News Blog 2017

Nov 2017 met summary 30 Nov 2017     Passable with care I was due to attend a training session (Lottery applications) in Scarborough but the road there was a wee bit tricky. Times like this, you wonder why you are the inly car on the road… We made it, although the only other person who did was the trainer, from Harrogate! We got home again ok – just, but by tea time my drive was too snowy and too slippery to get the car up, so it spent the night at the bottom (and made it ok late tomorrow morning, when the sun was up). 

29 Nov 2017     Northerly sleet, snow and bonfire ID and I decided it was far too cold, wet and slippery to try felling the Cherry, so we lit the bonfire in the woodyard instead. In a Northerly, it is quite sheltered under the hill, but the flames still took a bit of encouraging – as did a Bank Vole, which we found sheltering under the heap and successfully moved to the tripod of skinny branches. 

28 Nov 2017     Wintry showers and rough seas The Northerly winds are strengthening and some nasty weather is coming our way… but today the frost is easing and it is dry and cool. The feeding station had: Blue Tit 3, Great Tit 3, Coal Tit 2, Nuthatch 2, Blackbird 1, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 1, Marsh Tit 1 (0915 – 0930). 27 Nov 2017     Sycamore coppicing begins Now that the big orchard has been strimmed (ok, a few weeks ago) I can get at the self-sown Sycamore that shouldn’t be growing in an orchard. Working from the drive and reaching up to the lower edge of the orchard, I used a polesaw and loppers to reduce an unwanted Sycamore to a couple of useful cord lengths for firewood, and a small heap of mini lop and top. 26 Nov 2017     Ash cord started AS well as adding to the Sycamore cord, we also dropped a little leaning Ash by the bottom bridge and began the 2nd cord of next winter’s fu-u-el. Dry and sunny enough after a frosty night to run out the leccy string and use the Tyrannosaw to saw the Silver Birch lengths into 15 inch drums. Left under cover to open up a bit, as they refused to split. 25 Nov 2017     Little fry-up in Great Fryupdale Hard frost last night, the first proper one this winter. We discovered the Hub, a brand new mountain bike centre with café (open to all), bike repairs and hire, accommodation, etc. See . It looks like a new build, just where Great and Little Fryupdales meet, around the back of Danby Crag and across the road from Fairy Cross Plain (where the fairies dance on top on Mid-summer’s Eve). Great big windows (what a novelty) frame magnificent views of Great Fryupdale, while the wood burner throws out a wonderful heat, and the kitchens serve a great menu. We shall call again… 12 Nov 2017     Major BT broadband failure in the Whitby area… …so Mind the Gap in Blog posts! 9 Nov 2017     First gap for months Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage has been booked almost non-stop since Spring, so this vacant week Sam has redecorated the shower-room, we have shampoo-ed the hall and sitting-room, and I have re-sealed the shower. Looks better already! 7 Nov 2017     Felled Silver Birch It was a sickly specimen, with fewer and fewer green leaves each summer for the past few years. The top branches were already dead and falling in the wind, so very much a case of fell it while the wood is still sound. It came down nicely, helped by ID and me, and then (as the rain began) we used the crosscut to create just-manageable lengths and wheeled them down and into the woodshed. Phew! Nov 2017 Met: Max 14 degrees F,Actual 9, Min 4, Total Precipitation 1.5 inch. A mild month, then windy and wet. 29 Oct 2017     Last of the Summer TomatoesWindy last night and this morning it has shifted to a strong and chilly Easterly, with occasional showers. A couple of Fieldfare, our first winter thrushes from Scandinavia, chattered from the wood. Several Blackbirds, possibly newly arrived, feasted on the Cotoneaster on my Spatio. Clocks Fall Back – tick! Today we also picked the very last few ripe and almost ripe Tomatoes, then chopped off the stems and brought the fruit / veg indoors to ripen on the windowsill. Dug out the Polyanthus (still in flower) from the Rhubarb bed, unearthing a few  surprise Potatoes in the process, split and replanted them in the veg bed until required for the pots on the holiday cottage patio. Picked some more Broccoli and Kale, and the very, very last drop Raspberries. 28 Oct 2017   Last afternoon tea Both big plastic buckets of last week’s Apple juice are now fermenting and starting to bubble. Only 6 months to wait… Almost warm enough so we sat by the riverbank at the Chain Bridge Café at Ruswarp to enjoy our last outdoor sandwiches, cream scones and fancy cakes. Then we toured Whitby to admire Whitby Goth Weekend – and the place was PACKED! 24 Oct 2017     Laptop home againAfter a couple of days with CompuSOS in Whitby, being serviced. Weather murky and misty, so had a stroll at Sandsend and cleared leaves and moss from ground floor gutters and yard drains. 23 Oct 2017     Cider bits away Today was washing out, drying and stacking away all the various bottles, buckets, chopping boards, cloths, Kilner jars, jugs, tubs, trugs, tubes, etc, etc that we used to produce the 26 litres of Apple juice for cider, plus the 10 bottles of pasteurised juice. 22 Oct 2017     Captain Cook in St Mary’s Church We attended the annual commemorative Captain Cook service in his old church, at the top of the 199 Steps, followed by the wreath-laying at his statue’s feet by all the Mayors of Cleveland, Stokesley, Redcar and Cleveland, Scarborough Borough Council, Whitby Town Council and the Whitby and District Tourism association. Sunny and dry, but a mite breezy. 18 Oct 2017     Re-press Day Having kept the pressed Apple pulp open to the air overnight, it was pressed again and gave another 5 litres of juice. Then the electric Lidl Fruit Juicer (reduced price) was used to juice another few crates of local Apples and gave another 6 litres of juice.17 Oct 2017   Cider Day We were joined by SR, ID this morning and we gathered, cut, chomped, pressed a LOT of Apples, producing 16 litres of juice by late afternoon. This is less than usual, either because MD’s Wonderful Apple Scratting Machine wasn’t serviceable and/or this year’s Apples held less juice. The old style Turnip Chopper reduced the apples to pressable bits, but all clean cut rather than mashed. The pulp was kept overnight to press again when it had softened… 15 Oct 2017     Buzzard! Two! Three, four five Buzzards!We had a nice stroll at Sandsend this morning, only to hear the unmistakable ‘Me-ou’ of a Buzzard over the fields. And another. And another. And another and another! Probably Mum, Dad and 3 Kids being taught how to cope with a very windy day. 12 Oct 2017     Bird count A morning bird count from my dining room windows gave: Great Tit 3, Chaffinch 2, Coal Tit 2, Blue Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 1, Great Spotted Woodpecker (male) 1, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Robin 1, Wood Pigeon 1. Dry, mild and calm. 9-9.15am. 10 Oct 2017     New species! Never recorded within my land before, but today there was an odd bird sitting on the edge of the top terrace sunning itself. Looked odd and hard to see from above and behind, but it might have been a female Sparrowhawk (perhaps on a kill?) of a Green Woodpecker (perhaps in a strange ‘anting’ pose?) But no, looking from several different windows and angles, it eventually turned out to be a Red-legged Partridge (ie French Partridge). It sat so still for so long that I suspect it had been injured, but by midday it had gone elsewhere. 08 Oct 2017     Well-seasoned Sycamore VERY well-seasoned! In fact, these are the lengths we set aside last winter AND the winter before, as part of our hedge-laying above the big orchard. We rediscovered them, now that young CM has strimmed the orchard a couple of days ago, still propped-up to keep them off the damp ground. This has worked well, as they are still sound enough for firewood (but no longer sound enough for fencing stakes). We dragged them across to the polebarn, sawed them into stove logs and stacked under cover them to let the damp bark dry off. A Yaffle (Green Woodpecker) flew over our heads, calling loudly and landing in the big leaning Ash. Mild, dry and then sunny. 07 Oct 2017     Coast and Moors trip A nice day for a short walk followed by lunch at Runswick Bay café, then on to Staithes to potter around the harbour and enjoy the art centre and shops. A lovely drive along Ridge Lane to Scaling, on to the top of Danby Beacon and drop off more Whitby Guidebooks at the National Park Moors Centre, before a well-earned cuppa at the Old Chapel Café in Castleton. Home via Lockwood Beck reservoir, where the new Potash Mine has built a bund (and is building a another very nice dry stone wall) to hide the vast excavations beyond. 06 Oct 2017     Big orchard strimmed today All credit to young CM, who did very well in 5 hours what used to take me 2 or 3 days! His super-duper brush cutter made short work of the long grass, and his long-reach hedge trimmer then finished-off the remaining brambles. It looks SO much better now than it did before! A flock of c100 Geese flew over Southwards early this morning, probably Pink Feet again. Some might link the traditional belief that the terrifying Gabble Ratchet foretells a death, to today’s funeral service for poor old NH, who in his retirement, drove many a lorry-load of emergency supplies to Bosnia and was also a long-term fighter for the disabled and for tourism in Whitby. RIP. 05 Oct 2017     Oak sorted ID and I put in a good day’s work today. We sorted the Oak lop and top from last year’s pollarding in the NE Corner, identifying a dozen walking sticks, thumbsticks and staffs for future work. The remaining Oak was sawn into stove logs with the Lidl battery saw and stacked into the woodshed, where it topped-up the middle wall of the lower half. We also brought down the Hazel poles propped-up at the top bridge, where we had to drop a Hazel before we had space to fell the long-dead Holly. That took ID several trips, not to mention another one to bring down the last 2 drums of the Sycamore felled by the Leccy Board last winter on the NW Passage. Phew 01 Oct 2017     Wet, wild and mild The tail-end of Caribbean Hurricane Maria is just passing the UK, with 60mph winds for us, rather than the 160mph winds that so devastated Dominica last week. We picked more Raspberries, Tomatoes and Broccoli, collected a few logs and retreated indoors. Sept Met – A mild but overcast month, with 3 inches of rain, Max 67 degrees F, Min 39 and Actual 58 degrees F. This whole summer has been officially ‘warmer than average’ but only because of the heat wave in June – the rest of the summer was mild but overcast and a bit damp. 30 Sept 2017     Burton Constable Hall near Hull Quite a long trip but well worth it to explore and admire this Grade 1 Listed stately home set in 300 acres of Grade II Listed grounds. The entry via the Stable Block (for 70 houses) is impressive enough, then across the grounds to the Hall itself, with its spectacular rooms and fascinating collections of objet d’art. 27 Sept 2017     Woodyard filling up again We sawed down a few Sycamore stems which had grown too tall and flopped over to block the path from the stone seat to the Big Orchard. The stems were duly dragged, trimmed and sawn into cordwood, which was laid ceremoniously on the recently emptied cord stead. 25 Sept 2017   Woodyard empty Having sawn the very, very last of last winter’s felling, the 2 rows of 3 cordbeds each are now standing completely empty – and looking very sad. 24 Sept 2017     Two wo/man saw day We sawed up the very last of the big lumps of last year’s felling. Though we would need the leccy string and the Tyranosaw, but decided the £4 cross-cut would do the trick – and it did! The last of the Hazel, the Sycamore and the Hornbeam is now all neatly sawn into 15 inch stove logs, or offcuts. The ancient rods on the raftings were removed and snapped easily into kindling, then some of them replaced with recent Cherry rods, removed from the Buddhlia corner. Then we strolled up the main drive, snipped a few Brambles back from the path, and discovered a super-crop of Pears! Very inaccessible but still unripe… 23 Sept 2017     Duncombe Park day out We parked on the carriage circle, paid our fivers and enjoyed the many antique stalls within the grand rooms of the Feversham family home at Helmsley. The rooms are lovely and some of the treen on the stalls was very tempting: Mouseman bread board for £230, Mouseman plate rack for £900, plus an anonymous gingerbread mould for just £120. Decided not to buy anything – except lunch. 22 Sept 2017    Breakfast on the balcony Another mild, dry, calm and almost sunny day so we went to Pickering for a swim, followed by an all day breakfast on the garden centre balcony. Very satisfying! 20 Sept 2017     Middleton Post Office Tea Rooms Too late for breakfast, too early for tea, so we have a lovely lufternoon tea, complete with 2 triple-decker stands of sandwiches, cakes and scones. Wonderful! 19 Sept 2017 Hazel cord almost gone. Using the Lidl cordless sabre saw, which is remarkably good, I sawed the last of the small and medium thick Hazel into 3 stove-logs per 45-inch cord length. Now there is only the really thick cordwood to saw, and that might require a dry day, the leccy string and the big Tyranosaw. 18 Sept 2017     Soup, saw and birding Two big roasting tins of washed cherry Tomatoes (mostly yellows, when we thought we had bought reds) with some of our own Garlic cloves, our own Onions and some bought-in Carrot and Tomato puree. Pop them in the oven to roast gently for a few hours, saw enough Hazel to exhaust the Lidl rechargeable kitten (small sabre) saw, an hour to recharge it, stir soup, carry out a bird count, saw more Hazel, recharge, stir, birding, etc. Half the cord in now in stove logs and in the woodshed, 9 Tupperware tubs of Roast Tomato & Garlic soup ready for freezing, plus: Great Tit 3, Blue Tit 2, Dunnock 2, Goldfinch 2, Chaffinch 1, Coal Tit Tit 1, Robin 1, Wood Pigeon 1, Wren 1. 17 Sept 2017     Wet Heavy rain overnight and drizzle today. We picked all 6 of our ripe non-Tumbling Cherry Tomatoes in 2 growbags in the back yard – about 4 pints of toms. Still lots more to ripen, if we ever get some sun… Roast Tomato and Garlic soup to make later. Planned our holidays and caught up with tidying-up, Blog, etc. The House Martins were back, flying over the wood, but no longer chittering in the nest in the early morning. 16 Sept 2017     Burton Agnes Hall and Walled Garden My first visit to this wonderful Elizabethan estate, near Bridlington. We discovered some lovely country lanes to get there and arrived in time for a very thin Tomato soup in the café (we’ll show how it should be done, tomorrow!). The Hall is magnificent, with a Great Stair from ground floor to 2nd floor, with continuous newel posts, in Oak. The Long Gallery on the 2nd floor has three great modern pieces by Makepeace (of Dartington fame), including ‘Obelisk’ – a pyramidal chest of drawers some 5 feet high, with Yew-faced drawers (matching grain on all 4 sides) on Hornbeam runners, within a Sycamore frame. Wow! The Walled Garden was slightly past its best so late in the season, but still showed just how impressive it could be. We’ll be back! 15 Sept 2017     First Gabble Ratchet On our drive South across the moors to Pickering we admired the last few clumps of still-purple Heather, now that most of it has gone a rusty brown. A skein of Geese flew high across our route, heading South-westerly towards the coast. Winter is a comin’ in…14 Sept 2017     Martin Scone My House Martins seem to have left sometime in the last few days. Their gentle early-morning chittering in the nest under the eaves has ceased. Bon Voyage chaps, and Au Revoir! 13 Sept 2017 First named storm – Storm Aileen Aileen was a bit of a damp squib, as named storms go, with little wind here but lots of overnight rain instead (another 1.5 inches overnight in my rain gauge) We sawed the part cord of assorted Willow (bits of Twigwam trimming), which to our amazement was sprouting green leaves, even though it has been cut and then stacked horizontally months ago! There was also some Sycamore and a few bits of Oak (bark-stripped and killed by the Grey Squirrels, early this summer), but it is all now in stove logs and under cover in the woodshed. 12 Sept 2017     Mucks Duck cleans chimney Yes, he does call his chimney-sweeping business ‘Mucky Duck’ – great name! My woodburner has now been cleaned and is ready to go into full heat and hot water production for the winter months. In the afternoon, at low tide, I walked to the end of Whitby’s West Pier, then onto the west Pier Extension, then down onto the lower deck (and back) to check the state of the safety railings, ladders, etc. Read all about it soon in the Latest News section of to see just how much work Scarborough Borough Council has been doing to maintain Whitby’s sea defences – or not. 10 Sept 2017     More cider bottled Cooler today, with cloud and the threat of rain. We got c40 small bottles of slightly dryer cider from the second batch of cider. Returned the unused bottles, now washed, to the bottle rack in the woodshed. 09 Sept 2017     Nature’s way of telling Trump Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose are just Nature’s way of telling President Trump he is completely wrong about climate change. But will be listen? 06 Sept 2017     The Last Cord Thanks to my nice new cordless sabre saw from Lidl (£19.99) we were able to saw the final medium-sized cordwood into stove logs. It is remarkably good (if not better than the pricey Bosch Keo equivalent) and the cord has now virtually vanished. Only the skinny bits left to do, and the lopper will sort them out. The woodshed is now 2/3 full, with part cords of Oak, Hazel and Sycamore still to do. 05 Sept 2017     Raining steadily all day A 15-minute bird count from 9.15 to 9.30 from my kitchen / dining room windows gave: 2 Blue Tit, 2 Coal Tit, 2 Great Tit, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Dunnock, 1 Marsh Tit, 1 Nuthatch. (Later in the day there were 2 Goldfinches). 04 Sept 2017     Leccy tree surveyor visit The nice man from Amey’s forestry work appeared unexpectedly for a look at the wood. I gave him a tour on my morning round and he noted on his device which trees / species need to be trimmed back from the overhead wires. Doubtless, another rival firm will appear sometime soon, to do exactly the same. Then both firms will bid for the contract with Northern Power Grid, one will win and in a few months a team of arboriculturalists will appear to do the work. I wonder which..? 03 Sept 2017     Tyranosaw strikes again We ran out the electric string again, plugged in the Tyranosaw and finished off the last of the thick ash cordwood, building up another full wall of 15-inch logs in the woodshed. Only the medium and skinny cordwood still to do… 02 Sept 2017     Sledmere 2 Our second visit to this impressive stately home in the Yorkshire Wolds, 10 miles from Malton. This time we had the Yorkshire Rarebit (again) and a proper exploration of the superb walled garden. Their butterflies really like their blue Asters and something else we tried to remember. And failed. Shan’t plant that one, then. Found the carriage display, including a typical Wolds farm wagon, which led to the formation on the estate of the 1,200 strong Wagoners’ Brigade recruited locally by the estate to supply the front line in the First World War. Their traditional skills and horsemanship are graphically recorded in the Wagoners’ Memorial in Sledmere village centre. Also visited the church and the farmyard. 01 Sep 2017     Last of the summer swim Off to Helmsley for our final swim of the year in their wonderful outdoor heated pool. Not only was there a good number in the pool, but even more Swallows (c40) gathering on the overhead wires and snatching occasional drinks from between the swimmers. The day was completed very nicely with a lovely lunch in the Walled Garden, a nice potter around the market AND a locally made ice cream (1 Lemon and Pistachio, 1 Apple and Rhubarb Crumble). Aug Met     A mild month but damp, with little sun and one tremendous thunderstorm and downpour. Total precipitation 2 inches. Max 78 degrees F, Actual 56, Min 38 (but the sun may still be shining directly on the thermometer, so Max is probably too high). 30 Aug 2017     Tyranosaw Day With ID we had a great day. It was dry and sunny, so we rolled out the leccy cable and got the electric reciprocating saw working on the full cord (8 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet stack) of Ash logs which we felled last winter. After 2 good sessions, and lunch in between, we had sawn half the stack and built it into a wall and a half of 15-inch logs in the woodshed – which is now more than half-full for the coming winter. VERY satisfying (if a hard day’s work). Luckily, most of us didn’t have to cycle home again, go on a 4 mile run and then have a strenuous gym session – but ID did!     27 Aug 2017     Bottling Sleightly TaR cider One keg of 2016 cider is rather nice, so we bottled and capped nearly 50 small bottles, to mature for TaR’s wedding in May 2018. 26 Aug 2017     Time is precious – So waste it carefully We did, with a lovely leisurely sandwich lunch at Shepherds’ Hall tea garden, by the river bank, watching the noisy radio-controlled toy speedboat until it broke, then enjoying the Mallard on the water and the Buzzard overhead. Up to Danby Beacon to admire the endless, and only slightly past its very best, purple Heather. 24 Aug 2017     First Apricots About 5 years ago we planted a new Apricot tree in Groves Dyke garden, training it along the rails of a South-facing post and rail fence. It came from Perry’s River Gardens, some 300 yards away, in Briggswath. They once claimed to have the ‘most Northerly fruiting Apricot in England’ but mine is 100 yards further North than theirs – and this year it had its first ever fruit! Woopee! Not a very impressive crop (about 6 small fruits, one of which was enjoyed for breakfast) but nonetheless, A CROP! 23 Aug 2017     Purple thunderplump With rain forecast, we drove to Pickering pool for a swim – only to be engulfed in a fabulous storm on the moortop. Dark enough for dipped headlights and high intensity rear light, raining hard enough for high speed windscreen wipers, roads awash enough for 30mph driving, with occasional big puddles across half or even all of the road, not to mention the continuous thunder and lightening all around. Pull over and wait for it to pass (as one of the very few metal things on the moortop)? Or just keep going slowly and carefully (and hope to reappear out the other side)? Luckily the latter was the right choice and we made it to Pickering. Poor old Egton Show, the biggest in our area, had a very damp day that day! Scarborough even made the National News on BBC tv, with more than half the expected average rainfall for the month, falling in just a few hours today. 21 Aug 2017     Sunny swim at Helmsley Another lovely drive across the purrfect purple moors to Helmsley for a sunny swim and a sunny walled garden lunch. What could be better? 20 Aug 2017    Shelling out We picked all the Broad Beans and most of the Peas, then spent the next hour shelling them in 4 small tubs of Beans and 4 of Peas – all out of an 8 x 4 foot bed (plus a few Green Beans, still cropping). Next, the Blueberries from the one small bush, producing just over 2 small tubs of very sweet and tasty berries. We also sampled the latest cider, from last year’s Apples, which is now settling-out in the keg and ready to be bottled. Mmmm nice – it gets at least a 7/10 and will probably improve in the bottles. 17 Aug 2017     Falling Foss cuppa We went to repay Team Foss on behalf of a foreign debt, and Buttercup enjoyed the trip down as much as we did (but the Buttercup didn’t have anything nice to eat or drink in the super tea garden there). 16 Aug 2017      Helmsley and Blakey Rigg purple A lovely trip over the perfectly purple moortop, dropping DnI off at the Walled Garden, while we enjoyed a gloriously warm and sunny swim. Lunch for all at Crema cafe, then up, up and away over Blakey Rigg, where the Heather was even better than ever. CA detour by Westerdale before a cuppa at the Old Chapel café in Castleton. The veranda was full, so we sat just inside the doors and enjoyed the breeze. And a rocky road between us. 15 Aug 2017      Steam and scuttle We collected DnI from the bench at Willowgate in Pickering before having lunch at the garden centre there. Then off to KMS (Kirkbymoorside) to collect my new Mouseman book trough from Ryedale Auctions, before heading back over the moor via H-le-H (Hutton-le-Hole), Spaunton Moor, Chimney Bank, Rosedale and the Hamer road to Lealholm. Soooo much Heather, and ALL in full and glorious purple flower. The moors are looking magnificent for their annual visit by DnI, who always time it so perfectly. 13 Aug 2017     R n B Currant rose merlot Today we not only racked the big plastic bucket of fermenting Apple juice pressed last October, but we also racked the 2 buckets of Redcurrant Rose and Blackcurrant Merlot. There was just enough of each to make up another demijohn of mixed Red and Blackcurrant rose merlot. All 3 demijohns are now festering nicely in my snug. 11 Aug 2017     Busy at Helmsley outdoor pool A warm if overcast day for a nice swim at our ‘local’ heated outdoor swimming pool. As busy as we have seen it, which means that all their publicity to attract more swimmers has been working. Use it or lose it! 9 Aug 2017     Super bonfire day After yesterday’s continuous rain (1 inch in 24 hours) ID and I decided the fire risk must be as low as it is possible to get in mid-summer. We lit the towering stack half-way up, let the top half burn away and then minded the fire for the rest of the day. Add just a little, but not too much – or rake some away to let the air in again. A very delicate balance, which involved constant vigilance and lots of coffee. By late afternoon we had a huge pile of glowing embers and just a few big lumps of un-splitable wood (which were still smouldering the evening after). So primitively satisfying in every way! 07 Aug 2017     Garden produce to bucket and bottleAs well as setting off 2 big plastic buckets of Red and Blackcurrants for wine, we produced 10 jars of Redcurrant Jelly (a First, but then it was a bumper crop from just 2 bushes). 06 Aug 2017     Currants Black and Red A mild and sunny morning, with the young GSW (Great Spotted Woodpecker) on the Peanut feeder and the young TIM watching from the landing window. We dismantled the 3 high security wire netting panels and the net roof from the fruit bushes. Of the 3 Blackcurrant bushes, all were slightly over ripe and should have been picked last weekend, and 2 had a poor crop. All in all, we picked about 5 pints. Of the 2 Redcurrants, both were magnificent, heavily laden with beautifully almost a gallon (8 pints) of ripe fruit. Plans to make crumbles and wine were put on hold for a day or two, due to the lack of energy, sugar, aluminium pie dishes, pectin and yeast nutrient. Tomorrow… 02 Aug 2017     Helmsley swim and walled garden lunch It stayed dry long enough for a lovely swim in Helmsley’s heated outdoor pool, which included floating on my back to watch a Buzzard soaring high overhead – not many swimming pools you can do that from! Then a very nice lunch of Greek Lamb Salad inside the Vinehouse Café, as the rain began. Then off to Kilburn to see the Mouseman and his wonderful creations, as the rain came down. Back for an ice cream in Helmsley, indoors, as the rain continued. Met readings for July 2017     A changeable month, with occasional wet days. Total rainfall 2 inches. Max 86 degrees F, Min 42F and actual 62F. 30 July 2017     Intensive gardening weekend Yesterday and today we emptied out the 4 terracotta pots on the patio steps, refilled with a gritty soil and planted up the 16 new Lavender plants. Capped with white chippings, they should look very patriotic in a few months. B worked on the cloud hedges with the rechargeable hedge-trimmer, while I weeded and gravelled the 50-year old Lavender beds on the South Patio (Spatio). Wonderful that the pollen count has finally fallen to something manageable, for the first time in many, many weeks. The weed-burner was rediscovered and put to good use, then we picked lots of lovely plump Blackberries, between the heavy showers. 28 July 2017     Helmsley swim and Rieveaux lunch The pool was warm and sunny – and much busier than usual. Just what they need to keep it open! Then our favourite Yorkshire Rarebit in the café by the abbey, before pottering around Helmsley and home. 26 July 2017      Wet vol ID joined us for the day, but it got a bit wet. We trimmed the Brambles, etc from the path around the wood, sawed-up the slightly too long for my new stove logs, re-stacked them in the lower half of the woodshed (now 2/3 full of unused stove-logs from last winter) and the upper half is now completely empty and ready for us to saw-up the cordwood stacked alongside. Then we collected and dropped off 12 boxes of the Whitby Guidebook (see ) at the Park n Ride, and toured the neglected walled garden nearby. 25 July 2017     Sledmere Hall visit We had a lovely day out in the Yorkshire Wolds, near Driffield. An excellent tour of the house, with organ recital in the hall, then lunch and a quick visit to the ((double)) walled garden and the Wagoners’ Brigade museum. Must come back again for a proper look at this unusual walled garden, plus the village and its church. 23 July 2017     Goosegog top and tail Our one high security Gooseberry bush has had a bumper crop of c6 litres (‘A litre’s like a meter, only wetter’) or c12 pints or 1.5 gallons of lovely ripe, sweet goosegogs. We picked them today and topped, tailed, rinsed, blanched and drained them for our freezer or for friends n relations. Aldrin the Buzzard flew over the wood, having been disturbed by the Air Ambulance flying above him on its way to some emergency in Whitby. 19 July 2017     Helmsley Open Air (heated) swimming pool Our first visit this year, and it is as wonderful as ever. We lunched in Helmsley before pottering around the shops there, before enjoying a locally made ice-cream (Salted Caramel for her and Cappuccino for him. 17 July 2017     Kiplin Hall is exceedingly good Our first visit to this Jacobean historic house and garden, near the chaotic roadworks on ALL the approach roads to the A1 at Catterick. The house and grounds were great, but the journey from there to Leeds Bradford Airport took all of the 2.5 hours we had given ourselves as ‘extra time’ in case of any problems. Sister FCW arrived at the Check-in desk with just 8 minutes to spare! 16 July 2017     Scampston Hall picnicAnother lovely day for the 3 of us to visit another historic house and grounds. Scampston this time, with a tour of the Hall itself, as well as a good look around the modern interpretation of the original walled garden, as well as a stroll around the magnificent grounds. 15 July 2017     Tourist Speed in Whitby Showing FCW the historic Eastside of Whitby, strolling along Church Street to Fortune’s Kippers and on to the end of Henrietta Street. We absorbed the sights, smells and atmosphere, including window-shopping and admiring the wonderful views of Whitby Harbour. A very nice lunch above Hammond’s Jet Shop and then pottered off home again before an evening meal at The Stables. We then provided Afternoon Tea for our (‘Horselips’) neighbours, but indoors as it a bit too cool outside. 14 July 2017     Medieval St Hilda and Victorian lunch AD showed us the temporary exhibition about our local saint, in our wonderful local Whitby Museum, then we enjoyed a very old fashioned meal upstairs at Botham’s Café. 13 July 2017     Antiques Roadshow at Castle Howard We 3 took Great Uncle’s Chinese luggage to the experts for their opinion. First we queued for 2 hours to find out which queue to join, then we joined the Miscellaneous Queue for another 2 hours, before meeting Clive Stewart-Lockhart. He identified the embroidery as a possible ‘sleeve panel’ worth c£150, the small wooden carvings as Codera (?) nuts (NOT netsuke) and the bamboo brush pot as a bamboo brush pot. ‘If only’ he said, ‘Our ancestors had not bought the contemporary local art (now only 100 years old and not very valuable), but HAD bought the earlier, possibly Imperial, artworks (now 200+ years old)…’. 12 July 2017     ‘From Shanghai to Sleights’ We 3 went to Pickering for a swim, then lunch at the garden centre there. A relaxed afternoon before FCW gave her talk to the Whitby Endeavour Rotary Club about Great Uncle James Hunter Smith and his time with the Imperial Chinese Maritime Customs, his brush with the Boxer Revolution, his non-return home, his illness en route, his terminal illness and death at a convent near Kobe, Japan, the return of his luggage (but not him) to Florence Street, Derry and my sisters’ visit to the Kobe convent last year. Wow – what a story! 11 July 2017     Airport Pick Up I collected sister FCW from Leeds Bradford, her plane only just taking off a bit later than it was due to land. 09 July 2017     Mad dogs and English residents Too Damn Hot again. We dug a small hole and planted a Tropaelium (a climbing Nasturtium) below the Willow tree in the garden of Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage. If it looks as good as the one with red flowers climbing the tree at Poet’s Corner Garden Centre, where we bought it yesterday, it will be lovely. 08 July 2017     Dipper at Beggar’s BridgeIt has been a few weeks since we saw a Dipper on the River Esk, but one obliged on the tributary behind Beggar’s Bridge in Glaisdale. Once so common all along the river, now even the ‘best place’ at Grosmont Bridge can no longer be relied on. Poor Aldrin the Buzzard was being harried by a Herring Gull and later by a Carrion Crow, and once again took refuge by landing in my wood. 06 July 2017     Normal again just in time for the storm All the General Election forms were completed and returned to Scarborough Borough Council today, followed by a stroll at Sandsend to clear my head. By teatime, the first rumblings of thunder were heard and then the next 2 hours were a spectacular storm of thunder, lightening and torrential rain. Sit back and enjoy! By 8pm it was almost all over, gutters were overflowing and my rain gauge showed 1.5 inches of rain. Surprised it wasn’t more, judging by the roar of the Salmon Leap weir long into the night. 05 July 2017     Wood path strimmed I took the plunge and strimmed the path around the wood, as well as the Stickery Steps and the front of the Stickery. Much neater. 02 July 2017     Gardening (ie weeding) Warm, dry and sunny today so we weeded the fruit and the veg lawns, beds and hedges – not to mention taking a crop of c8 stems off our 3 new Rhubarb plants, our first proper crop this year. Then we ate the last of this year’s Strawberries crop, with ice cream. Earlier, Aldrin the Buzzard flew down into the wood, as he escaped the noisy attention of a Herring Gull. Met June 2017 A wet month, but only because the dry first half and the severe heatwave in the second half, were both interrupted on occasions by very heavy rainfall. Max 82F (26C) Actual 60 (15C) and Min 40F (5C). Total precipitation 5+ inches ( 2.5 inch rain gauge overflowing on 29th). 28 June     Still raining steadily and non-stop for days A soggy bird count from my windows gave: Blue Tit 3, Chaffinch 1, Greenfinch 2, Great Tit 2, Magpie 2, Marsh Tit 1, Nuhatch 1, Robin 1 (9.10 to 9.25, steady rain, cool). A Grey Squirrel was also inside the ‘Squirrel-proof’ feeder, but only because it was a juvenile – once it eats enough, it won’t be able to get between the bars again… 24 Jun 2017     Home again from t’Lakes Having a very easy day today, feet up and recovering from an unforgettable few days in Langdale. Hot? Yes. VERY hot. Sunny? Yes. VERY sunny! Pollen? Oh yes. VERY VERY high. So we pottered about in the shade, visited a couple of lovely stately homes at Levens Hall (300-year old topiary garden – fab) and Leighton Hall (Gillard of Waring and Gillard furniture fame), swam, ate, drank and tried to keep cool. No kneed to say the usual ‘It rained all week’ this time! 11 Jun 2017     Gooseberries secured and Strawberry security improved We surrounded the Goosegog bush with 1-inch wire netting and a fabric lid. Then nailed more 1-inch wire netting onto the upper frame over the whole Strawberry bed, to free-up the 2 temporary wire netting frames for the rest of the fruit bushes. Then we celebrated by eating some of our very own Strawberries, for the first time in 2 or 3 years – bloody wildlife! 09 Jun 2017     Election over – so sleep 07 Jun 2017     Logs down, sawn and stackedID carried down several more loads of Hawthorn and Hazel logs from the wood, where they have seasoned for many months. After lunch, I joined-in and we finished the job. 04 Jun 2017     High security strawberries We spent much of the day adding another round of tannalised 6 x 2 inch timber above the existing frame around our ‘new’ permanent Strawberry bed. Then another round of 3 x 1.5 tannalised on top of that, then a lightweight framework of 1 inch chicken wire right across the top. If that doesn’t keep the Grey Squirrels (Tree Rats!) and Wood Pigeons out, then we don’t know what will. These may be the most expensive Strawberries for miles around, but the frames should last for several years. During our well-earned 3 o’clocks on the veranda, we were entertained by 2 Buzzards soaring over the SW corner of the wood. Later, one of them was harried by a very persistent Carrion Crow and a less persistent Sparrowhawk. Great entertainment! Met for May 2017: A dry and mild month, with a mini-heatwave near the end. Max 86 degrees F, 75F actual and 34F Min. 0.5 inches of rain, most of it in 1 day. 28 May 2017     Toms in, Buzz over A little cooler and fresher today, thank goodness, with a possible shower or two yesterday and overnight. We planted-out the Tomatoes (4 Red Tumbling Toms and 2 Yellow Tumbling Toms) in their irrigated growbags on the edge of the fruit lawn and overhanging the back yard. Fingers crossed. Still a bit too hot, so we sat on the veranda to enjoy the breeze and watch the Buzzard fly into the wood with a Carrion Crow on its tail. A Green Woodpecker yaffled from the wood and a Blackcap sang. 25 May 2017     2 weeks in August / September available! Due to a cancellation, the last week in August and the first week of Sept are available again. You can see the prices on my Your Booking page or on the Groves Dyke page of website. 24 May 2017     Obliging Curlew on Danby Beacon Escorted C & EEJ to Danby Beacon where, contrary to expectations, a pair of Curlew put on a wonderful display for the camera. We seem to have parked somewhere near their young, and the parents performed perfectly for the photographer. Occasional Golden Plover called invisibly, and Red Grouse popped their heads up from time to time. Lunch at Stonehouse Bakery in Danby, then up Blakey Rigg (with occasional exciting stops en route) until we got off the busy road and turned down into Westerdale. There the Golden Plover chase continued, but their ventriloquism was superb. Onward and upward to Young Ralph’s Cross and we went our separate ways from the car park overlooking Rosedale – me back to Sleights and them back to Formby and thence on to Greenland… 23 May 2017   55,400 flyers sent packing Today we sorted, packed, weighed and labelled one A5 General Election flyer for Royal Mail to deliver to every address in the Parliamentary constituency of Scarborough and Whitby. Phew!  All for John Freeman, Independent but standing in support of Fight4Whitby, on the platform of ‘Enough is enough – time to reform Scarborough Borough Council and make them KEEP our Tourist Information Centres, public toilets, Futurist Theatre, etc AND mend Whitby piers’! Very wisely, C&EEJ took themselves off for a lovely day’s birding at the RSPB’s Bempton Reserve and its 100,000 seabird flyers. 22 May 2017   Red Gates Stonechats and Falling Foss The Stonechat family (mum, day and 4 kids) was very obliging, perched on the fence alongside the May Becks road and flying numerous sorties onto the grass verge of the grassy field to feed. It was hot, dry and sunny, the birds were superb and the photographer was delighted. Not much at May Beck, apart from a drainage digger, so off to sample the cream scones at Midge Hall / Falling Foss tea garden – WELL up to standard. Home via a disappointing Grosmont bridge, where this once ‘Guaranteed Dipper’ location was completely devoid of any water bird. 21 May 2017     Danby Beacon and Old Chapel Cafe Hot, dry and sunny, so we all went off to Danby Beacon to look for all the usual moorland birds in the Heather, which is so very absent from Merseyside. Small numbers of most things, but the Wheatear was especially nice. Cream scones in Castleton were rather good, but the birdlife on the way home was a bit disappointing. 20 May 2017     EEJ does it again at Runswick Bay We all had a lovely stroll around the village, before a leisurely sandwich outside the café while the tide went out. Then a stroll to the end of the beach and, on the way back, a female Long Tail Duck spotted by Ted diving very close to the shore. Quite what she thought she was doing in this country at this time of year is another matter, but she was unmistakable. Wonderful! 15 May 2017     Much needed rain due After a very long period with little or no rain, it seems we are due some later today – and very welcome it will be, too. Yesterday’s shower did some good and the Peas and Beans were planted out. A 15-minute window count today gave: Blackbird 1, Blue Tit 2,  Bullfinch 3, Chaffinch 1, Coal Tit 1, Goldfinch 4, Dunnock 1, Great Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Robin 1 (8/8 cloud, F3W, dry, mild). 13 May 2017     Runswick Bay OK We enjoyed a lovely day, walking on the beach, jet and fossil finding, 3 pairs of Fulmars on the cliffs, lots of people and dogs, lots of sand and few pebbles, nice café sandwiches out on the deck, a potter around the village, North Lee all ok (just for SA!), more coffee and then home via more Whitby Guidebook drops on the cliff top. 10 May 2017     Still no Ash leaves ID split all the Silver Birch drums in the woodshed, and shortened any ‘slightly too long’ stove logs still in there. After lunch we joined him in the wood and decided to drop just one more skinny Ash endangering the phone wires. Very, very odd that none of the Ash trees have any more than a few emerging leafbuds, while every other tree species in the wood and far beyond are all in full leaf by now. I wonder if they are poorly? The skinny Ash fell nicely and was trimmed, logged, dragged, sawn into 45-inch lengths and stacked onto the cord – which is now a stack which is a full 4 feet high and 8 feet long, composed of 45-inch lengths. VERY satisfying, thank-you all! 08 May 2017     John Freeman (artist) nominated as prospective MP Today we delivered John’s official papers to stand in the General Election. His slogan is ‘Yes, this IS asking for your protest vote!’ to hold Scarborough Borough Council to account for their neglect of Whitby Piers. They still, many years on, have not raised the £3.1m they agreed, to match the £4.8 offered by the Environment Agency, while the voids eroded by the waves within our two main piers now total 12,000 cubic metres! Whatever happened to ‘Open, transparent and accountable local councils and services?’ 03 May 2017     Full song all day from Blackbirds and Song Thrushes I’m sure they should be doing something better, like feeding young, but perhaps the cold weather has delayed the eggs hatching. Anyway, the bird song is almost continuous, all day, every day, from the Blackies and the Songies. Never heard so many Song Thrush ‘Baked beans, baked beans, baked beans!’ We sawed up the newly felled Ash and the cord is almost complete – and it looks VERY impressive. 02 May 2017     Dropped an awkward Ash Just one more, I thought, as there is still no sign of any leaves on any of the Ash trees (no, I don’t think they are all dead, just very, very late). This one decided to try and fall backwards onto the phone wires, so I added another rope, plus the strapping winch on one end of it. This DID prevent it falling backwards, but instead it decided to fall sideways. Thanks a bunch. Still, better than no phone! 01 May 2017     Still no Ash leaves I felled several more skinny Ash trees as there is still no sign of them budding leaves. April Met readings: Max 70 degrees F (a bit higher than expected, direct sunlight perhaps?), Actual 50F, Min 30F. Ppt 0.9 inches (23mm). A remarkably dry month, mostly warm and sunny until a cold wet week with wintry showers. 30 Apr 2017     Oak in winners’ enclosure, Ash a non-starter Dry and sunny but with a chilly East wind. The Cook Oak (and lots of other Oaks) is now in full leaf, but the poor old Leaning Ash (and lots of others) hasn’t even broken a leaf bud yet. Very odd. We strolled across to the River gardens and bought 6 little Tumbling Tomato plants, but still too cool to plant them out so they are now in the potting shed. 28 Apr 2017     Tour de Yorkshire flashes past It was all over in a flash this year. Half a dozen riders were out in front, then a tightly packed ‘peloton’ sped over Sleights bridge, past the end of the drive and turned sharply (with a cry from one of them ‘BRAKE’!) right to go through Briggswath and off to Whitby. As ever, the 50 or 60 police, etc motorbikes which put on the rolling roadblock were more entertaining. Still, if I was cycling from Bridlington to Scarborough, I wouldn’t go via Pocklington, Malton, Pickering, Goathland and Whitby! 26 Apr 2017     Three seasons in one week The week began in Summer weather, then jumped back to Winter with overnight frosts, wintry showers and scraps of hailstones lying on the ground, then on to Spring with a bit of sun and warmth again. A 15-minute bird count from my windows gave: Blue Tit 4, Blackbird 1, Bullfinch 1, Chaffinch 2, Coat Tit 1, Dunnock 1, Goldfinch 2, Great Tit 1, Robin 2 (15 individuals of 9 species). 23 April 2017     St George, Gardening or Goth weekend? Gardening, of course. Mild and sunny but with the beginnings of a chill Northerly wind – just a warning of what is to come this week… possibly even snow on high ground by mid-week. We collected a lot more dead Ash twigs from the wood and snapped then into kindling lengths, in anticipation of a few more woodstove evenings. Then we dug out the remaining Kale and added the wonderful new compost to all veg beds. The wonderful new compost is Wool Compost from a small farm in the Lake District. Since all hill sheep cost about £1 to shear and the wool is only worth 50p per fleece, hill farming is on its uppers. Luckily, one farmer married a scientist and she found a way of composting the almost worthless hill sheep fleeces with local Bracken (itself a problem to hill farmers) and Voila! A wonderful new compost, made on the farm and buying-in almost worthless fleeces and totally worthless bracken from all their neighbours, adding the secret (organic) ingredient, and selling it at garden centres all around the UK. Please buy some, improve your garden AND the local economy of our hill farms! 19 April 2017     Ash tree felled And STILL the Ash shows no sign of budding any leaves, even though the Oak is now budding nicely. Since the sap hasn’t risen in the Ash, we can take down another one!With ID’s help we dropped a skinny Ash from just above the Cornerpost, sawed it into cord lengths and carried it down to the woodyard. It was soon added to the cord, which is now almost a full 8 feet x 4 feet of 4 foot lengths = 136 cubic feet of firewood now seasoning for next winter’s fires. Having done that very successfully, we also carried down and sawed and bagged some of last winter’s Ash which had been leaned against a tree to season. What a good day! 16 April 2017     Easter gardening Dry, cool and cloudy this morning, so B sorted out the potting shed and planted 4 trays of Peas, Beans, Broad Beans and Runner Beans. I sawed the ends off a few (very few, luckily) stove logs that are now an inch too ling for my new stove, and filled 2 bags for the house. We then dug over two of the veg beds (A and B) and added a bag of peat-free compost to Bed A and Chicken Manure to Bed B. Cut back the old Kale remaining in Bed A and added it to the almost full compost bin. Then the drizzle began in earnest, so we went indoors and cought up with this News Blog. A 15-minute Bird Count from the window of the snug produced: Blackbird 1, Blue Tit 2, Bullfinch 2 (pair), Chaffinch 2 (pair), Coal Tit 1, Dunnock 2, Goldfinch 5, Great Tit 2, Greenfinch 1 (female), Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Wood Pigeon 1 (3.30 – 3.45pm). 19 individuals of 11 species. The Captain Cook Oak is almost in leaf, while the Big Leaning Ash shows no sign of any leaf buds… 15 Apr 2017     Good Saturday for Castle Howard We took the back roads to Castle Howard and enjoyed lunch in the big house, followed by a stroll and then a proper visit to the principal rooms. VERY impressive. A potter around the gardens (First Swallow flying alone ) and then off to nearby Yorkshire Lavender for afternoon-sies. Lovely day out, warm and dry and sunny. Roads very busy. Came home to find 3 (yes, THREE) Grey Squirrels (Tree Rats!) on the one and only non-anti-squirrel feeder, so it had to be removed. Sorry Mr Bullfinch. Far too many Tree Rats have survived the very mild winter, so more of my young Oak trees can expect to be bark stripped and die. 09 April 2017     Dry Lakes Just back from a few days in t’Lakes – and it didn’t rain once! OK, it did rain once but it was overnight, so that counts as Good Organisation rather than bad weather. Most unusual that the wettest National Park in England should be so very dry for a change. Here, in the driest National Park in England, Spring has advanced and most trees are well into leaf now. March met readings: Precipitation 0.5 inches (14 mm). Max 65 degrees F (16 C), Min 28 F (-2 C), Actual at 09.30 hours 52 F (11 C). A very dry month. 31 March 2017     Spring has sprung What a lovely warm, dry, sunny day for a cuppa and a scone at Witzend Café in Sandsend. Almost too warm for a fleece. Funny spring so far, with the Daffs around Groves Dyke either in full flower or slightly past their best. The Frog spawn from over a week ago is very unimpressive in quantity (a cup full?) and produced by only half a dozen Frogs which vanished almost immediately. Willows are well into leaf, Sycamore is just starting to bud, Dogs Mercury is everywhere, as are Wood Anemone and Lesser Celandine. 26 March 2017     Mother felling tree Today we celebrated by dropping our last skinny Ash of this winter. First we had to clear space to drop it into, then saw it up, carry it to the woodyard and saw it into cordwood and stack. Lovely warm, dry sunny day AND a Buzzard soared high over our heads to keep track of progress. Cake! 19 March 2017     Tree shifting again We logged the felled Willow just behind the stone seat, and added it to the appropriate pile: cordwood for stovelogs, kindling or bonfire. Then, never satisfied, we dropped another 2 skinny Ash trees (one hardly skinny at all)! 18 March 2017     Box shifting We filled Buttercup (the car) with boxes of the just-published Whitby Guidebook for 2017 (see for a virtual one) and took them up the Esk Valley to distribute to shops, cafes, pubs, National Park visitor centre, etc. A very enjoyable job, as we may have to sample the food and drink as we go! 17 March 2017     Tree shifting After a swim, we trimmed-up the 5 skinny Ash trees from just over the woodyard bridge. The cord of Ash firewood is now half full and looking very respectable. 12 March 2017     Yet more skinny Ash pollarded We dropped another 6 skinny Ash, almost all from one Ash stool that was coppiced 35 years ago. The biggest was about 6 inch butt diameter and the smallest about 3 inch. Only 2 more to go, but we had had enough by 3 o’clocks. The cord of Ash for next winter’s fuel is looking about 1/3 full and another much the same of Hazel and of Oak. ‘Aldrin’ the Buzzard flew over the valley as we ate our after afternoonsies, so a very successful day. 11 March 2017     Two Buzzards calling over Echo Hill No, sorry, it was only one! After pollarding the last of the self-sown young Oaks by Bruno’s Bannisters (with every other one left to continue growing upwards), we headed to Perry’s River Gardens for a bit of well-earned lunch. Sitting out of doors (1st time this year) we heard the distinctive ‘pe-ou-ing’ of a Buzzard across the river and then looked up and saw him soaring magnificently over the valley. After lunch we continued pollarding the Ash just over the woodyard bridge, and brought down a few more and added them to the cord. 10 Mar 2017     Pick swim Off to Pickering for a swim (as Groves Dyke arrivals tomorrow) and a lunch at Russells. To our surprise it was cool, cloudy and raining in Pick, but it hadn’t been in Whitby. 09 Mar 2017     Another skinny Ash down I dropped a good sized skinny Ash (8 inch diameter) using my nice new ‘winch’ for the first time. This is a strap tightener as seen on every lorry tarpaulin, with a 10 meter strap and a breaking strain of 5 tonnes. Sadly, it only tightens by a few inches, but that can be enough to pull a small tree in the right direction – especially if you sit on the tape at the vital moment! 08 Mar 2017     Chimney swept and more fuel cut Woodburning stoves need more frequent chimney sweeping (every 6 months or even every 3) so today G swept my chimney. After lunch we pollarded another 3 of the too-close-together self-sown Oaks by Bruno’s Bannisters. The rush is on to get everything down before the sap rises and the leaves appear. 06 March 2017     Two down, ten to go I took down another 2 skinny Oaks from Bruno’s Bannisters. The lop and top is propped up against a nearby tree (Oak of course, in case I get confused later in the year) and the Big Sticks (6 inch diameter) were carried down to the cord in the woodyard. 05 Mar 2017     First Oak pollarding As we set off up the wood this morning, a Buzzard soared overhead, being slightly annoyed by a passing Carrion Crow. Just above Bruno’s Banisters is the 50/50 Oak, a 30-year old Oak with the top half all bark-stripped just last year by the Grey Squirrels (Tree Rats!) and the bottom half still untouched and with green leaves. Ideal for pollarding, we thought. Pollarding is the same as coppicing (cutting off a tree stem to encourage the regrowth of young shoots), except several feet up the stem, so that the regrowth is too high for browsing Deer to eat it easily (4 feet 6 inches off the ground in the case of our local Roe Deer). Having done the 50/50 Oak, we moved down the slope to pollard a few more of the self-sown young Oaks which are far too close together. A pole saw would have been a better choice, as using a bow saw above head height is very tiring, so we settled for just one. Then as we stacked the lop and top to one side, and leaned the potential firewood against another Oak, we noticed the remains of the 3 Oaks we had felled as building timbers for the new Syder Ched a couple of years earlier. Thoughtfully, the non-structural bits had been carefully stacked up off the damp ground, so now we had some lovely, well-seasoned and ready-to-burn firewood. We dragged it down, sawed it up and bagged it, ready for immediate burning. Then up the main drive to de-bramble a bit of the wall and to look at all that Sycamore ready for coppicing in the big orchard. Then Blueberry muffin time! 04 Mar 2017     Grand tour We had a half day off and went on a grand tour of Eskdale. It was dry, calm and mild so we meandered along Betty Backside to Egton Top, down to Egton Bridge and right towards Glaisdale. Steady rain throughout the night had left large puddles across many of these country roads. Through Glaisdale to Lealholm, where the Shepherd’s Hall café is not open until weekends only in the middle of this month, then on to the Moors Centre. The exhibition in the Inspired by… Gallery includes works by local artists Len Tabner and Peter Hicks et al and is always well worth a visit. Lunch was calling, so on to the Old Chapel tearoom in Castleton for the great view up the dale (not quite sitting out weather yet) and the delicious cheese on toast with bacon. Then home via Lockwood reservoir and Hutton Mulgrave, where the ford along the road was in full flow, down Lythe Bank and a stroll on the beach at Sandsend before a nice cuppa at the only-just-opened-today-for-the-season River Gardens. So happy and relaxed were we, and such a nice light afternoon, that we decided to pollard a nice, easy and skinny Ash just over the woodyard bridge. And that was our first mistake. The main problem with selective felling is that it is almost bound to snag on a neighbouring tree (with clear felling, one soon creates a clearing that all the other trees can be felled into). The only way to get this one down was to also fell the nearby skinny Ash it was snagged on. That did the trick, except both of them then snagged onto a third skinny Ash – so we felled it, too. So there we were: Three for the price of one! 03 Mar 2017     FOGOF We took the bowsaw to one of the multi-stemmed Ash trees, just across the woodyard bridge, to remove the thickest stem (6 inches) before it tries to rub on the telephone wires. With a little persuasion, it fell in the right direction – but hit a dead Sycamore on the way down. Two for the price of one, or even Fell One Get One Free is a wonderful deal, so we must try it again! We got the ash onto the cord to season for a year, and the already well-seasoned Sycamore sawn into stovelogs and undercover, within the hour. And then the rain began. 01 Mar 2017     Sickly Silver Birch down With help from ID we bow-sawed the poorly Lady of the Wood at the start of the North West Passage. It had been increasingly doubtful, with fewer leaves year by year and no sign of recovering, so down she came. Some 10 inches in diameter, she was still sound enough to fall in the intended direction. We soon realised that the 2-man crosscut saw was a better option for the sawing-up the big stick into 2 or 3 drum lengths. After lunch we were joined by BC but luckily we had left most of the heavy work! The sack trolleys made several runs to get it all down to the woodyard, while the Base Camp personnel sawed it into 15 inch drums and stacked them in the woodshed. The outer sapwood was a bit spongy but the inner heartwood is still sound and by 3 o’clocks we had the entire tree turned into drums or stovelogs and under cover. A very good day! 26 Feb 2017     Logging again A bit windy but dry and not too cold, so we dragged down a couple of loads of seasoned Cherry logs and sawed them into stovelogs (now 15 inch, for my super new stove) and stacked them in the woodshed. Then catching-up with this blog, while a Jenny Wren took charge of all the crumbs of birdfood on the floor of the cage on the spatio birdtable. Perhaps it feels safe inside the cage, with all large animals excluded? Time for 3 o’clocks in the conservatory now…   23 Feb 2017     Doris Day Storm Doris paid us a visit today. Wild, wet and windy this morning, then strangely dry, calm and sunny as we proofread the Whitby Guidebook for 2017. By lunchtime it was wild, wet and windy again but this time from the North. Off to the West Cliff post office to return the proofs and then a bit of very impressive storm watching at Sandsend. High tide was at 2pm and the whole bay was full of white horses with the new Sandsend sea defences taking a good pounding. The piers at Whitby were also under attack (see Latest News at and for a link to the live webcam at Whitby Yacht Club), with the lower decks of both extensions regularly overtopped by big waves. Luckily, the tide was falling and Doris moving away across the North Sea, so we seem to have got away with it. This time… 19 Feb 2017     It could be Spring A lovely calm, dry, mild and sunny day and a joy to be out of doors. We cleared and sorted our conservatory, so that we would have somewhere nice to sit after a bit of gardening. Weeding the South Patio (Spatio) beds was a bit like hard work, so we were glad of a sit down in our nice tidy conservatory afterwards. 16 Feb 2017     Painting Groves Dyke finished We finished painting the conservatory (inside) woodwork and wall, ready for the first booking this weekend. Lots of Snowdrops in flower and the first Crocus flowering just outside the conservatory. 14 Feb 2017     Lunch at the White House We enjoyed a very nice lunch at our favourite hotel (the White House), overlooking the golf course, the bay and Sandsend Ness. Lovely! 10 Feb 2017     Wintry showers Frost on the lawns this morning, with a sprinkling of snow on the moortop. Then wintry showers during the day, with flurries of snow but not cold enough to lay. I think this is only the 2nd snow of this winter, and the first snowfall only lasted one morning. 07 Feb 2017     Re-decorate and Sprig Clean We have been painting in Groves Dyke Holiday Cottage all this week, including ALL the doors, skirting boards and picture rails. This involved moving all the furniture, including ALL the big bits, away from the walls, so Sam finished with a massive Spring Clean before everything was replaced. Must say, it all looks much better now. 01 Feb 2017     Big garden bonfire Perfect day for a bonfire, with rain overnight falling on damp ground, drizzle today and NO WIND – with more rain forecast later. ID and I lit the huge pile of hedge trimmings, cuttings, raked-out Zebra Weed from the pond last summer, lop and top, etc. By lighting it half-way up the pile, we burned-off the top half first before the lower half caught light. BC joined us later and we kept the fire going all afternoon,  as well as bagging-up all the dinky logs and felling a nearby Ash. It was about 6 inch diameter where we bow-sawed it at 4 foot six inches off the ground. This ‘pollarding’ will enable the sump to sprout at a height just above the browsing height of Roe Deer, which a frequent in the wood. The tree was sawn into the new 45 inch cordwood lengths, each of which will produce 3 x 15 inch stove logs for my nice new stove. Jan Met   Just 1.5 inches of rain for the month. The Max was 52F, Min 26F and 44F at 9am on the 1st of Feb 2017. 31 Jan 2017     First Barn Owl For this year, at least. A strange not-quite-Buzzard call made me look up as I walked along the top of the wood. No Buzzard, just a Herring Gull warning everyone that it was following a Barn Owl as it glided down the fields and into the wood. Lovely! 30 Jan 2017     Big Garden Birdwatch Bright, dry, calm and mild weather. A 1 hour count from my kitchen / diner windows produced: Blue Tit 3, Coal Tit 2, Dunnock 2, Long Tail Tit 2, Robin 2, Blackbird 1, Bullfinch 1, Chaffinch 1, Great Tit 1, Magpie 1, Marsh Tit 1, Nuthatch 1, Wood Pigeon 1. [19 individuals of 13 different species]. 29 Jan 2017     New woodburner My nice new woodburning stove (from Ryedale Stoves of Kirkbymoorside) was fitted by SR and CN while we were away. It is a little smaller but more efficient than my 35-year old Feu de Bois Kamina. The new one is an Arada Aarrow Ecoburn Plus 9, with a clip-in back boiler, which produces 9 kilowatts equivalent (the old stove was 6kw) but with a less efficient back boiler, so that more of the heat stays in the room. And don’t it just! 25 Jan 2017     Home again Just back from a holiday in the sun – except there wasn’t much their either! Blooming Climate Change, or what? Lots of catching-up to do over the next few days… 02 Jan 2017     Happy New Year everyone The New Year came in with a bang and New Year’s Day was suddenly cold, with wet and windy showers clearing southwards. By today, we are back to the dry and sunny again, but this time with a chilly blast from the North. Sandsend Bay was spectacular this morning, with low tide, huge breakers and big white crests filling the whole bay. And STILL the beach is full of walkers! Dec 2016 Met A very dry month with only 0.5 inches of rain – until the night of New Year’s Eve, which was the end of the Southerly airflow, the passing of a wild, wet and windy cold front, with another 0.75 inches of rain = 1 inch total.