Tullie House is one of my favourite places in Carlisle, great coffee, a gift shop in which to get lost for at least an hour, a gallery, museum and a lovely garden to explore.
You are really missing out if you have not had an opportunity to visit the Solway Firth. It is rightly categorised as an area of outstanding natural beauty. Prone to flooding, it is used primarily by local farmers for feeding their stock at various times of the year.
One of our favourite destination is Walby Farm park; not far to go and so much to do, especially on a rainy day and it is good to have something up one's sleeve. When in South London it was the soft play at the Brixton Rec or Peckham and here is a far superior Walby Farm Park.
I was so pleased when I discovered Walby because it meant that I could get a latte and the boys could enjoy action. Usually they made a friend and wear themselves out.
Whenever my sister is visiting us, one of the first things she does is organise a day to Walby, usually with Barry's Taxi and takes all four children with her and I can imagine she does what I do, sit and have a coffee.
I love the fact that Walby are developing what they offer and loved the visiting reindeer at Christmas and now the maze. When Nick's niece came up from Crouch End with her two boys, we all managed to fit in a visit, including Nick. It was brilliant to be able to sit and have an adult conversation over coffee whilst the four boys between 4 and 10 were happily occupying themselves. Well done Neil and Katie.
Jazzy sharing strategy with the younger Kittoe or is he giving a lecture? Wonder where he gets that from....
A pre-condition of getting Leah from the Dog's home was that she would need to be speyed. As usual, Nick, trained in Lambeth's Dog psychology, wanted none of it. We ignored the Dog's Refuge for a year and eventually they just made the appointment and summoned Leah to the Vet.
Being unused to having a Bitch we thought they all these dog loving people would be up on advances in medical technology and use key hole surgery to simply tie up the tubes. Not so, a full removal of all parts plus they do not use self dissolving stitches. Poor Leah is now confined with a cone to being walked on lead. So no more running freely and she is totally fed up and this is only day 3.
Cycling solo is not something I would have attempted in a City or even in Carlisle. Last weekend, the weather was dull and seemed just right to explore Solway villages by cycle.
Mostly on c roads this map sets out a lovely route; apparently these were the highways of medieval times. I have yet to explore the history of the area in detail, however there is no doubt that the same quiet lanes saw much action with border battles with Scotland.
However, now in 2011 the hedgerows are impressive, the lanes are quiet and cycling is such a civilised way of exploring this area. My only regret was not to bring my purse as I would have loved to have a long lemonade at the Greyhound, Burgh by Sands.
Nick has been managing the woods around the Lough with help from the Forestry Commission. Ours and the adjoining woods includes ancient woodlands; and a large number of trees were planted before the Second World War.
Late last year I noticed what seemed like a coding system on some of the trees: an orange P, dots on some trees and tried to work out what these meant. How I expected to know about woodland management beats me? I had to find out and did not to have to go far; a quick conversation with Nick was enough.
It turns out that our woods had not been managed for some time and required some TLC with some pollarding and coppicing. However it is important to get the timing right; that is in the winter when the sap is down and there are no nesting birds to disturb.
What we are doing in effect is to remove some of the branch cover and let light into the woods to encourage more ground cover plants and also to sustain the bugs and beetles that are part of the food chain for the local bird life.
The orange P is for pollarding - we take the upper branches of a tree off and the tree dies standing up. I can hear a "why"? We do this to allow certain trees to die standing up by ring-barking, or girdling, these trees, that is, cutting them all the way round the lower trunk so that they provide over 50 years shelter and food for a huge variety of grubs and beetles. The bugs and beetle in turn are food for woodpeckers and tree-creepers and mammals like shrews that feed on them....
Today we felt the force of nature when we woke up to choppy waters, trees swaying and wind whistling through the trees.
There was the inevitable re-arrangement of garden furniture, including the chicken run. As a result, our cockerel and two hens enjoyed a day on the town, experiencing a ‘free-range’ lifestyle in the garden. Normally the hens are let out after they have laid their daily egg; today we shall have an egg search around the garden.
A few days ago I found myself watching a lovely red squirrel bouncing around the lawn. Speaking to Mrs Harrison in Dunnock Lodge today, I was told that she too had seen a red squirrel outside her lodge, as well as a woodpecker. She also updated me on the antics of the chaffinch that was attacking the car window a week or so ago and has now taken to attacking its reflection in the window of Dunnock Lodge.
Friday at last and now that we are in British Summer Time, the ice cream man is back. As I had been busy chatting to Mr and Mrs H I missed out on my ice cream.
Nick and Mike have been working diligently to clear the Canadian Pond Weed and the silt on which it grows, from the Lough, which is both a blessing and a nuisance.
A blessing because it releases oxygen into the water, the absence of which can be fatal to the ecosystem and a nuisance because it can make it difficult to row and fish (and swim for the madder of us!) in parts of the lake.
With the lake clear from ice and weed the boys have been rowing; and Jon is able to row to the far side of the Lough. Ijaz just likes to jump in; seeing the boy in the water made Nick so jealous that he decided to restart his daily swimming regime, commencing with a micro dip.
One advantage of this is that Nick was able to say that he has swam with the otters. The other is that he can report that much of the Lough has regained its gravel bottom.
Recently we have taken to cycling to the nearest pub, having lunch and cycling back. On the last three occasions we've cycled to The Greyhound at Burgh by Sands with Leah, as they allow dogs into the bar.
This week we decided to try further afield. Off we headed to the Aikton Arms, through Kirkbampton; me ahead with one boy and Nick falling behind with Boy no 2.
A sign to the Aikton Arms to turn left and Nick insisted not as he had been before. We headed off to Little Bampton, arriving at Tam O Shanter, another pub recommended by locals and some of our guests. However as the Chef was off, unusually, and the land lady as she offered us some scampi and chips and took care to explain that she was no cook. Now why would anyone want to pay for Sunday dinner prepared by someone, who by their own admission, was not a cook.
Off we cycled to Aikton Arms, in the middle of nowhere;with wifi, darts, pool table and an open fire. The land ladies were both welcoming and we had a lovely lunch with the boys, 1 and 2, playing pool.
Aikton Arms also offers a takeaway service; I have never before seen beer battered haggis on a menu. If you like haggis then this would be a treat no doubt....
Early one morning just as the day was breaking …. I looked out of the bedroom window and normally I see ducks, geese or Mute Swans, however today I saw a sight that just had to be captured. Unfortunately my camera is not great for action shots, so with regret the picture is not such good quality, but it is still a sight to see.
We had our first encounter with a hedgehog when it got imprisoned in the Grey Squirrel trap the other day. Timid little thing didn’t want to come out of the trap and clung on for dear life when Nick and the boys tried to ease him out gently. In the end he had to be shaken out, and then he curled into a ball and rolled away.
Horses are such a big part of the countryside. Jon did have a riding lesson on his 5th Birthday and we have a little hazy picture of him on Wimbledon Common. In Cumbria riding is part of life and our boys have just joined the ranks of she-riders at Ride it Rite stables.
It's great to get out on a walk to the Lake District National Park and there are so many walks that allow children to run and explore and get fresh air into their lungs. Fabulous views for all to enjoy.
Something that I had not encountered before was the depth of connection that people have with places, and this seems to be the case with the Lough, with people popping by and then sharing their story.
There are both red and grey squirrels on site at the Tranquil Otter. I have seen both with my own eyes. Not to anthropomorphise, I have seen the red squirrel bounce across the lawn presenting a pretty picture and the grey squirrel head butt the living room window.
It has now been six months since we left Clapham, London and moved to Thurstonfield, Cumbria. Never having spent more than a week at a time in the country-side it is like a multi-coloured day dream. Living on the Clapham Road was a fantastic experience and living in Thurstonfield is so different in every way, fabulous nevertheless.
Quite early on in the move I was worried that it would be difficult to get to know people. In reality it is no different to meeting people in London. It is too early to know whether the people that we have met so far will become close friends or not. It is great meeting so many new people who come to stay with us. When people are here to stay for a week, one really gets to know them and value the contact.
Some of the people take such beautiful pictures that I have started asking them for copies to put on the website. There was a woman that came with her partner arriving separately. She later told me that she proposed on 29th Feb and he accepted. Another young man told me that he proposed to his partner and she too accepted. So many people come on their honeymoon. I have met so many people that I would never have talked to in London and as a friend said in the past that everyone has a story to tell and it is so true … they really do.
On the wildlife side of things, I arrived one day to a sense of something was different and could not work out what it was? There was some bird dropping on the computer screen, which was odd. There were some more droppings on some of the sheets in the laundry room. The boys were being boisterous so I didn’t dwell on the matter. Suddenly there was a flash of something in the dining room, the boys screamed and didn’t know what to do. It was a robin that had somehow got trapped in the house. All three of us ducked as it flew overhead and the poor mite couldn’t work its way out of the house. I tried to open all the doors but with so much fixed glass we and the robin got confused. In the end I managed to cajole it into the back room and then opened the window. Peace at last.
Another time we saw a heron make a dramatic landing on the lawn, fantastic. It was one of the days that Nick was in London, the boys and I just looked at each other. We always seem to have conversations about what the ducks and geese are doing when they chase each other around the lake and make such dramatic landings on the water. Mostly we see the rear of ducks as they eat in the morning.
Jon saw our resident otter. I am disappointed that I have not yet seen it. There is a pair and they have definitely been spotted but not recorded on film. They eat the duck’s eggs and the fish in the lake. During the winter when the lake was glazed over the geese were standing on the ice and the otter was also spotted skating along – if that is what they do.
One day I had a phone call from someone telling me that they had seen a grey squirrel. Strange I thought we used to see them every morning in Clapham. However here it is slightly different the grey squirrel makes a tasty pie – apparently this is your next green and ethical morsel, protect the red and eat the grey. I then discovered that I have to report the sighting of the grey and record the sighting of the red. A man from save the reds is coming tomorrow to lay down traps. I now have to find out who makes the grey squirrel pies so that I can despatch any trapped offerings.
Yesterday I got back into the house to see the most beautiful bird trying to get out of the sheet of glass on the landing. I had a bit of difficulty trying to show our visitor the door, so to speak. Waving my arms wildly I tried to move the bird on. Taking courage I grabbed a scarf, avian flu not being too distant a memory, I picked the little creature in my hands and had a good look. I have to admit it was a bit scary - imagine being about 100 times bigger in size and being scared. No doubt the bird was more scared than me. Having set the creature free, I looked it up and it was a swallow. I never knew they were so beautiful.
The local stables owner asked if she could use our field for her mare Josie and the new foal Toby. We were all very excited. Then Toby was attacked by one of the horses at the stable. I also saw horses biting a new comer just to make her welcome and put her in her place. Reminded me of what it was like at one of my old workplaces. Better not say anymore.
Poor Toby has a gash at the side of his neck that is still oozing. Looking onto a Mare and Foal on one side and the lake on the other, well it does feel a bit like heaven.