News Blog 2014

December 2014 met summary
A mild, dry and sunny month. The traditional Fahrenheit only thermometer sez Max 56F (13C), Actual 50F (10C) and Min 23F (-6C). Total rainfall: 1.4 inches (31mm). NB  The traditional warehouse max / min thermometer (Lancs warehouse) is now the only one in use – until an accurate Met office Approved model can be located…

31 Dec 2014     Snow at Goathland
We enjoyed a nice lunch at The Postgate inn / in Egton Bridge and then drove home via Goathland, where there is an inch of snow on the moors. Back home to see 7 Long Tail Tit on the fatball feeder and walk around the wood.

30 Dec 2014     Cherry down
In the Cherry Grove above Simon’s Seat and below the Viewpoint, we felled the middle one of a group. As ever, there was no clear space (as in ‘clear felling’) to drop this 30-year old into, so it snagged a skinny Cherry and a Hawthorn on the way down. With a bit of persuation we got it down and flat and called it a day.

29 Dec 2014     First hard frost
The coldest night of the winter, so fa, then dry and sunny today. MD and I walked the wood and planned our felling, now that all growth will have stopped until spring.

28 Dec 2014     Cold, dry and sunny
Hope you enjoyed the Christmas as much as we did. Great to see frinds and relations from near and far, including the Hamburg-ers, the Moy-ers, the Midlanders, the Kent-ers and the York-ers, not to mention the Whitby folk! There was even a dusting of snow one morning on the moortop, which was the first snow the Hamburg-ers had seen this winter.

Blondie the albino Grey Squirrel and chums have been around most days, as have up to 4 Robin, 8 Long Tail Tit and 2 Marsh Tit. A Yaffle called from the wood this morning as the sun tried to melt the ground frost.

24 Dec 2014     Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
After a lovely sunny day, a trip to Sandsend and a pub lunch at Aislaby, B and I would like to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and we look forward to seeing you here in 2015!

23 Dec 2014     A whiter shade of grey
The albino Grey Squirrel has just been back to the bird feeders outside the kitchen windows. It was first reported this summer by some of our guests, but has now reappeared as it gets colder. We have christened it Blondie.

22 Dec 2014     Broadband now Superfast
The nice man from BT arrived today and spent about 4 hours upgrading my existing BT Superslow Skinnyband to all singing, all dancing, bells and whistles Superfast Broadband. What can possibly go wrong?

21 Dec 2014     Deck the Hall
Wild and windy again but we walked around the wood with snips to bring down some nice green sprigs of Holly. Then we hung them in the hall of both cottages…

20 Dec 2014     Castle Howard at Christmas
A nice dry, sunny day for a trip to Castle Howard and Malton. After a walk around the courtyard and garden centre, we went to Malton for lunch at ‘A Dickens of a Deli’ where they do a nice soup. Then a bit of shopping (NOT our favourite activity) and home via Yates (the hardware store, NOT the wine bar).

19 Dec 2014     Gathering Winter Fu u el
First a swim and then a stroll around the wood to gather dead Ash twigs and branches for kindling, as well as stocking-up with slow-burning Cherry to counteract all this windy weather.

14 Dec 2014     Ever green
After all that windy weather we walked around the wood and, apart from twig litter, found very little damage. The Grey Squirrel-damaged top of a 30-year old Oak has snapped off and will make useful kindling, as will many other twiggy bits. Even after a couple of hard overnight frosts, we were surprised to see that the Hazel coppice half-way up the east side is STILL in full green leaf! Just shows how sheltering a woodland is, if you happen to be a tree somewhere in the middle.

13 Dec 2014    Sandsend stroll
Ice on the pond again this morning after a -5C night, but clear, calm, sunny weather with no wind, so we walked along the beach to lunch in Sandside cafe, overlooking the waves still crashing on the shore. We should do this more often.

Then we put up the Christmas decorations, a full 10 days before Christmas – unlike Homebase, who had their up a few days before Hallowe’en.

11 Dec 2014     CJS Hello
Lovely to pop into the office of the Countryside Jobs Service in Goathland and catch up with everyone and everything, not to mention the All Blacks Pack of Labradors.  Good to see that everything is flourishing, 8 years after I retired from it. ‘Well done everybody. Your’e all doing very well!’ as Young Mr Grace would have said.

10 Dec 2014     Twig litter
While the NW of Scotland is having its Weather Bomb (intense low pressure, Violent Storm Force 11 winds and ‘phenomenal waves’ of 18 meters / 56 foot high) we have been having fairly breezy offshore winds here. Some Branches Broken Off (ie Force 8 on the Beaufort Scale) overnight have left the road along The Carrs (and probably the wood, too) littered with twigs and small branches. Glad it wasn’t onshore here!

09 Dec 2014     Free to good homes
A proper frosty night, down to 28 degrees F, left a layer of ice on my [pond for the first time this winter. It also sorted out the 3 max and min thermometers once and for all: The digital one sez it never dropped below freezing at all (wrong!), the newest ‘Umpire’ mercury one disagrees by 4 degrees between its two ends (only one end sez it got to 0 degrees C, the other sez +4 degrees (wrong!) – and the antique Farenheit only one, from a Lancashire cotton mill, sez 28 degrees F (-2C). Sorted. Two duff max and min thermometers free to good homes…

08 Dec 2014     Busy, innit?
More Pickering stove logs delivered today, to top up the polebarn of the 2 I’ve used during and after the coldest UK August on record. 5 Long Tailed Tit on the spatio fatball feeder, the 1st time this winter.

This run-up to Chrissy is a bit hectic, so sorry about the gaps. All will be filled-in when all the Chrissy prep is done. Honest…

[10 Dec: Now its far too windy to ‘Update’ safely, so we will stop for now until the phone lines stop swinging about so much!!]

03 Dec 2014     First frost
I think this must have been our First Grass Frost, with everything white-over this morning, then bright, dry, cold and sunny. We dragged the Alder young SR had cut from the Stickery Gully up to the woodyard and sawed it into cord lengths and some stove logs.

01 Dec 2014     Jet washed
Young SR jet washed the back yard and the Groves Dyke decking, removing all trace of Algae and Moss. Excellent!

November 2014 met summary
A very windy month, but mild and fairly dry. The traditional Fahrenheit only thermometer sez Max 56F (?C), Actual 44F (?C) and Min 30F (-1C). Total rainfall: 2.9 inches (6 cm). NB The C only thermometer has been removed as inaccurate, as has the digital one. The traditional warehouse max / min thermometer (Lancs warehouse) is now the only one in use – until an accurate Met office Approved model can be located…

30 Nov 2014     Woodcock
The First Woodcock of this winter was flushed from near Bruno’s Rest as we walked around the wood today. It flew off rapidly, beak pointing downwards, across the fields above the wood. A lovely bird!

29 Nov 2014     Blondie returns
The albino Grey Squirrel, previously reported by a guest in Groves Dyke this summer, sat by the Willow Arch and surveyed the bird feeders from afar. It certainly is eye-catching, but seems to be more cautious than its normal gret relatives.

28 Nov 2014     Orchard strimmed
Despite the cool, damp and drizzley weather, the big orchard was 90% strimmed today – and all of the small orchard, too. No, not by me (it would take me much longer than that!) but by Young SR, who managed both in one day. Amazing, when I think of the blood, sweat and torn trousers it used to take me!

25 Nov 2015     New bed linen
All of the old Groves Dyke bed linen (2.5 sets for 4 beds) has been washed and donated to The Coliseum, run by a local Whitby charity, for local distribution. The new bed linen (Purple Pattern for single beds and Paris Rose for the king) is now in use and we hope you will like it as much as we do.

23 Nov 2014     No rough legs
We all explored Eskdale as far upstream as Commondale, but no sign of the reported Rough Legged Buzzards. Sausage butties at Shepherds’ Hall were very welcome after a day almost completely devoid of birdlife.

22 Nov 2014     Scalby Millers
Off to Scarborough for a bit of birding and a seaside stroll. EEJ saw c200 Wigeon out amongst the breakers as we walked along the prom avoiding the heavy seas crashing against the sea wall.

21 Nov 2014     South Gare
With TnC along the coast to Redcar and the South Gare (the Southerly training wall at the Tees estuary).  After a stroll to the end and back, with Red Throated Diver, Great Crested Grebe, Common Scoter and Porpoise, we were in need of a warming cuppa but all cafes were closed. Until we got to Morrison’s Supermarket and its very very welcome cafe.

20 Nov 2014     Fieldfares Bully Little Auk
Delighted to welcome TaC back for a few days at Groves Dyke. This morning as EEJ walked across the back yard he noticed the first Fieldfares (2) flying over the wood, then 5 Bullfinches feeding (on catkins?) at the very top of a Silver Birch. Later we almost basked on Filey Brigg, remarking on the mild, sunny and completely calm weather. Enjoying our bacon butty at the picnic tables by the slipway, T suddenly shouted ‘Little Auk’ as it flew along the water’s edge and right past the many diners!

19 Nov 2014     Exclusive bird feeders
Sick of all the Pheasants, Wood Pigeons and Grey Squirrels eating all the bird seed, I constructed a contraption to keep the vermin out. Made of panels of green plastic-coated weldmesh, it now sits atop the Spatio table and contains the seed and the fatball feeders. To our surprise, the Tree Rats can still squeeze through the 2 inch mesh – until they eat too much seed, and then they won’t be able to get out again until the lose some weight!

16 Nov 2014     Souper grass
We used our own Leeks and Potatoes (plus a few bought Leeks) to make a big pan of our famous Leaky Potato soup for the freezer.
Mild, calm and grey with low cloud, so the grass continues to grow and my lawns are nearly 6 inches long now. So mild has this autumn been that the sheltered trees either still have green leaves on or they are just starting to change colour. All of the more exposed trees have lost their leaves, but only because they were stripped off by the strong winds of the past few weeks. Without any proper frost to trigger leafdrop, the sap is till up so tree-felling must continue to wait…

15 Nov 2014     Tides at Sandsend
We had a stroll by the sea today, thanks to the mild and misty weather. Lunch at Tides cafe by the East Row Beck and then back to the nice warm woodburner.

13 Nov 2014     Plumbed, pruned and sorted
CN the plumber spent today in Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage, doing lots of things – including checking the solar hot water system, replacing the shower riser / hose and shower-head, putting up the new mirror in the double bedroom, new loo seat for the bathroom, etc, etc.

While he was doing all that, BC, ID and I removed all the Cherry suckers from the island shrubbery in Groves Dyke front garden, discovered and protected three little self-sown Oaks, freed-up the purple Buddleia and the Mystery Creeper and de-Brambled the island. The cuttings were burnt on the bonfire site, together with the decrepit old patio set, and the thicker Cherry stems carried to the woodshed for later stove logging.

12 Nov 2014     Exclusive bird feeder
With up to 5 Pheasants, several Wood Pigeons and a couple of Grey Squirrels living off the seed feeder in the back yard, a more exclusive system was required. Panels of green plastic-covered Weldmesh were wired together to make a vermin-proof cage on top of the Spatio table. A seed and a fatball feeder hanging within are now (with a vital adjustment!) accessable only to small and medium-sized birds.

10 Nov 2014     Accounts and Jaffa Cakes
It always takes me several days to complete the most unpleasant job of the year: gathering, sorting and filing all the books, receipts and documents required by the accountant for the taxman. A whole packet of forbidden biscuits was required but was still completely insufficient for the task.

8 Nov 2014     Fit the Best, Avoid Everest
KR the occasional joiner has popped in (and out!) this week, making good the last of the Groves Dyke window problems from 10 years ago. Having repaired the Everest mortar around the front windows on 4 diferent occasions, today he finished removing all the inadequate mortar, packing the spaces around all the frames with hardwood and then adding a hardwood trim to waterproof the whole job properly. Now just a couple of coats of suitable paint and the job’s a good one for the first time since Neverest fitted them 12 years ago.

07 Nov 2014     BT ends local go slow?
Just tried to update this blog and, lo and behold, it is almost back up to normal speed again. We think. So whatever BT have been doing to slow the local interweb down so badly for the past few weeks, may have ended. But its raining hard, dark and miserable, with ocasional rumbles of thunder – so we won’t push our luck today…

[missing blog entries to follow…]

01 Nov 2014     G20, G4 and G2 and a wee bit
It may be the 20th year of Goth Weekends in Whitby (which is chocka), parts of the UK may have G4 but up here we are still struggling with G2 and a wee bit… Possibly made worse by my steampowered laptop, my unsupported browser and an ancient version of WordPress.

Let’s try saving this and if it all times out yet again, we may abandon this latest attempt…

[missing blog entries to follow…]

October 2014 met summary
A very windy month, but mild and fairly dry. The traditional Fahrenheit only thermometer sez Max 66F (20C), Actual 54F (14C) and Min 34F (1C). Total rainfall: 2.3 inches (5 cm).

31 Oct 2014     More Geese
Another c50 Geese flew South high over the wood. Very appropriate to have one of our local folklore horror stories (The dreaded Gabble Ratchet) appear on Hallowe’en.

Four Bullfinches were feeding on the Cotoneaster berries just outside the dining-room window.

30 Oct 2014     Winter Thrush
The First Fieldfare and First Redwing flew into Groves Coppice, about 25 of them. This is the first time I’ve noticed them this winter and they are probably newly-arrived from Scandinavia.

29 Oct 2014   UI Gabble Ratchet
This morning c110 Un-Identified Geese flew over noisily high over the wood, heading South. Winter is on its way… Official.

28 Oct 2014     Cider Day II
A mini-Cider Day with lots of help from regulars SR and also Morgan, Jack, Joan and Ian T (Norfolk) as well as MaA D with newcomers Tally and Austin (Bristol) and ID (Whitby). MD had brought his new Mark II MAASH* with the new improved handle and cylinder. Once the production line was operational, and with a couple of boxes of bought-in Apples as well as 3 crates of local windfalls, we soon produced a very creditable 19.75 litres of juice.

26 Oct 2014     Go slow
The interweb is v e r y  s l o w  today, perhaps due to this very strong headwind. If it wasn’t, we would have brought this page uo-to-date today. But it is painfully slow, so we won’t. We did gather 4 big black crates of windfall Barmleys today, from a nearby garden, ready for Cider Day 2 later this week.

25 Oct 2014 [late]     The Perfect Visitor Storm
This weekend Whitby hosted the 20th annual Goth Weekend (which is enormous) AND the Rohilla RNLI Rescue Centenary Commemoration AND the annual Chrysanthimum Show AND it was school half-term AND the weather was warm, dry and sunny. Result? Bridge-lock! The cars tailed back to beyond the Sleights roundabout, all car parks were full by late morning, the Park and Ride shuttle buses struggled to shuttle through the standing traffic and the Public Safety Committee closed the swing-bridge to all vehicles for an hour to let the surging mass of pedestrians ease a little. Just an unlikely combination of events, perhaps?

24 Oct 2014 [late]     Gas Man been-eth
British Gas called today to inspect and pass the gas appliances in Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage, and issue the Landlord’s Certificate of Gas Safety.

21 Oct 2014 [late]     Speedy winds
The tail end of the USA’s Hurricane Gonzalos swept across the UK today and has stripped off most of our tree leaves while they were still green. It looks like autumn has come early, but without any frost to nip the leaves and turn them brown before dropping off. Very odd.

20 Oct 2014 [late]     Shepherds’ warning
An ominous red sky this morning suggested that something was imminent. Tipped 1 inch of rain out (duly recorded to add later) of the rain gauge, to make room for whatever is about to happen…

19 Oct 2014 [late]     Captain Cook at St Mary’s
Today, as for the past umpteen years, I attended the annual Captain Cook Service in St Mary’s Church on top of the East Cliff and, for the very first time in my life, I was so warm inside the church that I had to take my coaf OFF! Unheard of in that normally cold, draughty and almost unheated building! Global warming or what?

18 Oct 2014 [late]      Lealholm and Runswick
Mild, calm and sunny. We enjoyed a nice lunch at the Shepherds’ Hall in Lealholm, then on to Runswick Bay for a nice walk and some very successful jet and fossil hunting along the beach. Had out 3 o’clocks in the cafe and then noticed that ‘our’ bench was basking in the afternoon sun, so we went to assist it.

16 Oct 2014 [late]      Cool, grey and windy
Two male Bullfinches feeding on the spatio Cotoneaster. Driving through the new Park and Ride car park I noticed a flock of c60 Linnets making the most of the self-sown ‘wildflowers’ which cover most of the clay landscaping banks. (Only the small patch around the new bus station cum toilet block was ever properly turfed, as that is where the local Borough and County councillors stood for the press photos)!

[missing blog entries to follow…]

15 Oct 2014     Cider Day with MAASH
A very welcome dry, mild, calm and sunny day for Apple pressing. With very few Apples of our own this year, we are relying on 6 or 7 big plastic crates of Bramleys from nearby SB. Today MD introduced us to M’s Amazing Apple Scratting Happeratus, which he  constructed from plans on a Canadian website. This table-top, hand cranked, plywood framed contraption incorporates a Holly cylinder (from Groves Coppice) studded with protruding screw-heads and powered by SR (not sure how many of him there are in a horsepower).

We spent the morning perfecting the process, ending up with a VERY juicy routine of rough chomping with the long-handled antique Turnip chomper within the yellow reinforced plastic pipe section in a wide, shallow trug with a chopping board as a base. Then the rough chomp was left to soften a bit before being fed, bit by bit, into the brand new homemade Apple scratter. In the afternoon, three 1 litre jugfuls of the resulting mush was laid onto a muslin sheet (1 metre square), the corners folder over to form a traditional ‘cheese’ and then another 2 cheeses made and stacked on top. Then the wooden press laid on top of the 3 cheeses and the 2 ton bottle jack used. The juice soon weeps out through the cloth on all sides with just the slightest press, and even more to come as pressure is increased. This process is FAR more productive than all our previous techniques!

By mid-afternoon we had 30 litres of sweet tasting juice in 2 big plastic buckets, much more easily than when we just relied on surgical cutting and tightly confined pressing. Three cheers for MAASH!

12 Oct 2014    Apricot n Vanilla
The Apricot trained on the Groves Dyke fence has been pruned as a single-trunked espalier (almost) and has put on a lot of growth this summer – but no fruit. When (and if) it does, I think it will become the most Northerly fruiting Apricot in England, as the current holder is 100 yards further south at the River Gardens, Sleights…

Redecorating continues in Groves Bank, as Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage is still booked every week until early Nov. Magnolia walls have now been repainted Vanilla.

09 Oct 2014     The last cut?
Showery. Three hours of grass cutting and all lawns are now done, hopefully for the last time this year. Only half the woodyard, the wood path, and both orchards still to do…

07 Oct 2014     White Bud down
MD and ID and I spent a good day doing all sorts of bits and bobs ready for t’winter. We felled the white Buddleia, now 6 inch diameter, as it was sold as a deep purple one. Its real deep purple replacement is now well established a few feet away and is much more attractive to butterflies. We also gave the Willow Twigwam a short back and sides, ready for re-shaping it into a proper cone. The dead limb on the Plum tree was removed and the Heart Rot cavity drained with an angled cut. The remaining Hazel stumps in the cideryard were logged and stacked, as were the thicker bits of Willow. SA’s Rowan was opened-up again, by clearing the absolute forest of self-sown young Ash trees from a yard around it. Many of these are now over 10 feet tall, as tall as his young Rowan.

06 Oct 2014     Wet
Swam in Whitby pool this morning while the rain streamed down outside, then snuggled-up in the Snuggery by the woodburner to spend an equally wet afternoon catching up with the News Blog, etc.

05 Oct 2014     Unfair plant fair
Set off in glorious sunshine for Scampston Walled Garden to check out their Plant Fair weekend. Diverted by a road closure on the Malton bypass / A64 (this weekend only), so drove into Malton and Norton to get around, but diverted again, so headed into the Yorkshire Wolds. After endless miles and miles of very pretty countryside, but no progress, we ended up getting further and further away from Scampston. Finally found a way onto the Pickering – Scarborough road, turned off for Rillington, eventually found the A64 on the correct side of the roadworks, reached Scampston and recovered with a coffee and an indigestable Rocky Road. Discovered the ‘Free Entry’ was only to the walled garden after paying £7 each for admission to the Plant Fair, so we didn’t. So we drove on to Dean’s Garden Centre in Scarborough, just to teach ’em.

Bought a new Max and Min thermometer, to go next to the 2 existing (but disagreeing) ones on the back wall of Groves Dyke. Then it will be ‘best of 3’ in future, with a bit of louvre screen to keep off the very early and very late midsummer sun.

04 Oct     Papering
Wet today, so we set about wallpapering a room in Groves Bank. Luckily BC knew what she was doing, so I assisted by keeping out of the way and / or providing the totally unskilled labour. By early afternoon it was complete and has transformed the room beautifully. This is the first wallpaper to grace these walls since the 1960s, when Grandma Riddolls had every wall stripped and painted magnolia.

02 Oct 2014     Malton again
Drove AD to Malton to catch a train. Pottered around the town while I was there and then carried out a few jobs on the way back.

SR spent the whole day trimming all the hedges in both gardens, and clearing up, so everything was looking very smart when I got back.

The guests in Groves Dyke have seen the Roe Deer in the wood a few times this week.

01 Oct 2014     Woodshed full but woodyard empty
We spent the afternoon with the rechargable Keo saw and the bowsaw, sawing the skinny cordwood into 16 inch stovelogs and stacking them in the woodshed. It is very satisfying to see the last of the woodyard cords empty, now that all is safely gathered in and under cover. Once the sap is down and the leaves are off, we can start thinning and coppicing again to fill the woodyard with the firewood we will burn in the winter of 2015/6…

September 2014 met summary
The driest September since Met Office records began, and one of the warmers, too. Apart from a full week of cool mist / sea fret / low cloud, this was a lovely month with shirt sleeve weather almost all the time. The traditional Fahrenheit only thermometer sez Max 78F, Actual 56F and Min 40F, but the new digital one sez Max 21C, Actual 15C and Min 15C (sic)! MaxTotal rainfall: 0.6 inches.

30 Sept 2014     Saw, split n stack
MD chainsawed the remaining fat and mid-diameter cordwood  in the woodyard, while ID and I split and stacked it into the woodshed, some of it overflowing into the upper half as well. Now the cord beds are all but empty, with just a hundred or so skinny cordwood lengths ( unworthy of a chainsaw) for BC and me to do another day.

We all went up after lunch to fell the flopped Crack Willow and release the poor young Oak to try and recover. Another Crack Willow had done ‘exactly what it says on the bark’ and cracked and flopped onto the path near the top bridge. This was also cut off and laid by the side of the Orchid grove.

28 Sept 2014     Crack Willow trimmed
We took mega-loppers and bowsaw up to the top of the Dogsnout laund to trim the twiggy bits off a Crack Willow which had flopped onto a 30-year old Oak, pushing it slightly askew, too.

27 Sept 2014     Wharram Percy visits
At our 2nd attempt we managed to get to Wharram Percy deserted medieval village, some 10 miles south of Malton and on top of the Yorkshire Wolds ( https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/wharram-percy-deserted-medieval-village/ ). We walked from the car park, down the ancient hollow-way and along the main street, with the grassy humps and bumps of c40 peasant houses, 2 manor houses and the ruined church to explore. No sign of the ‘recent’ hedge I laid way back in the early 1990s but the vicar’s Bullace tree which we rescued is still fruiting in the vicarage orchard.

25 Sept 2014     Reinforce the earh
Two leccy men in a white van appeared at 8am, saying they were going to reinforce the earth. I recokened the poor planet could do with all the help it can get, so they started work. By lunchtime they had dug two 10m trenches 600mm deep and buried 2 lengths of cable from the lower transformer on the electricity pole. Not quite what I had in mind…

MD came for a planning lunch and, after putting the world to rights, we enjoyed a walk around the wood and decided what work needs doing this winter.

24 Sept 2014     Buzzard over Sleights
As we had our 3 o’clocks on the veranda, we noticed a Buzzard soaring high over the village, probably above Brackenhills or Eskdaleside. The first we have seen here for many a month (and probably this year)

23 Sept 2014     Backup supply
Our favourite stovelog supplier from Pickering delivered 8 big dumpy bags of 16 inch logs this morning, about 1 ton each. Mostly Ash and Beech, which he has seasoned for at least a year, we spent the next few hours stacking them neatly under cover. Well, we need a backup in reserve, now that the Bank Vols are one man less!

22 Sept 2014     Grass again
Now that the good weather has returned, the lawns are overdue for another strim. Two hours later an they are almost back on track again.

21 Sept 2014     Fish are jumping…
A brighter day and a great lunch at The Board Inn in Lealholm. Anglers were fly-fishing for Salmon on the Esk, there isn’t any cotton here but the pub did have an excellent ‘light jazz’ group playing ‘Summertime’ as we enjoyed our local beef and lamb.

Remember that fiendlishly difficult quiz about the National Park? It seems we won, thanks mostly to BC and a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Luckily, we didn’t get the 2nd prize, which was a mountain bike ride up Sutton Bank! Now we can look forward to tickets for the steam train and for the Beck Isle museum in Pickering…

20 Sept 2014     Picnic day out
After a grey and grizzly week of poor weather we finally did what everyone was recommending – a trip across the moors to find some sunshine and warmth. Sadly, today was not a good day, after Pickering, Helmsley and Malton had had a week of warm sunshine.

Our plans to picnic at Wharram Percy Deserted Medieval Village in the Yorkshire Wolds were abandoned when we got to Malton and could see that the Wolds were still lost in the low cloud. So we went to Castle Howard instead and had our picnic in the car in the car park in the rain. Now all we need are a couple of folding chairs and a nap after lunch…

17 Sept 2014     Fare thee well
Today we helped SA load the removal lorry to move him away from this area and back to his home in the Quantocks. We thank him for all his volunteer work in Groves Coppice and we wish him well in his home village.

Indoor painting continued at Groves Bank, as the dank, damp and grey weather continues. We also used the Keo in the polebarn (dry!) to saw the last of the leccy Ash into stovelogs.

15 Sept 2014     Mellow fruitlessness
Steady drizzle all day, with a grey mist / sea roke / low cloud everywhere. Raspberries are plentiful but Apples are almsot non-existant this year. Painting indoors is much preferable to anything out of doors today.

The Nigerseed feeder is a bit low, so only 2 feeding ports are currently supplying seed. A queue of Goldfinches has built up as they take turns to feed. Never had a queue of Goldies here before!

14 Sept 2014     Keo and Brambling
When we tired out the small rechargable saw on the skinny cordwood, we went Brambling in the wood and gathered a litre (sorry, c2 pints in real money) and a few Nettle stings in no time. Swarfega is nearly as good as Dock leaves to ease Nettle stings…

13 Sept 2014     Artistic overload
A wonderful day exploring Staithes Arts Festival, with a hundred pop-up galleries in as many cottages, all open free to the public. We have seen the inside of more cottages today than ever before, not to mention all the weird, whacky and even wonderful exhibits within. Lucky enough to meet Lucy Wilson, who painted the Mermaids on Driftwood plaque that hangs in the landing of Groves Dyke. After several hours of walking up, down and around the village, as well as up and down dozens and dozens of awkward, cramped, narrow and steep stairways to bedroom gallerys, we had had as much as we could manage – and still get back up the hill to the overflow carpark at the top of the village.

Next year we will start at the bottom of the village and work our way back up again…

12 Sept 2014     Bye bye birdie
We were enjoying our well earned 3 o’clocks on the veranda when we both saw a female Sparrowhawk swoop upwards from behind the hedge, grab a small bird (probably a Blue Tit) from the end of a Willow branch, and carry it away – all within a single second, or less. We’re not the only ones in need of an afternoon snack…

10 Sept 2014    Lunchtime catch-up
Nice to see SA when he joined us for lunch and a good catch-up on the latest developments.

09 Sept 2014     Grass still growing
Another nice day for over 2 hours of strimming, including the path around the wood. Fleabane is in flower, the Blackberries are just about ripe the leaves will soon be turning.

07 Sept 2014     Hot sawing
Very warm and dry, so we ran out the leccy string to the woodyard and sawed lots and lots of medium thick cordwood into stove logs. By the time we had finished, another 1/6th of the woodshed was topped-up, making it 5/6ths full, with still more skinny and fat cordwood to be cut to 16 inch lengths.

06 Sept 2014     Thanks to SA
Took SA to near Liverton for a lovely lunch with MnAD and lots of catching up. We all presented SA with a beautiful wooden dish, turned by MA from a piece of Ash grown at Groves Coppice, inset with a metal inscription thanking SA for his 1000 hours of voluntary work at Groves Coppice over the past 9 years. Our loss will be Somerset’s gain, as we are sure he will soon be volunteering to work in the countryside down there. Thanks SA!

05 Sept 2014    New bedding for 2015
Bought 8 sets of single bedding (3 sets on, 3 sets in the wash, and 2 spare) all ready for Christmas and after. The kingsize bedding is already in the cupboard. So say goodbye to the (faded) Terracotta Foliage and standby to say Hello to the nice new Purple Check and Stripes for single beds, and Paris Rosegardens for the kingsize… New sheets, pillow cases, pillow protectors and mattress protectors all ready, too.

Had a nice day off, pottering down to The Dock in Robin Hood’s Bay for lunch, and then back up again via a Beacon Farm ice cream.

04 Sept 2014     Best laid plans
Just back from a few days in Fadmoor, near Helmsley, for the last week of open air swimming – but they closed the pool a week sooner than expected, so we couldn’t. Pity. Still, we used the break as an Advanced Base and spent a day at Newby Hall gardens, Ripon. Very impressive. We also visted Thirsk on market day, Helmsley on a quiet day and enjoyed a magnificent drive around Bransdale with the heather in full purple.

August 2014 met summary
The coolest August for c40 years but a bit wetter than usual, so the Heather has been magnificent. Some very windy days and one 24 hour period with 2.5 inches of rain. Total rainfall: 2.5 inches.

28 Aug 2014     Housies still here
The House Martins which chatter excitedly under the eves are still here, so summer is not over yet. Two Goldfinches fed from the Niger seed feeder while a Great Spotted Woodpecker tapped occasionally on the leccy pole in my orchard.

27 Aug 2014     Strim
Two hours of strimming was long enough, now that the grass is not growing so vigorously, to cut the path around the wood, the Groves Dyke lawn and half of the Groves Bank lawns.

25 Aug 2014     Lunch with SA
It was nice to catch up on the latest news with SA, after the long summer break when we leave the wood and its breeding wildlife to get on without much disturbance from us.

24 Aug 2014     Plum centre
Today we have been the centre of the local plumming trade, straining the jelly bag full of soaked and squished plums into a demijohn, adding the yeast and waiting for the festering to begin…

Chilly overnight but then sunny and dry but still a bit cool for August. We picked a good crop of Blueberries from our bush and filled a 1 litre container. Some for freezing and some fresh.

23 Aug 2014     Stonehouse Bakery
Off to Danby for a rare treat of their very special toasted Tomato bread with pate. Mmmm… as good as ever.

20 Aug 2014     White Horse for lunch
A lovely Grand Tour with DT and IJ, starting with a stroll around Staithes and Cowbar, then over the moors via Roxby and Danby Castle to Hartoft and on to the White Horse Inn at Rosedale. Almost warm and sunny enough for an outdoor lunch – but not quite. After a good lunch we continued up Chimney Bank to Hutton-le-Hole and up Blakey Ridge to Young Ralphs Cross, down into Westerdale and home via Commondale. Another wonderful day out, capped with a great evening meal at The Stables restaurant near Whitby.

19 Aug 2014     Helmsley rendezvous
We had a rather chilly swim in Helmsley open air pool, hoping that the cooler air temperature would make the water feel warmer. Good theory, but…

Met IJ and DT in the walled garden and had lunch nearby. Then off to explore Fadmoor, Gillamoor on our way to Farndale. There we explored Upper Farndale, once destined to be flooded for a new reservoir, but now safely remaining above water. Over Blakey Rigg and home again, with the miles and miles of purple Heather all in full bloom. How do D and I always time their Whitby visit so accurately?!

17 Aug 2014     Gooseberry crumb
Today we picked all 10 Gooseberries, so it won’t be a full-size Gooseberry crumble this year, just a Gooseberry crumb. Plums were also picked from the 3 trees in Groves Dyke orchard and yielded 2 medium plastic trays full, mostly the golden variety.

Also picked and shelled 2 litres of Broad Beans, removed the stems for composting and dug over the bed. Also lifted 2 Potato plants (good crop), 3 small Beetroot and picked another 8 Raspberries. Added a twig to the new tall funnel rain gauge, to stop the silly young Great Tit (met vandal!) from falling in head first and distorting the meteorological readings.

14 Aug 2014     Mega moon
The moon’s orbit is closer than usual, so the ‘super moon’ looks bigger than ever and the tides are higher than usual. In fact, as high in Whitby as they will be for the autumnal equinox spring tides next month, but thankfully the strng winds were blowing offshore (not onshore) and the low pressure centre was not over the middle of the North Sea, so no coastal flooding. This time.

13 Aug 2014     Purp, purp, purple
Calm for the first time after several very windy days. 7 Swallows continued to perch on the wires above the back yard, probably still recovering from very poor feeding in the wild weather. We went to Helmsley for a swim in their lovely outdoor heated pool (still a bit choppy in the breeze) then lunched at Cafe Crema (try the Crema Rarebit!), pottered around the walled garden (looking good) and enjoyed an ice cream (Key Lime, Strawberry Cheesecake) before returning over the purple moortops.

12 Aug 2014     Strim
A couple of hours strimming and I feel that I have got on top of the grass-cutting backlog, for the first time since mid-July.

11 Aug 2014     Regatta beats Bertha
Another half inch of rain tipped out this morning, then dry, sunny and very windy. Glad to say that Whitby Regatta carried on much as usual, despite the wild weather. The Red Arrows gave a full performance. I carried down the last of the leccy Ash from the top bridge and put up the new solar powered PIR (Passive Infra Red) security light above the Groves Dyke front door.

I was delighted to go to SA’s house and give him a little bit of voluntary work, for a change.

10 Aug 2014     Bertha hits Regatta
The tail-end of Ex-hurricane Bertha brought incessant heavy rain by mid-morning and everywhere was soon awash. Two Goldfinch sheltered from the rain in the hedge and appeared on the Buddlia when it eased a little.

By mid-afternoon I had to tip out another inch of rain, to leave room in the rain gauge for more…

09 Aug 2014     Great Keo Hunt
After heavy overnight rain (1 inch tipped out from the rain gauge, to stop it overflowing) a decent day followed. We lunched at the Chainbridge Cafe in Ruswarp, watching the boats row past (‘Pull your left string, Auntie!’) accompanied by up to 60 Mallard, mainly youngsters.

We decided to try sawing up the scrappy bits of Ash left by the Northern Powergrid lads, but couldn’t find the little rechargable saw. After searching all the likely places several times, and then all the unlikely places several times, and then the former again, it was eventually found hiding halfway up a stack of otherwise empty plastic trays. Naughty Keo!

Once discovered, it performed perfectly and all was sawn and stacked before it ran out of energy.

07 Aug 2014     New residents?
A pair of House Martins have spent the last few days planning a new nest above my bedroom window. Work has begun, but probably too late for completion this summer. Perhaps they are just putting in the foundations for an early start next year?

Co-incidentally, a family of 6 Swallows have started resting on the wires across the back yard and veg bed. Lots of excited chattering, to add to the House Martins’ excited chattering. This is a very welcome addition, having seen neither species on or near the house for several years – apart from overflying the garden and the river beyond.

06 Aug 2014     Cider with Rose, eh?
Today the Redcurrant Rose was festering nicely in its demijohn, but there are very few Apples on the trees, so perhaps little or no cider-making this autumn (NB Taylors aware!).

The 2 demijohns of Blackcurrant Port were doing ok until one cracked and had to be transferred, which upset the yeast…

05 Aug 2014     Strim n string
Hot dry and sunny again, so 1.5 hours of strimming. Then we strung up this year’s crop of Onions onto a rope. Mostly white, with some reds.

04 Aug 2014     Purp
In need of a day of relaxation, after all these holidays, we drove over Blakey Rigg for a swim, lunch, potter and ice cream in Helmsley. Delighted to report that thingy is in his whatsit and all is well with the whojum – and that the Ling Heather is finally beginning to open its purple flowers and turn the moortops a maginficent purple.

03 Aug 2014     Blackcurrant Fatigue
We unrolled the protective netting and removed the wire side-panels to get at the fruit bushes. The 3 Blackcurrant bushes were heavily laden, dragging the branches down into the long grass and the two Redcurrant bushes were almost the same. After an hour of picking ‘currants we had a coffee and then started again. Last year’s Blackcurrant Port and Redcurrant Rose were so good, we have plans for even more… A large Frog hopped indignantly  from under a bush and the Blackbirs were a bit slow in sampling our filled tubs. After destalking, boiling water was poured onto each bucketful, a Cambden tablet added and then covered loosely to steep.

That leaves a Blueberry bush ripening nicley within a wire netting cylinder, and a Gooseberry bush looking a bit poorly within another…

02 Aug 2014     Poppies and New decking furniture
Thanks to that nice Mr Homebase and his special offers, we now have a nice new table and chairs for the deck at Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage, as well as some extra bedding.

The wildflower bed has a great crop of Poppies, so we picked a good bunch and placed them on the ‘Whitby Shard’ – better known as Whitby’s new war memorial at the Dock End. It is hard to believe that the Great War, the War to End All Wars, started exactly 100 years ago.

01 Aug 2014     1000 CJS Edition
A very welcome reminder from KH at the Countryside Jobs Service that they had just published the 1000th edition of the CJS Weekly – so that’s 20 year’s of the weekly publication first started by Anthea and myself in 1994! See www.countryside-jobs.com

Met for July 2014
Another hot, dry month, when the grass began to grow less quickly. Total rainfall 1 inches (2.6mm).  The 2 thermometers continue to give different readings this month: the old fashioned metal Max and Min sed Max 86 degrees F, Actual 74 degrees F and Min 44 degrees F, while the ultra modern, new, digital one sed Max 50 degrees C (c130 degrees F!), Actual 26 degrees C (c80 degrees F) and Min 9.5 degrees C (c49 degrees F)! Clearly, the Max temps are both unlikely, but the long sunny evenings allow the sun to shine directly on the North-facing wall, so they can both be discounted. 

31 July 2014     Summer visitors
Great to have our Canadian contingent of friends and relations staying in Whitby for a few days. Wonderful meals out at The Wheatsheaf pub at Egton, the Postgate pub at Egton Bridge, Hadleys fish and chips in Whitby, Shepherd’s Hall cafe at Lealholm, etc. The weather was near perfect, if a bit too hot for me. Occasional grass and hedge cutting, just to get back on top again.

24 July 2014     Back again
We are just back from a few days in Scotland, where Ospreys, Red Squirrels and Dolphins (as well as the brand new Edinburgh tram!) are all well. We stayed in Edinburgh for a few days, saw the Ruskin exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, etc, then drove North to Aviemore for a few days, got to the top of Cairngorm (the easy way), saw the Dolphins on the Black Isle and the Osprey at Loch Garten (5 active Ospreys all upstaged by 2 Red Squirrels on the feeder just outside – upstaged by a young Siskin inches away on the outside of a window pane), etc. I got the lawns half cut this afternoon – and now its my turn! Lots more catching up to be done later.

12 July 2014     Onions up
Today we pulled about 3/4 of the Onions and laid them out in the veranda to dry off. Still eating from last year’s string of Onions, although the Red Onions have gone ‘boast’ (empty). Hot and sunny. The Broccoli was cropped and produced enough for a good meal for two.

The Tree Rat (Grey Squirrel) has started eating the Hazelnuts in the wood, even before they are ripe. Since it has already eaten our entire Strawberry crop, I have a cunning plan: You can eat Squirrel – especially the Strawberry flavoured ones…

10 July 2014     Bird count
From 9 to 9.15 hours, 14 degrees C, 85% relative humidity, 8/8 cloud cover, mild, dry and calm. Chaffinch 5, Goldfinch 5, Great Tit 4, Robin 3, Blue Tit 2, Dunnock 2, Blackbird 1, Bullfinch 1 (a first here, 1 ad male on seed feeder), Tree Sparrow, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker 1 (juv). Tree Rat 1 (Grey Squirrel).

Later I strimmed for 1.5 hours, so everything has been strimmed this week. Phew!

09 July 2014     Ash keys
Today we hung the newly aquired metal keys in bunches from the branches of an Ash tree overhanging the path around the wood. Don’t ask, but it is funny. Really.

08 July 2014     Strimming
Despite the heat, I spent 2.5 hours strimming almost everything.

06 July 2014     Goes straight to the legs
Today we bottled c30 large, small and medium bottles of our 3rd batch of 2013 cider. This one is from Eaters only, but with 1lb (c0.5kg) sugar added after racking, and is the best of the bunch. Score: 9/10.

The juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker was on the Peanut feeder just outside the kitchen windows, after the thunder, lightening and heavy showers this morning. Two Goldfinches were on the Niger seed feeder, as well as the usual swarm of Bluits and Grits on the seed feeder.

05 July 2014     Le Grand Day Out
While le Grand Depart left Leeds for the Yorkshire Dales today, we left Sleights for a day out on the moors. While Le Tour de Yorkshire attracted 1 million spectators along the route, we were watching a pair of Little Ringed Plovers at very close range near Scaling Dam. As the cyclists tumbled into Harrogate, we discovered a whole new tea garden at Glaisdale, where we enjoyed a light lunch, good chat and a fabulous view down the dale to Sleights Moor.

03 July 2014     Vermin
Today the young Grey Squirrel wasn back inside the ‘anti-Squirrel cage’ around the fatball feeder, the Magpie family were calling loudly under the same feeder and at the back the young Carrion Crow was demanding food with menaces from its long-suffering parent. So I stopped feeding completely on the Spatio and reduced the rations at the back. When the Squirrel is a bit bigger, it won’t be able to squeeze through the mesh any more.

Talking of getting bigger, I sorted out my wardrobe today. St Catherine and her Hospice got all  my fat trousers, so now I can’t put any weight back on again!

02 July 2014     Full house
It was good to have SA, MD and AD here for lunch today, after our swim. SA’s plans are more advanced than before…

01 July 2014     Met a problem
As you can see from last month’s met readings, my old fashioned and my nice new digital thermometers don’t agree – AND they are both wrong, but only because the late evening sun falls on them in mid-summer, even though they are on the North-facing wall of the house. More shade required, perhaps? Or a full Stevenson’s Screen with 4 louvered sides, painted white and in the middle of a lawn somewhere? I wonder…

A 15-minute bird count produced: 7 Blue Tits, 3 Chaffinches, 2 Great Tits, 1 Blackbird, 1 Dunnock, 1 Magpie, 1 Marsh Tit, 1 Robin.

2 hours strimming today but the grass is FINALLY beginning to slow down a bit.

Met for June 2014
A mild dry month, when the grass began to grow less quickly. Total rainfall 0.5 inches (0.13mm).  The 2 thermometers continue to give different readings this month: the old fashioned metal Max and Min sed Max 88 degrees F, Actual 60 degrees F and Min 44 degrees F, while the ultra modern, new, digital one sed Max 44 degrees C (c120 degrees F!), Actual 18 degrees C (c66 degrees F) and Min 9 degrees C (c48 degrees F)! Clearly, these do not agree, so one (or both) must be wrong… The Max temps are both unlikely, but the long sunny evenings allow the sun to shine directly on the North-facing wall, so they can both be discounted. I think I need a 3rd thermometer and some extra shade!

29 June 2014     Summer clothes…
…and some are rags! Cool and raining this morning, so an ideal day for emptying the built-in wardrobe, ready for fitting the new Oak sliding doors tomorrow…

27 June 2014     SA for lunch
Good to catch up with SA, our longest-serving volunteer at Groves Coppice.

25 June 2014     ‘Earl of Pembroke’ + 250
This month is the 250th anniversary of the launch of the Whitby-built ship which, 3 years later, Captain James Cook renamed ‘Endeavour’ and adapted for his first major voyage of exploration. In celebration, the Whitby Endeavour Rotary Club (www.rotarywhitbyendeavour.org.uk) celebrated its Charter Night at the Captain Cook Museum by Whitby harbour, enjoying the event, the balmy evening, the location and the good company.

Earlier in the day, a harmless Slow Worm (actually a legless lizard) tried to make a quick getaway across the sunny gravel by my polebarn, but was losing traction on the loose stones.

23 June 2014     Helmsley Swim – Purp
Our first swim here this year and the chance to admire the many improvements they have made. Lovely! Followed by lunch in Helmsley Walled Garden, a potter around the village
with a Ryeburn icecream (1 Jaffacake, 1 Rum n Rasin) and a lovely drive back over Blakey Rigg. The Bell Heather is now in flower in the driest patches, so not long now…

22 June 2014     Bloody wildlife
Last year all our Goosberries vanished the night before we were about to pick them. This year all our Strawberries have done the same! Roe Deer? Grey Squirrel? Wood Mice? Blackbirds? Wood Pigeons? UFOs?

Under the ‘Wait until stable empty before locking door’ strategy, we spent an hour today putting up the 8 x 4 foot panels of wire netting around the fruit bushes, with additional plastic netting draped over the top. Nothing is actually ripe yet, but we’re not falling for that one a 3rd time!

Bottled the 2 demijohns of Larplonc 2013, awarding one a 10 / 10 and the other a 9 / 10.

21 June 2014     Sunny Summer Solstice at Sandsend
We donated to North Yorkshire County Council’s Whitby Park and Ride scheme by putting £1.70p into one of those nice new parking meters all along the roadside to Sandsend. This entitled us to spend 2 hours having lunch, a stroll around the village and a potter in the shops. Hot, dry, sunny and very enjoyable thanks, but £1.70p more expensive than anytime in recorded history.

19 June 2014     Junior’s first solo flight
This morning the juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker visited the Peanut feeder ‘all by my own self’ for the very fiirst time – and seemed to manage very well, too.

18 June 2014     Bully on goalposts
Having seen Bullfinch feeding on the seed feeders at Allan Bank National Trust house in Grasmere, something I’d never seen before, I was delighted to see our local Bully perched on the crossbar from which my feeders hang… Is this a new trend? Have Bullfinches learned to visit feeders? Has the habit spread to Whitby yet?

17 June 2014     GSW & Co
This morning the whole Great Spotted Woodpecker turned up on the Peanut feeder: Mr and Junior did their usual double act, then Mrs also appeared briefly – methinks thery may be a Junior 2 still at home…

Mild and mizzling, so an ideal day for sticking sticks in the Stickery to keep Dunsley Hall Hotel in stock.

15 June 2014     Dry Taylored Cider
We bottled about 30 small bottles of Sleightly Dry Taylored Cider, made from last year’s crop of baking Apples (with the help of the Taylor family). Glad to report that we awarded it a 7 out of 10. Drizzle early, then dry but cloudy.

14 June 2014     Quiz in
We gave ourselves the day off and enjoyed lunch at Shepherds’ Hall in Lealholm before crossing on the stepping stones and visiting the Poet’s Cottage Garden Centre to admire their Woollemi Pine (the recently discovered new species of tree from the Blue Mountains National Park in Australia). Then on to The Moors Centre to hand in our painfully completed quiz sheet (a joint effort) with the proviso that we did NOT want to win the 2nd prize of a day’s mountain biking on Sutton Bank!

13 June 2014     Floor paint
B painted the walls and floor of the laundry while I pottered about. Busily. I think…

10 June 2014      Mega strim
Four hours of strimmimh in the midday sun, trying to catch up with our hols. Hot, dry and sunny and the back of my neck got sunburnt.

09 June 2014     Swarms of Bluits
B stripped and painted the ceiling, and walls of the laundry while I strimmed the fruit lawn. Swarms of young Blue Tits demolished the bird food while dad and junior Great Spotted Woodpeckers dined on Peanuts just outside the kitchen window.

08 June 2014     Cherry done
Dry, sunny and warm this morning so we ran out the electric string and sawed the very last of the Cherry cordwood into firelogs. Some splitting was required. Now the woodshed is 5/6ths full, with a little room left for the still waiting skinny Sycamore, the nice Ash and the awkward Hawthorn.

07 June 2014     Cherry and cider
While it was dry we sawed some Cherry cordwood but rain stopped play. While it was showery we used the rechargable saw to do some more between showers. While it poured for the rest of the day we bottled the first lot of cider, made from eating Apples, ending up with about 40 small bottles of Sleightly Dry Cider (Eaters) with a score of 7 out of 10.

While bottling and labelling we noticed the Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding a youngster on the electricity pole just outside the kitchen window. No wonder Dad had been spending so much time on the Peanut feeder, the Woodpecker equivalent of Macdonalds.

06 June 2014     Showers and Orcas
The shower was repaired this morning after springing a leak and the warm sunny weather was perfect for drying off the laundry (and the laundry room). B weeded all the veg beds and then planted the Orca Beans which we were sent by a guest. Although they look like mini-Orcas (so-called Killer Whales), their proper name is the Trail of Tears Bean – as the white settlers colonised the east coast of North America, the native Americans were forced to retreat inland. They could carry only their most valuable pocessions, which included this Bean, as they moved westwards and lamented their lost lands.

05 June 2014     Horse power
As we drove back from a few days in the Lake District, we found the A66 much slower than usual as occasional horse-drawn Romany caravans trotted along at 4 mph, one (west-bound thank goodness) with a tailback of 166 vehicles. Three cheers for the traditional Appleby Horse Fair!

Meanwhile, SA and MD spent this morning rip-sawing the last drums on the west cords and getting the resulting firelogs into the woodshed. Nearly all gone…

During the past week in t’Lakes we walked and caught buses (so frequent are the buses that if one ever fails to appear then it is only a few minutes before another one arrives anyway – unlike here). We also searched for Red Squirrels. Unsuccessfully. Betty Fold tea gardens above Hawkshead was tried, as was Allen Bank near Grasmere. This is a recently opened National Trust house completely stripped of original furniture, and very informal. Bird and Squirrel feeders are just outside the window of the room used by Wordsworth and Coleridge (who once lived here). Then it was lived in by Canon Rawlnsley, a founder of the National Trust. Typewriters sit on the table and visitors are asked to contribute a line or two, so we did:

I am a little red squirrel
On me hols from the Wirral (BC)

I scampered lonely as a Red, that skips on high o’er trees and rocks
When all at once I spied a Grey, and now I’ve got the Squirrel Pox (NC)

Met for May 2014
Cool to begin the month, then much warmer but often cloudy and wet. Total rainfall 3 inches. The 2 thermometers gave different readings this month: the old fashioned metal Max and Min sed Max 84 degrees F, Actual 70 degrees F and Min 30 degrees F, while the ultra modern, new, digital one sed Max 30 degrees C (c90 degrees F!), Actual 23 degrees C (c76 degrees F) and Min 6 degrees C (c42 degrees F)! Clearly, these do not agree, so one (or both) must be wrong… The Max temps are both unlikely, but the long sunny evenings allow the sun to shine directly on the North-facing wall, so they can both be discounted.

29 May 2014     Sun started play
‘Sun’ is a bit too ambitious but the lack of rain today is very welcome. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker spent much of the day devouring Peanuts just outside the kitchen window. Probably he had also spent the last few days avoiding the rain, but he has a nest full of hungry youngsters to feed. Nutty the silent Nuthatch got the occasional look-in and the Magpie nesting in the big Scots Pine across the road expended more energy clinging onto the side of the anti-Squirrel grid around the seed feeder, than it ever gained from the occasional seed that rolled within reach.

By late afternoon the grass had dried out enough to spend the next 2 hours cutting everything missed last time.

25 May 2014     The Frog lied
The electronic Frog on my met station display said it was going to be hot, dry and sunny today – so I put out 2 loads of washing on the line. Mild, heavy showers and cloudy would have been more like it, so the house is now full of damp washing…

We walked around the wood, found a suitable Ash overhanging the path, and hung the big bunch of metal keys from its branch. Ash keys. Obvious, innit? Then we snipped off some Pea sticks from the habitat piles of lop and top laying around, for the veg garden. I sawed a few branches with the Keo rechargable saw, while B rescued the Beans from Slugs and Pigeons, and weeded the Onions.

Then we bottled (all 3 of them) the Redcurrant Rose wine (dry), before racking the 17 litres of eating apple cider pressed last year. This resulted in 15 litres now in the keg with the pouring tap, which will make bottling much easier next week.

24 May 2014     Shepherds watch their valuables
A wet and low cloudy day, so we pottered up the valley to Lealholm and admired the plants at Poet’s Cottage garden centre before having a lovely lunch in the old Shepherds’ Hall. Then home via Homebase to buy a digital safe for the holiday cottage.

22 May 2014    EU election day
If you can’t be bothered to vote, then you’re not entitled to criticise them. So I did. And I will.

21 May 2014     Some people never learn
Once again it was TDH, so we set about the 6 remaining Cherry drums and eventually split and stacked them in the woodshed. They were hard work too, so we left them pretty chunky – ideal to slow the woodburner down on a windy night with a fat Cherry overnighter.

20 May 2014     Mucky Duck
Yes, that is the trading name of our very nice chimneysweep, who is actually very neat and clean. He swept my woodburner in Groves Bank and we put the world to rights.

19 May 2014     Still growing fast
Another 2 hours strimming today, including the path around the woods.

18 May 2014     TDH for splitting
After leaving the Cherry drums and rip-sawn quarter drums in all weathers for a few weeks, we thought they might be easier to split than before. Only Sleightly. While the sun shone strongly and the warm wind blew, we sought a scrap of shade and tried the wedges and club hammer. No go. Then we tried the xplosive force of the long-handled ‘flying wedge’, which gradually did the trick. Oddly, it was easier to split them by hitting between the annual rings than by aiming for a natural radial crack. We got all the quarter drums split and stacked in the woodshed but by then we were in need of cold drinks and proper shade. [TDH = Too Damn Hot].

17 May 2014     Nunnington Hall
We gave ourselves the day off to make the most of the warmest day of the year (so far) and set off across the High Moors (probably Buzzard) towards Helmsley. Arriving at Nunnington Hall, a National Trust property, we tried the tea garden first, then strolled around the garden before exploring the house. Dating from Tudor times, the rooms have been furnished to illustrate both the 16th Century and the more recent family occupation as well.

16 May 2014     Summer made and beans in
This morning a pair of Swallows, the first at Groves Bank, swooped and chattered excitedly over the garden. And if that wasn’t enough to make a summer, three Swifts, the first I’ve seen this year, swooped and screamed over the house this afternoon.

SA joined us for a walk around the wood and then we all had lunch and a good catch-up. B planted the Beans afterwards, leaving a space for the Orca Beans, a Heritage Seed variety more correctly called the ‘Trail of Tears’ Bean as it was the Native Americans’ most valuable posession as they trecked further and further Westwards to keep ahead of the Whitemans’ advance.

15 May 2014     Harelooms
The nice man from Harelooms in Pickering measured-up for our nice new wardrobe doors. I strimmed the Groves Dyke lawns and then went back to proof-reading.

14 May 2014     Kindle
This afternoon, after our swim, we had enough energy to walk around the wood and gather a big bag full of kindling for the woodburners. Long poles of long-dead Ash are ideal, so we lean any green ones we encounter up against a tree to keep it dry and let it season, the come back a year later to collect the crop when it is properly ripe. No problems lighting the stoves come the autumn…

13 May 2014     Goathland run
A couple of hours strimming this morning, as the grass is growing so fast it all needs doing every week at the moment. Then off to Goathland with boxes of Whitby Guidebooks to deliver. Hot, dry, sunny and busy, so didn’t hang about.

11 May 2014     Veg in
The Tomatoes were planted into their self-watering troughs today, Peas into Veg Bed B (legumes this year) and Cabbage and parsnips into Veg Bed D (brassicas / roots). Heavy showers but mild.

10 May 2014     Soggy Scarborough
Too wet for much except our least-favourite activity: shopping. In this case for stove rope, mattress protectors, milk jug and then lunch at Dean’s garden centre.

09 May 2014     Only a splash
The Captain Cook Oak has been in leaf for almost a week now, but there is still no sign of any leaves on any Ash, including the big leaning one… So ‘Oak before Ash, Only a splash’.

07 May 2014     Last Cherry down
SA joined us for lunch and a nice sit rep (situation report), then B and I dragged down the last quarters of Cherry from the top of the wood, using the bread tray sleigh.

06 May 2014     If not yesterday…
Then today: Another 2 hours of strimming this afternoon and every lawn, woodyard and woodland path has been cut at least once this year. Collapse!

05 May 2014     Sprawk, strim n plant
Two hours of strimming today to start catching up on the backlog. Two Sparrowhawks soared high over their wood. After lunch we planted Beetroot and Brocccoli.

04 May 2014     Bale out
Warm Southerly air (first time in a week) so dry and sunny, a lovely change from cool NEs and a sea roke (fret or fog). B spread the bale of straw we bought yesterday under the Strawberries, while I took myself as far upwind as possible. Then we transplanted some clumps of wild flowers from the fallow hedge veg bed to the wildflower bank down by the stickery.

A pair of Bullfinch, first noticed as a passing white rump, flitted across the woodyard.

03 May 2014     Bale in
A lovely day out (another one, you ask) to Pickering for gardening bits (tomato plantlets, leeklets and a new seed feeder said to be squirrel-proof), lunch at the bakery tea garden in Thornton-le-Dale and then on to the Whole Hog farm shop and cafe to buy a bale of straw (£2, far better value than little wisps of hay in a polybag from a pet shop / garden centre at £5.99!) for the Strawberries.

02 May 2014     Swim n Strawbs
Our first swim for several weeks, then weed the Strawberry bed. Bright, dry, sunny but with a cool wind.

01 May 2014     Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb
The Rhubarb Triangle of North Yorks (all 3 plants) have survived the winter and are now growing happily again. Perhaps some framyard manure will help.

Met station for April 2014
A mostly dry month, with most of the rain falling in the last week. Lots of foggy days, both coastal and low cloud. Max 20 degrees C (68 F), Actual on 01 May 9C (48F), Minimum -1C (30F). The previous Max and Min thermometer became fawlty (never less than 10C, even on frosty mornings) so it has been replaced with 2 others.

30 Apr 2014     6-day bird list
A nice drive across many moortops, looking for moorland birds for TnC’s final morning here. Poor birding but excellent lunch at the Blacksmith’s Arms to see them off.

With EEJ’s help this week’s bird list now comprises 78 species, as follows: Blackbird, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Barnacle Goose, Black Headed Gull, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Coot, Cormorant, Carrion Crow, Chiffchaff, Curlew, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Common Tern, Canada Goose, Cuckoo, Coal Tit, Dabchick, Dippper, Dunnock, Fulmar, Gadwall, Gannet, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Great Crested Grebe, Greenfinch, Grouse, Grey Wagtail, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Lag Goose, Guillemot, Herring Gull, Heron, House Sparrow, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Tit, Meadow Pipit, Mistle Thrush, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Nuthatch, Peregrine Falcon, Puffin, Pheasant, Pochard, Pied Wagtail, Razorbill, Redshank, Reed Bunting, Robin, Rook, Rock Dove, Shelduck, Sand Martin, Sedge Warbler, Skylark, Song Thrush, Sparrowhawk, Swallow, Starling, Tawny Owl, Teal, Tree Sparrow, Tufted Duck, Wheatear, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Wigeon, Wood Pigeon, Wren, Yellowhammer (78).

29 Apr 2014     Greenend and Foss
Back up onto the moortop at Silla Howe and Greenend in the hope of seeing rather more moorland species. More of the same but nothing new. Then lunch and a Nuthatch at Falling Foss, bringing this week’s bird list up to the mid-70s. This evening there were 69 Smooth Newts in my pond.

28 Apr 2014     Bempton RSPB Reserve
Mild, dry and sunny so off to Filey and just beyond for a proper day’s birding. First view of the seabird nesting cliffs is a very small gully with 1 Puffin, 2 Razorbills, 3 Fulmars, a Gannet and a Guillemot. Very managable. Then around the corner and suddenly the overwhelming sight, sound and smell of 100,000 assorted seabirds as they soar past, land, greet, squabble, fight and take off again. Constantly and incessantly. Everywhere. All around. Truly one of our very own (and very accessible) wildlife spectaculars. Not quite the same as 1 million Wildebeast migrating across the Serengetti, but still very spectacular!

Highlight of the day was  as we left and EEJ saw a Peregrine Falcon approaching across the fields, over our heads and then along the cliff edge and right over a viewing point full of people – all looking downwards at the nesting seabirds. Very special!

27 Apr 2014     Fog
We drove across the tops to the Moors Centre at Danby for lunch. Some Grouse, lapwing, Curlew and Wheatears, but hard to see far.

26 Apr 2014     Saltholme RSPB Reserve
While B was at Harrogate flower Show, we spent the day birding at Saltholme on the North Tees marshes, just an hour North of Whitby. Their artificial Sand Martin cliff is fully occupied and it is great to see 60 or more Sand Martins flying together – a once common sight throughout the country but an increasingly rare occurance over the past few decades.

25 Apr 2014     Coast to coast
Delighted to welcome T and C from Merseyside back to Groves Dyke for a few days. Now for some serious birding!

24 Apr 2014     Power off
Northern Powergrid, or whatever they are called this week, did some pre-planned twig trimming in the wood, as well as bigger stuff further up the line near Egton. Off at 9, on again at 4.30pm. I pointed out to the nice man that decorative twig trimming was a bit pointless while the 100+ year old leaning Ash tree looms across the cables. He noted it as a future TMS (Tree Made Safe) project, all part of their Resilience Work in anticipation of the next major storm…

Took IJ to Runswick Bay on a leaflet drop with lunch. We choose a sunny table out of doors but by the time we had finished the sea roke had rolled in and all was cold and damp again. Next time IJ is in Whitby the weather will be much better!

23 Apr 2014     Strim and Foss
I strimmed most of the lawns this morning, then we collected IJ and set off for the tea gardens at Falling Foss – as wonderful as ever.

22 Apr 2014     Looking for the Lion
Delighted to welcome IJ back to Whitby for her umpteenth visit. We drove through rain and thick fog (low cloud) to The Lion on Blakey Ridge for a filling lunch. Sunny bits over Goathland, Pickering and Appleton-le-Moors (it almost began at Dweld Appleton Hall hotel, many moons ago) but then very difficult to find The Lion.

21 Apr 2014     Spring clean
Our own conservatory gets its annual spring clean about now, whether it needs it or not. This time it did. Dry and sunny but still with a cool East breeze. [Don’t worry, the holiday cottage conservatory is always clean and tidy!]

20 Apr 2014     Blackcurrant port
We racked the three 5-gallon buckets of cider, then the Redcurrant wine, the 2 Larplonks and bottled the very promising Blackcurrant Port.

Noisy today, with 3000 scooterists (on their Whitby Rally) driving up to Goathland.

19 Apr 2014     Park and Ride
Whitby’s new Park and Ride scheme is up and running in time for the Easter weekend. Some people are using it, but the vast majority continue to drive into Whitby. Once the new street parking charges are implemented by North Yorkshire County Council on 1st May, fewer cars may try to park in town…

We turned our backs on the busy coast and drove to Lealholm for a very nice lunch at the Shepherd’s Hall, a stoll around the village, over the stepping stones and then home again on the look-out for the Red Kite seen nearby.

17 Apr 2014     First wood strim
I strimmed the path around the wood for the first time this year. 32 Smooth Newts in my pond this evening.

15 Apr 2014     Overnight grass frost
Woke up this morning to white lawns, which I feared might harm the freshly cut lawns. Hope not. 35 Newts this evening.

14 Apr 2014     First grass cutting
Apart from the holiday cottage lawns done last week, this was the first cut of the year for 60% of my lawns. A Sparrowhawk soared high above the wood and gardens, claiming his territory, the my 1st House Martins (6 of them) flying high over the garden.

13 Apr 2014     All spuds in
Sunny and dry, but with a cool breeze. We dug out the ancient (woody) Leeks for Bed 1 of the Hedge Veg beds, and planted 2 drills of Pentland Javelin Potatoes. Bed 2 is stll a wild flower mix, waiting to be transplanted out to the wildflower bank by the Stickery, but will become this year’s Leeks bed, while Bed 3 got a scattering of wild flower seed and will be left fallow to recover its fertility this summer.

12 Apr 2014     Spuds in
Off to Runswick Bay for a blast of sea air (to chase B’s cough) and to deliver this year’s Whitby Guidebooks (www.VisitWhitby.com) to The Royal (new decor, lovely soup), Beach Cafe (nice coffee), the Ellerby Hotel, Raithwaite Hotel, Netherby Guest House and the River Gardens. Then home to plant 2 drills of King Edward Potatoes in Bed C of the Veg Garden.

10 Apr 2014     Now EU Compliant
After 4 very busy days, the electricians have now completed PAT Testing (Portable Appliance Testing Testing) and the Electrical Safety Report, as well as the remedial works (suitable bathroom light, heater and fitted a new RCD (Residual Current Device) to comply with the 99th Edition of the latest Rules n Regs appertaining to guest accommodation. Great. That’ll be almost £1000, thank-you!

17 Newts in my pond this evening.

09 April 2014     Deer, Yaffle and electrics
The electrician continues work in Groves Dyke, while a couple of Roe Deer run away as i carry down another lump of Cherry. The male Sparrowhawk soared high over the garden and wood, claiming his territory. The Wild Cherry (Gean) is just starting to come into leaf and flower, Blackthorn is flowering, Hawthorn is leafing, the Willow is well out and the 3 Plum trees in Groves Dyke orchard are flowering well. 37 Smooth Newts in my pond this evening.

08 April 2014     Fixed Wiring Safety survey
Work continues on Groves Dyke electrics and there were 25 Newts in my pond this evening.

07 April 2014     PAT tested
Poot PAT was tested today and all is well. The examination was both very detailed and very intrusive, but he passed with flying colours… ie: all Portable Appliances Testing was done in the holiday cottage today and everything was shipshape and Bristol fashion. Just all the Fixed Wiring to be tested and certified next…

07 Apr 2014     Home again
Just back from a few days in t’Lakes, and very nice, too, thank-you. Still catching up…

28 March 2014     Wet n grey
By midday there was a full inch of rain in my rain gauge, the total for the month so far, and almost all of it fell since dawn today. Ugh. But Spring is coming back again on Monday…

27 March 2014     Kev on site
Our favourite joiner / builder arrived this morning and worked all day on all sorts of minor jobs in Groves Dyke, including re-pointing the chimney in the loft. It was Kev the Builder who built the conservatory, the deck, the kitchen and almost everything else here and next door.

26 March 2014     Silver Birch under cover
We sawed and split the 4-foot lengths on the cord and got everything converted into firelogs and safely into the nice, dry woodshed.

25 March 2014     Hi-pak Cherry
I dug out my ancient hi-pak rucksack frame and took it on my daily walk around the wood. Once at the top, a rip-sawn quarter drum of Cherry was strapped on and I carried it back down to the woodshed very easily. Now I just need a ‘mounting block’ device at the top so that I can get the darn thing up and onto my back!

24 March 2014     Mallard B & B
When I went out in late evening to count the amphibians by torchlight, I was startled to find a pair of happily snoozing Mallard in the middle of my pond! I left them in peace and they were gone by next morning.

23 March 2014     Onions in
A slight overnight frost soon improved to a sunny day with a cool Northerly wind. By midday a pair of Mallard were basking on the warm stone around my pond. After coffee in the conservatory, B planted the both red aand white Onions in veg bed 3, while I snipped winter-growing Brambles from the veg hedge.

Looking at the garden, we realised that the great show of Snowdrops and Crocus is now over, and that all the Daffodils are are at their best. The Willow arch and the Twigwam are the first (and only) trees in leaf and that a pair of Bluetits were investigating the nest box in the orchard.

22 March 2014     GPs flock in
As we drove over Sleights Moor a flock of c20 Golden Plover flew across the road, moving up from their wintering flocks on the coastal mudflats to their thinly scattered breeding territories on the moortop. We pottered briefly in Malton before collecting the strimmer and heading for home. Just 7 Newts in my pond this evening.

21 March 2014     Fifty-one / Fourty-nine and counting…
On my morning round I disturbed 2 Roe Deer at the top of the wood, and then I dragged down another Cherry log. Later, SA and I barrowed all the 2013/4 cut Cherry down to the woodyard and stacked it. After lunch he split the Cherry and Ash drums and stacked them in the woodshed, while BC and I carried down more Hawthorn and then sawed the Cherry and Silver Birch into firelogs and stacked them, too. Busy day. Late this evening there were 15 Smooth Newts in my pond, no Frogs and no Toads.

20 March 2014     Fifty / Fifty
The Spring Equinox today, when day and night are of equal length, so Spring has officially begun. I walked around the wood this morning, dragged down a 4 foot log of Cherry and found a female Mallard swimming happily in my pond. Lots of Golden Saxifrage flowering in the wood.

19 March 2014     Cherry down
We carried and rolled yet more of the Cherry drums and 4-foot lengths down to the woodyard. Both Cherry and Silver Birch tend to get damp and rot, so the sooner we get it sawn up and/or split and under cover, the better the chance of having sound firelogs next winter.

This evening there were 0 Toads, 1 Frog and 19 Smooth Newts in my pond.

18 March 2014     Strimmer strike
Reluctant as I was to start the grass-cutting season, the strimmer was even more so. After long but fruitless negotiations, I decided to take it to the nice man at Malton. One ash log down today.

17 March 2014     Paddy’s Resolution
It may not be New Year but (if it isn’t pouring) I WILL walk around the wood every morning (possibly before breakfast) no matter what happens (almost). This morning I flushed a pair of Partridge, a new species for the wood, from the top edge. They whirred away across the horse field above and tipped-in near a drystone wall. Perhaps the long grass at the edge of the wood is better nesting cover than the close-cropped field. Dragged down a 4-foot length of Cherry to the woodyard. Later I rolled 3 big Cherry drums down on reins (so easy), dragged down another 4-foot, heard a Green Woodpecker yaffling in the wood and then, from the kitchen sink, saw a male Sparrowhawk dash past the side of the polebarn, grab something small and feathered from Bullfinch Corner and fly off with it. Hope it wasn’t what the name suggests…

At 9pm there were 0 Toads, 2 Frogs and 17 Smooth Newts in my pond.

16 March 2014     Silver surfers
We carried and / or dragged down the newly-felled Silver Birch cordwood and created a new cord for it in the woodyard. Then we sawed up and carried down some Hawthorn from the far North East corner, using the brand new rechargable Keo sabre saw – very nifty!

This required frequent rests and cold drinks on the veranda, as well as a bit of Frog Watching in my pond: there are 47 mini-clumps of spawn there now, indicating 94 individual Frogs involved in the creation of the mega-clump (which would now fill a 2 gallon bucket.

15 March 2014     Falling Foss bacon butty
The tea garden opened today so we went to try out the new boardwalk (upstream) and have lunch. Many trees have come down due the winter gales, so the tea garden is now much more open and surrounded by neat stacks of firewood and many more big trunks on the ground.

Tried out the new rechargable saw in the woodyard and well impressed with the resulting fire logs. Lots more Frogspawn in my pond, with more on the way!

14 March 2014     Busy
While I dealt with the Yorkshire Cottages 2-hour safety inspection (no problems), SA and MD dropped a tricky mid-sized Silver Birch near the Captain Cook Oak and logged it into 4 foot cordwood lengths, then cut more of the big Cherry into 16-inch drums, then helped our local woodturner with a bit of very fresh Silver Birch and some rip-sawing, while BC dragged down yet more of the Hawthorn. Exhausted. (Me).

In late afternoon, we noticed a pair of Mallard ducks in my pond and looking like new homeowners! Years ago, there was once a female Mallard there with a dozen fluffy ducklings having their first ever swim. Heron droppings nearby suggested that the Frogs had also attracted a predator. A pair of Bullfinches fed in the dense branches just beyond the feeding station.

13 March 2014     Frogspawn!
First Frogspawn in my pond this morning. After yet another grass frost (the 3rd or 4th this month) followed by yet lovely calm, dry, warm and sunny day, the overnight cupful of spawn in my pond was added to by mid-afternoon by a dozen excited Frogs. By sunset there were about 4 cupfuls…

12 March 2014     First Chiffchaff
Yet another grass frost this morning, followed by another warm, calm, dry and sunny day. The First Chiffchaff called from up in the wood and a distant Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed from further up the drive. Gone are the days when drumming was a frequent occurance and so was GSWs feeding on the peanuts.

In late evening there were 2 Toads, 8 Frogs and 13 Smooth Newts in my pond.

11 March 2014     New pillows
Thicker curtains were added to the single bedroom and new pillows in every bedroom in Groves Dyke today. A pair of Goldfinches fed on the Nigerseed just outside the kitchen windows and by late evening there were 8 Frogs and 35 Smooth Newts in my pond.

09 March 2014     Spring!
Warm (17 degrees C outside), dry and sunny with little wind. Gardening weather at last, so we added last year’s (peat-free) growbags to the raised beds and veg beds, dug them all over, pruned the Sedum and Dahlias and prepared this year’s Tomato planters on the veranda. A kestrel from the wood flew over us as we worked.

08 March 2014     Bay beachcombing
That pesky cold wind is still far too evident, but otherwise dry. We lunched at Robin Hood’s Bay (just Bay or Baytown to its friends) and then searched (with some success) for jet and fossils on the very low tide.

Shopped for gardening bits, plus paint for the Groves Dyke window frames, etc on the way home.

Frogs nil, Toad 1, Smooth Newts 17 in my pond by mid-evening.

07 March 2014     Hawthorn x 4
SA brought 4 loads of Hawthorn down on the trolley and the cord is almost half full now. After lunch BC and I joined him to tidy-up a young Cherry stem snapped and hanging by a strap in Groves Dyke orchard. It was about as awkward as it could be and the only access was from the narrow strip between the polebarn and the hedge we hope to lay in a few weeks. Gradually, we dismantled it from the Honeysuckle entanglement, saving almost all of the creeper intact.

Frogs 22 and Smooth Newts 31 in my pond this evening.

05 March 2014     Should I be annoyed?
The day began with a pair of Siskin (rarely seen here) feeding on my Niger seed, but then they were chased off by a pair of Goldfinches, and I wasn’t sure just how to react…

A 15-minute bird count from my windows later this morning produced a total of 22 individual birds of 13 species: Blackbird 3, Blue Tit 2, Chaffinch 2, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 1, Great Tit 2, Long Tail Tit 2, Marsh Tit 1, Robin 2, Siskin 2, Tree Sparrow 2, Wood Pigeon 1.

04 March 2014     Stealth Bullfinches
An almost invisible pair of surprisingly-well camoflaged Bullfinch were feeding at the edge of the wood, just opposite the kitchen windows. Best seen when they flew from one branch to another and their distinctive white rumps caught the eye.

01 Mar 2014     Leccy lads
While the 4 foresters from Northern Powergrid were giving a light trim (very light) to any trees growing too close to the overhead powerlines, we made the most of the lovely weather and set off for the moortop. Mild, calm, dry and sunny – making it the best day of the year so far. Glaisdale, ‘Francis Hartus to repair this yat and yatstead 1737’ carved into the stone gatepost (see http://www.hartas.org/francis_stone.html ), Caper Hill ( 1 cyclist), Hart Leap (1 car, 1 cyclist) and then off to Danby Moors Centre for lunch and the pretty way home. Only 1 Grouse all day, but 3 lapwings flew over Lealholm moor. Almost Spring…

All quiet by the time we got back, with very little useful firewood cut, but we stacked what we could and wondered which other tree we might take down before this winter is over… perhaps a Silver Birch?

February 2014 Weather
Another wet and windy but mild month, with 78 mm (3 inches ) of rain. The maximum temperature during the month was 19 degrees C / 65 degrees F and the minimum was 10? degrees C / 50? degrees F (suspect minimum readings, as there were a couple of ground frosts). At 09.30am on the 1st day of the following month the actual temperature was 14 degree C / 56 degrees F. There were only 2 overnight frosts during the month, with a skim of ice on my pond just once.

28 Feb 2014     Ditching again
We cleared the top neighbours drain again, after the heavy rain a couple of days ago, building up the 3 low places where the water overflows and runs down through the wood, instead of continuing across the slope above. Also hammered in stakes to hold the new Scots Pine bench in place, and carried down some Hawthorn to the woodyard.

27 Feb 2014     Scots pine away
With the debate about Scottish independence in the news, SA and MD felled the badly leaning Scots Pine tree halfway up on the Eastside of the wood. Once down, it was lopped and topped into a couple of big habitat piles (left to rot) and the big stick (not suitable for firewood) sawn into 4 equal lengths and built into an in situ park bench.

Very cold this evening (2 degrees C) so only 2 Frogs but also 2 Smooth Newts.

26 Feb 2014     Tree almost toppled
Heavy overnight rain and strong winds have left a Scots PIne leaning across the path at a dangerous angle. It had been standing in a saturated area and either the roots had been drowned or the soil structure so weakened that it had just lost its grip. With much of the thames valley still underwater for weeks, I wonder how many trees there will also suffer?

We cleared the Brambles, etc from the base to prepare it for felling, then we felled a 6 inch diameter Hawthorn which was crowding a young Oak at the top of Bruno’s Bannisters, as well as pollarding another yound Oak nearby .

25 Feb 2014     Ditching marathon
This morning I spend almost 3 hours clearing out my top neighbour’s field drain, which should carry the water from his fields across my top boundary and safely away. Now blocked by fallen branches, leaves and puddled by livestock, the water tends to overflow the lowest parts of the bank and runs down throuh my wood, leaving some trees standing in saturated soil. OK for Willows and Alders, but not for most species.

Cooler today so only 9 Frogs in my pond tonight.

24 Feb 2014     More frogs
28 Frogs in my pond late this evening, a mild night.

23 Feb 2014     First Frogs
A pair of Frogs, the first seen here this year, piggy-backed across my lawn from the beck (stream) to my pond. In 3 trips (6 loads) we carried all the long Ash from near the Dogsnout laund, down the SSSAye (Short Sharp Shock, Aye) and onto the cord in the woodyard (which is now about half full). Very windy but Southwesterly, dry and 14 degrees C, so the paths have dried out a lot – which helps enormously.

Then we carried down 8 loads (4 trips) of Blackthorn and Hawthorn to the woodyard before pausing for a coffee in the conservatory. From there we could see just how much the major limbs on the BLA (Big Leaning Ash) and the Cook Oak (ex-Major Oak) were moving in the blustery gale, so we thought better of working just below them for the next day or three.

22 Feb 2014     Reconnected again
Having been without my BT WiFi for a few days, it is nice for the rest of the world to be in touch again. No. No idea why – but BT are busy throughout this area with their Superduper Superfast Superwhizwhiz (or whatever its called this week) fibre optic rollout thingy and lots of people locally are complaining about problems. So, on behalf of BT, my apologies for the missing link.

We also dug over 3 of the inside veg beds, adding compost from the Groves Dyke compost bin. With cheap nasty chalk-filled fatballs in the feeder at the back of the house and proper nutritious just slightly more expensive RSPB fatballs* in the spatio feeder, it soon becomes obvious which the birds prefer. Voting with their wings, the good fatballs now need replacing a bit more frequently! (*Also available at Sainsbury’s).

21 Feb 2014     First Daffs
[Belated entry]. Two clumps of Daffodils in Groves Dyke orchard are noe in full flower, the first here this year. Spring, as they say, is sprunging. To Pickering for a swim and lunch, then we were caught in a shop doorway for 10 minutes of very heavy rain, thinking about all the towels we had left drying on the line at Groves Bank. To our delight and surprise, when we got home there had been no rain and the towels were dry. What a difference 20 miles of moorland can make!

19 Feb 2013     Next winter’s flogs
[Belated entry]. SA, B and I spent the morning carrying Blackthorn and Hawthorn cordwood from the Far East edge to the path, where it was stacked for future carrying. Some we brought down to the woodyard for sawing or cordwood.

After lunch B and I sawed the skinny Ash and Sycamore from the tripod into firelogs and started stacking them into a new ‘wall’ of firelogs in the woodshed for next winter (2014/5)…

18 Feb 2014     Double figures
[Belated entry]. Calm, dry and sunny today with a midday temperature of 11 degrees C. Still catching up after a few cold wet and windy days in the Lake District. It seems the weather here was very similar. SA carried 3 loads of Hawthorn across to the path this morning.

17 Feb 2014     Catching up
[Belated entry]. Home again yesterday after a week in the Lake District. It was cold, wet and windy there and seems it was much the same here. We visited Arnside, Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve, Grange-over-Sands, Ulverston, Sizergh Barn, Kendal, Ambleside and Hawkshead – but didn’t see a Buzzard nor a Raven until we returned over the Pennines near Kirkby Stephen.

My rain gauge almost full so we tipped out 1.5 inches to leave room for any more by the end of the month.

08 Feb 2014     Still windy and wet
The wild weather continues to batter the SW of the UK with gale after gale (187 Flood Warnings and 3 Severe Flood Warnings today) but up here it is just a bit wet and a bit windy. Thank goodness it is not an endless succession of North Eastery gales, or we would be suffering.

Yesterday SR dug the granite setts into my lawn to create a nice path around the drying triangle. With so many towels from Groves Dyke to dry, this will make life much easier.While he was working he saw a Treecreeper with a tit flock in the woodyard, where he also replaced the bottom 2 posts in the western cord bed.

04 Feb 2014     Cherry dropped
SA and MD felled a small Cherry and we cleared it away, creating a space to fell a bigger Cherry into. By lunchtime we had sawn all the thinner bits into 4-foot cordwood and stacked them in a criss-cross, with some of the small drums also stacked. Only the Big Stick still to cut up.

That should be the end of thinning operations for this winter, with some more logging-up to do on the felled Hawthorn and Blackthorn. Then the forestry contractors from Northern Powergrid will appear in a few weeks and trim off anything else growing too close to their overhead wires. That should be enough for next winter!

03 Feb 2014     Siskin and Woodcock
Cool, dry and sunny but with a strong Force 3 SW breeze and much windchill. A single Siskin fed from the Nigerseed feeder, the first seen for many months. I walked around the wood and flushed a Woodcock, the seen first this winter, from near the top of Dykeside. Took the reins and a club hammer up to the top of the Short Sharp Shock, Aye (SSSI) and in no time at all the 3 big (16 inch diameter) Ash drums were down in the woodyard. Easy peasy. About 5 minutes each, so this may be the answer…

02 Feb 2014     Slipe n split
We slithered up the wood to the top of the SSSAye (Short Sharp Shock, Aye) path and dragged down another breadtray sleigh (slipe in Northern Ireland) of Ash drums. Too slape (slippery in Yorkshire) for another trip, so we split the 8 drums in the woodyard and stacked them in the woodshed – which is now more than half-full again.

01 Feb 2014     Cedar Barn
A nice day out in Pickering, with lunch at the nearby Cedar Barn farm shop and cafe. Nothing like a Yorkshire Breakfast for lunch to keep the bitterly cold wind out. Thornton-le-Dale afterwards and then home.

January 2014 Weather
A very wet and windy but mild month (maily SW gales), the mildest January for many years, with 104 mm (4 inches ) of rain. The maximum temperature during the month was 15 degrees C / 60 degrees F and the minimum was -4 degrees C / 26 degrees F. At 09.30am on the 1st day of the following month the actual temperature was 13 degree C / 56 degrees F. There were only 3 overnight frosts during the month, with a skim of ice on my pond just twice.

31 Jan 2014     Ashdown
Cold, wet and windy after we dragged down 4 Ash drums to the woodyard.

30 Jan 2014     Dawn solo
A single Blackbird greeted the dawn about 8am this morning, the first almost proper birdsong of the year. 3 degrees C outside, bright and dry but paths still very slippery.

SA and I walked up the East side where the Blackthorn used to be and he chainsawed down occasional small less-favoured trees which needed thinning to prevent them shading-out young Oaks and other more-favoured species. Two intertwined Hawthorns, a dozen or more Blackthorn and then a grand finale of a multi-stemmed, interdigitating and intertwingled Hawthorn near Yew 4 (like U2 only better). We just dropped them and moved on, leaving all the lopping, topping and logging for another day. This way, if it is Spring already, we complete the felling / thinning before the sap rises and its too late for another year.

9 Longtailed Tit on the fatballs at lunchtime.

28 January 2014     First Snowdrops
The first clump of Snowdrops are now blooming in Groves Dyke orchard. The Daffs are some 6 inches high but not yet in bud, while the Willow tree is full of catkins. 6 degrees C outside, 95% relative humiidity, calm and mizzling. Three Bullfinches (2 males and 1 female) worked their way through the scrub from the Willow Arch to the Polebarn.

I cleared 6 of the 7 drains on the main drive and marked them clearly so that everyone knows where they are and has no excuse not to keep them clear.

26 January 2014     Big Garden Birdwatch
Very heavy overnight rain with SW gales. 2 degrees C with sleet in am. Showers later.

We took part in the RSPB’s biggest wildlife survey in the world and in 1 hour the highest number of each species seen at any one time was: Longtailed Tit 9, Blue Tit 3, Wood Pigeon 3, Blackbird 2, Dunnock 2, Great Tit 2, Marsh Tit 2, Robin 2, Coal Tit 1, Collared Dove 1, Nuthatch 1. (Absentees included Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Pheasant and Tree Sparrow, but they will doubtless reappear in due course).

My half-pipes in the ditch were in full flow, the main drive was wet so BC and I cleared the grids of leaves and mud. Carrs road had deep puddles from off the fields, passable with care.

25 Jan 2014     Heart to Hart
We drove to Sandsend for a mini-stroll during the lull in the weather, then had very nich soup in The Hart.

24 Jan 2014     Wren Man
Delighted to entertain Bob Hunter’s son and grandson (see  http://www.wrencabinetmakers.com/) to lunch at Groves Bank. They were delivering furniture in the area and we were proud to show them the Gnome Man’s abbot.

Afterwards, BC and I threw 6 Ash drums down the Short Sharp Shock (Aye) to the woodyard. We thought this would be easier than rolling or sleighing – but it wasn’t. They rolled everywhich way but the right one and fetching them back again was far from easy.

23 January 2014     Worst day in 12 months
Preparing the annual accounts couldn’t be delayed any longer, so I locked myself in with a big tin of biscuits and didn’t let myself out until they were finished. Yes, both!

22 Jan 2014     Stakes and flogs
BC and I sawed the Hazel poles into hedge-laying stakes and / or fire logs in the polebarn, and lopped the surplus Willow rods into 16 inch kindling.

21 Jan 2014     Swifty Fiveoaks (just 2 short)
SA and I transplanted 5 self-sown Oak saplings from silly places (eg Groves Bank orchard) to the ex-Blackthorn ride up the Eastern boundary. Some of these will be offspring from Swifty Swift’s Oak, which will have to be removed from the same orchard now that it is getting far too big.

Then we trimmed the Polebarn hedge, ready for laying in a few weeks.

20 Jan 2014     A skim of ice
Frosty last night and a skim of ice on my pond this morning. I walked around the wood but the paths are very very slippery. Carried down 2 cord lengths of Ash.

19 Jan 2014     A light air
More rain overnight and just a steady drizzle this morning, with no wind. Or at least, just a Force 1 on the Beaufort Wind Scale, known technically as a ‘Light Air’, so we took the opportunity to light the bonfire (with some difficulty). A woodshedful of cardboard cartons and christmas wrappings provided the firelighter, with loads of Ash twigs as kindling, then Sycamore and Cherry twigs, much fanning, and then it was off! After an hour or so we were able to add sodden trellis, unsplitable Cherry forks and clods of Zebra Grass roots. Wonderful.

We tried to carry down a bit of recently felled Sycamore but the paths were just far too muddy and slippery. By mid-afternoon the rain had stopped, the sun was trying to shine and the temperature was a ridiculously high 8 degrees C.

17 Jan 2014     Bendy Ash gone
We walked around the wood to admire the ripped Cherry logs neatly stacked by the path. Even though it was felled 12 months ago it has still not dried out enough to get light enough to carry down easily.

So we moved all of yesterday’s bendy Ash down to the woodyard, adding the cordwood to the cord (now almost half full) and sawing the lengths into firelogs for the woodshed. Heavy rain again last night but dry this afternoon.

Two Goldfinches were feeding on the Nigerseed, which I have now moved to just outside the kitchen windows. Six Longtailed Tit came to the fat balls on the spatio, the most we have seen this winter. The Big Garden Birdwatch is in a couple of weeks, and this feeder used to be by the conservatory and out of sight from the warmest rooms.

16 Jan 2014     Bendy Ash down
SA and MD chainsawed the ‘big stick’ of the 30-year old Ash into more managable 16-inch drums and then felled the skinny young Bendy Ash growing too close to the 200+-year old Big Leaning Ash. It tried to be difficult but, with some passing help, we wrestled it to the ground and it was soon neatly stacked, together with the nearby forked Hawthorn. Now that young Oak will get a bit more elbow room and sunlight.

After lunch I carried some Ash down while they took their ‘ripping chain’ up to last year’s Cherry trunk, which they cut lengthwise into more managable chunks. Excellent.

15 Jan 2014     Mud slide
We took a very long time to split the big Ash drum, perhaps because the sap is already rising and the wedges just bounced off. Having finally split, we dragged 3 of the quarters down on the breadtray sleigh, but the path is so wet and muddy we decided not to repeat the process.

A nice man from the leccy company’s contractors appeared unexpectedly, to see what branches had grown too close to the wires. We gave him the grand tour of the wood and he entered all the details into his I-pad for me to sign (with my little fingertip).

14 Jan 2014     Rabbit
As I drove into the polebarn a young Rabbit, the first I’ve seen here for several months, ran off into the orchard.

12 Jan 2014     Wild Swans
A flock of 10 Swans flew low over Larpool Hall this morning, on silent wings (ie not Mute Swans, whose wings whistle on every flap) with occasional calls. They came from the North (Whitby or beyond) and were heading inland and South. They called, but not much, so might have been the less chatty Bewick Swan rather than the noisier Whooper Swan. But they seemed bigger than Bewicks, and Whoopers are more likely this far North, so an almost definite sighting of 10 Whoopers…

10 Jan 2014     All hands
Dry, calm and mild, but slippery underfoot. SA and MD dropped a 30-year old Ash near the Dog Snout Crab Apple tree. Some 2 foot in diameter, this will give us a fair bit of firewood for next winter – or next month if North America’s Polar Vortex comes this way! I did some trimming, measuring (16 inch drums or 4 foot cordwood) and stacking, while BC dragged the longer branches and cordwood down to the woodyard cord beds.

Work continued after lunch, including dropping a couple of skinny Ash stems from too near the phone wires. By end of play we had the beginnings of a new cord in the woodyard, plus on site a crisscross stack of 3 layers of cordwood, a big stick still to be sawn into drums with a bigger chainsaw, a stack of 16 inch drums and a couple of layers of cordwood. Enough for one day, I think.

09 Jan 2014     Accounts Day
The worst day of the year, but with a whole tin of biccys, lots of coffee, a bird count and many prevarications, the papers were located, gathered, sorted and delivered to the accountant by mid-afternoon. Then chocy cake at Viccy Farm.

9.45 – 10am 8/8 cloud, calm, steady drizzle: Blue Tit 4, Great Tit 3, Blackbird 2, Dunnock 2, Robin 2, Wood Pigeon 2, Coal Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1, Pheasant 1, Nuthatch 1 (19 individuals of 10 species).

08 Jan 2014     Drag ‘n saw
BC and I dragged down yesterday’s felled Oak and Ash from Beckside West, and bowsawed it into firelogs.

07 Jan 2014     Long Dead Oak
Bright, dry, sunny and very windy: 10 degrees C, 4/8ths cloud cover. The spatio Cotonester berries still remaining on the tips of branches have almost all been stripped over the past few days, by Blackbirds, Bullfinches and the occasional Song Thrush
SA and I felled a couple of tall, skinny and long dead Oaks, as well as thinning 1 young Ash. After lunch we sawed the Oak into firelogs and then megalopped half a dozen Hazel weaving rods so that SA could complete the 2nd wicker panel on the South wall of the polebarn. Looking good!

05 Jan 2014     All’s well
We walked around the wood today, moving lots of small branches off the path and ignoring the thousands of twigs strewn everywhere by the endless gales. These endless gales do have the advantage of being mild and Southerly, with a nice dry, sunny day in between every new frontal system. Very odd. We carried down a snapped off long dead Oak branch and sawed it up for kindling.

04 Jan 2014     Sandsend ok
We strolled along the front at Sandsend, admired the temporary traffic lights and footpath (where the concrete pavement used to overhang the beach until the last storm), had lunch at Sandside Cafe and then walked back along the beach. More gabions are already being constructed under the Sandside decking to support it properly, but vast volumes of sand have been removed from the beach and the concrete skin on the seawall supporting the main road has been shattered and the fill exposed.

03 Jan 2014     New at Groves Dyke
Over the past few months many things have improved at Groves Dyke: Thousands of pounds worth of new tarmac on the drive (and still more to do this year); new bedroom chairs throughout; a new dresser in the dining room; a new sandwich toaster; lots of redecorating; a new venetian blind and colour scheme for the bathroom. We hope you all approve…

01 Jan 2014     Oak yule log
Our very first home grown Oak (thinned last winter) firelog carried the living flame from the old year to the new year. New year’s day started dry and breezy but soon returned to the usual wet and very windy pattern of the past few weeks.