We’ve been a bit busy here in Baggins Bottom since the year began, and we’ve decided to start a new adventure on a new Facebook page with a new Twitter account and a new page.
This new page will eventually turn into a website with blogs (weblogs), vlogs (video logs), photographs, pictures, suggestions for great days out and walks, and possibly sponsored pages and adverts. It’s something we can do together, and it consolidates the poet’s photography and my writing with our love of walking, the great outdoors, our country, local history, sightseeing, and so on.
The eagle-eyed will have already noticed a new link at the top (or in the menu at the bottom if you’re reading this on a mobile phone), but it really is in the beginning stages at the moment. We need to get three weeks’-worth of posts in the bag to ensure continuity, and to make sure we have the stamina and staying power. We don’t want it spluttering to a standstill.
Tales from Baggins Bottom will still be here, and Words Worth Writing will still be there. The poet’s photography/art website will still be there too. And this blog post will appear over on Words Worth Writing as well. But this is a new joint (ad)venture that we hope will run into several years. We also hope some of you will come along with us for the ride.
Watch this space for updates and more information!
Yes, it’s been a while. Far too long. Well, we haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth since November, but we have been very busy. Hopefully, things are once again settled down.
It’s not just the blog that’s been neglected either. We just haven’t been out. Not even for a day trip.
Well, last weekend we put our foots (feet!) down and decided to have a couple of days off … hmm, and still I ended up working for half of Saturday and half of Sunday. Sacrilege! I didn’t give up the rat race to work at the weekend!
On Sunday morning we woke to snow. The poet knew I had work to do, so he ummed and ahhed about maybe mucking out the chickens. We had to go out for milk, and we wanted to go before the snow got very bad.
And so I suggested we grab his camera and his new video camera and take some pictures of the snow while it was here. The video camera was a Christmas present and he’d not really had much chance to give it a try.
We went to Langsett Reservoir, a favourite haunt and one that looks lovely in the snow. We didn’t walk all the way around it. We didn’t really have the time, we had to go and get the milk, and I had to get back and do a little work at least. So we parked in the barn car park and walked across the dam head.
The poet took some scenic video images, then he set up the tripod at the opposite end of the dam. There were road works in the middle of the dam, so the road was closed to traffic.
Rufus thought it was bostin (boss-tin – Brummie for “a bit good, like”) as he was allowed off his lead. He had lots of fun galloping up and down.
We had a few funny attempts at a team photo. The poet had left his remote control behind and the timer was somehow set to 2 seconds. He worked it out in the end, though, but we had so many goes at it I think you can see in our faces which number shot this one was!
It was as cold as it looks, and so we didn’t stay for very long. Just long enough to get some reasonable footage and a couple of shots.
Back home, the poet edited the video film, and he made quite a good job of it too. It looks just like the old cine film people used to take in the 1970s, but a bit more modern.
I’ve left it such a long time to write up our camping holiday to North Devon, that it wouldn’t be realistic now to break it down day by day. Therefore, here’s an overview and some pictures to whet your appetite.
This was the poet’s first visit to North Devon, so the first day was spent giving him a bit of a tour. We drove along all of the coast, down as far as Woolacombe. It was very windy. Gales were recorded at over 60mph in our neck of the woods, but they were much, much stronger in the north of England at the same time.
The first night was dreadful with those winds. It’s quite ironic that we weren’t able to put the windbreak up and by the time the wind dropped later in the week, the end of the tent that the windbreak usually went around was so damaged, it was held together with guy ropes. So the windbreak stayed in the roofbox on the car.
We lost the only pole that goes with our tent. It snapped in a couple of places and had to be repaired with gaffer tape. Fortunately, we had a spare pole back home so we could leave this one in the bin when we left. We also lost at least one guy-tab, so that will need repairing before we take the tent out again.
We stopped off at Ilfracombe to get something to eat, a few supplies and to take the first photographs. Back in the day, when I used to go to North Devon with my parent, we’d spend almost every evening in Ilfracombe, where my brother used to fish from the pier.
The next photo-stop was Woolacombe, which was where my family pitched their caravan for six years on the trot. We visited Little Roadway Farm, where we used to take the caravan, and we went down to the beach, where it was still incredibly windy.
When we were kids, this beach at Woolacombe was always, always packed. It’s a massive stretch of sand that goes a very long way out to the sea when the tide is out. There were several Land Rovers that patrolled the beach throughout the day collecting lost children. Lost children used to gravitate towards my dad too, for some reason. If it were today, he’d probably be arrested!
From the beach at Woolacombe you can see Lundy Island – sometimes. Rain used to follow my dad everywhere he went. It still does. And when we were in North Devon we had a saying: if you could see Lundy, it was going to rain; if you couldn’t see Lundy, it already was raining. It was no different on our visit this time. But we could see Lundy on the two days we were in the right place. Our problem wasn’t the rain, though. It was the wind.
The next day I took the poet to Watersmeet. This is where the West and East Lyn rivers meet, and I knew he would love the picturesque beauty spot where salmon and dippers can be seen on the babbling waters. It did rain today and there was such a massive queue to get into the tea rooms there that we abandoned the idea and carried on with our journey.
One of my most favourite places on Earth is Exmoor. I love the wild-ness of it. I love the heather in the summer. I love to be able to see the sea one way and miles and miles of moorland the other way. Even when it’s foggy or raining I’m happy to park up on Exmoor and just gaze. Naturally this meant a drive around Exmoor, and I hope the two pictures I’ve shared demonstrate at least two of the aspects I love about the place.
After Exmoor, we dropped down into Putsborough late one day. Because the beach at Woolacombe used to get so busy, Putsborough was where we headed as a family “in the old days”. There are rocks there, and lots of places that can act as markers for children finding their way back to their families from the sea.
One half of the beach at Putsborough was virtually empty with absolutely no dogs on there. So we took Rufus down there and took him off his lead. He had a whale of a time … it was only when we were climbing back up to the car park that we saw the sign:
← DOG-FREE BEACH THIS WAY
DOG-FRIENDLY BEACH THIS WAY →
Yup, you guessed it, we were on the dog-free beach. Oops. Ah well, at least he had a good time, and he behaved himself very, very well.
Back up on Exmoor, we had to pay a visit to Lorna Doone country in the Doone Valley. Lorna Doone was, of course, a figment of RD Blackmore’s imagination. This doesn’t stop a small church in the middle of the moors claiming to be the one where “the shooting” took place. When we were little, there was a patch of “blood” on the floor of the church where the victim was alleged to have bled out. By the time I took the poet, this little stain was actually rust from a leaky radiator!
We camped at the Camping and Caravan Club camp site above Lynton & Lynmouth, a small town right next to the Valley of the Rocks. Here there were such spectacular sunsets that we had to have a few goes at photographing this beautiful place. So after tea at least twice we went down there to take the pictures.
Possibly one of the most southern places on this north coast of Devon is the small fishing village of Clovelly. Here a cobbled road takes the pedestrian (vehicles aren’t allowed) down a steep and winding hill to the harbour. There’s a car park at the top of the hill and an extensive visitor centre through which an admission fee is paid. There’s also a Land Rover that takes those visitors that need or want a lift down the back way to the harbour.
We walked down into the village, but we jumped on the Land Rover to come back. And as we were in that part of the country, when we got back to the car we continued to drive to Hartland Point where there’s a lighthouse. Unfortunately, public access to the lighthouse was closed while we were there due to them doing some land-moving work. We did, however, get a cracking view of Lundy Island.
On our last day, we headed back to Ilfracombe for a wander around the town and harbour. I was most disappointed to see that the pier there is much smaller than I remember when my brother fished from it. I’m not sure if it was made bigger in my memory or if they’ve shortened it. It’s still, however, a very lovely place.
Back in Lynton & Lynmouth, we had a final wander round and a trip down the Lynton & Lynton Cliff Railway and back, and we had fish and chips for tea.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak preview into a part of the country that I love very much. And now the poet loves it too. I also hope the selection of pictures I’ve made does it justice. He took several hundred! So I was unable to share them all. However, you can see more on his Instagram or on his website.
The last time I posted about life on the farm, it was August and it hadn’t stopped raining for a long time. We’d not been able to do much, and we hadn’t even managed to get out a lot either. When it finally stopped raining, things finally changed.
First of all we had 4 peachicks hatch. Three were lost, but one has survived and is getting quite big. We called him/her Parker because we called the mother Lady Penelope.
About 3 weeks after those chicks hatched, another 3 peachicks arrived with one of the other peahens – we don’t know if it was Tenille or Claire – and we called those Huey, Dewey and Louie … and so far they’ve all survived too.
Many of the sheep have gone to market now, but the farmer bought a new ram and this morning they’ve been selecting the “girls” to take to him on Bonfire Night, apparently. We still have 2 of the 3 cades (orphans) we had, plus 2 more have been added. They’re all still in with the new ram.
Two families of ducks have been very successful, with each hatching around 10 ducklings. And 6 of the 8 goslings have also survived. There are now 2 gangs of geese strutting around the farmyard.
Over the summer, 2 of our chickens got very broody. Baldy kept it to the chicken coop, but Pauline disappeared, for days on end at times. Both felt much better after around 3 weeks.
What’s known as a “lash egg” appeared in one of the nest boxes in the summer. We thought it was just an egg without a shell, but it’s actually quite serious and, while it can be impossible to tell which chicken has laid it, death usually follows within about 3 days.
ALL of our original 6 chickens are still with us, but one of the farm chickens died of an apparent heart attack in my arms one night. She was in our garden very late at night and quite a long time after dark, which is very, very unusual. Chickens usually take themselves to bed around an hour before darkness.
To protect her from the fox, I took her up to join our chickens in the coop, but she died before we got her there. At first we thought she’d died of fright, and she may have done. But she’s the only chicken to die after the lash egg was laid …
That left just one more chicken on the farm, their Madge, who liked to roost up in the rafters of the small barn. Towards the end of the summer, she started to hang around with our chickens at the end of the day and she gradually insinuated herself into the coop over a period of around 5 days.
At first she’d perch up on the pole that the seed hopper was suspended from, right up in the apex of the chicken house. Now she just makes sure she’s the first in the house at night and she hogs the “best” nest box. I did tell our chickens to be polite to their new house guest, and they did pick on her a bit at first. Now, however, they just let her get on with it … and we have 7 chickens.
Once the rain had stopped we went back to our old lane to pick blackberries, and we came back with over 11lb. There then followed a frenzy of making jam, making blackberry crumbles, freezing portions of blackberries for future use.
Not long afterwards, our plums were ready, and something similar followed. Then, in September, it was our apples’ turn. With all of them I stewed and froze several portions for future use but I froze the blackberries and plums intact. The plums turned out to be a bit “green”-tasting, so while I wouldn’t normally stew those with sugar, when they come out of the freezer I think that’s what I’ll be doing before using them.
We ended up with 9 jars of blackberry jam, 9 jars of plum jam and 4 jars of apple jelly. Yesterday, the last of the outside tomatoes were harvested and 2 large jars of green tomato chutney were made, using the very last cooking apple.
The garden has been producing plenty of food for us. We’ve pickled beetroot and cucumber, we had fresh potatoes throughout the last 2 months of the summer, we’ve had peas, cauliflower, carrots and broccoli, and we’ve had cherry and regular tomatoes and very fat cucumbers.
Hardly anything was discarded with even the chickens eating things like the beetroot tops.
There have been a few failures. We weren’t very successful with onions, swedes, turnips, Brussels sprouts, peppers or lettuce. But now the garden has been put to bed for the winter the planning fun starts for next year. For a man who claims to hate gardening, the poet has done pretty well for himself – AND he enjoyed it. Apparently.
For a few weeks at the end of the summer/start of the autumn, the chickens weren’t laying very much. But they’ve started again and we’ve already had 2 jars of pickled eggs. I’ve started to bake again, and over the past 2 weeks I’ve been using up store cupboard ingredients close to their use-by date.
Aside from fruit crumbles, I made my first Eve’s pudding last week, along with a dozen cherry buns, and this week I started to make cookies again, using the chocolate drops that are close to their use-by date, and I made another dozen cherry buns – to get rid of the cherries that were on date.
I’ve not even started on Christmas cakes yet, but those are yet to come, once I’ve exhausted the supplies in the baking cupboard.
In September we had a week’s camping holiday in North Devon, so watch out for a blog about that in the coming days. Oh yes, and the poet has been building a new website for his photography. You can have a sneak preview here, but do be aware that he is still building it.
A long time ago – well, it was August – we went to Mabelthorpe on the east coast. It’s a place I’d never been before and one to where the poet had long promised to take me. And so, one breezy Saturday, we headed over there so he could at last say we’d been.
I can’t remember much about the day now, other than it was warm enough to eat our picnic outside on a bench. Oh yes, and we looked all over for a letterbox and the only one we found didn’t seem to be in use any more.
He took a few pictures, though. So here, for your enjoyment, is a small and colourful selection:
It’s been a long while since I was able to blog about life on the farm, we have been so busy.
And, actually, we’ve not been able to spend very much time in the garden due to the weather.
It’s either been too raving hot or absolutely persisting it down.
However, we have started to harvest and eat our garden produce. The first batch included garden peas and strawberries, but yesterday the poet went out and cut our first calabrese (broccoli).
The plum tree had an accident last week in some very high winds, and the top of the tree ended up in the fish pond. Thankfully it missed the fish, and it’s plums we wouldn’t normally be able to reach anyway.
Next up, we think, are the potatoes. They’ve finished flowering so should be ready to come up soon.
We also have cauliflowers that are almost ready.
Only a week or so ago the poet was strimming around the raised beds when he stumbled across the new white peahen sitting among some stingers.
We’ve labelled her Lady Penelope, because she kept herself away from the other peahens. She turned up one day after another storm, liked it here and decided to stay.
When he moved her slightly, to make sure she was still alive, he discovered four peafowl eggs. So we left her to it along with a few stingers for cover. We have foxes, badgers, squirrels and rats and we didn’t want any of them to know there were eggs there.
Two days ago I was mortified to see that the eggs were all broken, but when the poet gave her another nudge, they’d hatched! We told the farmer and for the rest of the morning the farm kids kept running up to have another look.
In the end, Lady Penelope and family went missing … but I found her on the track behind our house sitting on four lovely, fluffy little chicks. Aww.
For now we’ve nicknamed them Alan, John, Scott and Virgil, but in case there are any girls in there, we’re reserving Tin-Tin and Tracy!
Yesterday, while Penelope was trying to steer a car away from her brood, she jumped off a low wall and landed on one.
It was a little stunned and struggled to keep up, but the last we saw, Mum was waiting for all of the chicks before going anywhere.
We’ll be keeping a watchful eye on them all, but especially poor little Number 4.
On Friday we travelled over to Sheffield for the first of three days at the Tramlines festival. The poet didn’t take his camera, so these pictures are all from his mobile phone (apart from the nabbed poster).
There are mixed feelings about this annual event. We think it’s great for Sheffield, and the taxi drivers and businesses agree that it’s a lift for them once the students have all gone home (there are two universities in Sheffield and a huge student population) and before the football (soccer) season starts again (they have two football teams too). Others think it should be a free event, as it was when it first started, and will boycott it, insisting on going to only live gigs that aren’t included in the program.
Whichever your opinion, it really does have to be good for business and for live music.
We got off to quite a bad start because we headed over to City Hall, where we thought we had to exchange our tickets for wristbands. We queued up there for over half-an-hour – apparently, they ran out of wristbands! – but when we got to our first main event, we then discovered we could have gone straight there.
We wasted quite a lot of time and additional taxi fares doing that. And then, to add insult to injury, they didn’t even check our wristbands at the main venue. And they were only checking women’s handbags. They didn’t seem too bothered about rucksacks or duffel bags.
The headline act we wanted to see was over at the Ponderosa main stage, the Libertines. And yes, he really did turn up. The weather was very kind to us – it didn’t start to rain until we were ready to leave. The sound wasn’t great, and the band were pulled off mid-song at one point. But the crowd didn’t seem to mind.
On Saturday afternoon, we went back again, again to the Ponderosa, this time to see Toots and the Maytals. We didn’t get any pictures of these because we were there with family and when we weren’t listening to the music, we were chatting.
Toots was my favourite part. They’ve been going for such a long time, yet he had so much energy and a fine, fantastic voice. Again, nobody checked our wristbands, but we did see armed police today.
Sunday teatime we were back again, this time to see the poet’s godson in his band the Kavaliers. They were playing the Tramlines fringe at the Rocking Chair.
They did a short set, which gave us time to have a quick chat and then make our way to Devonshire Green, where the next and last band we wanted to see were playing.
We arrived about 45 minutes early and decided to nip into Pizza Express for a quick tea. The waitress said it could be a 30-minute wait, but if we knew what we wanted and got our order in before a hen party that had not long arrived, she’d see what she could do.
She managed to serve us within 15 mintues … but within that time and the time it took to eat a quick salad, a queue had formed outside the venue that trailed all the way up the road.
We waited for 25 minutes in this queue, in pouring rain. The Coral were due to start at 7:45pm, but they held on until 8pm. We missed the first two songs, but landed a nice spot with a good view.
What a mistake the organisers made in putting the Coral on at Devonshire Green and not the main stage at the Ponderosa. Some people we queued with said there was hardly anyone over there when they left, and here were we with the queue still snaking up the road long after we finally made it in.
We had a great time at this year’s Tramlines. I do think it could have been slightly better organised in places, and security should have been much, much tighter. Next year, however, if it clashes with the crime writing festival at Harrogate again, as it did this year, we might give it a miss.
Pugneys always used to be a favourite dog walk for me, but then every time we went there were just too many other dogs, and too many people. It gets very busy.
However, there’s a castle at Pugneys too, and the poet wanted to take some pictures and we decided to combine it with a walk around the lake. Had we known how much more busier it is these days, we would have just done the castle. But even the castle was a bit of a disappointment this time.
Anyway, we started our walk, as ever, in the main Pugneys car park – this used to be free, but now there’s a charge.
I noticed there’s a charge to use the dog shower now as well. I don’t remember that being the case before.
The poet did take a picture of someone in a speed boat, and he took a picture of the train. But as we didn’t get permission from either the man in the boat nor any of the children on the train’s parents, I don’t feel inclined to share any of those here.
So they’re all scenic shots this time.
Saying that, I’ve just seen on the official website for the park that watersports, apart from pedalos, have been suspended due to a lack of support personnel … since 12 June. But the man in the boat seemed to have been doing something to the buoys, so perhaps he was staff.
The last time we went to Pugneys, we took a look at the path up to Sandal Castle and decided against it. My fitness level at the time was so rubbish I couldn’t even face the short walk as it was up hill.
This time, it was very hot and I was in trainers, not even walking boots. And this time the dog had more trouble than me, stopping once to sit in the shade and cool down a little.
When we got there we were quite disappointed. Not only was the visitor centre closed, but so was the bridge and the staircase up to the main keep.
Some adventurers had climbed up from the moat, but that really was too strenuous for me. Apparently there is a structural problem, health & safety strikes again.
We were so disappointed with so many things that we decided we really don’t need to come again, which is a shame because it’s not far away in the car.
We did, however, walk exactly 3 miles, which was apparently 8,500 steps, and I burned 381 calories.
I wasn’t sure what to call this one. It wasn’t really a “day out”, but nor was it a “holiday” or a “walk”. It could be classed as an “event”, but as I’m not really reviewing the event, I thought that would a bit of a misnomer too. So I called it a “day out”, even though it was really almost two days out.
We did have a house/pet sitter booked, but at the last minute we decided to take the dog with us and ask the farmer next door to see to the chickens. The cats are fine for just one night. They have and use the cat-flap and we were able to feed them (and the chickens) before we left.
Fortunately for us we were staying at the Grand Hotel, which is very pet-friendly. It only cost us an extra tenner to take the dog, and we were even allowed to leave him in the room while we had our breakfast the following morning.
Our room at the Grand was up on the fifth floor in what they call “the circle”. I’d seen some pretty dire reviews of this wonderful old building, but we didn’t have any complaints whatsoever, other than it was a bit warm in the room. But on the hottest weekend of the year so far, that wasn’t a huge problem, and anyway, the Grand has windows that even open and everything.
We also have a picture of the view from our room, but I think it’s still on the poet’s phone … if he sends it to me, I can add that here …
For tea we dropped down into Scarborough, parked on the quay, and found cheese burgers and chips.
While we were at the show, we hired a pet-sitter, Pet Assist, a lovely couple who were happy to take Rufus at short notice. We dropped him off at teatime, and they said they’d be back at the hotel when we got back from the concert.
It took a while for them to find our tickets at the box office, but it was okay, they found them eventually. The show was supposed to start at 7pm but we got in at 7:10pm and there was hardly anyone there.
The support band was the Slow Readers Club. They were okay, but we were a bit concerned that we couldn’t see a keyboard player yet keyboards featured on almost every song …
We went for an ice-cream, but before we knew it, the main event was on. So we dashed over to see the Charlatans, and we had quite a good view.
We thought the large screen was great, though. And I thought that Tim Burgess had a lovely smile when he was singing.
Of course, we couldn’t go all that way to a Charlatans gig without bumping into an old friend of the poet’s. These two have known each other for a long time, since they worked together.
The friend and his wife have been married for only a little while longer than us and it’s always nice to see them. They live a bit further south to us, but they try to come to Monkey Dust gigs when they can too.
There followed much drinking, singing, dancing and general merriment, and we even grabbed an unsuspecting bystander to take a team photo – she did a good job!
We had a lovely time, and the dog was pleased to see us when we got back to the hotel – not too late for the dog-sitter, we hoped! The following morning, we had a hearty breakfast, packed the car (which was in the multi-storey car park), and had a walk along the front. It was very hot, though, so I stayed in the shade while the poet did our shopping, and then we headed home.
We were back by lunchtime, but what a lovely time we had.