Sunday, 22 May 2016

Journey down the Rhine

One of the items on our bucket list has been going on a small cruise preferably with land either side, so when the opportunity arose to take a cruise down the Rhine, in the company of two of our favourite bands, (Show of Hands, and India Electric Company) our names were among the first ones on the list!

On the first day the sun shone and we all sat out on the top deck enjoying the warmth of the sun. We glided along the winding Rhine river, admiring the ever changing scenery of quaint villages and old churches, some lining the water;s edge and others clinging to the sides of the hillsides. Crowning the top of the hills are many ruined castles that were once maintained from the tolls that were charged to allow access along the river. Vines also terrace the steep hillsides, it must be quite a task to maintain and pick the grapes!

The journey wasn't all plain sailing however, as we were sitting at dinner the third evening there was a sudden change of plan, due to the conditions on the river. An accumulation of melting snow on the Swiss Alps and heavy rain had caused a huge rise in water levels, We set out immediately for Strasbourg but during the night all boats on the river were ordered to moor up. After breakfast many of us ventured out to investigate our new surroundings only too discover that even the roads out of the hamlet were flooded too and we were stranded! At least the swans were enjoying the additional swimming areas and we had plenty of musicians on the boat to keep us entertained,

Half-way through the afternoon it was decided that it was safer to allow our boat to proceed down river rather than stay where were. We were apparently the only boat out of the 1,600 vessels that on average use the Rhine on a daily basis who were given permission! We proceeded slowly as there were concerns that due to the high water level that we might not be able to fit under the bridges, some did look quite close!

We reached Strasbourg and although the boats weren't allowed further for a few days it did allow us to get out and visit other places.

From a wine tasting in a French village

Seeing many storks nesting and feeding.....

We also visited the Rhine Falls in Switzerland,  which is the largest waterfall in Europe and felt the power of the water has it thundered past us! We were told that it was at it highest flow level for 100 years!

 The two ducks sitting on the rocks (mid-right of the picture didn't seem to mind the noise or spray!

Despite the high water levels and eating too much food we had a wonderful time. It was a relaxing way to travel and see so much. It's amazing how many goods are still transported along the river and despite passing some industrial areas we won't forget the wildlife we saw. The storks flying over head were a highlight for me. Have you been on a cruise or visited this part of Europe?

Returning home, everything has grown so much in a week, so we shall be busy this week in the garden and catching up on other blogs. Wishing you a happy week, sorry for the long post!

Sarah x

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Nature's seasonal make over

I welcomed in May last weekend with an another early morning rise at 4.45am, (my husband being more sensible just rolled over, and stayed in bed! ) However, just look what he missed - the colours in the sky were just breath- taking. 

So why was I up again so early? I was following an ancient tradition of getting up before sunrise on 1st May, I didn't wash my face in the morning dew or bring in garlands of flowers, but instead watched some local Morris dancers celebrate by dancing on Stonebarrow Hill. (For further details of May celebrations see here.) Did you do/see any celebrating on May Day? It's good to see these traditions to celebrate nature's seasonal make-over haven't completely died out.

Although it looked so beautiful, it was so cold, I had to scrape the ice off the car window before setting off. Those watching were wrapped in warm coats and hats while the dancers, wearing just white shirts and trousers, really felt the cold!  This image below could so easily be straight out of the pages of a Thomas Hardy novel!

The light and colours changed as dawn broke....

and the sun slowly rose in the sky, at the end of the lane, and you could instantly feel and welcome it's heat.

I couldn't resist a detour on the way home to Charmouth beach, which not surprisingly at 6.30 am was deserted, apart form a distant lone walker. The beach huts I mentioned back on this blog in the Autumn, were back in place, ready for another season.

Later in the day, walking through woods smothered in a carpet of wild garlic, we spotted this deer, who was just standing very still watching us.

It was lovely to see fresh green leaves appearing overhead. This week everything seems to be just bursting into life before your eyes!

The fields close by are now full of sheep and lambs. It is wonderful to see them jumping around and enjoying the May sunshine.

  The blossom is also wonderful, whether it is in the hedgerows

or on the apple trees in our garden.

The forget-me-nots in the garden are still providing such a carpet of blue (sorry for featuring it again, my excuse is it is even better than last week! )

Last evening we took another walk in a different direction, up Eype Down and I accidentally discovered how to capture that vivid blue colour of the bluebells that previously has eluded me. The solution is to take the photographs at dusk! The added bonus, was the scent from the flowers was much stronger in the evening too.

Blue seems to have dominated this week on a shopping trip to Weymouth with my daughter,we ended up looking like tourists by stopping at the top of Abbotsbury Hill  (a well known viewpoint)  and capturing this misty blue view on the mobile phone, 

Thank you as always for your comments and popping by to visit me, wishing you a fun week!

Sarah x

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Through the garden gate in April

Another month has flown by and again I am leaving it until the last moment to take your through my garden gate and look at what has been happening in our garden this month!

Our garden is full of forget-me-nots  (which seem to set seed everywhere) and tulips, which are one of my favourite flowers. Although I bought this collection from Sarah Raven last year, it has done well again this year. I noticed looking back on previous posts that the purple variety on the left has been flowering since February!

These are some of the other tulips growing elsewhere in the garden. They are all so different, but equally beautiful. What is the best plant in your garden this month?

We also have some bluebells in one corner of the garden, they were one of the few flowers that were already there.

In the cutting patch/ fruit garden the wallflowers are just coming into flower, we also have a corner of wild garlic. 

Everything seems so slow at the moment, our first sowing of seeds has not been as successful as last year. I'm not sure if it is due to the temperature or the appearance of snails, who have suddenly discovered the greenhouse!, We had snow too this week, it quickly melted but some days, it has felt bitterly cold. We visited Powderham Castle yesterday, which was running a plant fair. Although the views were lovely looking down to the Exe estuary, it was freezing and we didn't hang around admiring the views.

Of course we didn't come away empty handed, there was just too many plants to tempt us. We added to our collection of carnations and geraniums. Below are a few things that I admired at the show. I loved the idea of a hanging basket of cut and come again salad leaves.
I'll finish with this lovely display of flowers grown locally in Devon, aren't they beautiful? Whenever I buy flowers I always buy ones that are in season and grown in the UK.

Other who usually participate "Through the garden gate " are :-

Margaret's Patch

Vintage sheet addict  - (Down the garden path)

Country Lovers

Thank you so much for the comments on my last post it was so lovely reading about all the birds you have seen migrating where you live too. Thank you also to Em from Handmade by Em for nominating me for a Liebster award. I decided a few years ago to make the blog award free so unfortunately I won't be participating but if you haven't met Em and her dog called Barry do pop by and say hello.

Wishing you all a good week,enjoy the bank holiday.
Sarah x

Sunday, 24 April 2016

The arrival of summer visitors

The sun is shining, leaves are slowly appearing on the branches, flowers are lifting their heads above the earth and hordes of summer visitors of the bird variety are arriving on our shores from distant lands. Their journey has often been long and hazardous. It must be a relief to see land once more, and find a safe place to rest and refuel before (for many) heading further inland.

As part of my year of rekindling my sense of wonder in the earth,sea and skies we went on a guided walk in the local nature reserve at West Bexington, which is tucked behind the shingle of the Chesil beach searching for migrant birds.

Dorset is in a popular stop off on the bird migration route. Many of the birds fly over from the Cherbourg Peninsula in France. The first land mass they reach is Portland and from there they will fly along the coast either east or west. Tracking and new technology has allowed us to learn so much more about their routes. It is estimated throughout the world that over 40% of all birds migrate and with a good wind behind them, a bird can cover 1000 Km in 24 hours (see RSPB for more detailed inforrmation about migration.

The views in and around the reserve were spectacular. We saw many birds that we would not have recognized or noticed without the expert guidance. We spotted 38 Whimbrel (a wading bird similar to a curlew),wheatear, common sandpiper, lesser whitethroat, common scoter, tufted duck, shelduck,. They either moved too fast, or were too far in the distance to photograph. The sound of the birdsong mingled with the sound of the new born lambs, this one below had just been born.

Within the reserve was also other surprises of a flowering nature.....
Early purple orchid, false oxslip (a hybrid between a primrose & cowslip, and a marsh marigold.)

There are 47 Wildlife Trusts in the UK which manage 2,300  Wildlife Reserves the majority of which are free to visit all year around.Do you visit any local reserves or a regular basis?  Do other countries have many nature reserves too? There is no better way to celebrate Spring and in their words... 

Spring is showtime, with the almost ridiculously sumptuous shag-pile carpets of bluebells and the deafening chorus at dawn..This is Wild Time in its Hope Mode: when everything seems possible and the next miracle of life is just around the corner: or coming along in the next minute, if only you’ll stop your busy life for a moment and wait for it. Life is teeming all around you: in a hurry to create more life before it’s too late."

After our morning birdwatch we walked from home to a nearby wood to enjoy the carpet of bluebells. I always find it so difficult to capture their vibrant colour. We stopped at this gate to admire the view and appreciate how lucky we are to live in such wonderful surroundings. I often get complimentary comments about my images, but with such amazing scenery it is not difficult to produce a good picture!

Earlier in the week the cliffs opposite us were glowing in the evening light, which encouraged me to go down to the bay to enjoy the sunset. The seagulls were already there admiring the view and as the sun set the sky was shrouded in this orange glow. The two people below enjoying the view from the rocks made perfect silhouettes, reminding me so much of an Anthony Gormley sculpture.

 I hope you have been able to enjoy some wildlife this week too.

Sarah x


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