News Blog 2004

Weather for June 2004:     Rainfall 4 inches (95 mm). Temperatures: Maximum 86º F (30º C). Minimum 36º F (3º C). Actual 62º F (16º C) at 0930 hours on 1/7/2004. Hot and sunny weather, then becoming very wet.

30/06/04    Work completed by Everest yesterday and now, hopefully, everything is back to normal. Except for this computer, which is feeling the strain and needs a few days off with the Computer Doctor. Back soon…

29/06/04    Everest rang to ask if Thursday morning would suit. I said yes and, luckily, Mr & Mrs G kindly agreed to let Everest disrupt their week’s holiday at Groves Dyke.

The new solar lights in the woodyard are very impressive. They are ‘Wagner Solar Circulit’ and by far the best of the many makes and models I have tried over the years. Their 1 watt Siemens photovoltaic panel powers a Nicad battery to light a 0.75 Watt fluorescent tube for up to 5 hours, giving a really useful pool of light up to a couple of metres across. Pity the local Badgers don’t seem to appreciate the limelight, yet.

28/06/04    I rang Everest HQ this morning to inform them about the latest problem and tell them that 10 working days seemed a not unreasonable time to get it surveyed, repaired and get their Executive Chairman to write me a third letter of apology and perhaps even reconsider his compensation offer. The Everest Surveyor arrived before lunch. After inspecting the pointing around all 7 of their windows (fitted just over 2 years ago), it seems that 3 of the 4 windows at the front of the house need to have their pointing removed and re-applied. ‘The office will contact you…’

After he had seen the lumps of fallen mortar lying on the patio I later gathered them up and weighed them: 14 oz (c0.4 kg), or near as dammit, 1 pound (dry weight, but it had rained for days), fallen from a height of more than 12 feet. I seem to remember from O-Level Physics that ‘Momentum = Mass x Velocity’ thus a weight of 1lb falling a vertical distance of 12 feet under gravity at 32 feet / second / second = a sudden urge to go out and buy some hard hats for any children playing on the patio. I managed to get one that sez ‘Bob the Builder’ (Toymasters, Bridge Street, Whitby) but the others just say ‘DIY.’ I wonder if that is an instruction, or just a recommendation?

A Green Woodpecker hunted through the newly strimmed part of the woodyard, later joined by a magnificent male Bullfinch. The new solar lights should be fully charged after 2 days of bright sunshine (70º F again today) so I set them to ‘auto.’ They switched themselves about 10pm and gently illuminated a line across the woodyard – but no sign of any Badgers passing through this evening.

26/06/04    NB: My email has stopped working, so if you are wondering why I haven’t replied, please be patient – or phone me instead (click on Contact, above).

More rain yesterday has brought the rain gauge up to 3¾ inches so far this month, but it is just as wet elsewhere, from Wimbledon (playing on Sunday to catch up), to Glastonbury (mudbath) to Inverness (flooding and landslides).

It was dry this morning and I managed to strim the path around the wood (4th time this year), half of the silt pond, a third of the woodyard, a third of the wildflower meadow, a fifth of the beck and all of the wall alongside the drive. Luckily it started to rain before I got completely carried away, so I didn’t  tackle the orchard as well. As I recovered in the conservatory a Kestrel perched on top of the leaning Ash, then flew down to perch on the electricity wire, then perched on the telephone wire (good trick) and then flew right down to perch on the fence rail of the woodyard, nearest the part I had just mown. He seemed to appreciate the short grass and was watching intently for small mammals when he sensed me and flew off. Too lazy to hover, or just short sighted?

When Mr & Mrs G arrived I showed then around the conservatory and decking, new since their last holiday, and we were surprised to notice bits of mortar lying on the patio – then horrified to discover that they has fallen from just above the dining room window. Yes, the very same double glazed window that was fitted (twice) by Everest. Perhaps the heavy rain over the last few days has been too much for it? I must ring them on Monday to enquire – after I have taken a few photos…

24/06/04    Another ½ inch of rain fell last night – I think I’ll go back to Scotland, it wasn’t half as wet there…

23/06/04    A Roebuck almost ran HEADLONG into me as I walked around the wood this morning. It leapt aside at the last moment and kangaroo-ed off via a very clingy bramble clump. Flag arrived shortly after, very excited and not quite able to contain his hunting instinct. He reappeared a few minutes after I got back to the house – but without any venison.

Bright, sunny, warm days but thundery showers overnight. Another ¾ of an inch fell last night, bringing this month’s total to 2¾ inches, most of it since I got home!

22/06/04    The new gate arrived and was fitted to the fence around Groves Dyke’s lawn, so now everything is complete for the summer season (just a little bit later than planned).

19/06/04    Just returned from 2 week’s holiday in Scotland. Very nice thank-you. I can recommend the Dolphin Watching from Chanonry Point on the Black Isle, not to mention the Ospreys at the RSPB’s Loch Gartan reserve (39 years on since I volunteered there). Their Reserve at Forsinard in the Flow Country is superb – far too wonderful a habitat to waste on vast conifer plantations as a tax avoidance ploy by the glitterati).

The rain gauge now contains 1½ inches and the grass and hedges have been growing apace. Another ½ fell today.

05/06/04    It was a bit damp on Thursday, with the rain gauge now showing nearly ½ inch since the beginning of this month – that is already half of last month’s total! The wood and feeding station are alive with young Blue and Great Tit families, but still no sign of any House Martins nesting here this year.

Gave the hedges a light trim – just enough to make them look cared for, without disturbing the nesting birds within too much, nor exposing them to the ever vigilant Magpies.

02/06/04    Bright and sunny again, after a damp start to ‘flaming June’ yesterday. The Yellow Flag Iris in the beck is just beginning to flower. Took several photos of the ‘neat’ cord while it still looks good and before I dismantle it for sawing into firelogs. Once gone, that will leave only the ‘tatty’ cord of bendy Beech branches, which just won’t stack neatly at all. Flag helped by digging another hole.

He is also fascinated by the high pitched cheeping from the laundry nest box, where the Blue Tits are constantly demanding more grub. He lies, sits, stands and occasionally tries to climb up the fence to get a better idea of what is going on in there! Having got his ear in for baby birds, he has also discovered 3 other nests in the drystone wall, which each get the same treatment. Poor demented dog.

Thanks to BE of Whitby for sending me photos of his ‘gnome’ front door by Whittaker. Click here to see them.

Strimmed the path around the wood – again. That’s the 3rd time so far this year, which just shows how damp last month was. Cut the hedge by the new conservatory.

Weather for May 2004:     Rainfall 5/8 inches (23 mm). Temperatures: Maximum 74º F (24º C). Minimum 32º F (0º C). Actual 62º F (16º C) at 0930 hours on 1/6/2004. A very dry month, starting hot and sunny but then becoming very mild with low cloud and condensing mist for over a week, giving ideal growing conditions for plants (especially grass!), then becoming more seasonal with warm, dry and sunny weather.

29/05/04    The ‘new’ antique chest of drawers (Walnut, 18th Century) which I bought in Whitby has now replaced the ‘old’ modern one in the twin bedroom – and looks much better. (The same transformation took place in the double bedroom a couple of months ago, but I think I forgot to mention it).

A few scoops of pondweed left to drain on the side of the Groves Bank pond soon produced 3 Newts (each less than 1 inch long, so probably this year’s hatch), 5 Dragonfly nymphs, 2 Caddis Fly larvae, 2 Leeches and a Pond Snail. They were all rescued and popped back into the pond.

27/05/04    Yesterday the professional carpet fitter fitted the conservatory carpet very professionally and the amateur painter (me) painted the big old fashioned hinges on the new Stickery doors a bit less so. The special order very tall stick was given its first oiling and will be ready, with others, for export (to Holland) by Saturday – another first! Incidentally, the £100 cheque from the model makers for the new film ‘The Libertine’ arrived safely, but no word if ‘the staff with a monkey carved on the top with a ruby in its navel’ from Groves Coppice will actually be used in the film.

Strimmed around the woodshed (Sorry, Mrs Blackbird), plus another quarter of the wildflower bank and also 2/10s of the beck (one either side), so the rotational mowing to give the wild flowers time to set seed is now well under way.

25/05/04    Today I had another unexpected phone call from a nice lady at Everest double glazing, based in Sheffield. ‘I am phoning on behalf of Blank Blank’ [that nice Everest salesman who was responsible for selling me one of the biggest nightmares of my life]. ‘Was it a window you had done?’ she asked. ‘Have you any others still to do, because we have a special offer on at the moment?’ I began to explain (again) slowly and politely, just what they had managed to achieve last time, just how long it took them to achieve it and just how impressed I was with their craftsmanship (not!), their staff training (not!), their supervision (not!), their management (not!) and their complaints procedure (not!) – when she put the phone down on me. Again. I’m not very impressed with their database management, either. Well, now that they have raised the subject again, you may wish to click here to refresh your memory of just what ‘Everest – Fit the Best’ can actually involve… They really are the ‘cat’s ovaries’, aren’t they?

Cooler and cloudier today, but still dry. So dry, in fact, that I have been walking around the wood in shoes, not Wellington boots, for the first time this year. The whole wood has a canopy of Hawthorn blossom, ably abetted by a few Whitebeam. From the other side of the dale it looks like a big rectangular patch of white froth on the hillside! Within the wood it is beautifully cool and shady, with a faint white haze of Pignut flowers as ground cover.

24/05/04    Today work was completed on the new doors on the Stickery – complete with a very large Unique Walking Stick bolted to the outside of each door, instead of any large printed sign.

23/05/04    Yesterday Flag began a new hole on the recently strimmed area of the woodyard and he dug for a good 2 hours. While he was doing that I started to saw the Sycamore logs bought-in from from Briggswath about a year ago (must look up exactly when, sometime). They have been stacked in a nice, neat cord ever since and are now being sawn into 18″ firelogs and re-stacked inside the woodshed. I managed to fill a half of a sixth (is that a twelfth?) of the shed before I realised I was being watched – by a female Blackbird sitting very tightly on her nest just a few inches away on top of the neighbouring stack. Good excuse to stop work for the day.

Today I had breakfast on the patio (again) and took a picnic lunch onto the beach. Flag ran and ran while I walked, then ran and ran while I sat and ate my lunch, then ran and ran while I walked back again. Then slept and slept and slept while I worked on a very tall, special order stick. Then slept and slept some more.

21/05/04    The new tannalised doors have been fitted to the Stickery and look so much better than the originals, which had almost rotted away!

20/05/04    Strimmed the path around the wood – again.

19/05/04    The maximum thermometer has reached 74º F in the past couple of days as the fine weather continues. Strimmed half of the woodyard in the coolth of the evening, but too hot and too late to do the path around the wood again.

Everest double glazing rang me unexpectedly this morning to ask if I was thinking of having any more work done, as they have a special offer on at the moment. I explained, slowly and very politely, just how impressed I was with the work they had done already and just how many letters of apology I had had from the Executive Chairman of Everest plc and just what reaction I had had from other unhappy customers –  and then I found that she had put the phone down on me. Click here for the background to all this.

17/05/04    By this evening the conservatory door catches were finished, the additional support rails were fitted, the patio was repaired, the new stainless steel barbeque was in place, a big metal eye-bolt was fitted for visitors to lock their bicycles securely to and the new carpet and underlay were bought and paid for and will be fitted on Wednesday. Woopee!

The grass is still growing apace as the hot sun dries out the saturated earth. For the first time in weeks it is possible to walk around the wood without wellies. Hawthorn is in full flower and the Whitebeam by the Stickery is absolutely covered in white blossom. A flock of twenty Jackdaws held a noisy meeting at the top of the Major Oak, then flew off to carry out whatever dastardly deed they had just agreed. Tawny Owls have been very vocal over the past couple of days and nights, probably as the youngsters demand more and more food and the poor parents have to work extra shifts to keep up. There are 2 clumps of Cowslips on the lawn and over a dozen Early Purple Orchids in Bank Orchard.

The replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavour is back in Whitby harbour again for several weeks. Berthed at the Dock End, she really does look magnificent in what her Captain refers to as her ‘spiritual home.’

14/05/04    Today the doors, complete with safety glass,  were fitted to the new  conservatory! That means I can have the new carpet fitted in the next few days! It has taken a very long time (since October last year) but, as they say: at the termination of the diurnal period I really am above the lunar orb! (I absolutely refuse to use the exhausted football cliché: ‘At the end of the day I am over the moon’).

12/05/04    Today the leaden sky decided it had rested on the moortop long enough and it was time to move. The dales celebrated its recovery in the newfound warmth and glorious sunshine. Hallelujah!

This morning a Roebuck trotted towards me on the path at the top of the wood, while Flag crashed about elsewhere at a safe distance. When it saw me it paused, then turned and trotted away again, then realised that Flag was getting closer, so it turned back and approached me again, but it’s nerve failed and it turned away again, panicking, then realised that Flag was even closer and suddenly it leapt off the path and crashed away through the undergrowth at one side. Seconds later Flag crashed his way onto the path from the other side, picked up the fresh scent and sprinted off with his tail high and his nose down. Excellent tracking technique, except for one minor detail – he was following it towards where the deer had come from, not to where it was going!

11/05/04    The grey days continue. No rain (only 1 inch since the beginning of the month) but just low cloud, no sun, no heat and ideal growing conditions for lawns. Late this afternoon the low cloud cleared a little and we saw the sun for an hour or two.

07/05/04    Another cool, damp and grey day. In fact, as far as grey days go, this one is a Grade A grey day. No doors arrived today, but they did put the finishing touches to the conservatory roof before rain stopped play. They also added an essential extra to the deck – a shelf for wine glasses, just above the stair gate!

The grass is growing apace, as are the wild flowers in the wood. Lesser Stitchwort is abundant at the top, Red Campion is common and the first Lady’s Smock is in flower near the lower bridge. The nest box just outside the kitchen window is being used by Blue Tits and the occasional House Martin and Swallow flies over the garden. Four Roe Deer ran down the slope, crashing through the undergrowth and enticing Flag away for twenty minutes, but he returned safely.

04/05/04    …but it rained all morning, so they didn’t.

03/04/05    Work continued today. The deck and the fence are now complete and the conservatory doors are to be fitted tomorrow…

02/05/04    Hot and sunny, just perfect for another annual first: my first post-beach lunch at the Witz End cafe in Sandsend, where they escaped last week’s floods by just a few feet. While eating in their ‘Walled Garden’ a female Mallard led her brood of cheeping ducklings through the gate, showed them how to wait on tables and even gave them a tour of the loos for the disabled. Despite this provocation, Flag was too tired to add duck pate to the cafe’s Today’s Special blackboard!

The Sandsend Sand Martins still number about 35. They have been busy digging about 50 holes in a soft sandy bit of the boulder clay cliffs, but they do seem to be putting all their eggs in one gully…

01/05/04    Believe it or not, it’s a bright, warm and sunny day with Orange Tip butterflies flitting from flower to flower. Walking past the viewpoint at the top of the wood and still half asleep, I noticed two brown and jagged tree stumps lying in the long grass 3 or 4 paces to the right of the path. While I paused and absent-mindedly wondered where they had come from, one of them blinked, swivelled its jagged ears and then suddenly both Roe Deer leapt from their nice warm, dry beds and ran off towards the beck. So reluctant were they to move that they had tolerated Flag walking past them all unaware and it was only when I paused to stare at them that they finally took flight.

By early afternoon the warm sunny weather and warm breeze dried the long grass enough to let me strim the path around the wood for the first time this year. Much better now!

Weather for April 2004:     Rainfall 4 inches (103 mm). Temperatures: Maximum 72º F (22º C). Minimum 26º F (-3º C). Actual 52º F (11º C) at 0930 hours on 1/5/2004. A back-to-front month, with good weather for the first couple of weeks, then a heavy downpour, then improving weather leading to a couple of hot, sunny days followed by a real thunderstorm and a worse deluge. This last caused some damage in the area (eg Sandsend) and was followed by a week of cold, grey and misty weather.

30/04/04    Work began today on the new Groves Dyke fence linking the existing deadwood fence to the recently completed decking with steps. Work is due to continue early next week. Once complete, the Groves Dyke lawn will be completely fenced off from all dogs and vehicles on the drive or car park, making it much safer for kids – and more relaxing for parents! Weather dry but still misty and cool.

29/04/04    The rain has stopped but a cold, grey mist hangs over the moors and everything is damp and miserable – except for the first Swallows and House Martins hawking for insects over the house and garden! A certain Golden Retriever went AWOL for an hour this evening but reappeared just as I was getting into the car to search further afield.

28/05/04    At Sandsend I was amazed to see a mile-long scattering of broken branches and tree trunks along the tideline, all flushed out of Mulgrave Castle woods by the deluge on Monday. Sandsend seems to have had the worst of the downpour, with the wooden footbridge swept away and a greenhouse left dangling over the river bank. Further upstream at Barnby a landslide has blocked the road completely and will take several weeks to clear and reopen.

26/04/04    An English summer? Yes, that was it: three fine days and a thunderstorm! Torrential rain all day today, thunder and lightening over the moors and the river is instantly high. But it has brought the Oak leaves out before the Ash, which means ‘Oak before Ash – in for a splash’ – some splash! I’m glad it wasn’t a ‘soak!’

25/05/04    Another hot, sunny day when I should have worn a big hat and put some sun cream on, but I didn’t and now my arms are very slightly sunburnt and I do accept that North Yorkshire can have a hot sun in April. Very unusual.

The first Sand Martins I have seen this year were swooping in delighted celebration on the coast near Sandsend and a Great Spotted Woodpecker visited the bird table for the first time in ages.

24/04/04    A truly HOT summer’s day (the first this year) and the thermometer is already reading 68ºF by 11am!

22/04/04    Suddenly and frantic digging by Flag as we walked around the wood this morning, with pouncing from tussock to tussock, indicated that he was hot on the tail of a Pygmy Shrew or something similar. While he was thus engaged, an adult Roe Deer bounded silently between the trees a few yards behind him – but he was too busy with the elusive very small mammal to even notice the great big one just behind him!

A Peacock butterfly and an Orange Tip flew across the garden, the first I have seen this year. Three Cowslips are in full flower in the wildflower bank by the Stickery. The Beech trees are now in pale green leaf and it looks as though the Oak is going to beat the Ash by a short bud scale.

A bit of finishing off work was done on the wonderful new decking today, including a new stair-gate to prevent toddlers from falling down the half-dozen steps to the patio. I am told the specially made conservatory doors are now ready and the safety glass has been delivered – but I am still not going to hold my breath…

21/04/04    Back to bright, dry, sunny weather again and the new steps from decking to patio are being fitted as I type and will make the garden much more accessible for everyone staying at Groves Dyke. Today the chimney sweep and the gas engineer swept, inspected and passed the chimneys and the fires in Groves Dyke.

A Goldfinch has adopted the new triple feeder and is feasting daily on Niger seed – the same Niger seed which I used to put in the special Niger seed feeder designed especially for Goldfinches and ignored by all Goldfinches. Now that the seed is in an ordinary seed hopper, they have started using it. I do wish they would read the text books and do what they are supposed to do!

Bluebells and Wild Garlic (Ramson) are now in flower, as are Dog Violets, Lesser Celendine and Stitchwort.

19/04/04    Almost an inch of rain fell in the last 24 hours. But it felt like more.

18/04/04    A 15 minute bird watch of the feeding station and hinterland revealed: Blue Tit 4, Chaffinch 3, Great Tit 3, Wood Pigeon 3, Dunnock 2, Greenfinch 2, Robin 2, Blackbird 1, Coal Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Song Thrush 1, Bank Vole 1. Too late for inclusion were: 1 Collared Dove and 2 Marsh Tit. Long Tailed Tit didn’t even make it at all today, probably too busy nesting in the Blackthorn spiney (hence ‘spinney’) in the wood.

A damp morning was followed by a showery afternoon, a wet evening and then a night of torrential rain.

16/04/04    The proper railings and spindles are now fitted around the decking, which improves the look of it no end. The steps are to be fitted next week. The joiner who promised to make the conservatory doors out of tannalised timber (and who took several months to start but still hasn’t) has been abandoned and someone else has now promised to do it quickly. It seems it has never been done before! But why aren’t ALL exterior doors made out of treated timber that will never rot? Perhaps that is just too obvious…

Three Cowslips are in full flower in the wild flower meadow next to the Stickery and almost all the trees in the whole area are now in leaf – except the Oak and the Ash, which are still bud and bud. The ‘wild’ Daffodils are well and truly over and the ‘tame’ ones are past their best.

13/04/04    A proper hot, sunny day with outdoor coffee (me, not Flag) and basking on the grass (Flag, not me). The Frogspawn in the pond has just hatched and now hundreds of tiny tadpoles are all packed together in a wriggling mass. The Gean (Wild Cherry) trees in the wood are in magnificent flower, while the Blackthorn is just past its best. A Nuthatch joined the 4 Greenfinches and the pair of Siskins which have become regulars at the feeding station.

The plumber started work on upgrading the exterior pipework on the back wall of both houses, removing all loose, cracked, discoloured, obsolete and / or rusty pipes and replacing them with nice, new, black plastic ones which will require the minimum of maintenance for years to come.

12/04/04    A mild, dry but cloudy Bank Holiday weekend and the roads are very busy. A 15-minute watch at the feeding station revealed: Chaffinch 4, Blue Tit 3, Wood Pigeon 3, Great Tit 2, Blackbird 1, Chiffchaff 1, Dunnock 1, Long Tailed Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1, Pheasant 1. Just after the 15 minutes were up, a Coal Tit, a Collared Dove, a Nuthatch and a Bank Vole arrived, but they won’t get included. That’ll teach them to get here a bit sooner, next time!

10/04/04    Removed the old cord frame and built the new one out of lighter tannalised timbers. Started to carry and stack the new logs and kept on going until all was complete. Sadly, bendy Beech branches don’t stack as neatly as straight logs, so the new cord looks a bit sub-standard compared to the neighbouring one. Never mind, this may be the very last time I have to carry delivered logs uphill to the woodyard to season, then downhill again to the house to burn…

07/04/04    The first Sycamore tree near the house is now in leaf but most of the others are still at the slightly green and ‘fuzzy around the edges’ stage. All the Blackthorn are in full white flower, the Hazels are just coming into leaf and the Willow are already well away. Wood Anemone are flowering amongst the fading Daffs in the orchard and I did see three beautiful Snake Head Fritillaries in flower near Aislaby. A pair of Greenfinches now grace the feeding station daily, as well as a pair of Siskins.

Tomorrow the tannalised timber arrives to build the frame for the new cord in the woodyard.

04/04/04    Yesterday, between April showers, I split most of the newly delivered logs and cleared them off the parking area by carrying them part-way up the slope to the woodyard. This may be the last time I have to carry delivered logs uphill to the woodyard and then, a year later, downhill again to the house because I have plans for a much better system. If I can build a small pole barn next to the car park then not only can I park my car inside, but deliveries of logs can be dropped there, then split, sawn and stacked to season all on one level, in any weather and all under cover (Linda Snell permitting). The woodyard will still be used for all the logs I carry down from the wood itself.

This morning the rain gauge already shows 1 inch of rain in the last 4 days, mostly from heavy showers early on Saturday and again last night.

02/04/04    I bumped into the local tree fellers (there were actually 5 of them, not 3!)  clearing away a mature Beech tree toppled in last month’s storm and was able to buy a ton of assorted branches at very short notice, delivered. Now all I have to do with them is carry, split where necessary and stack them in the woodyard to season for the winter of 2005/6 – but this time I will split them into reasonably-sized logs before I attempt to carry them across the badly cratered woodyard (thanks, Flag) to the second cord which I haven’t quite made the new frame for. Yet.

We certainly don’t want any unnecessary multi-handling now, do we? Not like last summer when I foolishly stacked by the car park where it was dropped, un-stacked, carried to the woodyard, stacked into a cord which collapsed under the weight, un-stacked, remade the cord frame and then re-stacked the same 1¼ tons of logs – I think that adds up to about about 6¼ tons of timber, all moved by hand (mine) in the course of a few days! Some people just join a gym to keep fit…

01/04/04    An Osprey splashed into the garden pond this morning and flew off with a good-sized Trout. I would also like to say that the new conservatory doors were fitted, the new carpet was laid, the correct spindles were on the new deck railings, the new steps were completed and the lawn was safely fenced off, but: ‘Oh no they aren’t – it’s only April Fools’ Day!’ I’ll just have to settle for a Siskin on the feeding station instead.

Weather for March 2004:     Rainfall 1⅝ inches (42 mm). Temperatures: Maximum 67º F (19º C). Minimum 27º F (-3º C). Actual 48º F (9º C) at 0930 hours on 1/4/2004. Cold with snow for the first few days, then remarkably mild and dry thereafter, with a storm in mid-month.

31/03/04    This morning the replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavour sailed back into Whitby harbour, this time with Prince Phillip on board. He will be leaving after lunch at the Captain Cook Museum in Grape Lane, she will be staying for several days [NOT weeks] so that people can visit her. She is a modern replica. He isn’t.

Yesterday I cut some of last year’s shoots, now just in leaf, from the Twigwam and planted them to gap-up Flag’s Folly where about a quarter of last year’s batch of Living Willow didn’t.

27/03/04    Yesterday saw the first grass cutting of the year and also Flag’s first disappearance for a long time. It was those cheeky Tree Rats (Grey Squirrels) which enticed him away, not to mention a couple of very provocative Pheasants. He reappeared safely about an hour later, covered in mud and looking very pleased about something…

Today I tidied-up the branches which had been cut from the trees overhanging the orchard. After snipping off the twigs and minor branches I am left with a useful heap of cordwood for next winter’s fuel supply. I must start to build another cord frame like last year’s, then I can use them alternately.

25/03/04    Another nice day let me get back into Bank orchard to tidy-up the hedge work of last month. Geoff and Guy have chain sawn the big, well seasoned Oak limb which fell  and snagged in the hedge into fire logs. I sorted the last of the lop and top from the hedge and carried home a few more weaving rods while Flag made the very steep orchard even more hazardous for me come strimming time.

The wild Daffodils are now in full flower and looking magnificent. They survived the storm unscathed, unlike the taller ‘tame’ Daffs in Groves Dyke garden which still look a bit windswept.

24/03/04    Now 6 blobs of frogspawn in the pond. The mild, dry sunny weather was perfect for dealing with the recently fallen Cherry tree at the top of Bankside. It had fallen on a Holly of the same age, bending it double in the process. I was able to saw off all the Cherry branches on one side and the Holly whipped upright again. Buds are now forming on the Cherry, so it may still survive as a ‘Prunus horizontalis’ with a very impressive root plate in mid air.

22/03/04    First Chiffchaff of the year calling loudly in the wood yesterday and today. First frogspawn of the year in the Groves Bank pond this morning. First Newt of the year late last night (probably a Common Newt) walking across the yard. Also the first fallen tree of the year, a 1983/4 Wild Cherry, near the upper footbridge. It must have toppled over last night, some 48 hours after the storm ended. NB: What should you do just before a big tree falls on you? Cross your ankles, of course. It makes it easier for the survivors to screw you out of the ground afterwards!

19/03/04    A couple of mild but stormy days with squally showers have added ½ inch of rain to the ½ inch so far this month, but the poor joiner worked on regardless in all weathers to get the decking ready. The wrong spindles were delivered for the surrounding handrails, so he has fitted ‘fence rails’ instead, to make it usable until the right spindles come. The steps have yet to be added but the new deck feels much bigger than I expected, and makes the conservatory feel bigger, too. Another bonus is that if you lean over the corner of the decking you can do a wonderful Celine Dion impersonation in the ‘bow’ of the ship!

The big old fashioned  bath having ‘cured’ for 48 hours, the masking paper was removed to reveal a wonderful ‘new’ enamelling, which is much more attractive.

The old dressing table in the double bedded room was replaced with a smaller antique chest of drawers, which looks very nice and makes the room feel much less crowded. A stand with adjustable mirrors sits on top to complete the ‘new’ dressing table.

17/03/04    The muddy paths around the wood have dried out in this warm, dry wind. Elder tree leaves are just beginning to appear and a Woodcock was flushed from the bushes as Flag and I walked past the viewpoint this morning.

The missing beam has finally arrived and work on the decking is now in progress!

15/03/04    A windy night has left part of the woodshed roof on the bonfire site, but it looks easy enough to put back. The strange dawn chorus I could hear while in the bath was eventually recognised as the first happy song this year of courting frogs in the Groves Bank pond! About a dozen little pointy noses were visible, as they purred loudly to each other – but why was it ever called ‘croaking?’

The big, old-fashioned bath tub was re-enamelled this afternoon and now needs 48 hours to cure properly. I had hoped that the original bath taps could be replaced with lever taps, but they proved too difficult to remove that I didn’t risk it. Does being ‘irreplaceable’ make old bath taps ‘priceless’ or ‘worthless?’ Never mind, I will find some clever mobility aid instead.

The mild, dry weather continues. In the Groves Dyke garden the Twigwam Willows are now in bud, the triangle of Daffodils are in full flower and Primroses are well on as well. The carpet of ‘wild’ Daffs in the Groves Bank orchard are all completely open now and look magnificent. Dogs Mercury is everywhere and the first Lesser Celandine flowers are now open.

13/03/04    Yesterday Geoff (who cuts the grass) and his colleague Guy spent the afternoon up a tree with a chainsaw. Several trees, in fact. The ones which form the boundary alongside Groves Dyke drive and which overhang the orchard, causing the fruit trees to grow long, horizontal branches which droop across the drive. By ‘raising the crowns’ (ie removing the lower branches) of the overhanging trees, the fruit trees will be able to grow upwards to the light, rather than sideways. This should rejuvenate them and safeguard whatever ancient variety of apple they may be. One autumn I really will take 3 apples from each specific tree and have them identified by an expert at a local Apple Day and then label each of the trees…

This morning was wet, so a 15 minute bird count from the conservatory gave: Blue Tit 6, Blackbird 5, Great Tit 3, Long Tailed Tit 3, Robin 3, Chaffinch 2, Dunnock 2, Coal Tit 1, Collared Dove 1; Bank Vole 1. (0925-0940; 8/8 cloud cover; steady drizzle; calm; mild). A taller than average bird table on a pole has been ordered so that anyone sitting in the new Groves Dyke conservatory can feed and watch the birds more easily.

A dry afternoon, so the deadwood fence alongside the drive was improved with the new weaving rods, the bigger branches from the crown-raising were stacked in the woodshed and the plumber swopped the last of the cross-top taps for lever ones. He also repaired the outside tap in the yard, which involved turning off all the water near the mains pipe. This stop tap lives at arm’s length down a hole underneath a metal lid  – but so does a very handsome Slow Worm! It was fairly dozy so we left it down there in its winter hibernaculum until the weather warms up a bit. Must remember to rescue it next month…

11/03/04    To make life easier for anyone with a weak grip or stiff fingers I have decided to change all the taps in the house from cross-tops to lever-tops. This also helps Groves Dyke to meet more of the requirements for the Tourist Board’s National Accessibility Scheme. In the last few days some of the taps have now been replaced, but due to a ‘communication  mismatch’ the re-enamelling of the great big old fashioned bath is still to happen in the next few days…

07/03/04    Yesterday was another mild, calm sunny day – ideal for spending several hours tidying-up the partly laid hedge in the orchard (or digging a new hole, depending on your priorities). I worked through the big pile of lop and top, sorting it into potential cordwood for the wood burning stove next winter (probably enough), a stack of weaving rods each more than 12 feet long to beef-up the deadwood fences (3 armfuls or c60 rods), interestingly shaped branches and stems to make walking sticks, handles, etc (c25) and a relatively small habitat pile and future bonfire. Very  hard work but very enjoyable. So tiring, in fact, that by late afternoon one of us was lying by the side of the hole too tired to dig any more and barking in frustration at the elusive Giant Wood Mouse (and it wasn’t me)!

The early flowering Daffodils have survived their week below the snow and more are now in flower and yet more are still in bud.

This morning was mild but showery. The Groves Bank feeding station was as busier than ever with 7 Blue Tit, 3 Blackbird, 3 Great Tit, 3 Robin, 2 Chaffinch, 2 Long Tailed Tit, 2 Marsh Tit, 2 Wood Pigeon, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Dunnock and 1 Collared Dove (10.15 – 10.30). Sandsend was quite busy with lots of people and dogs enjoying the good weather. The beach has risen by about 4 feet, is mostly sand again and the pairs of wooden uprights for the old wooden pier now appear shorter and fewer than a week ago.

03/03/04    Only when you get to Aislaby or the top of Blue Bank can you look down onto the village of Sleights and realise why it has survived just here. All around you the moors and the higher fields are still covered with several inches of snow but there, down below, Sleights, Ruswarp and Whitby sit snugly in an island of green.

01/03/04    Another lovely, calm, dry sunny day after a hard frost (-5º C). Yesterday was very odd, with a good layer of snow on the moortop (up to a foot deep without any drifting) and yet people were sitting outside the beach hut cafe at Sandsend drinking coffee without their coats on and basking in the sunshine. The roads are all open again and life is returning to normal.

Weather for February 2004:     Rainfall 2¾ inches (70 mm). Temperatures: Maximum 60º F (º C). Minimum 20º F (º C). Actual 34º F (º C) at 0930 hours on 1/3/2004. A pleasant, very mild month until a cold snap with heavy snow (3 inches at Groves Bank, 12 inches at Goathland) which closed the roads across the moors for a day. Reopened quickly, thanks to  the absence of wind to create drifting. Then bright, warm sunny days as the low-lying snow melted but the overnight frosts kept the snow cover on the moors.

28/02/04    No strong wind, so no electricity cuts this time and no snow drifts, so Whitby and the Esk Valley have now been been reconnected to England by road. The field opposite, long nick-named ‘Green Pastures,’ is showing some grass through the thawing snow cover, but more showers of hail and snow drift across the dale from time to time.

27/02/04    Two inches of snow fell yesterday and thawed slightly, then perhaps another inch last night. The wind is very light so drifting is not a problem this time. All the main roads are ‘passable with care’ but villages like Goathland are virtually marooned.

26/02/04    Tidy-up day has finally arrived for the area around the old caravan. Now that all the brickwork for the conservatory is complete and the uprights for the decking have been concreted into place, the cement mixer and accompanying bits and bobs are no longer required. The caravan we used to stay in 25 years ago (when it was parked in the back yard!) was dismantled and removed as well. What a vast improvement!

25/02/04    A hard overnight frost, the path around the wood mud-free, the pond completely frozen over and the poor dog unable to dig in the woodyard. Strong northerly winds have dropped, there is a dusting of snow on the dale and the low  roar of the sea three miles away can be heard in the yard.

At Sandsend the tide is well out so the crashing waves are far enough away to reveal a beach more pebbles than sand. In fact, so much sand has been stripped off by the storm that the most eastern concrete steps now end a good 4 feet above the beach level! The last  3 concrete steps have snapped off and are now lying crookedly in the sand below. The legs of an old jetty near Raithwaite Beck, which occasionally show about a foot high, are now up to 4 feet above the beach level and show that there were at lease 8 pairs of wooden uprights.

So spectacular are the waves that, for the very first time in just over 2 years, Flag didn’t even try to lie in the water’s edge. A modicum of common sense, at last?

23/02/04    The model maker rang again and we agreed that I would wrap four Character Sticks (‘Unique walking sticks grown near Whitby, designed by Nature and crafted by hand’) for possible use in the film ‘The Libertine.’ The courier collected them this afternoon and one of them MAY be used as a prop in the film studio next week…

Google informs me that production of ‘The Libertine’ begins today; stars Johnny Depp, John Malkovich and Samantha Morton and is about Jon Wilmott, Earl of Rochester and long time confident of King Charles II. Well I never…

I see from the Max and Min Thermometer at Groves Dyke that sometime in the last 3 weeks the temperature has reached a maximum of 60º F (16ºC). That will explain why it has felt so mild and why the Hazel leaves in the Fourth Coup are already beginning to show. But then again, the minimum has been down to 24ºF (-5ºC) in the same period. That will explain why the pond has been frozen over a few times this month.

22/02/04    A 15 minute bird count at my feeding station revealed: Blue Tit 8, Long Tailed Tit 3, Chaffinch 2, Great Tit 2, Robin 2, Blackbird 1, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1,  Marsh Tit 1, Sparrow Hawk (male) 1. 1025 to 1040 am; 7/8 cloud cover; Force 4 Northerly, blustery with wintry showers.

Blowing half a gale at Groves Bank, and a Full Gale (ie Force 8 on the Beaufort Scale) on the beach at Sandsend. A brisk walk has removed all remaining cobwebs.

21/02/04    I got an interesting phone call yesterday from a London model-maker who needed a 5 foot 4 inch tall Ash staff ‘with a handle as big as an orange’ so that he could carve a monkey with a ruby in its navel – not the sort of request you get every day, but it seems he was preparing a prop for the film industry and was contacting anyone who might have coppiced woodland and who could supply such an item at short notice! I said I would have a look at what was in stock…

A lovely mild, dry, sunny day ideal for doing a bit more hedge-laying at the far end of the orchard. This involved dropping two biggish trees, a Beech and a Hazel, both growing underneath the second biggest Oak tree in the wood and further shading-out the hedge in question. Roped the Beech before felling it, just in case it decided to roll down the steep slope and onto the drive. It didn’t, but it did manage to land on top of one of the young fruit trees, which will have to be re-staked in a vertical position. Again. Both felled trees are as big as I have tackled with a bow saw (c9 inches diameter) but are now safely down, logged into cord wood and stacked under the giant Holly to lose weight before I try to carry them back to the woodyard.

As ever, Flag helped by digging another hole in the orchard for me to fall into when I am strapped to a strimmer in a few months from now.

19/02/04    Work began today to plant the uprights for the new decking which will link the new conservatory to the patio. When complete, children in the holiday cottage will be able to reach the front lawn directly and without having to walk between the parked cars.

Cooler this morning, but dry, bright and sunny later. The highest twigs of the Willow tree in the top corner of Groves Dyke orchard are just starting to bud.

18/02/04    A few more dampish days have brought the rainfall total this month to 1¼ inches, but it is so mild! Mild enough to wear a short-sleeved t-shirt when walking around the wood every morning. Mild enough to sit in my conservatory with the door wide open. Mild enough to hose the mud off Flag when we have walked up to Aislaby and back (but NOT mild enough to hose the mud off me – and anyway, I had my wellies on)!

More Daffs and Primroses in flower and the first catkins on the Alder trees in the wood. I cut some 6 foot Willow shoots from my Twigwam and planted them around the Twigwam in Aislaby, which did very poorly last year.

15/02/04    Half an inch of rain fell yesterday during a whole day of mizzle (total rainfall so far this month now 1 inch), but the mild weather has brought the first Daffs out in Groves Dyke orchard. More are out in the other orchard, as well as the very first Primrose of the year.

14/02/04    Today about twenty ‘wild’ Daffodils are in flower in Groves Bank orchard, with large clumps of Snowdrops still showing well. Much less noticeably, Dog’s Mercury is also in flower, with its insignificant little green flowers. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming in the wood this morning, somewhere near the first Hazel coup.

The conservatory is complete – except for the doors, which are being specially made to match the horizontal line of the brickwork. And the extra triangular windows to replace the weather-boarding on the eaves, which just doesn’t look right. Once the doors are on, then there will be the carpet and some furniture to buy. The decking at the South end of the conservatory, the steps down onto the patio and the fence to separate children playing on Groves Dyke lawn from all vehicles, will follow in the next few weeks.

The plumber called today to plan the conversion of all taps from cross-top to lever handles (easier for disabled people) and he will co-ordinate this change-over with the re-enamelling of the big, old fashioned, cast iron, roll-top bath.

Talking of water, today is still mild but a bit mizzley (combined mist and drizzle!), so perhaps I won’t spend the day gardening after all. (Only ½ an inch of rain has fallen in the first half of this month). Having just received lots of newspaper cuttings about the Gnome Man and his furniture, I may spend today adding those instead! Click here for the Gnome Man page.

12/02/04    After a few days away birding at Slimbridge (WWT Reserve on the Severn) and at Rutland Water (Anglia Water Reserve), it was nice to come back to an almost complete conservatory, a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the wood, clumps of Snowdrops flowering in the garden and Daffodils a foot high and nearly, nearly almost in bud.

While shopping near Whitby west cliff a skein of some 300 geese flew over and headed out to sea. Next stop Scandinavia and the far North, so it must be Spring! I wonder were they the same Greylags I was watching at Slimbridge a couple of days ago?

07/02/04    Two Roe Deer slipped quietly away from Flag as we walked around the wood this morning. It was only when the third one came too close and made too much noise that he became aware and set off to give them their morning exercise. I whistled after a couple of minutes and he reappeared, much to my relief.

06/02/04    Work continues on the roof of the new Groves Dyke conservatory, now that the roofing sheets have been delivered. T-shirt weather also continues, including a walk on the beach.

04/02/04    Almost a full dawn chorus this mild, bright and dry morning. Big dangly Hazel catkins are everywhere, Robins are singing lustily, Snowdrops are in full flower by the Cypress trees in Groves Bank orchard, Cilla are also flowering and the first Daffodils are in bud. Less than ¼ inch of rain has fallen since the beginning of the month (unlike the floods in North Wales caused by 12 inches of rain in the last 3 days) and the maximum temperature here has already reached 60º F. The days now stretch from before 8am to almost 5pm and last week’s blizzards are a distant memory already.

01/02/04    A bright, dry, sunny day brought many more birds to the feeding station. In 15 minutes this morning there were: Long-tailed Tit 7, Blue Tit 4, Blackbird 3, Great Tit 3, Magpie 3, Robin 3, Wood Pigeon 3, Chaffinch 2, Coal Tit 2, Dunnock 1, Marsh Tit 1. Also Bank Vole 1.

Weather for January 2004:     Rainfall 4¾ inches (117 mm). Temperatures: Maximum 52º F (11º C). Minimum 24º F (-4º C). Actual 42º F (6º C) at 0930 hours on 1/2/2004. ‘Wet snow’ on New Year’s Day brought a power cut, then a fairly wet spell but even so the days were lengthening noticeably by mid month. Finally, heavy snow (30cm fell at Goathland) and strong winds closed all roads to Whitby for a day, quickly followed by a day of steady rain to add to the snow melt.

31/1/04    Steady drizzle all day added to the rapid snow melt and the Salmon Leap weir at Sleights was almost brink-full. The first Snowdrops are in flower in the corner of Groves Dyke orchard and the Daffodil shoots on the lawn are about 6 inches high.

30/1/04    Yesterday Whitby and the Esk Valley were cut off by road, not that anyone would have tried to go anywhere! The wind on the moortop blew the show into impassable drifts, but down here in the bottom of the valley there was hardly a breeze. I can see why Sleights was built where it was!

This morning the temperature is in the high thirties Fahrenheit , the snow is melting fast and everything is back to normal. I suppose flooding will be the next thing to look out for, as all this snow melts.

In response to the enquiries I get about the locally-made furniture in Groves Dyke, a new page has been created on this website to gather information about the Tom Whittaker the Gnome Man of Littlebeck (click here). Please contribute any details you may have about him or his furniture, as very little seems to have been written about this local Master Craftsman.

28/1/04    Nothing too terrible happened last night, contrary to the forecast – except a bit more snow. The temperature is only just below freezing and now there is a covering about 3 inches deep. If only the Big Garden Birdwatch was today, I would have doubled all those numbers! The secondary schools in Whitby sent the kids home early today, with instructions not to even try to get to school tomorrow!

Snow flurries and sunny spells continued throughout the day. Its just like a Christmas card out there, or perhaps a winter scene photographed by Sutcliffe, but the sepia tones are all natural thanks to the winter light. Thank goodness for double glazing, even if it is by You Know Who!

27/1/04    The snow started about mid-morning and by early afternoon a good inch covered everything down here in the bottom of the dale. Reports from Goathland (on the moortop) are that the first snowplough to reach the village wasn’t until late afternoon, which meant that the school bus did manage to get the kids back home again.

Show showers and bright sunny spells continued for much of the day. By mid-evening it was snowing steadily again and Flag & I slithered back indoors covered in great big soft melting snow flakes. Its about time we had a proper winter again – anyone in this country under the age of 25 won’t even know what proper winter weather is!

25/1/04    Today I did a 1 hour count from the conservatory for the RSPB’s 25th Big Garden Birdwatch: Blue Tit 4, Blackbird 3, Great Tit 3, Longtailed Tit 3, Chaffinch 2, Robin 2, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Marsh Tit 1. (12.30 -1.30. Dry, bright, sunny, mild and Force 2 Westerly. 2/8 cloud).

For an hour’s birding at Groves Bank, this was almost a disappointment! The Green Woodpecker waited until just after 1.30 to yaffle and I also had to ignore the Wood Pigeons and Pheasants in the wood just beyond the garden, and all the Greater Black-backed Gulls that flew over. But where where the Great Spotted Woodpecker of previous years, or the Nuthatch, or the Sparrowhawk when you want them?

24/1/04    The last couple of days have been dry and the rain gauge shows just 3 inches of rain so far this month, so maybe it wasn’t that wet after all.

Today is bright, dry, sunny, mild and calm – perfect for getting back to the hedge-laying in the orchard. By the end of a near perfect day half a dozen Beech poles had been felled (they were growing under the second biggest Oak tree in the whole wood and would never have amounted to anything, apart from shading-out the other hedge species); all but one pole cut from an Ash (first pollarded 20 years ago and now perfect firewood diameter) felled, several potential walking sticks set aside AND a very large hole dug into the steep slope (just perfect for me to fall into when I am strimming next summer). The poles were carried and stacked  to season in the big dry patch under the big Holly tree. Come the autumn they will be a fraction of their present weight and much easier to carry to the woodyard.

21/1/04    Oh good, its stopped at last! I woke up this morning to a bright, calm mild but most of all DRY day, with birdsong from at least one Great Tit and a Robin. Still too wet and slippery underfoot to attempt the south face of the wood, so Flag and I settled for yet another stroll along Woodlands Drive instead.

19/1/04    The rain which started yesterday afternoon continued unabated all day today and the rain gauge is showing about 2 inches of rain in the past 19 days. Still unseasonably mild, with temperatures in the mid-40s Fahrenheit.

An afternoon birding trip to Scarborough with T&C produced c500 Wigeon just offshore at the Sealife Centre (Scalby Mills). Then a drive past the seafront amusement arcades and cafes on the South Bay surprised us with a few dozen Turnstone scuttling along the pavements on both sides of the road in search of food. The tide was high, leaving only a narrow strip of sand for a few Sanderling, Turnstone and a lone walkers. Parking on the fish pier, our car was soon surrounded by a dozen more Turnstone hoping for handouts – one even turned over an empty polystyrene fish and chip tray. Could this be the beginning of a new sub-species of seaside resort wader to be called a Turntray?

18/1/04    Sandsend beach is back to normal again, with a flock of c20 Oystercatchers moving from beach (too many walkers) to golf course (too many golfers) to the fields on the other side of the coast road.

About 150 Golden Plover rested with c 200 Lapwing in the field opposite the new Victoria Farm Garden Centre, just outside Whitby on the Guisborough Road. Their cafe does an excellent Sunday Lunch with the bonus of the magnificent views across the fields (flocks of Fieldfare and Redwing) to Whitby.

15/1/04    More fine, dry, calm, sunny days with a slight night frost. Ideal for hedge-laying, but the CJS office still calls instead. A male Sparrowhawk visited the feeding station yesterday, missed all the birds and sat on the back lawn for a moment to recover his composure. A Roe deer was seen leaping through the wood on two recent morning walks. Flag was aware of it, but nowhere close and came to me when I called him. Just a few days ago someone said ‘By, he’s calmed down a lot!’ and I think they may be right… and its only taken him two long years.

The electricity supply company NEDL has sent a standard letter of apology to all 51,000 households in NE England for the ‘interruption in supply’ at New Year. The problem, apparently, was the strong winds which brought the overhead cables down under the weight of wet snow. Sorry, just not good enough. The ‘wrong kind of snow’ was an excuse first used by Rail Track more than 10 years ago when winter weather stopped all the trains running for several days. With climate change bringing milder and wetter winters, we can expect more ‘wet snow’, so the electricity companies will just have to use stronger cables, won’t they? At least when Yorkshire Water have a burst pipe they deliver bottled water to everyone affected – perhaps NEDL should give us all a couple of torch batteries and a box of candles for next time?

PS: Its now 4pm and it has just started snowing heavily – and it looks a bit wet, too…

12/1/04    Both of last week’s CJS publications were record breakers and we have all nearly recovered. Work continued on the new Groves Dyke conservatory and, with the wooden framework now in place and the window frames fitted, it is now possible to ‘feel’ how it will be. The toughened glass is being made to measure as I write and the roof sheets are due to be delivered next week.

The wind has dropped, the temperature has risen, the clouds have rolled away and this morning the sun is shining, the Rooks are circling noisily, the green shoots of Snowdrops are appearing in the orchard and the Hazel catkins are apparent. It could almost be spring…

8/1/04    Back to work with a vengeance as the Countryside Jobs Service office in Groves Bank reopened on Tuesday and we prepare to publish the biggest ‘CJS Monthly’ and ‘CJS Weekly’ of the year on Mon 12/1/04 (see Links).

Work on the Groves Dyke conservatory continued on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while the sun shone and now the wooden framework is up. Rain on Thursday meant that work had to continue indoors (in the Stickery) to make the window frames. The toughened glass is currently being made to measure and the roof sheets have been ordered and are due in a few days… Progress!

5/1/04    Cool, grey and damp. Too muddy to dig holes in the wood today, so I took Flag to Sandsend beach to chase a tennis ball (and mug anybody else who has one). Also to ‘sandpaper’ the dried mud off his feet and feathers as he runs. It worked, even though thousands of tons of big pebbles have been dumped on the beach by the New Year storms. Perfect conditions for fossil-hunting, but the next big seas will take them away again.

Looking back, I see that a third of all Groves Dyke visitors in 2003 had been here before! To thank all my regulars for their loyalty, I will in future present every repeat booking with a complimentary bottle of Fair Trade wine on arrival. I hope to meet you all again soon…

3/1/04    Luckily someone at BT was working on Saturday and they rang (on a different line) after lunch to let me know that the overhead lines were fine – but the thing still wouldn’t work, so it must be a fault at their exchange after all. By mid-afternoon someone else had managed to press the right button in the exchange and it was again possible to communicate with the internet ‘which never sleeps’ (unlike BT, which still thinks in office hours, weekdays only).

Incidentally, the fridge door has been busy again:

where is your pack

no little boy or girl to love and protect

do you remember that dog pound

with a clean bed food and water

but too full of empty howling to understand

outside I scratch your ear as we walk and talk

he nuzzles my hand and gives me a faithful paw

as together they devour every sweet morning

2/1/04 Flushed a Woodcock from the top of the beck. If flew along the field edge and (hopefully) back into the wood again.

Today was to be the day for catching up with emails and the website, but British Telecom and my BT Business Highway decided they knew better. ‘It appears to be a line fault and the estimated repair time is 7 hours.’ That was midday on Friday and their outside engineers stop work at 5pm. ‘Sorry, but they don’t work weekends, unless someone happens to be working overtime.’

01/01/2004   It was certainly wet and windy last night, bad enough for many places (including Edinburgh) to cancel their New Year firework displays and outdoor celebrations. Fifty thousand households across the north of England, including Groves Bank and Groves Dyke, had power cuts. The electricity here went off about 11pm and that re-chargeable, wind-up torch which sits patiently on the kitchen windowsill, suddenly came into its own! Power was restored at 4.27am precisely. I know this for a fact because the reconnection set off my bedside radio alarm clock!

The blizzard brought a foot of snow to RAF Fylingdales on the moor road to Pickering (‘passable with care’), but only sleety rain to Sleights. The temperature is just above freezing here but the snow on Sleights Moor is clearly visible.

Between 10 and 10.15 am the feeding station had Great Tit 4, Blue Tit 3, Blackbird 2, Chaffinch 2, Coal Tit 2, Robin 2, Dunnock 1, Marsh Tit 1 and Wood Pigeon 1. Later, 1 Bank Vole appeared, 10 Long Tailed Tit came to feed and a Treecreeper spiralled up the telegraph pole by the woodyard.