A stroll around the village

I woke up the other day to a very cold icy morning.  The temperature was -6C and there was ice on the inside of my bedroom window.  It was bitter and I thought of just staying in all day trying to keep warm.

Thankfully by mid morning the sun was trying it’s best to shine as bright as it could, as it peeped out from behind the clouds.  Now the ice had gone, I decided it would be a great day for a stroll; so I headed off for a short walk around Upton village by Chester and learnt a bit about the history of the village as I walked by.

Wrapped up warm I started my short walk at the old village pump. 

Before Chester waterworks brought water to the village of Upton in the late 1800’s, the residents used to get their water from this pump.  It is believed to be over 200 years old but it is no longer in use and surrounded by railings.  Only ivy cascades over the stone basin at the bottom of the pump now instead of water.

From here I carried on walking down the road looking up at the bare winter trees, taking note of their different textured bark, and listening to the birds twittering amongst the hedges as I passed.  I then came to a bowl shaped area of grass which was covered by a layer of brown and yellow leaves.

This depression in the ground is locally known as The Cock Pit.  It was originally part of the Victoria Hotel garden, and rumour has it that cock fighting used to take place here. There is however little evidence to say that such things happened here and the depression is more likely to be whats left of an old sand pit. 

I followed the little winding path through the Cock Pit and up to Upton church.  As I entered the churchyard, I saw a male blackbird scratting amongst the fallen leaves for grubs and a robin was perched upon a branch singing such a sweet song. 
Walking up to the wall of the church, I saw a Plague Stone, which is also known as a Wealstone.  This stone used to be in a wall at Upton Cross before being moved to the church in the mid 1900’s. 
The original position for the stone however, was on what is known as Butter Hill near Chester zoo.  It was here that it was used as a Plague Stone.  People from infected areas came to the Plague Stone and placed money in the bowl which contained disinfectants. In exchange for this money, food was then placed on the stone for them to collect.

Not far from the church is one of the oldest buildings in Upton and is built on the site of the Man in the Moon pub which can be seen on a 1735 map.
The front of the building says a date of 1745, but the house is thought to be older than this.  Obviously as with most buildings there have been alteration through time such as the gothic windows (which I love) and a raised roof.

Upton is well known for being the home of Chester zoo but there are lots more little interesting features around Upton as I’m sure there is where you live.  I could have spent ages out but the sky was getting dim and thick with cloud, and I could feel that biting cold in the breeze.  As I didn’t think I’d see Mr Sun again that day I decided to make my way back home making one final stop along the way.

The last stop on my stroll around the village was this lovely little lodge house.
I just love the little dragon on top of the roof and there are similar dragons on a lodge house in Hoole village not far from here too.  Apparently it is said that roof dragons ward off evil spirits and bring good luck.

I really enjoyed my little winters day stroll.  It’s actually the first walk I’ve been on since injuring my foot and of course the first walk of a new year.

I’m looking forward to many more walks this year and can’t wait to see what i’ll find when I’m out and about.

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Goodbye to the old year

Well it wont be long now till a new year begins, bringing with it new To-Do lists, resolutions and different adventures.

Before I say goodbye to the old year, I find myself reflecting back on whats happened this year.  What has it taught me?  Did it go to plan?  How will it shape the year to come?

The year started off brilliantly with the offer of a new job and prospect of money to finally spend.  I renewed my RSPB membership as usual and spent many happy hours at the nearby nature reserves.  I watched a number of hightide wildlife events at Parkgate, Wirral, and took part in the various wildlife counts.  I even managed to do something nature based each day for 30 days wild; (Wildlife Trust) and I got to write an article each season for the local wildlife records newsletter.

It was going great so far.

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Unfortunately mid way through the year, life became topsy turvy.  It brought with it new lessons, uncertainty and frustration.  I injured my knee, ankle and foot, which then led to me loosing my job.  At first I was fed up, worried about not having any money and wondering if I would ever get better.  I decided to change my outlook and decided to use all this free time to getting back to my normal self….maybe even a better, more stronger, confident self, perhaps.

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I began to have lots of physiotherapy, and the physio team at Ellesmere Port hospital were amazing.  They did so much to help me gain some normality back in my life and gave me lots of encouragement and support.

Jane from MiiTime also helped me a great deal, teaching me to do Pilates.  I must admit that after the first lesson I amazingly ached all over but it made me realise for the first time how weak my muscles had become and how out of balance they were.  Each lesson I began to see improvements.  Pilates is definitely something I would recommend, and I now rave about it to everyone willing to listen.  I was now spurred on to undertake my next new adventure….The gym

Joining my local leisure centre has been a life changer for me this year.  I had never been to one before and at first I was nervous, but the staff there were so helpful and friendly and I soon started to feel at home in the gym.  Cheshire Change Hub and the Brio Leisure team at EPSV have been like a life line to me.  They have showed me exercises that would help me gain my flexibility, balance and strength back.  Of course, I have learnt so much more than that at the local leisure centre.  I have learnt alot about myself, and my body.  I have gained a great deal in confidence and courage too.

I have learnt so much more this year than I normally would have done.  I’ve gained much needed confidence, I have become healthier and I have made new friends.

So what is install for the new year then?

I have just 5 resolutions for this new year.  They are nothing fancy and hopefully I’ll keep up with every single one:

1: Find a job (I’m sure there is one out there that’s just waiting for me).

2: Learn to swim.

3: Knuckle down to learning Welsh and be better at speaking it.

4: Be happy and healthy.

5: Surround myself with nature.

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Hopefully the new year will bring you all lots of joy, health and happiness…..and hope you manage to keep up with your new years resolutions too 🙂

 

Looking forward to the new year

It has been quite a while since I last wrote a blog. What with learning to use crutches, lots of physiotherapy and not being able to drive I feel like late summer and Autumn have passed me by this year and it’s been amazing to see how time has quickly passed me by.

Unfortunately after injuring my foot, ankle and knee, I ended up on crutches which I just couldn’t quite get the hang of and was always amazingly tired trying to use them. After coming off crutches, it was endless weeks of physiotherapy and I became very friendly with something called a wobble board which helped me work on my balance.

The last month I was able to drive short distances so I joined a gym, which was an alien environment to me. It was scary at first looking at all these weird machines but I really started to enjoy it as I could see the huge impact it was having on building up my strength and stamina.

I’d say I’m 90 percent healed now which is brilliant news since I was told it could take up to 12 months to get better. I am now looking for work, finally getting out in nature and looking forward to writing blogs again.

I can’t believe it’s now nearly the end of the year and we have had the shortest day already. (Winter solstice) I’m looking forward to spending Christmas with family and excited as to what the new year will bring.

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I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and have a fantastic new year.

Best wishes

L-jay

Thank you note -Last day of 30 Days Wild

As it is the last day of 30 Days Wild and I haven’t been able to get out, I have decided to write you all a thank you note.

I’d firstly like to thank everyone for reading my blog and I hope you have enjoyed them and thank you for your support on all my social media sites.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to all those who support, volunteer and run hedgehog rescues. These places are vital for the survival of our hedgehogs. These places exist with the help of volunteers, donations and the love and care from the people who look after these delightful creatures. If you have a hedgehog rescue near to where you live, then see if they have a wish list of supplies or maybe if they need people to help out there.

Next I would like to thank all those who actively protect our wildlife.  For those who protect foxes, birds of prey and badgers from hunters and those who protest in order to stop cruelty to animals. No matter how you help your wildlife, you all do great work and are inspiring individuals.

I would also like to say a big thank you to all the young naturalists out there. Spreading the word that our environment is important and needs protecting. You are all inspiring individuals and it gives me hope for the future that you are out there now fighting for nature even at such a young age.

I would like to say a big thank you to the Springwatch team for their inspiring, delightful and educational programmes, that bring nature into our living rooms. A special thanks has to go to Chris Packham though. He has inspired me since I used to watch him on The Really Wild Show all those years ago. If anything my admiration for him grows each year. He gives nature a voice and speaks with both his heart and mind. He backs what he says with facts and I think it’s important that he continues to have a voice so he can speak up for nature. That is what I loved about this years Springwatch. Chris was able to tell us all a lot more important facts about what is declining in nature and what we can do to help.  Of course, Chris has not only inspired myself but many generations to get outdoors, explore nature and care and protect it.

My final thank you goes to The Wildlife Trust for inspiring work places, schools and individuals to love and appreciate nature with their 30 Days Wild challenge. I have really enjoyed reading all your 30 Days Wild blogs and looking at your fantastic nature photos and videos.

Thank you to everyone who loves and cares for nature. I hope you have all had a wonderful nature filled June.

 

Helping newts -Day 29 of 30 Days Wild

Today was spent looking at underwater video footage from the garden pond. Its fascinating watching little pond creatures especially newts.

We have 2 types of newts in the garden pond and they have been busy laying eggs.

The problem this year was the newts arrived early to the pond given the very mild winter. They started their courtship before any vegetation started to really grow around the pond. The newts here lay their eggs on plants the cascade over the waters edge, so this year I gave them a little helping hand.

I make artificial egg laying strips for them until everywhere greened up around the pond, and this is how I made them.

Materials:

Black bin bag, stones, scissors and string.

Make egg laying strips:

Measure suitable length from the bottom (sealed end) of the bin bag upwards. (this will depend on how deep your pond is) I made mine about 10 inches. Now cut straight across the bag.

Measure across the bottom half way and cut the bag in two.

Next get one half and start to cut strips down towards the sealed end of the bag but stop about 3/4 of the way down.

Do the same with the other half of the bin bag.

Now open up each half. You will have a section in the middle of each which has not been cut in to. Place a stone inside this area and gather the strips up around it.

Now tie string around the  strips to keep the stone in. Do the same with the other and there you have newt egg laying strips.

When you put them in the water the stone helps to weigh them down, all you need to do is maybe help separate the strips a bit when submerged.

What the newts thought of them:

As soon as I put the strips into the pond, the newts were curious and came over to have a look at them. Check my little video out here

The newts like them as they mimic the leaves of submerged plants and they are flexible enough for the newt to place an egg on a strip and fold it over like a little parcel to protect it.

The pond is now full of vegetation cascading over the sides so the newts have many options of places to lay eggs.

Here is a photo of a smooth newt egg folded up on a blade of grass. It is greyish in colour with a clear jelly around it which differs from great crested newt eggs which are white in colour.

30 Days Wild indoors

Today I had to stay inside, as not only was it pouring down with rain but I now have a sprained ankle ligament to go with my injured knee.

I was feeling sorry for myself with my feet up on the sofa gazing at a rain splattered window. I read a little and also caught up on some Springwatch episodes that i’d missed and also watched some old Time Team episodes which was fun.

I was cheered up when my other half came home from work with gifts for me. Now don’t get too excited, it wasn’t chocolates or a bunch of flowers. It was simple gifts from nature which he knew that I would like.

Today at work, he was working by some lovely old lime trees. He gazed up at them and saw their lovely lime blossom dangling down. He thought the blossom had such a sweet perfume he wanted to share the experience with me. He managed to find a sprig before he left work and he brought it home for me.

It really is such a lovely smell and I didn’t even think of lime trees having scented blossom until now. I can see how lime trees are great for a variety of pollinators such as; hoverflies, bees and ladybirds, as well as birds and of course the lime hawk caterpillar.

My next little gift came from the earth. he was weeding one of the flower beds when something caught his eye. He knew I’d be interested in it and want it for my nature display case, so he put it in his pocket and brought it home for me. It was an animal tooth, but what animal?

I think it is a cow tooth and it looks like it has some age to it as it’s very brown in colour. I cleaned it up and have put it in my display case along with all my other little gifts from nature.

Even though I was unable to get out in nature today, a little bit of nature was brought indoors to me.

Mini beast bioblitz for Day 27 of 30 Days Wild

When I got home from work today it had finally stopped raining so I ran into the garden in search of mini beasts.

I walked around looking closely at each shrub and flower, waiting to catch a glimpse of a bug. I was amazed how many mini beasts I spotted and the closer I looked, the more interesting critters I saw.

There were ladybirds and larvae hiding amongst the leaves and petals of fuschias.

There were caterpillars and moths hiding amongst wood piles and under leaves.

A little ball of garden spiderlings huddled together amongst the lavender stems. Black lace weaver spiders (Amaurobius ferox) scurried across the wall then into their homes, whilst red velvet spider mites (Trombidiidae) moved quickly on the lid of the water butt.

I saw a variety of flies enjoying the wildflowers, fuschias and honeysuckle. A variety of hoverflies hovered above the lavender flowers. Pretty small solider flies called black horned gems (Microchrysa polita) sat on camellia leaves. Whilst other flies sat on daisy flowers, ferns and jasmine leaves.

A stunning metallic coloured rosemary beetle sat on my lavender plant. Cuckoo spit dangled under fuschia leaves and a darkling beetle (Lagria hirta) hid on an old bluebell stem. Flower Bugs – Anthocoris nemorum and Liocoris tripustulatus as well as a variety of other insects (some of which I haven’t found the name for yet) gathered amongst other shrub leaves.  

I thought the prettiest bug of the afternoon was Calocoris stysi. I love it’s yellow and black chequered pattern and I think the yellow marking in the middle looks like a butterfly pattern. It looked very pretty sat on the lavender flower.

My favourite encounter of the afternoon was with a Epistrophe grossulariae hoverfly. It was attracted to my blue water bottle and kept sitting on the lid trying to lick up the ribena juice around the edge. I noticed the hoverfly had licked a lot of it up so I spoke to it and asked if it would like some more. It stayed sat on the top of my bottle unafraid of me, while I opened the lid for it. The hoverfly then carried on drinking from the top of the bottle until it had had enough. It was a magical experience to be just a couple of centimeters away from a hoverfly and it was happy for me to be that close to it.

I’m glad I made the effort to go out in the garden and search for mini beasts. I hope this little blog will inspire you to go out and see what insects are lurking in your garden and appreciate its great biodiversity.