Ring out the old, ring in the new
Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
~Alfred, Lord Tennyson~
We started the new year with a succession of Atlantic storms blasting the UK with torrential downpours. These heavy rain had been racing down the water courses and had then been pushed back up the rivers with spring tides and high winds, leading to inevitable flooding problems. The news from the coast were so sad. Massive tidal surges and 10 metres waves battered the south and west coastlines. Huge sections were washed away as huge waves pounded the ancient coastline and some changing the face of the coast forever. We were shocked to see the devastation in Aberystwyth and most of the playgrounds that we’d been regular visitors. Our thoughts and prayers were for those affected. We would definitely checked these places as soon as it was safe to do so.
Between the torrential rain and strong winds, we’d a few lovely, sunny days. In fact, there hadn’t been many days where it hadn’t rain. It doesn’t make any difference to us though. Rain or shine, we were out there, health permitting. It became a little tradition of ours to get a breath of fresh air with just Mother Nature for company. We checked out Bradgate Park to see what the natives were up to. We weren’t alone because hundreds of people turned up that the main car-park was full. We drove over to the 3rd car-park and found a space at Cropston. We joined the hordes of walkers, buggies and doggies. The children were still out and about trying out their Xmas toys. Good to see that they were not bored yet.
We walked to the visitor centre where a herd of fallow deer where enjoying the sunshine in the field. We made our way, very slowly towards the hill side where a herd of Red Deer were grazing among the bracken covered slopes. We rattled off hundreds of photographs before a dog came bounding in and started chasing the deer. We heard the owner calling the dog but it was too late. The herd thundered downhill and got separated. I was furious but it wasn’t the dog’s fault. There were plenty of signs that dogs should be on leads. If the warden saw this, the dog would be liable to be shot.
“A wounded deer leaps the highest”
A group of children got very close to the agitated deer. The deer appeared harmless but they were separated from the main herd and if they felt cornered and threatened, they will fight for the space to flee. Oh dear, where were the parents? They were around, laughing and taking photographs of their children’s antics. We couldn’t bear to watch and decided to go home. A pair of Pied wagtails distracted us. They landed in front of us and was dashing across the verges, on the hunt for insects. Sprightly and skittish, they were constantly in motion, from its jerky walk to its constantly wagging tail.
Then another trip to Draycote Water again. The light was poor but it was still a great feeling to be out and about in the fresh air. Overhead, the rapid twitters of the Pied wagtails echoed and in a descending glide landed on the rocks. They led us to a merry dance on the rocks. On the grassy slopes, half a dozen Meadow pipits were busy feeding. Although often described as the classic ‘little brown job’, we were always on the look-out for them. I loved their distinctive aerial display songs with their ‘sweet-sweet-sweet’ notes strung together delivered as they parachuted to the ground. They seemed not to mind our presence as long as we stood still which was quite difficult in an open environment with other people about.
Little Grebes were swimming buoyantly with feathers fluffed up, giving them a plump appearance. A loud honking call broke the silence, and a Great Crested Grebe came gliding past. They were in their winter colours, very pale without their ornamental plumes. We stood on the bank, listening to a repertoire of guttural clucks and growls. I think it was searching for its mate. I couldn’t wait for spring when they would display an amazing courtship dance.
We arrived at the hide and waited for our favourite albino squirrel. We brought raisins and bananas as treats and scattered them down the feeder. We couldn’t go to the feeder so threw them from the open window. Unfortunately, the mallards and Canada Geese spotted the banquet and scoffed everything. Never mind. We scanned the lakes and spotted the drake Smew fast asleep at the far end but still too far away to be photographed. A Long tailed duck was reported to be around but we didn’t see it. And then the piece de resistance came bounding in and was up the feeder in a flash.
All you could hear were our cameras rattling away. While Babe continued on photographing, I was busy videoing it.
I'm a fur, fur, furry, squirrel,
With a bush, bush, bushy tail,
And I scamper here and there,
Searching for some NUTS!
After taking our fill of this adorable creature, it was time to head home. As soon as we opened the door of the hide, we were nearly run over by an extended family party of Long-tailed tits. They were communicating with excited calls as they flew from one branch to another. They were so close that apart from the masses of tails, we could see the rosy pink tinge to their shoulders, flanks and belly. What a lovely end to the day.
Look at the bird
With beak for a mouth.
When it gets cold,
The bird will fly south.
When it gets warm,
The bird will return.
Let's watch how the birds live,
And see what we learn.
Off course, we could not start the new year without a trip to our favourite playground. The path, although very muddy and slippery was passable. Our first stop was Baldwin Hide where a pair of Golden Eye kept us entertained. A dumpy, diving duck, the male was black and white with a greenish black head and an un-missable white patch in front of the piercing yellow eyes. The mottled grey female was smaller with a chocolate brown head. They were always surrounded by the gulls, because when they dived for food they stir up the sands and brought up bits up to the surface. And the gulls were just plucking these from the water surface. Clever huh :-0
We then headed straight towards Carlton Hide to get the best seat in the house. I must remember to bring a walking stick next time because the path was atrocious. The gulls left quite early for their roosting destination at Draycote Waters. And then the starling moots appeared and more started joining in and as they got larger, they flew towards the back of the hide. We waited patiently and then they returned with another synchronised aerial display. We have seen these murmuration hundreds of time and were never bored by this spectacular scene. It was more so when their iridescent plumage where illuminated by the evening sun when they turned.
We fly around the sky.
Flying very high and flying very low.
Then in a big circle--round we go.
Finally we soar home and go to sleep.
We close our eyes without a peep.
I loved to start the new year with something shiny and new. Like a kid starting school. Babe said that I’m the oldest teenager he’d ever seen :-). So off we went to the city-centre which we hadn’t been for ages. It was buzzing because parents too were busy getting stuff for their kids. As usual, we parked at our favourite spot, above the Grade II market. We walked towards the Lower Precinct and were greeted by some very impressive Christmas decoration displays. A pity that they’d to be taken down soon.
We checked out a bag shop and I came out with a bright, colourful rucksack covered with owls!!! What a way to start the new year. Then we walked through one of the many passage ways while lamenting at the many empty shops. We walked straight into one of the entrances of the indoor market, which was the first indoor, circular market in Europe. I was pleased that English Heritage had listed the building much to the dismay of the City Council development bosses who wanted to demolish it. This modernist covered market had provided a life-line for the people of Coventry after the bombing of the city in 1940. We only managed to browse only a tenth of the 170 stalls that were selling all kinds of everything. I purchased a red felt hat and 2 pairs of long socks.
At home, it was the 12th night clear-up. Twelfth Night was when all Christmas decorations should be removed so as not to bring bad luck upon the home. If decorations were not removed, they should stay up all year which at first I thought wasn’t so bad. But looking around our casa, I think a clear, fresh start to the new year was necessary. It was thought that leaving the decorations up would cause a disaster. People believed that tree-spirits lived in the greenery (holy, ivy etc) they decorated their houses with. The greenery was brought into the house to provide a safe haven for them during the harsh winter days. Once this period was over it was necessary to return the greenery outside to release the tree-spirits into the countryside again. Failure to do meant that vegetation would not be able to start growing again (spring would not return), leading to an agricultural disaster. The tree-spirits then would cause mischief in the house until they were released.
And despite these decorations were now being made of modern materials and the tree-spirits were long forgotten, the superstition still lived on.
"The evening of the fifth of January, preceding Twelfth Day, the eve of the Epiphany, formerly the last day of the Christmas festivities and observed as a time of merrymaking".
~Oxford English Dictionary~
It had not been the cheeriest start to 2014. With lashings of rain and winds bringing down the fence, wrecking the shed and the house smelling of damp laundry, I ushered in the new year in all of its tempestuous glory. If it began like this, it could only get better, right? My batteries had been recharged and I’ll faced whatever crosses my path head-on.