Thursday 30 December 2021

Christmas Miscellania

 Well this year I was able to actually spend Christmas with my family and as a bonus my sister's very lively bengal cross cats. In practical terms, this means I've had a lot less time to myself and have spent an awful lot of time eating, and a lot less time walking.

However, I have been able to get out and take in the sights a few times, with today's walk providing me with a extra special treat - a kingfisher at the town lock, sitting on the footbridge railings before heading off to perch on a capstan opposite the Swan and Salmon pub. Seeing one of these birds always gives me a thrill, the colours even on a dull day are so vivid, and the neon blue back a glorious sight when the bird is in flight.

The other news is that snowdrops have now come into bloom in the cemetery, a little later than the last couple of years I'd say. No aconite yet, but I think these flowers like to keep to a strict January timeline.

Exciting news too in my garden, where all five of my planters and two pots now have green shoots of crocus and allium coming through, while my sonetti continues in strong flower, and even my jasmine has produced some yellow flowers already! 

I can't wait to my new flowers, the first I've ever grown from blubs, in full bloom!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 30.12.21

Sunday 19 December 2021

A Celestial Event

 We have had a period of unbelievably gloomy weather the last few days - continual fog and mist, the air full of moisture that made the rim brakes on my bicycle scarily useless at times, and a sun that may not exist anymore for all I've seen of it. 

Earlier in the week however, I accidentally saw a wonderful sight in the night sky as I was cycling home from work, and stopped to take photographs. The moon, Jupiter, Saturn and Venus were all in a line across the night sky just after sunset, with Venus just hovering above the lights of the industrial estate of food factories and chicken hatcheries. 

Sadly Saturn was a mite too faint for my camera to pick up. The next mobile phone I get better have a night photography mode on it!

This weekend, I've managed to get some decent walking done, although there hasn't been an awful lot to see apart from bare trees in a clinging damp fog. However, my attempts to find the first flowering plant of the new season in the cemetery have succeeded, and it was not what I expected. 

Was it a snowdrop or a winter aconite? 

No. It was a red dead nettle, which come March will form a vital source of nourishment for early pollinators. 

Of course, at the moment there is nothing flowering. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 19.12.21

Saturday 11 December 2021

Winter Skies

 I've seen some incredible sunrises this week, the vaults painted stunning reds and oranges but of course I've been riding to work at the time so I wasn't able to get any photographs. 

However I did manage to get some sunset photos of golden skies, as I seem to spam my Instagram with every winter. I nip outside during the golden hour as the seagulls fly to their roosts in raggedy echelons overhead, and the campus kestrel gives up its struggle against Arwen or Barra, and perches atop a lamp-post. 

I'm writing this on a Saturday. Recently Saturdays have become my do nothing days, days where I don't have to exercise and can eat treats like Port Salou cheese. 

It's worked out well really, because the last three Saturdays have had terrible weather!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 11.12.21

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Chasing Rainbows

 OK, not so much chasing them as walking in their general direction before having a cup of tea under them.

Walking is my main pleasure at the moment, taking care not to mess my ankle up too much however. Saturday was a foul write off of a day, constant heavy rain, and so I just spent it indoors keeping warm. I do feel guilty about doing this, but you have to realise that enjoying a day watching videos about board-gaming or indeed anything else you enjoy, is a perfectly valid way to spend the day. 

Yes, board-gaming. It's something I've been fascinated by for quite a while, and spend time in a local gaming cafe, but I don't get to do an awful lot of it or indeed any of it, as I spend the vast majority of time on my own these days.

However, I've investigated solo gaming, and there are a fair few options for this and I was able to pick a game up called "Tiny Epic Zombies" (!!!) at a sale at the cafe. I've been working out how to play this over the last couple of days. It's very daunting.

Modern board games are a long way from Snakes and Ladders.

After that, I was able to take a trip to the park and enjoy the aforementioned cup of tea, rather relishing the gentle rain that was falling, allowing the sun to paint a rainbow at the opposite end of the sky. 

I even got to take an evening walk too, happily listening to Stuart Maconie's "Freak Zone" on 6 Music.

That was a different sort of perfectly valid day!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 07.12.21

Thursday 2 December 2021

Vivid Art on the Cycle Track

 I'm managed to get in another two hour walk without my ankle giving out, brought on largely by guilt as I had a very lazy weekend avoiding the freezing gales of Storm Arwen, although we did not have any of the snow that fell so plentifully not too far away. 

I took myself through the cemetery and round the lakes, complete with my new cheap monocular, looking for early snowdrops - they've sprouted but nowhere near flowering - and also early goosander which were very much present; 15 of them on the Blue Lake, drakes and ducks earlier than I've ever seen them here and in greater numbers too.

As ever, they were far too far out to be able to photograph them, even if I'd had my bridge camera. 

The good stuff on this walk was actually along the N64 cycle track, and was safely immobile, easy to get close to, and made of brick and paint.

After a few years during which the previous artwork had become faded and graffiti'd over, artists were again commissioned to team up with local schoolchildren to create new environmental and socially conscious designs to be painted on the bridges, which have been tidied up in an attempt to reduce crime levels in the area.

Well good luck with that one, but the designs themselves are absolutely stunning, vivid paint bringing all sorts of animals to life. Hopefully the odd passing family may be inspired to become more aware of what they can see around them, and become more inclined to protect it. 

That would be a result.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 02.12.21

Sunday 28 November 2021

Gardening Funs

 So this autumn, I have got hold of some planters, two big bags of potting compost, and have planted my first ever bulbs, the first time I can say I've ever done any "proper" garden.

Of course, I have made sure they are pollinator friendly, and so have put in two planters and a pot of crocuses, and two planters and a pot of various forms of allium. I'm hoping for some vibrant colour and bees and butterflies in my gravel postage stamp of a garden next year!

In spring, I intend to try the same with some wildflower meadow seeds, as apparently that is the best time to plant them. I might even try some food plants too, I've never eaten anything I've grown. Tomatoes maybe. 

My sonetti has decided to make a valiant attempt to come back into flower, but is very slow at it in this cold weather, and I'm wondering if this first cold snap of winter will stop it dead, although we didn't get any snow here. 

The last few days I've been really lazy, especially today where I haven't left the house, so have yet to test my new monocular bought from Millets - I can't go in there without coming out with some silly gadget or other!


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 28.11.21

Sunday 21 November 2021

The Chop was Stopped

 So, after the protests I wrote about last week carried on throughout the night and into the next morning, supported by people passing in food, warm clothing and blankets to the final four who spent the night on deckchairs, a dramatic conclusion was reached the following afternoon.

The council and the landowner came to some sort of agreement, the precise detail of which has yet to be revealed, that will save the trees and the land as a public space as long as it is voted through council on November 24th. The council leader made some rather churlish comments about some of the protesters being rather abusive, which no-one else has reported. 

So I really hope that a deal has actually been reached to save the space, and the deal is voted through. Then I hope they do more with the space, perhaps put some wildflower meadows in.

Then it will have been worth it.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 21.11.21

Tuesday 16 November 2021

The Golden Evening

 Yesterday we had a pretty decent day all told, so I thought I'd take myself for a longer walk than I've been used to recently, to see how my ankle would hold up and to try and bring you all some content worthy of you!

Pink footed geese have been active around town; at the park the other day I was having a cup of tea and a group of about 200 birds began to noisily circle over the park before settling somewhere near the marina. 

Their smaller size and much higher pitched honk tells them apart in the air from canadas and greylags. 

By the sound of things, there are still some amongst the geese that gather around the marina, but it was something else that caught my eye on the churned up ground just next to the fence.

It was a speckly little meadow pipit, twitching its tail in the manner of its wagtail cousins. It flew up in a jerky up and down manner showing the white edges to its tail before disappearing on the soil somewhere. 

After a turn around the park, on a day so still the wind turbines weren't moving and what is left of the leaves are being allowed to remain, just for now, on the trees, I made my way around the Blue Lake under a setting sun, where the waterfowl are starting to gather in slightly larger numbers, the gulls squabble over crudely chucked lumps of bread, and a drake pochard floated peacefully on the mirror waters.

A pochard! The first of these beautiful red-headed ducks I've seen on that lake for several years.


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 16.11.21

Thursday 11 November 2021

Escalation at Stop the Chop

 Well, the protests down at the trees by the library have intensified over the last ten days or so, with the council clearly getting more and more annoyed with the intransigence of the protestors. 

It started when the council moved in, ostensibly to carry out an ecological survey on the trees, and look for bats despite the fact that disturbing roosting bats - and I haven't detected any down there while others have - is illegal.

The protestors decided that this was an attempt to start work on removing the trees and after being warned turned up en-masse to obstruct. The "ecologist" refused to give any credentials, and an attempt to remove a section of hedge to get a cherry picker in so the bat boxes could be inspected was taken as an attempt to create access for building work to begin.

Supposedly things turned quite ugly according to the local politicians, other observers say not.

After that, the protesters installed a gazebo and a tent so they were on site 24/7, and the situation stabilised apart from some verbal sabre rattling from the council. 

However, at 7am this morning, council workers turned up with the police, announced that anyone staying on site would be charged with aggravated tresspass, and erected a 6 foot fence around the site claiming that as it was private land there was no right of access, a fact they've rather ignored over the last, ooh I don't know, twenty years. 

Immediately more protesters were summoned to the stand off, although most left after being threatened with arrest. A hard core of five, including a woman in her 80s, stayed on although she was encouraged to leave as night fell and the weather began to cool.

As I type, four people remain, sleeping on deckchairs and supplied with food, blankets and other necessities over the fence, including a luxurious toilet bucket each. 

The town has made the news...


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 11.11.21

Tuesday 2 November 2021

A Late Late Butterfly

 I had taken myself round town after picking my prescription up, no particular destination in mind but perhaps with a vague hope of spotting the jay that has been reported in the church gardens.

Secretive bird that it is, if it was around I didn't see it, but I've never seen so many squirrels in there, crashing through the fallen leaves, leaving food in caches, picking up food from others, and generally causing quicksilver mischief. 

It was as I left the park, going down some steps actually, a way I've never been before, where a kind chap pointed to the butterfly that was sunning itself on his wall and told me to take a picture. 

I don't know if he'd realised I was a nature spotter from the head in the air way I walked around the garden, or whether he just liked to point things out to people. But I was very grateful for him for giving me the heads up. Interesting thing to photograph are in short supply as we head into deep autumn. 

It was of course a red admiral, the species that hangs on longest into the colder months and indeed I've seen a specimen on Boxing Day one year. It was trying to warm itself up in the thin November sunshine and so was an easy subject to photograph. 

It wasn't the only insect to be sunning itself in a desperate attempt to get some warmth into its body. On one of the threatened sycamore trees by the library, there were large numbers of harlequin ladybirds sat in a low state of activity on the leaves. It appeared some of them were huddling away into wrinkles in the leaves, getting ready to hibernate. 

Blissfully unaware of the threat that tree is under. 


All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 02.11.21

Saturday 30 October 2021

"Stop the Chop"

 Our local library lies adjacent to the old registery office, which was been bought, leased, resold, leased again and god only knows what else; it's a complex process.

The issue is not with the building itself, it lies with the little green space between the two buildings. Part of the leasehold agreement, indeed a contract, is that this area should be turned into a car park, a car park that the current owners of the building do not want, but if it isn't built the council face a 600K bill for breach of contract with a previous owner. 

I think that's the story; I'm probably miles wrong. It's very confusing. The upshot is that three old trees, a lime and two sycamores, are going to have to be cut down, and local people have gotten very upset. Indeed, they have already organised two daytime protests during the last couple of weekends, and tonight, they organised a third, a candlelit vigil by night. 

They say that the car park isn't needed, there is already plenty of parking space in the town, and it sends out a bad message in an age where we shouldn't be encouraging more cars onto the roads, into a town that is already gridlocked at weekends. 

I went down not long before sunset to take photographs, and told the organisers that I would return later with my bat detector; they have put a couple of bat boxes in the trees, and St George's Bat trust say the recorded 108 calls in 40 minutes a few days ago.

If there are bats roosting in the trees, then that automatically ends the threat for at least until spring. I have to say I'd been twice before and picked up nothing, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. 

I did return after sunset to see that a crowd of around 200 had gathered, holding lanterns and the like. I walked around with my detector, picking up no bats again while the song "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol was played while the crowd waved their lights in the air. 

I hope the bats like bands that make Coldplay sound like Motorhead. 

There was also some chanting of slogans, which was passionate although slightly...something. 

I do wish them well, and I really hope there are bats in there. I've not picked up a sausage. 



All text and images copyright CreamCrackeredNature 30.10.21