Tag Archives: UK

Castles and Canals 

15 Aug

With temperatures routinely topping 40°C and the madness that is the Ionian during August, it seemed like a good idea at the time to spend it in the UK. It probably was the right decision but somehow we’d forgotten just how wet the British summer usually is. I know, I know – it was beautiful before we arrived. So here are some castles in the clouds. And canals. 

Conwy looking all mean and moody 

These rare moths don’t seem to mind, though 

Ludlow during a brief break in what was a day of almost relentless rain. Ten minutes later we were literally soaked to the skin. 

There was the odd sheltered spot in the castle itself. 

Chester has its own castle but a) it’s not in ruins and b) it’s a military museum and not my idea of fun so a cloudy walk along the Shropshire Union Canal followed by a Sunday roast dinner seemed a better idea. 

You don’t have to go far to be seemingly in open countryside. 

The rain just about held off for a walk along the Llangollen canal 

We walked up to the junction with the River Dee at Horseshoe Falls where a couple of kayaks were heading downstream. Annoyingly I just missed the picture of them going down that step in the falls. 

Geordie here was just about to turn back to Llangollen with his cargo of tourists when we met him. He didn’t want to hang about waiting for his burden to be reconnected. 

And finally, a cheese board – just because it made me smile. 

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It’s a Jungle Out There

30 May

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I do like pottering around in the garden. Living in the sky in Abu Dhabi gives me very little chance, however. The only living bit of green that enters the apartment is a pot of supermarket basil and that only survives a few days in the air-conditioning. So my return to the UK does give me chance to get my hands dirty. And feet wet, as it turned out.

Our garden, though minuscule, was once beautifully designed but has long since been taken back to basics and is desperately in need of lots of love and attention. It never gets it. Although I was able to spend some time on it last year, doing something constructive for a change, it was largely about slowing down the inevitable advancement of nature. That is, I dug up a lot of weeds, chucked a lot of bark chippings around and planted a few cheap plants in the hope of “ground cover”. I also tried to nurse the patch of unrestrained dandelions into something like a lawn.

I don’t know if you would have called it a lawn a week ago. Sure, it was green and oh so lush with remarkably few blow-ball seedheads waving at me. But at some 18 inches high the definition of “lawn” is probably pushing it. The bark had been more successful although the pernicious, sticky goosegrass had started to take a hold again. Prominent in all this, however, in every crevice and gap, flourishing copiously on the patio, was rosebay willowherb. Initially such a pretty weed with its pinky stems and profusion of small magenta flowers, it soon spouts long seedheads that manage to take hold in the most inhospitable of places. Just where you don’t want them.

In the midst of all this lurks a tiny little pond. Where once, to my shame, goldfish swam, in recent years it has become the home to a family of frogs, their wriggling offspring preventing me from clearing out all the dead leaves that accumulated over winter. Not this year. Now a stagnant and foul-smelling stew of slimy mould, no self respecting amphibians would come anywhere near.

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Alright, I like a bit of a challenge. First the patio to cull the willowherb before it produced seeds. These are pretty shallow rooted so not too onerous. Then the goosegrass, again before it produces its velcro seed balls. Easy to pull up but you know the roots are lurking beneath the soil ready to spring out again when your back is turned.
The grass had to wait for a day sunny enough to dry it out but eventually I just had to go for it. The poor old mower had a struggle, quickly becoming clogged, its bucket filling every 30 seconds or so. And muggins here was the one emptying it. Oh my aching back.

It wasn’t the pain and effort that nearly made me give up, though. It was that skulking, malodorous pond, hiding away, its sides slippery and indistinct. Yes, you’ve guessed it. I was soon thigh deep in foul stuff and in a mood to match. Yuk!

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January Lingers

24 Jan

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I think it is fair to say that January isn’t the best month to spend in the UK. Everybody seems to be hibernating for a start. And who can blame them? With the frantic Christmas preparations and celebrations over, diets and “dry month” resolutions still  being kept, the icy weather seems to be the finishing blow that knocks any desire for outdoor activity.
The market is reduced to a mere handful of stalls none of whom seem to be doing much in the way of trade. This is not helped by the fact that they’ve been moved from their usual position on the High Street as most of it is currently dug up. Hardly surprising, then, if everybody chooses to huddle up at home, venturing out only for work and the necessities. Even the social media feeds seem quiet. I guess nobody has much to write about.

Our car was bought to tow a caravan, a job it did extremely well. It is also excellent at shifting “stuff” around the continent as our itinerant life style dictates. It is, however, simply too big for me. I have never developed a sense of where the car starts and ends, being unable to see either front or rear bumpers or corners. This is why I backed into an invisible plastic bollard. I do question the wisdom of putting said bollard there in the first place but that’s another rant.
I can’t blame anyone else for knocking the wing mirror off, though. The problem with being a two-car-single-driveway family is that the vehicles have to be juggled around depending on who is going out. When this occurs during a dark and icy evening the temptation to manoeuvre without really clearing the windows is great. Gateposts can get in the way.