Thursday, 29 January 2015

S is for snow - apparently!

Firstly, the buzzard I saw this morning and I would like to congratulate Helen Macdonald on winning Costa Book of the Year 2014 for her wonderful book, H is for Hawk.  I enjoyed reading it very much, even though at times it was quite tough.  It is very intense, sometimes exhausting, occasionally slightly irritating.  At times, the author seems to be incapable getting a grip on life.  She is overwhelmingly broken by the loss of her beloved father, and is dealing with a new, challenging love in her life - Mabel, her goshawk.  But she brings it all together to produce a great portrait of our precious countryside, the fabulous bird, as well as an insight into the tortured life of T H White.  It's an interesting mix!
To watch the weather forecasts over the past day or so, I had expected to wake up to a world of white this morning.  No such luck.  However, the sky is blue, the sun is shining and we have our own version of snow in the wood - the snowdrops are up and out.  I couldn't be happier - I love snowdrops.  Here are just a few.  They are scattered around the wood in drifts of varying size, and this is just the beginning - it's early days - there are lots more to come.
There is a lovely light in the wood today.  On the south side, most of the trees are silver birch and their bark gleams in the sunlight.
While there are no paths through the wood, except for one track which reaches a small clearing, the deer, and other wild animals, have made their own pathways, which weave between the trees and through the bracken.  They are really rather magical.
The track stops here, by the gamekeepers' lookout   This is where the miserable creatures sit with their guns and an unfair advantage over their exquisite prey.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Just a couple of things

Since we got back from Australia I have driven past a field of swans, several times.  There are over 100 of them.  Mostly they are Whooper swans, on a winter holiday from Iceland, with a few mute swans mixed in.  They are quite an impressive sight!
They have been feeding on the same junior rapeseed field for several weeks now.  The above photo doesn't look very sharp - the wind was buffeting so probably jogged my freezing cold hand! In the background today, North Berwick Law sat in the sunshine, with everything else under cold grey cloud, and the occasional passing snow shower.  Apparently there is proper snow to come tonight. Fingers crossed!
I do love the late afternoon skies, at this time of year.  The sun comes out as an afterthought, just before sunset, and the colours are glorious!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

In honour of the red cabbage!

I have to admit that I have become mildly obsessed by the red cabbage field up the road.  It has captivated me ever since I noticed its lavender coloured haze towards the end of last summer. I have posted several photos of it already, over the months, but as it is now in its death throes, accelerated by a combination of harvesting and frosty weather, I just want to record it here one last time.
I have never been so aware of how light, and in particular sunlight, can affect the colour of a natural object.  This field has displayed a multitude colours ranging through every shade and tone of lavender, purple, grey, navy blue, changing from one minute to the next as the sunlight has swept across the plants, and then gone again, hidden by cloud.  It has been a real joy to observe.
And this morning, with the colours dulled by the frost, I took most of the photos shown above, and then did a spot of gleaning before walking home.  This little chap should round the red cabbage experience off nicely, served this evening, alongside a local pheasant!
PS : It is now early February and, from a distance, the red cabbage field is now a very dark grey.  Today 8 February, there was a row of seagulls strung out along the edge of the field.


Wednesday morning


A sunny, still morning and the girls and I walked round the two big fields.  We enjoyed the quietness of the day.  No wind, and sunshine just strong enough to permeate through the layers, when I stood still long enough to feel its comforting warmth.
There is a small lake in the corner of the field above.  Today the ice across its surface was just thick enough to take the weight of a small stone I threw on to it.  I wanted to hear that ringing echo I associate with the frozen duck pond in Hartley Wintney, when I was a child!  

We walked on frozen mud, around the lake, and a gangling heron flew up and flapped its way across to the other end of the wood bordering the field.  
The water in the burn which runs off the lake hadn't frozen.  I stood for a few minutes to take some photos of the reflections of the grasses and trees in the blue water.  I didn't see the big brown hare, who must have been sunning himself on the other side of the burn, until he got up and lopped off through the wood.
We disturbed the heron again, and then a couple of mallard.  They always fly up from the same spot, every time we walk this way.  Our last wildlife spot of the day was a deceit of lapwings, working a further field.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

A good walk

Today dawned frosty, but with a gentle morning light, so, after breakfast, Tilly and I went for one of our favourite walks.  A bit of country, a bit of coastline and a short walk through a wood on the way back to the car.  We had the place to ourselves, just us and the seabirds.  Oh happy day!
See above, re note below!
I love this coastline, with its distinctive landmarks - the Bass Rock above, and that's the Kingdom of Fife beyond, on the other side of the Firth of Forth.  And below, in the distance, a tiny grey North Berwick Law, presiding moodily over the town. 
Today was a calm day.  Quiet and peaceful, in stark contrast to the relentless gales of the last week or so.  Our walk was a cracking start to the weekend.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

New year, new life

The girls, Tilly and Bo, my daughter's dog, and I have just had our first walk of the year.  It's raining now but earlier the sky was a very pale blue and the sun shone, weakly, but with resolve, so we had a wander down the drive and along a short section of the John Muir Way.  Not far, the wind was cold, and I knew, from a telephone conversation with a friend in Edinburgh, that deteriorating weather was on its way.  We got home just in time. It's all changed now!

I am always on the lookout for new life.  It's one of the joys of having very clearly defined seasons, in this part of the world.  Plants are a key indicator of that passage from one season to the next. Today there was virtually nothing on our walk that warranted a photograph, except for a lovely spread of young, soft floppy-leaved foxglove plants in the wood.  
A happy sign that life is doing what it does best - asserting itself.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Last day of the hols

Monday, 5 January 2015 and time to go home.  The six weeks have flown by.  We have covered quite a bit of ground, blessed by lovely early summer weather.  We have spent precious weeks with our son in Melbourne, seen him happily married to his lovely lady, with his little daughter looking on, merrily swinging her basket of flowers. We've enjoyed an Aussie Christmas, a great New Year celebration, and caught up with family and friends, all since we arrived at the end of November.  

We spent our last morning in Melbourne wandering around the Botanical gardens.  I had thought they would be more colourful, it is summertime after all!  However, surprisingly, the colours weren't there, except for the cannas, but the gardens were peaceful, the sun was shining and the air, cool. Very enjoyable.
These photos are not great - I was using my old camera and it's not behaving that well.  But they recorded the day, so that's fine with me!
This young lady was seizing the day, lying in the sun on the banks of the Yarra River!  I only took this photo because initially I couldn't see where the tattoo started and the waistband finished!
And so the sun goes down on another holiday in Australia!  Time for the long journey home.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Great Ocean Road

Whoohoooo, road trip!  For Christmas Mr Gaucho and I were given tickets for a trip along the Great Ocean Road.  We had the sunset tour, which meant we left Melbourne around 11 am and got home very late indeed! 

Here's a photographic record of our day.  The Great Ocean Road, and for me, it was all about the waves.  They were glorious!
The colourful feathers of a rosella.
We had the opportunity to walk through a bit of rain forest, with its towering Myrtle Beech trees and tree ferns.
Mr and Mrs Gaucho were here!
Pizza delivery for the Twelve Apostles!  These limestone stacks are a huge attraction.  Cameras clicking all over the place.
The Twelve Apostles at sunset.  It was a really great day.