitby – and most of them just don’t know what they are missing!

18/8/02    A slightly cooler day, thank goodness. It took me a while to work out what had happened to the bird feeding station, then I realised that it had been so hot yesterday that the block of lard had melted, dropping dollops of fat over everything below. Whole families of Blue and Great Tits as well as Chaffinches demolish the food provided, ably assisted by the odd Coal & Marsh Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Greenfinch, Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon. On the beach it was nice and cool, with 4 Sandwich Terns patrolling the shore and just one Sand Martin in evience.

17/8/02    Hot, hot. hot! The maximum thermometer sez 29 degrees Centigrade – 85 degrees in old money – and that was at 4pm. Flag is flagging in the heat and so am I.

15/8/02    Its still shorts and sandals weather, with local farmers cutting for hay and silage now that they can get back onto the land. Its also ‘Grow your own birdseed’ time at Groves Bank, with several very large Teasel plants springing up just below the bird feeders.

12/8/02    Hello – its summer again! By mid-afternoon the grass had dried out enough to strim the path around the wood and tidy-up the woodyard, the first time in what feels like weeks. Some 3 inches of rain fell in 24 hours (yes, the second time this month) last Thursday / Friday. The River Esk was so swollen that all the Saturday events in Whitby harbour had to be cancelled (first time every in the history of Whitby Regatta) because of the dangers of floating trees, etc. Today the river is back where it ought to be again and the forecast is for a mini heatwave later this week. Still, you know what the definition of the English Summer is: Three fine days and a thunderstorm.

PS: Hello Irene and Doris – the Regatta is over and the heather is just about ready!

10/8/02     Don’t look now but its pouring again. It rained heavily all night, Scarborough (20 miles away) and Filey (30 miles away) getting the worst of it this time. The River Esk is well up again, with a lot of very muddy water pouring over the Salmon Leap weir just upstream of Sleights bridge – but not quite so high that you wouldn’t know there used to be a 5 foot weir under there. Only another 39 days and 39 nights to go…

8/8/02     Still quite a few Kittiwakes at the breeding colony on the cliffs below Scarborough Castle. The best view is from the Marine Drive, but look out for the major civil engineering works there as they try to stop the North Sea.

7/8/02     Breakfast under the raftings with Flag (a totally reformed character, at last) was enlivened by lots of birds at the feeding station. The Bank Vole collected birdseed from under the feeders (which Flag managed to ignore) and a Wood Pigeon was screwing up its courage to land nearby (with Flag poised to charge just as soon as it dared). Then a handsome young Roebuck strolled past Groves Dyke, through the car park and up the path to the wood. That was just too much for the poor dog! He flew across the woodyard, took the deer by surprise and they both disappeared into the wood at a rate of knots. My hopeful whistles were ignored, my opinions about the ‘reformed character’ were revised. After 15 minutes and still no sign of him I was just unlocking the car to go and search when he reappeared, exhausted. I praised him for returning and was only a little disappointed that he hadn’t retrieved a nice bit of venison as well.

6/8/02     The Whitby Gazette reports that ‘almost 3 inches of rain’ fell on the Whitby area in 24 hours on Thursday / Friday last week.

4/8/02     The boulder clay cliffs below Whitby Golf Course show evidence of the heavy rain in the last few days. Numerous slumps and mud slides have left the sandy beach covered with a layer of fine mud (which will wash away with the next high tide). One Sand Martin nesting colony seems to have disappeared completely and the other is much reduced – but not as much as Whitby Golf Course itself!

3/8/02     Back to hot dry weather again! Isn’t global warming wonderful? Good thing it won’t affect us, isn’t it…

2/8/02     Woops – spoke too soon again! It rained all Thursday evening, all night and and all Friday morning, coming down in big drops which bounced! By Friday afternoon the River Esk was well up, the Salmon Leap weir 100m from the house was brink-full, the minor road from Sleights to Ruswarp was underwater and officially closed and Pickering (18 miles away) was on the national TV news as ‘awash with a month’s rainfall in 24 hours.’

1/8/02     Now that the maximum and minimum thermometer has been suitably fixed to the back wall of Groves Dyke for a month, the figures for July 2002 are: 86F (30C) Maximum and 42F (5C) Minimum in the shade.

30/7/02   What a day to choose for a visit to Ripon! There was I, sightseeing on foot in Ripon as the thunder and lightening rumbled in the distance. When the really heavy rain started I decided it was a good time to visit the cathedral, if only to keep dry. The crashes of thunder grew closer and I did think to move away from immediately under the tower. Then one almighty crash cum flash which left everyone a bit stunned for a few seconds. One chap saw the lightening come down the inside of the building, much to the annoyance of a cathedral volunteer who had worked there for 19 years and hadn’t! Two fire engines appeared within minutes but all was well. Outside the heavens had opened and stayed open for the next several hours. Four inches of rain fell on the Yorkshire Pennines in 24 hours, traffic was brought to a standstill in Harrogate, the underpasses on the Leeds inner ring road flooded and the rush hour there lasted until 9pm – but Whitby was blissfully unaware of it all, with no thunder, no lightening and no rain!

26/7/02    Hot, dry and sunny for the first time this week! Lunch on the patio with a cabaret of the first Spotted Flycatcher of the year feeding a youngster in the woodyard. An large black and yellow insect in the yard turned out to be a Great Horntail or Wood Wasp, a harmless member of the Sawfly family with a fearsome ovipositor (not a sting).

25/07/02   The Nuthatch turned up again at the feeding station after several weeks. Whole families of Blue, Great and Coal Tits, Chaffinches and Greenfinches are devouring seed in vast amounts. Even the Green Woodpecker flew past with a youngster, the adult landing neatly on the telegraph pole in the woodyard while the juvenile choose a nearby tree and descended with more of a crash than a landing.

20/07/02   The sound of Flag crashing through the brambles in the wood is not unusual but when I called him and then heard running feet, I expected an excited Golden Retriever to appear at my side and not a frantic young Roe Deer! It ran straight past me and away up the dale, while Flag continued to crash about for a bit longer before returning to tell me all about the big stag he had almost caught…

Later that evening, during sun-downers in the conservatory, a Wood Mouse came to join the Bank Vole feeding below the bird feeders. Luckily Flag was fast asleep, probably dreaming of stag hunting.

15/07/02   As of midnight today the insurance company has changed and now the five acres of Groves Coppice are available for anyone staying in Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage to enjoy. Just a bit more strimming required later today… 

…strimming duly completed, on what was probably the hottest day of the year! A short-cut has also been strimmed as an alternative route to one of the muddiest and one of the steepest sections of the grassy path.

13/07/02   A male Sparrowhawk paused briefly on the trellis by the feeding station and then flew off into the wood, still hungry. Alan and I began the new fence to separate the woodyard from the Groves Dyke access to the wood, thus keeping any inquisitive young visitors well away from the woodshed, the splitting axe, the wood stacks and the bonfire. Then another swathe strimmed from Groves Bank orchard.

12/07/02   In addition to the Bank Voles living below the bird feeders, a very small, very pointed nose appeared from a very narrow gap in the stone wall this morning – it HAS to be a Shrew, and possibly a Pygmy Shrew. Hopefully, more will be revealed later…

10/07/02   The first criss-cross stack of Hazel poles has now been moved, at 2 poles per day, from the Second Coppice to the woodyard, sawn into cord length and properly stacked – and it only makes half a cord (8 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet)! Still, there is one more criss-cross stack to move before I light the wood burning stove for the winter. I disturbed a male Roe Deer (Roebuck) which scampered off through the trees, with Flag in cold pursuit…

7/07/02   Just a couple of Sandwich Terns patrolling the beach between Whitby and Sandsend. Only two Sand Martins about, so perhaps they have fledged…

6/07/02   Flag discovered something of great interest by the side of Groves Bank pond – a dragonfly nymph writhing around on the patio as it split its skin and emerged as dragonfly proper. The nymph case suggested something unpleasant, even scorpion-like (no wonder there have been few tadpoles in the pond for the past 3 years!) but the newly-pupated dragonfly soon pumped itself up, straightened its wings and flew off. It had green eyes and yellow stripes on its body, so either a Southern Hawker or a Golden Ringed Dragonfly, both found in this part of the world.

5/07/02   The Yorkshire Tourist Board Inspectors called yesterday to inspect Groves Dyke and the many recent changes (which they like). They will confirm the 3 Star quality standard and will report later on the National Accessibility Award application after clarification of the ‘Supplementary Sleeping Arrangements / Ground Floor Bedroom’ situation…

Lots of ‘seep’ noises in the wood this afternoon turned out to be a Treecreeper, possibly several. An evening walk around the wood with the Secretary from NFU Mutual produced some more good news: Once the insurance policy is renewed on 15/07/02 any holidaymakers staying in Groves Dyke will be covered for quiet and informal recreation in Groves Coppice as well, so now the holiday cottage has its own 5-acre woodland nature reserve as yet another attraction!

3/07/02   The Green Woodpecker (local name ‘Yaffle’) has been very vocal (‘Yaffling’) for a couple of days and spent some time on the front lawn of Groves Bank on Monday afternoon. A young Great Spotted Woodpecker visited the feeding station this morning and looked at the peanut feeder in a puzzled sort of way before flying off empty-beaked. A Siskin, the first for many weeks, was on the Niger seed feeder, as well as assorted Greenfinches, Chaffinches and the Marsh Tit. Flag’s birding standards are improving and he can now distinguish between Collared Dove (wildlife therefore OK) and Wood Pigeon (vermin therefore snarl, bark and chase it off the feeding station). What a clever dog!

1/07/02   Both bird feeding stations are suddenly busy again, with Lard, Sunflower Hearts, Niger seed and Peanuts disappearing rapidly as Mums and Dads bring all their little fledglings to teach them how to feed the easy way. Now that the spring flowers have finished flowering and set seed, strimming the Wild Flower ‘meadows’ has begun – around the lawn, by the newly-laid hawthorn hedge and in the orchard. This will, as always, be done on a ‘rotational mowing’ basis with different sections cut in different weeks so that there is a more gradual change from ‘species-rich’ to ‘new-mown desert.’

The Groves Bank pond is alive with mini Pond Skaters (all named Torvill and Dean, of course) and also with mini Water Boatmen. Talking of all things aquatic, I have forgotten to mention the really BIG news in the area: the Australian replica of Captain Cook’s ‘Endeavour’ returned to Whitby last week! As before, she was given a grand welcome as she sailed into Whitby harbour with a salute of canon-fire! She looks just perfect berthed at Dock End in the middle of Whitby and will be there until early August.

27/6/02    Just back from two short breaks in quick succession. First, a few days in the Lake District to see the new Osprey observation point near Keswick. The RSPB has several telescopes trained on the nest (from a safe distance of course, to minimise disturbance) and good views can be had of the birds in and around the nest and also when they fish in Bassenthwaite Lake. The pair of Golden Eagles at the head of Haweswater continue to nest, but their breeding success has been zero for several years. Still, it is quite something to see all 100% of the English and Welsh Golden Eagles. Then a surprise trip to Gateshead (yes, I have now seen the Angel of the North standing by the A19 and he is quite acceptable, thank-you) with colleagues from our New University of Ulster Bird Club days (yes, it was 39 years ago that we were all on a Blasket Islands seabird expedition), this time for a bit more island-hopping on the Farnes Islands off Northumberland. This National Trust property should be compulsory for everyone! A short boat trip, easy access and suddenly you are in the midst of tens of thousands of seabirds, all within a few inches. Sadly, they can’t read the ‘Birds Nesting, do not cross this line’ notices and often nest next to the fence rope, under the fence rope and even on the very path itself! It just wonderful to be surrounded by 30,000 Puffins again!

11/6/02    Mr T. (who is currently staying at Groves Dyke) tells me that this morning there is a ‘ring of death’ on the front lawn – and he is right! A collection of downy feathers in the centre, surrounded by big, black feathers. It seems that a Sparrowhawk has killed a male Blackbird, flown off with the corpse and left just a circle of feathers lying on the grass…

8/6/02     Alan strimmed another 1/5th of the beck side this Saturday, so now the rotational mowing pattern has completed its first cycle, giving the wild plants in each area a full 5 weeks to flower and set seed before they cut again. Spent a little time in Groves Coppice removing the last of the 20-year old plastic tree guards, which were meant to biodegrade after 5 years!

6/6/02     A sad trip to a cancer charity shop in Filey, then a walk on Filey Brigg for a reflective rest on the big stone monument which marks the end of the Cleveland Way. Anthea only completed about half of this 110 mile National Trail, but at least her clothes made it all the way. Then I drove full circle to Helmsley where the Cleveland Way begins and around the moors to the furthest points she reached. As I drove back home over the moors I saw my first Short Eared Owl for years – Now Her Spirit Soars…

3/6/02     Strimmed the path around the wood for the first time this year, ploughing through a colourful carpet of yellow Buttercups, white Pignut and blue Speedwell – not quite enough Red Campion to make it a red, white and blue carpet! Lots of young about today: young Chaffinch being fed by the pond, young Great Tits learning how to use the feeders for themselves, young Rabbits everywhere  and Half Pint, of course, the baby Bank Vole. My first Swift of the year, flying over Sleights this evening.

2/6/02     Sunday morning of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee double Bank Holiday weekend and still a few spaces left to park near Sandsend. Flag had a great run on the beach while I watched 20 Sandwich Terns (and one that wasn’t) ‘kirick-ing’ and fishing in the shallows. The two colonies of Sand Martins are still expanding. The young Blue Tits in the nest box on the conservatory have flown and Flag has transferred his attentions to a nestful of Blackbirds in the woodshed.

31/5/02   Just enough overnight rain to lay the dust, then a bright sunny morning. Flag has settled down a lot in the past few week and when he does run off after a Pheasant or a Roe Deer, he now comes back again a few minutes later, which is a kind of progress. He is fascinated by the noises coming from the nestbox on the conservatory, as the adult Blue Tits return at one minute intervals with beakfuls of caterpillars for their noisy young. The Bank Vole Family continue to hoover up the seed below the bird feeders, which the occasional Robin, Marsh Tit, Chaffinch and Greenfinch still visit above. All in all, a very pleasant and relaxed way to have my breakfast – unless you’re a Blue Tit.

27/05/02   The hiatus ends, when this website actually lands with the new webhost and the Email  relax@grovesdyke starts working properly again! And the exterior painting of Groves Dyke is now complete!!

15/05/02   Spring is springing today with a young Tawny Owl finding his wings in the big Oak by the beck, crash landing from branch to branch and giving all the local Blackbirds hysterics. The Bank Vole continues to collect bird seed from below the feeding station, but today it was accompanied by Baby Bank Vole, who has yet to learn that dining al fresco is not to be recommended.

11/05/02   The refurbishment of Groves Dyke is complete at last and the first holiday makers arrive today! Completely redecorated inside from top to bottom, the chimneys have been swept and certified, the gas central heating and cooker has been inspected, the electrical appliances have been ckecked and approved, the new furniture is complete, the new kitchen window now has its own busy little feeding station just outside, the new washing machine and tumble drier are in and working, the new downstairs shower / loo / basin is fully functional, the new hall curtains are hung and stitched to the correct length and much of the credit is due to Paula, who has been the Housekeeper at Groves Bank and Groves Dyke for many years – well done Paula! A little bit of exterior painting remains to be done and the new porch will have to wait until the autumn, but otherwise the ‘2 week job’ which became a 3 month marathon IS NOW COMPLETE!

07/05/02   I went to Filey (c30 miles south of here) for a bit of birding. Lots of nice seashore birds on Filey Brigg (the headland), including Eider Duck, Razorbills, Fulmar Petrels and Kittiwakes. The RSPB reserve at Blacktoft Sands (much further south, on the Humber) gave a full 15 minutes of uninterrupted male Marsh Harrier quartering the reedbeds, as well as over 50 Avocets feeding and displaying in the scrape. Tophill Low (near Driffield) produced my first Cuckoo of the year, as well as a couple of very handsome Gargany.

03/05/02   The Oak trees in the wood are in full leaf  already, while the Ash  leaves are only just visible, so only a little bit of rain forecast for this summer, according to the old rhyme:

‘Oak before Ash, in for a splash. Ash before Oak, in for a soak.’

Rebecca, Callum, Alan and I completed the upper footbridge in the wood today. It is a scaled-down version of the lower bridge, but should also reduce the chances of getting unexpectedly wet and muddy.


01/05/02   Nephew Chris started work on painting the exterior of Groves Dyke, a job which hadn’t been done for many a long year.

28/04/02   The Green Woodpecker, know locally as the ‘Yaffle’, spent much of the morning in the woodyard just behind the house. I don’t know what it was doing, but it’s yaffling laughter echoed around the wood for well over an hour.

21/04/02   A Sunday morning walk on the beach between Whitby and Sandsend, with as many as 16 Sand Martins flying around the eroding boulder clay cliffs.

20/04/02   Alan and I completed the Lower Bridge in the wood, so now I no longer have to ‘walk the plank’ on a daily basis, with less risk of another ducking in the beck.

The hiatus begins, as this site is transferred away from the firm which bought (the original host, with whom I had no problem) to a different (and hopefully more helpful) host…

Cooler again, with ground frost overnight. Emails working again. Just coat pegs to put up in the hall, the new kitchen ceiling needs one more coat of paint, the dining room walls and ceiling to paint, then a small matter of some minor electrics and a hole for the tumble drier – and it will be complete! Anybody seen the electrician?
Looking down on the Salmon Leap below Woodlands Drive, a pair of Jays flew upstream followed by a Grey Heron which landed in the field next to the weir. It walked about a bit and then was disturbed by the Dipper which flew downstream. Not bad for 60 seconds of dog-walking time!

Computer problems almost solved (I think) but emails still not fully operational… isn’t science wonderful? Thursday 28th March was when the first Chiffchaff started singing. Friday 29th and the first Frogspawn appeared in the pond. Saturday 30th was a major bonfire day for Callum and me, to get rid of all the lop and top from the storm damaged Cherry tree in Groves Dyke front lawn. Sunday 31st and the first Blackcap (a female) of the year was seen at the feeding station. More frogspawn appeared in the pond, but still not as much as last year – only one big dollop so far, not three. Dogs Mercury is in full flower now (not that you would notice such an insignificant green flower) in Groves Dyke orchard and elsewhere in Woodlands. Talking of insignificant flowers, the Broomrape further up the Woodlands Drive is also in full ‘flower’ just now.
Trevor (plumber) and Ian (joiner) have completed the new downstairs loo and shower in Groves Dyke and Paula has just finished painting it. It seems much bigger than I expected and looks really good. The various cord-pulls have had their nasty plastic ends removed and replaced with the old wooden ‘acorns’ which used to be on the original window blinds upstairs.

Computer problems, hence the gap. Emails still not working properly, but will be soon. Computers do this from time, just to show us that we are not really in control. Mon 18th: The first Newt of the year was back in the dog dish of water by the garage. Tue 19th: Joiner back at work in Groves Dyke. Sat 23rd: Plumber completed the new loo and shower. Groves Dyke lawn was dry enough for Alan and me to remove the bits of Cherry tree smashed in the gales, while Flag tried to dig up the great big rabbit that lives under the Daffodils (slightly better than running away and forgetting to come back again). Mon 25th: A wonderful walk along the old coach road from Danby Beacon towards Stonegate. Lots of Red Grouse, a couple of Golden Plover, one Snipe and one Sky Lark, plus wonderful weather, wonderful views and breathtaking shafts of sunlight illuminating isolated patches of Heather on the other side of Eskdale.

The hall, stairs and landing can’t be painted until the plumber drills a hole through the wall for the new loo and the dust has been cleared and the dining room can’t be painted until the workmen have gone and the new carpet is fitted… But on a more positive note, new lampshades have been bought for every room and a new light fitting for a brighter dining room. The new tumble-dryer has arrived, the woodwork in the new loo is complete and the shower cabinet is in place. Out of doors, Alan and I completed the deadwood fence (which looks rather good, I must say) and had JUST enough coppiced hazel rods to do the job. The Groves Dyke lawn is now safely fenced or hedged on 3 sides, the daffs are out in profusion, the first apple tree in Dyke orchard is in bud and the first Hazel tree in Groves Coppice is in leaf – so it IS Spring!

All quiet on the building work so far this week – perhaps the new plaster is still drying out… The busy little Bank Vole under the feeding station turns out to be TWO rather less busy individuals, who usually take it in turns to make an appearance but this morning they decided to do a double act. A pair of Bullfinches worked their way along the edge of the woodyard and the living willow Twigwam has begun to bud after yesterday’s long, sunny spell.

Builders, plumbers, joiners and carpet fitters have been seen occasionally in and around Groves Dyke. The new kitchen window is complete and looks great, with a good view of the woodyard and the wood beyond. A new wild bird feeding station should make the washing-up more interesting. The new downstairs loo and shower is coming on well and looks better for its new Flowtex floor-covering. Paula will have completed the redecoration of all three bedrooms by tomorrow and they do look much fresher for all her hard work. Out-of-doors the Willow tree by the beck is now in bud and the Hawthorn hedges are just beginning to turn green. The Daffodils in the lawn and orchard are all in bud and many of them are in full flower. It must be Spring!

Two Roe Deer were grazing peacefully in the paddock by the side of Woodlands Drive today. The does worked their way across the field without a care in the world as I walked up the Drive. A Jay was being noisy in the wood earlier and both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk hunted overhead. A Goldfinch appeared on the Niger seed feeder for the first time in a long time.

The living willows arrived yesterday (from and Alan and I planted them around the frame of Hazel poles to complete the Twigwam. Neice Cara and Catherine helped us to drop a couple more coppiced Ash and then clear up the lop and top. So that is all the coppicing now completed for this winter – and all done before the sap began to rise. Later we all added a few more Hazel rods to the deadwood fence, which looks good and already works well.
The big event yesterday was the arrival of the builders – at last! Already they have created a new doorway near the bottom of the stairs, leading into the new downstairs loo, basin and shower. Isn’t it amazing how long they take to actually appear and then how quickly they can knock a great big hole in a brick wall!?!

The Woodmouse survived the hunting Weasel, so who DID kill it and carry it proudly into the dining room this morning? I’m afraid it was Flag. Now let me see: he purrs like a cat, he keeps going off on his own, he catches mice and he brings them indoors – so why do I keep taking him to DOG training classes…?
This afternoon Alan and I continued coppicing Ash and Sycamore from behind the woodshed. Felling 20-year old regrowth with a bowsaw is a bit like hard work, so Geoff and Selena are due tomorrow to drop a few more of the big Ash with a chainsaw and then cut everything into 18-inch firelogs.

The bad news is that Ted and Cynthia missed yesterday’s Weasel, which was hunting through the drystone wall outside the conservatory, presumably searching for the resident Woodmouse and Bank Vole. The good news is that they did see the Bank Vole today, so it at least has survived. The first Daffodils are now in flower in Groves Dyke orchard, with quite a few Snowdrops and Lesser Celandines. A birding trip to Scaling Dam (a few Grey Lag Geese, Canada Geese, Mallard, Goldeneye and Coots from near the hide), over the moor to the very top of Danby Beacon (good close views of Red Grouse, the males with wonderful bright red eyebrows at this time of year), into Little Fryup Dale and back by Oakley Walls and Lealholm failed to produce a single Hen Harrier or Short Eared Owl – but it was a lovely drive!
The builder is due to start work THIS week on the new downstairs shower-room with loo and on the new kitchen window…

Breakfast in the conservatory (as usual) with an unusual floorshow: A Woodmouse hopped across the patio and started eating the Sunflower hearts dropped from the bird feeders above. This is usually the job of the Bank Vole which lives in the drystone wall, but it maintained an even lower profile that usual today. Having eaten, the Woodmouse then bounced across the patio to the gravel just outside the conservatory door and paused for a quick wash and brush up of ears and whiskers. I tried to explain the subtle difference between ‘vermin’ and ‘wildlife’ to Flag, but he just went bananas anyway!
The afternoon was spent dragging down the Hazel rods cut from the Second Coppice, then setting-up the Twigwam in its final location, then replacing the flapping blue tarpaulin on the woodshed with a wattle (no daub) wall of Hazel rods – a very satisfying process, indeed.

Is it Spring already? The Hazel catkins are out (even though I am still coppicing!), the Snowdrops are out in Bank Orchard (nice to be South-facing!) and there is a definite dawn chorus of Robins and Blackbirds.

Calm again, but the storm has split the old Cherry tree on the front lawn of Groves Dyke. A couple of big branches will have to be removed surgically and then I will see what can be done with what is left. Flag enjoyed a run on the beach at Whitby today & met the sea for the first time – he decided it was bigger than him so he left it alone! Twenty Turnstone were roosting on the grassy slopes above the prom.

Yes, I know its not in the right order – you can ask Freecom about that! The RSPB Garden Bird Survey was carried out from 10 to 11 am on Sunday morning: Overcast, calm, mild and dry. Blue Tit 4, Great Tit 4, Blackbird 3, Chaffinch 2, Coal Tit 2, Dunnock 2, Long Tailed Tit 2, Marsh Tit 2, Nuthatch 2, Robin 2, Magpie 1, Wood Pigeno 1, Wren 1.

30/01/02 have taken over from our original hosts ‘’. They then switched off all editing facilities without warning while they transferred platforms. Now that I can edit the site again, I find that they have deleted all the Nature Diary entries from early Dec 01 onwards. Thanks a bunch Freecom!


Full Circle

There’s snow on the lawn and ice on the pond,
Blackbirds in the orchard and Redwing in the hedge.
There’s a new bridge on the beck and a new dog on the track,
Deer slots in the ground and a fox on the wind.

There’s green slate on the grass
And there’s love in the clearing
And sunrise over Ugglebarnby.

There’s a golden light on the treetops and a coldness in the ground.
The Hazels have been singled, too but new growth will begin –
There’s a Primrose flower already and cordwood stacked to season.
Silence in the village and peace throughout the dale.

There’s logs by the stove
And warmth in the home
And the shadow of smoke on the woodshed.

Niall Carson, 4/01/2002.

Nephew Brian and Jo (and Benson the very bright dog) came to for a short New Year break, helping to ‘single’ the Second Coup and doing a bit of walking, despite the snow and hard frosts.

From Memory – see 30/01/02 (Thanks a bunch, Freecom):