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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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…