News Blog 2015

Dec Met Readings: A mild, wild, windy and eventually very wet month: Total Rainfall = 3 inches (almost all in the last week); Max 62F, Actual 38F, Min 27F.

31 Dec 2015     Tail-end Frankie
Calm today, after a ferocious storm here the night before, a few days after NW England and SW Scotland bore the brunt of Storm Frank. An old Apple tree in Groves Bank orchard is now collapsed onto a neighbouring one and will need to be cleared away one day. We laid a bit more of the hedge at the top of the orchard, to check the phone lines.

29 Dec 2015     Where’s Buzby?
One Roe Deer in the wood this morning as I walked around. It is mild (10 degrees C) dry and calm today, unlike the awful storms and flooding in the Lake District over the past several weeks. A 15-minute bird count from my window gave: Blue Tit 3, Great Tit 3, Robin 2, Bullfinch 1, Chaffinch 1, Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 1, Nuthatch 1, Robin 1, Wood Pigeon 1.

My BT phone line is misbehaving again (2nd time this month, 3rd time this year), which means no telephone, no broadband and no email. So much for paying extra for High Speed Broadband, when all I have is not even Low Speed, but No Speed!

26 Dec 2015     Super wet
Torrential rain overnight filled the rain gauge, so I tipped out 2.5 inches to make room for any more before the end of the month.

24 Dec 2015     Christmas Eva
Storm Eva has just passed (we hope!) and it really was a bit wet and windy – but no damage here. Add to that a few power cuts (not, they are NOT ‘outages’!), plus a few landline problems plus a few extra laptop changeover problems, and I think we will just put these very frustrating old and new laptops aside for a few days and wish you all: A Merry Christmas and Very Best Wishes for 2016!

20 Dec 2015     Catch-up
After losing all telephone connection, waiting for a BT engineer, the BT network too wet to work, then the system drying itself out again before the BT engineer was due, cancelling the BT engineer appointment, then finding my old laptop was badly infected, then having it away while CompuSOS in Whitby cleaned it of all viruses, then 3 days tree felling (2.5 of them on 1 very awkward Cherry tree!), then all back to near normal chaos – here we are again. One day we may catch up with the missing News Blog entries. And one day we will have transferred all the website editing to the new laptop… but until then, here we are again, not quite ready for Christmas. Still, ready or not, I think it is going to happen anyway, so: We both wish a Very Happy Christmas to all our reader.

06 Dec 2015     Clear up
Storm Desmond has just gone, leaving us with a trail of twigs but, luckily, little else. In the NW or England and Southern Scotland he left a trail of flooding, fallen trees and disruption. We walked around the wood and were pleasantly surprised that everything is still ok. So we removed all the paint tins and painting paraphernali from our conservatory, now that the hall, stairs and landing (in Groves Bank) has been redecorated. Dulux ‘Light and Space’ (light-reflecting) in ‘Morning Light’, with brilliant white gloss on all the woodwork – ingluding 2 coats on each of the 45 banister spindles. But it deally does look so much better!

04 Dec 2015     Plum drum and ash stack
MD joined us with his chainsaw and we got such a lot done. The fallen Plum tree in Groves Dyke was soon cut into drums and stacked, then we started cutting everything on the West cord into stovelogs and stacking them  in the woodshed. This was the Ash we felled with SA in January this year, because it was crowding-out a young Oak. The wood has been seasoning in the woodyard since then and is now ripe for burning this winter. By mid-afternoon we had cleared it all away and into the woodshed. Excellent!

22 Nov 2015     Snow go
The first Northerly gale this winter struck yesterday. It blew down the 2 nice Victorian (?) wooden shelters on Whitby west cliff, damaged the newly-laid concrete retaining wall for the £9 million Sandsend road coastal defence work (Project Canute?), stopped a Coastliner double-decker bus half-way up a snowy hill on the moortop and made us abandon our attempt to cross the moors to Pickering yesterday. No sign of any gritting on the A169 so it will be interesting to hear the County Council’s explaination…

13 Nov 2015     Giant crane at Sandsend
Not the bird, just a mega big crane now by the coast road, ready to lift in the 14-ton slabs of precast concrete to complete the fight against rising sea levels. A snip at only £8 million, or was it £12 million, to protect the main road from Whitby to Sandsend.

12 Nov 2015     Abi-gale
Storm Abigail swept past this afternoon and evening, thankfully well to the North of here. Abigail is the Met Office’s first ‘named’ storm, so we are due for a year of female names in alphabetical order (Storm Betty next?) and then a year of male names. Not sure about a year of transgender names after that…

11 Nov 2015     Last legs?
My elderly laptop seems to be struggling more than ever with WordPress, so let us begin the worrysome task of transferring the editing of this website and News Blog to the new laptop. Please do NOT hold your breath, as I am not at all familiar with the new one yet!

10 Nov 2015     Still cutting grass
It may be almost mid-November but, as the weatherman said, it’s ‘ridiculously mild’ for this time of year. Odd that nobody else ever wonders why…

Volunteered with others to strim the grass at a local walled garden, just to keep it ticking over.

09 Nov 2015     Hello Barney
After a very wild, wet and windy night I walked up the wood to carry down another down my daily load of Leccy Ash. There, sheltering in a tree hole, was a lovely Barn Owl, the very First Barn Owl ever recorded here in Groves Coppice. It ducked down and I left it alone to keep dry.

08 Nov 2015     It was a cough…
…that carried him off. It was a coffin they carried him off in. No, not really that bad, just a slight cough and cold – possibly even Man Flu. Will try to catch up in the next few days.

Two male Bullfinches and a female on the spation feeders this morning, and a Wren feeding right inside both the Sunflower hearts and the fatball feeders. Never see that before. Very windy and my phonelines are swinging wildly, giving ‘spasmodic broadband’ so I think I’ll stop trying to update this now.

07 Nov 2015     Morning Light
Is the name of the paint we chose today for our hall, stairs and landing in Groves Bank. It was wet today, so we went shopping. A 15-minute bird count at my feeders gave: Blue Tit 3, Bullfinch 3,  Chaffinch 2, Coal Tit 2, Great Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Robin 1, Wren 1 (AND the Wren was feeding inside the Sunflower heart feeder!). 11.30 – 11.45, wet and windy, sunny and showeers.

11 Oct 2015     Put up a Buzzard
As we walked up through the wood the Jays called frantically and then a Buzzard flew from a big Oak at the top of the wood. We will be absolutely delighted to provide accommodation for a Buzzard or two here at Groves Coppice!

Still warm, dry and sunny. We dragged down the fallen Oak limb but it seems a bit too light to be useful firewood. Then to Tyranosaw-ing the Ash from the cord, the tree we felled last winter from just above SA’s Rowan. After a couple of hours work (with a break for Bramble-picking) we had completed 1/12th of the woodshed and started stacking under the same diagonal. There is more cordwood to be done and the woodshed is already 2/3 full (almost).

10 Oct 2015      Roger’s Apple Day
Misty woodland horizons this morning, just like our newest wallpapering. After lunch at Pickering garden centre we went to the Apple Day event at neighbouring Roger’s Plant Nursery (world famous for its Roses). They had their usual magnificent display of dozens and dozens of Apple varieties, including many local / rare ones, in the first greenhouse. Elsewhere they had demonstrations of Apple pruning and also of Apple juicing (from the Kirbymoorside Apple Group). We found it all very interesting and useful and will be trying some of their ideas in a few weeks…

08 Oct 2015     Bus cuts
Off to a well-attended meeting in Goathland village hall this evening to fight North Yorkshire County Council’s proposed cuts to rural bus services. If their proposals had gone ahead, then Goathland would have been without a single bus for 8 months of the year (ie outside the profitable summer season) and all the villages and side dales of the upper Esk Valley (Grosmont, Egton Bridge, Glaisdale, Lealholm, Danby, Castleton and Commondale) would have lost every single bus  – for ever!

A rural bus service is vital for a village, as it provides access to education, employment and health, not to mention routine shopping, etc. This is not just the removal of ‘a bus service’ – assuming that all the other bus services will continue – this is the removal of the only remaining bus service, leaving absolutely nothing at all. That would be true Rural Isolation and would hit the poor, the ill and the elderly hardest of all.

The single County Councillor who was brave enough to turn up was ‘delighted’ to announce that thanks to the level of protest, the County Council had reviewed its decision and decided to keep on providing the necessary subsidy – ‘for the moment’…

She then proudly read the (very short) list of 3 bus services that would continue, not realising that one of them only operates on alternate Thursdays – ideal if you want to go away one week and come back home two Thursdays later!

07 Oct 2015     ‘Rustic’
MD, B and I worked on the polebarn side extension in the steady drizzle. MD did some very fancy chainsaw carving to square-off the bottom ends of the 3 Oak posts, as well as notch the tops for resting the rafters onto the purlin. Wow! And they all fitted perfectly. Very impressive. By late afternoon the posts and purlin were all in place and the Yorkshire boarding on the far gable end was complete. Very rustic!

A Siskin was seen feeding on Sunflower hearts inside the RSPB ‘adjustable guardian’ on the spatio.

06 Oct 2015     The Three Gorgeous Damn (Posts)
Major engineering works today as MD and I VERY PRECISELY set the 3 Easypost spikes into concrete, alongside the polebarn. He even double-checked the positioning by calculating the square root of the diagonals! Definitely time for lunch.

Then we felled three 30-year old Oaks which were self-sown and far too close together. We chose those with a (fairly) straight trunk at least 8 feet long, trimmed them up and dragged them down to the cideryard. They look great and it is very satisfying that we are now able to thin useful structural timber from the wood and use it to create a woodland themed building to add to the woodland management activities. Even better than ‘just’ producing firewood.

More to be added later (just a bit busy now)…

September Met
Max 66 degrees F (17 C), min 48 F (8 C) and actual 58 F (14 C). Total Rainfall 2.5 inches (50mm). A warm month with 10 days of glorious Indian Summer – and a couple of very wet days, too.

30 Sept 2015     Hedge-laying and Buzzards back
MD, B and I started laying the hedge above the big orchard, last done by SA and BC when I was at Langdale, some 7 or 8 years ago. The hedge is now tall enough to touch the telephone wires and we completed some 30 feet of laid hedge today. Granted it was more gap than hedge, and mostly Sycamore (which doesn’t fight back), but it still looks good. The ground was so hard after a very dry summer, that we needed a crowbar to make a hole to drive each stake into the ground!

By 3 o’clocks we had measured and pegged the 3 holes for the new side extension to the polebarn and were enjoying our well-earned drinks when 3 Buzzards flew low over the wood. This looks promising…

29 Sept 2015     More oil, more strim
Another coat of oil for the benches, then strim the woodyard, half the wildflower bank and the outside verge. Enough Tomatoes from our 7 Tomato plants (the non-tumbling tumblers) for another big pan of Roast Tomato and Garlic soup for the freezer.

28 Sept 2015     Misty morn and sunny day
After oiling 2 garden benches (the old bendy bench and the new rocker bench) the grass had dried off enough for 3 hours strimming. AND the path around the wood. Hopefully, that will be the last lawn cut of the season… Picked Brambles and made Brumble Crumbles.

27 Sept 2015     Indian summer
Another lovely warm, dry and sunny day. We oiled the garden benches, sawed cordwood into stove logs, brought down more lop and top from the  felled Ash and recovered from yesterday’s shopping expedition to Scarborough. Occasional Butterflies fluttered by, as well as a Dragonfly.

25 Sept 2015     Sunny bird count
Warm, dry and sunny again. A 0920 to 0935 count from my dining-room gave: Blue Tit 5, Great Tit 3, Chaffinch 2, Coal Tit 2, Goldfinch 2, Dunnock 1, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Robin 1, Tree Sparrow 1. The new adjustable Squirrel defences are set to their maximum width so taht everything can get used to it. When any problem species start to appear then it will be narrowed just enough to exclude them. All I need now is an adjustable Squirrel… Later, a Kestrel flew over the spatio.

24 Sept 2015     Adjustable Squirrel
The RSPB delivered my new Adjustable Ground Guardian, which is now on top of the spatio table, just outside the dining-room window. This has 2 sliding sides where the wire mesh can be adjusted to exclude unwanted species from the 2 feeders I have hung within.

23 Sept 2015     Last strim?
I spent 2.5 hours strimming half the lawns, hopefully for the last time this year… A Jay calling in the wood, probably collecting acorns from the well-laden Oak trees. We picked Raspberries and sawed some of the skinny Sycamore cordwood.

22 Sept 2015     Sawing downed Ash
MD and I had a walk around the wood to decide just hat needed doing over the next few months. A hedge to lay (again) along the top of the big orchard, an extension to build on the side of the polebarn, which trees to fell once the leaves are off, plus the leccy lads’ felled ash to bring down. Plus a Cider Day. Then we chainsawed the last few bits of Ash from last winter’s felled tree, plus a bit of Hawthorn.

20 Sept 2015     Kindle Fire
This afternoon we gathered lots of lop and top from the Ash tree (felled months ago) and cut them into 16 inch lengths for kindling to light the wood burner. Now that’s what I call Kindle Fire! We also picked all the Blueberries from the bush and made a Blueberry crumb (a very small crumble) and then most of the Tomatoes from our 7 tumbling Tomato plants and made just over a gallon of Roast Tomato and Garlic soup for the freezer.

19 Sept 2015     Gardeners’ platter
A lovely warm, sunny day so we went to Castle Howard for a nice lunch (we LIKE the Gardeners’ Platter), especially when the sun is warming our backs in the courtyard. Then a visit to the Garden Centre to buy 2 Yorkshire terracotta pots (guaranteed frost proof, but we shall see) as a BOGOF, to replace the frost-damaged ones by the patio steps.

We came back by Kirbymoorside (KMS to its friends) and popped into the closing minutes of their auction to see what we had missed. How about a lovely matching set of real antique Mahogany diningroom table with 6 matching chairs and 2 matching wall untis all sold for about £30 – which works out at about £3 per item! Real Mahogany. Solid wood, too. Almost extinct as a species, thanks to illegal logging of tropical rain forests, much of it clear felling to grow more and more Palm Oil, which now features in almost every single item of processed food. Aren’t supermarkets wonderful? And MDF furniture?

15 Sept 2015     Old friends and admired the view
Sad to help move the last of SA’s furniture out of his house in the village, now that he has moved back to Somerset, but good that CH from Liverpool is staying nearby for a few days holiday. Always good to revisit old haunts and happly places.

13 Sept 2015     More brown than purple
We took CH for a nice walk along the Monks Trod over lealholm Moor and back on the Old Coach Road. Most of the purple Heather has gone now, with just a few purple patches here and there. We flushed a few Red Grouse and admired the unbeatable views of the Esk Valley. Then down to The Moors Centre to admire the John Freeman exhibition of watercolours and sketches ‘A wander down the Esk’ which launches his superb new book of the same name.

After a lovely lunch at Shepherd’s Hall in Lealholm we went to the hide at Scaling Dam, where we saw 5 Great Crested Grebes (and didn’t see the Osprey which was there yesterday). We learned that Northumbria Water will be replacing the old wooden hide with a super duper nice new one a few yards away, in a few months. After seeing their showcase facilities at Keilder Water just a few days ago, there is much to catch up on here.

My House Martins are still using the nest overnight and not yet gone South for the winter.

11 Sept 2015     Three Buzzards
This afternoon we noticed a party of 3 Buzzards hanging low over the wood. This is the 1st time we have ever seen 3 in our airspace, so maybe Mum and Dad were showing Junior a possible batchelor pad of his own?

10 Sept 2015     Home again
Just home from a few days holiday in Northumberland. Wonderful! If you think the North York Moors is ‘remote’, you should try the North Pennines, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, if not another National Park. More later…

A few days at Hadrian’s Wall: Highlights included:
Superb base at High Broadwood Hall Cottages (
Birdoswald with 100 Romans vs 30 Barbarians, thanks to 130 Italian re-enactors in full kit
Vindolanda is even better than Housesteads, and the dig continues
The Roman Museum and their excellent video ‘The Eagle’s View’
Keilder Water and the Red Squirrel Hide (hide, yes. Red Squirrels no).
Alston – only 1 tearoom survives but not the one I went to on the Pennine Way in 1969

03 Sept 2015     Damp
A day of steady drizzle, which will make the 192 square miles of purple Heather moors look even better than before. Also ideal for a bit of indoor sorting, not to mention Mucky Duck the chimneysweep cleaning the flue of the woodburning stove.

01 Sept 2015     First of the Autumn strimming
BY afternoon the grass had dried enough to strim, which took 2 hours. Filled a big trug with dilute Jeyes Fluid and soaked all the bird feeders before they are needed in ernest…

August Met
Max 80 degrees F (25 C), min 40 F (5 C) and actual 60 F (15 C). Total Rainfall 1.25 inches (30mm). A dry month warm or even hot days and occasional rain. 

30 Aug 2015     Bottle and stack
Warm and pleasant today so we bottled the last demijohn of Sleightly Cider, painted a new measuring stick called John (le Meseurer), sawed a few skinny logs in the polebarn with the Keo and stacked them undercover.

29 Aug 2015     Last of the summer swim
Off to Helmsley for a slightly showery swim (we didn’t get wet, honest), likely to be our last of the year as they close in early September. As we swam 3 Buzzards soared high overhead, 2 Swallows hawked around the trees and 2 Pied Wagtails fed around the pool. These last turned out to be part of a flock of 20 to 30 all over the cricket pitch, probably a visiting team from Scandanavia heading still further south.

We went via a very purple Blakey Rigg and came home via Saltersgate, where the whole world appears to be a sea of purple. Sadly, it isn’t. There is more Tropical Rain Forest in the world than there is Heather Moorland.

28 Aug 2015     First Tit flock
The feeders in the yard were alive with a party of 9 Long Tail Tit and a couple of Coal Tit, my first sighting this autumn (!) of a Tit flock on the feeders. The Great Spotted Woodpecked called ‘Tchick’ from the wood and the Green Woodpecker yaffled from somewhere nearby. The House Martin nest is still occupied overnight, with gentle chittering as they wake up and leave every morning.

25 Aug 2015     Hot
Whitby Folk Week is having some good weather and I should have known it was too hot to be rolling big Ash drums down on reins from the Captains’ Walk to the woodyard. Having got 4 drums down, I then compounded my folly be starting to split them with the flying wedge (far too energetic) and then the sledge and wedge. Most of the drums are now halved and some are even split into stovelogs and stacked in the woodshed. Phew.

24 Aug 2015     Sticks to Dunsley Hall Hotel
I delivered another few Unique Walking Sticks to Dunsley, ready for the autumn rush. The very long ones ARE adjustable (if the buyer tells me how much to saw off the bottom)…

22 Aug 2015     Too Damn Hot
Its TDH again today, so we bought a whole new set of pans for Groves Dyke, plaited the Onions, weeded the gravel bed, Bramble-snipped around the wood, oiled some more Unique Walking Sticks for Goathland Moorland fair tomorrow, and then we fled indoors for a bit of cool and some Blogging.

21 Aug 2015     Going South
I and D set off Southwards to Essex, we set off for Helmsley and watched the Swallows gathering on the wires near the swimming pool for their much longer journey. It was 24 degrees C on the moortop on the way back to Whitby, which is most unusual.

20 Aug 2015     Cream scones at Falling Foss
Took I and D for a quick trp to look at the coastal protection work on the Sandsend Road, then via Raw to Robin Hood’s Bay and over Fylingthorpe Moor to a lovely afternoon tea at Midge Hall.

19 Aug 2015     Purr purr proper purple
We collected I and D and set off over Hamer to Rosedale and the wonderful workshop of Gilles Jones, the glass-blowers. There we watched them create a glass vase from scratch, complete with colour and foot – absolutely fascinating, thanks! Then on to Helmsley for lunch at the Strangled Butterfly cafe (sorry, Sugared Butterfly) and a stroll around the magnificent walled garden, which is now looking at its very best. Home over Blakey Rigg with a cuppa at the Lion on Blakey, surrounded by over 100 square miles of Heather is full purple bloom. Unbeatable.

18 Aug 2015     26th annual
We were delighted to welcome I and D who arrived in Whitby today for their 26th annual visit, celebrated by the fireworks for the 175th annual Whitby Regatta. Big crowds attended, but most were probably there for the fireworks!

16 August 2015     Beans, Buzzards and Booze
We picked and podded the Broad Beans (c3 litres), then noticed a Buzzard soaring high over Lodge Farm – then another – then both moved down the dale and passed over the house and wood. Then we racked the gallon of Redcurrant Rose and the 2 gallons of Blackcurrant Red.

15 August 2015     Malton market day
Summer weather has returned and we went to Malton for the day. New diaries biught for 2016 (bookings now being taken for next year…), a nice lunch at the Chancery coffee bar, lots of window shopping (including the famous Yates’s country store) and then home again. All in all, a grand day out.

14 Aug 2015     Damp up North
But floods down South, so we are better off, after all. It is Whitby Regatta this weekend, so a bit of summer weather would be nice. See for details.

12 Aug 2015     Whale watching
While walking along the Cinder Track from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay B and others saw small whales (Minke Whales) just off Baytown. These were seen by the many visitors enjoying the warm sunny weather. The Minkes also featured in the Whitby Gazette this weekend.

11 Aug 2015     Grass again
Warm and sunny again, so it must be gardening day. I spent 2 hours and cut half the lawns and most of the woodyard.

10 Aug 2015     Pick day
Showers threatened so we abandoned our usual lovely swim in Helmsley open air pool and settled for Pickering indoor pool instead. Then lunch (yes, Eggs Benedict again) at the newish cafe in the Steam & Moorland garden centre, followed by a potter around Pick – until the heavens opened.

09 Aug 2015     24 in, 25 out
Hot and sunny again today, with 24 degrees C indoors and 24 degrees C outdoors. Not sure which is best, as both are uncomfortable, but at least there is a slight breeze out of doors. While B shaped the Box hedge into another cloud formation (Cumulo-nimbus I think), I brought down the last of the Ash from the far end of the Captains’ Walk and added it to the West cord. Next will be the big drums from the near end and then, for the winter after, the Amey Ash from the top of the wood near the Outlook.

Tidied-up and then trimmed the Russian Vine from the dividing hedge, before deciding that 2 mad dogs and one Englishwoman were doing it all wrong, so we bottled the last keg of Sleightly Cider instead.

08 Aug 2015     A day in Staithes
Hot, dry and sunny again, so we gave ourselves the day off and spent it in Staithes. Busy, with lots of people and looking much more prosperous that it ever did before. We pottered about, doing what tourists do, and at much the same speed – tourist speed. We bought a super new book by Rod Jewel, all about the village, sat by the harbour and ate an ice cream (Beacon Farm, of course), walked to the very end of the west pier and then staggered back up to the car park. Very relaxing.

05 Aug 2015     Purp, purp
Over the moor, now beginning to look almost purple and on to Helmsley for a lovely swim, sharing the open air (heated) pool with a few others and just one Swallow. Then into town for a very nice lunch at the Sugared (not Strangled) Butterfly, where their platter is VERY generous. Then home via KMS (Kirbymoorside) and back over the almost purple moortop to Whitby.

04 Aug 2015     Slowing down
It only took a mere 2 hours to strim half the lawns and also the path around the wood, so the grass must be a bit less vigorous now. And not just the grass, either!

03 Aug 2015     Dogger Bank gets closer
Whitby’s contribution to the biggest windfarm in the world came a step closer, with the announcement from Dalby Offshore about their new service depot on the Endeavour Wharf at Whitby. The architect’s plans were unveiled today, and it will be a typical, traditional Whitby roofline, up to 4 stories high, with 4 gable-ends of differing widths and heights and might even blend-in quite well.

02 Aug 2015     Bumper crop
We uncovered the fruit bushes, stacked the Rabbit netting panels and rolled-up the bird netting top, and started picking. Of the 3 Blackcurrant bushes, two had a Good crop and one had a bumper crop, giving 10 litres (2.5 gallons) of fruit. That will become both Blackcurrant crumble and a gallon or two of our excellent Blackcurrant Port. Of the two small  Redcurrant bushes, both had a bumper crop, which is already turning itself into a gallon of our excellent Redcurrant Rose wine. The small Gooseberry bush had a bumper crop and will become Gooseberry crumbles for the freezall er. It took hours to pick and even longer to top and tail.

01 Aug 2015     Mini purp
We avoided Pickering and its Steam Gala, driving via Castleton, Blakey Rigg and Hutton-le-Hole to Helmsley for a change. The Bell Heather has been in full purple flower for a week or two, but today we saw the first signs of purple from the main moorland  species: Ling.

Dry and warm for our swim and lunch, then the heavens opened as we visited the castle for the very first time. Having looked at the indoor bits, we decided to leave the outdoor bits for another day…

July met
Max 80 degrees F (25 C), min 40 F (5 C) and actual 70 F (20 C). Total Rainfall 1.7 inches. A mixed month which began and ended with a heatwave but with several very cold, wet and miserable days in between. 

29 July 2015     Sun!
After 2 days of cold and continuous drizzle, the sun shone again this morning. We went to Pickering for a swim and a potter around the village.

28 July 2015     Still wet
The sudden and unseasonal cold, wet spell continues for another day. Just 11 degrees C outside, with a cool Northerly breeze and continuous drizzle. So horrid that we gave up doing indoor things and had lunch at Victoria Farm garden centre, if only to get out and stretch our legs a little.

27 July 2015     Autumn already?
Today was cold and wet and very unseasonal. Not a day for the great outdoors, so indoors it will have to be. A 15-minute bird count at my feeders gave: 3 Blue Tit, 2 Coal Tit, 2 Dunnock, 1 Bullfinch (male), 1 Chaffinch, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Greenfinch, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Tree Sparrow. (13 individuals of 9 species). As ever, young Harry the Great Spotted Woodpecker arrived tooo late to be included.

25 July 2015     Back again. Again.
Thanks to my Northumbrian Whizkid I am able to edit this Blog again, after a short break. Many thanks NW! [Items from 19th to 25th have been added belatedly].

Today we revisited Castle Howard, including a guided walk of the walled garden. Also including the VERY LOUD MUSIC removed the great long canteleveredfrom the Triathlon on the other side of the Brideshead. We did NOT take part in the Triathlon.

23 July 2015     Kestrel’s delight
I disturbed an adult male Kestrel which was sitting on the corner of Groves Dyke roof – an ideal vantage point to see any small mammals in the freshly-strimmed orchard. A trip to Sandsend to check on progress and Yes, work has begun on the coastal defence work above the beach from the village to Raithwaite Beck. Parking is as always (for the moment) and work is expected to take 2 years.

22 July 2015     The sloshing of the Shrew
After 2 tree surgeons from AMEY removed the big cantelevered Ash limb from above the Outlook (very neatly thanks AND into 16-inch drums for next winter’s firewood), we started to bottle wine and rack cider. Some 3 gallons of wine were transferred and the dregs poured away, then 2 lots of cider and their dregs poured away – and then a Shrew scuttled unsteadily across the patio. We think we may have flushed it out from the gravel drains on the patio with an alcoholic sunami. Whee!

21 July 2015     Blondie and strim
Early this morning our almino Grey Squirrel put in an appearance on the feeders outside the kitchen windows, the first for several weeks. Then I spent a good 3 hours strimming the lawns, most of Groves Dyke orchard and the top path along Groves Bank orchard. Collapse.

20 July 2015    Helmsley outdoor pool
Hot, dry and sunny so off we went to the heated outdoor pool in Helmsley. Wonderful. Lunch outdoors at Castle Bakery and then back via The Engine Shed (new cafe with veranda at Steam and Moorland garden centre in Pickering).

19 July 2015     Going South
The male Great Spotted Woodpecker was on the South Patio (Spatio) today, having just discovered the fatball feeder there. Bit slow, really, as it has been there for a couple of years.

16 July 2015     Outdoor swim
A nice warm day for our 2nd outdoor swim this year at Helmsley (heated) swimming pool. Lovely! Joined by the odd Swallow swooping down for a drink between the swimmers. Then lunch at the new cafe near the castle and home again.

The moors are beginning to go PURP!, but only the Bell Heather is flowering so far.

15 July 2015     Strim
Hot and sticky – so I spent 3 hours this afternoon strimming half the lawns and the path around the wood.

13 July 2015     Welcome back world
Apologies for that impressive thunderstorm 10 days ago, but it zapped my landline. And my email. And my web access.

The BT team reappeared this morning, in strength and complete with Blue Ladders this time, to climb the electricity poles which my phone line uses (seems the colour blue conducts less electricity than other colours – or perhaps its just blue fibreglass?). They also brought a small cherry-picker (too late, the Grey Squirrels have already picked most of our still-unripe Wild Cherries). But, within an hour of soggy work, the world was reconnected to me. Still, a bit like heavy snow in the winter, the rest of the world will occasionally just have to manage without.

12 July 2015     Fruit defences
The chicken-wire panels were arranged around the fruit bushes and covered in netting. Maybe this year we will actually eat some of our own fruit… The Gooseberies are plentiful, as are Blackcurrants, Redcurrants and Blueberries. Perhaps they will make up for the stolen Strawberries?

11 July 2015     RHB
A lovely sunny day for our first trip to Robin Hood’s Bay this year. Lunch on the balcony at Swell, overlooking the bay then a stroll to Fisherhead and a sit in the sun – until it got too hot.  An ice cream halfway up the hill was as good as oxygen tanks at Camp 3.

This evening we went to SR’s 6oth birthday celebration where we provided Sleightly Cider made from some of his own apples and enjoyed the live music of David Crabtree.

09 July 2015     Green Award for Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage
Delighted that Groves Dyke has qualified for a Green Award from Yorkshire Cottages, making it one of their extra special cottages. Not that we haven’t been doing it all for years and years already, as we were always as green as we could be – the solar panels have been working on the roof for over 25 years already!

07 July 2015     2 juv GSW
Today not one but two juvenile Great Spotted Woodpeckers fed on the Peanuts outside the kitchen windows – a momentous sight, considering that I thought Lonesome George had failed to find a mate this year!

High pollen count but managed 2 hours of grass cutting.

06 July 2015     First purp
Off to Helmsley for our first outdoor swim of the year. The beginnings of some purple Heather on the moortop, but only the Bell Heather so far. The undergrounding of the pylons across the moor continues apace, with slight hold-ups on the Pickering road.

05 July 2015     Cider bottling
We filled 30 bottles with our first batch of Sleightly Cider, christened ‘T and D’ thanks to the excellent work last year of several young Taylor and Dayson assistants.

04 July 2015     BT Zapped
After another very hot and humid day the inevitable happened. You know what they say about the English Summer – Three fine days and a thunderstorm. Well, last night there was the most spectacular thunder and lightening which got to within 5 seconds (= 1 mile) between flash and thunderclap, not to mention torrential rain.

Enough to knock out my BT landline, which includes my email and web access. Using my mobile I was able to contact BT, only to be given recorded messages suggesting I should visit their website to report the problem! Eventually a very nice man in India was able to come to my assistance and make an appointment for early next week…

we couldn’t find a single parking place at Runswick Bay so we went inland and enjoyed lunch at the Shepherd’s Hall in Lealholm instead. Not very similar but very enjoyable anyway.

01 July 2015     Hottest day
A juvenile Green Woodpecker called incessantly from the back garden, sitting boldly on a fence post for several minutes, but mum and dad left it to its own devices and eventually it flew away. A Roebuck strolled up the drive and through the cideryard, and all before breakfast.

I checked the beck again and found there was a trickle, presumably after an overnight shower, or maybe just condensation on the higher ground. The entire trickle is now diverted into my pond, where it will overflow again back into the beck a few yards downstream. High fire risk, anyone?

My car sez its 26 degrees C this morning – and it feels much worse. Still, you know what they say about the typical English summer: ‘Three fine days and a thunderstorm’…

All our Strawberries have vanished again this year, even with the plastic crates placed over them. Tree Rats, I think, as one Grey Squirrel was seen carrying a very unripe Strawb away a couple of weeks ago. We hope it had belly ache!

Met June Max 92 degrees F, Actual 72, Min 34. Precippitation 0.3 inches = 7.5 mm.

30 Jun 2015      Potash approved
At a marathon 7-hour meeting of the North York Moors National Park Committee today a decision about the proposed new potash mine near Whitby was finally reached. I watched almost all of it on the webcast and it was absolutely rivetting.

Eventually, by a mere 1 vote (8 to 7), the planning application was approved, with ‘106 Agreement’ money from the developers (to mitigate some of the worst side-effects) to the Moors National Park and to the County Council Highways Dept. These improvements include tree-planting (broadleaved, of course) to help off-set the additional carbon produced, some road junction improvements, money to promote tourism, etc, etc.

After a 5-year Construction Period the actual Production Period may last up to 100 years. The potash and polyhalide will be transported to Tees-side via conveyer belts within a 30 mile tunnel deep underground. Don’t worry, the first 5 years will be the worst, followed by many hundred years of additional native woodland (mainly on the Bracken-covered moor edges). Fingers crossed it will all be worth it…

My pond level is low so I checked the inflow from the beck – only to find that the little stream had dried up. It will be a hosepipe ban soon…

29 Jun 2015     Home again
Just back from a week in Edinburgh. Lawns cut today (in a heat wave) and still catching up…

Harry, the juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker, has worked out how the Peanuts work and this morning was busy trying to empty the feeder just outside the kitchen windows.

21 – 28 Jun 2015     Over the border
We had a great week getting to Edinburgh for our holiday, and back. Highlights included:

Gertrude Jekyll’s walled garden at Lindisfarne Castle (very nice but v small and v windy).
Kirk Yetholm again, some 46 years after I walked the Pennine Way (265 miles) in 1969.
Floors Castle near Kelso, to see the Duke of Roxborough’s house, garden and estate.
Aberlady Bay (Black Tailed Godwit and SOC HQ) and a nice lunch at Duck’s Restaurant.
Dirleston Castle (Europe’s longest herbaceous border) and fascinating castle remains.
Cramond Harbour (Shelduck) and the best Cullen Skink (fish soup) at the Gallery Bistro.
Laurieston Castle (closed that day) but with a lovely Japanese garden.
Royal Botanic Gadens (wet) with a nice lunch and a great Queen Mum’s shell grotto.
Very quiet A68 via Carters’ Bar (border crossing) and the Northumberland National Park.
Hadrian’s Wall (World Heritage Site) and the fabulous Housesteads Roman Camp.

And now home for a rest…

20 Jun 2015     Sticks to Dunsley Hall
Still cool and damp, so we dropped off some more Unique Walking Sticks (designed by nature and crafted by hand) at Dunsley Hall Hotel, a couple of miles outside Whitby. This particular crop includes a skinny Hornbeam ‘puddle tester’, an Ash, a Hazel and a large Willow staff.

Then on to Sandsend for a cuppa at Bridge Cottage Cafe. No ‘braised Artichoke hearts’ today, but ‘Beetroot Risotto’ was on the menu…

19 Jun 2015     Hedge trim
Young Simon came and gave the Groves Dyke hedges a trim and will return in a few day to do the other hedges, too.

Green Awards are now available from Yorkshire Cottages, so I completed my application for Groves Dyke and hope to have passed. Not that we haven’t been doing all the same ‘green’ things for years. The solar hot water system is about 20+ years old and the green ethos remains unchanged (see Other).

14 Jun 2015     Sandsend stroll
Cold and damp after last night’s rain. We drove to Sandsend, admiring the 12 Portacabins on the newly created pad which will become the HQ for the £7m coastal protection scheme over the next 2 years. Still, without it, there won’t be a road to Sandsend so, on balance, it is probably ‘a good thing’.

16 Jun 2015     Two ‘Peckers
A male Great Spotted Woodpecker was on the Peanut feeder just outside the kitchen window this morning and later there was a very colourful male Green Woodpecker on the front lawn.

15 Jun 2015     Bird Count
A bright, dry and sunny morning with lots of young birds at the feeders: Robin, Tree Sparrow, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Great Tit, etc. A 15-minute bird count produced: Blackbird 2, Blue Tit 2, Chaffinch 1, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 1, Nuthatch 1, Robin 1, Tree Sparrow 1, Wood Pigeon, 2 (14 individuals of 10 species).

13 Jun 2015     Rack Blondie and Sprawk
First we racked 3 gallons of wind, including 2 of Blackcurrant Port, then we racked 3 lots of 15 litres of Sleightly Cider, including the Taylored and Daysoned one. Then Blondie the albino Grey Squirrel appeared on the back feeding station, after the fatball I had pinned to the goalpost for the juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker. Blondie stayed for about 20 minutes in full view of the kitchen windows, then vanished. More than the juv GSW has done! Later, after tea, a female Sparrowhawk perched on top of the fatball feeded on the South Patio (Spatio) and glared at us for a few seconds.

We also thinned the young Beetroot, hoping for a better crop than last year, and set up the new compost bin near where the new gate will be to the nice new potting shed.

12 Jun 2015     Day off
Warm and sunny, so we took off for a Pickering swim and day out. A Buzzard was seen circling above the wood and the surrounding fields. Lunch sitting out on the new balcony of the new cafe at Steam and Moorland garden centre, just outside Pickering (I recommend their Eggs Benedict). Then a potter around Cooper’s hardware shop (shades of my youth!) where we bought a nice new garden rocking bench.

11 Jun 2015     Solo flight
From the veranda I watched the young Great Spotted Woodpecker fly to the big Scots Pine across the road. It landed safely, still calling, then set off again for the next tree but suddenly lost its nerve halfway. The calls grew increasingly frantic as it failed to hover in mid-air, before making an emergency landing much lower on the pine. Mum and Dad then arrived to reassure it and show where it had gone wrong. A bit like riding a bike for the first time, as I remember…

09 Jun 2015     Not Lonesome George
To my delight Mr Great Spotted Woodpecker brought a juvenile to the feeding station at the back of the house. Having heard Mr GSW giving a short and plaintive little drumming day after day and week after week, I had concluded that he had no mate and no rival, so was reduced to a sad little ‘Is there anybody out there?’ drumming. Clearly, I was wrong. He HAD found a mate, he HAD raised a youngster, and now he was showing him how the Peanut feeder works. Well done!

08 Jun 2015     Gardeners’ Question Time
Today BBC Radio 4’s GQT was recorded in Whitby, at the Coliseum. I recognised a few of the audience and we were well entertained by Christine Walkman, Bob Flowerdew, etc. It will be broadcast on Fri 19 and Sun 21st June.

07 Jun 2015     Nine bean poles shall I have there…
One of yesterday’s poles was a bit too skinny, so we cut a better one and added it to the bean bed, now that the Orca (Trail of Tears) Beans are climbing upwards. Yes, we know it should be ‘nine bean rows’ but we are much less ambitious!

We also arranged the wine racking kit and moved the demi-johns of last year’s Blackcurrant Port and Lar Plonk, plus the 3 big plastic buckets of Sleightly Cider, all ready for a bit of decanting and possibly bottling once they have all settled again.

Today is much less windy, so the spatio feeding station is really busy. A female Siskin appeared for the first time in many weeks, and was joined by Bull, Chaff and Gold and Greenfinch cousins.

06 Jun 2015     Another day older…
6 tons of logs and what do you get? Our nice firewood merchant from Pickering delivered 6 tons of beautifully seasoned 16-inch hardwood stove logs this morning and we had them all stacked away undercover before lunch. Then we treated ourselves at Penny Clare’s Tearoom and just fell in a heap of our own. Apart from coppicing 8 beanpoles from the self-sown Ash cant above the Captain’s Walk.

05 Jun 2015     Please help
On behalf of ‘Sleightly Cider’ and all small-scale cider makers everywhere, please add your weight to this petition from CAMRA:


Thank you for your ongoing support for small cider makers across the UK. With your help, we have secured over 21,000 signatures on our petition Protect small cider producers which will be presented to Number 10 Downing Street on Wednesday 10th June 2015.

With just a few days left I am asking for your support to push this number up to 25,000 signatures by Wednesday. Please share this petition to your friends, family and colleagues and ask them to share on social media. Together, we can all make a difference:

We have so far secured the support of a number of MPs and MEPs, and now we need to persuade the Government to listen. You can share your support by sharing the following on Twitter too:

5 days until @CAMRA_Official presents a petition to @downingstreet to protect small #cidermakers – sign it today!

Thank you for signing. Together, we can make a difference.

Sincerely, Andrea Briers, CAMRA National Cider and Perry Committee Chairman


Two of our three young Tumbler Tomato plants were twizzled by the strong wind and had to be replaced. The new ones were destined to suffer the same fate, so we lifted the containers down onto the ground for a bit of shelter.

04 Jun 2015     Blondie woz ‘ere
An early morning check out the window and there was Blondie the albino Grey Squirrel on the feeding station outside the kitchen windows. First sighting for weeks.

Escorted EEJ and CJ to Scaling Dam hide, where the Little Ringed Plover and a Common Sandpiper put on a good show. Some kind of ‘commmittee meeting’ was also going on within the hide and we gather that a new, improved hide will soon be built. Excellent!

Left our very welcome house guests to find their own way to RSPB Saltholme before making their way home to Merseyside.

The new ‘early morning cuppa kit’ has been added to the master bedroom, with some Yorkshire Tea (or course!) teabags, instant Cappachino sachets, milkpods, etc. Enjoy.

03 June 2015     Puffins and Peregrine
We all went to Bempton RSPB reserve near Filey and were, as always, suitably impressed. Over half a million seabirds nest on the cliffs there and provide one of the UK’s mainland best ‘wildlife spectaculars’. The new improved visitor centre is much also appreciated.

02 June 2015     Return to Falling Foss
We went to Maybeck for a bit of ‘out of the wind’ birding, but even there most birds were keeping their heads down. Then on to the lovely Falling Foss Tea Garden for a welcome lunch before heading up to Glaisdale Moor. Red Grouse and Curlew were there, but far too blusterly to make themsleves very obvious.

Then a great fish and chip meal at Trenchers, where reports of their recent fire were greatly exaggerated, and all but the takeaway kitchen and the stockroom above were unaffacted.

01 June 2015     West Pier and Glaisdale Tearoom
We strolled to the end of the West Pier extension, but no Purple Sandpipers roosting. Presumably they are all where they are supposed to be in mid-summer and are breeding somewhere in the High Arctic. A cuppa on the Battery and EEJ twigged the 4 Little Terns calling as they flew past. ‘Where to?’ we wondered, as we don’t know of any breeding sites within 50 miles or more.

Then off to the moor edge tearoom in Glaisdale, with the best view across the dale, and back down the Esk Valley. Lovely evening meal at the Whitehouse Hotel, with another lovely view across the bay to Sandsend.

Met Station for May 2015
A month of variable temperatures, often windy. The maximum was 77 degrees F, the minimum was 0 (with several grass frosts by mid-month) and the actual temperature on 01 May at 09.30 hours was 55 degrees F. The total rainfall for the month was about average at 2.0 inches (50 mm).

31 May 2015     Runswick Bay cool
A stiff chilly wind gave us a bracing but sunny walk along the beach and back for a sandwich in the cafe. A tv ‘celeb’ sat nearby, but he didn’t recognise us. Nor us, his name.
We did, however, recognise the Sandwich Terns and House Martins.

30 May 2015     Welcome summer visitors
C and EEJ arrived for a few days and we managed a coffee on the veranda before the chill wind blew us indoors. Woodstove still lit most evenings, as it is almost (but not quite) warm enough yet.

28 May 2015     Chips away
Good news about Trenchers – it was only the take-away end which is out of action, the rest of the fish and chip restaurant is still operating.

24 May 2015     Burnt chips
For more details of a fire yesterday at Trenchers fish and chip restaurant in Whitby:

23 May 2015     Nice day for Helmsley
Summer weather reappeared, so we ignored the sound of many emergency vehicle sirens (see 24 May) and headed for Pickering and on to Helmsley. A slight delay at traffic lights beyond Saltersgate for the undergrounding of the leccy cables across the moors, but it will be a vast improvement when all the nasty pylons are removed later this year.

Our usual nice lunch at Crema Cafe (being extended), a potter around the shops and then into the lovely Walled Garden. Such a late spring has made everything a bit behind, but it will be blooming again before too long. Then our routine visit to Ryeburn icecream shop for Jaffa Cake flavourd and a Raspberry and Toffee Meringue flavoured icecream. Roll on summer, when we do this more often!

22 May 2015     Black stuff
The boys form the black stuff arrived early this morning to tarmac the next section of the drive and the parking triangle for Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage. By midday it was all done and looks very good indeed. Only the upper ‘turning area’ triangle left to do next year…

21 May 2015     Grass again
The better weather means the grass is growing apace, so another 3 hours of strimming was needed to do half the lawns and the path around the wood.

19 May 2015     Oh yes there are!
I lined the weather sides of the new potting shed with builders fabric and the moved the 2 fairies to their new home at the bottom of the veg garden, where they now stand in a gravel bed. So if anyone ever sez there are no fairies at the bottom of the garden, you can reply ‘Oh yes there are!’

18 May 2015     Wet
A cold wet day with lots of indoor things to do. I did notice a juvenile Robin (speckled) and a juv Song Thrush (big mouth, short tail), so the snails had better look out…

17 May 2015     Pottering on
While B planted more Peas and Beetroot and dug over the wildflower bed, I finished the bench in the potting shed and stacked all the empty wind and cider bottles under it, as well as a shelf for potting bits and bobs.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker continues to drum forlornly in the wood, suggesting that he has no mate to attract and no neighbours to repel. The leaning Ash is finally almost half in leaf, while the Cook Oak is already well clothed in green.

16 May 2015     Recliner gone
The wonderful recliner in Groves Dyke was well past its best and finally found its way to the recycling centre, having been replaced by a nice comfortable armchair with no unreliable moving parts.

14 May 2015     Door on
MD worked hard all day, sometimes assisted by me, and by late afternoon he had made a fitted a new door to the new potting shed. A 5-plank ledge and transome item, in 1 inch thick tannalised timber, the potting shed is now completely weather-proof. It look magnificent and we can’t wait to move in!

13 May 2015     One step forward
Once the nice electrician from Npower had fitted a meter which actually works in my house, I spent the rest of the day creating a step down to the potting shed out of several concrete blocks and a big slab. B planted Peas and Leaks, then we hammered in a post for the handrail by the new step.

12 May 2015     Standing down
After 8 years as a Councillor for Ruswarp Ward of Whitby Town Council (an admirable body of people), today is my first day of being able to express my actual opinion without someone making yet another formal complaint against me for ‘not treating them with respect’ (all complaints dismissed as ‘no case to answer’). Now I look forward to saying just what I think about a very small number of the public who try to harrass and bully Town, Borough and County Councillors (and their council officers) by abusing the Freedom of Information Act and the Complaints Proceedures. Three local individuals are currently being prosecuted by North Yorkshire Police for wasting ‘in excess of £400,000 – worth’ of police time with their current campaigns.

10 May 2015     Veg in
It is almost summer again, so we scattered some British wildflower seeds on the vacant hedge veg bed, planted Peas and Orca Beans (the ‘Trail of Tears’ Bean of native American fame), as well as prepared the 3 peat-free compost growbags and 2 planters for Tomatoes. The pair of Greenfinch are back on the Sunflower hearts feeder and we look forward to planting-out the dwarf Sunflowers for their delight in the autumn.

07 May 2015     Vote Muppet
You’ll get one anyway!

In my humble opinion, anyone who doesn’t bother to vote is not entitled to criticise whoever gets elected.

I cut planks to length for the potting shed bench and laid them loosely in place, for future design and engineering approval…

06 May 2015     Raising the roof
A very wet and windy day for lifting a 7 foot by 5 foot sheet of clear plastic onto the top of the new potting shed. MD and ID spent the morning preparing the roof timbers, while BC and I dug over a veg bed and planted Broad Beans.

Slightly calmer in the afternoon, so we all wo/man-handled the plastic sheet into place and fixed it down asap. Excellent! All it needs now is a bench, a door and a floor.

05 May 2015     Four finch pairs
Lovely to see that 4 different species of finch were feeeding together on the Spatio feeding station. The rarely-seen Greenfinch pair were on the Niger seed feeder, the Bullfinch pair have (finally) mastered the Squirrel-proof Sunflower heart feeder, and were joined there by the Goldfinch pair and the Chaffinch pair. What a lovely, colourful sight the 8 birds make!

May 4th      Be with you
Sorry, but it IS official Star Trek Day!

After a cold, wet start to May, with over an inch of rain so far (more that all of last month) today was dry enough to cut the grass. Three hours later and it was all half cut, as well as the path around the wood.

02 May 2015     Re-cycle
A nice day, so we drove over the moor via Stape and joined the Tour de Yorks route at Cropton, following it via Rosedale (lunch), Fat Betty and Young Ralph crosses to Castleton, Danby, Lealholm, Glaisdale, Egton, Grosmont and back to Sleights. Lots and lots of blue and yellow flags, bunting and painted bikes adorned the route, suggesting that many of the locals had really got involved in the decorations.

01 May 2015     Tour de Yorkshire
Following the success of last year’s Tour de France starting in the Yorkshire Dales, this year was the very first Tour de Yorkshire. It started in Bridlington, then via Dalby Forest, Pickering, Rosedale, past Young Ralph, down through the Esk Valley villages, over Sleights bridge, to Whitby, then vai Robin Hood’s Bay to finish in Scarborough. The weather behaved, hundreds of thousands of spectators lined the route, with tv coverage in 160 countries around the world – and the whole 170 kms took them just over 4 hours! Wow!

Met Station for April 2015
A very dry but variable month, often with a chill Eaterly wind to add a real chill. The maximum was 73 degrees F, the minimum was 28 (= 5 degrees of frost) and the actual temperature on 01 April at 09.30 hours was 50 degrees F. The total rainfall for the month was a mere 0.3 inches (7.5 mm).

28 Apr 2015     Dynamic fudge
I once heard about someone making a ‘dynamic risk assessment’ ie making it up as they went along. On that principle, MD and I spent the day ‘dynamically designing’ the new potting shed in the woodyard. When we came to a tricky bit of joinery we would, if necessary, just ‘fudge’ it in some out-of-sight corner. By the end of the day the window was on, the front (almost) complete and we were both experts in the art of Dynamic Fudge. A good time was had by all.

26 Apr 2015     Paint
Cold and windy out there, so we retreated indoors and finished painting the dining room in Groves Bank. Now fully insulated with thick wallpaper AND painted a pretty shade of mongolia. No, magnolia!

24 Apr 2015     Hot n sunny
Summer appears to have arrived, at last. Coffee on the veranda, hat required to keep the sun out of my eyes, with the odd Heron commuting to / from the Salmon Leap weir below. Not to mention the 2 Sparrowhawks which thermal-ed above the wood.

23 Apr 2015     Only a splash
It is very definately Oak before Ash, so only a splash. If it had been Ash before Oak, then it would have been ‘in for a soak.’

20 Apr 2015     2 x 2 x 2
Two Sparrowhawks soared together over the wood, playing with the thermals and enjoying their airtime. Then 2 Goldfinches fed on the feeder full of Sunflower hearts, as a change from their usual Niger seeds. Then I spent 2 hours strimming the grass, so everything has now been cut more than once this year.

18 Apr 2015     One House Martin…
…doth not a summer make, but if you add the Chiffchaff, the still drumming GSW, the flowering Dog Violet, Wood Anemone, Golden Saxifrage, Lesser Celendine, Speedwell, Forgetmenot, etc then summer must be getting closer.

Earlier we were out distributing the free Whitby Guidebooks to businesses in Staithes, Dalehouse and Scaling (lovely homemade soup in the dog-friendly Grapes Inn) and Castleton. Saw the Little Ringed Plover at Scaling Dam but missed the Osprey 2 day ago. Home via Oakley Walls, with lots of Red Grouse and even a lovely view of a Snipe.

Walked around the wood gathering kindling and brought down a long length of Ash. Everything is very dry, with almost no useful rain for weeks if not months. It’ll be a hosepipe ban soon..!

15 Apr 2015     Potting on
A full turnout (MD and ID) and us to spend a day on the new potting shed. The North and west walls are now complete, the east wall is just needing a door and the fenestration on the main facade is on and pending refinements.

Designed to fit under the lower edge of the woodshed roof, it is all looking rather good. The woodshed itself is standing well after about 10 years and has a good few years left in it still. Sadly, the gatepost just below is far from well, with a serious lean and a bit of (possibly terminal) heart rot…

11 Apr 2015     Gnorman’s ‘ere
Today we put the repaired Gnorman back in his rightful place, with his swing hanging from the brance of a young Oak, where he will be able to guard that Oak tree for all of its life. Until about 2615, hopefully…

Later we say Blondie high in the tops of an Oak upstream of the Captain Cook Oak, as reported by the residents in Groves Dyke. Presumably he is feeding on the bud scales as the leaves just begin to open.

09 Apr 2015     Path strimmed
For the first time this year. So now EVERYTHING has been strimmed over the past few weeks – and some of it already needs strimming again. The hot, dry and sunny weather continues.

08 Apr 2015    Coast and dale
Today we had a lovely time with IJ, dropping off Whitby Guidebooks (see ) at Sandsend, Rusnwick Bay and Hinderwell. Then over the moor to lunch at the Shepherd’s Hall in Lealholm. Our attempt to have 3 o’clocks at Falling Foss failed when we found them so busy there was nowhere to park. Hot, dry, sunny and Easter half-term holidays all make for the ‘perfect storm’.

07 Apr 2015     All cut
Now everything is either all cut or I am confused again. All lawns have been strimmed once, in 2 halves and over 2 weeks, and only the path around the wood remains to be done. The Great Spotted Woodpecker has been drumming in the wood everyday and occasionally feeds on the Peanuts outside the kitchen windows.

15 Smooth Newts in my pond this evening as the hot, dry sunny weather continues.

06 Apr 2015     Bully for her
Another first: a female Bullfinch inside the feeder on the spatio, picking up Sunflower hearts.

05 Apr 2015     Hunt for Gnorman’s ear
We scoured the likely places for poor Gnorman’s ear but resorted to just glueing on the one bit we had found, then building-up the hole with layers of more glue. Soon he will be back up in the wood, swinging from his favourite Oak tree again.

Coffee on the veranda, the very first time this year, was abandoned after the sun got too hot! What a contrast with a few days ago when the cold, grey and grizzly weather drove us to the back of the cave for most of the day!

We watched 2 Sparrowhawks soaring high over, presumably, two neigbouring territories – until ‘our’ bird won and the neighbour zoomed away. A Goldcrest flitted about on the big Cupresses, while a Wren sang from the Hornbeam hedge, a Chiffchaff chanted from the wood and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed from afar. Spring! We planted more Onions and Shallots (That’s ya lot!) and dug over another veg bed, before retreating indoors.

03 Apr 2015     Grey Grizzly
Everything you don’t want, all on the same day: a cold wind, a dampness in the air, low cloud lying heavily over the valley and no sun. A miserable day, so we just retreated to the back of the cave and stayed there, being thankful for the woodburning stove and a good supply of fuel. Even the female Sparrowhawk was desperate enough to try the spatio feeding station a couple of times, once resting on the top of the feeder for a few minutes and once even diving into the Cotonaster to try to flush out the small birds cowering there.

Caught a glimpse of Blondie, working his / her way through the Woodyard Coppice, presumably desperate for something to eat.

02 Apr 2015     Hoots! Newts!
Four Smooth Newts were hanging around in my pond, the first seen this year, together with lots of very small Tadpoles. Seems the frost didn’t kill off the Frogspawn after all.

01 Apr 2015     Home again
Home again after a couple of (unexpected but very welcome) nights in Langdale. There it was wild, wet and very very windy throughout, with half a gale, rain, a gale, sleet, a whole gale, hail every day. There was even a gritter out on the Pennine section of the A66 on the way home!

Delighted to discover MD and ID just completing the back wall of the new greenhouse / potting shed (a greenshed?). We had discussed this previously and emphasised how vitally important it was to get the first corner post in absolutely vertical, as everything else would be measured off this one. It was ID who asked ‘Will it not look out of place?’ next to all the other near-vertical posts nearby!

Met Station for March 2015
A dry month but very windy. The maximum was 58 degrees F, the minimum was 27 (= 5 degrees of frost) and the actual temperature on 01 April at 09.30 hours was 48 degrees F.

25 Mar 2015     Boxed-in and painted
BC completed the painting of the cupboard interior, now that Kev has boxed-in the pipes so neatly. My, but it does look so much better now!

24 Mar 2015     Posts, panels and Onions
Kev finished boxing-in the pipes in the diningroom cupboard in Groves Dyke, while B planted 50 Onion sets and MD and I planted another 2 posts in concrete. Progress!

23 Mar 2015     Half cut
First grass-cutting of the year for me (my neighbour did his on 02 Jan!) and after 2.5 hours all of my lawns were half cut. Or should that be: half of my lawns were all cut? With my technique of ‘rotational mowing’ I try to cut every lawn, every other week. This gives the wild flowers 2 weeks to flower, pollinate and set seeds – and gives me half as much work as doing it all every week!

21 Mar 2015     Spring is here
We toured the Esk Valley, cool and grey in an onshore wind, to distribute this year’s Whitby Guidebook ( see ) to Danby, Lealholm, Glaisdale, 2 Curlew standing on the upper fields, Egton Bridge and bits of Whitby.

20 Mar 2015     Treeper eclipses the eclipse
As SR and I stood by the pond with our (surplus) pinhole camera, the sun appeared weakly through a layer of high cloud and was safely visible with the naked eye. It performed beautifully, with a 90% eclipse over about 30 minutes. Up the dale it looked like Daligon (Ulster dialect for dusk or DAy LIght GONe). All this was put into the shade, however, by a Treecreeper which flew silently onto the drystone wall at the other end of the pond and crept all over it, also in full view but much closer, for several minutes. A drum roll was provided by an obliging Great Spotted Woodpecker, but we were unsure which event it was for…

19 Mar 2015     Back legs
MD and I cemented the 2 back uprights of the new pottingshed into place, in line with the woodshed above. The male Great Spotted Woodpecker fed on the Peanuts just outside the kitchen window, now that he has claimed the territory with all his recent drumming on surrounding tree trunks. A pair of Bullfinches worked their way through the twiggy growth by the polebarn.

17 Mar 2015     First drumming
The very first time this year (and a month later than usual) that I have heard the Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming from the wood. He seems to be up on the Eastside, somewhere.

A 15-minute breakfast birdcount on my feeders produced: Robin 4, Blue Tit 2, Chaffinch 2, Dunnock 2, LTT 2, Blackbird 1, Chaffinch 1, Coal Tit 1, Great Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Wood Pigeon 1.

16 Mar 2015     Frogs gone
Today all the Frogs seem to have vanished, leaving behind a square yard (3 feet x 3 feet) of spawn, several inches deep.

15 Mar 2015     Roebuck n Blondie
A fine young Roebuck chomped his way through the Ivy stems on the bonfire heap in the woodyard, giving excellent views from all the back windows. Later, the Groves Dykers were delighted by seeing Blondie the albino Squirrel back in the garden after a quite an absence.

13 Mar 2015     30 Frogs a Wooing
Still some Frogs mating in my pond. This seems even more prolonged that usual.

A female Chaffinch has adopted the Niger seed feeder on the Spatio, the first time I have ever seen anything other than Goldfince or Marsh Tit taking advantage of it.

10 Mar 2015     Oh, yes there are!
The 2 little fairy statues (from Goathland) now stand at the bottom of the (veg) garden and very pretty they look, too. All together now…

08 Mar 2015     Inexhaustable Frogs
By early afternoon there were 71 Frogs still cavorting in my pond and even more spawn. Hard to believe they are the same individuals over the past 7 days, so perhaps they have a shift system?

A pair of Goldfinches entered the spatio feeding station and helped themselves to Sunflower hearts, the first time I have ever seen them do this. Even the Long Tail Tits are showing an interest in the mixed seed feeder, suggesting that the breeding season is upon them and that fatballs are no longer enough.

06 Mar 2015     Frog orgy continues
The numbers remain the same but the spawn would probably over-fill a big bucket…

03 Mar 2015     FAST
Stroke awareness day: F = Face: Can they smile? A = Arms: Can they raise both arms and keep them there? S = Speech: Is their speech slurred? T = Time: Time to call 999 if you see any single one of these signs.

02 Mar 2015     A box of Frogs
Another mad day. Some snow overnight and still white on the moortop, but the 18 Frogs in my pond last night have increased to 47 and have produced a bucketful of spawn by this morning.

After lunch JMc and I put up 2 new nest boxes in the wood, one for Little Owls and one for Kestrels. Last time I climbed a tree, ‘way back in the 1980s, I broke a rib! This time we both survived intact, so fingers crossed for some new residents…

Met Records for Feb 2015
Another very dry month with strong winds interspersed with several sharp frosts. Total precipitation was 115 inches (? mm). Max temperature 54 degrees F (11 degrees C), Min 26 F (? C) and the Actual this morning was 38 F (4 C).

27 Feb 2015     Hedge laid
Well almost. It was showing signs of green leaves, so BC and I laid the last few pleachers and lovingly entwined the Honeysuckle stems along them. More stakes and a nice neat ‘heathering’ along the top still required, but at least we got it laid while still dormant.

26 Feb 2015     Could be a 4 star
The inspector called to check Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage and all the recent improvements. ‘It’s got bags of character’ she said, and ‘It could be a 4 star’! Wonderful, thanks, but we are very happy with just being a much-better-than-expected 3 star!

25 Feb 2015     Busy days
Yesterday a Roebuck browsed his way through the cideryard, with good views from the landing window. Today we tidied-up the twigwam a bit, but a more serious prune is still required to knock it back into shape. As we fired-up this antique laptop this afternoon, a male Sparrowhawk visited the spatio feeding station for a quick takeaway. He circled the wire grid intended to keep out the Grey Squirrels (it doesn’t) twice, before moving on to try his luck elsewhere. Tomorrow is Holiday Cottage Inspector Day, so I’d better get everything even spicker and spanner than usual…

Dawn chorus most mornings now, the orchard is carpeted with Snowdrops, Crocus and Daffodils, but still a few more overnight frosts are forecast before we can say that Spring has finally arrived.

21 Feb 2015 Ermine Stoat
Overnight frost and then sunny, so we went for a lovely walk on the beach at Runswick Bay, followed by a nice lunch at The Royal pub there. Then home via Scaling Dam, where a friendly birder in the hide pointed out a Stoat in winter ermine, running across the grassland. How would the House of Lords manage all those hundreds of big black-flecked white cloaks without them?

19 Feb 2015     First Frog song
Wet and windy but a Frog purred from my pond: Spring is astirring. The Willow arch now has catkins, as has the Hazel behind the stone seat. Waited in all day for Npower (no show) and a 15-minute bird cound from my kitchen gave: 5 Long Tailed Tit, 3 Blue Tit, 3 Dunnock, 3 Robin, 2 Blackbird, 2 Great Tit, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Coat Tit, 1 Marsh Tit, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Wood Pigeon (10-10.15, 8/8 cloud, Force 3 SW).

18 Feb 2015     Gnorman dodgy
We walked around the wood and BC noticed that Gnorman was no longer swingin’ from his Oak tree. We found him lying in the undergrowth and carried him to the house for 1st Aid to his broken ear. That is just how windy it has been recently!

We ferried down more of the Ash logs and added them to the Ash cord in the woodyard. Then we split the remainder of the Cherry drums and stacked them in the woodshed to complete 2 walls (= woodshed 1/3 full of fresh Cherry, with another 2 walls of unused stovelogs from last winter).

A Chinook whistled up the Esk Valley, but only a very big helicopter on manouvers.

17 Feb 2015     Dawn solo
Not yet a dawn chorus, but a Song Thrush provided a very welcome attempt. Clear overnight with a sharp frost. Then warm, bright and sunny with my electronic Frog showing 10.3 degrees C outside. 3 Goldfinch on the (now sunny) Niger seed feeder in the back yard, 5 Long Tail Tits next to them on the fatball feeder.

I carried down some Ash and split a few more Cherry drums.

15 Feb 2015     Orchard tidy
We removed and trimmed all the Willow cut a few weeks ago from the twigwam, which was leaning up against an Apple tree and looking untidy. Cut to length, we wove it into the 3rd and final panel of the polebarn, but it only filled-in about 2 foot, so another 6 to go before the side of the polebarn is completely wattle (without daub).

The Snowdrops are almost all in flower in Groves Dyke orchard, the Crocus are well advanced and the first couple of Daffodils are well in bud. A Song Thrush was demanding ‘baked beans’ over and over again this morning and a Great Tit sawed frantically in the wood.

14 Feb 2015   Oh yes there are
Val n Tina, the 2 lovely faries from Goathland, arrived today and will soon be taking up residence at the bottom of the garden…

Collected the strimmer from Malton, following its annual service and now all ready for hours of grass-cutting, for months to come. Oh joy. Lunch at Castle Howard.

10 Feb 2015     Hedge-laying
ID, BC and Me tackled the gappy hedge alongside the polebarn. Leaving the first young tree as a living post, we laid the next several by cutting through most of the stem, shaving it thinner and thinner into a strap hinge, and then folding it over, still connected to the root, on top of the previous stems (‘pleachers’). Occasional stakes, cut from the wood, were driven in to hold all in place until it grows and heals. This ancient craft is so much neater and surgical than the modern tractor-driven flail which shatters most roadside hedges to within an ince of their lives.

By the end of the afternoon we had completed 7 yards of hedgerow, with another 4 or 5 still to finish. It looks so much better already, and gives a great view of the nice wattle wall of the polebarn just beyond.

09 Feb 2015     Dawn solo
Bright and sunny after a sharp overnight frost. A single Song Thrush has been singing from the orchard for a couple of days, just before dawn. My pond has stayed frozen over for many day now. A 15-minute bird count from my windows gave: Longtail Tit 4, Blue Tit 3, Dunnock 3, Robin 3, Blackbird 1, Coal Tit 1, Great Tit 1, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Tree Sparrow 1.

08 Feb 2015     Double figures
The sky cleared, the sun shone, the wind dropped and by mid-afternoon the outside thermometer read 13 deegrees C! We continued splitting the last few Cherry drums and stacking the stove logs into the woodshed, which is now 2/3 full for next winter.

07 Feb 2015     A different world
We went to Danby for lunch at the Stonehouse Bakery and a visit to The Moors Centre. Whitby and Sleights may be green again, but up there, as far as the eye can see, to Blakey Ridge and beyond, all is still white with a couple of inches of snow. All the main roads are clear, but we didn’t attempt the minor roads to Danby Beacon nor along Oakley Walls.

Kev the joiner finished lining the bathroom cupboard, which now looks much more respectable. He still has to finish the dining-room cupboard and then to panel-in the pipes in the downstairs shower-room / loo.

First Crocuses in flower in Groves Dyke orchard, as well as most of the Snowdrops now. BC planted Polyanthus into the patio planters – if only she had a potting shed…

06 Feb 2015     Potting shed started
Young SR dug out the floor and postholes for the new potting shed, next to our woodshed. This will give BC somewhere to call her own – every wo/man should have a shed!

03 Feb 2015     Split and shovel
More wintery showers have left an inch of snow everywhere, including the yard and the drive. I split a few more Cherry drums and stacked them in the woodshed. By midday the sun had done enough to make pushing off the snow / slush / ice possible so that the plumber could get his van up the drive. He replaced the mixer tap (lever, of course) on the kitchen sink, fixed the flush handle in the downstairs shower-room and put up the new shelf / drying rail in the hall.

CN the local plumber replaced the tap on the kitchen sink with another (better) lever type mixer unit, as well as fitting a new new handle on the downstairs loo and adding a new antique Magogany shelf in the hall.

I wonder if Blondie, the albino Grey Squirrel, will reappear at dusk, when the others have gone, to visit the spatio bird feeder – as it has the past 2 evenings?

01 Feb 2015     Snowdrop Day
Since we first noticed our Snowdrops in flower yesterday, we decided to celebrate Snowdrop Day by shampooing the dining room carpet. Not much fun really but better than being out of doors on such a cold, grey and raw day.

Met Records for Jan 2015
A very dry month with almost half of the precipitation falling in the last 2 or 3 days, as snow or wintery showers. Total precipitation was 1.7 inches (? mm). Max temperature 56 degrees F (12 degrees C), Min 24 F (? C) and the Actual this morning was 38 F (4 C). All these F temperatures are from the ancient (and accurate) ex-warehouse thermometer. The ‘modern’ plastic F and C thermometer keeps resetting its max and min markers, so there have been no recorded max nor min – progress, eh?

31 Jan 2015     Escape to Pickering
All the snow had melted away this morning so we decided to celebrate by leaving the cave completely and driving over the moor to have a big, all day breakfast at Russels cage in Pickering. What a good idea. The whole place was almost deserted. A quick visit to the garden centre on the outskirts for 3 o’clocks to check on the progress of their big, new, 2-story cafe extension – opening in early March, they say.

30 Jan 2015     Back-of-the-cave Day
Another dusting of snow fell overnight, the temperature hovered about freezing and the raw, damp North-westerly wind was too lazy to go around and just went through.

28 Jan 2015     Birch Down
Following our policy of felling the biggest and/or the worst Silver Birch every year, we dropped a 14inch diameter specimen with a serious lean. This time we tidied-up the dropping zone in advance, so that it could lie down without too much trouble. Which it did. MD had it down in no time, then chain-sawed it into managable lengths which ID and I cleared. By lunch it had all been carried down, straight through the woodyard and under cover in the polebarn. Like Cherry, Silver Birch can begin to rot away very quickly if left out in the rain. A little more chain-sawing, a bit of splitting and by 3 o’clocks it was all stove-logged and stacked to form 1/6 of the polebarn wall. An excellent day’s work!

25 Jan 2015     Big Garden Birdwatch
It was mild but wet, clearing to dry and sunny for the 1-hour BGB. We saw: 6 Blue Tit, 4 Great Tit, 4 Long Tail Tit, 3 Blackbirds, 3 Dunnock, 2 Coal Tit, 2 Marsh Tit, 2 Robin, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Pheasant. Just after the hour was up, the Wood Pigeon and the Collared Dove arrived, but they missed the boat.

23 Jan 2015     Madeira M’dear?
It was warm and sunny in Madeira, a very nice 19 degrees, thank-you very much. The only problem was finding a lounger in the dappled shade of a Palm tree by the outdoor heated swimming pool, as the full sun was almost too much! Some nice walks in the spectacular mountainous scenery of the native Laurel Forest National Park.

Here there are a few scraps of snow on the moortop and alternate days of sun and cloud, but with a bitter windchill. Now where would we rather be just now..?

10 Jan  2015     Stormy weather
Another wild and windy night with no apparent damage to the house nor wood. Glad we’re not in the north of Scotland where they had 113 mph winds!

08 Jan 2015     Large Head-on Collider
Lots has been happening in the wood recently, but today I just brought down the last of the big Cherry drums on reins. Good thing there was no one else about or it could have been Whitby’s answer to Cerne!

07 Jan 2015     Busy in t’wood
While MD chainsawed the felled Cherry tree above Simon’s Seat into 4 foot lengths (for the branches) or 16 inch long drums (for the trunk, itself some 17 inches diameter), the rest of us moved it aside until all was on its way to the woodyard. After lunch he and I chainsawed the lengths into 16 inch stovelogs and got them straight into the woodshed, while BC and ID continued to carry yet more down from above.

We even tried splitting a few of the fresh drums into 16 inch stovelogs but they refused to give way. Cherry tends to get very wet and mouldy if left out in the rain, so the race was to get the smaller stuff under cover asap. By late 3 o’clocks the entire tree was either stacked in the woodshed or raised off the ground in the woodyard. And we were all exhausted. A excellent day’s work, thanks!

06 Jan 2015     Bird count
Overcast but mild and calm. From 09.15 to 09.30 the front and back feeding stations had: 7 Blue Tit, 7 Long Tailed Tit, 5 Robin (all on spatio feeders), 3 Blackbird, 2 Dunnock, 2 Great Tit, 2 Goldfinch, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Marsh Tit, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Wood Pigeon, 1 Wren. Totals: 33 individual birds of 12 species.

02 Jan 2015     Fell tree, mow lawn
Took a good-sized Ash down, but it took 3 of us. It was one of the 30-year old planted ones, which is now so big that it is rubbing branches with its planted Ash and planted Alder neighbours. By felling the middle one of a row of 3, the 2 remaing trees will have more room to grow even bigger…

MD on chainsaw, Me clearing and BC dismantling the felled Cherry in the other half of the wood, the Ash was soon down. Almost. Felling selected trees within a wood means that there is no cleared side to fell into, so the last few feet of descent required a bit of un-snagging from its neighbours. Once down, all 3 of us soon dismantled it into a heap of lop and top, a stack of cordwood (each 4 foot long) and a stack of 16 inch drums, all up off the ground.

While we worked, my neighbour was mowing their lawn! Crazy weather: mowing the grass on the day after New Year’s Day – who says the climate isn’t changing?!?

01 Jan 2015     HNY everyone!
Bright, mild and windy, so we took the 2-wo/man saw up to fell a 8 inch diameter self-sown Ash tree which is now cramping a nice young Oak just above the Dog-snout Crab Apple tree. Sawn into 4 foot lengths, we propped it up against the collapsed Willow. Then we began sipping, trimming and stacking the lop and top from the felled Cherry tree.