Snowdrops, Swans and Sizergh

Early February and another gorgeous day, so we decided to take a look around Sizergh, a National Trust Estate in Cumbria. We visit here often and in all seasons. It always looks so different during each season and varying weather.

Today we were pleasantly rewarded with the sight of first snowdrops and aconites enjoying the winter sunshine and bursting into bloom. There’s always something special about seeing clusters of snowdrops when we’re still in winter time: there’s a sudden brightness after all the cold, dark and dull days. The bright yellow of the aconites look like they reflect the sun in the sky too: they almost sing out that we’re approaching warmer, longer days. That spring is nearing.

The grounds looked beautiful as we approached the castle this morning. We had a walk through the fields belonging to the estate.

On our way around we spotted the first snowdrops, basking in the sunshine, in full bloom.

Much to our delight, we came across a snowdrop walk in the woodlands… and we found aconites on the woody slopes too!

Then out of the woodlands and down by the pond, we spotted a few more things…

Beautiful views towards the castle, dark winter trees and water silhouetted against the bright blue skies.

Willows bursting into bloom: another sign that spring is near and this scene will look so much different on our next visit.

And then the swans, busy feeding hungrily in the freezing cold waters, which had been coated in layers of thin ice earlier.

The pathway led us back into the lovely countryside again and then of course, we had to finish off with the obligatory hot drinks at the cafe to warm ourselves up again.

Welcome February

It’s been a fabulous start to February with the most glorious sunny weather in the Lake District. Perfect for a day visiting favourite places, walking the dog and taking photos. Perfect for enjoying nature, sunshine and healthy fresh air.

A walk with Ted in Cartmel followed by coffee in the village…

Then a drive and picnic on the west side of Coniston Water followed by another walk with Ted. The lake was as still as a mill pond, the sunshine bathing down on the lake.

Perfect for a swim – well for cocker spaniels, swans, ducks and geese anyway!

The ‘Old Man Coniston’ even had a lovely dusting of snow.

Next up, we couldn’t drive this far without a sneaky peak up to Tarn Hows. This was so still and quiet today, stunning as always and like a picture post card.

Finally, we were just in time to catch the sunset at Sandside – always so beautiful to see.

All in all a stunning Lake District day, a perfect one for me.

What’s your perfect day?

That Was January

January obviously signifies the start of a brand new year with new beginnings and new year resolutions. As January emerges we are still in depths of mid winter – the mornings are dark and the afternoons seem to be cut short as the sun goes down early. Sometimes it’s so cold, dull and dismal that it doesn’t seem to come daylight at all and things can feel a little flat after the buzz and twinkling lights of Christmas.

Now we’ve reached the end of January and after months of bare trees and the bleak colours of winter, there’s something quite magical about spotting those first signs of spring. Although we can’t usually see it at the start of January, January isn’t only the start of the new year, but the start of a nature’s new year too.

Look amongst those black, grey and brown winter palettes and you will spy the first snowdrops emerging – bright white droplets suddenly livening up the landscape. There are daffodil and bluebell shoots pushing through and colourful crocuses, hellebores and aconites emerging. Brilliant yellow stars grace the winter Jasmine as it springs to life again. Spring plants fill the shops: it’s lovely to have daffodils, hyacinths and cyclamen indoors while we wait for spring to fully appear outside.

By the end of January, it’s still winter, but spring feels around the corner now and that fills me with hope and promise. A whole year of nature before me and a whole year of plans and hopes to fulfil.

This January has been a good one for me. Healthwise, I’ve recovered really well from all those bugs and infections I seemed to pick up throughout last autumn. Since the new year started, I’ve become better and better. I’ve managed to build up my exercise capacity through doing yoga, pulmonary rehabilitation exercises and walking and I’m still working on steadily increasing how much activity I can manage each week. I’ve managed to get my lungs working better again and they’re back to the baseline I’d reached back last summer and functioning at nearly 50% again now. I’m now hoping this good spell will continue on and that I can improve my lungs even more.

Better health has meant I’ve been able to get out and about a lot more and catch up with friends and family. I’ve been enjoying walks in the park with Ted and visiting new and old places and taking up my photography and writing again. I’ve felt that life has returned to some normality this January and it’s lovely to be back in the real world once more. Most of these things are simple and ordinary, but feel so special when you’ve been out of action for a while and unable to do them.

Most of all, I’ve had so much precious time with my grandson Freddie. We’d had to keep avoiding each other because of infections, but we’ve both been clear of bugs during January, so Freddie has been able to visit and have sleepovers with us. Best of all, it was Freddie’s first birthday last week, so we had lots of birthday celebrations and it felt one of those very special family milestones, which ended January on a big high. Encouraged by this, I’m looking forward to all the rest of the year ahead of us and watching Freddie taking his first steps next and becoming a toddler.

I’ve also said goodbye to my old mini car this month. I’d had her for over eleven years, but she’d become unreliable and had broken down quite a lot last year. With both the car keep breaking down and my health being so poor last year, I’d stopped driving altogether. This month, I decided to swap my old mini for a new similar model.  Now I’m feeling much better and have a reliable car again, I’ve started driving once more.

This January, I’ve begun to regain my independence back, which feels fantastic after relying on others so much when I’ve been poorly. I’m looking forward to enjoying my car even more as the days grow lighter and warmer.

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Out with the old, time for a new car

January was also a great month for Rob too. Rob has been directing a play at our local theatre, The Barn in Welwyn Garden City. The play, ’84 Charing Cross Road’ has   just finished running this last weekend and was a big success with good reviews and on several nights tickets sold out. The play is a true story and Rob and the cast and crew had a huge surprise on Saturday afternoon when the real life daughter of  Frank, one of the main characters, turned up unexpectedly to watch the show.

Frank’s daughter, Sheila, came back stage to meet everyone and I was privileged to be there. She showed us pictures of her family and father and gave us lots of background information about her father and also about the bookshop, its staff and Helene, the other main character. So all in all, it was a great end to the show after months of hard work by all the cast and crew. A lovely finish to the month for both Rob and myself.

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The cast with Sheila, Frank’s daughter, in the centre

And that was January. I’m now looking forward to more good health and good times for February…

How was your January?

Singlers Marsh

We had another glorious winter day. The weather was bitter cold and breezy again, but the skies were clear and blue and it seemed a perfect day to get out in the fresh air again with the camera. I love being outdoors and amongst nature: I find it so healthy and refreshing and it always raises my spirits. Rob and I are always eager to explore local places and new walks with our cocker spaniel, Ted.

When I first moved to this area, I used to come down to Singlers Marsh in Old Welwyn to walk my old staffy bull terrier. She used to love diving in and out of the water and collecting rocks and stones.

It’s been many years since I’ve walked down there, but every time Rob and I visit Old Welwyn, I keep saying we must take a look down by the river again and explore with Ted.

It seemed the perfect day and Old Welwyn is only 5 minutes away from us. I’m still trying to build up my walking capacity and as it was freezing cold, I didn’t want to be venturing too far away. I also knew that the first part of the walk was lovely and level, which is a great help with my breathing.

Singlers Marsh is a wet meadow adjacent to the River Mimram on the northern edge of Old Welwyn in Hertfordshire. The marsh comprises a section of important chalk river and lowland flood meadows. It was quite waterlogged in places being mid winter and I was glad I had my wellingtons on. The grassland, willow scrub and mature trees attract a wide range of wildlife, especially plants of wet meadows, insects and birds including summer visiting ones.

It was a very blustery day and the cold and wind inhibit my breathing quite a bit at the moment, but I managed to walk along the flat ground and follow the first section of the walk and back again. Then we drove on into Old Welwyn village and stopped at one of the pubs there to warm up with a hot dinner – the White Hart.

A lovely look out and we’ll definitely be back to see those spring and summer flowers and hopefully in warmer and less windy weather.  With plenty more physio over the next month or two, I’m hoping I’ll be able to walk further and explore a little more.

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Views at Gosmore

We happened upon this beautiful place some time ago, when we  arranged to meet a dog sitter, who was going to look after Ted our cocker spaniel while we went away on holiday. She wanted us to walk our dogs together to see if they got on well with each other before she had Ted come to stay with her. She arranged to meet us here at Gosmore.

Gosmore is a hamlet situated very near to the town of Hitchin in Hertfordshire. We pass the signs for Gosmore every time we drive into Hitchin, but we had no idea from the road side what beautiful and stunning countryside lay behind the lovely village houses there.

All you need to do is turn in to Gosmore at the large roundabout where the Three Moorhens pub is situated on the outskirts of Hitchin and then turn into Brick Kiln Lane. On this road, you can easily park up and there are a couple of small lanes that lead you out between the houses and onto the pathways of the stunning countryside.

You can walk in all directions along bridleways and pathways through stunning Hertfordshire countryside. Here are just a few photographs of the countryside views on a glorious and cold January day. The countryside is stunning at all times of year. Visit in June when the fields look beautiful full of red poppies and wildflowers. We will definitely be back then.

Take a look…

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A Little Wander Around Preston Village

A few weeks now into January and it was wonderful to wake up to brilliant sunshine and blue skies at long last. A bright, crisp, bitter cold and clear day.  We decided to take a drive around the local countryside and take a few photographs here and there. We’re often busy and wrapped up in our daily comings and goings and sometimes forget what is just under our own noses and in the hum drum of our regular routines stop seeing what is there is to be appreciated.

We visited a pretty village called Preston (Hertfordshire) and stopped to take some photographs. Preston is a small village roughly 3 miles near to Hitchin and 300 miles north of London. The village dates back to at least 1086, when it was mentioned in the ‘Hundred’, also known as the ‘Half Hundred of Hiz (referring to Hitchen and mentioned in the Doomesday Book). There’s a thriving village pub, the Red Lion, which is the first community owned pub in Britain.

Take a look around…

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Interesting village monument

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Picturesque homes and cottages

 

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Traditional village phone booth and post box
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Bare winter trees on the village green
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More pretty homes
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Pretty village green with the Red Lion pub in prime position

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January Days

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The days have been so grey and miserable during January so far, not very uplifting after all the glitz and fun of the festive season, but we have had an odd day where the sunshine did try and put in an appearance.

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Last Wednesday afternoon, the day brightened up after a very misty and wet start, so trying to make the most of it while it lasted, we ventured to one of our local parks, Fairlands Valley Park in Stevenage. I had my camera in tow, which felt very uplifting, as it seems such a long time since I’ve been out and about enjoying my photography.

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We enjoyed spotting all the wildlife – the gulls, ducks, geese, swans, coots and moorhens and more.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves in the milder sunshine too. As we wandered around the lake, there was a threatening black cloud over in the distance, but the breeze was holding it off and it felt a much warmer day with a little sun shining down on us at long last.  Almost a pale promise of spring beckoning.

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I love all the redwoods down by the lake and at this time of year they stand out at their best and especially with the golden afternoon light flooding down on them.

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All was really pleasant and we headed around the lake towards the cafe. It felt warm enough to sit out and have a cuppa outside, as we were all wrapped up in warm coats and the usual hats, scarves and gloves for this time of year. We had Ted our dog with us and baby Freddie was sleeping soundly in his pram, so we needed to be outdoors. I enjoy sitting outside and looking at the views in the fresh air anyway, even in january.

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Unfortunately the wind started to blow in a new direction and the usual January big dark clouds seemed to lower down on us. Suddenly it felt very cold again and rain was in the air, so we skipped the afternoon tea and carried on our walk, managing to get home and dry before the heavy downpour began.

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It was lovely to see and feel the sun though, and enjoy a pleasant January walk. At home, I’d left a joint of pork slowly cooking ready for dinner. Nothing like hearty warming food on these cold winter days and the aromas of it cooking when you walk   back into the house from the cold and grey. Hot pulled pork, served on warm buttered ciabatta  bread with slow cooked winter veggies – delicious…