News Blog 2012

Wildlife Diary and News Blog 2012 – notes from a small wood. 
Observations from Groves Bank, Groves Dyke and Groves Coppice, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England.

Dec 2012 Weather Summary – A wet month, mostly mild but with a couple of frosty nights. My rain gauge had to be emptied-out twice, but the grand total for the month was  110mm (4.3 inch) of rain, Max 10 degrees C (50 degrees F), Min -7 degrees (20 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 Jan 2013: 3 degrees C (36 degrees F).  (A few days later the UK Met Office declared 2012 as the wettest year ever recorded in England and the 2nd wettest year ever recorded in the UK (based on 180 years of records).

31 Dec 2012     Yule Log
After a lovely ‘cobweb removal’ walk along the beach at Runswick Bay, we enjoyed a coffee in the nice new, enlarged Sandside Cafe at Sandsend. Then home to select tonight’s Yule Log to carry the flame from the old year into the new. Since it is still very windy, dry and remarkably warm (11 degrees C) we choose a thick Ash firelog, which should remain alight until well into tomorrow morning.

29 Dec 2012     Magpie
Delighted to report that the Magpie Cafe is alive and well and still producing the best fish and chips in Whitby and beyond. We were there with W and D, who go back to Canada in a few days.

28 Dec 2012     Birched
The recently felled Silver Birch was dragged down to the woodyard by MD and me, sawn into 16 inch drums by SA, split and stacked inside the woodshed by 11.30am. So we walked around the wood, selected a few more small trees to thin this winter, then had lunch.

After lunch we returned to the recently felled Ash opposite Bruno’s Bannisters and removed its bigger branches, logged them and the big stick into 4 foot lengths and stacked them up off the damp ground. What a very satisfying day’s work.

24 Dec 2012     Happy Christmas everyone
Time to shut down the laptop for a few days and concentrate on eating and drinking, not to mention friends and relations. Barbara and I wish you all a very Merrry Christmas, a Happy New Year and we both hope to meet you here in 2013…

23 Dec 2012     Dry!
A dry and sunny day is very welcome after days and days of rain. We finished bowsawing the last of the Hazel cordwood, filling trugs and stacking the rest in the woodshed, which is now more than 2/3 full. A little bit of gardening and then we moved the last of the ‘wattle fence’ kindling into trays in the driest part of the pole barn.

22 Dec 2012      Wet Wet and Wet Again
Emptied the new larger-capacity rain gauge this morning as it was already full with 2.5 inches of rain. That’s the 2nd time so far this month that I’ve had to tip some out.

The steady rain continues incessantly, the woodyard is squelchey, rain is running down the roads and the River Esk is still high. Great news that the new 50kw Hydro-electric turbine at Ruswarp started exporting free, green electricity to the National Grid 2 days ago. Bon voyage, Archimedies! See http://whitbyeskenergy.org.uk/

SA put a plastic groundsheet over the stacked Silver Birch to keep the rain off until we can get it under cover.

 Bird Count this afternoon, 2.30 – 2.45, 8/8 cloud cover, Force 3 SW wind, 7.5 degrees C, 95% Relative Humidity: Blue Tit 2, Robin 2, Dunnock 1, Great Tit 1, Magpie 1, Nuthatch 1, Grey Squirrel 1.

21 Dec 2012     Shortest (& wettest) day, but still here
Luckily, the Mayan Calendar prediction was wrong and 11.11am today was not the end of the world, so we will continue this blog.

Steady drizzle as SA and MD felled a 30-year old Ash just East of Bruno’s Bannisters, near the Cherry of a couple of days ago. Then to drop the Silver Birch with the broken top, damaged in the April storm. By late afternoon they had the 4 foot lengths in a nice criss-cross stack, ready to move downhill to the woodyard.

19 Dec 2012     Roe Deer in the bath
While sitting in my morning bath looking out the partly open window I noticed 3 Roe Deer browsing just by the woodyard. Not sure if they were male or female, without my glasses…

SA and MD felled a 30-year old Cherry just East of Bruno’s Bannisters, to give more sunlight to the similar-aged (but much smaller) young Oak just to the North.

18 Dec 2012     CJS revisited
Popped in to see everyone at the Countryside Jobs Service in Goathland. Lovely to catch up with everyone and their news. See www.countryside-jobs.com

16 Dec 2012      Big Ash flogs
Bright, dry and sunny so we spent just over an hour with the T-saw on the fattest of the Ash cordwood. The biggest drums were up-ended around the block and then we spent half an hour spliting and stacking. Now the Ash cord is only half size and the woodshed is over 2/3 full. Very satisfying.

15 Dec 2012     Skinny Flogs
This morning the Great Spotted Woodpecker (male) fed on the Peanut dispenser, managing to reach through the anti-Squirrel mesh with a little difficulty. Bright and sunny, we spent too much time Christmas shopping before sawing several trugs of thin Hazel firelogs. Unblocked the 2nd pipe under the stone seat again.

14 Dec 2012     Trim the Gean again
SA spent a rather damp morning stripping more of recently the lop and top off the felled Gean (Wild Cherry) near the picnic site. On the way up he saw 2 Roe doe in the wood, with a Roebuck pacing back and forth in the field above. 

Wet, wet, wet afternoon, with a cold wind, so play was abandoned.

13 Dec 2012     Kingsize arrival
A hard frost for another night, down to -7 degrees Centigrade. The yard had been damp for weeks, with water weeping out of the ‘dry’ stone wall below the veg patch. Now all that water has turned to ice, making the yard very trecherous. Not to mention the drive and anywhere else that used to be just plain wet.

The brand new kingsize bed was delivered this afternoon without any trouble and now replaces the double bed in Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage.

12 Dec 2012     Trim the Gean
SA carried on with removing the smaller branches from the downed Wild Cherry (Gean). After lunch I joined in and we added to the two piles of brash nearby.

09 Dec 2012     Fence, saw, split and stack
A fine, dry sunny day so we carried some of the long Hazel poles coppiced from the Mid-west Cant up to the top fence behind the Viewpoint to mend the fence. Again. The hunger horses in the field above had pushed their heads through the fence and snapped the top wire. This was twizzled-up again with a new section and a Spanish Windlass, and a couple of new running rails added along the top.

With the temperature at 9 decgees C, a pleasant wind and bright sun, we ran the leccy string out across the lawn and used the T-saw to cut the last of the Ash cord into firelogs. Once the top cord of the East Cord was emptied, we split the flogs even thinner (easier to get 2 to cuddle-up togenther in the stove and keep each other warm) and stacked them in the woodshed. BC discovered what we have always said – it is not brute strength that matters when using the flying wedge, but technique. Easily said, but not really believed until the day it all falls into place. Today! Great, now she can do all the splitting..!

Both the upper cord beds in the Woodyard are now empty, ready to receive whatever we may fell and cut this winter. The other 4 cords are still either full or half-full of wood we felled last winter, now seasoned for a summer and ready for sawing into firelogs for burning this winter.

08 Dec 2012     Ten thousand Pooh-sticks
Today we set to work on the silted-up swamp we used to call the settling pond, where the little beck which runs through my garden disappears into a big plastic pipe to go under the stone seat, and then reappears 20 feet further and flows above ground towards the Stickery. The water that should have been underground couldn’t enter the pipe ‘cos of all the twigs, leaves and silt washed down last week. So much had the geography of the settling pond altered that it was hard to work out where the top end of the pipe used to be. We poked about with bits of cordwood, seeking the hard clonk of plastic pipe and the soft squelsh of the silty mud. Half an hour of probing later and suddenly there was a mini-whirlpool as the water spiralled downwards into the pipe. A bit more work and we uncovered all of the pipe entrance and the beck returned to its normal course.

07 Dec 2012     Thaw and raw
All the low-lying snow and ice has melted and now we just have chilly showers and blustery winds. I spent half an hour this morning clearing away the twigs, leaves and silt from behind the stone seat in my garden. The beck has completely in-filled the ‘settling pond’ (once 6 feet deep when originally dug about 12 years ago) and is now flowing over the pond lip, down the bank, under the stone seat, across the lawn and then drops back into the channel. All ok for the moment but when things return to normal (! or possibly ?) I really must try to get the water back into the underground pipe where it should be flowing. 

After swimming, BC and I carried down some of our home-grown and well-seasoned Ash logs, to mix with the super dry bought-in logs which burn too quickly when there is a gale blowing across the chimney top.

05 Dec 2012     England cut off
The wild wet weather turned colder, the wintery showers becoming increasingly blizzard-like – with sunny spells between. It wasn’t so much the snow that closed off all the roads from Whitby to England, but the resulting jack-knifed wagons, crashed cars, etc. After an hour or two, the vehicles were removed and Whitby was reconnected to England again. (In the 1830s local businessmen asked George Stevenson: ‘Can you connect Whitby to England by rail?’. He could and he did and that is now mostly the North Yorkshire Moors steam Railway).

04 Dec 2012     Lorra lorra Hazel
I had a lovely time, sawing lots and lots and lots of thin Hazel cordwood into firelogs (flogs). Just half-a-dozen strokes with the big bowsaw and suddenly a 4 foot length of 2 to 3 inch diameter Hazel becomes three 16 inch firelogs. Filled all available trugs, and added a foot to the wall of logs in the woodshed. VERY satisfying.

01 Dec 2012     And the dry shall be wet
Just back from a week in the Lake District, normally famous for being so very wet. This time, however, we had 6 dry (walking) days out of 7, while the rest of the country had 180 Flood Warnings and Aelfleda’s Terrace in Whitby’s eastside slid down the hill and had to be demolished: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20568914

Now to start catching up with the 147 emails in my Inbox…

Nov 2012 Weather Summary – A month that was wet at both ends and dry in the middle. In the final week the heavens opened and stayed open, with 180 Flood Warnings around the country. A landslide led to the demolition of 5 cottages (150 year old Aelfleda Terrace) on the eastside of Whitby. My rain gauge overflowied but 100+ mm (4+ inch) of rain, Max 13 degrees C (55 degrees F), Min -4 degrees (26 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 Dec 2012: 3 degrees C (36 degrees F).   

21 Nov 2012     MD’s delight
Following 24 hours of steady rain BC and I decided we were either going to light the bonfire or make lots of Tomato soup. Luckily, we made the right decision. To our surprise and delight, the basketful of our green Toms which we had shoved under the stairs in the faint hope that they might yet do something useful, had nearly all ripened. So now, MD willl be delighted to learn, we have lots of his favourite soup. Fear not, for we also made another big leaky pot of Leeky Potato soup! Once cool, it will all be in the freezer for future central ‘eating, when we are preparing and gathering our winter fu-u-el.

I emptied 1.5 inches of rain out of the gauge, to leave a bit more room for tomorrow’s…

18 Nov 2012     Cherry all logged
A frosty night followed by a bright sunny day. BC and I used the bowsaw to log the very last of the Cherry from the wordyard cord, split the fattest drums, and stacked everything either in the woodshed (for the sound logs) or into trugs for the conservatory (for the mouldy ones). It seems that any Wild Cherry logs less than 4 inches diameter are liable to go mouldy, while the thicker logs – with more heartwood and less sap wood? – are sound.

The woodshed is now more than half full, with the conservatory cluttered with big plastic trugs full of mouldy barked Cherry to be burnt on the stove asap.

Almost all the trees are now stripped of leaves, as is my Cotonaster (of berries).

17 Nov 2012     New oven
This morning we bought a brand new 13.5 tog manmade fibre kingsize duvet for the new kingsize bed in Groves Dyke, as well as a new fan oven for the kitchen there. The oven is due for delivery later this week.

Lunch at Stonehouse Bakery in Danby, followed by a huge craft fair in the village hall. Our local woodturner was there, selling all sorts of lovely things for charity – some of them doubtless originating from Groves Coppice.

16 Nov 2012     Full house
Most arrived in time for lunch and MD shortly after. Lots of catching-up to do (narrow boat, Australia, etc) then SA and MD walked around the wood to plan this winter’s felling schedule, BC weeded and dug over 2 veg plats and I finished changing over the holiday cottage.

15 Nov 2012     More Cherry logged
While I waited for an email, I spent an hour with the T-saw finishing off the thicker Cherry logs in the cord. No time to split them as well, just stack them under cover before the rain arrives.

14 Nov 2012     Leccy saw outing
For the first time this year we had both time and dry weather, so BC and I ran out the big reel of electric string across the patio, around the pond, over the normally wet lawn and into the woodyard. We moved the sawhorse so that all the cordwood would be automatically measured off at 16 inch lengths – and worked our way through the thickest of the half cord of Cherry logs. The thickest were split with the ‘flying wedge’ splitting axe and everything stacked into the woodshed.

Midges were a problem, but then it was 14.5 degreec C, warm, dry and sunny, so who could blame them? Except us.

13 Nov 2012     Six tons stacked
The lorry arrived from Pickering with 6 huge dumpy bags of lovely properly seasoned hardwood logs and dumped them on the gpound. Two hours later and BC and I had them all stacked under cover. 15 degrees C and lots of Midges. Phew. Recovering in the conservatory, a beautiful male Sparrowhawk landed briefly on the crossbar of the feeding station, looked at the total lack of small birds feeding, and flew off.

We took 4 freshly finished Unique Walking Sticks to Dunsley Hall Hotel and look forward to raising yet more money for Macmillan Cancer Relief.

12 Nov 2012     Stickery in production again
After a bit of a gap, and following the recent sale of the ‘Stonehenge Staff’, I was back working in The Stickery again today. I lit the stove and prepared 4 sticks today – and lighting the stove took nearly as long as working the 2 Blackthorns and 2 Hazels! All the walking sticks (and possibly the stove!) will be available to buy in a few days, from Dunsley Hall Hotel near Whitby. All proceeds are donated to Macmillan Cancer relief.

Unique Walking Sticks – designed by Nature and crafted by hand. From a sustainably managed wood near Whitby, North Yorkshire. For more information click Other and then Sticks.

Three Bullfinches (including 2 males) and 3 Blackbirds gorged themselves on the Cotoneaster bush outside our diningroom window.

11 Nov 2012     1GSW
One Great Spotted Woodpecker (GSW) was on the Peanut feeder just outside the kitchen windows – the first I have seen for some months.

We had a nice relaxing day in Pickering, with lunch at Russells and a good potter about, including the antique shops and garden centres.

10 Nov 2012     Kingsize ordered
The new kingsize bed for the double bedroom in Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage will be delivered on Mon 10 Dec 2012…

09 Nov 2012     Your back
MD and SA joined us for lunch today after working offsite on somebody else’s Apple tree. It was nice to see your back again. And your front. We had a good catch-up chat and hope to see more of them both in weeks to come.

08 Nov 2012     Don’t panic
Ash Die-back Disease is now on all sides of us and there seems little that can be done. Too late for any ‘cordon sanitaire’ so it is priobably just another factor to contend with. Dutch Elm Disease all almost all the 20 million Elms trees in the UK and in the 30 years since we have just got used to having hedges without their main tree species. There are 3 young Elms in the garden and wood, but once the trunks get to about 6 inch diameter the bark is just right for the Elm Bark Beetle which carries the fungal spores on its body and the young tree dies.

Last year was Sudden Oak Wilt disease, which is not yet a problem here, and next year will doubtless be yet another imported problem for yet another species. The world trade in trees and timber products may give us some newly planted woods, pretty flowers and nice floorboards – but these come at a very high price. There are some 80 million Ash trees in the UK, so the effect of losing them all will be 4 times worse than losing all our Elms.

In terms of woodland management, I think it should be ‘steady as she goes’ at Groves Coppice. Always intended as 5 acres of mixed Oakwood, it is no monoculture and was planted with a good biodiversity, namely: Oak, Ash, Wild Cherry, Hazel, Holly, Whitebeam, Crack and Yellow Willow, Field Maple, Crab Apple, Silver Birch, Scots Pine and Yew, as well as the pre-existing Beech, Sycamore, Hawthorn, Blackthorn. With such a mixed economy, the whole wood should be more resistant to all pressures. Fingers crossed…

07 Nov 2012     Stonehenge staff
The wonderful Unique Walking Stick (a knobbly Beech staff from the far end of the big orchard hedge) has been sold today for £100! Dunsley Hall Hotel, near Whitby, rang to say that, after several years on display in their hall, it has finally been bought by one of their guests. I always thought it deserved to be at Stonehenge on Midsummer Night. It is unique, he will never meet another one like it, and Macmillan Cancer Care will be £100 better off. Thank-you sir and thank-you Dunsley Hall Hotel.

04 Nov 2012     Midges stop play
We sawed more of the Ash and Cherry cordwood into firelogs until the number of Midge bites became too annoying. Pruned  away the last of the unwanted young Ash growing in the Juniper, saving some of the bendy stems for potential walking sticks.

Returned to the woodyard in the hope that the Midges would have dispersed. Used the 2-wo/man saw to deal with the thicker (and wetter and heavier) Cherry logs. The Midges were still waiting for us and it was a race to the finish to see which would succumb first – us or the Cherry. We won, but only just.

02 Nov 2012     Split and prune
This morning SA and I tried to split the few remaining Ash lumps stacked near Dogsnout Laund. We had left these forking drums for a few months to weather, as they are mostly knots and very reluctant to split. Dispite our considerable efforts, most of them remain intact and in situ. Forking drums!

01 Nov 2012     Canine assistance
Every time we walk around the wood Sparky, the leggy Lab, and I carry a few more bits of firewood down. I must say, however, that I carry down quite a bit more than he does…

Rain stopped play and after lunch BC joined us to prune away the self-sewn Elm, Ash, Hazel and Sycamore growing in the middle of the Heather bed on the front lawn of Groves Bank. These were much more amenable and the young Ash even produced a few nice bendy lengths for next year’s walking sticks. Rain stopped play again, until BC and I walked Sparky around the wood and carried down a couple of Cherry rods to help steady ourselves on the muddy descent.

Oct 2012 Weather Summary – A mixed month, with cooler weather, some sun, some fog and some rain and even some sleety hail. 64 mm (2.5 inch) of rain, Max 15 degrees C (60 degrees F), Min -1 degrees (30 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 Nov 2012: 6 degrees C (42 degrees F).   

31 Oct 2012     Instant booking and payment
I have long wanted to introduce on-line booking and payment – and now, thanks to www.yorkshire-cottages.info this is finally possible. This is in addition to all the old-fashioned ways to book and pay (cheque by Royal Mail and BACS by phone). For the very latest Availability and instant Booking and Payment by credit or debit card, please click on http://www.yorkshire-cottages.info/north-york-moors-and-coast/whitby-area/groves-dyke-cottage .  NB: For any holidays on or after Fri 08 March 2013, my prices will match their prices (some now more expensive and some less!) and my Availability now follows theirs. Hope you find instant online booking and payment a useful addition!

Half Price for Late Bookings: For holidays starting 8th March 2013 or after, Half Price will only become available 2 weeks before arrival (not 4 weeks as before) and will only be available if booked directly with me. Yorkshire Cottages do, however, offer a 15% reduction if booked within 3 weeks of arrival, so I will also offer 15% off for bookings made 3 weeks before arrival.

31 Oct 2012     Heavy rain overnight.
SA joined us for lunch and afterwards we all walked around the wood, with Sparky, and carried down the last few bits of wood. Then we sawed cordwood in the woodyard and stacked the firelogs into the woodshed. This is now almost half-full, with most of 4 or 5 cords still to saw. Windy but dry.

30 Oct 2012     Dog logging
Sparky arrived for his holidays and he and I had several walks around the wood, bringing down some more firewood every trip. The ground is very wet, the steep paths are very muddy and I can almost do the splits. Sparky is much more sure-footed, but then he has twice as many feet. Not to mention 4-paw drive.

28 Oct 2012     Fall back
Late breakfast, or was it early? Drier and milder but damp-ish. Walked around the wood and carried some Hazel down the Short Sharp Shock. NB, A new path created 10+ years ago when the Officers Walk was previouly very wet and slippery. The new short cut, from the Major Oak to Dog Snout Laund, was short and drier, but blooming steep!

Sawed cordwood into firelogs in the polebarn with the 2 wo/man saw, which is a great way to keep warm. An hour’s worth of sawing created quite a lot of flogs, enough to fill a top diagonal about 4 feet high. Dug up the rest of our potatoes as something else is eating them faster than we were. Over-filled a blue mushroom tray from 1.5 drills (10-15 lbs) – far better than Monty Don managed last week! We like Estima. There was a hole in one, which would have been a good thing if we are golfing, not gardening!

27 Oct 2012     Cot to go
Toured our local supermarkets and corner shops with postcards advertising the traditional wooden cot which has been in Groves Dyke since about 1990. It has now been replaced with a nice new travelling cot (available free, on request). This will make room for a nice new kingsize bed in the double room (not yet, but soon)…

Ended up having lovely homemade soup in the Sandside Cafe at Sandsend, overlooing the very rough sea. Sawed some logs in polebarn.

26 Oct 2012     SA for lunch
Showery. After lunch we all collected some firelogs and I gave SA a lift home again. Then BC and I sawed some cordwood into firelogs and stacked them in the woodshed, adding about 1 foot to the outer log wall in the shed.

25 Oct 2012     The gas man been-eth
Warm, dry and sunny at last. British Gas called today for the annual service and certification of the central heating in Groves Dyke. No problems. Then I carried a dozen pieces of cordwood from the woodyard down to the polebarn – always nice to be able to work undercover when it rains.

24 Oct 2012    Patch results
Now that I’ve got a taste for it, I’ll take far more interest in just which nasty chemical e-numbers are in my ex-favourite food and drink – and also in unlikely things like toothpaste and shampoo. Cold, wet and foggy again again.

23 Oct 2012     Cold wet and foggy again
A 15-minute bird count from my kitchen-diner gave: Blackbird 4, Blut Tit 4, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 2, Great Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Robin. Once the count was over, a Chaffinch and a Greenfinch appeared – both species the first in ages. 

22 Oct 2012     Cold wet and foggy
Scarborough again. Still not a patch.

21 Oct 2012     Mist and yellow fruitlessness
A lovely misty morning turned into another warm, dry and sunny day. The Hazel and Willow leaves are turning yellow and the only autumn fruit to be had this year is another few Raspberries. No Apples. No Plums. No Blackberries.

We removed the Beans and their supports, dug up a few more lovely potatoes, planted some Garlic and potted-up a self-sewn Oak seedling. Sawed a few more firelogs from the Ash and Hazel cords, plotted some more gravel / less grass for next year and lunched in the conservatory (15 degrees C both inside and out). Cabaret was a male Sprawk which flew over our heads, dashed around the peanut feeder, missed everything and then paused on the veg garden fence to regain his composure. Lovely. Like a giant (striped) Nuthatch.

Walked around the wood to check on the anti-pony fence (all ok) and carried down a couple of big Hazel poles. The Herb Robert is still in flower and the midges are still hungry.

20 Oct 2012     Not a patch
Spent the afternoon in Scarborough. It really isn’t nearly as nice as Whitby.

19 Oct 2012     Spanish windlass
SA walked down and then around the wood, noticing that the ponies on the other side of our top fence were trying to push through it again. After lunch we all went up and added a double strand of bull wire to every span, tightening them up by twisting the two strands around each other with a short length of stick. Once tight, we dropped a vertical wire from it to the top of the pig netting, to stop them pushing their heads and necks through to reach the far better grass on our side. SA thought he was doing well to nail the wire onto the posts with staples, but we pointed out that staples have twice as many points as the average nail! We topped it off with a running rail of Hazel poles. 

Odd, when every landowner is required to fence against their own stock, that we (with no livestock) end up doing all the work. We abandoned it when the job was done and the midges became too bad.

17 Oct 2012     SA for lunch
Delicious! No, he joined us for lunch as a very welcome guest. Great that he can keep an eye on us again. After taking him home again, BC and I sawed some more cordwood into firelogs for stacking in the woodshed. Midgey.

16 Oct 2012     Wet and windy.
Very. Again. All day and night.

15 Oct 2012     Venison and Rhubarb
At dusk I noticed a fine Roebuck standing in the Rhubard Triangle of North Yorkshire, just behind our veg patch. Hope he isn’t browsing on our future pudding.

13 Oct 2012     Split and stack
Warm, dry and sunny. This afternoon we sawed some of the cordwood and split the last of the Ash and Hazel at the top of Chimney Bank, then got carried away and split the last of the Cherry by the East Cant. The new twisty wedge is excellent and works a treat (c£25 from B&Q).

12 Oct 2012     Home again
Just back from a few days in Northumberland, staying at the superb Nursery Cottage in Alnwick  http://www.coquetcottages.co.uk/nursery_cottage/index.html – highly recommended!

08 Oct 2012     The Balltic Art Gallery
No, that is not a typo. On our way north we stayed near Newcastle and made my second visit to this prestigious gallery of contempory arts in Gateshead. I wanted to show BC, and to see if they had found anything interesting to put into this super building, the old Baltic Flour Mill on the banks of the Tyne, since my last visit here a few years ago. Sadly, they haven’t. Once again we got around the whole building in just under 15 minutes – that’s 1 minute per floor, and includes 10 minutes for coffee in the cafe.

Ground Floor was a collection of tv screens playing a video of the inside of a derelict Russian building. Floor 2 was closed for a new exhibition. Floor 3 was ‘a post-apocalyptic utopian dream’ of ‘part tent, part plant and part garden’ (I rest my case). Floor 4 was 40 loud speakers in a circle each playing something different. Floor 5 was a giant sheet of black and white squared lino (approx 60 feet by 40 feet) with 3 or 4 squares / foot – and a randon pebble on every square. Floor 5 is a viewing gallery, to look down on Floor 4 (good idea), plus the excellent viewpoint looking across the many Tyne bridges.

Clearly, we are missing a trick here. If all these ‘masterpieces’ are contenders (if not winners) of the Turner Prize, then what we need for Groves Coppice is a Wood-Turner Prize: every Pile of Logs is a work of art illustrating the imposition of human rigidity  on natural organic form (or something). This will be a selling exhibition, with this particular structure available for a mere £75,000, or the entire Woodyard installation of all 6 cords for £500,000. Other daft ideas will be available just as soon as we think of them…

Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light.

05 Oct 2012     Slippery sleigh-ride
BC and I spent the afternoon bringing down Ash and Hazel logs from the top of Chimney Bank. Still a bit wet and slippery on the Officers’ Walk. We split the fatter ones and stacked them all in the woodshed. It’s times like this when we really miss SA and MD!

04 Oct 2012     Final strim?
SR rang me to say there was about 1000+ geese flying south over my house, but sadly I was in Whitby at the time. In the afternoon I spent almost 2 hours strimming absolutely everything, including the path around the wood. Perhaps no more strimming will be required this year..?    

03 Oct 2012     Gathering winter fu-u-el
SA brough down lots of Ash and Hazel to the woodyard. After lunch BC and I joined him and we cleared out the stacked Ash logs from near Flag’s Folly, getting it all down to the top of Chimney Bank at least. Most of the Hazel at the top of Chimney Bank is now down in the woodyard.

2 Goldfinches feeding almost non-stop on the Niger seed feeder outside the kitchen windows.

01 Oct 2012     C and G’s hedge
My annual trip to trim a hedge on the West Cliff, followed by lunch.

Sept 2012 Weather Summary – A mild month with some nice days but 2 VERY WET days with 65 flood warning in the NE of England.. 95 mm (3.9 inch) of rain, Max 25 degrees C (78 degrees F), Min 0 degrees (32 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 Oct 2012: 10 degrees C (50 degrees F).   

30 Sept 2012     Windy and not yet wet
We carried some Ash from near Flag’s Folly down to the top of Chimney Bank, leaving it in the bin trolley (like a sack trolley but with an empty dust bin strapped to it) as the paths are still wet and slippery. Some lighted Hazel lengths were then brought down by hand to the woodshed. Times 2.

The 4 and a bit gallons of newly pressed Apple juice is now in our nice warm dining room and has already begun to ferment, the airlock  bubbling occasionally as it get going.

29 Sept 2012     Shopping in sunny Scarborough
We don’t normally enjoy shopping, but today we went to buy a few essentials for Groves Dyke next year when it will also be available under Yorkshire Cottages. From March 2013 there will be a bath and a hand towel provided free for each guest (with matching tea towels in our case). Also a new king size bed to replace the current double bed.

Unaccustomed as we are to all this High Street and Big Shed shopping, we aided our recovery by enjoying lunch and a browse in Dean’s Garden Centre, a quick tour of Coast Art Gallery and tea shop and even a new-to-us hidden gem: Cloughton Station Tea Room and Garden. This latter has been there for years but this was our first visit and will not be our last.

28 Sept 2012     A welcome visitor
SA washed out some of the Apple pressing kit from a few days ago and the brought down some more Ash from near Flag’s Folly. MD popped in for a coffee and a catch-up chat, which was very welcome.

After lunch BC and SA went back up into the wood to cover the bread tray sleigh load of Ash with a tarpaulin and brought down some more Ash in the bin trolley and Hazel by hand. The rest of the afternoon was spent sawing that and some of the Ash cordwood into firelogs and stacking them into the woodshed.

27 Sept 2012     My first ebay sale
Today I successfully sold my very forst item on ebay – a signed first edition by David Bellamy – the artist. I bagged it in a charity shop some months earlier, only to discover that it was not by David Bellamy – the naturalist. Hence the sale.
Hopefully, this will be the first of many such sales, as I try to clear some of the heaps of books which constantly overflow the many bookshelves in this house. I might even, some wet winter’s day, set up a ‘Bookshop’ page on this website where some of my now surplus natural history books can be sold.

 26 Sept 2012     Meager Cider Day
With a very poor crop (c100 apples on just 1 tree) we used additional apples from Helmsley Walled Garden (and a 2 for 1 special offer from Sainsbury’s) to press what little we could. SA was Press-Meister, while BC and I cut and chopped the apples. After pressing the mash, we did it again, turned it over, left it to sink downwards, etc – all in an effort to extract as much juice as possible. 4 gallons later and we had had enough.

Later that evening and next morning I managed to extract a bit more juice by repeating the process. Final total = 4 and a wee bit gallons.

25 Sept 2012     Very wet and very windy
This morning I had to empty out another 2 inches of rain from the rain gauge after a very wet and wild night. The Niger seed feeder had flailed about so much in the wind that it had killed a young Goldfinch (rather the opposite effect of what I had been trying to achieve) and unscrewed itself and fallen on the ground. A bit of duct tape put the feeder back together again (but not the feedee) and a bit of string now tethered it to the ground to stop the flailing about.

24 Sept 2012     First of the autumn gales
The equinoxial gale started late last night and the wild wet weather caused lots of flooding (65 Flood Warnings in NE England) but not just here, thank goodness. Morpeth, which had its ‘100 Year Flood’ 4 years ago – had another one this week. That’s now a ’50 Year Flood’. So far…

23 Sept 2012     First of the autumn Apples
With a total crop this year of circa 100 Apples on just one tree, and a gale forecast for tonight, we decided to pick at least half – just in case. One mushroom tray-full later, and we have more than half of this year’s crop. Let’s hope it’s going to be a good vintage (and a high price)!

We also carried down the last of the Hazel offcuts from the Mid-West Cant, picked almost the last of the Raspberries and Green Beans, lifted all of the outside Potatoes, a couple of Swedes (Turnips) and a couple of Beetroot.

Two young Goldfinces have adopted the new Niger Seed feeder just outside the kitchen windows, and a Green Woodpecker spent a noisy time in the garden. A Woodmouse and a Bank Vole (Qwerty and Co) scuttled around my pond collecting bird seed and a Jay commuted noisily between garden aqnd wood.

22 Sept 2012     Apple importing     We went to Helmsley Walled Garden for lunch and to buy and collect a couple of big plastic trugs of Apples, which they have in abundance. The Autumn fair was in full swing when we arrived, a very lively affair. Our last visit perhaps this year, which we celebrated with anothet lovely lunch in their Vinehouse Cafe and, later, another exotic Ryeburn icecream.

En route we enjoyed the wide open moortop on the Hamer road, Rosedale Abbey, Chimney Bank (a gradient of 1:2.5!), Hutton-le-Hole and a classic car rally, an auction in KMS (Kirkbymoorside) where we gained a small Oak cabinet, and all together, a lovely day out.

Today is the Autumnal Equinox, when we have exactly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. Buckle-up kiddos, it’s downhill all the way for the next 3 months..!

21 Sept 2012     Groves Dyke photographed     SA split lots of lumps of Hawthorn in the woodyard, while I showed the photographer from Yorkshire Cottages around Groves Dyke. The photographs will appear on their website next week, ready for them to accept instant online bookings from 08 March 2013 – in addition to my old fashioned way of accepting phone enquiries and sending little bits of dead wood (letters / cheques / etc) by increasingly expensive Snail Mail.

After lunch SA and BC took the sack trolley and the breadtray sleigh up to the top of our Chimney Bank (gradient 1:2?!), past the Mid-West Cant, up the next steps and almost to Flag’s Folly to bring down the lumps of split Ash – but only as far down as the Mid-West Cant. After a couple of runs, I joined them to bring down some lengths of Hazel by hand. Chimney Bank is just too slippery for bringing the trolley or the sleigh down loaded!

BC made another trip down with the IKEA bag full of Hazel bits, while SA and I sawed the delivery into firelogs (‘flogs’) and stacked them in the woodshed (which is 1/3 full of last winter’s unused flogs, plus 1/6 full of last winter’s felling.

19 Sept 2012     SA’s Marathon     Despite the warm weather, SA trolley-ed down sixteen 4-foot lengths of Cherry and from the criss-cross stack at the foot of Chimney Bank, plus another 4 Ash ones, adding all to the appropriate cords in the woodyard. After lunch BC and I joined him and we sawed all the odds and sods into firelogs and stacked them in the woodshed.

Having emptied the last of the Hazel leaning on the tripod, we then leaned the first felling of this winter (last week’s 2 Cherry stems from Groves Dyke garden) onto the tripod for future firewood in the winter of 2013/14. They had to go there because all 6 of the cordbeds in the woodyard are full (ornearly) of this winter’s fuel.

16 Sept 2012     New towels and Cherry lumps.     In preparation for ‘Yorkshire Cottages’ bookings next year, which must include bath towels, we bought lots of lovely new towels, as purple as the Heather moors in August.  Isn’t Sainsbury’s just wonderful?

After lunch we moved most of the Hazel poles on the Woodyard tripod over to the Polebarn, so that we would have something to work on when it rains. Still dry, we began to split the lumps of Cherry we brought down a few days ago. Some split easily with the flying wedge, some needed more careful treatment with several wedges and the sledge hammer (‘wedge and sledge’). After an hours work we had them all split and stacked onto a diagonal in the upper Woodshed. Then we got a bit ambitious and had a go at the awkward forked and knotty lumps of Ash abandoned as ‘impossible’ last winter… some split into usable firelogs with a lot of persuation, and some are still impossible to split.

15 Sept 2012     Strimming and Baytown.     I strimmed the steep path from the Officers’ Walk down to the Woodyard, which we had used yesterday and found a bit wet, slippery and tricky when covered with long grass. Also strimmed all the Woodyard and almost all the Groves Bank lawns.

For the past 2 Saturdays we have lunched at Runswick Bay and watched the tide, so time for a change. Went to RHB (Robin Hood’s Bay) for a late lunch, and watched the tide. Hot and sunny, so we sat under the veranda of the Victoria Hotel and looked out across the bay to Ravenscar. Busy, but we wandered down the hill to The Dock, where the tide was very high, then worked our way back uphill via the antique shop, the Dolphin and another drink, the bookshop, the cafe and an ice cream, and back to the Victoria – for another drink in the shade. Hot work but lovely.

14 Sept 2012     Cherry lumps.     Warm and windy today. SA joined us for lunch and afterwards we all brought down some half drums of Cherry from the bottom of Chimney Bank. Several runs with the sack trolley and we soon had a double layer under cover in the woodshed, ready for splitting. Another day…

13 Sept 2012     First book sale. Having collected natural history books all my life, with a bit of buying and selling, today I have put my first Sale onto eBay. If you would like a First Edition, signed by the author, of David Bellamy’s ‘The Wild Places of Britain’ – then now is your chance! Just open up eBay and type ‘books david bellamy and then click Search.

But beware! There seem to be TWO David Bellamys – DB the naturalist and DB the artist. So don’t jump to conclusions and buy the ‘wrong’ one – like I did!

12 Sept 2012     Wet again. We might have done all sorts of things in the wood today, now that it’s not too hot – except now it’s too wet and slippery instead.

11 Sept 2012     Wheatears. T&C and I spent the morning birding on the moors. The odd Kestrel, several Grice (I mean Grouses, or just plain vanilla Grouse), toasted Tomato bread with Patty (pate!) at Danby’s Stonehouse Bakery, a couple of Wheatears (my first this year) on the way up to Danby Beacon, another one on the top, and 2 Golden Plover on the way back down. We tried the Short-eared Owl road again, but no wol.

10 Sept 2012     Filey waders and Esk Valley Shortie    With T&C and me to Filey Brigg Country Patk, where there were very few birds about (but nice sausage butties in the cafe). Better luck at Filey Dams Local Nature Reserve, with a very obliging Black-tailed Godwit, a Greenshank and a Green Sandpiper, all just in front of the hides and in perfect conditions.

On our way back from a lovely meal at The Postgate (Egton Bridge), T saw a Short-eared Owl flying along just ahead of the car. It performed nicely for several seconds and gave us all a good view.

09 Sept 2012     Cool Foss     To Falling Foss Tea Garden, by special request from C&T, to enjoy the coolth of the trees. Not to mention the bacon baps! Drove around Littlebeck to get home again.

08 Sept 2012     Runswick Bay sunburn  With T&C to Runswick Bay for a drink and a sandwich – and a bit of warm, sunny people and bird watching. Guillemot 1, House Martins 4, Cormorants 3 and rather late Sandwich Tern 2.

We strolled along the beach, working up an appetite for a tea or coffee, and sat admiring the view again – long enough for me to get my neck sunburnt for the very first time this year.

07 Sept 2012     Hot and dry again     SA and BC carried down some wood and covered-up the Cherry logs again, now that the weather might change.

This afternoon I met the lady from Yorkshire Cottages, an holiday cottage agency which will help get some additional bookings for Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage next year. We agreed a way for all my regular guests to carry on almost as usual, as well as some new guests booking directly via their brochure and their website, which has an option for on-line payment. Hopefully this will be the best of both worlds, so take your pick!

05 Sept 2012     Summer is here, now that Autumn’s arrived     SA felled a couple of the smaller Cherry stems which are shading-out the Buddliea in Groves Dyke garden. After lunch SA, BC and I carried on with pollarding the remaining singles in the Mid-west Hazel Cant and got them all done. BC also found that 2 of last year’s layering stems had taken root, which helps to expand the cant. We brought some Hazel and some Cherry down to the woodyard, before collapsing in the heat and having to eat lots of ice cream in the shade.

04 Sept 2012     Goldfinch!     After months of hopeful anticipation, a Goldfinch has finally found the Niger seed feeders, previously used only by the Marsh Tit, an occasional Coal Tit and the very occasional young Siskin. I have been asking Goathland for years to export some of their Goldfinch surplus to Sleights and this is, hopefully, the first of many!

A 15-minute count at my feeders gave: Blue Tit 3, Coal Tit 2, Great Tit 2, Robin 2 (incl 1 juvenile, still a bit spotty), Blackbird 1, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 1, Marsh Tit 1, Willow / Chiff 1. That is 14 individuals of 9 species. It was Force 2 South Westerly, dry and sunny, 18.3 degrees C, 87% Relative Humidity.

Spent 1.5 hours strimming Groves Dyke lawns and all of the Woodyard, so now everything has been strimmed this week. Hot!

03 Sept 2012     Strimming     I spent 1.5 hours strimming and managed all Groves Bank lawns, as well as the path around the wood.

02 Sept 2012     Pollards! Hot and sunny today but BC and I spent a couple of hours out in the midday sun ‘polling’ the tops of another 10 Hazel pollards. Pollarding is just the same as coppicing, but several feet above ground level. That way, when we cut the singled stem just above 4 foot 6 inches, the Roe Deer are too lazy to reach up to browse the regrowth – and the Hazel survives. We tried coppicing at ground level 20 years ago, but all the regrowth was just constantly eaten away by the Deer and Groves Coppice would have remained just 2 scrubby little fields.

We sat down in the shade at the picnic table to recover and a lovely flock of c 2 dozen Long Tailed Tits passed overhead. Thanks to a bit of ‘psst, psst, psst-ing’ one or two of the youngsters were decoyed right up close to us. Wonderful.

The old singles have still be to cut off just above ground level, but at least the freshly cut stems will have a few weeks or months to heal and seal before the winter frosts arrive. The resulting poles were left leaning against a young Oak, and will be very useful as home grown fence rails if the pony trespassing problem persists. The emergency fencing repairs we made 2 days ago are still intact and no fresh breakinging and entering has occurred.

We picked a good crop of Raspberries and 2 small containers of Broad Beans for freezing, as well as a handful of Green Beans AND (wait for it)… the very 1st red Tomato of the year! On the 2nd of Sept, yes, we know, but then it has been officially declared ‘the wettest summer for 100 years and the 2nd wettest summer ever recorded in the UK’. So there.

A bit breezy but we checked the Buddliea bushes for butterflies and got a very gratifying 15 Peacocks, 1 Tortoiseshell, 1 Green-veined White and 1 Comma. Excellent! There were some on the big old white bush, but most on the smaller, younger dark purple, so this winter we will cut back the white one and give the purple one more room to grow.

01 Sept 2012     Last of the summer seaside. We went to The Royal at Runswick Bay for a late lunch and afterwards just sat outside and admired the view. And sat. And sat. It was so nice and warm, a bit crowded and a bit noisy, but if you sit long enough the tide comes in and most families retreat. Later we walked along the beach and back, with an afternoon tea at the cafe and a bit more sitting and watching. Only half a dozen House Martins still flying over the slipway and only a couple of Terns calling as the fished out over the bay.

August 2012 Weather Summary – A warm wet month. 50 mm (2 inch) of rain, Max 26 degrees C (80 degrees F), Min 4 degrees (39 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 Sept 2012: 18 degrees C (64 degrees F). The Met Office has said this is the wettest summer in 100 years and 2nd wettest summer ever recorded.

31 Aug 2012     Greener Grass. Nice to see SA back again. He walked around the wood and discovered that the top neighbour’s ponies had pushed through and over the fence to reach the better grass under our trees. By the look of the spoor, several of them had been halfway down the wood, milled about a lot, had gone back up again, passed the entry point, milled about again and eventually found they way back through the damaged fence.

After lunch we all went up with fencing pliers, hammer and staples to repair the gap. We pulled the trampled pignet fence vertical again, hammer in an extra post, wired-on the top rail again and added a few bits of dead branch for good measure. As we worked, the culprits were pushing their heads through between the fence and the top rail nearby, as they softened-up the fence for their next attempt. The owner was informed.

30 August 2012     Blue Moon. Yes, tonight really is ‘once in a blue moon’. Not because the moon is blue, but because it will be the 2nd full moon in one calendar month. I’d like to explain it, but that would only confuse me, so please see:
http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/when-is-the-next-blue-moon instead. Simples.

29 Aug 2012     New Freesat Telly. With the digital switchover in a few weeks, we have today removed all evidence of the old telly, the old cables and the old aerials, and replaced them all with a nice new flatscreen digital tv with built-in CD / DVD player, linked to my satellite dish next door.

A 15-minute bird count at my feeders gave: Blue Tit 3, Great Tit 2, Robin 2, Blackbird 1, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Nuthatch 1 (the first for a few weeks). 17 degrees C, Force 5 South Westerly, dry, 7/8 cloud cover and 83% Relative Humidity.

 28 Aug 2012     Last of the summer swims. Off to Helmsley for a final swim this year in their heated open-air pool. The leaves were just starting to turn, the odd fallen leaf floated on the surface and an occasional Swallow dipped down for a swift half sip.

Lunch in the Walled Warden followed by a stroll around to admire their laden Apple trees. Seems they missed the very strong wind (when April ‘came in like a lion’ instead of March), which blew all the blossom off the trees in and around Whitby. We have just 1 tree with less than 100 Apples on it in Groves Dyke orchard – every other Apple tree has 10 or less. We made arrangements with Helmsley Walled Garden to collect a car load of Apples in mid-September in return for a donation to their Social Enterprise.

 27 Aug 2012     Last of the summer cider. And perhaps our nice summer weather, too. This morning we watched a Roe Buck which materialised by the Willow Arch and then wandered off into the wood. Too windy (Southerly) for the veranda, so we were having coffeee in the conservatory, watching a small Woodmouse dashing out from under the typewriter to grab some birdseed. A large female Sparrowhawk flew over the wood and disappeared within. Two Marsh Tits fed on the mixed birdseed and on the Niger seed feeder. Shame they haven’t found any Goldfinches to tell…Then we weeded the rest of the Strawberry bed – now that all hope has gone. Forgot to pick a few more Raspberries.

Labelled all the bottles of 2011 Cider (E for Eating Apples) and sorted out the rotation system (!) in the cider store under the stairs. Then, as the forecast rain arrived, we spent a nice half hour in the polebarn snapping lengths of old wicker fence into kindling lengths and stacking them. Amazed to find that some 1-inch diameter lengths, which must be 10 years old, are still too strong to snap and had to be sawn!

26 Aug 2012     Three Peacocks. Warm, dry and sunny again. We bottled the Crab Apple Wine (from C&G) and labelled it. A walk around the wood showed just how long the grass on the path had got, and that the paths are still too slippery for carrying down firewood. The dogsnout Crab Apple tree is looking very unhappy, with no apples and not many more leaves. Perhaps if we clear the Brambles around the trunk it may pick up a bit… Or maybe the neighbouring Oak is just too close and getting too big. Hopefully, a few Crab Apple seeds will have fallen a bit further away and may yet produce another litter of dogsnouts.

We started weeding the Strawberry bed, then picked a double handful of Raspberries and a single handful of Blueberries, 2 Beetroot, some more Green Beans and Broad Beens and noticed our very first almost red tomato. Admired 3 Peacock Butterflies on our purple Buddleia and the almost total lack of Apples on any of the trees in the Groves Bank orchard. Nor any Medlars.

25 Aug 2012     Toasted Tomato Bread. I spent just over an hour strimming Groves Dyke, etc and still feel almost on top of the grass cutting. Then off to Danby and the Stonehouse Bakery for lunch of toasted tomato bread with pate.

24 Aug 2012     Groves Dyke hedge got another slight trim, just to keep it looking good.

23 Aug 2012     Falling Foss Lunch. Collected IJ and DT from The Royal and we all went to Falling Foss Tea Garden for bacon butties and coffee. Lovely. Drove home via the coast.

22 Aug 2012     More Grass. I spent a couple of hours cutting Groves Bank lawns plus all of the Woodyard. Still on top.

21 Aug 2012     Purp Purp Purple. Collected IJ and DT from Pickering and we all drove to the viewpoint near Young Ralph, looking down the entire length of Rosedale. They (and Cooplands bakery) provided the lunch and we provided the drinks. Home by Fat Betty and Little Fryup Dale, dropping off some brochures at The Moors Centre en route. Then along Oakley Walls (lots and lots of purp purp purple Heather) to Lealholm for a coffee in the Shepherds’ Hall Tearoom.

20 August 2012     Regatta Monday. Met IJ and DT near the Royal and tried to find a good viewpoint for the firework display. The crowds were enormous and some of us saw less than others. Very exciting and almost overwhelming.

19 August 2012     Cider Day. Warm, dry and sunny enough for our breakfast on the South Patio. A lovely day fror bottling 5 gallons of cider made last autumn. The Red Arrows attended and even traced a giant red love heart in the sky ‘way beyond Coulson’s field, before adding a nice silvery loop (it’s Whitby Regatta).

Two Willow-Chiffs investigated the Yarrow / Achillia in the bed next to my pond as we took a break from cider blending. Yes, there were two of them! They were fluttering, alomst hovering, as they picked off the insects attracted by the nectar-rich flowers – a mini food-chain in itself.

18 August 2012     Cool Falling Foss. An hour of strimming and I’m still on top of the lawns. Even time to cut some more of the ‘wildflower meadow’ under Groves Dyke orchard. Then off to get cool at Falling Foss Tea Garden, where the BLT proved a very adequate lunch.

We trimmed the creeper and then just sat in the veranda enjoying the warm weather. We could get used to this. It’s almost like being on holiday. Dug up some of our spuds (very tasty, with our broad beans). Planted a Verbena rigida in our gravel bed and then went on enjoying the warm weather. A bird of prey soared over the dale and then over the house and garden, eventually proving to be a Sparrowhawk. Later a strange persistant call was probably the same Sprawk, probably a youngster, sitting somewhere in the wood demanding its next meal.

17  August 2012     Sawing Firelogs. Now that the warm weather has arrived and it is almost like summer, we found ourselves sawing up the Hazel odds and sods into 16 inch firelogs and stacking them in the upper half of the woodshed. This should be how we keep ourselves warm in the winter, but it was all we could do as the paths are still too wet and slippery to carry more down from the wood.

16 August 2012     Roe Doe. While SR and I enjoyed our morning coffee under the raftings, he noticed a fine adult female Roe deer standing by the woodyard gate. We all watched eachother for a few minutes before one of us strolled off around 3 sides of the woodshed and into the wood.

14 August 2012      Helmsley Pool. Our 2nd swim this year in Helmsley open air pool and every bit as nice. Enjoyed lunch in the walled garden again and got chatting to one of the organisers there over coffee. What a magnificent achievement it is – and well worth a visit. Then icecream and home.

13 August 2012     Glorious Thirteenth. All quiet down here, where I spent the morning finishing off the Privet Hedge and tidying everything away. It looks a bit massacured now, but it was timed to give it the rest of the summer to leaf-up again before the winter arrives.

12 August 2012     Glorious Twelth but Not on Sunday. Bright and sunny. Kev fixed the bathroom door and the child gate at the top of the stairs. BC did lots of gardening, found a little Oak self-seeded in the potato bed & potted it up for winter planting, and then we put the groundsheets back over the 2 stacks of Wild Cherry to keep tonight’s rain off.

10 August 2012     Butterfly Bush Released. SA trimmed back the young Wild Cherry in Groves Dyke garden to give the Buddliea a bit of sun, now that the odd Butterfly has finally begun to appear. BC carried on hand trimming the front Lonycera hedge, which is still recovering from the heavy snow several years ago.

08 August 2012     Helmsley Lido. SA propped some old fence posts against the neighbour’s broken fence, mostly as a warning sign for his horses.

A lovely warm, dry and sunny day for a swim in Helmsley open air (heated) pool – our first this year. Lovely! Lunch in the Walled Garden, where the admission fee is now also an annual ticket, a potter around the town and then an ice cream before heading for home again.

07 August 2012     Half Privet Tidied. Tidied away all the heaps of cut Privet. Two Swifts seen hawking high overhead for insects (strange that this is probably the first year that Swifts have NOT been heard screaming over the village). Nuthatch and Jay calling.

I walked around the wood to look at the state of play. Everything is growing like mad in this warm damp weather. Tried carrying down some Hazel logs from the Midwest Cant but the paths are still muddy and slippery. High summer indeed!

06 August 2012     Privet Halved. Today I attacked the tall privet (west veg hedge) with the petrol hedge trimmer and then with the mega-loppers. For several years I have struggled to reach the top of the hedge, sometimes even creating a Mohican hedge in dispair. This year, however, I made the decision to bring the top of the hedge down to my height. Simples. First cut in about mid-hedge height, until the individual stems are visible. Too thick for the hedge trimmer, so then it is all done by hand, stem by stem by stem. Half cut by exhaustion point. Me too.

 05 August 2012     Hedges and Teak Oil. We hand clipped the banana hedge (where the banana bench sits) and it looks much better. The banana bench has been drying in our conservatory, so we carried it under the polebarn and teak oiled it all over, except for the feet. It seems to have a bit of foot rot, so will be treated seperately with anti rot nasties.

Hot and humid until late afternoon when a thundery shower of soft hailstones struck.

04 August 2012     Hedge Clip. I hand clipped both East and West Veg Hedge, in an effort to stay on top now that at least one has been clipped. Later we had a walk on Whitby West Cliff followed by a coffee in Vicky Farm garden centre. Following warnings by Monty Don on BBC Gardeners’ World, BC discovered Potato Blight on some of our beckside spuds and she removed all the foliage before it spreads. Since the closely related Tomatoes are nextdoor, she also removed all their lower leaves as well. So much for our mild, wet summer!

An adult male Great Spotted Woodpecker was on the peanut feeder, easily seen from both kitchen windows. We dug up or Garlic crop, which was attacked by something above ground, and wasn’t going to grow any more below ground. A grand total of 12 small Garlic bulbs, only 3 of which had any shoot to hang them by, so now we have a magnificent string of just 3 Garlic bulbs hanging to dry in the conservatory. Ha.

03 Aug 2012     Gean Wetter not Drier. SA re-stacked the two piles of Wild Cherry (Gean) logs, one at the bottom of Chimney Bank and t’other at the top of the East Hazel Cant. They had been stacked tight and neat as normal, but this very, very wet summer has left the logs just as wet and heavy as they were when felled in the winter. We even covered them with tarps to try and keep the rain off, but that has only helped to keep the damp in.

02 Aug 2012     Warm Bird Count. 9 to 9.15 and 7/8 cloud cover, Force 2 SW wind, dry, 17 degrees C and rising, 85% relative humidity: Blue Tit 6, Robin 2 (incl 1 spotty juvenile), Blackbird 1, Coal Tit 1, Collared Dove 1, Dunnock 1, Great Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1, Wood Pigeon 1.

Later as I walked around the wood to check the top fence, I saw 3 Roe Deer slipping away silently into the dense underpants near the viewpoint seat. (Yes I know!). Later it was 24.6 degrees C and TDH again.

01 Aug 2012     Colourful Jay. Over breakfast I had a lovely view of a brightly coloured Jay as it flew into the tall Willow in Groves Dyke garden. Not many British birds are so large and colourful, but the white rump and pink body with bright blue bits is a real clincher.

July 2012 Weather Summary – A warm wet month. 65 mm (2.7 inch) of rain (1 inch was emptied-out on 2 occasions to prevent the gauge overflowing), Max 30 degrees C (86 degrees F), Min 5 degrees (41 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 July 2012: 18 degrees C (64 degrees F). 

31 July 2012     All Strum. Today I spent 2.5 hours strimming lawns in an effort to keep on top of this ever growing grass. I’m not in favour of genetically modifying species, but I might just make an exception in the case of a slow-growing lawn grass… Also managed to strim about half of the wildflower meadow under Groves Dyke orchard.

The mystery LBJ which has been seen occasionally on the far side (always the far side) of the Niger seed feeder was finally identified as a young Redpoll – a real Little Brown Job if ever there was one! This is a first for the property and a really nice bird to have around. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a flock of Redpoll on our Niger, instead of the Goldfinches which everyone else seems to attract?

29 July 2012     Hot and sunny then a heavy shower, then hot and sunny again before the next heavy shower. And again and again. Hot enough to get the slate top on our spatio table so hot that the next shower evaporated off it in a cloud of steam. Very impressive!

We shelled the Pea crop (picked 2 days ago) and froze a grand total of 2 very small containers. Most of the pods contained just 2 or 3 full-sized peas, the rest were tiny. This recent heatwave has not been enough to make up for the previous weeks of cool, damp and cloudy weather.

27 July 2012     Too late! Someone / thing has nicked all our nice fat Gooseberries! Who could it be? Pheasant? But none seen here recently… Carrion Crow? One large black primary feather seen on the ground in the yard… Grey Squirrel? Two seen chasing each other off our veg garden today… Probably the Grey Squirrels (Tree Rats)! They left us just one small, not quite ripe Gooseberry, so we considered making a small Gooseberry Crumb instead. Perhaps we’ll just have a Gooseberry Grumble instead.

Off to York to collect SA, just returned from his World Tour of Oz and US. Hot in York and two coats cooler back in Whitby.

Enjoyed a family BBQ at Groves Bank and then watched the Opening Ceremony for the London Olympics. Excellent! Now nothing but 2 weeks of boring sport before the next event worth watching – the Closing Ceremony.

26 July 2012     CR commented on our many large, fat Gooseberries (Goosegogs in this part of the world) and suggested picking them. Not yet, I said, we are letting them ripen for another day or two and then we’ll make a Gooseberry Crumble…

I spent 2.75 hours (no 3/4 symbols in this authoring programme!) cutting the rest of the grass, as well as the woodyard and the path around the wood. Only 3 days since I cut most of the lawns, but already they look as if they needed cutting again.

23 July 2012     I spent 2 hours cutting most of the lawns but it was just TDH (Too Damn Hot).

22 July 2012     We introduced M&I, B&J with E&H to the delights of Falling Foss Tea Garden, the Hermitage (carved from solid bedrock and once including a circular stone table, but a cow once got stuck within the manmade cave and the table had to be smashed to get it out – allegedly) and the 2 solid stone Wishing Chairs carved above it. We all had a wish before transferring to the othet Wishing Chair to repeat the wish, so that it would come true. One of us (HC) had four wishes!

 21 July 2012     BC and I watched a young Roe Deer standing ivery still n the woodyard. We tried to tell the others, but daren’t move or make a noise in case we scared it off. Sadly, they missed it completely.

M&IC arrived for a few days. The Summer also arrived at long last and everyone was far too hot at night, not to mention during the next few days.

20 July 2012     B&J with E&H arrived from Hamburg to stay for a week. It seems they may be bringing our summer, too…

18 July 2012     We are just back from a few nights in t’Lakes (50 / 50 wet days and dry days, but we walked anyway). It seems that Summer is finally on its way, according to the Met Office: the Jet Stream is returning to its proper path (wonder why it moved?) and normal weather will be resumed as soon as possible.

The regular guests in Groves Dyke reported that the Sparrowhawk had been helping itself at the feeding station – seems a reasonable thing to do really.

Our first Peas are now ready but the Strawberry crop is almost non-existant. The Parsnips have finally started to grow, the young Ash trees planted by the polebarn have become overgrown by grass and nettles, but a young Oak seedling has appeared in the gravel of the cideryard.

14 July 2012     The 3rd dry day in succession – amazing! We trimmed the near half of the hedge between the two front gardens and carried all to the bonfire site in the woodyard. After a couple of hours a welcome drink of Orange on the spatio was rewarded with a female Sparrowhawk dashing towards us, around the fat ball feeder after a Blue Tit and then away across the lawn – all within 12 feet of our seat. Lovely.

A 15 minute bird count of the spatio feeder gave: Blue Tit 3, Great Tit 2, Coal Tit 1, Robin 1, Tree Sparrow 1, Wood Pigeon 1. Timed 9.15 to 9.30, dry (75% relative humidity), bright and sunny, 17 degrees C, 5/8 cloud, wind F3 NW.

13 July 2012     PAT testing in Groves Dyke during the changeover and all Portable Appliance Tests duly completed. The safety of all elves is assured for another year (Elvan safety, that is).

12 July 2012     Dry today so I spent 3 hours strimming the grass to catch up. Phew!

11 July 2012     Off to Pickering swimming pool, followed by a nice lunch in the garden centre.

10 July 2012     More rain overnight. Light drizzle for a 15 minute bird count on the fat ball feeder on the spatio: Blue Tit 4, Blackbird 1, Great Tit 1, Robin 1, Sparrowhawk 1 juvenile male. The Sprawk was unsuccessful at the feeding station and landed briefly on the spatio table to recover his composure.

09 July 2012     A lovely pair of Bullfinch fed in the spatio flowerbed. He was so pillarbox red that he couldn’t be missed, while she was so dowdy brown that she almost was. Later, a female Sparrowhawk flew around the peanut feeder in the back yard, missed its lunch and perched briefly on the gate.

08 July 2012     We tackled the Juniper bush at the front of Groves Bank garden, removing many Brambles, Nettles and Thistles from its midst. Some Brambles were nearly 20 feet long! A Slow Worm (wrong on both counts) was disturbed in the process and went somewhere quieter. All went off to the bonfire site, leaving the Juniper looking much more respectable and cared-for. On one of the many trips across the lawn, BC noticed another young Oak seedling – which just goes to show how long since the lawns have been cut!

Picked some more Strawberries and washed out several dozen lager bottles ‘donated’ by previous guests in Groves Dyke.

07 July 2012     Foggy on the coast, but mild and dry. We explored Staithes, walked to the end of the West Pier, lunched in the Cod and Lobster, visited the craft fair in St Peter’s, sampled a Beacon Farm ice cream (cinder toffee flavour, of course) and walked back up by The Stubble path. Very nice.

On via Ridge Lane to Scaling Dam and into the hide to see Grey Lag Geese, too many Canada Geese, some Mallard, some Tufted Duck, 1 Dabchick and a Kestrel. According to the log book, we missed yesterday’s Marsh Harrier.

Picked some Strawberries and found a young Oak seedling growing in the middle of the lawn. Protected it with a plastic tree tube to keep the Deer and Rabbits off until we can transplant it into the wood in winter.

06 July 2012     Early morning thunder, lightening and downpour from 6 until 8.30am. Quite spectacular, but only a fraction of what others areas suffered.

SR and I sat in the veranda and watched the young Green Woodpecker in the same Scots Pine, still calling for a parent to feed him. Tough, kiddo – go and find your own!

The carpet-fitter arrived just after 10 to replace the bathroom and shower-room Flotex with some nice new Vinyl in a suitable parquet pattern. Bit of a scramble to get everything changed-over as well, but by 3pm all was ready for the new arrivals. This mean that Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage now has new flooring throughout – and it looks superb (if we say so ourselves)!I emptied 1 inch (26 mm) of rain out of the gauge to reduce the risk of overflowing. That’s about half the ‘normal’ month’s rainfall within the first 6 days!

05 July 2012     I helped umpire the Esk Valley Olympics at The Moors Centre, Danby. All the pupils from all 7 village primary schools attended and competed on the hottest, driest and sunniest day for ages. Rain for days past and rain tomorrow, but dry today thank goodness.

04 July 2012     Swam, checked the AA’s efficency (pretty impressive) and then labelled the rest of the cider.

02 July 2012     SR and I sat in the veranda and watched a juvenile Green Woodpecker clinging to the Scots Pine and calling for a parent to feed him.

Later I strimmed for 2 hours, lunched and then strimmed for another hour. Now, at long last, I have nearly caught up with all the strimming missed due to wet weather over the past several months. All Groves Dyke lawns have been done, most of Groves Bank lawns AND the long overdue path around the wood and half the woodyard. Collopse of stout party.

 01 July 2012     BC and I walked around the wood for the first time in several weeks. It was very wet, the steep paths are very slippery and the grass far too long. We carried down some Hazel cordwood, but it was a bit too dangerous. Then we bottled the 5 gallons of (cooking apple) cider, which was rather nice and we have awarded it an 8/10. About 50 beer bottles and a few wine bottles filled.

June 2012 Weather Summary – A very wet month: at least 90 mm (3.7 inch) of rain (1 inch was emptied-out on 3 occasions but there may still have been some overflow), Max 27 degrees C (80 degrees F), Min 3 degrees (38 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 July 2012: 17 degrees C (62 degrees F). 

30 June 2012     Wet again. Or at least, sunny and showers. Yesterday the Met Office declared April, May and June as the wettest April, May & June ever recorded. And it feels like it.

We drove to The Moors Centre at Danby to deliver 2 boxes of the Whitby & District Tourism Association’s ‘Whitby Guidebook’ (read it online at www.VisitWhitby.com ), had a stroll on Danby Beacon (Skylarks and Curlew heard) and then some unbeatable toasted tomato bread with pate at Stonehouse Bakery in Danby.

Purp…

29 June 2012     BC tied up the Broad Beans, which are looking very battered by the heavy rain, and picked a handful of Strawberries (delicious). The Runner Beans have been half eaten by Slugs and Snails.

Today it was announced Whitby IS going to get its long-awaited Park and Ride scheme by North Yorkshire County Council.

After several heavy showers we decided to take a walk on the front at Sandsend to escape the cabin fever. By early evening the day had improved, the sun shone from a clear blue sky and we sat on a bench and just admired the sea.

28 June 2012     An adult Green Woodpecker was feeding on the ground next to the wooden Badger by the polebarn.

27 June 2012     BC weeded the veg plot while I finished hand-clipping the veg hedge and then we removed the netting from the Beans and Peas. Then we went to Draper’s Carpets in Whitby to choose the new vinyl flooring for the bathroom and the shower-room in Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage. A bit of light coloured parquet should look good. Now to arrange fitting it in the middle of some Friday changeover, without anyone being aware…

26 June 2012     Not again! There are worrying rumours of a behind-the-scenes effort to revive plans to sell off England’s woodlands. We may have less than a week to stop them and keep our forests safe for future generations.

Next week, the government’s forest panel will publish a new report on the future of our woodlands. Rumours are circulating that some panel members want to clear the way for a fresh sell-off. We’ve got a few days to persuade the rest of them to block this new threat to our beautiful woodlands.

Please add your name to the urgent petition now, and then forward this email to your family and friends. We’ll [38 degrees] do an emergency delivery to each of the panel members before next Wednesday:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/keep-our-woods-safe

It’s a bit depressing that anyone still thinks selling off England’s woodlands is a good idea! But it’s not all that surprising – the government forest panel includes vested interests from the private timber industry. A huge people powered petition could help sway undecided panel members and make sure these vested interests don’t win out.

Our woodlands are at their best at this time of year. Animals and plants are flourishing. A new generation of children is learning to ride bikes and climb trees. For those of us that live in cities and towns, woodlands give us a chance to slow down and enjoy nature. And for tens of thousands of people, jobs in forests pay their wages. That’s why last year, half a million of us stood together to stop them being sold off.

25 June 2012     I poured another inch of water out of the rain gauge, the 3rd time this month! The adult Green Woodpecker was feeding on the Groves Dyke top lawn, near the pretend Ammonite. Later SR and I watched from my veranda as a juvenile Green Woodpecker clund to a branch of the Scots Pine just across the drive and called for its breakfast.

24 June 2012   BC and I emptied my chest freezer, removed the ice and repacked it. We then sampled last years vintage and: emptied out one demi-john of Crab Apple wine (drain cleaner!); racked two more and added sugar; bottled one medium cider (7/10), racked 5 gallons of very nice cooking apple cider (8/10) ready for bottling and, finally racked another 5 gallons of eating apple cider, to which we added more sugar in the hope that it might improve.

23 June 2012     While KR repared the floor in Groves Dyke bathroom, we went to Scarborough to look at new non-slip flooring for Groves Dyke bathroom and shower-room, and explored the delights of Dunelm Mill and B&Q.

We then had an excellent and very reasonable lunch at the Copper Horse restaurant in Seamer. Visit http://www.thecopperhorse.co.uk/

22 June 2012     Wet. And windy.

20 June 2012     So hot and sunny that I had my morning coffee enjoying the shade of my veranda. Later a Kestrel flew across the valley, looking almost like something even more interesting. But it wasn’t.

19 June 2012     Lovely hot sunny weather has returned, to I took the opportunity to strim the grass in the midday sun for 1.5 hours.

18 June 2012     The Olympic Flame was carried through Whitby today and onto a train on the Esk Valley Railway, en route to Pickering and (eventually) London. I didn’t bother to go into Whitby to watch, but I did stroll across the top lawn to look at the train as it passed through Sleights. Gosh. Wow. That really does make me feel a part of the London Olympics. Not.

17 June 2012     BC and I joined the Ruswarp in Bloom ladies for a couple of hours clearing the monk’s trod towards Whitby. About 20 bags of grass and weeds were removed by lunchtime, as part of the much bigger Big Whitby Clean-up day.

16 June 2012     Rained heavily overnight. I poured 1 inch of rain out of the rain gauge to make way for more. That’s another 2 inches to add at the end of this month. BC & I went to Sandsend and had a stroll on the beach between showers.

15 June 2012     Wet again. SA joined us for lunch. Thunderstorm later this evening. Very pretty.

13 June 2012     SA patrolled the wood and after lunch BC and I joined him to carry down the Wild Cherry logs stacked by the East Cant. They have been under a tarpaulin since felling last winter, to keep the rain off and stop them going rotten before they are seasoned enough to burn this winter – but they are still full of sap and very, very heavy. The only way to move them was to split each 4 foot length and carry down the halves or quarters, so we spent the rest of the afternoon splitting the logs with wedge and sledge. Hot work, but we got about half the stack down to the cords in the woodyard, and then re-covered the remainder for another day…

12 June 2012    Dry again, so I spent 1.5 hours strimming the lawns. This afternoon the chimneysweep arrived to clean the chimney of the woodburner. Every 3 months should be about right  but it’s not normally still in use in mid-summer (except this year)! Again.

11 June 2012     All this damp weather is good for one thing: a bonfire. Today was dry and calm at last, but with more rain forecast, so I lit the bonfire in the woodyard and got rid of numerous hedge clippings, twiggy branches, cardboard, etc.

10 June 2012     This afternoon we planted 3 (peat-free) growbags with 5 Tomato plants each, as well as the 10 plants in 2 growbags on the veranda wall, and then another 10 Tomato plants in last year’s Potato bed behind my pond. That should be enough to make lots of lovely Tomato soup for MD for months to come…

Then we sorted out the bits and bobs around the woodshed, sawing everything into 16 firelogs and stacking them either at the lower end (dry and ‘stove ready’) or the upper end (to ripen over this summer). Then we dismantled the collapsed tripod of (mostly) Hazel poles, sorted them out into stove-ready or ripen, and added to the woodshed, the cord of back into the remantled tripod. Anyway, it all looks much neater now.

08 June 2012     Wet. SA joined us for lunch. Sadly, we seem to have finished our freezer-full of homemade Tomato soup while MD was away, so only a few more tubs of either homemade Parship soup or homemade Leeky Potato soup to go, before the freezer is empty and ready for its annual defrost.

07 June 2012     Still no sign of the forecast rain, but a post-breakfast cup of coffee with binoculars on the veranda produced a large female Sparrowhawk thermalling higher and higher over the valley. At first I thought it was something bigger and further away, but it ruined any chance of Buzzard or Red Kite by getting closer and closer. As Father Ted said: ‘Cows are big but small cows are far away…’

Now that I have got my desk by the end window in the sittingroom, I can sit and type this – while watching a lovely male Green Woodpecker sitting on the beck fence looking down on the lawn for ants. Now that really makes the admin much more interesting!

06 June 2012     Lots of rain forecast, so BC and I set off for a swim in Pickering pool. On the way a short but exceptionally heavy pulse of rain on the moortop required high-speed windscreen wipers and a major reduction in speed. Back home again later this afternoon and there was no sign of any rain at all in Sleights nor Whitby. Just Ryedale, then?

05 June 2012     I spent just under 2 hours strimming as many lawns as possible before the forecast rain arrives. Strimming done, but no rain…

04 June 2012     It must have been today that I strimmed the path around the wood. With the grass longer than usual, and still a bit damp, it took a full hour. Later, we watched a Green Woodpecker on the edge of the front lawn. Very showy!

03 June 2012     BC and I walked around the wood, disturbing a very young deer as we approached the viewpoint. Instead of lying very still just like munny told it, it leapt up from the long grass at the side of the path, dashed at the pignet fencing, threw itself at it several times and finally managed to wriggle through one of the square mesh spaces (about 5 inches square?) and galloped off across the pony field. It was all over in a couple of seconds, but our impression was very small, about cat-sized, and a coat with dappled dots and stripes for camouflage. It would have worked perfectly, if only it had done what mummy told it.

02 June 2012     This is the Queen’s 60th Jubilee weekend, so after watching a Green Woodpecker (a ‘Yaffle’) on the front lawn, we set off up the Esk Valley to the village of Lealholm. First a stroll around the Poet’s Cottage garden centre and bought some garden plants (if they can thrive in Lealholm, they’ll have no problem in Sleights)! Then on to Shepherds Hall Tea Rooms for a celebration –

We had a ball at the Shepherd’s Hall:
Afternoon tea for the Queen’s Jubilee!
Wonderful food for setting the mood.
Lovely in June – see you again soon…

Then on to chat to the nice man in the village who fells, stacks, seasons, saws and delivers firewood, to compare his prices with our present supplier.

01 June 2012     Rained all night. SA, BC and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch while the rain eased and then pottered in the garden, weeded the veg, sawed up everything that was leaning on the sawhorse and stacked it in the woodshed. Wrote-up the new whiteboard on the back wall of the woodshed, filling-in the details of what species of wood is in each of the 6 cordbeds, and also in each of the 6 sections of the woodshed.

Mentally exhausted we repaired to the house where we later watched a fine red Roebuck stroll down through the Willow Arch, bounce up and over the wattle fence into the woodyard and then wander off  across the lawn.

May 2012 Weather Summary – A very mixed month, wet and cool at both ends but a heatwave in the middle: 70 mm (2.5 inch) of rain (including the 0.5 inches which evaporated from the rain gauge during the hot spell!), Max 25 degrees C (76 degrees F), Min -4 degrees (26 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 June 2012: 14 degrees C (56 degrees F). Sea frets persisted towards the end of the month, with Whitby cool and mists while Sleights was warm and sunny.

30 May 2012      SA located the mysterious broken Silver Birch top and found it below the Officers’ Walk and above the Woodyard Bridge path. Since it is not overhanging anyone, we decided to leave it until the autumn and then fell the whole tree after another season’s growth.

After lunch the 3 of us started work on singling the Hazels in the Mid-west Cant. A cough-barking Roe greeted our arrival but kept itself out of sight. One Hazel stool at a time, we removed the deer defences, topped the young stem at 4 foot six inches above the ground (above Roe Deer grazing height), removed the old stem just above ground level, and piled some more brash over the stool to discourage the deer. The hazel will regrow (‘to coppice’) straight young stems from just below both cuts – and at least one set of regrowth should survive the browsing of the deer.

We did about 12 stools and then decared it ‘Chinese Toothache’ (2.30 pm) and returned for cold drinks and ice creams.

28 May 2012     A goodly frost this morning, to everyone’s surprise. By 3.15pm it was 27.4 degrees C. Phew! I was planning to strim the grass today, but only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. So I didn’t.

27 May 2012     Hot, dry and sunny again with temperatures about 20 degrees C in Sleights. It is cooler in Whitby (3 miles away) with a bit of a sea fret that seems to come and go with the tide.

BC and I tried to find the Silver Birch with the broken and dangling top branch which is so visible from the patio – and so invisible from within the wood. This is our 2nd attempt. We’ll try again soon…

We added some more sawn and tannalised spacers to the Andy Goldsworth-inspired deer guard around BC’s young Rowan tree, then carried the banister spindles up to Bruno’s Banisters. Sadly, one is too long and the other is too low, so we hung them from a 45 degree Oak branch near Bruno’s Grave. Perhaps we’ll call them the Squirrels’ Staircase?

BC found a 6 inch tall Oak seedling, self-seeded below the newly adorned Oak, and protected it from browsing Deer with a few criss-crossed twigs. We also checked on the other seedling Oaks currently within plastic tree tubes (anti-Deer devices) and discovered that one, supported by a cut Hazel stick, has been joined within its tube by the newly-sprouted leaves of the Hazel stick! Dammit, we have tried every traditional and modern technique to propagate Hazels, and this is how they thank us…

Carried down some Cherry logs and planted some Broad Beans, before giving up on the heat and retreating indoors.

 26 May 2012     We had a high altitude day, to try and escape the oppressive heat, and headed for Blakey Rigg and a lovely walk along the old railway line above Rosedale. We did see a fine specimen of a male Adder out sunning itself on the track. The views down over Rosedale are as spectacular as ever and there was a very welcome stiff Easterly breeze. The Lion on Blakey was also very welcome and we enjoyed the cool, dark, bar of this centuries-old packhorse inn at 1325 feet above sea level (see http://www.lionblakey.co.uk/index.htm ).

On the walk back (no, to the car!) we noticed an array of solar electric panels in the corner of a field far below. Excellent – and far more acceptable that ranks of wind turbines. Home via Hutton-le-Hole and afternoon tea under the Wisteria at Lastingham Grange Hotel.

24 Degrees C on our way home and 16 degrees once back in Whitby. I think the tide may have been in!

25 May 2012     SA braved the heat and emptied out the contents of the top end of the woodshed. After lunch we sorted through 3 year’s worth of accumulated leaves (wind bourne), cardboard (could be useful for lighting the bonfire), Character Sticks (just seasoning under cover), broken tools (we’ll mend that some wet day), redundant wellies (waiting to become nest boxes), fence wire (we may need that one day), stair banister spindles (too good to throw away but not enough for a whole stair), the ex-CJS Office whiteboard), etc.

Once sorted and moved, some were returned within and the whiteboard was fixed to the woodshed wall. Now we will have no excuse not being able to remember which stack of firelogs came from which bit of the wood.

Then we collapsed under the raftings, drank lots of soft drinks and ate ice cream.

23 May 2012     SA removed some Hawthorn branches which were shading his young Rowan tree and cleared a circle in the self-sown hundreds-and-thousands Ash seedlings around it. After lunch we carried down the Hawthorn as well as some Ash logs from above Chimney Bank.

23 degrees C is the hottest day of the year. So far… Had our 2 o’clocks in the shade, as it was TDH and impossible to keep going any longer.

22 May 2012     Took delivery of 2 tons of beautifully seasoned hardwood firelogs in perfect 16 inch lengths from our favourite supplier in Pickering. Stacked in the polebarn.

This evening 20 to 30 House Martins hawked just over the wood for hours this evening. Not over the river, nor the fields, nor the gardens – just the Groves Coppice, so something must have hatched from the trees to attract them.

 20 May 2012     Today we glimpsed a strange yellow object in the sky. Briefly. But it is now almost twice as warm as a couple of days ago and the low cloud is now high cloud…

We planted a row of Fennel seeds in the veg bed, then sorted out the flower pots and beds in Groves Dyke garden, planting some Geraniums, Lobelia and Dahlias. The 2 self-seeded little Oak trees are growing well within their plastic tree guards and will be planted out into the Cideryard Cants next winter.

After several weeks of neck-n-neck non-progress, the Major Oak is now definately almost in leaf, just ahead of the big leaning Ash. And it’s almost mid-summer!

19 May 2012     Cold, dull and almost stopped raining, so we forced ourselves out to Robin Hood’s Bay for a short stroll, a sticky bun in the bakery cafe and then a look at the exhibition in the village hall. It just happened to be the annual meeting of the Walmsley Society, with paintings and readings from the books by this father and son. They lived at Robin Hood’s Bay, father Ulric for the last 60 years of his life and son Leo spent his childhood there and returned as an adult. See www.walmsleysoc.org for more details.

18 May 2012     SA snipped a clearing in the Hundreds-and-Thousands of little Ash saplings which now surround his young Rowan tree. It really is very impressive just how many thousands of Ash seeds were lying dormant in the soil, waiting for a gap in the canopy above them. When we took the bending Sycamore down about 4 years ago, suddenly the sunlight got through to the woodland floor and the seeds germinated.

Then he split about half of the Wild Cherry (Gean) cord logs which were stacked to dry near the bottom of Chimney Bank. After lunch, BC and I joined him and we tackled the rest of the stack. We know from experience that Gean grows almost as rapidly as Ash in this wood, but casts a much denser shadow which stops much else from growing in its shade. We dropped this one last autumn, 10 times bigger than the young Oaks planted around it in the same year ‘way back in 1982/3. It was cut into 4 foot lengths and stacked up off the ground and covered over with a tarpaulin, leaving the ends open to the air. Without these precautions, it tends to soak up the rain and rot away before it is dry enough to burn a year later.

By 3 o’clocks the thicker logs were all split lengthways, re-stacked criss-cross and re-covered, to dry out a bit more. A very well earned 3 o’clocks followed after a very hard day’s work for one, and a couple of half-days for two. After weeks of wet weather, this feels like the first major job we have been able to tackle and complete – but as SA said ‘We’re not used to this!’

16 May 2012     Light overnight frost after dull wet weather. The morning sun dried off the grass while we swam. After lunch we rescued more of the old wicker fence and snapped it into the perfect kindling. After 3 o’oclocks I cut half the grass.

09 – 09.15 bird count: Blue Tit 3, Great Tit 2, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Pheasant 1, Robin 1, Tree Sparrow 1.

14 May 2012     Planted Turnip seeds in the veg plat. Carried down Ash logs to the woodyard and then moved the 12 gallons of cider and 4 gallons of wine to the veranda. When it settles and the weather is almost warm enough, we will rack it off.

13 May 2012     We planted leeks in the veg garden.

12 May 2012     BC and I spent a lovely day in Helmsley, with lunch in the Walled Garden (as good as ever), a potter around the village and selling a couple of duplicates from my Collin’s New Naturalist series.

11 May 2012     Weather still less than May-like, so we stayed indoors and planned some holidays…

09 May 2012     SA completed the 2 hurdle fences where the Blackthorn stumps will be killed off this summer and then the Ash seedlings planted next winter.

 After lunch BC and I carried down 3 trugs of lovely well-seasoned Ash and Hazel firelogs from the lower half of the woodshed. Then we planted a veg bed with Parsnips, Spring Onions and Beetroot, as well as weeding-out the soft and sprouting ones from the strings of Onions hanging in the conservatory from last year.

A Wood Mouse bounded across the patio and joined Qwerty the Bank Vole living in the stone wall beside the old typewriter by the pond. (It’s a typing pool).

08 May 2012     I strimmed the path around the wood for the 1st time this year. Just above the Majpor Oak I was ‘barked’ at by a Roe doe who refused to run away. Perhaps she was standing her ground because of a youngster lying-up nearby? I gave her a wide berth and left her / them in peace.

07 May 2012     I spent 2 hours strimming and have now got all the lawns cut for the first time this year. BC planted the new outside spud bed with PIcasso and also planted lettuce within the high security Rabbit proof and Deer resistant fence.

06 May 2012     BC and I dug the new potato bed outside the fence. High cloud, bright and sunny and dry with a cool N breeze. A Sparrowhawk soared high above the wood in his territorial display: ‘This is MY wood!’. Oak is definately well ahead of Ash (‘Only a splash’) and a 15-minute bird cound from the windows gave: Blue Tit 3, Dunnock 3, Great Tit 2, Wood Pigeon 2, Blackbird 1, Chaffinch 1, Coal Tit, Magpie 1, Robin 1, Tree Sparrow 1. (10.50 – 11.05 hours. 16 individual of 10 species).

05 May 2012     A dry and almost sunny day. After lunch I strimmed the lower Woodyard, the pond lawn, Groves Dyke, the fruit lawn and the veg paths – some of these for only the 2nd time this year. BC weeded and dug over 2 veg plots, put cloches over one bed to warm the soil, scattered 3 boxes of wildflower seeds over the partly-cleared shrub bed (some shrubs died in the hard winter 2 years ago and didn’t recover last summer) in Groves Dyke garden, weeded the spatio gravel bed and transplanted lots of Lavender to under our veranda. She also found a germinated Walnut which she planted in a pot. After a couple of hours we thought we were due a glass of cider on the spatio, where we were delighted to enjoy the sun’s warmth on the slate tabletop while watching our first Swallows and first House Martins flying over the garden.

04 May 2012     Rain stopped play again but SA popped in for lunch and it was nice to see him again and catch up.

03 May 2012     We went to the Antiques Roadshow in Scarborough, with a couple of Tom Whittaker Gnomeman chairs (we thought there might be a queue!). They almost made the filming, but someone got there before us with a Mouseman dresser and so the Producer finally decided that ‘2 local cabinetmakers would be too much.’ Sorry Tom.

02 May 2012     Cool and damp again. BC and I started taking firelogs from the woodshed, now that the polebarn is empty. We had hoped that Summer would have arrived by now and that the half-woodshedful could have had another summer to season before we needed to use it. Ha!

The beck was overflowing under my stone seat and across the lawn, so we probed and prodded until the underground pipes were freed of mud, silt and twigs and it resumed its normal course. One Goldfinch and one Tree Sparrow on my spatio.

Something has eaten all the Lettuce seedlings and some of the Peas, so we netted the survivors. Wood Pigeon, Pheasant of Slugs?? Still no sign of Potatoes comng through and even the Tomatoes indoors haven’t germinated…

Now let me see if I have got this right:
February has traditionally been described as ‘February Fill Dyke’ – but this year it was remarkably dry, following 2 very dry winters.
March has traditionally been described as ‘Comes in like a Lion and goes out like a Lamb’ – but this year it came in like a Lamb, stayed like and Lamb and went out as a Lamb (and a very dry Lamb at that, not to mention far, far warmer than normal).
April has traditionally been described as ‘April Showers’ – but it came in like a Lion with North Easterly gales and then went on to become the wettest April ever recorded in the UK, with over 5 inches of rain in my rain gauge.
May is supposed to be ‘May Flowers’ – but it came in like a very cold Lamb and very few flowers have dared to appear so far…
…and some people still don’t believe in Climate Change. Very odd.

April 2012 Weather Summary – A cold and very, very wet month – the UK’s wettest in over 100 years: 135+ mm (5.75+ inch) of rain (rain gauge overflowing!), Max 14 degrees C (58 degrees F), Min -3 degrees (27 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 May 2012: 10 degrees C (50 degrees F). The wettest April ever recorded in Scarborough and the UK

30 April 2012     Just returned from a week in t’Lakes and a couple of nights in Barnard Castle. Highlights include (in reverse chronological order):

Richmond – first time I’ve been  there in daylight. Last time was on an English Nature Newt ID course and we arrived at dusk, got in an army minibus and were taken into the Catterick Garrison artillery range for a guided tour of shell holes, each filled with water and a thriving population of several species of Newt.

Barnard Castle – stayed at the lovely Homelands B&B for 2 nights  ( www.homelandsguesthouse.co.uk ), specifically to spend a (very wet) day at the fabulous Bowes Museum and see the 18th Century Silver Swan perform at 2pm ( www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk/ ).

Sedburgh – the Booktown of the North, with lots of Collins New Naturalist series, even including the very rare Number 9 (at £250)! Also Farfield Mill arts centre with its temporary exhibition of coppice crafts and craftspersons.

Loughrigg Fell – On the warmest, driest day of the week we walked up, enjoyed the views, watched and Buzzard and the Raven, walked about and the back to Ambleside. One of two other short walks in the gaps between the wetter days.

Springwell Cottage, Ambleside – the perfect character cottage for a week’s self-catering, bookable through Lake Lovers. Highly recommended! See http://www.lakelovers.co.uk/cottage-details/839 

18 April 2012     SA and I picked a couple of places within the Cideryard Cants to fence off with Hazel hurdle / Blackthorn brashings, treat the Blackthorn stumps during the summer and then plant-up with a few sods of Hundreds and Thousands Ash seedlings next winter.

Showers forecast but SA got the new fences started before rain stopped play for the day.

17 April 2012     Mad Day. Far too much going on for any one day! LG arrived to try updating the photos on this website (his superb photos now show the new bedding and carpets) but dispite assistance from SB, only the individual page photos could be changed (the Gallery will have to wait for further inspiration). The gas man came to open the fireplace for the chimneysweep, the sweep arrived and swept the chimney and then the gas man reappeared to put it all back together again. BC arrived in the middle of all this mayhem and planted-out the peas and covered them with a fleece.

16 April 2012     The first full grass cutting of the year. 2.5 hours all told (except the path around the wood and the Daffodil lawn). Then collopse.

15 April 2012     Wintery showers this morning, then a much brighter day to follow. We added some Garlic to complete plot A, then dug-over plot D for the peas and beans – but then heard about the possibility of a sharp frost (-4 degrees?) tonight, so decided to keep them in the conservatory. Planted some Sweet Williams in Groves Dyke garden, where last year’s young Apricot is flowering well already (fruit??) and most of the Daffodils have recovered from the battering in last week’s storm.

14 April 2012     Dug over the veg plot A and planted lots of Onions of 4 different varieties, mainly Sturion. Then a little touching-up of the paintwork in Groves Dyke and a gathering of fire logs (flogs) ready for some cooler weather.

13 April 2012     SA makes a welcome return after his mini holiday. A walk around the wood to catch up was followed by sawing more of the Hazel poles from the tripod into cordwood for stacking. The WEI family staying at Groves Dyke reported seeing the Roe Deer in the wood.

BC and I went to Pickering for our first swim since the lurgy struck a couple of weeks ago, followed by a lovely meal in the White Swan www.white-swan.co.uk and a spot of shopping.

12 April 2012     8/8 cloud cover, showery, cooler, Force 3 Northerly, 1 to 1.15pm: Great Tit 2,  Dunnock 2, Blackbird 1, Blue Tit 1, Chaffinch 1, Greenfinch 1 (the first one for months!), Robin 1. Sparky goes home again.

11 April 2012     Today we carried down the very last of the hazel poles from the midwest cant to the tripod in the woodyard.  Heavy showers were forecast so we abandoned grass cutting plans and planted a bed of estima potatoes. With the last of last year’s leeks and remaining parsnips we spent the afternoon making soup.

10 April 2012     Took Sparky to Falling Foss for lunch. We admired the waterfall which was looking very spectacular after the recent rain. Carried down more hazel poles and sawed quite a lot into 4 foot lengths and added them to the cord.

9 April 2012     Sparky and I walked around the wood several times and carried more hazel poles down to the woodyard. 

 08 April 2012     A recovery day for walking Sparky around the wood, admiring the advance of Spring (again) and relaxing. Carried down more Hazel poles from the Midwest Cant to the woodyard.

07 April 2012     Sparky the leggy Lab arrived for a few days holiday. He enjoys walking around the wood and it is always an excuse to carry down some more firewood.

05 April 2012     Dry, bright and sunny. A large Oak limb has snapped off a mature tree just downstream of the Major Oak and is now lying snagged-up on some Holly trees, well off the path. One Roebuck see in the far NW corner. Wild Cherry (Gean) and Blackthorn are now in flower.

04 April 2012      No electricity (nor mobile phone coverage) as the snow and strong winds last night brought down the lines on the moortop. T’was a North Easterly gale that blew since midday yesterday and something had to give. The (modern) Scoresby statue at the Dock End blew over but the streets were deserted.

I collected IJ from ‘the Royal on the Hill’ and we drove up the coast to get warm. The whole bay from Whitby to Sandsend is one big sea of white breakers and foam, and sand has blown across the road at Sandsend. We eventually stopped, her circulation restored, at the Ellerby Hotel near Runswick Bay where they had no leccy either but offered to make a hot drink and let us warm ourselves by their coal fire in the bar.

Back to Groves Bank where the woodburner keeps the snug about 74 degrees and we had lunch, before exploring up the Guisborough road to Castleton. The moortops are white over with several inches of snow, all thawing and running down the roads. It was quite beautiful up there and no one to enjoy it. The Moors Centre at Danby still had no electricity by mid-afternoon so we headed for home.

I emptied my rain gauge which was almost full: 1.75 inches (45mm) since the 1st of this month – which is many times in 4 days what we have had in the previous several months!

03 April 2012     Wet and very windy. Snow lying above Ugglebarnby. In mid afternoon I heard the sound of someting big and heavy falling up in the wood. First the CRACK as it snapped off and then the CUR-UMP as it landed. I’ve no intention of going up to see what it might have been, as some trees tend to fall a day or two after the wind has damaged them.

02 April 2012     I felt cold and sniffly today as some kind of bug took hold, so ended up watching more daytime tv in one day than I have seen in the past decade!

01 April 2012     BC and I watered the 2 lines of young Ash trees we planted by the cideryard. They all seem to have survived the transplant and following drought cum heatwave, and some are now budding.

A handful of birdseed by the old typewriter on the side of my pond brought a very stroppy Robin, a dodgy Dunnock and 2 Bank Voles. Doubtless Qwerty and his mate. Very entertaining!

 March 2012 Weather Summary – The unseasonally warm, sunny and very dry weather continues: 0.0mm (0.3 inch) of rain, Max 17.5 degrees C (66 degrees F), Min -3 degrees (27 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 Mar 2012: 12 degrees C (52 degrees F). The warmest March since records began in England and Scotland, in fact.

 30 Mar 2012     Much cooler today, after several weeks of unusually warm and dry weather. The warmest March on record in England and Scotland, in fact.

SA carried down more cordwood to the woodyard. Now we have a full cord (4x4x8 feet) of Ash, plus almost 4 full cords of well segregated Cherry (still sheeted over), Hazel, Blackthorn and Hawthorn.

Then he prepared to fell the long-dead Apple tree in the corner of Groves Bank orchard nearest the stone seat. After lunch we joined him as he dropped the tree and sawed it into managable lengths. Most of it is pretty well boast, but the wood turners may be able to make use of the main stems. All was tidied away to the bonfire in the woodyard, which is now so big that we daren’t light it until Noah sets sail.

28 Mar 2012     SA tidied away the old post and rail fence removed from the side of the polebarn.

After lunch we took down the largest of the young Hornbeam behind the bendy wooden seat in Groves Bank garden. These Hornbeam we planted 15 – 20 years ago when we thought the Lonicera hedge was dying – but then it recovered to this form glory and now the Hornbeam are a bit superfluous. But they are the only Hornbeam in the whole wood or garden, so I am reluctant to remove them completely. Hopefully our local woodturners will appreciate them…

Then we sat under the raftings and ate ice cream. Definately TDH.

27 Mar 2012     Hot dry and sunny again. I strmmed some of the lawns for the first time this year. One hour was enough for starters, especially since the grass is up to 6 inches long after the mild winter.

2 Tree Sparrows at the fatball feeder on my spatio. They seem to have settled-in, which is a very welcome addition to the species list.

26 Mar 2012     The MUL family in Groves Dyke reported seeing a young male Roe Deer walking out of the wood and across the car park into the orchard.

25 March 2012     Lovely warm and sunny morning but bone dry. Post-breakfast coffee on the veranda, where we considered gardening but it was already too hot for that. Walked around the wood instead, admiring the recent Roe Deer damage to the newly planted Willows at the Willow Arch. Checked the young Hazel transplants in the East Hazel Cant, which are all budding nicely – FAR more successful that years of attempted layering.

Noted the newly-appeared herb layer on the recently created ride up to the NE corner. Now that a strip has been cleared through the Blackthorn spiney, the bare ground is being covered by the long dormant Dogs Mercury, Arum Lily, Dog Violet, Lesser Celandine and Speedwell. Three cheers for coppice rotation as a brilliant way to manage a small wood for maximum biodiversity.

Lots of Badger activity near the top of the wood as they snout about for grubs. We carried down some Hazel from the Midwest Cant and added it to the tripod in the woodyard. Even hotter for any gardening, so we caught up on this blog in the conservatory.

The hedges are alive with the sound of birdsong. And Chiffchaffs.

BC weeded the Strawberry bed (‘bone dry’) while I converted the old carpet tiles into weed-supressing tree mats. And fruit bush mats. The pond is teeming with Tadpoles, leaving the mass of spawn dotted with pale grey centres instead of black. We thought they had gone bad, but apparently and thankfully, not.

24 March 2012     Enjoyed a stroll around Robin Hood’s Bay and enjoyed a very nice all day breakfast at Bramblewick Cafe (‘We’ve been full since January’) and then a jet hunt along the beach to Boggle Hole and back. The haze cleared as the sun strengthened and we were able to admire a dozen Oystercatchers as we walked back up from the new slipway. The memorial benches lining the path have excellent inscriptions, including: ‘Always linger in the face of beauty, for so much in life is barren.’

We wanted to add: ‘Cherish yesterday. Live today. Dream tomorrow.’ but we may need to bring a chisel or a cheque book with us next time…

Pottered in Groves Dyke garden and watered the happily budding Apricot and borders by the fence. Re-wove a bit of the Twigwam and then watered the recetly lines of young Ash transplants by the cideryard. A dozy Peacock butterfly (first this year) tried in vain to find any nectar in a hank of bright blue nylon rope hanging on a gatepost.

All the daffodils are looking at their best just now. The little ‘wild’ ones in Groves Bank ochard are showing better than they have for several years, thanks to Young S’s brushcutting / bramble removal last autumn. The triangle of big pale Daffs just inside Groves Dyke gate are looking good too, having recovered from the short sharp downpour last weekend.

23 March 2012     SA demolished the rotten old post and rail fence alongside the polebarn, where we hope to lay the very gappy hedge at the top of Groveas Dyke orchard. Carried down lots and lots of Blackthorn from the cord in Polebarn Cant. After lunch we helped to improve the path for the trolly and then decided it was easier to carry the Blackthorn by hand to the nearest suitable point. By 2.30 o’clocks the middle bed of the East Cord was half full of Blackthorn and we snapped a whole heap of  super dry ex-wicker fence into very useful kindling, topping up the half-wall of the polebarn and filling a dustbin as well.

This morning I saw a pair of Tree Sparrows (First ever?) at the Spatio. They found some loose birdseed on the ground but sat and looked in bewilderment at the caged-in fatball feeder on the pole.

21 March 2012     SA carried down lots of Hawthorn from the Midwest Hazel cant to the lowest bed of the East cord. We helped after lunch and that bed is now almost half full.

Then we experimented with possible ways to keep the rain off the firelogs (much easier to type ‘flogs’) which form the south wall of the polebarn. Some more Yorkshire boarding would look right but would be expensive. Propped up Hazel rods would be free but could look messy (no, the polebarn is not falling over!). First we need to re/move the steel stored there from the 2 years ago cider press, then we can dismantle the rotten post and rail fence, then unravel the Honeysuckle from the very gappy hedge and save it to one side while we lay the hedge and then ravel the Honeysuckle back on again. Softlee softlee…

18 March 2012     Warm, dry, calm and sunny. A lovely trip up the Esk Valley for a walk, then to the newly reopened Shepherds’ Hall tea room in Lealholm and a potter across the stepping stones. The Lapwings are back up on the moortop, displaying their amazing tumble flight.

Once back at home we walked around the wood, heard our first Chiffchaff of the year and carried down some Hawthorn to the woodyard and added a deer guard to the self-sown Oak in the lawn of Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage.

16 March 2012     Just back from a lovely week in Edinburgh – and it never rained once! Lots of (street) walking, eating out, occasional art galleries, comedy clubs (Andrew Lawrence and Frankie Boyle) and even a trip to the lovely Rosslyn Chapel (the highlight of our trip). Aberlady recommended for Aberlady Bay National Nature Reserve, Scottish Ornithologists’ Club (SOC) headquarters nearby & the superb Donald’s Bistro at Kilspindle House Hotel. Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick for the 75,000 pairs of Gannets breeding on Bass Rock just offshore, etc, etc.

Barter Books at Alnwick en route for a few missing gaps in my Collins New Naturalist collection, the Barn at Beadle (Holy Island) for a break and all-in-all, a lovely holiday.

While we were away, SA and MD removed and rebuilt the wicker fence by the woodyard, split and stacked cordwood, etc, etc.

07 March 2012     About 40 Frogs still singing in my pond this morning. SA and MD replaced the toppled chimney pot which marks the top of Chimney Bank (the steepest hill in Rosedale / Groves Coppice). It has now been anchored securely to ensure that it doesn’t get accidentally broken.

Then they moved more self-sown young Ash tree-lings to fowm another line across the end of the cideryard. BC and I helped after lunch, and also saw our first Woodcock, flushed from near the Cherry picnic table at the top of the wood. Also saw our first Sparrowhawk circling high over the wood in breeding display.

05 Mar 2012     All right – enough already! The moors were white with a thin layer of sleet and the sleety drizzle was almost continuous for all of yesterday and overnight. Just above freezing overnight so the Frogspawn should be ok and it is all warming up again now. My rain gauge has gone from c1/20th of an inch in all of Feb to almost 3/4 of an inch this morning (0.1mm to 18mm) after the last 24 hours ofsteady drizzle. At least the young Ash trees will be well watered-in now.

04 Mar 2012     Sleeting today, so we are catching up with this News Blog, before racking-off the 6 demi-johns of homemade wine. We needed some rain and this morning’s steady drizzle has, as forecast, turned to sleet as it clears off eastward. With the temperature in high single figures, it is melting on contact and will help the parched soil.

03 Mar 2012     Off to Scarborough to buy a nice new folding cot from Argos, when we passed a small independent pram shop en roure. Popping in on the off chance, we were made a much better offer than Argos and came home with a nice new travel cot with a nice new mattress to fit.

We paused at the Oasis Cafe on the North Bay prom for a coffee and view and then walked to the nearby metalwork statue by Ray Lonsdale of a local wartime hero sitting on a giant bench. Very impressive. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-16125252

02 Mar 2012     SA and MD finished tidying-up the Midwest Cant and then started clearing lines for the Ash transplant to screen the cideryard. They cleared a 20′ line through the brambles, and dug a shallow ditch parallel to the back wall of the polebarn. After lunch we wheeled down 20 or more sods from near the foot of Chimney Bank, each containg several young, self-sown Ash saplings up to 3 foot tall. These were laid along the ditch, tramped down and then the Brambles trailed back over them to keep them hidden and safe from the Roe Deer. If it worked for the young Hazel saplings in Groves Dyke garden…

01 Mar 2012     I though the Frogs had all gone, leaving over 2 gallons of spawn behind – but then the sun shone again and c40 of them reappeared and carried on carrying-on.

February 2012 Weather Summary – The unseasonally mild, sunny and very dry weather continues: 0.9mm (0.33 inch) of rain, Max 17 degrees C (62 degrees F), Min -6 degrees (22 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 Mar 2012: 12 degrees C (54 degrees F).

29 Feb 2012    Frog count is now 54 and 1 Smooth Newt. Lots of Frogspawn and lots of Frogsong.

SA and MD tidied up the Midwest Cant and then we all dug out the self-sown young Hazel trees we discovered hidden in the Groves Dyke Brambles. These were transplanted (about 6 of them) into the clearings we had created to extend the East Hazel Cant. Hopefully, this will be a more efficient way to extend them than by the traditional layering method (which seems not to work very well in this wood).

28 Feb 2012     1 Yaffle heard calling in Coulson’s Field next to our wood.

77 Frogs in our pond. An altime record high, I think.

27 Feb 2012     Frogsong all night from our garden pond, with loads of spawn. Almost half a 2 gallon bucketful so far…

A local friend and gifted photographer (and decendant of William Morris of Arts and Crafts fame) came to take some new photos of Groves Dyke interior. Now that the new carpets are down, all the old photos on this website are out of date and will be changed soon. Thanks LG.

26 Feb 2012     Bright sunny mild morning, cloudy later. First Frog spawn in my pond this morning with c45 Frogs all singing away. We cleared out some of the mass of pondweed from the unused end of the pond, in the hope that more Frogs may lay yet more spawn.

Debrambled the ‘wild flower meadow’ at the bottom end of Groves Dyke garden, which had become more wild than flower. Found several young Hazel, Ash and Oak trees which had self seeded there. Presumably they have survived to a couple of feet high only because of the Brambles protecting them from the browsing Roe Deer, so wel will have to put some anti-deer tree tubes on them before we dig them up and transplant into the recently cleared bits of the wood.

25 Feb 2012     Nice drive up the valley to Lealholm, where spring is beginning to sprung. We strolled around the village, the garden centre, admired the huge windrows in the firewood merchant’s yard, crossed the stepping stones (no Dippers) and then drove to Stonehouse Bakery in Danby for our usual lunch of toasted tomato bread with pate.

Then on to Staithes for a walk through the village, a look at the art gallery (yes please!), out to the end of the east breakwater and back for a coffee and coble cake in the Spindrift cafe. Then worked our way up through the back streets and alleyways, along The Stubble and back to the car park at the top.

24 Feb 2012     Frog orgy today in my pond, with 37+ singing frogs. Still no spawn, so more Frogs can be expected…

SA and MD finished removing the invading Blackthorn from the Modwest Cant, coppiced the last of the Hazel stools and began clearing up. BC started on the Brambles at the end of Groves Dyke garden and I got ready for the new arrivals.

22 Feb 2012     Very windy and mizzley. Mild but with a fair windchill factor. SA and MD continued coppicing the Midwest Cant, completeing another 4 Hazel stools before lunch. After swimming and lunch, BC and I joined in with the big awkward Hazel stool, leaving lots of whippy young rods to be layered into the new clearing just uphill. They also felled 3 Blackthorns which had invated the Hazel cant.

19 Feb 2012     Frost overnight and my pond frozen, but mild and sunny enough to have our after breakfast coffee on the spatio (South patio) for the first time this year. BC and I coppiced a large and awkward Hazel in the Midwest Cant before lunch.

18 Feb 2012     First Frog song this morning. About 6 Frogs singing in my pond, but the water level is low and little pointed noses very hard to count. We cleared the inlet to raise the water level.

Drove to Pickering to buy an antique wooden filing cabinet for the study, now that the old CJS office is our snug and the old metal filing cabinet* looked completely out of place. (*And it proved very difficult to carry upstairs).

My old Benbo Trekker tripod for camera / telescope is now on Ebay. Any offers? Perfect working condition after lots of estuary work, followed by 10 years in my wardrobe.

We bought Estima and Picasso seed potatoes in Pickering, to be planted out in a few weeks.

17 Feb 2012     The guests leaving Groves Dyke this morning saw Roe Deer in the wood, as well as an Otter near the ford in Grosmont and a Black Grouse on Blakey Rigg.

SA used a big strimmer with steel blade to clear Blackthorn regrowth from the hedge side of the Midwest Cant, revealing several more Hazels to be coppiced. BC sawed more of the Blackthorn cordwood into firelogs and stacked them in the polebarn.

15 Feb 2012     Mild, cloudy and calm. SA, BC and I coppiced 3 Hazel stools before lunch in the Midwest cant. After lunch we coppiced another 2 stools and layered some branches into the clearing to extend the cant up the hillside.

13 Feb 2012     Went to Pickering and saw a lovely Buzzard soaring over the fields just South of the Fox and Rabbit. Very pale underwings in the bright sun. We visited an antique shop to measure a wooden filing cabinet, then went to Cooper’s hardware shop (a bit like my father’s hardware shop used to be) and bought a selection of bowsaw blades. Sanvick blades are no longer available but they were bought out by Bahco, so hopefully they are still the best.

11 Feb 2012     The residents of Woodlands Drive met at St Oswald’s Retreat to discuss how best to maintain the drive in future.

The River Esk at Ruswarp (by the rowing boats) is still frozen after a week of cold weather. At Sandsend the snow is lying on the beach to the high tide level, but a short stroll and a nice coffee at Sandside Cafe soon got us warm again.

10 Feb 2012     Another 2 inches of snow fell overnight, so I was shovelling and gritting my drive so that the guests in Groves Dyke could get away and the next guests arrive safely. All the public roads are open as normal, only the private drives like Woodlands Drive and the ones off it never get cleared at public expense.

09 Feb 2012     SA and MD moved lots of Ash down to the 1st bed of the West Cord in the woodyard. This is now almost full, with the 2nd bed half full of Hazel (and much more to come as we finish coppicing the Midwest Cant) and the 3rd bed quarter full of Cherry (lots more to carry down) and a bit of Hawthorn. Perhaps we will need to start the 1st bed in the East Cord for the extra Ash?

08 Feb 2012     Cold night which soon brightened up to a cool dry sunny day. BC and I carried several trugs of logs down from the polebarn (mostly Blackthorn and Beech) and the woodshed (mostly Hazel, Ash and Cherry) to the house. Many of the stacked logs were frozen together, making the point that putting a very cold outdoor log straight onto a fire will only cool the fire, as it first has to warm the log and melt the 25 – 50% water content still within it, before it can begin to burn the wood, release the volatile compounds within and then ignite them, too.

A new maximum of 15 Longtailed Tit on the fatballs today.

07 Feb 2012     Very hard frost overnight: -8 degrees C according to the max and min thermometer on the laundry wall. Lots more birds feeding than usual, a 15-minute count gave: Blue Tit 3, Robin 3, Dunnock 2, Great Tit 2, Marsh Tit 2, Blue Tit 1, Coal Tit 1, Longtail Tit 1, Nuthatch 1.

06 Feb 2012     SA and MD finished sawing the Hawthorn just above the Midwest Cant, and stacked it all by the side of the path to start seasoning for next winter’s firewood (2012/13).

05 Feb 2012     Only 2 inches of snow on the lawn this morning, and that is thawing already. 5 Robin and 12 Longtailed Tit on the feeder, now that the Big Garden Birdwatch is over and the hard weather has arrived. A Heron, the first for many weeks, flew up the River Esk at the same altitude as the house.

We walked around the wood, admired the extra wod from the hawthorn and started stacking it near the path. Only started! We restacked the split Ash onto ground runners, too and then carried some of the previous Hawthorn from the East Hazel Cant down to the woodyard where the 3 sections of the West Cord are each partfilled already: one with Ash, one with Hazel and one with Cherry. Since the least filled cordbed was the Cherry one, we started a seperate subsection of Hawthorn.

04 Feb 2012     We got back home from Scarborough just as the first real snow of this winter began falling. After an hour or two, it was lying about 1 inch thick but drifting in the strong winds.

03 Feb 2012     SA and MD started on a Hawthorn at the top edge of the Midwest Cant. Its removal will leave a clearing so that we can extend the Hazel by layering long stems up the hill.

BC firelogged Blackthorn in the polebarn while I worked really hard (honest) helping LG the whizkid to sort out my computer and my printer probelms. Cold and sunny.

01 Feb 2012     SA and MD finished tidying-up the Blackthorn from the new 10 foot ride at the top of the eastern boundary fence. They have now created a new half-cord of Blackthorn in the Cideryard Cant, for burning next winter (2012/13). After lunch the cut the thicker lengths of Ash, Cherry and Apple which had been propped-up to lighten over last summer. BC and I carried down the shorter lengths and stacked them by the polebarn for firelogging undercover some wet day…

Then we all went up to the Midwest Hazel Cant and coppiced another 2 stools, making 17 done so far this winter. About halfway there!

January 2012 Weather Summary – Unseasonally mild, sunny and dry: 18mm (0.75 inches) of rain, Max 10 degrees C (50 degrees F), Min -8 degrees (18 degrees F). Actual at 9.30am on 01 Feb 2012: 0 degrees C (32 degrees F).

31 Jan 2012     The gas fire in the sittingroom was fixed this afternoon. I phoned British Gas and struggled for 20 minutes to sort out a visit, but while I was still on Interminable Hold, I looked up Yellow Pages and rang a local chap on my mobile. British Gas were planning to charge me £70 for the first half hour and were still searching for an appointment later this week, but my new best GasSafe mate said he would do it this afternoon for £20 plus parts. So I cancelled the British Gas visit, told them why and by 3.30pm the gas fire was working again with no spare parts required. No doubt the Customer Care department of British Gas will write me a nice letter explaining how they managed to lose the extra business I was offering them, and how they managed to really annoy one of their long term customers. I don’t believe it!

30 Jan 2012     A few bits of snow on the lawn this morning, but that’s as much of Winter as we’ve seen since this time last year.

29 Jan 2012     BC and I sawed a third of the Blackthorn cordwood at the side of the polebarn, brought some indoors for immediate use and stacked the rest at the end of polebarn. Then it occurred to us that much of the south side of the polebarn is already a wall of Blackthorn firelogs, much better seasoned than the freshly sawn cordwood. So now we will use the ones from the sidewall up before we start burning the ones from the end wall.

As we type this, we are also in the middle of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, and our results will be added here at the end of the hour:
Blackbird 1, Blue Tit 6, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 2, Great Tit 1, Long-tail Tit 11, Robin 2, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Pheasant 1.
See www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatchresults if you want to add yours, too.

27 Jan 2012     SA and MD continued clearing a narrow path up through the Blackthorn spiney to the top of the wood, uncovering the occasional hardwood planted some 30 years ago. One of these, an Oak, had fallen over in the damp soil before we cleared the top drain about a year ago. Although toppled over, it is still growing so they trimmed off the horizontal trunk beyond the first couple of branches, leaving them to become the new vertical trunk/s.

While they continued the path clearing, BC and I carried down the remains of last winter’s Blackthorn felling from the cord in Cideryard cant. This we stacked against the polebarn, ready for sawing into firelogs as an undercover job if the weather is wet. Each 4 foot length of cordwood will need just 2 saw cuts to convert it into three 16 inch logs, which will fit any of our stoves.

As we all worked quietly, we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a Roe Deer strolling through the wood between the 2 working parties.

25 Jan 2011     SA and MD continued clearing a narrow path up through the Blackthorn and parallel to the eastern boundary. This has left a 10 foot wide strip of Blackthorn just our side of the boundary, which will shelter the rare breed Teeswater sheep in the neighbour’s field and give us something to lay when we redo the hedge next winter.

BC and I sawed Blackthorn cordwood into firelogs in the polebarn until a very welcome visitor got the 3 o’clocks ready.

 22 Jan 2012     Bright and sunny after overnight rain. We dug up the last drill of Esteema potatoes and all were sound. Got an overflowing mushroom tray full. Also picked some sprouts, some baby leeks, some turnips and some parsnips. Excellent!

Then we carried down some more recently coppiced Hazel from the Mid-west Cant, sawed it into 4 foot lengths and added them to the west cord in the woodyard. On the way BC saw a Roe Deer slip away ahead of us.

21 Jan 2012     Drove to Stonehouse Bakery and Cafe in Danby for some of their lovely toasted tomato bread and pate for lunch, then on to Guisborough for a little bit of shopping, including the tail end of the street market.

20 Jan 2012     SA continued cutting a new path through the upper end of the Blackthorn spiney, parallel to the Eastern boundary hedge which we plan to lay. After lunch we all went up to admire his progress before he continued and BC and I strated sawing up some of last year’s Blackthorn cordwood into firelogs in the polebarn.

18 Jan 2011     Had my woodburner swept as I do every 3 months. This keeps the flue open and the stove burns better and hotter. Mild weather again, dry and sunny.

SA and MD split the cut Ash logs and stacked them up in the wood. After lunch they ran a string along the line of the new path by the East boundary hedge, while BC and I coppiced another Hazel stool in the Mid-west Cant. Later, we all carried down some more Hazel weaving rods and wove them into the new wicker fence.

16 Jan 2012     A good frost overnight and a cold but sunny day to follow. First Ice on my pond and on Ruswarp Weir. Not to mention a thin skim of ice all the way up the River Esk by the Carrs.

I switched on all the frost-guard radiators in both laundries and both lofts. Especially now that Groves Dyke loft has that extra 10 inches of loft insulation (a total of 16 inches). Groves Bank loft still needs its additional layer, but not until the electrics have been sorted out. 

15 Jan 2011     BC and I coppiced another Hazel stool in the Mid-west Cant. This was an awkward so-and-so, with twisted stems and almost impossible angles – but we won in the end.

14 Jan 2011     BC and I spent the day in Malton, enjoyed lunch at the Hidden Monkey and bought a few bits in Yates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[The 2011 News Blog (below) has also been archived to a page of its own. Mouse over the header News Blog and on the drop-down menu Click on News Blog 2011].

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See www.theinukshukstore.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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