This weekend of blistering temperatures and the threat of summer actually arriving, has reminded me of a weekend we were lucky enough to disappear on recently.
It was a gloriously sunny and fun weekend in the peak district to catch up with friends that we haven’t seen in far too long.
We booked a cottage that catered for all our needs, that was in a rural location but also close to the amenities of a little market town called Wirkworth.
We did brilliantly well with our choice and the cottage was amazing. Recently converted from a barn just next to a very pretty public footpath, it afforded us quite a lot of privacy but the occasional distraction from passers by; especially since Max decided to greet each and every one with his big bark!!
It was just what we all needed. We went with absolutely no expectations and found it completely charming and far better that we could have hoped.
We had good weather, gorgeous surroundings, great company and enough beer to kill a man. What else do you need?
Everyone mucked in, there was lots of booze drunk, rubbish spoken and food eaten and it couldn’t have been better.
Mostly we just chilled out at the gorgeous, gorgeous and perfectly appointed cottage. We played cards around the garden table or set up tennis (for the more energetic amongst us), we read, we chatted (a lot!!) and thoroughly relaxed.
When we did venture out (we were very tempted to stay put but really felt that we had to see more than the wonderful view from the barn garden), we were just as happy with what we found and some of it came as a complete surprise.
We had briefly passed through Matlock Baths on the Friday night as we arrived, so we decided to go and wander through this sleepy little ribbon town on Sunday morning. We would grab a coffee, maybe an ice cream and enjoy the peace and quiet of the riverbank walk and it’s pretty shops. It should be pretty quiet leading up to lunchtime.
I think we were the only people in the whole county who DIDN’T know that every Sunday, Matlock Baths is overrun with bikes and scooters of all shapes and sizes as well as the diverse collection of people that ride them.
Every single parking space along the length of the village has 2 wheels parked in it and even the station car park was struggling to accommodate the 4 wheels that had chosen to visit at the same time.
JC got some cracking shots of some of the bikes (clearly someone’s pride and joy) and the irony of the huge, seemingly out of place, ‘think bike’ sign wasn’t missed on us – you really couldn’t help thinking about bikes since it was practically all there was as far as the eye could see.
Once we thought about it, it made sense that this funny little place couldn’t sustain about 8 fish and chip shops a greater number of cafes and 2 bike wear shops without something spectacular like the sunday pilgrimage to contribute to the coffers.
Everyone was clearly happy and there was a nice vibe.
Not remotely what we had expected but quite wonderful all the same.
We eaked out as much of the weekend as we could and didn’t leave until the latest possible (our booking was until monday am but we all had to get back for work!! boohoo) with another walk to check out the local station of Wirkworth and the sweet town centre itself.
These small towns are clearly affected by the out of town supermarkets and the change in our shopping habits but it is hanging on in there. Like all small market towns, it has it’s problems but it is surviving. It has retained its charm and there are a handful of brilliant little retailers as well as decent pubs and I hope it lasts.
We are going to make this little weekend an annual event now because we were so taken by the place and the surroundings. We’ll be booking it well in advance so we aren’t disappointed.
I’m looking forward to it already!!
I was reading the UK handmade magazine summer 2013 (which I would highly recommend – you can read the online magazine or you can buy the download pdf)
And as I came to the end and page 81 presented me with a lovely image of a bug hotel project for your garden, I suddenly realised that our recent DIY project (more to come about that) had unwittingly provided us with the building blocks of the bug house and we pretty much had everything we needed around and about.
After a riffle through the recycling, chopping some lengths of bamboo up, selecting some nice short logs from the log pile and steeling a length of waste pipe from the garage I was all set to assemble them along with the slate and bricks into our own recycled version.
It won’t pass the inspection of even the most laid back structural engineer and the hotel inspector would be aghast but as Bug Hotels go, I think it is pretty fantabulous.
I’m very pleased with it and have stuck it in a little corner that does’t have much happening in it but it has been earmarked as our wild corner so couldn’t be better sited.
Fingers crossed for some creepy crawly guests :o)
Spring has definitely sprung.
In the last couple of days, the world has changed and there is new life and wonderful stuff everywhere.
It fair lifts the soul.
We have seen so many different birds that seem to have been hiding until now; yellow hammers, hobbies, shelducks and lapwings to name but a few. The crops are visibly growing overnight and before too long the oil seed and beans will be waist height.
There are blooms and butterflies everywhere and I could not love this time of year more.
The loveliest thing we have seen though was the arrival of 2 foals on the nearby farm and both at the same time.
They are simply gorgeous and it is such a privilege to catch them within hours of arriving in this world. This little colt and filly arrived in glorious sunshine on Monday and we have watched their gangly little legs get stronger by the day as they feed and get used to this strange & noisy place.
Imagine the challenge when all those inches of leg and neck have been folded tightly in a warm dark are suddenly sped into this bright frightening world.
The first day, the mares were a bit spaced out from the delivery and you could do just about anything you wanted with them and their offspring. But as they regain their strength and the bond between the dam and foal develops, the mare will more often than not put herself squarely between you and her precious little one.
They are getting bold and confident even after just 2 days and when they aren’t gambling about between feeds they are laid out enjoying the warming sun.
I could watch them all day and their smell is completely addictive (anyone who has spent time around our equine lovelies will know exactly what I mean).
I’m not particularly keen on pigeons.
They are pests in the city and they are pests in the countryside.
They will roost almost anywhere, eat anything and make the most smelly, dirty mess. Yuck!!
I’m not alone in my disliking; my niece is unreasonably fearful of them and there are lots of people who invest a lot of hours in the pursuit of killing them.
Someone who illustrates his own disliking in a much more entertaining way is Max of course.
He diligently guards the bird feeders (when he’s not helping his greedy little self to anything that falls to the ground!!) and goes charging into the garden to skidaddle them whenever his vigilance has faltered and they’ve had the temerity to return!
His pursuit of them doesn’t stop there though, there is a barn on a walk that we do over the weekends that has doves in it and he clearly doesn’t distinguish, they’re all the same as far as he is concerned.
The noise he makes is deafening and reverberates around the barn. Bales don’t get in his way, machinery is no deterrent and once he is on his mission, he is difficult to drag away.
Needless to say, the pigeons (or doves for that matter) don’t hang around for long with that kind of din but the sight of a raging terrier stotting about on the ground below them must be more amusing than truly terrifying.
One of my favourite birds is the Wren.
This gloriously sunny weekend was very welcome and so was the sight of a Wren while we were out on a walk.
We were severely chastised by this particular Wren who I suspect is trying to build a nest near to where I had chosen to sit.
I love these pretty and perky little birds, not just for their size but how their size is completely disproportionate to their bravery.
We are vast mountainous creatures compared to a Wren but there is little, if any hesitation when it comes to telling us off .
If we have had the temerity to step over the invisible line that surrounds and protects her little haven, we will be subjected to a barage of chipping and chatting that comes with an urgency and tone that leave little doubt that she is cross!
I wasn’t disappointed.
It is completely hilarious and quite disarming. I hope she settled back to the job in hand none the worse for having to stop what she was doing to tick us off for getting too close.
Max is not really a digger.
He certainly hasn’t made any unwelcome holes in our garden or started burrowing under the fence in bid for freedom of any kind.
One thing guaranteed to get those little paws peddling at the soil though is a mole hill!
There are quite a few around at the moment and even though it has been wet, snowy and freezing cold for what seems like an age, it hasn’t deterred the moles who regularly push up in the middle of a lawn, field or grass verge to the annoyance of almost everyone.
Some of the mole hills that have become crusted over, show signs of additional and more recent activity where there is a little extra pile of fresh earth on the top.
That is going to get max digging……
He clearly doesn’t realise (or care perhaps) that once a mole hill is formed, there is very little chance that the mole will still be in it. He leaps on it with huge enthusiasm and dogged determination before the paws start and the soil goes flying all of which is interspersed with occasional snorts and sniffing (just in case it is still there you understand).
If I set my feelings for him aside, and was honest about it, I can’t say that Max is what you’d call much use as terrier. He chases hares & deer when we are out walking, he scuttles off after the squirrels in the park and sees off the pigeons from the garden bird feeder but he’s never caught anything (on the rare occasions he has caught a rabbit it is generally because they are unfortunate enough to have mixxy, poor things).
His failings are completely disproportionate to the enthusiasm and commitment he applies to digging when it is the task in hand and by that measure, he should be a phenomenal success.
Never mind, he keeps trying regardless of the small fact that he will NEVER catch them.
When we walk the dog/dogs at the weekend, it is evident that the place is teaming with wildlife. We see some of it but mostly we are left with only signs of vast amount wildlife that is in the area.
There are deer living in the trees, grazing on the crops and moving through the cover. Their footprints (or slots) can be seen everywhere, especially when the ground is soft.
There are badgers, muntjac, hares, foxes, rabbits, predatory birds, herons, pigeons, pheasant, owls and partridges to name but a few.
The deer are the ones that we look out for most as there is always a chance that you will see them. We know some of their favoured spots and the regular routes that they take in their day. We see small groups, singles and larger family groups but lately they seem to have been even more shy than usual. We know they are occasionally hunted in the area and that might affect their numbers slightly but they aren’t hunted a lot and should be quite comfortable in the area and certainly not small in numbers.
Deer are jumpy and shy at the best of times so they are never really relaxed for long. They are constantly looking out or moving on if they don’t like the look or smell of something.
We recently found out from someone (who knows lots about this kind of stuff) that an injury to a deer when it is young or something else has interfered with it’s growth creates asymmetry in the antlers which can be seen in their hooves too.
The lop sided nature of the antlers is one of the things that hunters prize.
Deer look so serene when they are grazing or gently moving around their territory but they are spectacular when they running. They can move at great speed.
The photo of the slots above was taken this morning in the frost. The dips at the back of the hooves are the dew claws and although these tracks aren’t fresh (they are a few days old), the slots show that the deer were running when they were made. You don’t always see the dew claws as hopefully they are grazing or wandering about, rather than running from some perceived danger
We have a tracking book that shows all these kinds of interesting details that you miss most of the time and you could make it a lifetime’s work just studying the tracks and trails of any one species.
I find it fascinating and I love the fact that they have been out there before you in the silence of dawn or the depths of the night, quietly going about their business and sensibly getting out of the way when us humans appear making lots of noise!