Sunday, 24 November 2013
Donkeys at Sutton Park, Fungi and "Stir up Sunday"
When we were on holiday in Dorset in the summer we visited the main Donkey Sanctuary at Sidmouth in Devon and ever since D and E have wanted to visit the Donkey Sanctuary in Birmingham. D and E were both at home on Friday so we finally paid the centre a visit.
The Sanctuary is set in a beautiful location within Sutton Park.
We were given a really warm welcome and taken on a guided tour of the riding centre and paddocks.
This is Oscar - D's actual adopted donkey. He was allowed to groom him before the afternoon's riding session.
Some of the donkeys in the paddocks - sorry not the best lot of photos (the fences kept getting in the way!). The centre in Birmingham was set up 20 years ago and they provide homes for 20 male donkeys.
The Donkey Sanctuary is a worldwide charity that does wonderful work to protect and care for donkeys and mules. They also provide donkey assisted therapy to children with additional needs and make outreach visits to residential care homes and hospices.
To find out more please visit www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk
Sutton Park itself covers 2000 acres and was a medieval deer park given to Sutton Coldfield by Henry VIII in 1528. It was designated a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest by English Nature in 1997. Its made up of a wide range of habitats - lowland heath, woodland, wetlands, marshes and lakes. I haven't visited for years but its a really good site for wildlife. In fact, the last time I went there it was to help with a primary school wildlife group outing when I spent most of the time making sure children didn't get lost, fall in a lake or whack each other round the head with the sticks they were constantly picking up. Not really conducive for wildlife watching!!!
As we drove out I stopped off take some photos of a log absolutely covered in fungi.
I really am not sure of the identity of the species - the closest I can get is "Chicken of the Woods"??
I really must make a return visit - probably next summer as I believe there is a small population of Green Hairstreak butterflies there.
Today is "Stir Up Sunday" (the last Sunday before Advent) when families traditionally get together to make Christmas Puddings - everyone taking their turn to stir the pudding mix and make a wish. It gets its name from the opening words of the collect in the church service for this date
"Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded: through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen".
As Christmas Puddings need to be made several weeks before Christmas presumably these words served as a reminder that it was time to get the puddings made so they can mature before Christmas Day.
For years D has wanted to make a round canon-shaped Christmas Pudding - in the past I've tried the method of making one in a cloth and steaming it and, believe me, it was not a success. So this year I've splashed out at great expense on a specially made Christmas Pudding mould which rather looks like something from outer space.
Rather pleased though that it has its own little trivet and handle!
Last night I put all the various dried fruits to soak overnight in lashings of brandy.
I've tried various recipes over the years but always come back to one by James Martin that the family seem to prefer.
Christmas Pudding mix
All piled up in the canon-shaped mould
Just in case there should be a mishap there was thankfully enough left to fill a small basin
Here they are steaming away just before I put the lids on.
Should the canon ball be a success I'll post a photo at Christmas!