"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

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Happy New Year

Many thanks to everyone who has visited my blog during 2015 and for all your lovely comments.

Wishing everyone a Very Happy and Healthy 2016 with many magical wildlife encounters.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

A Walk Round Maxstoke

It was actually dry and sunny today for a change! So this afternoon we went for a walk round the tiny village of Maxstoke in North Warwickshire and the surrounding lanes.

We parked near the Church which is beside the ruins of Maxstoke Priory. The church built of sandstone is a Grade II listed building and dates back to the early 14th century with 18th and mid-nineteenth century modifications. Presumably there is a connection between the church and priory but to get inside the church you have to contact the local vicar.

Both the church and Priory were dedicated to St Michael and All Angels which is very interesting to a ley hunter (yes, I am still reading the ley-line books - the interest in them was re-ignited by reading Phil Rickman's books) as St Michael was known as a killer of devils which were often depicted as dragons. There is also a moated island close by and again moats are often found on leylines. I can see I will be searching for some Warwickshire leys myself once I have finished the books.

Ivy-leaved Toadflax on the church wall.

Cyclamens and Periwinkles flowering in gardens.

The Priory of Augustinian Canons was founded by William de Clinton in 1336/37. He was also responsible for the construction of Maxstoke Castle, which is only a few miles away, in 1345. If you have been reading my blog for some years you may remember some posts I have done on visits to Maxstoke Castle and the delightful gardens there.

The Priory was dissolved in 1536 during the Dissolution. The site is defined by the surviving sandstone precinct wall - part of the wall and the ruins of the Outer Gatehouse can be seen in the photo below.

There are more priory ruins in the fields behind the farmhouse. Years ago when I was a teenager some friends and I walked from Coleshill to Maxstoke and knocked on the door of the farm to ask if they would let us access the ruins which they very kindly allowed us to do. I think in those days we were either on a Famous Five type adventure or in search of ghosts. I read today about a Canon at the Priory who killed another Canon in self defence when he was attacked so dastardly deeds did occur there. The place has such a sense of history I really wouldn't be surprised to see the shadowy figure of a monk disappearing behind a wall.

Plenty of lichen and ivy berries in the hedgerow.

I think this pond in the grounds of the Rectory is one of the fishponds used by the medieval canons at the Priory.

Leaving Maxstoke behind we walked along surrounding lanes.

We used to call these Oak Apples when I was little - made by tiny gall wasps - unfortunately I can't get at my guide to galls to check as the Christmas Tree is blocking access to the bookcase :(

Return journey - looking towards the Priory

This field was full of a flock of 100's of Fieldfares and a few Redwings and several dozen starlings.

I've seen photos of daffodils in flower already on one or two other blogs but here by the church they are still in bud.

Back home to a cup of homemade hot chocolate :)

A few photos D took today with the Canon illustrating yet again the usefulness of the zoom.

Record shot of a few Fieldfares (they were a long way away!)

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Christmas "Bits and Pieces"

I hope everyone is having a lovely Christmas.

I haven't had chance to go out recently partly because its been so busy with Christmas on the approach and partly because of the near constant rain so I thought I'd share a few Christmas pictures from home with you.

D took a photo of the real Christmas Tree that we put in the porch. The tree lives the rest of the year in a pot in the garden. I wasn't able to bring it indoors last year as it looked on its last legs but re-potting it and feeding it seems to have done the trick.

Indoors we have an artificial tree decorated with decorations we've made or bought over the years - each one brings back a special memory :)

Photos of a few other decorations

I can highly recommend the Marks and Sparks Christmas Cake liqueur seen in this photo!! Panicked this year when the shop had sold out but E managed to get some on Christmas Eve :)

I bought the silver fairy for the top of the Christmas tree when D was a baby but since we bought a new tree she keeps falling off so this year I have replaced her on the tree with a Father Christmas and told her she has pride of place on the mantelpiece!

A few of my favourite presents - the first two are from my birthday a few weeks ago. The Midnight Moth Owl bought from the Hooting Owl exhibition a few months ago and "Benoit the Badger" cushion. The bee and flower cushion next to it I treated myself to a while back.

Looking forward to reading these :)

A handmade Purple Emperor brooch - a real surprise on Christmas morning :)

I had some lovely presents this year - and you may recall the lovely robin metal sculptures seen at NT properties in the autumn. I did get one (slightly different but even nicer I think) D bought me from the Christmas Fayre in Worcester. Forgot to take a photo but will post one some time soon.

Baking from Christmas Eve - Rudolph Reindeer cupcakes and mince pies.

Some of you may remember that I bought a book of Christmas "Knit and Purl" knitting patterns in the autumn and I've been busy over the last few weeks making a few. The deer and Father Christmas were my favourites. The polar bear was a nightmare - much bigger than the others and the sewing up instructions were rather basic for someone like me who has never knitted toys before.

I really enjoyed making these items and will definitely make more toys - have promised E a gingerbread man and a penguin!

Around two years ago I started to knit squares for a blanket and finally!!! I've finished it! About to start another one so I may get that completed in 2017!

Redpolls (Lesser, I think) have been visiting the silver birches in the garden to eat the seeds. D managed to get a "silhouette" photo with the Canon. Its a nightmare taking birds against a grey sky - need to find out where the Exposure Compensation control is on the bridge!