Wrest Park in Winter

January and February can be harder months for getting out and about. The weather can put us off, as it’s often very bleak and cold and days are shorter. It can be surprising how beautiful and different places can look at varying times of year. I like to revisit places throughout the year to see them in a different light and different way as the months and seasons change.

Wrest Park is a place we go to often, it’s an easy place for me to manage walking now I get quite breathless, as it’s fairly flat with good pathways. It’s very wheelchair and pushchair friendly, a great place to take our dog Ted and very child friendly when we bring little Freddie with us. There’s a great play area and a cafe where you can sit out. I like to sit outside, even in the depths of winter and bask in those snippets of sunshine and enjoy the fresh air. It can be very uplifting and I feel it’s important for my wellbeing both mentally and physically.

We have visited a few times this winter and it was a glorious sunny day when we went a few days ago. It looked such a contrast to summer, with frost lacing the ground and layers of ice over the water. There was an early morning mist, but the sun was breaking through, burning it away, which looked quite spectacular.

The birds were enjoying a good singsong as we walked through the woods and there were three beautiful cygnets ducking and dipping for food through the ice. A red kite kept on circling above us. And those first signs of spring – snowdrops about to open, trees in bud, daffodil shoots – all that promise of what’s ahead of us.

Winter time can be so underestimated, as there’s still so many beautiful things to see.

Winter Time

After such a beautiful summer, with its soaring temperatures, followed by one of the most glorious autumns, we’re heading towards the shortest day of the year and those dark mornings and dark evenings and sometimes those days that never seem to come daylight. Real winter time.

Winter time can be defined in different ways. The Met Office using the calendar year and making winter the three months following the 1st December, because December, January and February are generally the coldest months.

Some define winter according to the winter solstice, that being the day we have the least sunlight and the day when the sun is positioned furthest away from the earth as it orbits the sun.

I think for most of us, the weather can define how we think of winter. During November the weather always seems to slide seamlessly into colder, darker days and by December it usually feels like winter is underway. It has done this year anyway.

We seem to have had a real mix of weather over this last few weeks from crisp, cold and frosty days to gales, wind, storms and wet, foggy and misty weather. Some areas have even had snow. The whole range. With such a variety it’s no wonder we’re always talking about the weather in this country.

Luckily, we have had some beautiful days interspersed with all the bleaker weather. There have been some glorious mornings that start with a beautiful sunrise and then some stunning sunsets, which finish the day on a spectacular note. These days are such a treat during these winter months – the days when you can get outdoors and enjoy a good walk, the sunshine, nature, beautiful views and see winter at its best.

There’s also all that festive sparkle, as we nearly reach Christmas too. Thoughts of those winter traditions spring to mind – mulled wine, hot ciders and spiced punches. The aromas of the festive cooking – oranges, cinnamon, spices welcoming you inside. Christmas cake, mince pies, hams cooking on the hob, turkey, duck and beef roasting in the oven. A warm fire and candlelight. I look forward to these and this weekend’s Christmas preparations…

A Favourite View

We were lucky enough to spend a few days in the Lake District earlier last week and amongst some very rainy, wet and cold days we were fortunate to enjoy some glorious winter sunshine. We decided to drive up to the Western Lakes and spend some time exploring around Coniston Water.

I say ‘explore’ but it is a favourite area of ours, probably my most favourite spot, so we know it quite well. Whatever time of year we visit, the views are always stunning. When we arrived on this particular day, the views took our breath away though. It was a still morning and the waters were calm, the sky very blue and the bright winter sunshine was reaching through the bare trees casting both light and shadows at tbe same time. The reflections of the mountains and trees in the blue and black pools of water were amazing.

We were the only people there, so very different from the crowds and the heat of summer. During the hot summer, the meadows here were full of families picnicking and the lake was busy with kayacks, canoes and swimmers. The small car park was packed full to the brim with cars. On this day there was nothing but peace. We were able to quietly amble around and soak up the views, Ted ran safely off lead and explored the meadows and splashed in the water.

I couldn’t quite make my mind up, ‘When was this place at its most loveliest?’ When you are swimming or kayaking in the lake, in the heat of summer, the skies blue with large fluffy clouds hovering over the mountain tops or on this peaceful, crisp winter day, which offered nature at its most magnificent and calm?

Autumn’s End

We’ve been so lucky to enjoy such a beautiful autumn this year and during November, I’ve been enjoying and savouring those last sunny days of autumn. There’s been so many glorious displays of colourful leaves both on the trees and on the ground.

The park looks different each day, as more and more leaves have fallen. Some fall gently like confetti on those still and sunny days and some have been blown away harshly on wilder, wet days. The trees are becoming more bare as we slide nearer to winter and the colder, darker months.

The landscape looks so different as the freshly fallen leaves cover the ground, there’s something special about walking in them, kicking them up in the air as you go. The flora in the woodlands has changed colours, now in its last flurry of golden browns and golds before much of it dies back and goes dormant for winter.

The low sunlight filters through the woodlands, illuminating those last snippets of russets, reds and golds. There are few leaves on the trees now as autumn clings on and we’re about to leave November.

Fields are still green, but the growing grass is slowing and the grass is wet and damp with mist and dew. The weather has turned colder and wetter this last few weeks, the skies grey and dull with mist and drizzle. The temperature has dropped and we’ve even had a few frosts. I prefer the cold frosts and a bright crisp day to the fogs and greyness of this late November. If it’s going to be winter very soon with the nights drawing in, hopefully we’ll have more bright, crispy cold days than those days when it doesn’t seem to come properly light somehow.

At least as we reach the end of November, and if there are grey, dull days, there’s the the glitz and sparkle of Christmas beckoning. It’s like a bright warming light in front of us. I already have my Christmas preparations underway. I usually start early having ended up in hospital seven of the last eight Decembers, I feel pressure to be organised ‘just in case’. I’m aiming very hard for a hospital free December this year and having just had a reasonable clinic, I’ve no plans to be back at hospital before January.

I’m established on preventative oral antibiotics and nebulised antibiotics to try and stave away the chronic pneumonia that keeps rearing in my lungs if I pick up an infection and to help with respiratory infections. So far, so good and I’m keeping busy with Christmas preparations and enjoying life while the going is good again. I’m also trying hard to avoid the winter bugs going around.

As we reach the last week in November, our family have already started our traditional run up to Christmas. We enjoyed our Papworth transplant group’s Christmas party on Saturday – the Christmas jumpers were out in force. On Sunday we went on the Santa Express at the Nene Valley Railway with all the family and little Freddie. It won’t be long before we’ll be bringing down the Xmas decorations from the loft and choosing the Christmas tree.

After a stunning autumn and great November, with Christmas looming there’s so much to look forward to as we head into December and winter.

Here’s to November

We start November and I feel that cringe deep inside about those long, cold winter months ahead and those shorter days and longer nights. I also have that fear of more bugs and hospital, which seem to have become a bit of a winter tradition in my life as much as Christmas is. As we move nearer to winter time, I find myself needing some motivation and inspiration to conjure up of all those good things about these darker months.

On the health front, I’ve had my flu jab and I’m on preventative measures to help my lungs over winter. I’m at clinic for checks every few weeks. I’m trying to keep fit, rest, eat well and avoid the bugs where I can. I know I’m as prepared and ready as can be, so it’s just a case of one step at a time and taking each day as it comes and fingers crossed to stay in good health.

As for the rest, the start of November has been such a pleasant surprise. It has been very cold compared to the milder temperatures we’ve had recently, but some of the days have been so glorious and sunny that we’ve wrapped up warm and been out and about in the countryside. We’ve been enjoying all what remains of the stunning autumn scenery – those golden trees and leaves against brilliant blue skies and fluffy, high clouds.

It’s scenes like this that have reminded me that the winter months can be just as much fun as those of summer and have me thinking of all the positive things to look forward to.

It’s lovely to dig out those warm winter coats and woollies, those snuggly scarves, hats and gloves in anticipation of cold, crisp walks with our dog, Ted. Those walks on a Sunday while a roast is cooking in the oven. The warm house and delicious smells when you return.

If you don’t want to cook, a country pub with a roaring log fire is hard to beat. I remember walking into a pub high up in the hills on our way back from Christmas shopping in Bowness last year. We were the first to arrive at lunch time and were given a huge welcome and told to sit by the fire – it was a perishing cold day. They piled more logs on the stove for us and we warmed ourselves while we waited for a delicious hot lunch.

Then there’s preparing hearty winter dishes for dinner, cosy dinners by candlelight and cosy nights by the fire with the curtains all drawn. The dog by my feet – or more often than not snuggled up beside me. Soft cosy clothes, socks and slippers. A cold and dark night is a great excuse to wrap up under a blanket in favourite chair and read or indulge in watching a box set or two. Of course, scented candles are a complete ‘must’ and that’s after a long pampering soak in a hot bath.

Then there are the glorious sunrises and sunsets to enjoy – the sunrises are late enough to catch a glimpse of when you wake up on a winter morning and the sun sets nice and early and well before bed time. Then the excitement of waking up to fogs, mists, heavy frost or snow – not so exciting if you have to go to work or travel – but beautiful if you can watch from inside and go about your day without the hazards to worry about.

Then there’s the glamour and glitz of ‘Strictly’ – now a recognised winter staple – the sparkly costumes, the fabulous dancing as we move through Halloween, Bonfire Night and towards Christmas.

Christmas – it’s probably the biggest most excitable thing looming as we step into November. November is the time I usually finish off buying all the presents and start the wrapping in readiness for December. I love a Winter Market or a Christmas Market. We’ve even managed to visit one already last week at Holker Hall and it was such a perfect sunny day – beautiful stalls with an assortment of wonderful goodies, warming pit fires, a live jazz band and delicious hot food and drinks.

I love the build up to Christmas – the anticipation, the preparations and then the actual festivities and day itself. Christmas shopping, Christmas carols, Christmas concerts and Christmas parties.

Well, I think I’ve found enough lovely things to think of for now to inspire and enjoy myself until January at least! What do you enjoy about the winter months?

Happy November everyone!

Misty Norfolk Morning

On a recent stay on the North Norfolk coast, we enjoyed some lovely warm weather. Each day as the tide turned though, it brought in with it rolling mists, which descended over the salt marshes.

It gave a sense of eeriness to the coastline and surrounding countryside, but also some fascination, as the views and scenery transformed dramatically before our eyes. A swift change from feeling warm sunshine to the touch of the damp and moist air.

Here are some pictures that hopefully capture some of those moments, the changing scenes, wildlife and nature.

Rannerdale Bluebells

Before we reach the end of May, the month of bluebells, here’s some more bluebell pictures…

Stepping into what’s known as this secret valley at Rannerdale when the bluebells are in bloom, is like stepping into the Garden of Eden or a Secret Garden. On a sunny day with the bluebells at their fullest, it’s a feast for all the senses – stunning views, heavenly scent and neverending sweeps and swathes of blue across the fells.

It’s a different scene to the one we would normally conjure up when thinking of bluebells – no shady woodlands or trees about to burst into leaf, just acres of English bluebells growing in profusion across the open valley and fells.

The bluebells have a story, according to local folklore, the bluebells are said to have sprung from the spilt blood of slain Norman warriors. The valley was a location where after the Norman invasion of 1066, Britons ambushed and defeated the Norman army at the Battle of Rannerdale. It’s difficult to imagine war raging in such a peaceful, beautiful and tranquil place.

Rannerdale Knotts is a stunning location, with bluebells aside, there are far reaching views over Crummock Water and towards Buttermere and Loweswater.

A Restful Easter

We enjoyed a lovely time this Easter, savouring some very special moments with family.

I wanted Easter to feel extra special after what’s felt like months of starting, stopping and restarting and stopping again with my health. Feeling so well again and having had a good clinic and now having some respite from the stomach operation, I just wanted to make the most of life and put some of the health related stresses behind us.

Also, casting my mind back to last Easter, when I was just out of hospital and still too unwell to enjoy it properly, it felt especially important to make the most of this Easter, live life to the full and try and become even more healthier.

With this in mind, we treated ourselves to a lovely few days on the North Norfolk coast, renting a house there and Sarah, Oli and baby Freddie joined us, which was lovely. North Norfolk is a favourite place of ours. We enjoy the walking, the spectacular beaches, countryside and wildlife, and in between all the exploring there’s plenty of good pubs and cafes to relax in too.

It’s a very dog friendly place, so we always bring Ted and Alfie with us and get lots of enjoyment from trying out different walks with them. Many of the pubs and cafes allow dogs inside too, so we can keep them with us when we want to eat out or go for coffee, which all adds to the fun.

We enjoyed some beautiful sunshine and explored both new places and favourite places we’d visited before. I especially enjoyed being out and about again with my camera in such stunning places and I found being by the seaside and in the countryside very uplifting and motivating with all fresh air and extra walking – all adding to improving my health hopefully.

One very special moment was seeing Freddie toddling on the beach for the first time at Brancaster in his first pair of tiny wellingtons. He loved it and both the dogs loved running free alongside him. We had a lovely Sunday lunch afterwards with the dogs sleeping at our feet and Freddie in his high chair tucking hungrily into his food. Simple pleasures, but very special ones.

Thornham village where we stayed had a good dog friendly pub – The Orange Tree – they even had a menu board especially for dogs. It also had a great deli with a dog friendly cafe, so on some days we found ourselves just enjoying some local coastal walks around the salt marshes and then either popping into the pub or deli for meals or drinks on our way round. Again, simple pleasures, but all very relaxing.

Following our lovely and relaxing Norfolk trip, it was time to enjoy Easter weekend. We weren’t so lucky with the weather, but that didn’t really matter so much, as we had a full house on Easter Sunday and Monday, with everyone stopping round. On Easter Saturday, we had a lovely day cooking and preparing food and we enjoyed a lovely family meal and Easter egg hunt on Easter Sunday and a very relaxing and lazy Easter Monday.

Now we’ve reached April, I’m really hoping for some WARM and sunny weather and getting back out in the garden again.

Here are a few Easter pics…

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.

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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