Living at the edge of the High Peak, Derbyshire with my partner and the four teenagers we have between us. Enjoys adventures on my Ducati Scrambler motorbike and quiet times with nature on walks and in the garden.
As the wind and snow had mostly disappeared, I could finally get out to discover more of the surrounding area. My daughter was home from uni and wanted to practice using her new camera so she came along too.
From our house in Disley we took the path almost opposite which leads to the Peak Forest Canal. Turning right we headed along the canal path towards New Mills. We continued past the Swizzles factory and New Mills Canal Basin until we reached a footpath across the fields down to the River Goyt.
Beautiful iridescent black feathers on this duck
Didn’t expect to see a lama!
I didn’t see as much wildlife as I expected. In the trees on the opposite side I caught a glimpse of a squirrel racing through the branches. Most of the ducks and geese were gathered in the canal basin amongst all the moored canal boats. There was a large friendly black duck with beautiful feathers that changed colours as he moved, which I’ve not seen before. Some of the residents of the boats further down the canal had seed feeders and fat balls in the hedges for the birds which attracted plenty of sparrows and I got a brief glimpse of a long tailed tit which I’ve not seen since I was a child.
But, quite a surprise, were the lamas in a field as we approached the river! They were quite happy munching on the grass. Despite plenty of effort to attract their attention they ignored us completely, much to Esme’s frustration, as she wanted a photograph of one with it’s head up.
Following the river brought us to Torr Vale Mill which used to be a cotton mill and is now being developed into office space and an arts centre. Along side the mill is a beautiful double arch viaduct and a weir. Leading from this stunning area is the Millenium Walkway, suspended over the rushing water. We crossed the bridge over the river at the end of the walkway and climbed up into New Mills. We were then able to rejoin the canal at the basin and retrace our steps back home.
I’m still amazed at the beauty and peacefulness just over the road, but not visible, from my house. I can see myself using the canal path to get the New Mills all the time and can’t wait to see it come to life through the Spring and Summer.
About four times a year I’m very fortunate to have a weekend break with a very special friend, Vikky. It’s my seaside sanctuary. We’re barely in contact in between and spend 48hrs chatting, walking by the sea, eating cake and drinking Prosecco!
We head over to Vikky’s beautiful flat overlooking the sea at Scarborough, a sanctuary in itself. All troubles and worries disappear as I walk through the door. The following day is a long walk, whatever the weather, usually along the coastline. A shorter walk is squeezed in on Sunday before heading home, refreshed and revived!
Last weekend was to be our first Seaside Sanctuary of 2018, and it had been a while as the previous one was in October. I was really looking forward to it.
Then the wind and snows arrived.
We both kept our fingers crossed and an eye on the weather forecasts. Here, on the edge of Derbyshire we had a fair amount of snow but the main roads were clear. Our house has overhead electricity cables and the first power cut came on Thursday (only for a few hours). I still kept my fingers crossed.
Vikky lives in a small village outside Doncaster. She’d not had too much snow and even the track to her house was drivable.
Reports from the east coast weren’t good though, very high winds, rough seas and drifting snow.
I was thinking it would be better for me to travel over to Doncaster using the motorways, when it was reported that lots of motorists were trapped on the M62, near Leeds, in drifting snow, the very part I would need to travel on. At the time I wasn’t aware just how bad the situation was for these poor people.
Friday morning, decision time, to go or not to go? It looked as though the route from Vikky’s house to Scarborough was probably going to be OK but part of my route to Vikky’s house was not. Many people were still trapped on the M62 and, according to the AA website, several roads on other options I had were closed too. Then came another power cut, which helped me make up my mind. I can’t work without power or internet. So I abandoned my partner and son (!!) and headed out, with plenty of warm clothes and a full container of spare screen wash in the boot of my car.
A couple of the roads I’d thought of using were closed, but I just kept to the cleared ones, heading out towards Chesterfield. In some places the snow was piled up at the sides of the road much higher than the car. This was my first thankful moment, to be living near vast farmlands on the peaks where farmers have no choice but to get out to their livestock. It ended up a very easy, stress-free, beautiful journey. Not many people were out and the views were stunning.
[Just in case you thought I’m not a very nice person, leaving my loved ones with no heating or power, it was all fixed before I arrived at Vikky’s house].
The second leg of the journey, to Scarborough, turned out to be trouble free too. My second thankful moment.
We’d heard on the radio that the stranded motorists on the M62 had finally been able to move. Other dreadful stories of people stranded all night on trains and still more people with homes that had no water or heating. To arrive safe and sound in Scarborough was a very long third thankful moment.
The weekend was lovely. Friday evening and night was very windy, the waves were breaking far out in the very churned up sea. Some roads and paths were fenced off due to flying roof tiles. This died down quite a bit by Saturday. We didn’t go too far away for our walk, just to Whitby for our very favourite walk, along the beach to Sands End and back. The power of the sea was very evident, with huge boulders washed up on the beach. I’m always in awe of the sea; it’s power and beauty. Every walk along the same stretch of beach is always different, but always restorative and always full of thankful-to-be-alive moments.
Sunday brought some rain and the start of the melt. Almost all the roads were clear and life was returning to normal for much of the UK.
A week later and I still think about how lucky I was to be able to go on my Seaside Sanctuary when so many others were having an awful time, to experience and enjoy nature and to spend time with a special friend.
Before moving here 10 weeks ago, I’d driven through on the A6 many times but I knew nothing about the surrounding countryside. I get an amazing view from my front door over adjoining villages and Kinder Scout, the highest hill in the Peak District, but so far I’ve only looked at it and taken photos.
Roger grew up in Disley and has many tales of mischief and adventures which took place all around where we now live. Sunday was finally a sunny, if very cold, day and he could keep his promise to start showing me my way round the many footpaths.
Wrapped up warm and reluctantly accompanied by two of the teenagers, we set off down towards the Peak Forest Canal, which is barely 0.5km away. It’s a wonderful waterway and I’ll be investigating it more in the near future. There were several inhabited houseboats moored alongside the pathway. I imagine the warmer weather brings this stretch of water alive with many more boats, people and wildlife. The ducks and geese were keen to say hello, but they weren’t so happy when they discovered we hadn’t brought any food with us!
Bridge at Disley on the Peak Forest Canal
House and houseboat on the Peak Forest Canal
We discovered community built dirt jumps just off the path, which perked up the male teenager. I think he might be back with his bike! Just a few metres further on, wooden steps down through the trees led to a view of a steep drop down to a fast flowing run off from the canal.
Near the 2km mark, gazing out over the fields towards Hague Bar we spotted a large bird of prey drifting on the thermals. On the other side of the canal, which still had icy patches, were happily grazing sheep.
View from the Peak Forest Canal at Disley
Icy canal and grazing sheep
A cheeky robin watched us cross the canal to start heading back up through farmland onto the busy A6, which was a very sudden sharp contrast to the peacefulness of the canal. A quick refreshment break at The Rams Head and we were ready to complete the second half of our loop.
Climbing up again, through the gardens of St Mary’s Church there were plenty of beautiful woodland plants to brighten up the way. Following the footpath with fields, and the odd house, either side I felt very lucky to be living so close to such stunning scenery.
Just before turning left at around the 5km mark, I could see The Cage (an iconic folly that can be seen for miles) at Lyme Park and Bollinhurst Reservoir. I’ve visited Lyme Park, and The Cage, many times before but it was a surprise to me that I’d never seen this reservoir and didn’t even know it existed. I think I might be taking a walk in this direction before long!
Crossing Buxton Old Road we were now heading downhill, along a track which resembled a stoney old river bed and back to where we started.
What a fabulous couple of hours. I can’t wait to discover more of this beautiful area.
Last week I placed my first plant order for my garden. Some woodland plants, inspired by a walk through local villages and seeing the snowdrops and crocus in front gardens. I returned home, determined to have my own woodland garden.
With my intention to attract wildlife, I searched the internet for a wild flower supplier. Naturescape caught my eye and I’d soon placed an order. They arrived on Friday, perfect for a weekend planting!
I soon found out what the hedge was at the foot of this raised bed, a hawthorn. It made it’s mark on my arms as I trimmed it back into shape! I’m looking forward to the tiny buds bursting into life and seeing the berries towards the end of the year.
I’m not sure what the tree is (I’ve added a pic at the bottom of this page). It has bean-like seed pods, of which there are many still attached, but even more were all over the drive and path. Sweeping these up filled much of the green bin. I’m hoping this tree is a beauty so that cleaning up after it is worth it.
There weren’t many weeds to be dug up, and not many roots hiding below the surface. I know this might not be the case once the earth has warmed up a bit. What did need to be removed were various sized stones, pieces of wall stone and old mortar. The raised retaining wall around this bed needs a little bit of work where some of the capstones have become loose or completely detached. I was surprised at how much difference forking over the soil and removing the debris made. Now, I was ready to start planting!
I eagerly began with the Snowdrops, at the lowest front corner. The bulbs are “in the green”, meaning they have just flowered and still have foliage. The instructions said “plant 10cm deep and 10cm apart”.
I don’t think I’ll see any flowers this year but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for next year, and a stunning drift of them in a couple of years.
I then calmed down my excitement to actually think about where I should plant the rest of my box contents. I needed to start at the back and work forwards to avoid trampling on freshly planted bulbs. I had two Wild Honeysuckle which were to grow and spread across the boundary fence.
There were plenty of roots when I gently lifted them from their pots, so I have hopes of a fair amount of growth in the next few months and a few beautiful fragrant flowers to greet me as I enter my driveway in the summer.
The Bluebells went in front of one of the honeysuckle and behind a small shrub with strange, but lovely, curly red/green leaves (pic at the bottom of the page). Again, these were “in the green”, so there might not be any flowers this year. Like the Snowdrops, they were planted “10cm deep, 10cm apart”.
In front of the other honeysuckle, I planted the Snakeshead Fritillary, another “in the green” bulb. I’ve been fascinated with these beautiful flowers since I first saw them a couple of years ago. I can barely believe I’m growing them in my own garden.
The strange squashed round tubers (a thickened underground stem, like a potato) of Wild Cyclamen went in front of the Snakeshead Fritillary. The instructions said “plant very shallow with shoots uppermost”. Most didn’t have shoots, so I took a guess by comparing with the ones that did. Let’s hope they’re the right way up and I get some leaves and flowers.
As advised, I soaked the twig like rhizomes (continually growing horizontal underground stems) of the Wood Anemone before planting them along the front side of the bed in front of the little Pieris Japonica. If you’re wondering how I know the name of this shrub it’s because it still has a label on it!
There’s a couple of gaps. I love hellebores and might just buy a plant or two from a garden centre. Or I might just scatter some forget me not seeds around in a month or two. Or maybe add some Oxlips or…
All that’s needed now is a bit of patience whilst the plants, hopefully, get used to their new home and become established.
It’s taken two muddy measures in the rain, lots of viewing through various windows and a few false starts getting it down on paper, but at last, I have a front garden plan (back garden plan is still in progress).
This is how it is February 2017 (although I’ve added leaves to some of the shrubs that don’t have them at the moment!) and there’s probably some plants yet to wake up and show themselves.
I was hoping to get out there this weekend, do a bit of weeding and tidying, and to get up close to the plants I can’t identify. But, this morning was driving sleet and freezing cold. Instead, I’ve had a delightful few hours with some watercolour pencils, keeping warm in the conservatory listening to the rain and letting my imagination run wild.
A bit of research on the internet and I’ve come up with some preliminary planting plans.
On a lunchtime walk this week, I saw so many signs of spring in the front gardens I passed. Lots of snowdrops, primroses, crocuses, leaf buds and catkins. I’m lucky enough not to suffer from winter blues (I do suffer from motorbike adventures withdrawal though!!) but my spirits are still lifted and I can’t help smiling when I see spring is on the way. I made up my mind to get some of these things into my own garden.
So, the small bed at the bottom of the drive is to become a woodland garden; Snowdrops, Wood Anemone, Snakeshead Fritillary, Bluebells, Wild Honeysuckle and Wild Cyclamen. And yes, I have placed my order! With Naturescape, a wildflower specialist. Some of the plants will be in the green, so this won’t be their best year in my garden but I’m hoping the woodland garden will improve over the years. I might scatter some forget-me-not seeds in a few months, to help fill in the gaps.
To become my woodland garden
Woodland Bed Plan and shopping list. I should have flowers for 9 months.
I’ve noticed a few small birds flitting in and out of the hedge, which has a few berry remains and birds like berries! This has made me consider making the bed to the right at the bottom of the drive, a bird garden. I can hang some feeders in the tree and put up a bird table and a bird bath. As birds like the seeds from thistles and I’m a thistle lover too, I’m going to try and grow some here. It might not get quite enough sun, but I’ll see how it goes.
Bed to the bottom right of the drive
Bird garden plan and shopping list
The main bed in the front garden is tiered and runs from the front of the house alongside the steps to the drive. It already has quite a few established shrubs, some very pretty white and purple heather, as well as lots of Crocosmia (which needs a good cutting down to allow the new shoots through). Next door successfully grow Lavender and Rosemary in their corresponding bed, two of my favourite perennial herbs, so I’m assuming that the front garden is as well drained as the back, despite the water that makes it’s way down from the fields at the back. I’ve already purchased two potted Lavender and one Rosemary. They’re waiting for their new home on the steps in the back garden. I’m gradually going to pick up pots of other herbs such as Mint, Sage, Thyme and Chives to fill any spaces.
Shrub and Herb Garden part 1
Front steps next to Shrub and Herb garden
Shrub and Herb Garden part 2
Herb and Shrub plan and shopping list
As I don’t know what the hedge, two trees and most of the plants are, I will be posting close up photos with the hope that you can enlighten me. Any comments on my plans are also very welcome.
We moved in 6.5 weeks ago! All the boxes are unpacked and everything (almost) has a home. Christmas and New Year have come and gone, with all they entail. The never ending list of jobs to do around the house has been started but, what about the garden?
Before we moved, I came across a book whilst browsing round the shop at Chatsworth House which I decided would be the inspiration for my vague ideas of creating a wildlife friendly garden – The Urban Wildlife Gardener by Emma Hardy.
I’ve glanced through and been excited by the brief glimpses of the pictures and few words I’ve actually had chance to read. Definitely a good place to start.
Emma recommends “Drawing a Plan”.
First, to plot what already exists in the garden, which will be a work in progress as new surprises pop up throughout the year.
Second, to note where the shady parts and sunny areas are.
Third, to plan what I want to keep and what I don’t as well as what I want to add. This will also be a work in progress, for many years I imagine!
I love plans and maps, so this appealed to me very much.
Putting on my new sparkly blue Hunters wellies (I’ve had a birthday since we’ve arrived too) I patiently waited for Roger to finish his first foray with the Karcher pressure washer (not a birthday present!) on the slimy stone paving around the conservatory. He could then hold the end of a tape measure whilst I squelch around the garden making rough sketches of both the front and the back gardens.
Note: the paving has cleaned up beautifully!
I now have two slightly wrinkly (it was damp) A4 sheets with a barely recognisable map of the garden, all drawn out in biro. But give me a while, and hopefully I’ll have something that looks like a garden plan, inspiring me to get out there, tidy up, discover, complete a few projects and ultimately attract wildlife visitors.
Scrolling through Instagram Friday morning I came across a post mentioning the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch – this weekend! I was instantly interested and got online to find out more as the past few days, we’ve really noticed the birds singing and chirruping and getting, well….very noisy! I’ve popped outside to try and spot them but haven’t seen anything. So, an hour in the garden with the sole purpose of birdwatching felt like a very good thing to do.
Friday, I hung up a seed and insect suet roll bird feeder (I’d bought recently) at the end of the garden, where there’s a large open field over the fence. Within minutes two cheeky jackdaws were trying to land on it, to no avail as they were too big. I spent the day working from the conservatory where I could see the feeder, but sadly there were no further visitors.
Saturday, I downloaded the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch pack, which included a calendar with some great tips to get my wildlife garden going throughout the year. I also saw the site has some fabulous features with lots of inspiration. I decided it was certainly worth joining the organisation and signed up.
Sunday, 9am, armed with a cup of coffee and a beautiful old pair of binoculars (given to me by my dad many years ago) I made my way up to the seating area, next to the apple tree. I could hear plenty of birds singing away but still couldn’t see any.
Over the next very peaceful and pleasurable hour, I saw many birds flying overhead although I couldn’t make out what they were. Through the binoculars I saw 2 blackbirds and a collared dove in a big tree over in the field.
There were plenty of jackdaws flying in and out of the same tree as well as settling on the surrounding rooftops. I used to have lots of magpies in the garden at my previous house, it seems jackdaws will be my new boisterous friends!
When I turned round, still looking through the binoculars, I saw a thrush and a goldfinch in a tree several gardens down. That made me smile.
I’m hoping as I work on my garden with all my plans to attract more wildlife, that I’ll see many more birds whilst taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch in 2019.