Sunday, 29 June 2008

Beached Art

Yesterday was a big day for our Marine Project at Cumbria Wildlife Trust: Shore to Sea. It was their first big event and so a good team of us turned out to help. The highlight of Beached Art was the sand-sculpture competition. Despite the relentless gale, which drove us to taking down the battered marques early, all kinds of folk, from professional artists to families, turned out with their buckets and spades in order to create works of art from materials found on the beach. Below are some photos of the results.

Friday, 27 June 2008


Hundreds made the now annual pilgrimage to Cockermouth for Woolfest this weekend. I was very happy to meet up with friends and put faces to names as I joined fellow Shetland Sheep Society members to man the stall at this celebration of all things woolly. Thanks so much to everyone who fed me with their extensive knowledge of all things Shetland: and particularly for help understanding the mysterious world of wool type, quality, spinning, felting and selling.

I decided that I'd really like to be able to use some of the fleeces from my girls myself and so, after a crash course in needle felting, I purchased some needles and some of Lenice's beautiful ready washed and carded wool. At home that evening I set about making a felt bead as I had been shown. That didn't go too badly at all and so I tried my hand at making a bracelet like the ones that I had bought at Woolfest last year. The result was quite pleasing, though admittedly not totally even! I used the bead as a needle holder so that I could easily use two needles together. That's one of Fox's blankets that I borrowed as a cushion by the way!

I rather enjoyed doing something creative, hopefully I'll get better with practice.
Here are some more photos of the day. Captions welcome!

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Viva Doncaster!

The national Water for Wildlife meeting was, of all places, at Potteric Carr, Doncaster this time around and so Water Vole and Wetland Conservation Officers from up and down the country gathered at this very interesting, and very man-made, nature reserve in order to discuss all things watery, ottery and, of course, voley.

We started off as a very respectable seeming bunch. We discussed topics such as the Water Framework Directive and compared Water Vole Conservation methods. We even did a spot of birding.

Predictably however we couldn't keep up this good behaviour for long, especially not when this was to be a last meeting for Chris and Helen who have done such stirling work in their respective roles of Water for Wildlife Manager and National Water Vole Conservation coordinator.

I think the pictures speak for themselves. Captions please folks, just click on the word comments below :o)

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Solstice Celebration

What a wonderful night. My friend Ruth once again hosted a fabulous Solstice gathering last night in the field, beside her yurt. The bonfire glowed, halloumi cheese toasted golden brown in the skillet, and bottles of wine, whiskey and a demijohn of homemade cider, were emptied with gay abandon. We watched the sun finally give way to the moon's briefest appearance of the year, and then return to flood the land with light and declare that summer is indeed here. All the while the aureate whine of fiddle strings filled the air as Wal, Scott and Ruth drew their bows swiftly and rhythmically, providing melody to compliment Paddy's acoustic guitar and the deep reverberating sound of James' double bass.

The sky was clear, the air still and the constant babble of the beck provided the perfect background to the music and happy chatter.
While the human folk sat about the fire, the canine members of the party were in their element. Fox joined Poppy, Tig, Miller and Jess, running free through the long meadow grass and splashing through the cool water. Fox and Tig simply didn't stop all night forming their own mini collie pack. There are puppy plans afoot for this autumn, I think that their combination of characteristics could produce some cracking pups. .. but more of that if, and when, it happens.

Friday, 20 June 2008


Kath has succeeded in finding a foster mare and, after some negotiation, getting her to accept Olly. What a relief! Chris and I went to visit and see how they were getting on.

We also sneaked in for a cuddle of the Labrador pups who currently reside in one of the loose boxes. Thankfully they are all sold! That's right you two. They're not for sale.

I know they're cute Chris but no.

Kath, put down the pup!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Cross Country Dog

Fox thinks he could give those horses a run for their money!


By the end of day two we were absolutely shattered. Poor Kath had been feeding Olly round the clock but doing a great job of it. However, Hutton-in-the-Forest Horse Trials was a fantastic event this year and the first CIC* in the UK a great success.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Little Gnu!

Oliver is alive and kicking! He has now taken well to his bottle and will simply suck from it over the stable door, which makes life much easier. You have to be so careful not to humanise foals as they can be at best a pain in the neck or at worst dangerous if they don't respect people. He looks rather like a little gnu!

It's a huge relief that Olly is feeding so well since Hutton-in-the-Forest Horse Trials, for which Kath is the Secretary (and I'm now the Media Contact) starts tomorrow! We'll all be taking a turn at sprinting up to the stables to feed.

Olly is very like his dad, Quem Foi, Kath's Luso Stallion. Quem Foi looked very pleased with himself looking out over his stable door at his first son being led to a new loose box.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Bitter sweet day

Today was long, challenging and harrowing. Kath called this morning to tell me the exciting news that Fizz had foaled a week early and that the new arrival was well and on his feet. Then she sent me a text half an hour later which simply said "Just lost her. She's gone." Fizz had prolapsed and died.

Apart from the grief for poor Kath in loosing a mare who she had reared from a foal, there was now also a very hungry little orphan to look after. I whizzed off to the vet for replacement milk. Luckily Fizz, bless her, had struggled to her feet four times to feed the foal with the essential colostrum that he needed. The last time she got up and nuzzled him as he took his last feed from her. Kath said that she could see it in Fizz's eyes that she knew and was saying goodbye.

Oliver, as he soon became known, was not a natural at taking to a bottle. After hand-feeding a good variety of little orphans over the years however, I knew that he needed to be in a natural position in order to stimulate him to feed. One of the girls from the next yard was a brilliant help in advising that we press against the top of his nose as he would put his head under his mother. This didn't work very well but sowed the seed for what did. The hallelujah moment came when Oliver put his nose under my arm pit; Carol quickly slipped the teat of the bottle into his mouth and after a moment or two we heard the welcome sound of enthusiastic suckling and saw the level of the bottle dropping dramatically.

Stage one complete but a hell of a long way to go. While Carol and I wrestled with Olly, Kath was on the phone calling the Foal Bank and every breeder in the area in an attempt to find a foster mum. The next 24 hours would be critical.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Stone Skimming

Today was... the first leg of the National Stone Skimming Championships! It just happened to be organised by my friend and colleague Ben, so we thought that we'd get the gang out and go to try our hand at this eccentric English pastime. In the video Ruth makes a valiant attempt, but it was Kate who was the star of the day with the longest skim in the ladies competition.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Making a splash!

Yesterday, in great contrast to today, was really quite hot.
Fox cooled off in the shallow part of the river known as the "Water Splash" because it is used as a crossing during Lowther Horse Driving Trials.