News Blog 2013

For the current 2014 News Blog please click on News-Blog [no year] at the very top of the menu

Wildlife Diary and News Blog 2013 – notes from a small wood.

Observations from Groves Bank, Groves Dyke and Groves Coppice, Whitby, North Yorkshire, England

We wish all our guests and readers a very happy new year and we hope to see you here in 2014…

December 2013 Weather
A mild, dry and very very windy month, the 2nd storniest Dec on record, with 45mm (1.75 inches ) of rain. The maximum temperature during the month was 10 degrees C / 51 degrees F and the minimum was -3 degrees C / 28 degrees F. At 09.30am on the 1st day of the following month the actual temperature was 4 degree C / 40 degrees F. Most notable event of the month was the Storm Surge on 05 Dec, when a combination of Spring high tides (monthly), very low atmospheric pressure over the North Sea and storm force NW winds raised the normal 6.1 meter tide by another 2 metres, flooding c100 properties in central Whitby, including Trenchers, The Angel and 2 electrical substations.

Looking at the Availability calendar for 2014 (above), lots of our bookings are repeat bookings (much appreciated, thank-you) and almost half the year is already booked. So if you plan to stay at Groves Dyke in 2014, please don’t delay…

24 Dec 2013     Gale force greetings
The SW gales continue almost constantly for several days now. Today is dry and sunny but previous days have been much wetter. Believe it or not, we seem to be the lucky ones, with temperatures in double figures (10 degrees C. Most of the really bad wind and rain either in the South and West of England (70 mph winds) and Wales (3 inches of rain) or in the North and West of Scotland (927mb, the 2nd lowest barometric pressure ever recorded, with 80mph winds).

Anyway, we wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year – and remember, you can now book your holiday here instantly, 24/7, on the Yorkshire Cottages online booking system (see Booking)!

21 Dec 2013     Grosmont church
Nice but very windy, with a warm Southerly wind. We went for a drive around the Esk Valley to hand deliver some local Christmas (sorry Royal Mail / Deutche Post, but nearly 10 shillings for a 2nd class stamp is just silly). We included a look inside Grosmont church to admire the beautiful new foldaway kitchen handmade in Oak by our friend LG (greatgrandson of William Morris, a founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement, whose genes clearly live on).

19 Dec 2013     New host
This website has now arrived safely with its new host and everything, including emails, appears fine. They may have been a gap in the emails, so if you sent one and haven’t had a reply, please resend.

18 Dec 2013     Fell, log and stack
This morning MD used his chainsaw to drop the 3-stemmed selfsown Wild Cherry in the Groves Dyke lawn, SA and I carried the lop away to the woodyard bonfire and the lengths to the polebarn. Once the site was tidy MD and I chainsawed the logs into 16-inch firelogs (‘flogs’) while SA wove the coppiced Ash and Sycamore rods to form the South wall of the polebarn. Finished in time for lunch, then BC and I collected up more firewood for more windy weather.

16 Dec 2013     Berry merry
The Cotonaster on the South Patio (‘Spatio’) is simply loaded with bright red berries and is attracting lots of birds. This morning the bush contained 5 Blackbirds, 3 Bullfinches and 1 Song Thrush. Later in the day there were a dozen Wood Pigeons picking fallen berries off the ground just below.

15 Dec 2013     Megashopping
That nice multi-millionaire Mr Sainsbury has not only provided us with much of our Christmas preparations, but also given us enough Nectar points to keep us in wine for half of next year.

14 Dec 2013     Runswick lunch
A lovely dry, sunny day so off to give the car a run and have lunch at The Royal in Runswick Bay (us, not the car). Nice stroll, no apparent damage from the storm surge, met some friends, lovely lunch and home again with battery, etc suitably recharged.

13 Dec 2013     Wood n veg
We strolled around the twig-scattered wood but no serious damage after the NW gales and storm surge last week. Then cut down the wooden, unripe Sweetcorn and the Raspberry canes (the Loganberry has taken well) and gathered some Beetroot.

12 Dec 2013      Shepherds’ warning
Red sky at c0830 dawn this morning and S gales forecast in a few days. A 15-minute bird count from my dining room included: Blackbird 7 (on Hawthorn and Cotonaster berries), Blue Tit 3, Dunnock 2, Great Tit 2, Wood Pigeon, Coal Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1 – which is 18 birds of 7 species. They were showing hardly any interest at all in the feeding stations (peanuts, Niger and fat balls) until a couple of ground frosts when I added the mixed seed feeder, and now everybody wants some. This autumn / winter is so mild so far and with so much natural food still available, and even some mini-swarms of Midges over the beck, that the artificial food has not really been required. Yet…

11 Dec 2013      Charming
This morning there were 5 Goldfinches on the Niger seed, the most I have every seen at my feeding station. It might be a small charm of Goldfinches, but still very welcome. The Great Spotted Woodpecker flew off silently and the Nuthatch was also about.

MD and I sawed a 4-foot length of cordwood off the fat end of every piece of coppiced Ash or Sycamore (from the big orchard), leaving the thinner end as a weaving rod for the side of the polebarn. After lunch we explored the big orchard, seeing what was still to coppice / transplant, carried down some seasoned Silver Birch and then finished off the heap of coppice in the woodyard.

08 Dec 2013     Decs up
This afternoon we put up the Christmas decorations in Groves Dyke: new ‘icicle’ lights in the conservatory, a new tree, new tree lights and new decorations, mostly in the sitting room. Cool wind took the edge off a nice day.

07 Dec 2013     Sandsend ok
We made a detour to check that all was well, and it was. The road has reopened, but still lots of sand on it, the footpath which overhangs the beach on concrete supports has been damaged, the Sandside Cafe is even closer to the beach than before and the Beach Hotel still has its windows boarded up for the storm.

Not our favourite pastime, but then we had a busy day in Pickering buying non-essential things people won’t want, to give to them at Christmas so that our national economy may pull through… Humbug – I think next year may be a Cards-Only Christmas.

06 Dec 2013     Whitby survives
Spring high tide plus 3 feet was about 5pm yesterday and again about 6am today. Several properties around the harbour were flooded, including Trenchers fish and chips restaurant, where the tabletops were below sea level. The electrical substations either side of the harbour were also submerged, plunging much of the town into darkness for several hours.

This storm surge in the North Sea was even more severe than the one in 1953 which killed hundreds in England and thousands in Holland. This one came with lots of advance warning, everyone was evacuated or at least prepared, and millions of pounds have been spent on improving sea defences over the last 60 years.

Good to see SA again today after a brief time away. We caught-up and made plans over lunch. Five Long Tailed Tits came to the fatballs on the spatio, the first we have seen this autumn.

05 Dec 2013     Storm surge
With intense low pressure over the North Sea, storm force winds from the NW pushing yet more of the North Atlantic into the funnel-shaped North Sea, strong onshore winds and the highest ‘Spring’ tides of the month all happening today, the east coast of England is braced for major flooding. Four additional fire engines were seen moving through Sleights into Whitby this afternoon, ready for the aftermath.

Luckily this will not be The Perfect Storm, as the other 2 essential ingredients are missing this time: it has NOT been raining for days on end and the ground is NOT saturated, thus the River is NOT going to be in flood and those flood waters will NOT be trapped in the estuary by the higher than usual sea level.

Shaun delivered 7 tons of well-seasoned, hardwood logs from Pickering and I stacked them in the polebarn. So NOW we are ready for winter…

04 Dec 2013     Almost ready
MD and I sawed the very last of the Ash cordwood into 16-inch firelogs and stacked them in the woodshed. After lunch BC and I split the tricky ones and the shed is now 5/6th full. Somehow, the chainsaw seemed blunter than usual, the logs were heavier than usual, the splitting was more difficult and… …and then we realised it was us who were still on half power!

03 Dec 2013     Mucky Duck
The new chimneysweep did a very thorough job on my chimney, while young SR finished debrambling the far end of the bog orchard. He also coppiced more unwanted Ash and Sycamore from under the Apple trees, providing useful weaving rods for the side of the polebarn, as well as the first cordwood for the winter of 2014/5.

02 Dec 2013     Coughs and sneezes…
Just what I wanted in the run-up to chrissy! Laid low for a few days by a nasty cold – if not full scale Man Flu. Honest.

Redecorating Groves Dyke is now complete for this year, the bird feeders are in full production for the first time this winter, my Winter Heating Payment has been promised to our favourite well-seasoned 16-inch hardwood log supplier (in preference to Npower, BritGas, or any of the other more expensive Big 6 energy providers), Winter Proper is expected to arrive in 4 days time (after a mild November), a White Butterfly flew past my window yesterday, white frosty lawns this morning, and just a mass of more catching-up to do…

November 2013 Weather
A mild month with 46mm (1.8 inches ) of rain. The maximum temperature during the month was 11 degrees C / 52 degrees F and the minimum was -4 degrees C / 25 degrees F. At 09.30am on the 1st day of the following month the actual temperature was 1 degree C / 34 degrees F.

26 Nov 2013     19 punctata
Having commented on how few ladybirds we have seen this summer, we found one trying to get out of my window today. It was a multi-spot and we eventually agreed there were 9 spots on a wind, times 2 wings equals 18 spots, plus the single spot just behind the head equals 19. My AidGap guide says most probably a Water Ladybird (our first ever) with the scientific name of Anisostica 19-punctata. Possibly significant that it appeared a few days after I cleared all that weed out of the pond, fixed the leak and restored the water level to within a couple of inches of the top for the first time in a couple of years.

Redecorating Groves Dyke continues – and the new colour scheme already makes the bathroom look much smarter. Existing colour scheme continues in all the other rooms.

24 Nov 2013     Re-decorating again
Not so nice a day, so we caught up with more painting in Groves Dyke. The bathroom has now had one coat of a new colour scheme, and 2 bedrooms have been partly repainted in the same colours.

23 Nov 2013     Chrissy craft fair
A lovely autumn day so we just upped sticks and spent the day at Castle Howard, enjoying lunch in a marquee and the craft fair in the courtyard. The Beech trees on the grand avenue are looking magnificent in their autumn colours. Pottered around Malton town centre afterwards, but still too early to feel christmassy.

22 Nov 2013     JFK +50
This afternoon we split and stacked the last of last winter’s Cherry drums, but they still need a bit more drying. Then we split and firelogged a single cord length of Ash, before dropping a very dead (and skinny) Apple tree in Groves Dyke orchard, using the sawing brake in the polebarn to saw it ready for instant use.

20 Nov 2013     Back in harness
For the first time in many weeks, now that the birds have finished breeding and most of the trees have dropped their leaves, SA and MD revved-up their chainsaws and got to work in the woodyard. They sawed all of this winter’s Ash and Silver Birch cord lengths into firelogs, which we then split and stacked at the bottom of the woodshed. Then the same treatment for all the cord lengths of last winter’s Cherry and the Oak. The useful bits of the Oak were already on their way to woodturning, the awkward bits will keep the home fires burning hotter than usual, as well as becoming the Yule Logs which will keep the flame alive from the old year into 2014.

Now that there is more flow in the beck after yesterday’s rain, sleet and snow, my pond level is back up to full height for the first time this year. While clearing the Zebra Grass last week I’d rearranged the back wall and pond liner, which seems to have partly solved the slow leak onto the patio. It does look so much better full to the top, rather than 1 inch below the side shelf, which itself was designed to be 6 – 8 inches underwater.

19 Nov 2013     First snow
Early this worning I watched 3 Roe Deer browsing in the cideryard just beyond the polebarn. Then a Roebuck arrived, scaring off the 2 well-grown youngsters before persuing the Roedoe through the Brambles. These were probably the same family as seen last month by the TAY family.
Today saw several short, sharp snow showers. They melted away quickly down here in the dale, but lingered quite a bit longer up on the moors.

18 Nov 2013     Redecorating
First hoar frost this morning and all the lawns were white. We pulled all the big furniture in Groves Dyke sitting room into the centre, carried all the smaller bits into the hall, and spent several hours painting all the walls.

17 Nov 2013     Paint sorting
We spent a while in Groves Dyke working out which rooms to redecorate first – and the a while in the stickery opening and closing assorted tins of paint. The upshot is that the 3 useful tins (more than half-full of usable paint) are now warming-up in the conservatory, while lots of other tins will soon be on their way to the recycling centre.

16 Nov 2013     Ladybird and bat
A multi-spotted ladybird was crawling up the window trying to get out. On very close inspection it appeared to be a 19-Spot but my field guide suggests that an Eyed Ladybird with 17 spots… By mid afternoon we walked up the drive to admire the newly-strimmed Bank Orchard (now 80% strimmed) and were joined by a small Bat (Pip?) patrolling a section of drive in the gathering gloom. In mid-November!

15 Nov 2013     Cider Day 3
Young SR gathered 3 trugs of eating Apples from Bank Orchard before he started strimming it. We cut, chopped and pressed them, with ample help from MD and JMac. After lunch we shook the Dyke Apple trees into a tarp and then did the resulting crop, a total of 3 pressings and another 18 litres of Apple juice for cider-making. Dry, sunny and almost warm.

SR not only cleared most of the Bank Orchard, leaving us to coppice the Sycamore until the young Apple trees are well enough established to keep the bank stable, but also moved the all the bits of Zebra up onto the bonfire.

14 Nov 2013     Pondlife 2
I spent another afternoon hacking little bits of Zebra Grass root from the big lump under the inflow and throwing them up onto the lawn. A couple of hours later and chilled to the marrow, I got out of the now empty pond, removed the chest waders and crawled into the bath to warm up. Bloody Zebra Grass.

13 Nov 2013      Hacked and unhacked
SA told me that this site had been hacked by the ‘Tunisian RoFo’ but my wonderful whizkid got it back to normal just 8 minutes after being told. Thanks everyone. Except the Tunisian RoFo virus.

This afternoon we sawed the Cherry poles and a few bits of thinned Oak into firelogs and stacked them in the woodshed, in anticipation. Bright and sunny but with a cool wind and even colder expected soon.

12 Nov 2013     Pondlife
I spent this afternoon in my pond in chest waders, pulling out all the unwanted invasive Zebra Grass which a kind person had offered me a couple of years ago. Sorry Frogs, but the disturbance was necessary. Still a bit of digging to do to get the main root-ball out, but I’ll save that pleasure for another day.

11 Nov 2013     Remembrance
With 130 others I attended the lovely new War Memorial at Dock End for it’s very first Remembrance Service. This slender shard of Norwegian granite is set in a double plinth of local sandstone, with railings made by local blacksmith James Godbold of Glaisdale.

10 Nov 2013     Catching up
Just back from a week in Edinburgh…

09 Nov 2013     Gnome for sale
The lovely dresser (by Tom Gnome Man Whittaker) in the Groves Dyke diningroom will be auctioned in a few days (on the 16th) by Tennants Auctioneers of Leyburn. Still time to bid…

Fear not, a very nice Walnut Ercol dresser now stands in its place.

01 Nov 2013     Sun and showers
Still enjoying our fresh Sleightly Squoozed Apple Juice and delicious eating Apples, wth another crop still holding on tightly to the top of the trees.

October 2013 Weather
A mostly mild month with just 66mm (2.6 inches) of rain. The maximum temperature during the month was 20 degrees C / 68 degrees F and the minimum was 1 degrees C / 34 degrees F. At 09.30am on the 1st day of the following month the actual temperature was 10 degrees C / 50 degrees F.

31 Oct 2013     Floodlit abbey
English Heritage have taken advantage of Hallowe’en and Dracula and Goth Weekend and (finally) did a proper floodlighting job on Whitby Abbey. It looks magnificent in reds and blues, so much better than its usual 60 watt bulb for the other 51 weeks of the year.

Much appreciated by th TAY family, who have seen more Roe Deer as well as the Green Woodpecker and the Nuthatch.

30 Oct 2013     Cider Day II
Dry and sunny again, but with a cool SW breeze. Ably assisted by the TAY family from Groves Dyke (and especially M), we soon had another 20 litres of Apple juice from Cookers and assorted windfalls. We will keep eater and cooker juice separate this year for comparison, and then decide how to proceed in future years. Thanks TAYs!

29 Oct 2013     Cider Day
Warm, dry and sunny as we sliced, chomped and pressed 10 crates of hand-picked eating Apples from Groves Dyke orchard. By late afternoon we had 23 litres of very sweet Apple juice and we hadn’t even started on the cooking Apples…

28 Oct 2013     Missing St Jude
The forecast severe storm (named St Jude, patron saint of lost causes) kept itself to the Deep South and we all had a calm, dry and peaceful night.

The family from Groves Dyke saw 4 Roe Deer up in the wood, the most we have seen for many weeks.

27 Oct 2013     Flag Day
We frantically picked 5 crates of Apples with the long-reach pickers, as lots more fell around us in the strengthening winds. Flag would have loved all the excitement as lots of ‘tennis balls’ fell around us and rolled off down the hill for him to retrieve!

A storm is forecast for tonight and will probably bring down all the Apples, so at least we have some undamaged ones for Cider-making day on Tuesday.

26 Oct 2013     Wine harvest
We collected the many big bunches of Black Hamburg grapes from BC’s vine, which yielded a gallon of grape juice. Roll on the next vintage of genuine Larplonk…

Lunch at the Chainbridge cafe in Ruswarp, overlooking the River Esk. An unusual female Scaup swam upstream, ignored by the usual Mallard.

25 Oct 2013     Tasty
SA for lunch today, after his trip. Lots of catching up and then BC sawed the poles from the tripod and cut more kindling in the polebarn, as I dressed Groves Dyke for the next arrivals.

24 Oct 2013     Climate changed
Some very wet week I will look back through several years of this News Blog to check, but I am almost 100% certain that I have never before had to spend 2 hours grass cutting in late October. The veg and fruit lawns, the patio lawn, the woodyard and the path around the wood all needed cutting today – and I was able to finish off the small orchard, as well.

23 Oct 2013     Polebarn tidy
Wet again this morning, so we went for a swim (Whitby heated indoor). After lunch we split the well-seasoned Crab Apple logs in the polebarn and re-stacked them, now ready to burn. De-brambled the inaccessible end, finding a large mossy bird’s nest in the process.

During afternoon tea in the conservatory a large green and yellow Dragonfly patrolled the pond and tried to lay eggs in the mossy parapet. 13 degrees C outside this afternoon, but now very sunny.

22 Oct 2013     Wet, wetter, wettest
I was going to cut the 6 inch long grass again, but… Brightened up too late in the afternoon.

20 Oct 2013     Veranda coffee
Warm and windy but very pleasant. After coffee on the veranda, we sawed the last of the skinny Ash cordwood (which was enough to complete the west wall of the woodshed) and carried some down to the house.

Racked the Black and Redcurrant wines (very promising!), picked and chopped down the 3 growbags of Tomatoes in the yard, dug up some Beetroot, picked a brown-bearded but not quite ready Corn on the Cob, dried some washing and picked the (very?) last few Raspberries.

19 Oct 2013     Kitchen fitters
We went to MD’s and helped to plasterboard the kitchen ceiling. Eventually we all (5 of us) outnumbered it and it gave up resisting. Very entertaining!

18 Oct 2013     Gas ok
British Gas inspected Groves Dyke today (changeover day) and approved the Landlord’s Certificate yet again.

17 Oct 2013     Warm, dry and sunny
The grass is still growing and may need cutting again before winter – and next year’s bookings are already rolling in for high summer!

15 Oct 2013     Telecoms
Having spent the past several weeks gathering all the BT information and offers together, I finally phoned them today and rearranged everything. Now I have my Line Rental Saver (25% off), my Unlimited Anytime calls, my Unlimited Broadband and my new free HomeHub – all for less than I was paying BT before!

14 Oct 2013     Rain
So far this month we have had 1.25 inches of rain…

13 Oct 2013     Wet and dry
Cold, wet and windy this morning (11 degrees C) and then warm, dry and sunny this afternoon. We sawed up some of the dead Applewood in the polebarn, then picked the very last of the Raspberries, a few Blackberries, sorted some Aislaby Apples (one bad apple…) and picked some more ripe Tomatoes. We were going to rack the Blackcurrant wine but found it was still bubbling, so we will leave that a bit longer.

12 Oct 2013     Flu jab
Got our jabs this morning and then off to Danby Moors Centre for a nice lunch (just to aid recovery, you understand). We saw a mixed flock of winter thrushes (Song, Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird) on Oakley Walls, just below the cloud base. Probably newly arrived from Scandanavia and across the North Sea on the strong N then NE winds. later saw a covey of Partridge by the roadside near Houlsyke.

11 Oct 2013     Vols lunch
SA and MD joined us for lunch and a nice catch-up, before BC sawed the poles on the tripod and I dressed the cottage.

10 Oct 2013     Northerly gale
Wild, wet and windy today with 8 degrees C less a considerable windchill. An ideal day to empty the freezer, defrost, move, freeze and restock, now that the new auto storage heater is working so well.

09 Oct 2013     Deadwood
After our swim we cut all the deadwood from the Apple trees in the Wee Orchard and stacked it in the polebarn. An adult Frog hopped across the yard. Helped with some hedge trimming in Whitby, which the new rechargable Bosch hedge trimmer did with ease. Lit the woodburner for the first time in a few weeks, as Northerly gales are expected to arrive tonight. 23 degrees C in the snug and 13 Defrees outside.

08 Oct 2013     Gabble Ratched arrives
Hot and sunny. I strimmed the last few lawns and then almost all of the Wee Orchard (as opposed to the Big Orchard) before the strimmer decided not to start again. After lunch we were sawing more Ash cordwood in the woodyard when the unmistakable sound of the dreaded Gabble Ratchet was heard. Despite this, we planted a new Loganberry to fill a gap in the Raspberry ranks. 40 Grey Geese flew high overhead, going South. Picked more Tomatoes anyway.

06 Oct 2013     Logging on
Now that my computer is almost working normally again (sorry, I’ve lost some of my sign-ins completely, but found most of the others), we spent the afternoon sawing the most recently felled Ash into firelogs and stacking them in the depths of the woodshed, where they will be uncovered again (hopefully dry enough to burn) towards the end of this winter.

Then we sawed even more of last winter’s felled Ash into flogs and stacked them on top. After reducing the cord by a quarter, we had built up about a third of a wall. Sorted potatoes and onions and stored them in the dark. Collected wildflower seedheads for sowing next spring. Walked around the wood (very little autumn colour in the canopy yet) and admired the few clumps of red berries on the 2 young Rowan trees. Picked a few more Blackberries and checked that Gnorman was still ‘swinging’ ok.

05 Oct 2013     Sunny Scarborough
The warm sunny weather continues, so we went to return the disappointing foot-operated log splitter from Aldi. Brilliant idea. Pity it doesn’t work. Did a bit of shopping and had lunch at Dean’s Garden Centre, trying to ignore their Chrissy decs.

04 Oct 2013     Uncle Tom Cobley again
A very welcome SR popped in for a chat after his subtropical holiday. Then SR and L arrived to jungle-bust / fabric and gravel the spatio bed, put in the 2 new clothes line poles on the patio lawn (all these wet towels!), tidy-up the cider yard, put in the new terrace step and prepare for strimming the big orchard. SA popped in for a special lunch, The long-expected inteligent storage heater was finally delivered and then CN popped in to fit it.

03 Oct 2013     Boys from the black stuff
The nice new tarmac was laid on my drive today. Now I’ll save up again for another year to do the parking area…

01 Oct 2013     Computer sez no
The nice delivery man drove past yesterday, convinced that Google Map had the pin half a mile further on and that I’d failed to provide a proper delivery address. He tried delivering again today, with the same result, except this time I saw him and stopped him as he was leaving. ‘I can’t give it to you now’ he said. ‘I’ve already logged it as Undeliverable.’ It was only after standing between my gate posts (ie not just someone who stopped him on the street), and showing my photo ID bus pass (ie not just someone claiming to be me) and him phoning his boss for a Cancellation Code (ie computer told to say Yes by a higher authority) that he was able to give me my new electric blanket. Good innit?

Finished painting the outside of the Groves Dyke window frames.

September 2013 Weather
A mostly warm dry month with just 5mm (0.2 inch) of rain. The maximum temperature during the month was 25 degrees C / 78 degrees F and the minimum was 3 degrees C / 37 degrees F. At 09.30am on the 1st day of the following month the actual temperature was 18 degrees C / 66 degrees F.

29 Sept 2013     Mellow fruitfulness
Warm and sunny today and the cottage is empty this week, for the first time in many months. B shampooed the diningroom carpet while I put a second undercoat on the outside of the two front bedroom window-frames.

Then we dug the other half of the Nicola potatoes from the veg beds (a heaped mushroom tray full), a couple of big Beetroot, a large Mini-sweetcorn (not quite ready) and all of the Desiree potatoes from the hedge veg (another heaped mushroom tray full). We strung the Onions (White and Red), picked a pot of luscious Blackberries from above the leaning Ash steps.

While we coffeed, a female Sparrowhawk flushed a very noisy Green Woodpecked, and then soared above the garden looking for something smaller to eat.

28 Sept 2013     Bay Village Rollers
A lovely warm sunny day so we set off for Robin Hood’s Bay, or Bay to us locals. Lunch at Swell, sitting on their terrace and overlooking the seawall. Then down to The Dock to enjoy a great selection of sea shanties from The Monkey’s Fist. With a hundred others we stood mesmerised and enchanted in the sun, enjoying their traditional songs (especially Time Ashore is Over). While they had a break to wet their whistles, we strolled on the beach and returned in time to join the History Tour with the Chair of the local village museum. Oh what a perfect day.

27 Sept 2013     New dresser and bedroom chairs arrive
These were delivered by Dove Antiques of Kirbymoorside (KMS to its friends). The new dresser is by Ercol and is more disposable than the Gnomeman one, just in case…

Then we had a sneak preview of the fabulous ‘Rohilla’ rescue by the Whitby lifeboat 100 years ago. Fifty local artists have each painted a scene/s from the event, the whole 64 will be exhibited as a giant 2 meter x 2 meter canvas, just one famous rescue from the soon-to-be-announced RNLI touring exhibition.

26 Sept 2013      Uncle Tom Cobley
Tennants arrived to collect the irreplacable Gnomeman ‘dresser’ (actually a court cupboard) which I am concerned might get accidentally damaged. Then Mr Tarmac arrived unexpectedly to arrange work on the drive next week. Then SR arrived unexpectedly to see about strimming the big orchard. Then CW arrived as planned to talk about something else. Then CN arrived arrived to fit our the new storage heater – except it was the only thing that hadn’t arrived.

23 Sept 2013     Green grass
Now that summer has returned, the grass has started growing again! I thought it had already had its last cut, but no chance! Lots of grass strimmed today, and as much more still to do…

22 Sept 2013     50 / 50
The autumnal equinox today, so from now on the nights are longer than the days, so make logs while the sun shines. We will continue to saw up the Ash tree felled last winter and stack the fire logs into the woodshed (now more than half-full) as winter advances.

A Chiffchaff called this morning as we had our breakfast coffee on the veranda. Over 20 degrees by mid-afternoon and too hot for any more sawing.

21 Sept 2013     Piece of cake
We strolled on the beach in shirtsleeves, enjoyed lunch on a Cliffmount Hotel picnic table overlooking a sunny Runswick Bay, pottered around the village, watched 50+ Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies on one Buddlia bush and a single Bar Tailed Godwit at the tideline, then had afternoon tea at the cafe. Lovely to have summer weather again.

20 Sept 2013     Logs down
SA and MD carried down load after load of just-thinned Ash (thinned from the bottom of Chimney Bank) and Silver Birch (60 feet tall and 8 inch butt diameter, thinned from just below the Major Oak path) and started new cords for them in the woodyard.

[A cold, grey and drizzley week, lost in frantic dashing about, sorting out website / trip to Leyburn / furniture / etc.]

14 Sep 2013     Every day in every way
Thanks to GK the Availability Calendar is now working again. Thank-goodness for that!

The Green Woodpecker was calling just behind the house this morning and the Nuthatch was on the peanuts just outside the kitchen window. Autumn equinox next week but the first storm is forecast to arrive tomorrow…

12 Sep 2013     Thanks guys!
This page was frozen for a few weeks while part of the web host was down. Thanks to a great deal of behind the scenes work by 2 excellent software engineers, this News-Blog is up and working again! Well done GK and MS. Now there is lots for us to catch up on, so it may take a bit longer…

Lost in the ether…

18 Aug 2013     Mad dogs
We dragged down another breadtray sleigh of Cherry logs today (in the midday sun) and sawed all the skinny Wild Cherry bits into firelogs and stacked them under cover in the woodshed. Then we brought down lots of Silver Birch poles and sawed them all up and got them under cover as well. Now that everything has had over a month of dry weather, let’s not let the soft Cherry and Silver Birch get wet again in case it just moulders away (like it tried to do last year).

During a well-earned break in the veranda we watched the Sparrowhawk soaring high above the garden, when suddenly it folded it wings half back, put its head down and stooped down and across our field of view towards some pool little birdie at the feeding station just out of sight. But that is why it’s called a feeding station…

The 2 demijohns of Currant wines are now bubbling merrily in the conservatory – and the temperature in the snug is currently 22 degrees C (72 degrees F). Only mad dogs and English wo/men would be sawing firewood in August.

Checked the polebarn and relieved to see that we have quite a lot of poles and and couple of trunks waiting to be sawn up for fire logs. Forgot we had left some there to keep us amused on wet days, so our firewood supply for the coming winter is slightly better than we thought. Must have a good look around for standing deadwood we can bring in as well, having noticed a few bits in the Groves Dyke orchard.

17 August 2013     Brag load
I strimmed for 1.5 hours and then we used the breadtray sleigh to bring down all of the Oak from the top of the wood. There was really enough for 2 loads but we hadn’t the energy to go back up again – so we brought it all down in just one go. Shades of the New Brunswick loggers 100 years ago when they would claim bragging rights with the size / weight / distance they dragged a sleigh of logs to the frozen riverbank. But they had a horse…


15 Aug 2013     New picnic table
Just waiting for the nice new picnic table to arrive from Duncombe Sawmill in Helmsley…

And it arrived right on cue. It looks good, is well tannalised, well constructed and much more substantial than the previous set. I’ve added a mat of Langdale green slate to protect the top from any so-called ‘disposable’ barbeques and now it is ready for use…

14 Aug 2013     Weed n feed
B finished weeding the final third of the Strawberry bed, while I sawed or lopped the skinny poles from the woodyard to feed the woodshed. We also brought down some of the 30-year old Oak which was thinned-out last winter to give its neighbour more growing space.

13 Aug 2013      Lido weather
A hot sunny day for a trip to Helmsley to buy a new picnic table for Groves Dyke, have a super swim in the outdoor heated pool, a lovely lunch in Crema Cafe, a window-shopping stroll, an exotic ice cream and then a lovely drive over the moor, down Chimney Bank to Rosedale for a cuppa at the wonderful White Horse Inn. A perfect summer’s day.

12 Aug 2013     Pond life
Dry enough this morning to start painting the external windowsills, then showery enough to start dragging the rampant ‘varigated Phragmities’ (or whatever it is) from my pond. Almost as awful a job as climbing in with my chest waders on, but that will come in a couple of weeks).

The moral of this story is Never Accept an Unknown Pond Plant from a (so-called) Friend! It started as just a little clump in one corner, but quickly showed its ambition to fill the whole pond. This is the 2nd time this summer that I have tried to get it back under control. Now it is down to just one big central clump while the Smooth Newtpoles grow, then next month it is going to go. Completely.

11 Aug 2013     Log slipe
We used the breadtray sleigh to slipe down the last 2 loads of Ash from just above the Middle East Cant, split them to firelog size and started the first 2 or 3 layers of a new wall in the woodshed. The final final half wall of 2-year seasoned firelogs were moved across to top up the half wall of 1-year seasoned Cherry and Hawthorn from last winter. So now the woodshed is just over half empty (or less than half full??), with the uphill half available for fiilling when we saw and split everything we felled in 2012/13. Confused? We will be…

With just 1 cord of Ash already stacked, a few poles waiting to be sawn, and a bit of felled Ash still drying out near the Midwest Cant and a whole Cherry tree in drums in the far North West corner, we certainly have less firewood for this winter. Probably due to the long, cold and damp spring when ‘playing in the wood’ was less fun.

Started a bucket of Blackcurant wine and another of Redcurrant wine today, dug up some more 2nd early Potatoes and picked some more Broad and Green Beans and also Peas.

Our new Wildflower Meadow bed is looking glorious, with tall, red, pink, blue and yellow flowers – but no Clover. We decided to ‘rest’ one of the 3-bed rotation Hedge Veg beds by planting a wildflower mix, but this particular mix had no Clover, thus nothing to replace the Nitrogen which next year’s veg will need. Never mind, it look great.

10 Aug 2013     First Green Beans
I finished strimming the Groves Bank lawns, around the stone seat, one side of both drives and the Cideryard, including a path through to Cideryard Cant.

BC weeded another third of the Strawberry bed, dug some more Potatoes and picked our first Green Beans for our tea. We dragged down the last of the Cherry logs and drums from the top of the Middle East Cant.

09 Aug 2013     First Tomato
As SR and I enjoyed a morning coffee in my veranda, some 60 or more assorted Blue, Coal, Great, Long Tailed Tits, the odd Wren and even a Treecreeper drifted past in twos and threes over a 10 minute period. At this time of year these species gather into loose ‘Tit flocks’ and forage through the trees, keeping in contact with each other by ‘sip sip’ calls.

BC picked our First Tomato and we duly carved it into 2 and ate it.

08 Aug 2013     More strimming
I strimmed the front lawns at Groves Bank, the path around the wood and the veranda lawn. Now I am almost caught-up again after a week away at Sutton Bank last week…

07 Aug 2013     The boys are back
While SA and MD patrolled the wood and brought down some logs, I strimmed the Groves Dyke lawns, the pond lawn and the woodyard. After lunch they cut more weaving poles and wove them into the wall of the Polebarn. Hot!

 06 Aug 2013     Pick swim
Off to Pickering for a swim this morning. The white swathes of Bog Cotton are still abundant and more Ling than last week is beginning to flower purple. After lunch we invested in a Bosch rechargable hedge trimmer, much less heavy than the old petrol one. No excuse now…

05 Aug 2013      Wet admin
Pouring steadily this morning, so the grass will just have to wait a bit longer (no pun intended). An ideal opportunity to catch up with the heaps of paperwork and the overflowing Inbox.

Took lots more Unique Walking Sticks to Dunsley Hall Hotel, near Whitby, for them to sell and raise money for Macmillan cancer relief.

02 Aug 2013     Thunder plump
After a horribly hot change-over in Groves Dyke, with 4 loads of washing on the lines, the heavens opened and 0.4 inches of rain fell in just just over an hour. Very spectacular.

BC made 3 Blackcurrant pies and 2 Blackcurrant crumbles from our soft fruit garden.

01 Aug 2013     Swift exit
Just back from a few days at the other end of the North York Moors, near Sutton Bank. Swam at Helmsley open air pool on our way back and saw one of the last Swifts to leave flying over. HOT! The Ling is just beginning to turn purple on Blakey Rigg as we passed The Lion. It was 26 degrees C as we drove along Oakley Walls this afternoon. HOT HOT!

July 2013 Weather
A hot dry month with just 18mm (0.7 inch) of rain – and probably a bit more as some will have evaporated from my funnel-sheped rain gauge. The maximum temperature during the month was 26 degrees C / 82 degrees F and the minimum was 7 degrees C / 46 degrees F. At 09.30am on the 1st day of the following month the actual temperature was ? degrees C / ? degrees F – as we were away until the 2nd.

24 July 2013     Sticking
The Renault garage fixed my sticking windscreen wipers this morning, then I spent the afternoon making lots of Unique Walking Sticks for sale. These ‘hedge sticks’ are designed by Nature then crafted by hand and all proceeds go to Macmillan Cancer Support. They can be bought from Dunsley Hall Hotel, near Whitby and I am very grateful for their kindness. Over £2000 has been raised to date.

Last night was muggy and at 9am the ground was a little wet, 0.5mm in the rain gauge, 7/8 cloud cover, 18 degrees C and 95% relative humidity.

23 July 2013     Seven times better
The thunder, just a little of it, arrived this afternoon, which means that the usual English summer of ‘3 fine day and a thunderstorm’ has actually been ‘3 fine weeks and a thunderstorm’, which make it 7 times better than usual.

We swam at Pickering before going to collect the repaired, serviced and sharpened hedge trimmer from Malton. Some damp patches on the roads, but no real rain to speak of.

Just 1 Smooth Newt in my pond this evening.

22 July 2013     Stack n strim
Sean delivered 10 big dumpy bags of well-seasoned hardwood firelogs, Beech) this morning. Each bag probably holds almost a ton. Some to SA, some to me and some to BC. All stacked undercover by lunchtime.

After lunch I strimmed the woodyard and the path around the wood. Interesting that all the sunny grass has almost stopped growing, while the shady path around the wood has been growing apace.

Just 1 Smooth Newt in my pond this evening.

21 July 2013     Homebrew paraquat
Over the past couple of weeks everyone has sampled the cider we made from last year’s Apples. We are unanimous. It is awful. 2012 was the wettest year on record. The early April storm blew most of the blossom off the trees before the fruit had set. The lack of sun compounded the problem by not ripening the very few Apples which did appear, so there was almost no fructose to be converted into alcohol. The Apples we imported from Helmsley were windfalls and long past their best. We added sugar to try to start fermentation. We even brought it indoors to encourage it… but it is still so awful that it just isn’t worth bottling.

Can’t use it as drain cleaner because of the septic tank, so today we poured it on the weeds growing on the Spatio. Even the Bees and the Wasps avoided it. Very wise.

We picked a good 3 litres of Blackcurrants from our 3 bushes, with another crop still to ripen. Goosberries look like a poor crop, but we added a cylinder of netting wire to protect the few we do have.

A young Nuthatch, without proper eyeliner on, explored the fat ball feeder, while whole families of Blue and Great Tit, as well as young Blackbirds and Goldfinches are visiting the feeders.

We had our meals on the veranda, enjoying the cool, cloudy weather while the rest of the UK fries. Carried some Ash logs down from above the Middle East cant.

20 July 2013     De-nettled
B pulled all the many Nettles out of the Spatio shrubbery and added them to the still un-burnt bonfire heaps. A bit cooler in the North East, with a very welcome drizzle for a little while. It will need a lot more rain before we dare set fire to the past several months’ worth of cuttings, clippings, etc waiting to be burned.

18 July 2013     Level 3 Heat Warning
While the NHS and the Met Office warned of the dangers, I decided to strim. Managed an hour and 4 lawns before I decided enough was enough.

1 Newt.

17 July 2013     Snail smashed & Monkey puzzled
During coffee on the veranda I heard a noise which awoke a fading memory… the sound of a Song Thrush smashing a Snail shell to bits on the concrete path. Presumably, now that the hedges have been trimmed, the Song Thrushes find the Snails more easily. Glad we still have a few of each.

After lunch we helped JW, MD and SA unload the long dead Monkey Puzzle tree and admired some of our local woodturner’s magnificent wooden bowls. Hot.

5 Newts.

16 July 2013     Hedges trimmed
Hot! Thanks to SR and the very musical DC, all the hedges in both gardens have been trimmed today. It took them 4 hours (= 8 man hours) so I don’t feel so bad!

2 Newts in my pond.

15 July 2013     Young GSW
The Great Spotted Woodpecker on the peanut feeder just outside the kitchen windows had red on the top of its head ie a juvenile! Glad that with almost no drumming at all this year, a pair has bred successfully and raised at least one youngster – and taught it how to find peanuts.

Just 4 Smooth Newts in my pond this evening. What would St Swithen say?

14 July 2013     Fruit caged
This afternoon, in the heat of the midday sun, we constructed another panel of wire chicken netting on a wooden frame. Now we have enough panels to safeguard 6 of our 8 fruit bushes from the ravening hoards of Blackbirds, Wood Pigeons, Pheasants and Roe Deer. Our Strawberry crop is about over now, with few in the freezer but we did supply a lot for big party in Aislaby. Picked the first of our Blackcurrants today.

A walk around the wood was lovely and cool, with 4 Common Spotted Orchids just west of the top bridge.

13 July 2013     Melting Malton
We took the ailing petrol hedge trimmer to the supplier in Malton, who decided to keep it in for several days. We pottered around the Food Lovers’ Fair in the maketplace, bought the exotic makings of a picnic lunch and then searched for a shady place to eat. 28 degrees C on the way home, and still 24 degrees when passing RAF Fylingdales on the moortop.

12 July 2013     First new pots
BC dug up a Nicola plant to check on progress and we later enjoyed our first home-grown new potatoes of the year.

11 July 2013     Cooler
SA and MD brought down more of the Ash from the Middle East cant. After lunch we all walked around the wood, choosing and marking the trees to be thinned in the winter.

Only 8 Smooth Newts in my pond this evening.

10 July 2013     Strim and trim
Cooler so I strimmed the last few lawns and Groves Dyke again. After lunch BC and I started on trimming the dividing hedge between Groves Bank and Groves Dyke, but after 10 minutes the petrol hedge trimmer went on strike so we had to tidy up with the old fashioned hand clippers.

6 Newts.

9 July 2013     Helmsley swim
Hot and sunny again, so BC and I set off for a swim in the lovely old open air pool at Helmsley. Then lunch at Helmsley Walled Garden, before a stroll around the town and an ice cream in the shade. Home via Kirbymoorside (KMS) and Hutton-le-Hole (H le H) in the hope of finding some cooler weather on Blakey Rigg – but even at the Lion Inn on Blakey my car said it was still 25 degrees C at 1000 feet above sea level! TDH.

14 Newts.

8 July 2013     Yaffle family
Cool cloudy morning, some of which was spent watching a family of 4 Green Woodpeckers persuading each other to fly from one side of the garden to the other. I think one of the kids was a bit nervous about such a long haul flight.

Very hot and dry in the afternoon, so I spent 1.5 hours strimming. Mad dogs and Irishmen!

17 Newts.

07 July 2013      TDH
Sorry, but it is just plain Too Damn Hot, with my met station in the low 20s outside – and a few degrees cooler indoors (thank goodness). We made three fruit cage panels, each 8 foot by 4 foot (ok, 8 foot long by 1.2m, wide if you are into Little French Things). This year we will try to eat our own Gooseberries, Blackcurrants, Redcurrents and Blueberries, without any help from the local wildlife.

06 July 2013     Runswick Bay view
Blooming hot, dry and sunny again, with a very high pollen count, so we headed for the coast. Car parks by the sea were already full, so we parked at Bank Top, had lunch overlooking the bay, walked the Cleveland Way (no, only a little bit), had afternoon tea in a nearby Tea Garden and then headed for Sandsend where BC had a dip in the North Sea (but only her feet). Lovely to see a field full of Common Spotted Orchids alongside the National Trail.

1 Small Tortoiseshell and 1 Ringlet Butterfly, were all that were seen despite the hot, sunny weather. Odd that Butterflies are so few and far between this year that every individual in memorable. The big White Buddlia is looking poorly this summer, with few leaves flowers just beginning. The neighbouring small purple Buddlias are rather better, so may well take over from the big white specimen.

14 Common Newts in my pond late this evening.

05 July 2013     Weeding and watering
BC sorted the garden while I did Groves Dyke. Getting a bit hot…
12 Newts in my pond this evening.

04 July 2013     Fence and hedge
SA and MD searched for the last few weaving rods needed to complete the first panel on the polebarn, while I revved up the hedge-trimmer for the first time this year and tidied-up the Groves Dyke conservatory hedge.

02 July 2013     Ate Newts
A 15-minute bird count ending at 10am revealed: Blue Tit 5 (incl 3 juveniles), Great Tit 3 (incl 2 juvs), Blackbird 2 (incl 1 juv), Chaffinch 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 male, Robin 1, Tree Sparrow 1, Wood Pigeon 1. Weather 6/8, dry and mild. NB: The male GSW visits the peanut hanger many time every day, and has done for several days. Hope he brings the family when they are ready…

Dozens of Bees feeding constantly on the Spatio Cotonaster, which seems to be a real favourite.

Only 8 Common Newts in my pond late this evening, so either they are dispersing or something ate them.

01 July 2013     Grass cutting
I spent 1.5 hours cutting grass this afternoon.

June 2013 Weather
A dry month with just 25mm (1 inch) of rain. The maximum temperature during the month was 22 degrees C / 74 degrees F and the minimum was 2 degrees C / 35 degrees F. At 09.30am on the 1st day of the following month the actual temperature was 15 degrees C / 60 degrees F.

30 June 2013     First Strawbs
Warm, dry and sunny for the second day in a row. This could be summer. We carried down the last of the Hazel stems from the Mid-West Cant, sawed them into 4 foot lengths and added them to the west cord in the woodyard. Our first crop of Strawberries yielded 3 small plant pots of delicious sweet fruit. B weeded the veg patch while I sneezed well away from any flowers and hung the laundry out.

In my pond there are currently 23 Water Lily flowers or buds, an all time record. A single Common Spotted Orchid is in flower above the steps and just before the Major Oak. We also twisted a couple of tall floppy young Oaks into an Oak arch, just at the bottom of Chimney Bank.

27 June 2013     Home again
SA and MD finished adding the guttering to the new polebarn extension, as well as cutting and adding yet more weaving rods to the frame.

By teatime we were just back from a few days in t’Lakes for a great Carson Clan Reunion. Eleven of us (3 generations) enjoyed Chapel Stile in Langdale, including M and IC, B and J and E and HC, AM, FCW, CW and us. We walked, ate and drank, were entertained and visited Coniston and Brantwood, etc, etc. Also admired the 5,000 year old Langdale rock art of cup and rings, not to mention an axe.

10 Smooth Newts in my pond this evening.

21 June 2013     Willow weaving
SA collected more weaving rods and wove them into the framework of the new polebarn extension, to make it more waterproof.

27 Smooth Newts in my pond late this evening.

20 June 2013     28 Newts

19 June 2013     First sneeze
The long cold spring may have finally ended, but the hay-fever season may have begun. As SA and I walked around the wood this morning looking for suitable coppice rod, I began to sneeze. No, not the dreaded lurgy / cold / cough which has lingered since early April, just my normal June affliction – about 3 weeks later than usual. No warmth = no flowers = no pollen (and no insects) = no pollen allergy. This is certainly my latest onset of hay fever in many, many decades.

SA selected and cut some Sycamore rods from the Woodyard Cant, then began to weave them onto the newly constructed framework on the South side of the Polebarn. Looks good. Just another 23 feet of wall to go…

24 Smooth Newts after sunset.

18 June 2013     All cut
Two hours and 10 minutes of strimmimg and all lawns cut, also woodyard. Phew.

44 Smooth Newts late this evening.

17 June 2013     New frame complete
SA, MD and I worked on the last bit of the frame for the new Polebarn side wall. Now to add the wickerwork wall of coppiced rods from the various cants around the wood…

16 June 2013     Wood path strimmed
I spent an hour strimming the path around the wood. Last time it did it, it didn’t really need doing. This time, a bit of rain AND some warm weather means that it was long overdue, with thigh high grass in places.

13 June 2013     Playing in the polebarn
SA and MD continued in the polebarn, achieving new heights.

47 Newts in my pond this evening.

12 June 2013     Grass again
I spent 2 hours strimming, finishing half of Groves Bank lawns and half the woodyard.

61 Smooth Newts in my pond late this evening.

11 June 2013      Roof on
SA, MD and I worked on the new roof of the new 18 inch wide polebarn extension today and completed the roof. Now we can stack 16 inch long firelogs on the weather side of the polebarn, without them getting so wet.

57 Smooth Newts this evening.

10 June 2013     Still Newts
71 Smooth Newts in my pond late this evening.

09 June 2013     No buts
We strolled around the wood on this warm(ish), dry and almost sunny day, admiring all the recently cleared cants now full of wildflowers – but no butterflies. In fact, not many flying insects of any sort, including even Houseflies. Very odd.

We rebuilt the Andy Goldsworthy-style Deer-guard around BC’s Rowan, adding a few nails for the base layers this time. Carried down some more Ash logs from above the Middle East Cant to the woodyard, and sat in the conservatory to recover.

08 June 2013     Whitby’s Shard
We attended the unveiling of Whitby’s new war memorial at the Dock End, a magnificent shard of green Norwegian quartzite standing on a plinth of Yorkshire sandstone. A fitting memorial to the King of Norway’s connection with what used to be the Green Howards (now the Yorkshire Regiment).

Drove over the Hamer moor road to the village of Rosedale Abbey to buy a Gilles Jones glass vase, toured the last remnant of Rosedale’s Abbey (a spiral stair pillar) and had our 3 o’clocks in the village bakery tea garden.

06 Jun 2013     Grass again
SA and MD continued skilled joinery work on the roof panels of the new side wall of the polebarn. The frame is complete, the pamels are cut, now we just need some pond liner to cover them and some guttering brackets…

I spent almost 2 hours this afternoon cutting the lawns and also the (overgrown) path around the wood. 80 Smooth Newts this evening.

05 June 2013     Rather special
Today we escorted T and C across the moors via the Delves and the hamer road to Rosedale Abbey, stopping frequently to search the moortop for birds. Star of the show was a magnificent  Golden Plover which landed on open ground next to our parked cars. It strutted its stuff, in all its eye-catching golden finery, which still camoflaged it perfectly against the grasses and Heather stems. Wow! [A few days later a superb photo of it arrived by email from EEJ himself, thank you very much indeed T]!

An excellent farewell lunch at the Blacksmith’s Arms in Hartoft and they drove South and West while we returned Northwards. Late that evening I counted 61 Smooth Newts in my pond.

04 June 2013     RSPB Bempton Cliffs
With T and C to Bempton for a morning of seabirds. Something like 250,000 birds cram every ledge and their sounds and smells flood the senses. We can’t do 1 million migrating Wildebeast in this country, but we can do very impressive seabird colonies as the UK’s contribution to wildlife spectaculars.

92 Smooth Newts after we got back from a very good meal at The Postgate in Egton Bridge, but this time no Short Eared Owl on the way home.

03 June 2013     A ton of Newts
With T and C to Danby, Danby Beacon, Oakley Walls and the pretty way home down the Esk Valley. Moorland birds included Cuckoo, Red Grouse, Wheatear, Lapwing, Curlew, Snipe, Golden Plover and a Redstart. Excellent, although the numbers were low.

SA and MD had completed the framework of the 18 inch wide side extention to the Polebarn (to keep the rain off the 16 inch logs to be stacked there) and improved the roof design.

Late that evening EEJ (who better as a wildlife witness?!) and I counted a grand total and all time record of 102 Smooth Newts in my pond. Woopee!

02 June 2003     Falling Foss
We took T and C past Doves Nest Farm, site of the proposed new Potash Mine, to Maybecks and then for lunch at Falling Foss. True to form, T identified a Garden Warbler singing loudly beside the car park.

We counted 68 Smooth Newts in my pond, loafing on submerged leaf tips as well as on the shallow ledge around the edge.

01 June 2013     Annual visitors
Delighted to welcome T and CJ back on their regular migration. Now for a bit of proper birding!

May 2013 Weather
A few days of very heavy rain during the month. The rainfall for the month was 86 mm / 3.5 inches. The maximum temperature during the month was 22 degrees C / 71 degrees F and the minimum was 2 degrees C / 34 degrees F. At 09.30am on the 1st day of the following month the actual temperature was 12 degrees C / 54 degrees F.

 31 May 2013     Best day of the year
Suddenly, it’s summer. It’s hot. It’s dry. It’s sunny. About bloody time! The BUR family reported several Row Deer with young in the wood.

SA and MD worked on the 4 new legs of the polebarn extension. BC bought 4 Tumbling Tom Tomato plants from Perry’s Plants at the River Gardens and put them into the veranda growbags.

30 May 2013      Wet again
Wet and horrid again, all day. 68 Newts this evening.

29 May 2013     SA returns
Back to Yorkshire from his US trip, but returning to a very wet England. 57 Newts this evening.

28 May 2013     Prepare to build
With MD and his trailer to the builders’ merchants in Ruswarp to but tannalised timber for the polebarn extension.

65 Smooth Newts this evening.

27 May 2013     Stove out, Future Heat on – drum roll
Last night was the first time this year that it was warm enough to do without the woodburner, so I let it go out overnight. This morning, when the room had cooled a little, I was surprised that the super new Fischer Future Heat radiator (fitted months ago) had finally sprung into life! Win some, lose some!

I collected the bits of rope, chain, bolts and spanner which I have been collecting, walked to the top of the Middle East cant, and connected them to the drums of Cherry. It was child’s play to connect the bits, roll a drum down to the woodyard, dismantle and carry the reins back up for the next one. Which way to the Patent Office, please?

Walked up and through the North West Territory, almost inpenetrable, to discover a land flowing with red, white and blue as the Red Campion, Wood Anemone and Bluebells carpet the woodland floor. Dropped my good secateurs and belt holster as I clambered to get out! Still missing…

55 Smooth Newts this evening.

26 May 2013     Planting and basking
Warm, bright and sunny, so we did a little planting (Peas) and then had a little rest in the veranda. Then planted a few Sprouts and Baby Sweet Cord – and then had another little rest. Then had lunch and another little rest. Then walked up to check on Gnorman in the wood, carried down a couple of bits of Hazel cordwood – and had another little rest. Then planted Swedes and Parsnips, put the Tomatoes into the growbags in the yard – and had another little rest. I think we may have found the answer to this lack of energy thingy.

24 May 2013     White horses
A wild Northerly gale arrived, making the view from Whitby’s West Cliff quite spectacular. Colder, so back to soup n sandwich for lunch. A Great Spotted Woodpecker visited the Peanun feeder opposite the kitchen windows. We gathered some kindling and carried a few more logs from the woodyard to the house.

The Daffodils are all over now, the Apple blossom has survived the gale (so far),  the Leeks have taken and the rows of Spuds are all showing. 47 Smooth Newts in my pond last night.

23 May 2013     Neverest windows
My least-favourite double glazing company’s windows required more mortar around the frames (as it keeps falling out every few years). Luckily I have now found someone local who knows how to do this properly, so no need to call the original manufacturers and installers back yet again again again.

22 May 2013     Split, carry, saw and stack
MD carried down lots of Ash to the woodyard, then BC and I joined in as well. We removed the tarp tent over the stack near the Middle East Cant, split some of the fatter logs with wedge and sledge hammer, then carried them down to add to the West Cord or the Lower East wall of the Woodshed. The original stack is now less than half its original size, while there is nearly a cord of Ash seasoning for next winter in the Woodyard.

The male Great Spotted Woodpecker visited the Peanut feeder in the yard, one of its few appearances so far this year.

21 May 2013     Grass cutting
By lunchtime the grass had dried off and I had gathered enough energy to do a couple of hours of mowing.


19 May 2013     Introducing Gnorman
Once upon a time there was a special offer on Gnomes in Homebase, so we bought one – on a swing. He is now swinging (and looking a bit dodgy) from a young Oak tree in the South West corner of the wood, reminding us of Norman Vaughan, so we christened him Gnorman. Obvious, innit? [NB: Perhaps it is the delirium of this horrid cold & cough, which we have had for about 2 weeks now?]

We planted out the Broad Beans and the Runner Beans today, and that seems to have been all we were capable of… [NB: See above].

18 May 2013     Wet
Heavy and continuous overnight rain added another 1 inch of rain, making a total so far this month of 2 inches. Since this almost fills the new rain guage, 2 inches was tipped out to leave room for any more rain this month…

First Swift flew over the garden this evening. By 11pm there were 57 Smooth Newts in my pond.

17  May 2013     Cuckoo and Smokies
The Cuckoo was calling again in the wood this morning. What a lovely call!

We thought a bit of sea air might do our colds some good, so went to Sandside Cafe for lunch. A cold wind but their Sandsend Smokies (Smoked Haddock in cheese sauce)helped a lot.

59 Smooth Newts in my pond late this evening (air 10 degrees C).

16 May 2013      New Newt record
At 10pm this evening there were 73 Smooth Newts in my pond (air temperature 7 degrees C). If only they had been Trombones…

15 May 2013     Sawn and estimated
MD sawed up the Ash in the woodyard, into either cord lengths for stacking or firelogs for the woodshed. It rained after lunch so we discussed the new Southern side-wall for the polebarn, worked out how to construct it and what of and how much of it and the cost. It looks like for not too much money we can build a framework of not-really-tannalised timber fairly easily this summer to keep the rain off next winter’s firewood.

60 Smooth Newts at 11pm this evening.

14 May 2013     Grass and Newts
I spent an hour cutting the grass this morning, and it was a very long hour.

59 Smooth Newts in my pond at 11pm (air 7 degrees C).

13 May 2003     Gas Sweep Gas
The gasman cameth to Groves Dyke, then the chimney sweep and the the gas man returneth, so all is well for another year.

12 May 2013     More Newts
57 Smooth Newts in my pond at 11.30pm (air 11 degrees C).

11 May 2013     First Cuckoo
First Cuckoo heard calling up in the wood early this morning. The first for this year and indeed, the first for several years. 30 Smooth Newts in my pond this morning (13 degrees C air temperature).

I gathered my strength and drove to Sandsend for a 50 yard walk on the pavement and a few lungfuls of ozone-laden sea air. Maybe that will clear my head a bit. If not, I may try unscrewing it… Strange how snatches of the great poets keep running through my mind:

It was a cough that carried him off. It was a coffin they carried him off in.

10 May 2013     Wetter
Still 13 Smooth Newts this morning (air 13 degrees C), as well as 1/3 of an inch of rain in the rain gauge over the past couple of days – which is 3 times more than in the whole of last month.

At 10pm the air temperature was down to 8 degrees C but there were still 52 Smooth Newts in my pond. So much for ‘balmy evenings’.

09 May 2013     Oak wins
Still 24 Smooth Newts in my pond at 9am.

In the annual race between the Major Oak and the Leaning Ash, the Oak has come into leaf first and is declared the winner by several heights. We must therefore predict that ‘Oak before Ash – only a splash’. (One really ought to look back for the results of last year’s race, since last year turned out to be the 2nd wettest year on record in the UK)…

By 10pm there were a mere 48 Smooth Newts in my pond.

08 May 2013     Newt night
Cooler, but presumably the water temperature is still balmy. There were 22 Smooth Newts at 9am (ish). For the evening count there were 67, which I think is an all time record number for my pond.

This afternoon a Sparrowhawk circled the wood and garden, dangling either its legs or a delicious morsel, in a very clear territorial display.

Having survived a long hard winter unscathed, I’ve now decided to develop a stinker of a cold and a rib-cracking cough. Quarintine time (and nothing whatever to do with Newt watching).

07 May 2013     Newts again
Still 21 Smooth Newts in my pond this morning about 9am. Then 53 at 10.30pm.

06 May 2013     Grass n Newts
I spent 1.5 hours cutting the grass this morning but it was a bit hot for anything so energetic. After lunch B counted 6 Smooth Newts in my pond and then we sat and tried out the new chairs in the veranda again, while watching a distant Sparrowhawk circling high over somebody else’s wood.

By 10pm there were 56 Smooth Newts in my pond. This is the best time of year for Newt surveys as they gather to mate. They usually choose ‘a balmy evening in May’ and can be counted by torchlight around the shallow edges of any pond.

05 May 2013     More green than brown
Good to see that most of the trees in the wood are now a more hopeful colour, except the Major Oak is still slightly ahead of the mostly brown Leaning Ash. We walked around the wood, surprised at all the twigs strewn across the path by last month’s strong winds. Gathered lots of long-dead Ash twigs for kindling, but hopeful that it may not be needed for several months…

Watched a Treecreeper spiral up a Cherry tree below the Orchid Glade, then heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming near the Major Oak. By midday it was 19 degrees C in the diningroom (as usual) and 19 degrees (and rising) outside – by far the hottest day of the year. After planting the Leeks (from Grasmere garden centre) we sat in the veranda and just basked in our new ‘American lounge chairs (from Hayes Garden Centre, Ambleside). Coffee. Bask. Ice cream. Bask. Coffee. Bask. First House Martin flew over the house and a Green Woodpecker yaffled from further up the drive.

04 May 2013     Almost…
Nice to see that Whitby and the North York Moors is a week or two ahead of the lake District, as far as Spring is concerned. The Hawthorn hedges are now in full leaf here, but not quite started around Ambleside. The other Great Truth is that we are the driest National Park in England, while t’Lakes is the wettest. Three of four wet and showery days in Ambleside – but not a drop of rain here. NB: Must water the veg beds.

Put seed back into the bird feeder on the spatio today and by afternoon the cock Pheasant was perched on top – presumably where he sat when it ran out last week.

03 May 2013     Back again
Just back from a week in t’Lakes, with lots of catching up to do over the next few days…

Highlights included: Faireyland Tea Garden (Grasmere); Cote How Tea Garden (Rydal Water); Giggling Goose Cafe (Ambleside); Brambles Cafe (Chapelstile); Matthew’s Bistro (Ambleside) – not to mention all the lovely footpaths and back roads in between!

April 2013 Weather
A very dry month. Started cold and windy, then a severe gale, then gradually warming up. The rainfall for the month was 2.5 mm / 0.1 inches. The maximum temperature during the month was 19 degrees C / 66 degrees F and the minimum was -4 degrees C / 25 degrees F. At 09.30am on the 4rd day of the following month the actual temperature was 10 degrees C / 50 degrees F.

26 April 2013     Drumming
As we sat in the conservatory (26 degrees C) with the door open, we were able to hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming somewhere just behind the woodshed. He seemed to be trying out different bits of various trees, to find the best reverberation – but then gave up and went quiet. This is only the 2nd time this year that I’ve heard this once everyday species.

Bright and sunny but with a cool wind and then the odd hail shower in late afternoon.

24 April 2013     Spuds in
This afternoon we raked over the new lower bed and planted 3 rows of Desiree potatoes (main crop). Hopefully, they won’t get blighted this year… We also scattered several small packets of wild flower mix on the middle bed, since it includes Clover, which should be almost as good as planting legumes to replace the Nitrogen in the soil – and less delicious to Deer and Rabbits.

Birds song all around, including Great Tit, Song Thrush, Wren and Robin. The Sycamore leaves are just beginning to show green and the Major Oak appears to be just ahead of the Leaning Ash. Several Tadpoles were sunning themselves on the sunny shelf in my pond, so at least a few have survived the ice.

23 April 2013     Double dug
Two hours of strimming and all the lawns have been cut at least once this year, also the woodyard and the path around the wood.

Then finish double digging the new spud bed, which nearly finished me as well.

21 April 2013     Double dig
We started on the new Potato patch near the beck, double digging to bury the upsidedown turfs under another spade-depth of (rather clay) soil. About half of the 8 foot by 4 foot patch was more than enough for today, thank-you – but we did plant the first row of Leeks in the top bed, and scatter some wild flower seeds in the middle bed. Hopefully, these 3 beds outwith the veg plot vermin-proof fence, will be unattractive to Rabbits, Deer and Wood Pigeon…

20 April 2013     Basking at Bay
We decided, as we sat on a sheltered bench overlooking Robin Hood’s Bay, that it must have been March 2012 since we were last able to just sit and bask in the sun. After that heatwave, the 2nd wettest summer on record was followed by a long and miserable winter with weeks if not months of cold, cloudy weather and that awful nithering wind that just never stopped until a few days ago.  So we made the most of it and just sat and basked and admired Ravenscar a bit longer.

After lunch at the Victoria Hotel in Baytown, we dug over the top bed by the beck and finished painting the bathroom door.

19 April 2013     Vegging in
After changing-over the holiday cottage we planted the first of this year’s Shallots, Red Onions and Potatoes. ‘Nicola’ Second Earlies this time, which may crop before any Potato Blight this year!

17 April 2013     Two day summer?
Oh dear. Back to cooler, wetter and overcast weather again. The pair of Siskins left the Nigerseed feeder in the yard and moved around to the spatio seed feeder today. Brought down a couple of trugs of firelogs, now that the woodburner is required again.

In my pond almost all the Frogspawn has vanished (Sunk? Decomposed?) leaving just enough healthy-looking spawn to fill a school pudding plate.

16 April 2013     First grass-cutting
Dry and very windy again, but at least from a less damaging SW direction. Spent 2 hours giving the grass its first cut of the season. Let battle commence!

15 April 2013     Leading and sawing
MB brought down another 5 loads of Ash and Cherry from the Middle East Cant (new name for the East Cant!) down to the woodyard. After lunch BC and I joined in and we all bowsawed and occasionally used the non-sexist 2-person crosscut saw for the thicker Cherry logs, to get them straight (just one ‘h’ please) under cover in the woodshed.

The warmer weather has brought the First Blackcap (a summer migrant and occasional over-winterer) into reappearing in the garden and feeding on the spatio fatballs.

‘Hello’ to our US delegation!

14 April 2013     Given the choice…
Having had months of cold Easterly winds and gales, last night and today we had a Southerly gale. Just as windy, but now we are being buffetted by a warm wind for a change. A vast improvement, after months of existing in ‘Survival Mode’. At one point it was actually a whole 17 degrees C today – almost tropical. The 3 very last patches of snow on Sleights Moor edge, and visible from the house, have finally melted away after weeks and weeks if not months and months.

We kept clear of the big trees as the warm wind howled around us and gleaned a bit more firewood and kindling for next winter from the big piles of Ash brash. The East Hazel cant is just beginning to bud. Then I dug over a veg bed for the Potatoes while BC planted this year’s Onions.

First Chiffchaff calling up in the wood, First Bumblebee flew / was blown across the patio at high speed, and a Wren by the pond. Below the stone seat Primroses and Daisies are blooming, while the triangle of big pale Daffs are just starting to flower in Groves Dyke garden.

13 April 2013     Double figures!
Today, for the very first time this year, the temperature rose above 10 degrees C. In fact, it went up to 14 degrees Centigrade, which is almost a heatwave these days. It was November 2012 when we were last above 10 degrees – 4 months ago! We celebrated with lunch at the Shepherds Hall in Lealholm and a very pleasant walk around the village. Saw 2 Lapwing on the moortop on Sleights Moor.

Then we finished sawing all the Cherry logs in the woodyard and stacking the resulting firelogs into the woodshed.

12 April 2013     Foggy
Cool and foggy. MD explored the far North West Slope in search of well-seasoned Hawthorn, then brought down 5 barrow loads of Cherry from just above the East Hazel cant. BC sawed and sawed and sawed Cherry into firelogs to get it under cover again asap, while I changed-over the cottage. Just a ‘Trace’ of rain today, the month’s total for April so far…

11 April 2013     Cool but sunny
A 15-minute bird count produced: Great Tit 4, Blue Tit 2, Dunnock 2, Blackbird 1, Chaffinch 1, Coal Tit 1, Long Tail Tit 1, Tree Sparrow 1, Robin 1, Wood Pigeon 1. Equals 15 individuals of 10 species. 9.30 – 9.45. 7/8 cloud cover, high cloud, dry and calm.

10 April 2013     Almost pleasant

A very welcome warm, dry and pleasant day. BC, MD and I carried down lots and lots of Ash and then Cherry from just above the East Hazel cant. The Ash was sawn into 4 foot cord lengths, or 16 inch fire logs, and the Cherry all into firelogs and stacked in the woodshed. After lunch we split the 16 inch Cherry drums into flogs and carried them down for stacking. A good day and a good day’s work (but tiring).

08 Apr 2013     To York
Lovely day out in York, taking a passenger to a train, a donation to Macmillan for selling Unqiue Walking Sticks, and then doing the tourist thing of enjoying York itself.

Back home again and at dusk, KR and I watched a fine young Roebuck which strolled out from under the Willow Arch, stepped over the yat stead, stood in the woodyard and then wandered off past the stone seat.

07 Apr 2013     Dryzabone
An almost Springlike day but still with a sneaky (cold) wind. We pottered out of doors again today, sweeping-out the conservatory, potting-up Strawberry plants, tidying away broken roof tiles, rebuilding the Goldsworthy Deerguard and carrying down some long lengths of Ash from near the East Cant for next winter’s firewood. The paths around the wood are now bone dry, thanks to a month of the dry easterly wind. Doubtless the fire risk is now very high, as the good folk of Fort William discovered last week.

06 Apr 2013     Strawberryfields forever
After making the Twigwam more Twigwam-shaped (new string), BC weeded the Strawberry bed while I replanted the escaped Raspberry plants into a better place.

05 Apr 2013     Strawberry fields
BC dug out most of the Strawberry plants while I changed-over Groves Dyke. SA walked down for lunch to exercise his ankle and BC gave him a lift home afterwards.

03 Apr 2013     Coastal guide
We had a lovely day out, taking IJ and lots of boxes of Whitby Guidebooks up the coast. Dry and sunny but still a chilly easterly wind. Coffee at Ruswick Bay, a potter around Staithes and then up to Saltburn for a nice lunch at The Ship Inn. Good view of the 3 rows of brand new wind turbines being constructed just off Redcar.

This evening I got up to close my sittingroom curtains, only to startle the 2 Roe Deer which were standing just outside on the spatio (possibly hoovering up the fallen birdseed from the feeding station?).

02 Apr 2013     Siskins back
No overnight frost for the first time in weeks and my pond was NOT frozen over this morning. Nice change. A pair of Siskins were feeding on the Niger seed and a 15-minute bird count gave: Blackbird 3, Blue Tit 3, Dunnock 3, Longtail Tit 2, Robin 2, Tree Sparrow 2, Wood Pigeon 2, Chaffinch 1, Coal Tit 1, Nuthatch 1. (9.15 – 9.30. 7/8 cloud cover, Bright cloud, light air, dry). 1 pair Collared Doves later.

01 Apr 2013     Spring visitor
Delighted to welcome IJ back to Whitby for her 20th year of holidaying here.

March 2013 Weather
This month will long be remembered as the coldest March since 1963, but with an almost continuous (and very cold) Easterly wind, up to gale force and very dry. The rainfall (including sleet and melted snow) for the month was 75 mm / 2.1 inches. The maximum temperature during the month was 8 degrees C / 47 degrees F and the minimum was -6 degrees C / 19 degrees F. At 09.30am on the first day of the following month the actual temperature was 3 degrees C / 38 degrees F.

31 Mar 2013     Spring forward
Another clear frosty night followed by a clear sunny day, with almost no wind. We walked around the wood and transplanted another 3 little trees from self-sown and less suitable places (eg my front lawn) to the cleared Blackthorn area along the eastern side of the wood. While we had the spade up there, we also dug JW’s Story of Life statue back to the vertical. Heard a Green Woodpecker yaffling in the wood and saw lots of deer slots in the now well-dried ground.

30 Mar 2013     Spring hopes eternal
Frosty last night but then bright, sunny and almost warm today – up to 9 degrees C at one point. The lazy east wind has almost gone but there were a couple of light snow flurries. A thin cover of ice on my pond by mid-morning but BC noticed 2 Newts loafing on the submerged ledge a few inches below the surface. By midday both ice and Newts had vanished. A Green Woodpecker yaffled from the wood.

We transplanted 5 young trees which had self-seeded in the lawn or the veg patch last summer. They are now within the 2 hurdle pens near the eastern boundary where SA and MD removed almost all the Blackthorn spinny 2 (or 3?) winters ago. When they get big enough the extra Oaks and Hazels will help to shade-out the Blackthorn regrowth.

Cleared the leaves from the drain alongside the drive and sawed the Willow from the Twigwam into firelogs and stacked them in the woodshed to form the first layer of next winter’s firewood. Unaccustomed as we are to outdoor work over the last few weeks (months?) of bad weather, we were surprised just how tired we were.

29 Mar 2013     Less awful
The sun shone this morning and the nithering Easterly wind dropped to a slight breeze, so we celebrated by drinking coffee on the veranda. But not for long, as the occasional snow shower fell and instantly melted on contact with the ground.

Even the layer of ice on my pond has melted today, leaving the poor ole Frogspawn uncovered for the first time in ages. Wonder if it has survived? We had a nice day off, pottering about in Pickering (less sunny and colder than here), bofore returning to find the conservatory had warmed in the sun to a pleasant 60 degrees F.

A pair of Siskins, the first sighting for weeks, were feeding on the Niger seed. The guests in Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage reported seeing 2 Roe Deer as they walked around the wood this morning.

28 Mar 2013     Sun!
This morning we had the first sun for what feels like weeks. Good to know that it is still there.

27 Mar 2013     Less windy
The strong perishing east wind has lost some of its strength and the temperature rose to 3 degrees C so the occasional snow shower just melted away. Five Robins co-existed amicably around the spatio feeder.

SA and MD patrolled the wood and soon noticed that the unpleasant easterlies have actually dried out the ground considerably. Even the lower half of the eastside path has improved. We transferred the barrel full of mini-logs to a couple of black plastic trays (labelled ‘Algarve Lettuce’).

25 Mar 2013     Twice as warm
This morning the temperature was +2 degrees C, which is twice as warm as yesterday (+1 degree C). The wind has eased a bit as well, which also helps. Apart from refilling trugs with firelogs, we made another gallon of Leaky Potato soup for the freezer.

This morning a 15-minute count of the feeding station produced: Blackbirds 3, Blue Tit 3, Coal Tit 2, Great Tit 2, Pheasant 2, Chaffinch 1, Dunnock 1, Marsh Tit 1, Robin 1, Tree Sparrow 1 (17 individuals of 10 species). 8/8 cloud, 2 degrees C, Dry with occasional snow flurries, cold E wind Force 4. Too early or late for the 15-minute window were Goldfinch 1 (on the Niger Seed feeder) and Great Spotted Woodpecker 1.

24 Mar 2013     White tops
Still blowing a gale from the SE, but dry and still no snow here – unlike the rest of the country which has had 12 foot high snowdrifts and power cuts (NB: NOT ‘outages’, thank-you).

On our way to Lealholm for lunch we noticed the white tops of the catkins on the field of short-rotation Willow coppice alongside the A171, with the white tops of the North Sea in the background. Nice lunch with A&RJ at Egton Bridge, as the Lealholm pub was full.

23 Mar 2013     From Siberia to Sleights
Very very cold wind, gale force, from the East. A drive along the West Cliff in Whitby showed just how rough it is. Wonder if the nice new beach huts have been put out yet? If so, I suspect they don’t exist any more! The temperature remains a degree or two just above or below zero, but with the wind chill it feels like a great deal less.

Bought 2 peat-free growbags (£1.99 each from Lidl) and put them on the veranda wall to start warming up (ha!) for the Tomatoes… Painted the last bit of the new bathroom, then made a gallon of Leaky Potato soup for the freezer, including a few of our own Leaks freshly dug from the veg plot.

22 Mar 2013     Bitter
SA patrolled the wood while I did the change-over in Groves Dyke. Lots of Deer tracks at the top bridge and the paths fairly dry except from the East Cant downwards. BC arrived for lunch and afterwards we filled the trugs with firelogs to keep the home fires burning.

21 Mar 2013     Sunny
Nice to have the occasional dry, sunny day to report.

20 Mar 2013     Spring Equinox
No, it doesn’t feel like it, does it? SA came for lunch and with BC filled a few trugs with flogs afterwards. Snow overnight, but only on Sleights Moor.

19 Mar 2013     Deliveries
To Pickering, with SA and several boxes of this year’s Whitby Guidebook.

18 Mar 2013     Bathroom finished
Heard a Yaffle yaffling up in the wood. One thing I haven’t heard is any Woodpecker drumming this spring. After dark AD and I counted 18 Frogs cavorting in my pond.

16 Mar 2013     Downsettle
After all the upheaval of the past 3 weeks, we had a nice day off today – delivering boxes of the just-printed Whitby Guidebook 2013. The River Gardens in Sleights, Victoria Farm Garden Centre (lunch), Danby Moors Centre (met the brilliant photographer and poet Phil Cornealius at his exhibition there: ”Just take me up on the moor where the dogs lie, Give me a smile and throw me away.’), Shepherd’s Hall in Lealholm (3 o’clocks), Broom House Hotel and the Geall’s Gallery & Cafe in Grosmont.

Still a fair bit of snow lying beyond Lealholm, with the remains of drifts at every wall back.

15 Mar 2013     Wintry showers
While the new flooring went down in our new bathroom, SA walked around the wood and then sawed flogs in the polebarn, converting some of the Hazel pollards from the Mid-west Cant into next winter’s fuel.

He noticed that the upper Rowan was leaning and its deer guard partly collapsed. Lots of Roe Deer and/or possibly Badger tracks just above the top bridge, where the old fenceline was removed. Most of the paths around the wood have dried out, except for the lower half of the east side. Perhaps it is time to clear out my top neighbour’s drain again.

13 March 2013     More snow
Heavy snow showers on and off during the day, but it was thawing almost as fast as it fell. A different story in Whitby (3 miles away) where the snow fell thick until it was a couple of inches deep.

My nice new super-clever electric heater was fitted this morning by Fischer Future Heat UK and brought this morning from Leicester. It will keep my kitchen-diningroom-snug at a steady minimum temperature (18 degrees minimum by day and 15 degrees minimum by night), to be topped-up as required by the woodburner. The poor ole stove was far more than adequate for the kitchen-diner, but has struggled to cope once the wall was knocked-through to include the snug as well. Two room good, three rooms bad.

SA arrived for lunch and we loaded up all trigs and barrow with more fuel.

12 March 2013     Frozen frogspawn
Hard frost overnight and the freshly laid Frogspawn was under an inch of ice this morning. Wonder if it will survive? Frequent snow showers throughout the day. BC continued painting our new bathroom.

A 15-minute bird count on the feeders produced: Dunnock 4, Robin 4, Blackbird 3, Great Tit 3, Blue Tit 2, Tree Sparrow 2, Collared Dove 1, Marsh Tit 1, Pheasant 1. Total 21 individuals of 9 species. 6/8 cloud, Force 3 NE, 83% relative humidity. Snowing and thawing.

Too late for the count were, Song Thrush 1, Coal Tit 1 and 5 Longtailed Tit but the highlight of the day was a passing Goldcrest which hopped about the Cotoneaster next to the seed feeder, presumably attracted by the motley flock of assorted species actually using the feeding station.

11 March 2013      Snow
Snow this morning, before the very last scraps had melted from the last lot several weeks ago. The Coastliner bus from York got through after a few delays for a rolled-over car on the descent to Goathland.

All roads are open and passable, but with a bit of care!

10 March 2013     Painting
Cold and windy with occasional snowflakes. We bought some more paint and began painting our nice new bathroom in Groves Bank. (The one in Groves Dyke was brought into the 21st Century a few years ago). Goodbye to the 1950s cast iron bath and Hello to a nice modern bathroom!

09 March 2013     Theory meets Reality
Yorkshire Cottages Agency has been doing a great job, bringing in lots of nice new Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage bookings via their super easy website with instant booking. But behind their easy website they do have a very complicated system of dates and prices, which I had decided to match for anyone wanting to book the old fashioned way via me, phone and Royal Mail. Their instant online system may well be automated, with a spreadsheet calculating every possible combination of date, price, discounts and Special Offers – but our poor brains struggled with the correct price of the very first short break cum Special Offer of the season!

Don’t worry, we managed it and we now have a better understanding of how to do the next one…

08 March 2013     Last logs
Early Frogsong this morning. Mild and mizzly. A 15-minute bird count at the feeders produced: Great Tit 4, Blackbird 3, Blue Tit 3, Robin 3, Tree Sparrow 2, Bullfinch 1 male, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Marsh Tit 1. Equals 19 individuals of 9 species.

BC sawed the very last of last winter’s logs (felled in the winter of 2011/12) into flogs (fire logs) for burning this winter (2012/13), while I went to a meeting.

A lovely male Sparrowhawk (Sprawk to his admirers) chased a Wood Pigeon by the feeding station this afternoon. A bit ambitious, really, as it got away.

07 March 2013     First Frogs
Work in our bathroom continues, when KR (the joiner) noticed the First Frogspawn in our pond.

At 11pm there were some 22 Frogs all purring away frantically in our pond.

06 March 2013     Esk Valley Railway
I had a nice train ride up the valley to Middlesbrough and back. There are still a few scraps of snow above Castleton and Commondale.

For more information about the 4 return trains every day between Middlesbrough and Whitby, the extended Sunday service starting later this month, the brand new railway station to serve James Cook Hospital and the proposed reopening of the second platform at Whitby station, see

03 March 2013     Holiday cottage
Since our new bathroom in Groves Bank wasn’t quite finished while we were away, we just moved next door and stayed at Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage instead. We’ve never stayed here before, but it’s very nice!

Gave the Twigwam a serious prune, completely removing all the stems thicker than 2 inches. This now leaves a circular fringe of skinny stems, which we can trim more carefully before pulling all the tops together again. The offcuts provided quite a bit of cordwood for next winter, lots of weavong poles for the new side on the polebarn, and lots of lop and top to add to the bonfire. Phew and Collapse!

01 Mar 2013     Home again
Just back from a holiday in Edinburgh (very nice thank-you) and still catching up…

February 2013 Weather
A wet start to the month, then dry and very cold. The rainfall (including sleet and melted snow) for the month was 2.6 mm / 1 inche. The maximum temperature during the month was 10 degrees C / 50 degrees F and the minimum was -7 degrees C / 20 degrees F. At 09.30am on the first day of the following month the actual temperature was 6 degrees C / 42 degrees F.

20 Feb 2013     Woodland patrol
SA, BC and Me had a stroll around the wood to admire the Ash Brash and the Ditch Dig, both of which are very impressive. We continued the circuit and carried down a few bits of Cherry to the woodyard, to start the first cord of next winter’s fuel supply. The woodshed is still more than half full, even after we carried a few trug and barrow-fulls to the cars and a few more to the conservatory.

New bath and basin due this afternoon…

19 Feb 2013     Unusual visitor
A Tree Sparrow joined the assortment of small birds using my new patio seed feeder, the first one I have seen here for months, if not years.

18 Feb 2013     Dawn chorus
This morning there was a recognisable dawn chorus for almost the first time this year. Another glimmer of Spring…

I proofread and returned the 2013 Whitby Guidebook (see ) today. Later CR, KR and CN called in to discuss the joinery and plumbing required for our new bathroom in Groves Bank. OK so far. What can possibly go wrong…?

17 Feb 2013     Ditching again
Frosty overnight but then a lovely, dry, sunny and mild spring day. Maximum of 10 degrees C by late lunchtime. We cleared out the top neighbour’s ditch again, starting above our side neighbour’s field and then working upstream and across the slope, and all the way across the top of our wood to near the viewpoint. Lots of mini leaf blockages due to fallen twigs, branches and his fence posts, rails and netting wire. Hard work but well worth doing, as anywhere the ditch is blocked the water finds an unofficial route sideways to run down the hill and through the wood, alongside the garden and under Woodlands Drive to the River Esk.

16 Feb 2013     Scar face visor
We went to Scarborough (AKA Scarboro AKA Scar) to buy BC a nice new face visor from B and Q to avoid any facial injuries while splitting logs…

15 Feb 2013     Overall progress
SA gleaned some more firewood from the Ash brash while I went to Scarboro to see a man about a tooth.

14 Feb 2013     What blizzard?
Yesterday’s blizzard was but a distant memory this morning. Hardly any snow and almost calm again, but raining. It seems that it was really a warm front, but the rain on the leading edge was falling through cold air and falling on cold ground. Overnight almost all the snow was washed away by the rain, the wind dropped and by lunchtime it was warm and sunny.

13 Feb 2013     Nithering Ash brash
SA and MD worked in bitterly cold wind to glean some more firewood from the lop and top of the felled ash tree. Hot soup was required to thaw them out, load cars with firelogs and get everyone away before the snow got serious.

By mid-afternoon there was a full scale blizzard and all meetings were cancelled as everyone battened down the hatches. At Goathland the school bus had to stay on the main A169 high above the village while a couple of parents in 4x4s took over an hour to ferry the pupils down to the village and home.

12 Feb 2013     New ‘Book Sale’ page
Today I added yet more of my surplus and duplicate natural history books to my new Book Sale page on this website (> Other > Book Sale), including serveral First Editions and a few Signed by the Author. One day all my books may yet fit inside my bookcases, rather than overflowing across the floors – and even into Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage next door.

My prices include P&P within the UK and reflect the fact that I do not offer Loss leaders at 99p for Data Capture and endless span reasons, I do not lease my logo from my other company in Switzerland and I do not move my profits offshore, but I do pay normal UK taxes and I do value my once favourite books.

10 Feb 2013     Wet
A 15-minute bird count from our diningroom gave: Blackbird 2, Dunnock 2, Nuthatch 2, Robin 2, Bullfinch 1 male, Blue Tit 1, Coal Tit 1, Great Tit 1, Long Tail Tit 1, Pheasant 1. (14 birds of 10 species). 8/8 cloud cover, 4.2 degrees C, 95% Relative Humidity, Calm and mizzling.

09 Feb 2013     First veranda
Frosty but calm, dry and sunny. We drove to the top of Danby Beacon (once we were off the main roads, very gingerly on the ice) and had a short walk to admire the view. Still lots of snow at 1000 feet above sea level, but all very pretty. Saw 1 Red Grouse but saw lots of Rabbit tracks. Avoided Poverty Hill (too steep and icy) as we drove into Danby for lunch at Stonehouse Bakery. Busy! Overflowing with walkers and bikers, with some eating out of doors in the bright sun. Enjoyed our usual toasted tomato bread with pate.

Once home again we walked around the wood, admired SA’s and MD’s handiwork in the Mid-west Hazel Cant, un-brashed one Hazel stool to see what happens when Roe Deer and Rabbits do eat the regrowth at ground level – will it force the regrowth to come from the top of the young pollard instead? We shall see…

Then we enjoyed our very first coffee on the veranda of 2013, with a hat to keep the sun out of my eyes. Very nice. And here’s to lots more veranda 3 o’clocks.

Two veg plots were forked-over (still completely saturated) and a blight-free growbag from last year’s tomatoes added to each.

08 Feb 2013     Brash and flog
SA and MD carried on pollarding the Mid-west Hazel Cant and after lunch BC and I sawed a bit more Hawthorn cordwood into firelogs in the polebarn. Raining. Then we threw the very last of last winter’s cordwood down to the polebarn and stacked it for another rainy day.

06 Feb 2013     Wintery showers
Bullfinch back on the new seed feeder again this morning.

Occasional hail showers with grey or even bright intervals between, but all a few degrees above freezing so nothing lying on the ground. SA and MD chain-sawed the remaining old polls from the Mid-west Hazel Cant, leaving the newer stem on each stool to sprout well above Roe Deer browsing height. Then they moved down to the woodyard and chain-sawed the thicker Hawthorn cordwood into firelogs for the woodshed.

After lunch they carried on, leaving the thinner ones for us to bow-saw to length. Then they went up to the top steps to cut the Ivy off a leaning Ash. We De-Brambled the South side of the polebarn, now that young S has removed the steels from the redundant cider-press. This will give us a chance to lay the old hedge (keeping all of its Honeysuckle) before adding a Yorkshire boarding side to keep the driving rain off.

04 Feb 2013     Indoors again
It’s just not nice out there. Nor was yesterday. So we did lots of indoor things instead.

02 Feb 2013     Day out
We drove to Pickering today. Some fresh snow on the moortops but a nice dry day on t’other side of the moor. We ordered our new bath as Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage has had its new one for several years now and ours in Groves Bank is at least 40 years old that I can vouch for. About time too!

Delighted to note that my sittingroom is noticably warmer, now that it has a full 12 inches of loft insulation.

01 Feb 2013     Black Run
Bright, dry, sunny and mild. SA and MD brought down the drums of Silver Birch on the bread tray sleigh, using the most direct route down through the trees. Quite exciting. Then SPS rang to say he was about to deliver 3 big dumpy bags of logs at SA’s, followed by 2 for me and then 4 for BC. That’s about 9 ton altogether. By late lunchtime the first 7 tons were all stacked away undercover and only a little bit still out under a temporary tarp.

1st Snowdrops flowering in Groves Dyke orchard. Then we all finished the Silver Birch and it too was all sledged, split and stacked in the woodshed. Very satisfying.

January 2013 Weather
Lots of cold and snow brought almost everything to a halt for a couple of weeks.
The rainfall (including sleet and melted snow) for the month was 84 mm / 3.3 inches. The maximum temperature during the month was 10 degrees C / 50 degrees F and the minimum was -9 degrees C / 16 degrees F. At 09.30am on the first day of the following month the actual temperature was 8 degrees C / 46 degrees F.

31 Jan 2013      Fully insulated
I finished insulating the sittingroom loft in Groves Bank, adding another 6 inches of fibre glass onto the 6 inches already there. Just a couple of steel office cabinets to empty of ancient Countryside Jobs Service receipts, etc and then I can rearrange them better and add even more insulation.

30 Jan 2013     First Dawn Chorus
Sunny, dry, mild and very windy. SA and MD and I choose a Silver Birch at the top of the Short Sharp Shock Path for felling and we soon had it felled, lopped and topped. They did all the chainsawing while I dragged the smaller bits away. By lunchtime it was in 16 inch drums and we began stacking them.

SR arrived to clear much of the veg (mostly Phragmites) from my pond and worked throughout the day, leaving about 25% where the hibernating Frogs, etc are.

Then the nice man from Fischer Future Heat UK arrived to survey Groves Bank and introduced the German concept of highly efficient 24/7 electric storage heaters which use 75% less electricity, thanks to better design and a remote and programmable digital thermostat. Interesting possibility…

SA and MD continued with the felled Silver Birch and then discovered along dead Oak lying in the beck gully. This was also ideal, some for firewood and some for woodturning, so they dragged the useful bits up out of the gully.

Bit of a busy day, but lots achieved by 3 o’clocks.

29 Jan 2013     First day out
My first day out of the dale in the past 2 or 3 weeks of snow and ice. Still lots of it on the moortop but the main road was completely clear. We swam in Pickering pool [pool!], had lunch in Russells and went to see a man in Coopers about a bath.

28 Jan 2013     Stable door
Now that the cold snap is over, I decided it was high time I laid the extra rolls of loft insulation in the Groves Bank loft (I had already done Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage loft well over a year ago). After prevaricating as long as possible, and doing all the other silly little jobs first, I finally got all the bits together and started work. It only took a bit over 1 hour and now the main house is even warmer and even snugger under 12 inches of fibre glass than it was under a mere 6 inches.

27 Jan 2013      Deliverance
Wet and windy last night as the warm front really arrived. Plus 7.3 degrees C this morning (the highest it has been for the past 2 weeks) and almost all the snow has gone from the garden. Still some snow on the far side of the dale and at the hedgebacks, but probably not for much longer.

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch today and a 1 hour count from 11.00 to midday produced: Blue Tit 4, Pheasant 4, Blackbird 3, Great Tit 3, Robin 2, Carrion Crow 1, Coal Tit 1, Fieldfare 1, Marsh Tit 1. Sunny and showers, Force 4 SW, 95% Relative Humidity. And not a single Dunnock in sight for a whole hour! Nor our usual party of Long Tailed Tit. BUT we did have the first Fieldfare so far this winter, which was nice. NB: The Dunnocks appeared about an hour too late to be counted!

Then we spent an hour sawing-up more of the Hawthorn cordwood and stacking it in the woodshed (which is now half full, with a 1/4 cord of Hawthorn still to saw). The Willow in Groves Dyke has a few catkins budding, the Daffs in the orchard have shoots 3 inches tall and some birds seem to have paired-up. Good thing there is a ‘glimmer of Spring’ on the horizon.

26 Jan 2013     Snow on the beach
Snowed overnight but this morning’s temperature of 5.9 degrees C was the highest for the past 2 weeks of snow and ice.

Cold but sunny so we went for a walk on the beach at Sandsend. A bit of ice on the pavement and the steps down, then a strip of snow-covered sand and then just sand where the sun shines and the tide laps. Lovely walk. Lunch in the newly extended Sandside Cafe, before returning home via a nice drive up to the top of Skelder Hill on the A171 Whitby to Guisborough road. The tarmac was all black but the snow is still piled as high as the fence and field wall tops, giving an idea of what it was like a few days ago (and probably still is like, just a few miles furher on.

Back home again to saw some of the Hawthorn cord into firelogs.

25 Jan 2013     Nithering
The end of this 2 weeks of cold and snow is finally in sight, with a warm front due this afternoon – but the leading edge will fall as heavy snow until everything gets above freezing tomorrow (ie thaw then floods).

SA arrived but MD phoned-in to say their side road was blocked with a ridge of snow left by the snowplough going past on the main road. Resourceful as ever, and suffering from cabin fever, he found a way through and was able to join us just as we finished our start-up coffee. They both filled all the trugs with logs, freed the trapped wedge in the too-well-seasoned Hawthorn drum and then walked around the wood. The cold increased as the wind strengthened and they decided to get back home while they still could.

BC chipped ice off the polebarn slope while I sorted extra bird feeders, then we brought in yet more logs in anticipation…

A 15-minute bird count (NB: the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch is this weekend) from 09.45 gave: Great Tit 3, Robin 3, Blackbird 2, Coal Tit 2, Dunnock 2, Marsh Tit 2, Wood Pigeon 2, Blue Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Pheasant 1, Song Thrush 1 (20 individuals of 11 species). 6/8 cloud cover, High cloud, sunny & bright, Hard frost overnight, Force 3 South-westerly, -0.4 degrees C, 81% Relative Humidity. Still 2 – 3 inches of snow cover but some clear patches thawing on lawns.

23 Jan 2013     Thaw and saw
SA dragged logs down on the bread tray sleigh and filled all the trugs in the conservatory, then had a walk around the snowy wood. Drizzly snow showers and snow still lying.

After lunch BC and I joined him and we all sawed and stacked logs in the polebarn, using the non-sexist-2-person saw. Stopped early for 2 o’clocks and defrosting.

22 Jan 2013     Cabin fever
Overnight snow with a slight thaw and BL kept the drive clear of snow, so I was able to get the car out with a good chance of getting it back up the drive again. BC and I had lunch at the Coliseum in Whitby (highly recommended) and did a bit of shopping. Nice change. On return, I emptied out the 2.5 inches of water in the rain gauge – now that the conical block of ice and the snowcap have melted.

21 Jan 2013     Horizontal snow
All meetings cancelled, so very much an ‘at home’ day. One degree above freezing allowed some snow to thaw away, as more fell on top. Still aboiut 4 or 5 inches of snow cover on the lawns. A sudden noise made me look out just in time to see a female Kestrel fly up from just below my dining-room windowsill. Had she just caught or missed a small mammal (probably a Bank Vole) or was she trying to catch a small bird, in desperation?

20 Jan 2013     Less Danger Bank
Cold, bright, dry and sunny. With 3 – 4 inches of snow everywhere the side roads were almost completely traffic-free. BC and I walked down Danger Bank to Ruswarp and had a very good lunch at the Bridge Inn.

19 Jan 2013     SA patrol
He walked down from the village and around the wood, checking that all was well. 4-5 inches of snow but some daytime thawing before it is topped-up again.

18 Jan 2013     More snow
The heavy snow began about midday, adding to the snow already on the ground.

17 Jan 2013     Minus 7
-7.5 degrees C, in fact, at 9am this morning. The River Esk was frozen over just above Ruswarp weir and well upstream, with c30 Black-headed Gulls standing about on the ice near the hydro-electric turbine. The roads around Whitby are still clear, but England is cut off with deep snow on the moortop roads.

16 Jan 2013     Freezing and fog
Minus 6 degrees C outside at breakfast time, rising to a maximum of -1 at midday. Clear, calm and very cold with ice and freezing fog in the Vale of York and beyond. Not a good day for travelling, not even to see a man about a dog nor even a woman about anything else.

Bright, calm, dry and sunny all day. I walked around the wood admiring the couple of inches of snow in all directions. Lots of Deer and Pheasant tracks. The neat stacks of next winter’s firewood look very satisfying and the sheeting over some of them is all ok. Brought down several more trugs of firewood from the woodshed to the house to warm-up a bit before offering them to the woodburner. It’s 24 degrees in here and very pleasant, thank-you.

There may be some bad weather on the way… but August 2013 is now fully booked in Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage and there is only 1 wek left in July. Don’t worry, still lots of spring and autumn weeks available to book – but please don’t delay it too long or you may be disappointed!

Not nearly as good (bad?) as that famous Christmas in the mid-1990s when Anthea and I spent a week in a lovely holiday cottage 1000 feet up in the Cairngorms and the temperature got down to -25 degrees C overnight and rose to a maximum of -10 degrees C during the day! Cold? You don’t know the meaning of the word!

15 Jan 2013     First snow
It started snowing yesterday afternoon and kept going until after dark. This morning we have a couple of inches in the garden and it is all christmas card pretty. The main roads are open with care but some shovelling and grit was needed on my drive (which I discovered BL next door had already done, thank-you). Lots of meetings cancelled, so no need to go anywhere. Maybe I’ll create the new 2012 web page to archive all of last year’s News Blog, or maybe I’ll tidy and dust the house, or maybe I’ll bring down some more firewood to warm-up, or maybe I’ll just curl up by the woodburner with a good book… I might even do all of those. Might.

But then again… But I did at least create the new 2012 web page this afternoon, so this current News Blog should load a bit faster than before!

13 Jan 2013     Frosty and sunny
A good frost last night and a sprinkling of hail this lovely sunny morning. A 15 minute bird count over coffee produced more that we expected: 11.40 – 11.55, 4/8ths high cloud, calm, dry, sunny, 1.2 degrees C, 95% relative humidity: Blue Tit 3, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Great Tit 2, (Grey Squirrel 1), Long Tail Tit 10, Marsh Tit 1, Pheasant 1, Robin 3 and then… Sparrow Hawk 1 male flew in and landed on the patio wall, composed himslef, hopped into the Cotoneaster bush, hopped out again, hopped onto the frozen water dish, had a think, had another think and then flew away again. Total Sprawk-viewing time was perhaps 3 minutes – far longer than we normally see him for. Perhaps he was expecting a drink or even a bath? Very nice!

We filled-up several trugs with firewood and then sawed some Blackthorn cordwood into fire logs (‘flogs’) but cold hands soon put an end to this.

12 Jan 2013     Sunny day out
Snow is forecast so we decided to make the most of today’s nice weather and went to The Board at Lealholm for lunch, followed by a short walk on Danby Beacon.

11 Jan 2013     Handrails and Hawthorn
SA rigged-up a rope handrail on the woodyard steps which are very wet and slippy. Then started splitting some very reluctant hawthorn stored in the polebarn for at least a year. After lunch we started to split some equally tough crab apple (twisty and full of knots) and rescue the last of the old wicker fence that has served us well as dry kindling for most of the winter.

10 Jan 2013     Lots of bookings
The past 2 weeks have brought a sudden rush of bookings (just see my Availability page), very many of them via Yorkshire Cottages and their instant on line system. Please don’t delay your booking or it may have been snapped up before you get around to it!

09 Jan 2013     New leaf
Frost overnight, then bright and sunny. SA carried and stacked Ash from above and beyond the East Hazel Cant to the path. Nine Long Tail Tit joined us for lunch (we had soup and sandwiches indoors, they had fat balls just outside).

Then we moved to the young self-sown Ash too near the electricity wires and pollarded them just above Roe Deer-grazing height (4 foot 6 inches). This way they will continue to grow and produce a useful crop, without getting too big. Then on to check the cleared ditch was still flowing across the top of the wood, and not overflowing sideways and making the whole wood wet. We admired the nice new clearing where SA and I had tidied-away the felled Cherry trunks 2 days ago. Finally, we removed one old Hazel pollard stem from the Mid-West Hazel Cant, just to show willing. Another dozen remain to be done…

It was while we were doing this that we noticed the first new Hazel leaves of 2013.

07 Jan 2013     Cherry gone
SA chain sawed and I stacked the cordwood and 16 inch drums from the felled Cherry just below Flag’s Folly. After a couple of hours we had cleared the site, opened-up the young Oak and Alder to the North and covered the stack with a plastic sheet to keep the rain off. An excellent morning’s work!

06 Jan 2013     Sunny again today
Still, mild, dry and bright so we continued work on flogging the Blackthorn. After an hour and a half we had finished all the thicker cordwood and filled another wall of the woodshed with slow-growing, hard-sawing, slow-burning and hot-burning firelogs of lovely Blackthorn. That just leaves a few bits of thin Blackthorn cordwood to cut by hand, as well as half a cord of Hawthorn to do. The woodshed is now 5/6s full of assorted and well-seasoned firelogs.

Then we split some of the chunkier bits of seasoned ash firelogs, on the basis that 2 thinner flogs burn better than one thick one. NB: Must remember to split hardwood while it is still green, as seasoned wood is far harder to split!

05 Jan 2013     Farmhouse lunch
Our first lunch out, at Victoria Farm Garden Centre, this year. Excellent, as ever, and with unbeatable views across the fields to Whitby and the Abbey.

After lunch we took advantage of the mild, DRY and sunny weather to use the T-saw on the cord of Blackthorn. An hour later and we had made a good impression on the cord and the woodshed looked much more respectable.

04 Jan 2013     Tarp ash
SA continued working on the felled Cherry near Flag’s Folly, bowsawing the smaller lop and top. After lunch BC and I joined him and together we covered the freshly stacked Cherry drums with a plastic sheet, to keep the rain off but let the wind blow through. Having discovered in 2012 just how quickly Cherry logs, especially thin ones, go mouldy and rot in the wet, this winter’s felling of Cherry will be converted into 16 inch drums, covered and brought under cover asap. Then we put up a sort of a plastic sheet / tented roof over the ash logs as well – just in case.

03 Jan 2013     Sold out
Discovered that Dunsley Hall Hotel has sold out of all my Unique Walking Sticks, so I spent today producing several more for them, now that they sell almost all of my sticks. A lovely big Blackthorn staff with a twisted top, an unusual Holly stick, a couple of Hazel and an Ash should keep them going while I build up my stocks again.

A 15-minute bird count produced: Blackbird 3, Blue Tit 3, Great Tit 2, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Robin 1. The weather was 8/8 cloud, 11.4 degrees C, clam, dry and 94% relative humidity.

02 Jan 2012     Lopping, topping and ditching
SA and MD continued work on trimming-up the recently felled Ash and Cherry (opposite Bruno’s Bannisters) by chainsaw. After lunch BC and I cleared-out the top neighbour’s ditch so that the runoff from Aislaby Moor can get away across the slope and avoid running down through the wood.

01 Jan 2013     New Year, new all sorts
Happy New Year to you all! Our flame survived the passing of the year and the wood burning stove (as normal) was still alight this morning – always a good sign.

A frosty morning welcomed the first dry, sunny day for ages. We added the new duvets, new pillows, new kingsize bed, new bath towels and hand towels (now included) – not to mention all the new things in the past year, like new carpets throughout, new Freesat TV with DVD player, new oven, etc. Then we spent a couple of hours sawing the last of the Ash cord into firelogs and starting on the Blackthorn cord.

Following sticky buns and coffee, we began the challenging process of changing this website to reflect the new prices, facilities and on-line booking option. This took as long as the logging and far more effort (if only mental). Hopefully, all is now correct and clear…

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.