News Blog 2010

So Happy Christmas, Happy New Year and I’ll try to catch up on the past 6 weeks sometime over the next few days. Basically, it was a Perfect Storm of too many holidays, too much building work in my house, too much changing the old CJS office into our new Snug (disconnect BT Home Hub, store all computers, printers, etc upstairs, demolish, rebuild, redecorate, re-carpet and then reconnect BT Home Hub in new Study – what could possibly go wrong? Ha!), not to mention too much snow and ice, too much Christmas / New Year, etc, etc. More later…

SA measured 14 inches of level snow at the top of my wood and my lawns were up to 8 inches deep. It would snow, melt a bit, snow again, melt again, etc, etc for several weeks, so it is impossible to say how many inches of snow fell in total. The snowmelt refroze and the snow on my drive was compacted into ice, so after a few weeks there was over 2 inches thick of ice. My drive was impassable from late November, so my car spent well over 3 weeks parked down on Woodlands Drive (along with all the other residents’ cars, as the drive is never ploughed nor gritted). Once off Woodlands Drive, the main roads were normally open.

On Christmas Eve BC was caught in a sudden afternoon snowstorm on the way back from Scarborough. Along with several hundred other cars, they just waited an hour for a passing snow plough / gritter to get the Pond Hill cars moving again, and then everyone was able to proceed.

On Christmas Eve the sun shone all morning and my solar panels sprang into life.

While we were away, SA and MD dropped the bendy oak just above Typewriter Cant, as it was now far taller and shading its neighbouring contemporary Oaks. Clearing, lopping, topping and stacking the useful wood involved 3 days’ work.

On 31 Dec Npower came to my house to replace my fawlty meter. Again. Still fawlty.

During the really hard frost the door to my conservatory was frozen closed, with all the bird food and many of the day to day tools inside. Trying to force the door open was only going to crack the glass, so eventually I parked a halogen work light closer than recommended and left it there for well over an hour (checking every few minutes) before it warmed everything up enough to free the door. It seems that during one sunny spell the condensation on the inside of the glass door had trickled down and onto the carpet. When it froze again, it froze the bottom edge of the door to the carpet! Solution: lay 2 layers of plastic bin bags under the door and above the carpet – if it ever happens again, at least the 2 layers of plastic should slide over each  other. I hope.

Weather for December 2010: Max 6°C / 44°F, Min minus 13°C / 9°F, Actual at 09.30 on 01 Jan 2011: 4° / 38°. Rainfall: 41+mm / 1.5+ inches.
NB: A new conical rain gauge was fitted in mid Dec but was unable to cope with the column of snow / ice which accumulated.

Weather for November 2010: Max ?° / ?°, Min ?° / ?°, Actual at 09.30 on 01 Dec 2010: ?° / ?°. Rainfall: ?mm / ? inches.
NB: The old rain gauge was broken when the water within it froze solid and the resulting expansion broke the seal.

17 Nov 2010    I shifted more things out of the study ready for its refurb while SA and MD went off to play in the wood. After lunch BC and I continued the study tidy while the others began to dismantle a big Gean just above Crab Laund (used to be Dogsnout Laund, until Rogers Nursery in Pickering identified the Apple tree as a Crab Apple and not a dogsnout-type Apple). This Gean was planted at the same time as the young Oaks nearby (in the early 1980s) but is now several times bigger than them and overshadowing them, so it has to go.

15 Nov 2010    BC and I helped some friends in Whitby by trimming up their hedge in return for a very nice lunch.

14 Nov  After turning around the holiday cottage we tidied up the polebarn, the yard, the tomatoes (and everywhere except the study) and then made another 2½ gallons of soup, adding to the range of Sleightly Soups with Poacher’s Broth and Beef Broth. Both are now frozen in the nice new chest freezer which is keeping the chill off the mudroom (not to mention the new Kingspan insulation layer underneath the recently retiled roof).

13 Nov 2010    Choose our new carpet and hearthrug at Beevers of Whitby and arranged measuring and then fitting appointments. After lunch BC tidied up the veg garth and kept the Pheasants off – but they have already eaten the hearts out of the cabbages and sprouts, not to mention stripping the leaves off the beetroot, parsnips and swedes. Blasted Pheasants are now quite well fed on our veg and our bird feeders, but the newly delivered chest freezer is almost ready…

12 Nov 2010    SA used his newly refurbished Tirfor winch (now in a fetching shade of Sheffield Blue) to drag the felled Ash trunks up the bank and away from the telephone wires. After lunch he chain sawed them into more easily carried bits (4 foot lengths, of course) and we stacked them up off the ground nearby. We piled brashings on top of the typewriter to stop the Roe Deer eating off the young coppicing shoots. The fine weather continued so he chain sawed the thick bits of cordwood on the West Cord and we stacked the resulting 16 inch firelogs into the woodshed. By the time we had finished it was more than half-full again.

11 Nov 2010    After 10 months without off peak overnight hot water, and now that the solar panels are a bit less effective in the shorter days and lower sun, I contacted Npower plc to ask what had gone wrong. After telling me that it was bound to be my fault and not theirs, I convinced them that I had had the solar system fully checked, as well as the internal electrics and the plumbing, so all that was left was Npower’s bit, they finally agreed to send a little man. When he arrived he looked at the original Northern Electric plc meter board and began to unravel what they may have done. Sadly, it wasn’t what he thought would work, so further investigation will be required.

Frail Elderly: Every power company now has a list of ‘vulnerable’ customers who are always given priority. I asked Npower just how frail

 and elderly one had to be. and discover that just being over 60 was sufficient! I recommend you all look at the back of your leccy bill, find the particular ‘frail elderly’ scheme and phone them up to have yourself added – it might prove useful in a power cut, etc.

10 Nov 2010    My new chest freezer and fridge were delivered this morning, all A-rated for maximum energy efficiency of course. I have also bought a new more efficient fridge freezer for Groves Dyke and all three were delivered this morning by Comet (the best deal I could find on the web). Thanks to MD and his Freelander, we were able to ferry them up my drive from the back of the Comet wagon, too big to get under the Apple Arch. Now both in position, they have to settle down for 24 hours before switching on. There are now 8 Pheasants pecking about my garden, especially under the bird feeders and the veg garth…

SA and MD spent the day chain sawing the second Ash tree which is too near my phone lines. BC and I went swimming and then sawed nearly a 1/6th of a woodshed full of cordwood, using the 2-wo/man crosscut saw and the big bowsaw.

08 Nov 2010    The 98% efficient condensing gas boiler in the loft of Groves Dyke passed its annual service today – now that the old man has boarded-out the loft so that the young man can go up and check it.

Shortly afterwards the nice man from Duncombe Park Sawmill in Pickering delivered 2 big dumpy bags of firelogs to my polebarn – beautifully seasoned Ash logs, each a perfect 16 inches long. Then another 2 bags to BC’s brand new wood store. All was neatly stacked by sunset.

07 Nov 2010    BC and I tidied up everything: the last crop of tomatoes, the bits from the cider-pressing, the accumulation of things in the polebarn, etc, all in anticipation of tomorrow’s delivery of firelogs.

06 Nov 2010    We went to Pickering to ask Roger’s Nurseries to identify another 5 varieties of apple, which they kindly did. We can now add Blenheim Orange to the far end of Bank Orchard, with Crab in the centre and Newton Wonder at this end. The apple arch over the drive is also Newton Wonder and I would love to say that this is the variety which fell on Newton’s head and made him wonder about gravity… but it isn’t. Sadly, it was named just 100 years ago in the village of Newton. What a pity. We have now fitted copper labels to each of the trees so that we will never again forget which tree is which variety. We think…

Malton was also visited, including a look at the Charnwood woodburning stoves in Yates’s Country Store. If anything cracks when the builders move my 30-year old Belgian Feu de Bois stove in a few weeks, then Charnwood will probably be my next choice.

05 Nov 2010    SA, MD, BC and I (but mostly MD) completed BC’s new wood store in my polebarn, amid much jollity: ‘It was far better when only one of us knew what we were doing!’ and ‘We are just getting the hang of it now’ and ‘Yes, but it has taken you an hour to get that far’, etc. When it was almost fully mantled we put it on MD’s trailer without any dismantling it, and delivered it before adding the roof. Now all it needs is a few firelogs…

03 Nov 2010    SA and BC began to mantle BC’s new wood store in my polebarn, but a cold wind numbed their fingers and brains. Come back MD!

01 Nov 2010    After lunch BC and I were sitting in the conservatory when a Heron flew onto the top of the leaning Ash tree for a few minutes. It soon flew off again, leaving the Ash even barer than before.

Then we trimmed the hedge down by the road, as well as the Bendy Seat Hedge, so now all of our hedges are done. Hooray!

Weather for October 2010: Max 25° / 71°, Min 11° / 31°, Actual at 09.30 on 01 Nov 2010: 11° / 52°. Rainfall: 50mm / 2 inches.

30 Oct 2010    BC and I went to Pickering with a couple of bags of apples. After lunch, Rogers’ Nurseries were able to identify both varieties: our so-called Dogsnout up in the wood is actually a wild native Crab Apple (as always intended) and one tree next to the compost bin is actually an Allington Pippin.

Roger’s have a wonderful Apple display for National Apple Week – the same display they took to Malvern and to Harrogate, where it won a Gold. Over 70 varieties of their own 140 are on show and look really impressive. Well worth seeing (just 1 mile South of Pickering on the A169.

29 Oct 2010    SA, BC and I spent the morning sawing the felled Blackthorn into cordwood (4 foot lengths) and stacking them temporarily in Upper Polebarn Cant. After lunch, NC got too involved in composing a letter to Westminster, while BC and SA started an end frame of BC’s new woodbox.

BC saw a Slow Worm by the yat stead in the woodyard, even though it wasn’t a very warm day.

27 Oct 2010    SA, LG, CG, BC and I picked, washed, cut, pressed and barrelled another 6 gallons today, helped later by K and M. By late afternoon we were just about ready to stop for the year and began to tidy up. Last year’s press was too small and fiddly. This year’s Mark I press was too big and heavy (no need to add that dead rat after all, there was already more than enough of our fingers in there). Next year’s Mark II press will be smaller, lighter and much more manoeuvrable…

Having finally emptied all the cider making kit out of the polebarn, BC and I filled it up again with the tannalised fencing bought to construct BC’s new wood box.

25 Oct 2010    BC and I spent the afternoon collecting another 14 blue trays of apples, ready for our 3rd Cider Day later this week

24 Oct 2010    BC sawed more logs and I went to the 26th Annual Service to commemorate the birth of Captain Cook RN FRS. It was held in St Mary’s Church, which he would have attended, and I calculated that in the late 1700s our Major Oak in Groves Coppice would have been just a sapling – and the young trees we are currently tending will be as big as our Major Oak by about 2235 AD. Now there’s a sobering thought.

23 Oct 2010    BC and I spent part of the afternoon (between showers) sawing some of the West cord, now seasoned for a full year, into firelogs and stacking them in the woodshed.

22 Oct 2010    MD completed the clearing of Upper Polebarn Cant and after lunch we all had a nice walk around, planning the winter programme. We also moved almost all the felled Ash, which had been overhanging the phone wires, to a temporary mini-cord nearer the Major Oak.

Both MD and, later, BC saw the Roe doe which has been lurking in the wood for several weeks.

21 Oct 2010    Joined Ruswarp in Bloom Group and the Rotary Club of Whitby Endeavour to plant 1000 Crocuses on Ruswarp Bank. Next spring a purple diamond should appear in the grass verge, to raise awareness and funds and support Rotary’s ‘Thanks for Life’ campaign to eradicate polio worldwide. Bill Gates has offered to match every dollar that Rotary International raises, in a final push to immunise enough children in the last 3 countries in the world where it can still be found: India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Why purple? Every child dips their little finger in purple ink once immunised, to avoid duplication. Simple really.

20 Oct 2010    Our second cider-making day of 2010 and it stayed dry but with a cool wind. MD picked masses of apples in the morning and then went on to trim the last bit of Upper Polebarn Cant. When BC and I joined in after lunch we washed, cut and pressed another 4 gallons of apple juice. SR made a guest appearance (!) which let us process an extra gallon of Crab Apple wine in a demijohn.

19 Oct 2010    I spent the afternoon trying to get the last of the grass cut before the rain arrived – and failed. All the grass has now been cut at least once since the wedding, including the path around the wood, but I got soaked in the process. Never mind, it might be the very last grass cut this year… ha! And there are still both orchards to be strimmed…

18 Oct 2010    BC and I trimmed the front hedge between the two gardens, and our Box hedge as well. Not to mention making a gallon of Crab Apple wind from donated fruit and another gallon of Elderberry Wine from our own. NB: Not to be confused with the old folks’ club in KMS called The Elderberries!

17 Oct 2010    We collected all the ground reach fruit from the Dog Snout Apple tree in the wood (given to us by the National Park as a ‘native Crab Apple tree’!) and filled about 12 blue plastic trays ready for our next cider-making day. Then off to Falling Foss Tea Garden for a nice bacon butty lunch and a nice little walk.

15 Oct 2010    Cider-making Day One. SR, MD, LG, Si and others set about constructing the Mark One 7-ton Cider Press  beside the pole barn. By the time BC and I got back for lunch, work was well underway. After lunch we first pressed a gallon of Pure Tingley apple juice, followed by 5 gallons from mixed apples.

13 Oct 2010    BC and I washed all the trugs in anticipation of Cider-making Day, and picked about 10 blue trays of apples from Dyke Orchard.

12 Oct 2010    BC and I cut the Privet hedge between the veg garth and the beck lawn. Just a trim, since the hedge on the other side of the veg garth looks a bit massacred.

11 Oct 2010    I strimmed more than half the lawns while BC made another 2 gallons of Fawlty Tomato (without Basil) Soup and then we demolished BC’s old woodbox, ready to build the new improved version.

10 Oct 2010    BC and I watched a young Grey Wagtail visit the pond, followed by the first Tree Sparrow for many months. A Roe Deer also flitted through the wood. Walked at Sandsend and made 2 big strings of onions.

09 Oct 2010    D&T delivered the new improved Heath Robinson cider press in a Land Rover and big trailer. Just a few RSJs, a bit of welding, an Acroprop for a piston and a 4 foot length of high pressure gas pipe for a barrel. Ever so simple, really: Just bolt the legs to the feet, use a sky hook to fit the RSJ on top, attach the mangle handle to the hooverstat and adjust for the angle of dangle…

Then BC and I fixed 2 old pallets vertically into the corner of the veg garth to form a compost heap.

08 Oct 2010    SA and MD lit a bonfire in Polebarn Cant and after lunch BC and I joined them and we all (almost) finished clearing the Blackthorn from this new double cant: Upper Polebarn Cant and Lower Polebarn Cant.

06 Oct 2010    SA and MD carried on with logging up and moving (or not) the 2 felled Ash trees.

Meanwhile BC and I attended the wedding of EW and SM in Belfast, then headed off to spend several days exploring the North Coast, including the Giant’s Causeway, Ballintoy Harbour, Ballycastle (where the Promenade Cafe on the seafront still makes and sells the best icecream, but a sixpenny slider now costs £1.25p – a 30x increase in 50 years), Murlough Bay, Cushendun (ruined by new flats) and Cushendall. Next day it was Ballymoney (where 10 Market Street of my primary school years is now the Jade Garden Chinese Takeaway), Portrusn, Portstewart, Coleraine (I remembered to shout ‘You Bastards!’ as we drove past my secondary school), the Bann Estuary and the Mussenden Temple and Bishop’s Palace where I worked for the National Trust.

On day 3 we explored Armagh city and enjoyed Kangaroo steak in Uluaru and BC offically opened the Wee Museum in The Moy. Overall impressions? Planning loopholes have allowed a complete rash of modern houses, many of them South Fork-type ranches, throughout the rural areas – a disease know there as ‘Bungaloses’. But cleverly off-set a little by the many ‘Park and Share’ car parks at the roundabouts on the approach roads to Belfast, all oversubscribed by commuters eager to car share and reduce their travelling costs. Do we have any here in mainland UK? I don’t think so.

01 Oct 2010    SA and MD tackled the 2 young Ash trees overhanging the phone wires above Bank Orchard, and won.

Oops, sorry – no Weather for Sept!

30 Sept BC and I packed for our holiday in Northern Ireland (‘Norn Iron’) and my nephew’s wedding.

29 Sept 2010    Steady drizzle all day, so SA and MD got the bonfire going to get rid of the Polebarn Cant’s lop and top. After a slightly delayed lunch (don’t ask!) they started the next one, while BC and I lit the hedge trimmings bonfire in the woodyard. Smoke? What smoke?

28 Sept 2010    Today I spent 6 hours in Groves Dyke loft, boarding it out and adding electric light – so that the poor British Gas man will be able to go up there ‘safely’ to service the new gas boiler. Good, innit? Whatever would they do without decrepit old pensioners like me  volunteering to make their fully paid jobs safe for all these fit and healthy young men?

27 Sept 2010    I spy strangers – two Goldfinches on the Niger seed feeder, no less! That Marsh Tit has had all that Niger seed to itself for far too long, time the real stars of the show appeared.

We picked all the ripe tomatoes from the growbags at the front of the house, added our own onion, potato, courgette, leeks and some bought-in bacon, celery and lentils to produce the first in our new range of Sleightly Soups. This particular flavour will be known as Fawlty Tomato (without Basil). Once it has cooled overnight in the fridge it will be frozen in lots of small lots.

As if that wasn’t enough, we also bottled the last demi-john of Sleightly Cider 2009, which has now lost all of its pear drops taint and turned into a very nice, sweet wine.

26 Sept 2010    We walked at Sandsend to enjoy the herd of white horses in the bay and the exhausting buffeting of the surprisingly mild Northerly gale. Lunch at Sandside Cafe in Sandsend and then on to Runswick for another blustery walk on the beach, before returning to Whitby for yet another bracing walk on the West Pier, where silly Japanese students were posing on top of the end wall to have their photos taken against the storm tossed sea. Madness!

25 Sept 2010    SA continued to build his new cord but got wet in the process. After lunch the sun came out again and BC and I sawed seasoned wood from the West Cord and started to build up a new wall of firelogs in the woodshed. Now the temperature is 10 degrees colder, we will be burning this lot before too long!

24 Sept 2010    Last night a Northerly storm lashed the coast, just on cue for yesterday’s Autumnal Equinox when day and night length were equal. Now the nights continue to get longer until mid-December, when the will begin to lengther again just in time for a big ex-pagan festival we now call Christmas.

23 Sept 2010    One Roe doe with one well-grown youngster feeding in the woodyard. Great views from the kitchen window.

22 Sept 2010    While SA sawed the recently felled Blackthorn into 4 foot lengths of cordwood and stacked them into a new temporary cord in Polebarn Cant, BC and I attacked the Lonicera hedge between the car park and the veg garden. It has grown so tall and wide that the hedge trimmer (me) can’t reach it anymore, so rather than use a ladder, we reduced it until it was all back within reach again. It looks a bit drastic, but hopefully it will heal before the first frost and recover fully within a couple of years.

In late afternoon, and after we had piled the hedge cuttings into a bonfire heap greater in volume than the remaining hedge, we checked the yesterday’s new Sedum only to discover it already covered in 3 Small Tortoiseshell and 1 Red Admiral butterflies!

21 Sept 2010    Off to Scampston Walled Garden near Malton (see for a lovely lunch, followed by a stroll around their modern treatment of a traditional walled garden and a walk through their woods. Bought a white Sedum in full flower and we planted it on the terrace just below the Buddlia bushes.

On to Curry’s in Scarborough to look at a new chest freezer for all this fruit and veg we are about to produce…

20 Sept 2010    I cut the grass and after lunch we did some gardening.

19 Sept 2010    We went to the The Moors Centre (TMC) near Danby, which I note has now changed its title to become the Danby Moors Centre (DMC) for lunch (we recommend the traditional ham and eggs). Then watched a family of Red Grouse stroll across the road near Stonebeck and a flock of c40 Goldfinces a bit further on.

Once home, we bottled 3 demijohns of the previously pear-drop-tainted cider which is now perfectly drinkable (8 out of 10). It seems the answer to pear-drop-taint is to rack it off, add sugar and leave it for another few months. Wonderful!

18 Sept 2010    BC and I trimmed the hedge by Groves Dyke conservatory, picked a few more Raspberries and watched the first Wood Mouse seen for many a week under the feeding station. Ah yes, while the dog is away, the neighbours’ cats will play…

17 Sept 2010    SA lit a bonfire and dealt with lots of Bramble brash in the newest cant just above the pole barn. After lunch BC and I joined in and burned all but 3 of the upper heaps of cuttings. With 3 rediscovered Oaks, 4 Field Maples and 5 Silver Birches, this new cant has been something of a revelation. Also revealed were many mid-1980s plastic tree guards, each ‘designed to biodegrade within 5 years’!

This evening we lit the woodburner for real, now that Autumn has appeared with a Northerly wind and a rough sea.

15 Sept 2010    SA worked on burning the brashings in the new cant. After lunch we took the rooted-in-a-bucket-of-water Willow setts up to Flag’s Folly and planted them into the gaps in the circle of 12 Willows. Only when all 12 are growing well, can we start to weave the tops into a living Willow ‘basket’.

We also dug out the stance for the super new sawhorse, between the West cord and the woodshed, where it now stands proudly. What a magnificent beast it is!

13 Sept 2010    Wet, so BC and I went to Scarborough to sell my almost antique SLR camera gear – for about 10% of what it had originally cost. Hey ho, isn’t digital wonderful? Called in at Comet to look at a chest freezer for the mudroom and a small fridge for the kitchen in Groves Bank.

11 Sept 2010    BC and I pottered in the garden this afternoon, emptying the potato barrel (not as good as the ones in the beds) and the Strawberry barrel (failure) and replanting them out in the now-emptied onion bed.

10 Sept 2010    While BC & I swam, MD worked in the wood burning some of the cut brambles above the polebarn. After lunch they continued, KR arrived to fit the new improved wooden plates to the curtain tie-backs in Groves Dyke, and I went to another meeting about the cuts in bus services. Why, when a government wants us all to leave our cars behind and use the buses, does it reduce the funding for County Councils bus contacts on rural routes? And cut them altogether on evenings and Sundays? On Sundays? The busiest day of the week in all the Yorkshire seaside resorts! Good, innit?

08 Sept 2010    T&C left for home, via Helmsley and reported later that the Buzzard had been sitting on a roadside fencepost. BC & I went swimming in boring ole Whitby indoor pool (but nice to see all the Over 50s regulars again, now that it’s safe to go back in the water (after the school holidays). Then we both joined SA and MD who have cleared a vast area above the polebarn and exposed several fine young Oaks, the occasional Holly (still with their mid-1960s ‘biodegradable tree guards which will disappear in 5 years’) and a magnificent Crab Apple which has been shedding apples for several weeks.

07 Sept 2010    T&C went across the Tees on the famous Transporter Bridge to visit Saltholme RSPB Reserve and found very few birds.

That evening we all went to The Board at Lealholm and had a lovely meal.

Later that afternoon I watched from my kitchen window as a lovely young Roe Deer was allowed out by itself for the very first time. It advanced nervously across the woodyard, perhaps one of the pair I had seen with their mum a few days ago. Inch by nervous inch it made its way to the yatstead, through it and then browsed the Brambles below the Willow Arch. Gaining a sudden confidence in the warm sun, it suddenly kicked up its heels, scampered about in circles, full of the joys of autumn, before skipping happily up the hill and into the wood.

06 Sept 2010    T, C & Me set off for Bempton Cliffs RSPB Reserve and had a super day, with c8000 Gannets still hanging about, not to mention a few twitchers still watching a bush which had contained a very rare Brown Flycatcher from Siberia. Last seen at 08.30 that morning, the optimists were still there in mid afternoon. I bluffed in a very loud voice that ‘It’s no good, we will have to be leaving now’ and then staying put. It worked! A Pied Flycatcher popped its head out of the same bush for 10 seconds and then dived deep again. Never mind, I’ll happily settle for a Pied, and never mind the daft one that shouldn’t even be in the country anyway.

05 Sept 2010    T&C arrived yesterday and today BC and I took them to Filey Brigg for a warm and breezy birding day. With such strong SE winds there should have been lots of autumn migrants blown across the North Sea as they tried to move south. Oddly, there weren’t. Filey Dams proved more interesting, with a Little Egret and a Common Sandpiper just in front of the hides.

03 Sept 2010    BC and I set off for Helmsley for our last swim of the season and, if Helmsley is unsuccessful in its second £3m bid, possibly the last swim ever in their lovely open air pool. All fingers and toes are crossed…

02 Sep 2010    KR continued on the roofs of both outshots, completing the holiday cottage before moving on to my mudroom.

01 Sep 2010       SA spent the day strimming Brambles with the brushcutter, or should that be brushcutting Brambles with the strimmer? Or just brushcutting Brambles? BC and I had our penultimate swim at Helmsley pool, together with the odd remaining Swallow. Then over lunch in the Walled Garden, BC noticed a very high Buzzard, thermalling still higher and higher to avoid the gulls which were trying to mob it.

Weather for August 2010: Max 25° / 78°, Min 03° / 36°, Actual at 09.30 on 01 Sep 2010: 12° / 54°. Rainfall: 67mm / 2⅝.

31 Aug 2010    KR started work on re-roofing the Groves Dyke laundry. Everything was stripped off, including the long-perished 1960s felt, and the timbers treated before re-covering with nice new long term ‘felt’, tannalised slating laths and then replacing the original ‘Boroughbridge’ pantiles – plus a few more from a local reclamation yard. I had a lovely coffee at Falling Foss.

30 Aug 2010    Weather improving again, just in time for ‘Amy Goes Coastal’ to arrive in Whitby. Amy is walking 6888 miles around the coast of mainland UK and averages c30 miles everyday, day in and day out, 7 days a week since the beginning of February this year. Starting from Guy’s Hospital in London, she has already done the south coast, Land’s End, Wales, Cumbria, Scotland (incl Cape Wrath and John O’Groats) and is now working her way down the east coast and back to Guy’s in London, where she is due to arrive on Tue 28 Sept 2010. All this to raise money for Kidney Research UK in memory of her late brother. You can follow her progress and donate at www.kidneyresearchukevents/amygoescoastal or just search Facebook for her Amy Goes Coastal page.

29 Aug 2010    The North wind doth blow and we shall have an August Bank Holiday weekend! But at least the showers will give way tonight to some lovely high pressure, so BH Monday will be warm, dry and very sunny.

This morning we watched from the conservatory as a fine Roe buck strode down the path, through the Willow Arch and then scampered back up again. Picking green beans this morning, lifting potatoes and anything else that needs doing, including a bit of long overdue hedge trimming and de-brambling in the garden.

28 Aug 2010    Solarec Mike arrived to check the electric immersion heater in my loft. All the solar systems are working fine, but my off-peak immersion is being temperamental for some reason. He is training-up local plumber CK, so he will return next week to solve all m my problems.

BC and I strolled up the Sloe Way to admire the recent clearance by SA and MD (very impressive) and glimpsed a very red Roe deer further up hill.

27 Aug 2010    SA and MD carried out even more magnificent work clearing brambles and Blackthorn, while we made the best of the short summer swimming season at Helmsley open air pool.

26 Aug 2010    BC and I had a lovely evening meal with D&I at The Board in Lealholm. My venison was superb, D&I enjoyed their succulent lambshank and BC devoured her duck. Only 2 of us could manage the baked lemon cheesecake for afters – what a lovel evening, thank-you.

25 Aug 2010    BC and I collected D&I and off we all went across the moors to Helmsley, they for a potter around the town and Walled Garden, us for a swim. We rendezvoused at the Walled Garden Cafe and made our way onto Blakey Rigg at the head of Farndale and there, surrounded by 192 square miles of magnificent moorland in full bloom, we enjoyed our Purple Picnic.

Returning by Castleton Rigg and the Moors Centre at Danby, we had afternoon tea and were still unable to buy any heather honey. Relaxing in the conservatory we watch a Roe doe lead her 2 half-grown youngsters slowly across the woodyard, browsing as they went. They drifted through the yatstead, browsed the Brambles near the Millennium Statue and then retraced their steps.

While we enjoyed ourselves, SA continued to slave away clearing another cant off the Sloe Way.

24 Aug 2010    D&I are here this week and the heather is just purfectly in bloom. We drove to Maybecks and then to Falling Foss, where Jack recognised them as annual regulars and came over for a chat. Then down Lousy Lane, around Littlebeck and off to Glaisdale to get the best pork pies in the world for tomorrow’s Purple Picnic.

KR and son B arrived to put up scaffolding to reroof the laundry outshot. We were relaxing in my conservatory when he noticed a young Heron sitting atop the electricity pole in the woodyard like a very fancy filial.

23 Aug 2010    After 2 lovely Regatta days, the heavens opened this morning as we said Goodbye to my sister-in-law, LR at Aislaby church. Only at the service did I discover that she had rushed her paediatric exam at Newcastle and left it early, so that she could get back to Aislaby to organise our wedding reception the following day. A very modest and amazing lady – and now it is too late to thank her for such a perfect reception 35 years ago.

22 Aug 2010    Far too hot for any serious work, but BC still managed to weed the veg plot, trim the grass and generally do outdoor things while I skulked in the shade.

20 Aug 2010    Was it this morning that a Roe doe and her two half-grown youngsters browsed their way through he woodyard and back again? Much to the enjoyment of the guests next door – and me.

18 Aug 2010    The busy week continued with a Whitby lane swim while SA and MD slaved under a hot summer sun to clear a clearing just off the new Sloe Way path, towards the Willow arch. The trouble with clearing a nice shady bit of Blackthorn spinney and Bramble is that once clear, the sun gets in and soon the clearing was too open and too sunny and too hot to work comfortably! After lunch we adjourned to SM’s garden with the pole snips and loppers to help trim the water shoots off the tops of the Apple and Plum trees. Whorra lorra Apples!

15 Aug 2010    Off in convoy to Helmsley via Castleton, Balkey Rigg and Hutton-le-Hole. The heather is looking magnificent and it was a lovely run. We introduced C&G to the delights of Helmsley Walled Garden and cafe, before setting them off on the road to Thirsk, the A19, M62 and Liverpool.

14 Aug 2010    While C&G went exploring Falling Foss Tea Gardens, Goathland and too-deep fords, BC and I took off for Helmsley for a late swim. We returned in time to change for B&A’s Diamond Wedding Anniversary do at The Stables, where a great time was had by all,

13 Aug 2010    SA and MD began work on a new path up through the Blackthorn spinney from the back of the pole barn, past S&Ss’ den and out by the East Hazel Cant. This will open up the area, let us locate and help any specimen trees and clear one or two new cants, as well as limiting the spread of the Blackthorn and get us near enough to the eastern boundary to begin thinking about some hedge-laying and re-fencing in another 2 winters’ time.

BC and I went swimming in Pickering, which seemed the sensible thing to do in August. Followed by a lovely BBQ when C&G arrived from Liverpool for the weekend.

11 Aug 2010    SA and MD worked on the new sawhorse and by the time BC and I got back from our swim, it was complete.

This is no ordinary sawhorse.

This is a clip-eared, fully functional, rock steady, totally tannalised, auto-measuring and ambidextrous-in-all-four-feet sawhorse.

This is no ordinary sawhorse.

This is a Sleightly super sawhorse!*

We trialled it with a bit of sawing and it performed perfectly, thank-you guys. (Orders taken. Prices from £49.99 each. P&P extra).

*(With acknowledgements to Sainsbury’s, which recently got SBC planning permission to open an out-of-town supermarket in Whitby)

09 Aug 2010    I cut the rest of the grass and then BC and I planted the newly acquired Apricot tree to train as a single-trunked espalier along the post and rail fence opposite the twigwam. We also planted the missing rhubarb (a double), so the Rhubarb Triangle of North Yorks is intact once again. Various herbs and alpines were added to the gravel garden opposite the Spatio door, an super idea borrowed / pinched from Helmsley Walled garden.

08 Aug 2010    We visited the Danby Moors Centre for lunch, reccied the Castleton area for more suitable photo points for the next Esk Valley Railway publicity brochure ( and called into Poets Cottage garden centre at Lealholm to buy herbs, Alpines and (unexpectedly) an Apricot tree.

07 Aug 2010    Took Sparky, the now-sensible young black Lab, to Falling Foss for a gallop.

04 Aug 2010    SA and MD cut bean poles and started putting the sawhorse together. BC and I tried to swim at Whitby baths but they are on silly times for the school holidays so we left in disgust and had a lovely afternoon in Helmsley open air pool and walled garden.

02 Aug 2010    I cut (almost) all the grass this morning, including the path around the wood (Benny the King Charles Spaniel only has little legs)! After lunch BC and I trimmed the creeper and hedge between the two front lawns, letting lots more light into both rooms and improving the view of the Esk Valley from the holiday cottage dining room.

Weather for July 2010: Max 29° / 86°, Min 07° / 44°, Actual at 09.30 on 01 Aug 2010: 17° / 64°. Rainfall: 45mm / 1¾.

30 Jul 2010    Purr… On the moortop the Bell Heather has been in flower for a week or two, but now the predominant Ling is starting to bloom as well. Almost purfick.

SA and MD cut some extra bean poles and bramble snipped all the paths around the wood. After our swim BC and I had a late lunch and then I walked the woodyard with them to site the new stance for the new saw horse. The old one had developed a serious case of foot rot and will have to be pensioned off. This replacement is going to be a very substantial sawhorse, made from 3 x 1.½ inch tannalised fence rails – it may even be a bit of a saw stallion.

29 Jul 2010    Several hundred of us attended a meeting of Scarborough Borough Council’s Planning Committee in Whitby to decide on the long running Supermarket Wars over Whitby. After a 4½ hour marathon ultra transparent meeting to listen to all the evidence, cross all the ‘i’s and dot all the ‘t’s, a decision was finally, finally, finally made: The Co-op in the town centre can expand by 40%, Sainsbury’s can open a new out-of-town supermarket within the industrial estate on the East Side, and Tesco can not open a new supermarket on a green field site next to 3 Listed Buildings and near Lidl and a Spar shop.

What will this mean for Whitby? Some welcome competition for the Co-op may reduce prices a bit (after the usual initial 2 year undercutting to create new shopping habits), but now that most people can get everything they want without going into the town centre, all the little shops which relied on ‘linked shopping’ will fold. Anyway, who sez Tesco won’t appeal against the decision, have it overturned and then we will end up with two out-of-town supermarkets?

25 Jul 2010    BC and I assisted our Rotary Club of Whitby Endeavour with their Moorland Fair in Goathland this afternoon, and then dashed off afterwards for a few days in Helmsley. See and see The Bothy. We visited Thirsk, Treske, the Mouseman, Shandy Hall,  walked to Riveaux Abbey and back, swam every day in Helmsley open air pool – see and ate out in lovely pubs every evening. Happy birthday BC.

24 Jul 2010    Today we picked our first broad beans and very new potatoes. We also celebrated the warm sunny weather with a jug of Sangria at the River Gardens, along with a few billion aphids. Are there so many Greenfly because the nasty new Harlequin Ladybird invaders have eaten so many of our native Ladybirds?

23 Jul 2010    I spent today at the Whitby Windfarm Event, finding all about the new Dogger Bank Windfarm, together with 100 other scientists and engineers. In the next 10 years there will be 2500 mega turbines just 70 miles off Whitby (the nearest port) and we may have a role in the routine servicing industry. All the heavy duty work will be done from the deep water ports on the Tees and the Humber. When all is complete in 2020, some 10% of the UK’s electricity will come from the Dogger Bank.

Wave power is a small step nearer with the new directional waverider buoy anchored near Whitby’s bell buoy. This will record the height, frequency and the direction of our local waves and can be seen on and click on Wave Data.

21 Jul 2010     After swimming I joined SA and MD for lunch, before abandoning them again for another meeting. I’m glad they were doing something useful…

19 Jul 2010    BC planted some herbs in the Spatio gravel and then I devoted the rest of the day to analysing the survey about the town’s current supermarket wars. Deep joy.

17 Jul 2010    BC picked and podded a great big trug of peas, while I went to participate in a budgeting meeting. We froze 3 bags of peas, boiled the pods and started a gallon of Peapod Hock… Warm and dry, but still windy. A Curlew called from somewhere out of sight in the evening.

16 Jul 2010    SA carried on sawing up lengths into firelogs for the woodshed, as well as carrying down more logs. After lunch BC and I joined in and all the logs from the Officers Walk are now down and the woodshed is 2/3 full of perfect 16 inch firelogs.

14 Jul 2010    Everybody busy elsewhere and so were we.

13 July 2010    BC and I took FCW to Kirkdale Minster (lovely) and Rosedale to see the glass-making studio (fascinating) and then Helmsley for a swim (even we thought it was a bit too bracing) and on to Ampleforth Abbey for lunch and a stroll around. We had a quick look at their super swimming pool and also their orchard, before rushing off for Leeds-Bradford airport via the Great Yorkshire Show traffic delays around Harrogate. Made it – but only just!

12 July 2010    FCW and I toured the Viking grave stones exhibition in Lythe Church (superb) before having lunch at Sandsend and a touristy afternoon in Whitby. Chilly.

11 July 2010    With BC and FCW to Falling Foss Tea Garden for lunch and a nice stroll around, before visiting the Danby Moors Centre, followed by an evening meal at Trenchers.

09 July 2010    BC and I went to collect FCW from Leeds-Bradford airport, while SA and MD built a lovely hourglass structure on the 4 pegs they planted a couple of days ago, around BC’s little Rowan Tree. Horribly hot and sticky weather.

07 Jul 2010     SA and MD completed the M6 steps this morning. What an improvement, and much safer when we carry down next winter to the woodyard. BC arrived for lunch and got on with the tidying-up, so by the time I got back from Scarborough town hall almost everyone else had done almost everything.

02 Jul 2010    Wet and windy last night, as a front interrupted the high pressure system. SA and MD carried on with the M6 improvements, while BC and I sawed some more firelogs. As we worked, I heard a Curlew calling high overhead, too high to see. Perhaps a breeding bird commuting from the moortop to the coast? Surely too early for young birds to be leaving the moor already?

Yesterday CR and KR cleared most of the rampant Flag Iris and variegated sedge from my pond and I tidied up the remainder today. We also picked and ate our first peas this afternoon. A Wood Mouse climbed out of the overgrown hedge and stepped up onto the hanging peanut feeder to gorge itself. I won’t trim that hedge just yet…

Weather    86/30   70/21   38/3   1.5 / 37mm

30 Jun 2010    SA and MD started work on improving the steps at the back of the woodshed, and also produced some lovely 9 foot beanpoles:

I shall arise and go now, and go to Innisfree
And a small cabin build there of clay and wattles made.
Nine bean rows shall I have there and a hive for the honey bee, and live alone in the bee loud glade. [No, NOT by me. I wish!].

After lunch BC and I sawed up some driftwood from Sandsend, gathered months ago, and stacked it in the lovely cool pole barn.

27 Jun 2010    The hottest day of the year and my car sez it was 31°C in Lealholm. We went to buy another rhubarb to replace the dead one (the Rhubarb Triangle of North Yorkshire is now just a Rhubarb Line) but the cupboard was bare. Thankfully, the bakery was full of nice sticky pies and buns, and the pub was full of real draught ciders, so it wasn’t a wasted trip.

25 Jun 2010    A fraction less hot today. BC and I are just back from a few days in Edinburgh. Many thanks to I & CM, who kept an eye on the veg watering in our absence. A bit of lettuce and the odd radish hardly seems enough…

Today SA carried down more firewood and after lunch we all joined in to saw firelogs, before deciding that was far too energetic in this heat and that carrying down was much cooler, as it was under the shady trees. Ice cream and cold drinks for early 3 o’clocks.

23 Jun 2010    The hot, dry weather continues. Too hot for man or beast, but SA and MD and Bruno still managed to walk around the wood a couple of times, carry the odd piece of firewood down, identify a few future bits and batter a bit of Bracken en route.

19 Jun 2010    When we cleaned the conservatory yesterday we deliberately kept the outsides of all the windows dirty, so that the young birds would see and avoid them. Sadly, one young Willow / Chiff decided to aim for the back door instead and broke its neck on the glass. By lunchtime the remains were gone, probably something to do with the pair of Carrion Crows which lurk around occasionally.

18 Jun 2010    While the dry weather continues, BC and I decided to empty my conservatory, shampoo the carpet, move some stuff to the Stickery and other places, chuck some away (alright, charity shop) and return a fraction of the original contents. My, but that makes it all seem bigger! Afterwards, BC noticed a Heron has found a new perch on the branch of the big Scots Pine above the river, where he loafs away his meal and looks very odd.

16 Jun 2010    SA finished off sawing the tripod of long lengths into cordwood and added them to the West Cord. After lunch BC and I joined him and we all planted-up a gap in Flag’s Folly with a Willow cutting which BC had rooted in a bucket of water. Lets see if this technique will be more successful.

Then we carried down some of the Langdale Ash pollard for the cord, emptied the plant stand in the woodshed of odd and sods firewood, restacked it in the woodshed and moved the stand down to the conservatory for future use. The West cord is now really 3½ cords, the woodshed is half full of firelogs, plus a few bits and bobs in the pole barn.

15 Jun 2010    I cut the grass in the midday sun and had a relaxing day. How very odd.

14 Jun 2010    The cold grey weather has gone (again) and summer has arrived (again). I think this is now the 4th attempt we have had this year at getting summer off to a good start. Fingers crossed (again).

13 Jun 2010    Wet overnight and still cloudy and cool. We went to Runswick Bay and searched for jet, BC finding a few small pieces.

12 Jun 2010    BC and I went to Grosmont and walked the old Toll Road to lunch in Egton Bridge and then walked back again. Briskly. I reckon that makes lunch almost calorie-neutral.

11 Jun 2010    SA carried on sawing and stacking and after lunch BC and I joined in. We now have 3-and-a-bit cords of 4 foot logs for next winter, plus the woodshed is more than half-full of firelogs, plus some odds and sods around the wood and in the pole barn. Pity we are still lighting the woodburner in the evenings – and it’s nearly mid-summers day!

09 Jun 2010    Not actually raining, but looking like it might at any minute. SA carried down the recently split Ash and added it to the West cord before lunch. After lunch (nice hot soup again, thank goodness) we all three put the just-bottled and just-demi-johned cider back into clean demi-johns and added a lb (half a kg approx) of sugar syrup to see it it will a) sweeten it and / or b) start fermenting again and / or c) remove the pear drops taint. We were delighted to discover that much of the pear drops taste and smell had already gone, perhaps released as a gas when it was originally decanted. Anyway, it will now be either sweeter or stronger or both!

08 Jun 2010    Still overcast and much cooler, but BC and I planted another several growbags (peat-free of course, now £1.99 from Lidl) with tomatoes. Little Miss Green-Fingers (aka BC) has now got the row of peas about 3 feet high and flowering, the courgettes (in pots) are in full flower, lots of lettuce is ready to pick and come again, the spuds are over a foot high, the first Radish have already been eaten and enjoyed (nice and peppery), etc. Wow!

07 Jun 2010    I got all the grass cutting I intended to do done, before the rain began about noon. Then it just drizzled and drizzled for the next 24 hours…

06 Jun 2010    We started to bottle the 5 gallon keg but not only ran out of bottles but also decided to wait until we find a cure for the slight ‘acid drop’ taint. Some potassium carbonate or even precipitated chalk will do the trick, apparently.

05 Jun 2010    BC and I bottled all the demijohns of Sleightly Cider and capped them. We also sampled a fair bit in the process and got a bit confused about which bottles came from which sources…

04 Jun 2010    SA split the most recently felled Ash limb and carried it to the edge of the path before it disappeared in the dense undergrowth. BC and I went to Pickering for a swim and dashed back for a Radio Tees interview about the local bus service from Arriva.

03 Jun 2010    I waited in for the electrician to fit the new light switch for the sitting room in Groves Dyke (it is now in the hall and no longer hidden behind the door). He also fitted a new timer on the electric heater in the dining room and now the heating in that room can be boosted for an extra half hour, 1 hour or 2 hours at the press of a button.

02 Jun 2010    SA, BC and I sawed a bit more cordwood and then we all set off early. BC and I went to the official celebration of the restoration of Pannett Park in the middle of Whitby, following a £1.4m refurb. It was a wonderful day and the weather was perfect for a summer fete. See

01 Jun 2010    Cut the grass this morning and finished just as the rain began. The Met Office said it would be raining from Breakfast to teatime, but the good ole North York Moors isn’t the driest National Park in the British Isles for nothing, and it only drizzled a bit anyway.

Weather Summary for May 2010:   

Max = 29°C (84°F), Min = –4°C (25°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 16°C (62°F). Total Rainfall  15mm (½ inch). A very dry month, warming nicely until cool NE winds brought cloud and hid the sun.

31 May 2010    BC and I re-laid the cobbles on her car parking space. This is the first cobbling I have done since I first learned by cobbling the front yard of Wellbrook Beetling Mill near Cookstown, some 40 years ago when I worked for the National Trust! That, in fact, was proper cobbling – with river worn fist-sized cobbles picked by hand from a nearby river. Today was actually setting – with rough cut granite setts all pre-prepared offsite. Great fun, but all we need now is a bit of rain and a week of dry weather to let the sand settle down around each individual sett, binding it into place permanently.

28 May 2010    The summer weather has gone again, replaced with much cooler, overcast almost-autumn. That’s our second attempt at Summer gone wrong again this Spring.! As before, with SA sawing cordwood all day, and BC and I carrying down the last of the next nearest stack (mostly Ask with some Hawthorn. The West Cord is now looking nice and level-topped, with a good dome on the 3rd cord, and the veg rack in the woodshed is well filled with odds and sods of off cuts. With what is still left to be carried, sawn and added to the cords, we should have 3 well domed cords and another slightly-angled half-cord to stop the upper pair of posts leaning uphill under the weight.

26 May 2010    A bit less hot, thank goodness. SA carried on sawing cordwood and after lunch BC and I carried down the last of the nearest stack. On our post-lunch walk around the wood we noticed a very dead Tawny Owl lying at the bottom of the transformer pole. Judging by the feathers stuck onto the post itself, this may have been a youngster which either flew into the post and broke its neck, or shorted-out the wires and electrocuted itself. Should have checked to see if it was cooked or not!

21 May 2010    Even hotter, just over 70°C. SA sawed some more of the first felled Ash and added it to the 3rd West Cord. After lunch we considered doing something cool and sensible in the shade (like washing cider bottles out) but instead opted for hard work in the hot sun. SA sawed more cordwood, trimming off the odd few inches to make proper 4 foot lengths for stacking. I carried down the last of the Ash to him, and carried up the old typewriter. This is now tied into position on top of an Ash stump, with the young coppice shoots growing up through the rollers and the keys: continuous paper feed or what? Let this cant henceforth be known as ‘Typewriter Cant’.

All of the first felled Ash is now on the 3rd West Cord, which has a well-domed appearance. The odds and sods offcuts are being racked within the top end of the woodshed, with any proper 16 inch firelogs added to the main woodshed (still 2/3rds full of 2008/9 felled firelogs not burned in the winter of 2009/10).

20 May 2010    Mad dogs and Irishman cut the grass in the noonday sun.

19 May 2010    SA surveyed the bridge by the Major Oak and worked out what was needed. After lunch we went up and packed the gap below one beam to stop any wobble. Then we continued around the wood before sawing up some mini-logs (8 inches) for JW’s new insert woodburner.

JW (the woodturner) and his wife will have another Exhibition and Sale of Turned Wood and Beaded Jewellery at Sandsend Institute later this month, on Sat 29, Sun 30 and Bank Holiday Mon 31 May 2010 – a fundraiser for CAFOD. Highly recommended!

Overcast but still too hot to do anything serious. Next year’s prices for Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage are now calculated, including the new flexible system to make Short Breaks available throughout the year (see Bookings > Availability). Serious veg watering completed after tea.

18 May 2010    Strimmed the path around the wood for only the 2nd time this year. Hot. KB from Groves Dyke saw 2 Roe Deer very close up, when walking quietly near the viewpoint. One was a Roebuck with well developed horns, the other a doe.

15 May 2010    Walked to the old shooting box on Glaisdale Moor with BC. Several Curley calling, a Golden Plover flew low over the heather, Red Grouse strutted about, Meadow Pipits cheeped and Sky Larks sang. Ah, the magic of the moors! Then off to the Board at Lealholm for Posh Cheese on Toast and some real draught cider.

14 May 2010    SA carried down more cordwood from the Ash and Hawthorn clearing of the new cants, adding it to the West cord (or the shorter bits sawn into 16 inch firelogs and stacked in the woodshed. After lunch BC sorted out the veg garth and did some more planting, while SA and I carried down more and more and more cordwood.

13 May 2010    Mrs Great Spotted Woodpecker was back on the peanuts again, and 2 young Robins hopped and quivered their way across the newly mown lawns.

12 May 2010    SA carried down more of his Gean 70 logs and added them to the West cord. After lunch I helped him while BC planted the parsnips. Last night’s late frost has nipped the spuds and the beans, but everything else was safely protected by a fleece. Even the young Beech hedge by the pole barn got its tender shoots nipped, as did several Hazels and young Oaks up in the wood. My max and min thermometer sez it has been -4 degrees C, and it is on the back wall of the house!

11 May 2010    Just back from a long weekend in delightful Durham, with its World Heritage Site status, wide riverside paths, woodland walks and traffic free town centre (thanks to a rising bollard which actually rises). Now why can’t Whitby have all that, too?

07 May 2010    SA dismantled the old wooden cowling so that we can reuse the timber. Then we all added a bit more rabbit netting around the back of the compost heap and down the Privet hedge.

06 May 2010    First Great Spotted Woodpecker I’ve seen this year, a female feeding on the hanging peanuts. Then a Greenfinch, almost as rare.

05 May    SA carried down some of the cordwood stacked around the wood and also managed to drill the striking post, top and bottom for the new veg garth gate. The lower hole eventually took several of us, but we won in the end. BC carried down more wood. Then a very enjoyable 3 o’clocks with C and MK who are staying in the cottage this week. LG dropped in too and we all put the world to rights.

04 May    Cut half the lawns this morning, in warm and glorious sunshine.

03 May 2010    Wintery showers convinced me I shouldn’t strim the grass (I’m easily convinced) but BC and I spent the afternoon planting Runner Beans, Broad Beans, Leeks and seeded Spring Onions and Radish. So now the current veg garth state of play is:

Far West bed: Spuds just starting to show.

West bed: 2 rows of Beetroot, 1 row of Radish and 2 rows of Leeks.

East bed: 3 rows of Peas, 1 circle of Runner Beans, 3 rows of Broad Beans.

Far East bed: 5 rows of Onions, a square of Garlic and 1 row of Spring Onions.


Raspberry Row: across the back of the veg garth is sprouting well.

Cold Frame: 2 boxes of Lettuce and more Runner Beans

Soft Fruit: 2 bushes of Redcurrants, 3 of Blackcurrants, 1 Gooseberry, 2 Blueberries (1 poorly)

Rhubarb Triangle of North Yorkshire: 2 growing well, 1 very poorly.

Once all that was done, we also cleared out the back of the pole barn (for the first time in years) and lit the bonfire in the woodyard with the proceeds. We also cleared out the woodshed and then it was time for a late 3 o’clocks.

02 May 2010    BC and I created and fitted a brand new gate for the veg garth, with only a minimum of blood and swearing (from me). The weather has got very cold, with a wind from the North. The Copper Beech in the front garden of Groves Dyke is suddenly in leaf today.

01 May 2010    BC and I decanted a demijohn of our home made cider into bottles, labelled ‘Sleightly Cider 2009’ and presented one to M & C, who helped us on our very first Cider Day last summer. It is surprisingly good and was given a 10 out of 10 by a local expert from Egton Top! We also bottled our first La Plonk 2009 from Shato Larpool, another real success.

Then we nailed the new netting wire onto the front fence of the veg garth, making it almost rabbit proof. Doubtless the Roe Deer will just dance over it, but that will be more likely from the woodyard behind. Additional height will be required there but that will be by adding high training wires along Raspberry Row.

Weather Summary for April 2010:   

Max = 21°C (70°F), Min = –3°C (26°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 9°C (48°F). Total Rainfall  20mm (¾ inch). A very dry and increasingly warm month, which ended with a Pimms at the River Gardens in Sleights!

30 April 2010    SA drilled the gatepost for the veg garth and we all had lunch. While some of us tried to Save Whitby Engine Shed from being completely marooned by a new housing development, BC prepared the middle 2 beds for planting with more veg.

The Major Oak has just beaten the Leaning Ash by a few days, so Oak before Ash, In for a splash (ie a dry summer to come..).

29 April 2010    My new whizkid came today to see about creating the new website. Everything seems to be proceeding smoothly and now we both know what we both want and need from the new website, but breath-holding is never recommended in these matters.

28 Apr 2010    BC and I removed another strip of turf from the side of the veg garth to make a path, then lined it with a permeable weed-suppressing membrane and spread gravel over it. First House Martins, with a pair flying over the house.

26 April 2010    I strimmed the lawns while BC was on a strenuous walk. Then we created a wider path to the veg garth by removing a strip of turf, lining it and spreading gravel on top.

23 Apr 2010    SA split the rest of the Cherry cordwood and restacked it alongside the path and just above the East Hazel Cant. When it dries out a bit more it will be easier to carry it down and add it to the West Cord in the woodyard. After lunch SA and I sawed the last few bits of the East Cord, which we had moved into the pole barn for a rainy day, and stacked them under cover. The weather is much warmer now and these last few firelogs may see me through the next few chilly nights. If they do, that will leave 2/6ths of the woodshed full ready for next winter – AND the 2 walls of logs are on the Western side of the woodshed, so they will keep the rain off whatever else we add this year.

21 Apr 2010    SA started splitting the Cherry cordwood felled last autumn. After lunch I joined him and we made a good impression on the stack. Early Half-Past-Two-O’clocks allowed me to return to the Public Inquiry into the Town Green application for Helredale Playing Field. Perhaps this is the best way of saving a rare bit of urban greenspace from housing, but watching paint dry is far more interesting.

19 Apr 2010    This morning I strimmed the remaining half of the lawns, while BC was out with the walking group. After lunch we snipped the old roll of slightly rusty netting wire into 3 long narrow strips, dug a trench alongside the new fence across the old dog lawn, bent the wire netting into a long L-shape, tramped it into the trench and then nailed the top edge to the bottom fence rail, before refilling the trench. Now, if any Peter Rabbit tries to dig under the fence, it will find its path blocked by wire netting in front and below it’s tunnel. NB: If it had any sense, it would back off a foot or two and then dig deep enough to go underneath the whole L-shaped thingy – but we won’t tell them that…

17 April 2010    BC and I went to see stand-up comedian Richard Herring at the Coliseum in Whitby. He performed his ‘Hitler Moustache’ routine to a packed house and was absolutely excellent.

16 Apr 2010    SA re-stacked the Hawthorn cut this winter to clear the new cants.

14 Apr 2010    BC and I went swimming in Pickering (free) and then toured the garden centres there. Bought 2 more Rhubarb crowns and planted them next to the original, in the corner of the Woodyard, thus creating (in BC’s words) The Rhubarb Triangle of North Yorkshire. Excellent!

12 Apr 2010    Thanks to my local whizkid, my emails are now working again for the first time in over a month. So much for BT Yahoo’s helpful little ‘improvement’, where ‘all you have to do is…’! Don’t believe a word of it! The poor whizkid took 2 hours to sort it out! Over the next few days I will work my way through the 583 emails waiting in my Inbox…

11 Apr 2010    Another lovely hot, sunny day with only the odd wispy cloud in a clear blue sky. The Daffs are only just starting to look slightly past their very best, the Primroses are in full flower and Lesser Celandine are now out, too.

09 Apr 2010    My email is still not working, so please phone 01947 810220 instead.

07 Apr 2010    Falling Foss Tea Gardens again, with Sparky (any excuse)! The frogspawn in my pond is now a wriggling mass of almost free tadpoles. BC and I lit a bonfire in the Groves Dyke orchard and burned 2 heaps of brambles, but a nesting Blackbird was seen by BC in the nick of time and the 3rd heap was left intact as cover.

Lovely meal out with BC and IJ at the Postgate Inn at Egton Bridge. I had the locally smoked Haddock with a lovely sauce and mixed veg.

Weather Summary for February 2010:   

Max = 16°C (60°F), Min = 8°C (46°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 4°C (40°F). Total Rainfall 45 mm (1¾ inch). A good mixture of mild, cloudy, sometimes sunny, and fairly dry overall.

Easter Week    I’ve rather lost track, what with my computer problems and a (short) stay by Sparky the 3 year old black Labrador from Grosmont. Lots of walks, frequent trips to Falling Foss Tea Gardens. BC and I planted 3 drills of spuds in one of the new veg beds, added some more Strawberries to the tub at the front of the house, planted a spud tub, put in the gatepost and the fence posts for the new anti-dog / rabbit fence. We also bought 26 Raspberry plants from Poet’s Corner nursery in Lealholm and planted them in a double (staggered)  East / West row along the back of the back of the 4 veg plots. Hopefully, the training wires will add to the anti-deer defences on the back fence. Then we sawed up the last of the East Cord (felled 2008/09 and burned in 2009/10) which is now lying empty until the new season’s firewood is felled sometime after June this year – that wood will then be what we will all be burning in the winter of 2011/12. Don’t worry, we still have 1/6 of the Woodshed and a few bits of the Polebarn of 2008/9 felled wood to keep the home fires burning until Summer temperatures arrive.

SA and MD have carried down more of the past few months felling and have built up almost 2 sections of the West Cord (not to mention lots of 16 inch firelogs in the Woodshed), which is what we will all be burning this coming winter of 2010/11.

29 March 2010    First Chiffchaff calling by my pole barn. BC, SA and MD all arrived and we walked around the wood to admire all the sawing and carrying done by BC and MD in our absence. A sixth of the woodshed is now full of firelogs, all a perfect 16 inches long to fit any of our stoves, not to mention all the other firelogs cut and stacked in the wood, plus all the 4 foot long cordwood stacked on the ever growing West cord. We noted the next few jobs to be done and then BC and I cut the turf off our fourth 4 x 8 foot veg plot (‘That’s as big as a cord’ I said. ‘But then it should be dug 4 feet deep’ SA replied!) and we dug it just a foot deep. The turf we have moved to form a couple of level (almost) platforms between the two cords, suitable for the sawhorse to sit without wobbling.

While we did that, SA and MD used the small winch to reposition the big Cherry trunk as a bench seat, next to the picnic table stump it came from last October. My email is STILL not working, so please phone instead.

27 March 2010    Home again yesterday to find the Frogspawn is elongating nicely, all my Daffs are in flower and the Willow and Elder trees are the first to leaf. My email is STILL not working…

My holiday in the Lake District. The weather was nobbut middling, but very enjoyable. We did some nice walks in the Northern Lakes, based near Penrith, and explored the Eden Valley, etc. Visited Acorn Bank National Trust property where the snowdrops grow in drifts along the path to the watermill, all the Daffs are still firmly in bud and their garden has suffered from the severe winter. Notices inside the greenhouse explain that several consecutive nights with -16°C left many plants are badly frost damaged. When Spring finally arrives, they will know which ones are still alive, and which ones are dead. Also visited Castlerigg stone circle and the much bigger Long Meg and her Daughters, not to mention Friars chocolate shop in Keswick.

19 March 2010    SA patrolled the wood and carried more logs to the woodyard. After lunch BC sorted out the newly planted veg and then we de-brambled the Juniper bush in the front garden. The Frogs have declared it Spring and about 2 dozen of them were cavorting noisily in my pond amidst a great floating mass of frogspawn.

NB: My email still won’t work, so please be patient a bit longer… Better still, phone me instead. 
You can see if your payment has arrived by going to Bookings > Availability and checking your dates.

17 March 2010    SA and MD carried down Hawthorn from Bankside to the woodyard. After lunch BC and I stripped turf from the 3rd 8×4 foot veg plot.


15 March 2010    BC planted the first onions under the cloche in the new veg garth, then we set up the new Strawberry tub on the spatio and filled it with compost (peat-free of course) and Strawberry plants. We walked up the drive to watch the drain clearing (and help locate the still missing ones) and then found the inlet to my pond, surrounded it with another pipe and got the water running again. Just in time for the half-dozen newly arrived Frogs, which seemed to appreciate our efforts).


Temperatures are in double figures again today, which is very welcome after the worst winter for 30 years.

13 March 2010    To Falling Foss Tea Gardens for a walk and a bacon butty lunch, now that they are open every weekend. The Snowdrops below Newton House are still spectacular and the milder weather continues. We stripped the turf from veg bed 2 and dug it over.

12 March 2010    SA and MD took the fork off the 25 year old Ash and winched out the top of a fallen Sycamore. After lunch BC and I joined in to saw up and carry down the 4 foot long Ash section destined for JW the local wood turner, and the dead Sycamore for firelogs.


10 March 2010    This afternoon was warm, dry and sunny again, so BC, SA and dog Bruno, and I strolled around the wood for the first time in what seems like several weeks (probably months, since the snow started in late Nov). We identified the young Ash trunk (one of a forked tree) to come down for a very special present, then sawed a couple of trugs of firelogs from the East Cord, before lowering the water level in the overflowing silt pond behind the stone seat. If we lower it enough, we may yet find the inlet to my pond, so that we can clear it in time for the Frogs to spawn. Today we heard the First Frog Song of the season.

Everything else that happened over the past week or more is a bit of a blur, what with continuing computer problems (both in editing this site and with my emails), which might have been sorted sooner if I hadn’t then been struck down by a nasty ‘flu or something similar. Anyway, now that I am feeling better, there is a faint chance that I may catch up with myself and possibly even begin to solve some of the computer problems.

Over the past several days we have sawn some logs, cleared the brambles from Dyke Orchard (even as the Snowdrops were in full flower and the first Daffs are quite tall if not yet budding) and probably done some other things, too. I wonder what they were? At some point BC and I stripped the turf off veg bed 1 and dug it over ready for our new veg garth.

01 March 2010    I toured Woodlands Drive with the director of the maintenance agency and the head of their landscape company. We agreed various items of work, some changes to the drive to protect the drains from accidental damage by passing vehicles and generally how to improve the situation for the increased frequency and increased severity of ‘extreme weather events’, as predicted by the government’s Pitt Report on flooding.


A sharp frost last night but today summer seems to have arrived at last, with clear blue skies, no wind and a warm sun. Wonderful!


Weather Summary for February 2010:   

Max = 8°C (46°F), Min = –6°C (20°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 3°C (38°F). Total Rainfall 82 mm (3¼ inch). Cold, then dry, then grey, then wet and then sunny.


28 Feb 2010    BC and ME went for a soggy walk at Falling Foss. The tea gardens there reopen next weekend (can’t wait!), so we walked to the Hermitage, passing a vast white carpet of Snowdrops under the trees. Back in time for a nice lunch at Victoria Farm Garden Centre.


26 Feb 2010    Email problems continue, so please phone me on Whitby 01947 810220.

Heavy and continuous rain for the last 24 hours, falling on already saturated ground, has caused a few local problems. After our swim, BC racked the 3rd Lot of cider (the 5 gallon plastic barrel) and all seems well. I, meanwhile, was out in the pouring rain checking that all the drains were running freely. In fact, many were open but just overwhelmed by the sheer flow of surface runoff. The ditch lined with half-pipes at the back of Dyke orchard was only just within the capacity of the pipe under Woodlands Drive. The beck in Groves Bank garden was flowing strongly around the stone seat (I’m glad I’ve given up trying to make it go under ground for this short section) and disappearing nicely into its culvert, but I raked the debris off the screen just in case. The main drive was a shallow river, so I walked up towards the big house clearing the drains as I went. Some were just plain blocked by debris, some were choked with silt, some were unable to take the flow as it passed over, such was the rate! Once I had dried out a bit, I rang the maintenance agency now responsible for the main drive and the big house to say that something needs to be done.

25 Feb 2010    BT Yahoo, my ISP, have very kindly just ‘improved’ my email account – except now it won’t work! My Inbox is fine (I think), but my Outbox is now full of un-sendable emails, possibly including my reply to an email from you. So on behalf of BT Yahoo, I apologise for the delay. All may be resolved soon, as my whizkid is on his way… Moral: Please phone!


24 Feb 2010    After BC and ME (me) laid out the new veg plots on the back half of the back lawn, with a proper professional set-square. Four beds, each 8+ feet from North to South and 4 feet wide, will allow for a 4-year crop rotation to avoid (some) pests and any soil exhaustion. As we worked Shaun and the Ford Transit tipper wagon from Duncombe Estates Sawmill, in Pickering, arrived with 2 dumpy bags of near perfect 16-inch hardwood logs of Beech, Sycamore and a little Silver Birch. At just £25 / dumpy bag, these are a third the price of the disappointing load from the last supplier. After tipping them as near as possible, the two of us stacked them neatly into the walls of the pole barn and went back to setting out the new veg garth. Now that the new fence line is marked out, and the new gate post on site, what we need now is someone who can dig a square hole…

This morning there was still ice and some snow in the garden but by afternoon it had all gone. Although still a bit overcast, the sun is strong enough today to produce some hot water from my solar panels.

22 Feb 2010    BC and I had a good walk around the wood, tracking many Roe Deer and Rabbits in the snow. We located a couple of young Ash trees in need of thinning (and just the right size for a wood turning project). After lunch he sawed quite a bit of the last remaining half-cord of the East Cord and stacked it into bags, trugs and slings for burning over the next few days.

20 Feb 2010    Yesterday’s snow still covered the ground, but there must be enough warmth in the sun now to warm up the tarmac and keep even the minor roads clear. First a good walk over Lealholm Rigg, tracking Hare and Grouse in the snow (couldn’t tell what colour of Grouse from the tracks, but almost certainly Red). Then down to The Board in Lealholm for some nice hot soup in front of their nice hot woodburner, before tracking down the nice man who sells firewood in the village. At least we now have a name and a phone number for him.

19 Feb 2010    Snowing this morning, but we made it to Pickering without any problems and enjoyed a nice free swim in the pool. Lunch at Russells and then off to the Moors and Steam garden centre to look at yet more woodburning stoves, before heading for Thornton-le-Dale and afternoonsies in the bakery cafe, then even more woodburners at Town and Country Stoves in the mini industrial estate nearby.

17 Feb 2010    A nice run to Pickering for a free swim (that will teach Scarborough Borough Council to change our regular and expensive Over 50s swimming sessions for the Half Term holidays!) and a nice lunch at the White Swan inn. Then a potter around Coopers lovely old fashioned ironmongers (reminds me of my father’s hardware shop in Ballymoney) and the discovery that they, too, sell woodburning stoves. On the way back we popped into the Duncombe Estates sawmill and ordered a couple of dumpy bags of 16 inch long, well seasoned hardwood at £25 per bag (one third the price of the supplier near Guisborough)!

16 Feb 2010    SA and MD cut up the untidy stack of bits and bobs alongside the pole barn with their chainsaws, stacking and splitting the resulting firelogs. The whole place looks much tidier now, so I will have to sort out the overturned bins of plastics for recycling, my old shower door / new cloche for the veg patch (still to be laid out properly and dug over).

13 Feb 2010       BC and I sorted the newly delivered blocks into hardwood and softwood, and stacked them (badly, ‘cos they’re only 6 inch blocks, not 16 inch logs) in the Barn, all 225 of them including 180 hardwood and the 45 softwood (25%)! I make that 33.5p per block, far more expensive than the 14 inch 1-summer-seasoned Ash logs we got a few weeks ago from the Mulgrave Estate sawmill at Sandsend. Come to think of it, we would need to glue 3 of these silly little 6 inch blocks end to end to make one decent firelog, which would then work out at about £1 per firelog! But they are beautifully seasoned.

12 Feb 2010    SA finished off the Blackthorn clearing between the top bridge and Flag’s Folly. After lunch he joined BC and I in sawing up more of the East Cord (now just under half a cord of 1 year seasoned wood remaining). In the middle of our 3 o’clocks a delivery of logs arrived from near Guisborough. The super-dumpy bag was hoisted off the wagon mechanically and tipped out onto the grass near the Pole Barn. Yes, it was beautifully seasoned for 2 years and very light weight, but sadly it was all in silly little 6 inch blocks instead of 16 inch firelogs and, even more sadly, what was advertised as ‘hardwood seemed to include an awful lot of what was very clearly softwood (ie conifers). Having reduced the price from £95 to £80, we paid up and moved it all under the cover of the Pole Barn.

10 Feb 2010    BC and I carried on sawing firelogs from the East Cord and stacking them inside the Pole Barn.

08 Feb 2010    SA and I removed yet more Blackthorn, with SA seeing 4 Roe Deer on the way up. After lunch SA carried on up there, while BC and I planted the last of 3 Blackcurrant and 2 Redcurrant bushes in the new fruit patch, as well as laying out the four new 8 x 4 foot vegetable beds at the back of what used to be the Dog Lawn.

05 Feb 2010    SA and MD as before, while BC and I sawed yet more firelogs.

03 Feb 2010    SA, MD and I spent the morning removing the encroaching Blackthorn from south of the old fence line, near Flag’s Folly. Most of it is too young and thin to be useful firewood, but there are a few potential walking sticks to be put aside. After lunch they carried on while BC and I sawed more of the East Cord.

01 Feb 2010    Only me here today, so I enjoyed a lovely cold, calm, sunny walk around the wood and then sawed enough of the East Cord to provide firewood for a couple of days. In theory, one should saw just more than enough firelogs every day, so that a surplus is built up for the occasional day off. What actually happens is that there is no sawing at all during the summer months, and then lots of catching up to do once winter arrives and the fires are lit.

Weather Summary for January 2010:   

Max = 9°C (48°F), Min = –6°C (20°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = 2°C (35°F). Total Rainfall 30 mm (1¼ inch) but the gauge froze. The worst winter for 30 years, said the Met Office. Lying snow throughout the first half of the month, with a slight thaw to just plain cold afterwards.

31 Jan 2010    Drove to Goldsborough, but the side road was still white-over and rather too treacherous, so we just turned around and came straight back to the main road while the sun had some warmth in it. Drove to Runswick Bay and walked down the old road (now just a footpath) to the old village, so icy that we had to hang onto the handrail all the way down! The tide was very high, with a bay full of white breakers, surrounded by snow-covered cliffs and capped with snow-covered fields. Very pretty! Time for a drink in the Royal, before exploring the village and making our way back up the path. I think I can just remember driving my car down here, before the new road was made, and clearly it wasn’t the unforgettable experience I would have expected it to be!

RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Count this weekend. In my garden an hour’s birding from my conservatory revealed: Long Tailed Tit 6, Blue Tit 4, Blackbird 3, Great Tit 3, Pheasant 2, Robin 2, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Wood Pigeon 1. 11.15 – 12.15, dry, calm, sunny with snow cover.

30 Jan 2010    Woke up to 3 inches of snow this morning! A stroll through Mulgrave Woods at Sandsend gave us a tour of the sawmill, with lots of tree trunks stacked in windrows to season. Lunch at the Sandside Cafe, overlooking the beach, was very welcome, as was a drink in the Hart Inn.

29 Jan 2010    SA and MD carried down quite a bit of recently cut wood and stacked it by the West Cord (for next winter’s firewood), as well as sawing more of the East Cord (for this winter’s firewood).

27 Jan 2010    SA and MD carried on splitting Ash logs for next winter’s (2010/11) fuel, assisted by the welcome return of ID. After lunch BC and I were ably assisted by ID as we toured the wood, admired the deer slots in the mud just above the top bridge and then we sawed more of the East Cord into firelogs for immediate burning or for stacking in the woodshed for later this winter (2009/10). While the woodshed remains stubbornly just half full (ie we are now burning logs as fast as we are sawing them) there is still a full cord (8 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet = 128 nominal cubic foot) to be sawn, not to mention a few more already seasoned firelogs ready in the pole barn.

25 Jan 2010    SA and MD started to split the recently felled young Ash which used to overhang the phone line. After lunch BC and I joined in and, with just a little friendly rivalry, the two teams soon had most of it split and restacked, ready to carry down to the woodyard when the path is less muddy and slippery.

23 Jan 2010    My pond is finally ice-free for the first time since before Christmas. At its maximum, the ice there was 4 inches thick.

22 Jan 2010    SA and MD completed clearing the Oak Cant and then moved on to removing one limb from the Cherry which overhangs the young Oak in the West Laund. BC sawed cordwood in the pole barn while I toured Groves Dyke with the Group 4 Securitas inspector. Very thorough, but its 3 Star rating is confirmed for another year.

20 Jan 2010    Wet. Everyone elsewhere doing important things, so I spent the day preparing for Group 4 Securitas Ltd to come and inspect Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage to see if it is still up to 3 Star standards. Why not the Tourist Board, you ask? I have no idea what they do now (so I have left them), but their inspection arm became an ‘arm’s length’ agency, which then got so remote that it was bought up by G4S. Confused? You will be…

18 Jan 2010    I managed to join SA and MD as we all spent the morning removing the last of the unwanted species from Oak Cant. Now there is an area some 25 yards by 25 yards with just young Oaks (some planted c25 years ago, all the others self-sown), a few slimmed-down Hawthorns (left to shelter the now more exposed young Oaks until they put down a few more roots) and an occasional Silver Birch (‘cos they look nice).

After lunch we were joined by BC and we trimmed-up a bit more and sawed more firelogs (I think).

16 Jan 2010    Walked around Church Street in Whitby, something which so many residents forget to do. Lots of new shops to be explored, and old favourites to be revisited. Lunch in The Shambles was good, with lovely views across the harbour.

15 Jan 2010    No, it’s no good. I give up. I have no idea what we did that day… Probably involved several people clearing Brambles and Hawthorn from Oak Cant, while others sawed wood, but that is only a guess.

13 Jan 2010    BC and I sawed and stacked, as as well as having a nice walk around the part grass – part snow covered wood. We cleared the drain just above the East Hazel Cant, as it was blocked with leaves, twigs and slush, and overflowing all its water straight into the cord of Cherry logs. Sorted. The raw, cold, grey weather continues, so we sorted out all the new bedding for Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage and rearranged its cupboard.

11 Jan 2010    A Ford Transit van had got itself stuck broadside on the ice on Woodlands Drive when it tried to turn around and retreat. The young driver revved it up faster and faster until the ice below his wheels was perfectly polished and the smoke was rising. First he tried to get his mate to tow him out sideways, only to break the tow rope. Then I suggested adding some of my bag of road salt just behind his wheels, but he spun the wheels so fast that it was all flung far away. Finally, I put my grip mats behind his wheels and, after revving too hard again and flinging them far away again, I finally persuaded him to keep the revs low and slip the clutch very, very, very gently – and the van reversed nicely and he got out of my way. Ha! Young folk today don’t remember when we had proper winters…

BC and I sawed and carried, sawed and carried and sawed and carried, until we had a goodly stack of firelogs for the next few days. We did note that any Cherry and any Silver Birch from the East Cord, now over a year old, was partly rotten, partly soggy and probably mouldy. Perhaps in future these 2 species should either be covered by a roof tarp in the cord, or else sawn directly into firelogs and stacked under cover for burning after one summer?

The sun has gone, the grey clouds hung around all day, with occasional light rain showers rather than snow. We tracked one Roe Deer around the wood in the melting snow and cleared the drain just above the East Cant to keep it from flooding the temporary cord of Cherry logs.

08 Jan 2010    BC and I sawed more of the East Cord into firelogs and stacked them in the pole barn ready for burning.

07 Jan 2010    The South of England got more snow yesterday than we have, with 6,000 schools around the UK closed, motorways and airports closed, etc. Drove into Whitby for some shopping. All main roads and many minor ones are open, snowploughed and gritted and life seems to be continuing as normal. My infestation of 7 Pheasants devours any seed that falls on the ground, so rather than fatten them up any more, I have added extra hanging feeders for the small birds to use exclusively. Since the car is still at the bottom of the drive, there are a couple of extra hanging feeders under the pole barn (which should keep the Pheasants and the snow off).

06 Jan 2010    Sunny and showers, except the showers are of more snow or soft hail. BC and I spent the morning sawing most of the cordwood we had carried to the pole barn into firelogs. An after lunch stroll into the wood, still inches deep in snow, brought more of the split Sycamore down from the Corner Cant and the rest of the afternoon was spent in carrying yet more cordwood from the East Cord into the pole barn for sawing. We did try rolling a giant snowball to clear the drive, but it’s still the wrong kind of snow. Anything that thawed slightly yesterday only froze into a crusty top last night.

04 Jan 2010    SA walked here in time for a coffee, before setting off again. BC arrived later and we had a bright and sunny stroll up Woodlands Drive in a few inches of snow and lots of ice. The view up the dale from the end of the Monks’ Trod is quite breathtakingly beautiful, with snow everywhere as far as the eye can see. Lots of animal tracks in the snow, which we tried to decipher. Home again, we collected more wood from the woodshed and carried it to the house. Off to Scarborough after lunch, only to find that the main roads are black over and traffic is travelling at 50+ mph – unlike Woodlands Drive (which is a layer or ice) and my drive (still c4 inches deep in snow), with my car parked by the gateposts at the bottom.

02 Jan 2010    More snow last night and a hard frost. This morning we scraped a path across the yard and found that the car could not get back up the drive, so it is now parked at the bottom. Even though there’s only a couple of inches of snow and the main roads are all kept cleared and salted, on the steepest private drives even 4 x 4 vehicles have also been unable to get back up to their houses.

The snow began again this afternoon so BC and I sawed some of the Hazel cord lengths we had carried to the pole barn for just this kind of weather.

01 Jan 2009    We had a lovely dry, bright and sunny morning with a walk around the icy and snow-covered wood, admiring the frosted heads of Cow Parsley and the graceful Silver Birches. A couple of Rabbits scampered off and we flushed a Woodcock from the Oak Laund on the far side of the wood. Carried down some of the split Sycamore from the SW corner to warm up and dry out by the stove.

Weather Summary for December 2009:   

Max = 11°C (52°F?), Min = -8°C (18°F). Actual at 09.30 hours on the 1st of the month = -2°C (30°F). Total Rainfall 25 mm (1 inch) but the gauge froze. About 4 inches of lying snow. The coldest December in 14 years, according to the Met Office. A cool month with several inches of snow over Christmas, then a thaw and then more snow for New Year.