For every sunny day we get at the moment there seems to be at least four times as many wet, dull and cold winter days. Thankfully it is the end of January so we are getting there, just wild and wintry February to get through then it will be spring. I am making sure every good weather day we go out for a walk and absorb some fresh air and sunshine. On Saturday, although it was bitterly cold we went to a local nature reserve David knew of for a wee wander with Daniel and Bracken. Getting a young teenager away from a screen of some kind is always a major achievement so getting them out walking and in fresh air is a bonus. The bribery of hot chocolate and cake afterwards might have been an influence! There is never an issue getting Bracken out, as soon as he sees you lift a pair of boot socks, he's there tripping us up, making sure he will not be left behind.
|Milkhall Pond nature reserve|
Half an hour north of the house we arrived at Milkhall Pond nature reserve. There is only a couple of muddy areas of verge to park on, fortunately, being a cold winters day it was quiet. I've never been there before and it is a possible place I can use for plant surveying for my courses later in the year, so it was good to visit and see what's there. Through the reserve there are a series of ponds dropping down towards a stream and boundary of Birch, Betula pendula and Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris.
|Alder, Alnus glutinosa in black and white|
There are well constructed grass paths along the edges of the ponds and board walks over streams and bog areas. There is a wealth of flora and fauna here in the spring and summer which I am looking forward to coming back and seeing. The first and largest pond had a couple of swans (which were having opinions about Bracken) and a dozen or so ducks. I don't do much, if any wildlife or bird photography, so it was good to have a chance to try some here where the birds were relaxed and sitting on the ice in the winter sunshine.
|Walking alongside the second pond|
As the ponds and paths drop down it gets a bit muddier at this time of year, so boots are a must. At the end of the path the stream disappears under an old railway bridge. From here we climbed over a style and up a small embankment onto the disused railway line. We are becoming collectors of disused railway line walks, if there is such a thing! They are great for walking on as they are generally flat (some see this as a good thing), they are easily followed and are littered with historical artefacts, bridges and remains of long gone history.
|A bridge long gone on the disused railway|
Of course once we reached the bridge in the photo above it had to be investigated from stream level, from the middle of the stream, freezing cold water, and three of them are standing in it in their wellies (ok Bracken wasn't wearing wellies), looking back up at the brick piers. Until of course Daniel got stuck in some mud at the edge: never a dull moment. Heading back we stopped at a large frozen puddle in the neighbouring field where Daniel and Bracken (reluctantly) went "skating".
|Walking on the frozen puddle|
|Wheeeeeeee, look I can go sideways|
|They're no Torvil and Dean, but they had great fun|
The wind had got up a bit now and it was bitterly cold, so it was a relief to climb the fence and walk back down into the nature reserve. The sun was lighting the ducks nicely, so I got a few more photos of them before we left.
|Ducks in the afternoon sun|
|Mr Mallard on ice|
Once back in the car, with the heater on we headed to Whitmuir farm. This is a great place and well worth a visit. http://www.whitmuirtheorganicplace.co.uk . It started off as a farm, then an organic farm shop and now has a great cafe with fresh home made organic food in lovely surroundings. They have a good range of products in the shop and a couple of bookcases of second hand books that are always worth a browse. You can wander around the farm, visit the animals and enjoy the views, I believe they have some new litters of piglets now. Once we'd filled up on cakes, scones, mochas and cola we had a wander round the shop then headed home. It was great couple of hours out, we didn't have to travel far to have a nice time out together and Daniel, once out really enjoyed himself.
|This swan had opinions about Bracken|
Sunday was murky, damp, rainy and overcast. Not helped by more upsetting and sad family news. I am still trying to get my head round it all. So sad that another close family member has to go through so much because of cancer.
|Galanthus 'John Gray'|
Whilst standing at the study window, wondering what the point of it all is and why life has to be so cruel, I noticed the snowdrops I potted up and brought with us from Easter Mosshat were flowering. It's great to see they have moved successfully and I can tick them off on my database as having moved. I found Galanthus 'John grey', G. nivalis and G nivalis 'Flora Plena' all flowering in the garden moving troughs, hooray!
|Sweeping up the leaves on the patio|
In a bid to cheer me up, David suggested we go out and tidy the patio. It was a bit damp and drizzly but it was good to be outdoors doing something. We swept up all the leaves on the patio, I cut back the herbs in pots at the back door and we put some bits and pieces away. It looks so much better and it was good to be outside doing something together.
|The pots of mint, fennel and oregano cut back at the back door|
We put four bags of bark in the chicken enclosure. They've been sitting at the back gate for weeks, awaiting a dry day. The chickens viewed us with suspicious, beady eyes until we were finished, then scratched it all around until they were happy with it. My raking skills obviously weren't good enough.
|The chickens making sure we put the bark down|
Lastly we sorted out and took the six crates of bottles and jars to the recycling at the local village. Hopefully there will be dry weather soon (though having just looked at the weather forecast, I suspect not, more snow on the way). I really want to get outdoors and get on with gardening, Cabin fever looms, which might lead to comfort eating and all that chocolate I got for Christmas which would ruin the really good work I've been doing to lose weight and get fitter since New year.
For now I am going to enjoy my snowdrops.