A new find on a freezing day

I went out for a short cycle this afternoon and it was absolutely freezing, despite the clear skies and bright sun. Despite living in the area for the best part of 40 years and cycling around it for more than 25 of them, I still keep finding new roads that I’ve never been down before. Today I found a single-track road and bridleway that connect two of my most frequently used routes – I need to start looking at maps more!

While I was out, I took this photo – I love the patterns in the mud made by the tractor tyres…

Looking forward to 2018

Well, that’s 2017 gone and 2018 is here. As my post yesterday shows, I did quite a lot with my time in 2017 but reading the post I wrote on this day last year, there were two aims that I didn’t achieve – to do more photography and to take up mountain biking.

I did take quite a few photos last year but mostly on my phone and I didn’t really improve my photography skills. Mountain biking on the other hand, I didn’t do at all; I cycled 150 times over the course of the year but all were on my road or hybrid bikes. With North Wales and the Peak District on my doorstep, there are plenty of mountain biking opportunities close by – I just need to put the effort in the get out there.

As well as photography and mountain biking, I’ve got plenty of things planned for the coming year. I’ve got four individual weeks away in Poland, Harris and Lewis, Orkney and Sweden, and two weeks on RSPB Ramsey Island. I also expect to take some long weekends away, although the destinations aren’t confirmed yet.

I will also be doing some of my usual conservation activities including osprey and peregrine nest protection shifts, bird surveys for Cheshire Wildlife Trust and the British Trust for Ornithology, and the usual fortnightly tasks with Crewe & Nantwich Conservation Volunteers. I also want to do even more exercise than I did last year, more cycling, running and walking – there’s a new gym just round the corner from me, so I might try some other exercise too.

All then looks set for another busy year – I can’t wait! And I’ve already made a start with a morning cycle to blow away the New Year cobwebs.

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Looking back at 2017

Well, that’s another year coming to a close and one I’ve tried to fill as much as possible with nature, conservation, trips away and exercise. This is my constant aim and looking back I think I’ve achieved that; it’s been pretty full on, particularly from late winter through to the middle of summer.

The highlight has got to be the trip to Botswana; probably one of the most memorable experiences of my life which had so many moments to cherish. Added to this must be my two stays on Ramsey Island and the two trips Sweden. However, there were also a whole host of other things that make 2017 one of my best years yet.

Here’s my year in numbers:

  • 1 new continent – Africa
  • 1 10 mile run
  • 1 bird survey course
  • 2 stays on Ramsey Island
  • 3 trips abroad – Botswana, Sweden x2
  • 3 peregrine protection shifts
  • 4 beer festivals
  • 4 weekends away – Norfolk x2, Rutland, Northumberland
  • 5 10km runs
  • 5 countries – Scotland, Wales, Sweden, South Africa, Botswana
  • 6 osprey protection shifts
  • 8 bird surveys
  • 9 counties stayed overnight in
  • 35 days volunteering – Crewe and Nantwich Conservation Volunteers and RSPB
  • 35 species of mammal seen including 22 new ones
  • 57 walks
  • 61 nights away
  • 68 blog posts
  • 70 runs
  • 150 cycles
  • 206 miles run
  • 300 birds seen including 144 new ones
  • 314 sessions of exercise
  • 2,659 miles cycled
  • plus some whisky and quite a lot of cheese!

Here’s some photo highlights:

 

However, while much of 2017 has brought so many positive and happy memories, there were also some less happy times, particularly two bereavements which will always mark out the year – hopefully 2018 will be without such things.

A fine way to spend Christmas Day

I was in Sweden over Christmas this year and spent part of the big day out in Färnebofjäden National Park. With Christmas celebrated on the 24th in Sweden, like much of the rest of Europe, this freed up Christmas Day for something else. When I’m in Sweden, there’s little I like more than grill sausages on an open fire out in wilderness. So my brother, nephew and I headed out into the cold and wintry outdoors for a bit of alfresco cooking.

Färnebofjäden is the closest national park to where my brother lives and is less than an hour’s drive away. The ground was covered in snow but not the nice, deep, fresh powdery stuff but old, hard and icy snow that would have brought the UK to a standstill. Many of the roads were sheet ice but with studded tyres, the journey to the national park  wasn’t too troublesome.

Just near Gysinge, we stopped by the River Dalälven and set ourselves up in a wind shelter on the river bank. Wind shelters, small open-fronted ‘log-cabiny’ huts, are dotted around the Swedish countryside, usually by rivers or lakes. With fireplaces in front and a good supply of wood topped up by the park rangers, the shelters are a brilliant facility used by many.

With the fire started very quickly, we waited for the ash-bed to grow until it was hot enough to cook the sausages. We had a wander around the spot while the fire got going. The weather was cold enough for the river to start freezing with plates of ice growing from the banks outwards, joining together to form a larger sheets. With low cloud and mist, the scene was one of a dark and harsh winter’s day.

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There was little wildlife around in the gloom, few birds could been seen or heard, although we were joined by a treecreeper by the shelter. On the way back, however, we saw a large group of roe deer eating out in the middle of the snow fields.

A touch more wintry…

With a load more snow falling this morning, I went for a walk around Wybunbury Moss. Starting, as usual, at the church yard and then walked  anti-clockwise around the outside of the Moss, the usual views were transformed by the conditions. With snow still in the air, deep, dark cloud overhead and a real chill to a keen wind, the scenes were perfect for black & white images…

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Winter moving in

After a mild autumn, the last few days have shown winter is not far off. With strong winds and rain lasting for several days, winter showed an early hand with a scattering of hail and sleet yesterday. Being stuck inside doing work this weekend didn’t seem so bad with the weather so awful. However, with the closing of my laptop came some brief sunshine. I took the opportunity to go for a short walk around Wybunbury Moss before the darkness drew in.

The scenery around the Moss is certainly now more wintery than autumnal. Most of the trees and hedgerows are now bare but for a last few oak leaves barely clinging on. The grass is fading away from its lush green and is now more waterlogged than usual, following the recent rains.

The wildlife is also more of the colder months with the redwings and fieldfares moving through and finches and starlings flocking in the fields. The sounds of the spring and summer months have long gone and a silence is falling upon the meadows and trees. I heard a true winter sound from the Moss itself – the staccato, tinkling whistles of teal, gathering to spend the season in amongst the small pools in the Moss-side woodland.

With the darkest days of the year to come, those summer months seem a long way off.