To the woods, to the woods
I’ll tell the vicar
I AM the vicar.
The vicars wife wouldn’t like it
The vicars wife’s not getting it!
Well enough of that bit of humour. As was my want I went to bed early on Thursday evening but for two reasons, one, I was tired (best excuse yet!) and two, I wanted to go for a long early morning walk before it got too warm. After a little something for breakfast I began my walk, this time heading south. This time I took the main road as it led me directly to my destination, the little township of Formby or rather the northern part of it called Freshfield. We lived in Freshfield from ’76 till ’88 before moving to Birkdale where we are now. The main route through from Birkdale to Formby took me first of all through Hillside and Ainsdale before continuing down the Formby by-pass where I turned off into Freshfield. Once in Freshfield I headed along the main route (Victoria Road) which took me into the Red Squirrel reserve, all now maintained by The National Trust.https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/formby/features/red-squirrels-at-formbyThey look after all the woodland along the coast hereabouts. It is somewhere I am completely familiar with having spent much time either walking through the woods or running through them. I particularly enjoyed running through the woods in the hours before dawn when it was just about light enough to see where I was going. I often came across a fox or two and almost always a few rabbits. The owls I could hear but couldn’t see. The woods are special places at dawn. I usually saw the squirrels when out walking but only if one or two where at ground level would I see them when out running. I am guessing the distance to be around six or seven miles by the time I had reached the reserve. I stopped for a short rest at a picnic area where I could sit down before then walking through to the beach a further half-mile away. I stayed on the beach for only a short time but walked northward for a quarter-mile before climbing up a steep sand dune to return to the woods. Two steps forward and one step back was the order of the day climbing that sandy slope! I was exhausted by the time I had reached the top but soon recovered as I made my way into the trees and onto a small path heading north. I walked what seemed an awfully long way until I reached a little sign indicating that it was a mile and a half to the place I had just been, Victoria Road or the squirrel reserve. I walked along not coming across any other people at all, just me and the sound of nature. In fact it was totally quiet and a little eerie most of the time. Suddenly I appeared at the end of the track and was standing on the main track which circles the area. That part of the track runs alongside the rail tracks running between Southport and Liverpool. Every twenty minutes a train or two passes by. I was feeling a little tired once more so I made my way to another picnic area for a snack and a drink. I gave myself twenty minutes before I was off again and heading for the coastal road which would take me back home to Birkdale about four miles away. I hadn’t been walking exceptionally fast getting to the woods and walking through them but along the coastal road I picked up the pace and walked the four miles briskly. It was around twelve-fifteen as I went in the house feeling a little tired and hot. I recovered after a drink and prepared lunch with E. After lunch we spent some time doing garden maintenance and I watered the rear garden again. If the woods were closer to home I would most probably spend more time there. In some ways I regret having moved away all those years ago but that’s life.
It may be the end of the year, the last few days, I write this on 28th, but life doesn’t stop. Creatures of habit like me continue on as normal. A day is a day just like any other so I do pretty much the same as I do at any time throughout the year. I have been working on a very small plot in the garden and wanted to add some natural stone as I had done in the much larger plot we call the west bed. That simply means the bed is on the western side of the garden. This one however is on the opposite side. I had over the months gathered many stones from the beach to cover that plot and recently collected more to put in this one too but a small bucket-full is far from enough as you can see….(click on image to magnify)
They barely cover the soil around the plant, the new fan palm at the end of the flowerbed. I did realise I would need more but the idea is not to fully cover the soil as there will be some small flowering plants placed there later. Maybe another bucket of stones will be enough. On my morning walk on Thursday (28) I collected enough to half-fill a bucket so it shouldn’t take long to collect what I want. These stones I might add are what were left behind after the construction of the sea defence wall many years ago. The construction company I suppose couldn’t be bothered to remove them else were unable to remove them all. Already I have been digging out some montbretia plants from the main flowerbed in the garden on the north side. They are the ones I missed when I cleared them from the bed at the beginning of the year along with bluebells. I have no doubts I shall be digging more out as the new year begins. It isn’t that I don’t like the flowers, it’s just that they grow like weeds and want to take over the garden! E and I have been putting seeds out on the bird table and some ‘fat balls’ in the feeder but it isn’t just the birds who eat them, we have a small family of grey squirrels who like them too. They eat the fat balls through the wire cage and the birds peck them in turn. A few days ago I made some alterations to the bird table in order to keep the larger birds such as pigeons, jackdaws and gulls from feeding there and leaving nothing for the many smaller birds such as tits, wagtails, and the robin we get here. We do put seed and other food on the grass to accommodate the larger birds. However, the squirrels can and do climb the pole to reach the table and can still enter the protected table to feed. This picture was taken before I altered the access but as I said, they can still gain entry which is fine.
It is December 2 as I write this. It is Saturday afternoon and I have just eaten lunch. Actually lunch served as two meals for I haven’t eaten breakfast. Over the last few days the weather has been cold with a northerly biting wind blowing off the sea along the coast where I live. Today all of that changed and it has been warmer and far less windy. Although the temperature is barely reaching 9 deg C it has been pleasant in the sunshine, well this morning anyway for at this very moment the sun is about to set and the day has turned cloudy. I went for a walk along the seashore to a point some three miles or more away before turning inland to take an elevated footpath across the marshland. The path is a historical ‘right of way‘ passage which cuts through one of the local golf courses of which there are many around here. The area is called ‘Marshside’ for very obvious reasons, it is basically marshland or wet land where many wildfowl visit. Having traversed to the other side of the area the path led out to a road which I have often walked on my travels to and from the seafront. There was an old sign showing the site where an old airfield was located many years ago. There was a workshop at the location from 1910 until 1966 according to the sign……….This is the exit point onto Hesketh Road from which I emerged.
Facing the row of houses I turned right which took me back to the shore. I remained on the concrete on my walk back home having walked on the shore on the outward trek. What is the collective term for a large group of people dressed in waterproof clothing carrying tripods and binoculars? No I don’t know either but there was such a group descended on the footpath in front of me eagerly pointing their binoculars out to sea across the marshes. One thing you can say about this part of the coast is we have plenty of geese, ducks, swans, gannets and gulls and many more varieties of birds for bird watchers, which is what this group were doing. Just a couple of miles further inland there is a wetland centre for all those interested in birds. It is called Martin Mere…. https://www.wwt.org.uk/wetland-centres/martin-mere/ . So that was my day on Saturday. As we approach the Winter Solstice we can begin to look forward to warmer times ahead but we’ve got some cold weather yet to come first no doubt. In the meantime so far so good.
We had another bright and sunny day on Thursday but it was bitterly cold outside with an offshore wind making it feel that much colder. Despite the weather I got myself ready to take a walk, yes, you guessed it, down toward the beach. Brave as I am as far as the cold weather is concerned even I had to admit to feeling uncomfortable as I plodded along through the sand dunes trying to steer clear of the biting wind. All along the coast hereabouts we have sand lizards and Natterjack toads ( http://www.countryfile.com/days-out/natterjack-toads-southport-lancashire ) both of which are protected species. In among the dunes there are areas called ‘slacks’, wet places, as well as large ponds which are dotted between the dunes. These are the breeding grounds for the toads, not that I saw any toads of course as they would be hibernating out of sight until Spring. The lizards are even more inconspicuous, even in Summer. As I walked along I noticed the surface of the ponds were partly frozen in places showing just how cold it really was. The air temperature at that time was around 3 or 4 deg C but the wind-chill factor made it feel nearer zero. The ground is often frosty at this time of year despite the higher air temperature. Although there was some shelter from the wind it nevertheless made its presence felt. I walked perhaps a mile in total through the dunes and decided it was too cold there so I moved away from the shore to more sheltered places. I don’t usually feel the effects of the cold weather when I am wrapped up in suitable clothing and although I wear a skirt my legs never seem to feel cold. I wear thick knee-length stockings which I let drop to my ankles and my walking boots and it is enough. However my hands can get cold even though I may be wearing fleece-lined gloves. The main problem is the wind. If it isn’t windy, which is very rare in Southport, the coldness is less noticeable. I might have been a little tired on Thursday morning but I cut my walk short and returned home after only an hour.
Usually a term used to describe (in the dictionary – as a noun) ‘anactorinstanceofsurveyingoroftakingacomprehensiveviewof something’. I am applying it in reference to my amble around my garden: amble: a verb – ‘to go at a slow,easypace;stroll;saunter’, something I do quite often in the gardens throughout the year. I’ve grown to love and appreciate my gardens in the last few years whilst reflecting upon all the work I have done to get them to where they are now. My little surveys reveal the things I need to do to keep on top of things. Currently my thoughts are centred around spotting bluebells which have escaped my notice especially in the areas in which I have been working to remove them but also in other places they might appear. It was late on Saturday morning when I took a stroll along the path by the greenhouses and the first thing I noticed was a bluebell growing in the patch in front of the small greenhouse. I fetched the small garden fork and dug it out. Then I saw another and some more in the same general area. I have been expecting more to show as the weather gets warmer and I’ve not been disappointed! Having dug about thirty and removed them I thought that would be the end of it but no, there were some growing in the small plot nearby too. I removed them. I checked over the whole flowerbeds by the greenhouses to make sure I had removed all that had shown themselves. I spent a little time digging out a few more bluebells in the unfinished part of the corner plot where I have been working recently. I went indoors to prepare a meal. It was around three o’clock when I decided to take another amble around the garden and my keen eyes spotted a couple of bluebells in the flowerbed by the patio. I didn’t take any immediate action but noted where they were for the next time I would be working in the garden. I hadn’t much intention to work in the garden on the day because I wanted a rest from it and the weather forecast had been for rain anyway, though it didn’t rain until much later in the day. I spent a little time filling the seed dispenser for the birds as E seems to have forgotten to do it. On Friday morning I saw the strangest thing when looking out of the window into the rear garden. I saw ‘our’ little grey squirrel running along the top of the garden wall holding a slice of bread in its mouth! I never knew squirrels liked bread (and beer apparently) but I guess they will eat anything if hungry. We had been putting out nuts for them but hadn’t seen much of the squirrels lately due to the cold weather. Anyway the squirrel was being pursued by a jay who wanted a piece of the action but the squirrel was having none of it and kept out of the bird’s way. Funny what you see in the garden if you take the time to look.
For quite some time now we have had dry and sunny weather which has obviously been welcomed but there comes a time when we need rain. Now for once I could leave the hose reel in storage and not have to water the garden plants as we got that rain on Monday morning and again later in the evening with more promised during the week. Autumn is here, my favourite time of year. After a more restful weekend I was happy to get a request for work but it wasn’t much, though it paid well. More followed during the week, enough to keep me happy. There will be plenty to do at home, in the gardens, clearing away fallen leaves, pruning back overgrowth of trees and shrubs. We are hoping the wall we demolished might get re-built within the next few weeks but of course that will require we get a couple of dry days to have it done. E and I have been watching and feeding the squirrels as one or two of them have been busy scurrying about on the wall, in the garden and through the tree branches. No doubt they have been searching for food and storing it away. There will be less sitting out on the patio as the temperature drops away though at this moment we are still enjoying temperatures of 17 C or 18 C during the day. It won’t last though and it won’t be long before I will have to wrap the palm trees with some plastic sheets to protect them from icy winds. We have some large sheets of plastic bubble-wrap ready for when it is required. The plants can withstand below freezing temperatures up to a point but the cold wind burns the leaves and it is the wind which needs shielding against. For the time being is it just getting cooler and wetter but not enough to prevent working outside.
E and I took a little time out from the work in the garden and we were in the greenhouse potting about. E drew my attention to a little Robin struggling to carry off an enormous worm it had discovered on the wet grass where E had hosed a dew minutes earlier. After a couple of attempts the bird gave up and flew off only to return to sit in the apple tree searching for small insects. We see this little Robin nearly every day and he (or it might be a she) is soon on the ground behind us if we have been digging in the soil as we did a few days ago removing stones and weeds in the corner of the garden. That work has yet to be finished. Other regular visitors are the Great Tits, Wrens, Blackbirds and a couple of Sparrows which have been seemingly rare these days. Larger birds come and go like the Jays, Wood Pigeons and Magpies and there will always be the Gulls, especially if we put out large pieces of bread. They seem to know just where there are easy pickings. We hear and have seen the local Woodpecker and Barn Owls too. Sometimes we find a dead bird on the lawn, taken by one of the neighbourhood cats but never eaten, just ripped apart probably whilst they were foraging for food early in the morning. The sneaky cat must be hiding in the bushes waiting for some unsuspecting bird to hop into view. At this time of year if we go into the garden at dusk we can often see bats flying about after moths or other insects that might still be airborne. We don’t get other animals or birds in the rear garden because of the height of the walls but it is possible that a fox might make the attempt. We have seen foxes in our next-door neighbour’s garden but access there is easier than ours is. In one way that is to our benefit for security reasons but it does restrict any desirable visitors we might like to have.