Thursday, 15 January 2015

♫So this is Christmas, And What Have You Done♫

Christmas Decorations in Covenrty City Centre So this is Xmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Xmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

Bradgate Park - December 

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

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And so this is Xmas (war is over)
For weak and for strong (if you want it)
For rich and the poor ones (war is over)
The world is so wrong (if you want it)
And so happy Xmas (war is over)
For black and for white (if you want it)
For yellow and red ones (war is over)
Let's stop all the fight (now)

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A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

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And so this is Xmas (war is over)
And what have we done (if you want it)
Another year over (war is over)
A new one just begun (if you want it)
And so happy Xmas (war is over)
We hope you have fun (if you want it)
The near and the dear one (war is over)
The old and the young (now)

Bradgate Park - December 

A very Merry Xmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

War is over, if you want it
War is over now

Happy Xmas

~John Lennon and Yoko Ono~

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A week before Christmas, I nipped into town to join in the festive spirits. The city centre had a very Christmassy feel. I was very impressed with this year’s decorations and spent time admiring the lights. The Lower Precinct and West Orchard decorations were amazing too. They were really pulling the stops here and it was utterly beautiful. But around me, shoppergeddon was full speed with impenetrable crowds, hyper-active children screaming and running while harassed staff scurried to the tills and everywhere. Piped carols added to the din. Crosby warbled and crooned while Wizard blasted from every shop. There was so much temptation to join in the busyness, consumerism and ostentation that was around at this time of the year. TV ads fight for attention and at work, catalogues were piling on the table in the staff room like snowdrifts. It was a retail spendfest. Christmas Decorations in Covenrty City Centre

Aah… I couldn’t wait to get back to the casa for a tension-free break and indulged in my own festive fripperies. Even the thought gave me a heady feeling. The tree was up which was a job I enjoyed doing. I think we might need a bigger tree because there were only a few branches left to hang the decorations. Everytime I hang one, I remember where it came from. Since we’d lived in Wales, Scotland and now England, it was quite a feat. Every year, I add a special bauble, mostly from John Lewis. But this year, we couldn’t make our annual trip to Solihull and my bauble came from The Room in Coventry.ipad images  25-12-2014 11-11-45

Christmas – that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance – a day in which we think of everything we ever loved.

~Agusta E. Rundel~

We popped over to our favourite playground to see how the natives were preparing for the festive day. It was very quiet at Baldwin Hide. The Golden Eye hadn’t been seen for ages. We made our way to East Marsh Hide where a Little Egret was seen feeding and making its way around the island. As usual, there were plenty of Wigeons whistling happily in the lake. A few Shovelers were busy filtering for food and Mallards, going around in circles, doing the ring of roses. Suddenly, there was a commotion and the Wigeons were up in the air. An otter had swam so close to the hide and scared them off. Unfortunately, we weren’t quick enough and it disappeared down the channel. The Little Egret, too, flew off after the disturbance. After all the excitement, we decided to head home as the hide was beginning to feel like an igloo.Brandon Marsh - December

On the shortest day of the year, we drove down to Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust. “Solstice” came from two Latin words: sol meaning "sun" and sistere meaning “to stand still” because it appeared as though the sun and moon had stopped moving across the sky. This longest night of the year, followed by a renewal of the sun, demonstrated the cyclical order of the cosmos. In this way, celebrating the solstice was a beautiful remembrance that our lives were part of a larger order, always changing, always renewing. Middleton Lakes - December

It was seen as a time of renewal and meant the days start to get longer, beginning the countdown to spring.

The cold is coming

December’s winter solstice.

Start of the season

~Robert Petttit, ‘Winter solstice’~

We specially made the trip because I wanted to purchase a set of Sir Peter Scott’s diaries as one of my Christmas presents. He was the founder of the WWT. He opened Slimbridge, the first of 9 WWT across the UK in 1949. These diaries were a collection of paintings, words, thoughts, speeches and plans. Unfortunately. they all had already being sold. I was quite mad about it because it was still available on their website and a set was being displayed on their shelves. It felt like a waste of time and fuel making a trip down. Thankfully, the sight of these Bewick Swans greeting us as soon as we exited the visitor centre helped a bit. Slimbridge WWT - December

We headed straight to the Rushy hide and there were plenty of Shelducks, Pintails, Gulls, Pochards, Tufted ducks and Lapwings. But where were the Bewicks? According to the sighting board there were 84 on the site. They’d made the final leg of their annual migration from arctic Russia during the recent cold clear nights, doubling the size of the roost. The arrival of the swans dubbed a ‘swanfall’ coincided with the first cold snap of winter, as they seek ice-free wetlands to feed and roost. Their arrival was a traditional harbinger of cold weather. The mild weather in Europe had allowed them to remain as far east as Estonia. It was good to see them again.  Slimbridge WWT - December

We stopped by the bank after the tunnel to see if the bank vole was about. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in and we think he might have abandoned the site because the holes were blocked by leaves, which was a shame. We plodded on and at first, we planned to make a pit stop at Willow Hide but it was buzzing with House sparrows, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Great, Blue and Long-tailed tits. They were queuing patiently for their turn at the feeders. Below, Dunnocks, Blackbirds, Wood pigeons, Robins and the most photographed [not so] elusive Water-rail were busy picking the fallen seeds. Slimbridge WWT - December

They weren’t the only ones taking advantage of the fallen seeds. We saw a huge rat coming out of the pile of logs near the feeder, swimming across the ditch and diving for the seeds. Then it scurried back into its hiding place. It did this a few times. Suddenly, everything just disappeared and we’d a very close encounter with a Sparrowhawk that just landed on the feeder. I don’t know who was most surprised. Unfortunately, we were just too slow to pick up the camera. We were kicking ourselves. We left because we knew the birds wouldn’t return any time soon. Slimbridge WWT - December

We checked out the tack piece and it was also buzzing. Unfortunately, everything was too far away for a good photograph. We’d never seen so many Wigeons before. There was 700 of them and their whistling drowned the sound of the rest of the waders and wildfowl. We also saw a few Bewick’s swans snoozing in the middle of the field. Teals, Pintails, Mallards, Shovelers, Pochards, Gadwalls and Tufted ducks were dabbling on the lake closest to the hide. A Marsh Harrier caused havoc among the Lapwings as clouds of them took to the sky and the Wigeons flew off into the river. A leucistic coffee-coloured Greylag was also spotted among the assembled flock. We didn’t stay long as the shortest day came to a close.  Slimbridge WWT - December

Dreams of a white Christmas were dashed by the unreasonably mild temperatures. Conditions were perfect for winter walks, with sunshine gracing much of the country. After exchanging presents, cards and breakfast, we made our way to Middletton Lake to celebrate the day in our own special way. We expected to be the only ones there but there were half a dozen cars already in the car-park. We made a pit-stop at the bird-feeder and was entertained by this handsome Great-Spotted Woodpecker. I noticed that holes were drilled into the wood and suet were stuffed into them. The bird flew in and glided slowly down to peck on them. We also saw Robins, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Great and Blue Tits. Middleton Lakes - December

We walked past the farm where a herd of sheep was crowding around a huge tree in the middle of the field. We stood watching them waiting patiently  taking turns to lick the sap. Hmm… I wonder what it tasted like. We continued on. Walking along the frozen path on the cold misty morning, all was silent other than the birds echoing in the trees around us. The sun struggled to rise above the trees, the mist shrouded and clung to the ground and it felt as if the world had stopped briefly. And then Babe spotted this Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Woo—hoo.Middleton Lakes - December

What a Christmas present. Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were the smallest and least common of the three woodpeckers that were resident in Britain. From their small size and their habit of spending most of their time in the tops of tall trees, they were often hard to be spotted. The broad barring on the wings and narrower bars across the lower back were very beautiful. When feeding it crept along the tree trunk and fluttered from branch to branch, flying with an undulating flight in the open. Middleton Lakes - December

Zeus won’t in a hurry restore to the woodpecker tapping the oak

In times prehistoric ‘tis easily proved,

By evidence weighty and ample

That birds and not Gods were the rulers of men

And the lords of the world’

~Aristophanes ‘The Birds~

We also saw Nuthatches, Long-tailed tits, Great Tits, Blue Tits and Goldfinches. Along the fence posts, people have been putting seeds for the birds which was very kind of them. Unfortunately, we also came across a dozen or so fat-balls in green nettings hanging on branches, here and there. These were very dangerous for the birds as they can get tangled in them and choked in pieces of plastic. We took the nettings off and scattered the balls on the ground. A Robin came over to supervise and Babe fed him with mealworms that I brought with us. It was not ready to be hand-fed.Middleton Lakes - December

We walked towards the Southern Meadow because the warden told us that a dozen Konik ponies were grazing here. The ground underfoot was muddy and slippery as we walked alongside the Birmingham and Fazeley canal. These rare breed of Polish ponies were keystone breeds as they have the ability to modify the environment to suit their needs. They munched the grass, helping to keep the habitat just right for the wildlife here. These ponies were breeding so successfully that half of them will be sent to a few nature sites in Scotland to help the habitat.  Middleton Lakes - December

We then turned back and walk towards the Jubilee wetlands passing the Fisher’s Mill Pool. Flocks of Mallards, Tufted ducks, Wigeons, Coots and Moorhens were enjoying the warm winter sunshine. We stopped at the viewpoint opposite the West Scrape for a drink and watched the English Longhorn cattle feeding on the marshes. We heard loud honking calls and when we looked up a large flock of Canada Geese flew above us. I think they were flying back to roost and it was also time for us to return to our roost too. Middleton Lakes - December

On Boxing day, we joined the hoo-ha of post-Xmas stocktake sale. No, we didn’t join the midnight queues. Scenes of people queuing around the block was highlighted on tv and newspapers. We waited until everything had calmed down before we ventured out. First, I put in my prescription at Boots. Medication doesn’t know that you’re on holiday. We gave the seasonal shelves a miss and checked out Next Home which looked like a hurricane had just went through. But a Xmas decoration came home with me. At M&S, shelves and rails were half-emptied. I checked the boots section to see if they were on sale. Ooh… I spotted the pair of high boots that I’d my eyes on and tried it. It was made for me and Babe bought it as a post-Xmas present. Thanks darling.

We checked out Tesco but there was nothing that caught our attention. Outside, the bitterly cold winds was whirling quite furiously and sleet was coming down fast and heavy. We hurried home before the predicted weather bomb unleashed freezing Arctic gales, blizzards and floods as a result of another freak ‘explosive cyclogenesis. The ‘vicious; Arctic tempest sent thermometers plunging. My thoughts goes to people travelling to see friends and families as there were chaos on roads, at airports and on the railways. It snowed for a while but  the rain washed it away in the middle of the night :-(

After a day of being stuck in the casa, we went out for a drive to Bradgate Park to get some fresh air and stretch our legs. Along the motorway, we saw pockets of snow  on the ground and by the time we arrived at the park, it was glistening white, covered with thick snow. Whoop…whoop. And we weren’t the only ones. I think everyone in Leicestershire and neighbouring counties were here. All the car-parks here chocker-blocked that we decided to drive to Hallgates car-park which was at the opposite end. As we drove up the very slippery and slushy Hunts Hill, I was grinning from ear-to-ear looking at the beautiful winter wonderland. We managed to find a parking space and quickly joined the masses. The hill slope was littered with the young and not so young tobaganning, skiing and sliding downhill. The air was full of laughter of them having fun. It was a beautiful sound.Bradgate Park - December

We followed the tarmac leading into the park, revelling in the wintry, festive landscapes. A huge dump must have fallen here, The air was very crisp and the skies a clear blue. Apart from the throngs of people, there was a loneliness to the winter landscape which I found comforting. But not for long, a Kestrel was hovering beside the verge. It was so close that the bluish colour of the hooked bill was clearly visible. Bradgate Park - December

“I caught this morning morning’s minion, kingdom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-drawn-drawn falcon, in his riding”

~Gerald Manley Hopkins ‘The Windhover”~

It hung and poised in the air with quivering wings and widespread depressed tail searching the ground below. Even in the face of a gusty wind, it remained stationary in mid-air. This distinctive hunting had earned the Kestrel the name Windhover. No other hawk had so perfected the art of stationary flight. Suddenly it swooped down and pounced on to the bracken, prowling the patch. We stood there watching and waiting before it flew off, empty-handed. Bradgate Park - December

We continued walking and spotted a flock of Goldfinches feeding on a group of fir trees. with their delightful liquid twittering calls. We couldn’t stop and stare because children with their shiny new bicycles, scooters and roller skates were whizzing past us. We were also trying to dodge dogs in cute costumes and twice Babe got tangled in the leads. On the hill. someone had built a huge snowman and everyone was stopping to have a photograph taken.Bradgate Park - December

There was so many people that the natives had gone off to the hills and deep into the forest where there was a wall to keep them safe. We spotted a few solitary one here and there. We saw a herd by the hill-side but by the time we arrived, people had come so close with their dogs that they disappeared into the woods. We walked past a house and I spotted a Goldcrest flying in and out of the holly bush. As we continued walking up the hill, my first sighting of a solitary Redwing flew in and had a rest on one of the trees. Its creamy strip above the eye and orange-red flank made it very distinctive.Bradgate Park - December

On the hill, we stopped to have a breather enjoying the winter wonderland. Below, more people were pouring in. We’d coffee to warm our cockles and a cheese pasty each to stop our tummy from rumbling. A dog was chasing a pair of deer and if it got closer, the dog was going to be kicked. Fortunately, the deer leapt above the stone wall and disappeared into the forest. I don’t understand why people don’t put their dogs on leash. Dogs can get seriously injured if they were kicked by an agitated deer.Bradgate Park - December

We left and trekked downhill through a path that we’d never been before. The sight was amazing. The hills took on an entirely new appearance when blanketed by a foot of fresh snow. The temperatures chilled our bones but the snow and ice lend a magical air to the landscape. The sun was low and bright in the sky, and the ice glistened on the trees and ground. I just loved the trees casting feathers of snow from their branches. We huddled under our thick coats, huffing and puffing, our breadth in bursts of white clouds with the snow and ice crunching underfoot as we headed towards the car-park. I’m so glad we came here and this was one of the best Christmas present ever. Bradgate Park - December

I bought a small pot of Poinsettia where these vibrant red flowers celebrated the magic of Christmas. According to Mexican folklore, a poor little girl had nothing to bring to church for Christmas. On her way to church, she picked some plants by the side of the road. as she entered the church, the leaves at the tips of the branches turned into bright, brilliant red colours, A very temperamental plant, it don’t like being near cold drafts  or cold windows which froze them or hot drafts from heat vents which desiccated them.  It never last longer than a month before what was left were just the branches. A very seasonal plant and that was why I only bought the smallest pot at only £1.50 from Aldi.ipad images  07-12-2014 22-07-54

I’d fun decorating the casa. The living room was obviously Christmas central. Even the front porch had been decorated.  When you looked up. baubles hanged in multitude colours swaying gently. A solar Xmas star glistered with different colours when it was dark. The doorway was draped with fresh-cut firs and rosemary, both sharing their heady scents of woodland. Simple decorations shared from Nature’s bounty. Last year’s homemade wreath had dried beautifully and Babe sprayed gold paint all over it. It was hanging proudly on the door welcoming everyone.ipad images  17-12-2014 15-05-023

Many Merry Christmases, friendships, great accumulation of cheerful recollections,

affection on earth, and Heaven at last for all of us.

~Chares Darwin~

Bradgate Park - December

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