"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

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!


Countryside Tales said...

Ooh I love that canon ball xmas pud mould - fantastic! I bought plastic ones a couple of years ago and managed to melt them :-( Puds were still ok though :-)

Do let us know how it turns out- I might be tempted to get one! You've also reminded me it's time I got on with sorting out the mincemeat.

Loved the donks.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks CT :) Glad your puds survived :) Mould is made by Silverwood and I got it from Jane Asher website. £25ish for 5" and £30ish for larger one plus p&P. EEK!!! Bit concerned about cooking times as I can't see the mix unlike the glass pyrex bowl. Think will risk 6/7 hrs (or there again perhaps 8??) for initial cooking and keep fingers crossed!!!!

Will certainly let you know if it works come Christmas. Christmas Cake next weekend and mincemeat week after!!! Just love Christmas baking :)

David (Wold Ranger) said...

That canon ball Christmas pudding mould is some serious looking bit of kit, it looks a bit like Sputnik !

I loved all the adorable Donkey's and as you say these sanctuary's do great work in protecting these oft abused animals around the world.

Sorry I can't help with the fungi ID but that look very interesting :-)

Hope you've had a great week-end and fingers crossed that the Christmas pudding proves a success :-)

Ragged Robin said...

David (Wold Ranger) lol :) Like the description - nearest I could get was a cyberman's face mask without the features :) I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that it comes out of the mould in one piece tomorrow!!

Glad you like the donkeys - very worthwhile charity.

Hope you've had a good weekend :)

Margaret Adamson said...

Hi. I loved all the donkeys. Good that D was Ble to boom him. Well that certainly was quite. Contraption for yor pudding. Hope it comes out in one piece.

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson Thanks Margaret :) Glad you enjoyed the donkeys :) Just trying to pluck up courage right now to see if pudding comes out ok!!

SeagullSuzie said...

I remember Sutton Park-just about. How lovely to go to see the donkeys-as you know I'm a big fan and supporter of the Donkey Sanctuary. Great info on the puds and I love your cannon ball mould-how exciting-I hope it works.

Wendy said...

I have such a soft spot for Donkeys and I think Donkey sanctuaries are fantastic places providing all that care. And this sanctuary's work with children is wonderful, too. The donkeys look adorable.
I love the space age pudding mould!

Em Parkinson said...

That mould is fantastic! Can't wait to see the results. As for the donkeys, if we had land, I would be straight down to our local sanctuary for a companion for Trigger. Such lovely animals.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie Many thanks :) Sutton Park never seems to change thank goodness :) I thought about you when we were at the Sanctuary remembering your recent post on the Sidmouth one :)

Just turned out the Christmas Pudding - it worked perfectly and just slid out all in one piece :)

Wendy Thank you - glad you liked the donkeys. They seem to be everyone's favourite not surprisingly :)

Em Parkinson - Many thanks. Donkeys are lovely - so gentle and placid :) Would be a great companion for Trigger if you ever had more room!

Pudding has turned out well - will post photo on next post - (without the flaming brandy though!!! and with a fake bit of holly - leaving the real thing until Christmas :) )

Lou Mary said...

I really love donkeys - some day when I'm not so poor I would love to sponsor one somewhere, or even have one to look after! Maybe in a few years :) Glad to see from recent comments the pud turned out well - I look forward to seeing it!

Ragged Robin said...

Lou Mary - Many thanks :) Well worth adopting a donkey when you can afford it - I've been really impressed with all the good work the 2 donkey sanctuaries we've visited this year do.

Not sure if you'll see this comment but our local Wildlife Trust (and the one in Dorset) take on apprenticeships for a Certificate in Conservation work. WLT pays a small salary too. Just wondered if your local Trust did anything similar which you could consider. I'm sure all your volunteer work would look good on the CV and also the Certificate you gain might make it easier to get a Conservation job if that's where you'd like to go. Hope you don't mind me mentioning this :) Just thought it might be useful :)

Lou Mary said...

I always check back to responses :) That sounds like a really great opportunity! I'm not sure if KWT have that kind of scheme, but I am currently waiting to hear back about a trainee position with them. Fingers crossed! Thank you so much for mentioning it to me though - very thoughtful :)

Ragged Robin said...

Lou Mary - So pleased you saw the comment and didn't mind me mentioning it :)

I really do hope you get the trainee position - sounds like a great opportunity :)
It could be similar to the job I mentioned previously and its a great way to get experience. Fingers crossed for you and Good Luck :)