Since we moved here last May, we’ve been looking for some nice local dog-walks within a short driving distance. At the end of April this year, we found one. It only took us 11 months!
Underbank Reservoir near Stocksbridge is actually within walking distance, it’s that close. But it’s also a good place to take the dog for a spin that’s a little longer than the walks from our doorstep.
There are several places to park, but we chose to park on the old A-road that has recently been replaced, as it’s on our side.
From here we had a cracking view of some ground-art designed by local schoolchildren for the recent Tour de Yorkshire. We thought it was an owl on a bike, but it’s actually a fox on a bike – as the race was finishing in Fox Valley.
You can also choose which way around to walk. From the old A-road, we walked clockwise, starting with the dam wall.
There are signs all over the place telling people to keep their dogs on leads … guess who were the only ones to comply …
Once across the dam wall, we turned left to cross the footbridge over the weir, and then turned back on ourselves on the other side of the reservoir.
It was a dull but dry day, but the sky gave the poet some interest for his photographs. He also had chance to try out his new lens for the bokeh shot above, and he practised his bracketing, for the shot below.
About halfway around the lake, we had a chat with an angler who’s been fishing here for 30+ years. He suggested if we come fishing that we park at the activity centre as the path from there is quite good for the barrow.
As we came out at Midhopestones, at the opposite end to the dam wall, we had to walk along the road for a short while. Then we followed another access path until we reached the official path where it rejoins the disused A-road.
The walk around the perimeter is, according to MapMyWalk, 3.13 miles. It took us an hour-and-a-half, which included stopping for pictures and the chat, and we burned around 400 calories each.
On Sunday 30 April 2017, the Tour de Yorkshire came through our village. Well, I say village, but we’re actually in between two villages. Both villages had decked themselves out with bunting, banners and bikes, all in blue and yellow.
At the same time, a number of amateur events were taking place with cyclists raising money for charity and having the chance to cycle the route before the professionals came through.
Earlier in the day we took the dog for a walk, and we saw some of those amateurs pass by. “We’re not the main event!” shouted the leader. But they all smiled for the camera anyway.
We got back from our walk in good time to grab some refreshment, do some work around the garden, and then give the dog a treat – another walk on the same day, this time to the end of our driveway.
One of the stewards drove ahead of the race to let us know roughly what time they’d be coming through. She also said the first we’d see would be the team cars and motorbikes, and the police making sure the road ahead was clear.
They were due to come by at about 4:15pm and we’d set it to record on the telly before setting out. But they were quite a few minutes later than that – we found out later there had been an accident three villages up and someone was being taken to hospital, but was fine.
Then the advance cavalcade started to come through.
We still had a good wait before the leading breakaway group came by. But the helicopter flying overhead gave us a clue when they were on their way.
The chopper hovered above us for quite some time as first the leaders and then the main group came through.
We waved and cheered, in case they caught us on the telly!
It seemed an age before the rest of the group started to come along, but it must only have been a matter of minutes. Still the helicopter hovered, still we waved our arms at it.
Then as the peloton passed us, we turned to wave at the motorbikes in the front with the television cameras. The poet had to take the camera off the tripod so he could follow them.
They whooshed by in a matter of seconds … and then they were gone (apart from a lone cyclist coming up the rear, but the camera buffer was already full by now), followed by numerous cars with spare bikes on the roofs.
The “crowds” started to disperse (we didn’t realise so many people lived in the area, although some had come on foot from elsewhere), and we headed home ourselves.
The first thing we did when we got in was skim through the recording on the telly, but just as they were reaching us, the channel skipped to a commercial break.
When they returned, it was just above us where the bikes were headed in that last picture.
So all that waving at the cameras had been for nothing! But we had fun anyway.
We are very fortunate to be living right next to the Trans Pennine Trail, a national route that runs from coast to coast and up and down a bit.
I’ve been walking the dog up towards where our path joins the trail, but I’ve been turning around at 15 minutes as I’m trying to gradually build up stamina and fitness.
During the last bank holiday weekend, we finally did a full circuit of the smallest circular section, and we were surprised at how quickly we did it.
We already have a fairly good walk from the farm to the road, but we don’t stay on the road for long. We just cross the River Don and then turn up onto a farm track that’s subsequently crossed by the TPT.
At the top of the track you can see in the picture above, the TPT crosses both ways. We turned left and went behind that farm you can see.
From the TPT we had a very good view of the ground-art recently installed for the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race, which went past the end of our driveway.
There were a few pleasure cyclists on our route, some of whom you can just see (in red) in the picture below. These weren’t taking part in the race.
There were also a few pedestrians, but this was a “busy” day in our neck of the woods.
From the viaduct there are some great views, including the one below towards Penistone.
In the far distance you might just be able to see a field filled with cars, to the immediate left of that sticky-up thing. This field is usually green and empty – the cars were here for the cycle race.
The picture below is one of my favourites, as you can see our house and, hopefully, the reason we chose to live there. It really is a beautiful, peaceful setting, and it really is some distance from any roads.
That’s our house in the centre of the picture, with the cream walls. We could see this from the viaduct too.
Because it’s an old railway line, there’s a tunnel on this section of the route that we haven’t explored yet, but I think my sister did last year when she was house-sitting for us.
Instead, we left the TPT down a small path that goes downhill towards the river again. From this path there are some good views of the viaduct.
Then we were beside the river again, at the place where the poet usually gets in to go fluff-chucking (fly-fishing).
Apparently, the River Don is one of the fastest rising and the fastest dropping rivers in Europe. This is why we have flash floods along the driveway and in the surrounding roads.
Isn’t it pretty?
At the end of our walk we returned across the main field that has a few young cows and two horses in it in this picture below. But until just a week or so ago, it was full of expectant sheep. That’s our house again, with the cream walls. The farm buildings are just below it to the left.
This circular walk is about 1.6 miles long. It took us 50 minutes as the poet kept stopping to take pictures, but I’ve done it since with just the dog, and it’s about 40 – 45 minutes.
On the farm
The lambing madness seems to be over now. Around 50 sheep have had lambs and there are only a couple left in the nursery field. The rest have been moved back to various places on the farm, leaving the nursery field for the orphans.
So far there are only two orphan lambs (they lost one of them), and those are currently in the orchard, in the farm garden or in the paddock at the end of our back garden. When the grass in the nursery field has recovered, or when the last of the flock-sheep go, I think the orphans will be moved to the nursery field.
The young cows were let out a couple of weeks ago and are getting used to being outside.
In the garden
The poet has been very busy in the garden, working hard. He’s turned over three beds in the back garden and trimmed many of the shrubs.
I honestly don’t know where this is coming from. He’s loving learning new skills and creating new life from scratch. But he never really has been one for gardening.
He built three raised beds and two planters, and is now working on chicken-wire-covered frames to put over the beds to keep the chickens off the seedlings.
Two weeks ago he went around repotting all of the fruit trees and bushes. The apple tree, the grape vine and the blackcurrant bush all look really well. The gooseberry bush looks a little dead, but there are green shoots starting to show now.
This coming bank holiday weekend, we’re hoping the beds will be ready for some outdoor seed-sowing. We have vegetables to sow in the potager and some flowers for the back garden.
The seeds I sowed at Easter are starting to show, but the seeds that the poet sowed two weeks before that are doing really well. The cucumbers and cherry tomatoes are doing particularly well, as are the marigolds. And things like the onions and the calabrese are starting to show now too.
Only the basil was doing well for the herbs for the kitchen windowsill, but now the chives and the parsley are catching up.
Last week I chitted some potatoes. Those are currently on the kitchen windowsill, but we’re hoping they can go out next weekend.
We’re calling our little plot “Ian’s Farm”. He really is loving it and he’s doing the bulk of the work – I’m mainly directing!
He’s also been busy in the stable, making racks from which to hang his growing collection of tools.
The chickens are happy as pigs in muck. Pink is looking a bit scruffy, but the rest of them have really nice feathers now. We’re still getting between five and six eggs per day, so we’re still eating a boiled egg a day.
Aggie the Agoraphobic has taken to wandering off with farm chicken Madge and yesterday one of the children had to fetch her back to us! Poorly Pauline has made a full recovery and is getting more confident by the day.
The Tour de Yorkshire
Another bank holiday weekend on the horizon. We have the Tour de Yorkshire cycling past the end of our drive this year. Three years ago we drove to Holmfirth to see the Tour de France. This year we have a grandstand view without going anywhere.
Let’s hope the weather holds out for them. And for us!
On the farm
They’ve been lambing on the farm this past week, painting numbers on the sides of the sheep as they give birth, and painting the same numbers on any lambs born to that sheep.
The main field is now bereft of sheep. They’re all in the maternity barn, in the nursery field, or they’ve been moved back to the fields where they usually live.
Instead, the young cows have now been let out into the main field. Oh, what a lovely sight to see these youngsters running and skipping across the grass as they were given their first outing from the barns. They’ve been to have a look at us and we may get pictures over the coming days.
Back to the lambs, the nursery field is at the top of our front garden, so we’ve been able to watch as another pair of lambs and their mother are added to the flock before being moved along.
The mothers are very curious, but one did chase after me when I surprised her while I wheeled the wheelie-bin down the drive on Wednesday evening. It made a very loud rumbling noise.
Her baby, just the one, was curled up in a ball and I think she was frightened I was going to hurt it.
Another of the mothers, “Number 28”, is less frightened. This one has managed to clamber up the dry-stone wall into our front garden, where she investigated one of the (so far) empty raised beds in our potager.
I think Number 28 and her lamb have been moved now, as we’ve not seen her for a couple of days.
In the garden
The brand-new greenhouse has started to earn its keep. The marigolds are doing really well and, now, so are the cucumbers.
The seeds sown on 2 April are still appearing, but some are still a little slow – the onions, for example, and the brassicas. I think all of these have a longer germination time, but the first brassica, a calabrese broccoli, has already reared its tiny head.
We bought some herb pots for the kitchen windowsill to plant up. So far the basil is doing the best, with the chives just showing this week. The parsley is taking a little while longer, though …
Last week’s 20 strawberry plants have taken nicely in their HUGE hanging baskets. (He was a little disappointed that I didn’t share a picture of his very well-made greenhouse staging, so the picture below gives some idea of how that looks.)
The chickens, bless them, continue to thrive. And they continue to show their appreciation by laying eggs. We’re definitely up to 5 or 6 eggs a day now, and they’re starting to come to their names as well.
The poet had to put some chicken wire around the garden gate to stop the dog from escaping. For a while, it also kept the chickens out, and that meant a cleaner floor.
However, Baldy and Blondie are both regular visitors to the garden now that they’ve worked out how to hop around the edge, or even over the top with a garden tub strategically placed to break their landing. The other girls will follow if they think they’re missing something, aka food.
We have the long weekend off for Easter, without any pre-planned visits or trips or anything. We are, however, expecting a delivery of compost today for the raised beds, and we hope to be doing more work in the garden if the weather is nice. There may also be fishing and walking.
There are walks and bird hides and other places of interest and things to do and see. But, more importantly, it’s right off the M42 motorway, so when we’ve been to visit my parents, it’s easy enough to bob in and have a visit.
We had planned to do a walk around one of the lakes. It was a lovely day and the poet wanted to try out his new polarising filter.
So we made sure we got to my parents’ in good time to drop in on the way back home …
… but as we approached the roundabout leading to the park we had second thoughts. Everyone else, it seemed, had had the same idea, and the traffic was backed up a loooong way.
We had a picnic with us, though, and it was time for us to eat. So instead of going to the water park, we headed to the old village of Kingsbury, which is just around the back of the park.
There we found a church car park with a nice view, and we had our picnic. Then we put the dog’s lead on and explored the churchyard to see what else there was to see.
Well, imagine our pleasure when we realised that one of the footpaths led right into the back of the water park – and we didn’t have to pay a car park admission either! Result.
So we had a stroll along what looks like a new-ish trail beside the sand martin bank. This feature was only completed in February, in partnership with the Tame Valley Wetlands.The martins aren’t here yet, though. But we may drop in again when they’ve arrived.
Fortunately, not many people had the same ideas as us in approaching the park from this side, but we did catch up with the crowds when we decided against an ice-cream as the queue for the ice-cream-van was almost as long as the traffic queue into the park.
The poet exercised his camera muscles with a few scenic shots, and then we made our way over to a lake where there were jet-skis in action. Oh joy! Here was where he could try out his new filter.
Once he was happy with the day’s product, we went back to the car and headed home.
It was very sunny and this new trail has very little shade. It will probably get very hot – and very busy – in the summer months. Maybe next time we’ll get there a little earlier, but at least we know where to park if we bump into traffic again.
On the farm
They say that when the first lamb arrives, it’s the first day of spring. So our first day of spring was actually just over a month ago, on 4 March.
Their granddaughter #2 has 3 brown sheep (I *will* find out the breed). She’s only 13 or 14, but already she owns these sheep. Late last year, these brown sheep were taken to meet a male, and each one of them delivered this spring.
The first one, on 4 March, had a white lamb and a black lamb. Over the following week or so, the other 2 brown sheep also had lambs. In the end, between them, there were 3 black lambs and 2 white lambs, and while one of the mothers seemed to be rejecting one of the black lambs, it was just a temporary blip and he did manage to get enough nourishment from the other mothers in the meantime.
Granddaughter #1 has a horse. But on the same weekend the first lamb arrived, she bought 3 cade (“kay-dee”) or orphan lambs from a neighbouring farm. These were kept in the barn for a few weeks, but are now out in the orchard at the side of our garden.
(GD#1 removed her horse’s blanket during the week and took her for a canter around the main field (on the other side of the orchard). The blanket’s back on again now, so maybe the temperature has dropped again.)
The farmer has another, bigger flock, of around 200 sheep when they’re all present and correct.
These sheep didn’t start to have lambs until after 1 April, but the whole family have turned out and are keeping watch. Any that look like they might be having difficulty are taken into the barn and looked after. Those that manage quite well by themselves are checked over.
The sheep and lambs are all numbered (we think they may have seen this tip on the BBC’s Countryfile), then those that need to be kept close are moved to the nursery field (at the front of our house) while the others go back in the main field.
Elsewhere on the farm, the cows are still indoors, but I think they’ll be let out soon enough.
The farmer has bought some beautiful black calves, and he has some calves of his own too. However, some of the cows (about 4) have ringworm, so they’re being treated for that and kept away from the others.
In Baggins Bottom
On the home patch, the poet has been busy assembling a new greenhouse. This arrived during a storm in mid-March and he had to abandon the project for a few days until the winds died down.
Once the greenhouse was finished and stable, he then set about building some greenhouse staging out of wood. He’s not a carpenter but he does enjoy creating things, and he did exactly what I asked him to.
The two-tier staging wraps around 2 sides of the greenhouse in an L-shape. The remaining side will be for 2 grow-bags – one for 3 tomatoes and one for 2 cucumbers.
Of course, the chickens now think that this is another place for them to shelter – they won’t think that when the hot weather arrives.
Seed-sowing started on 2 April: cauliflower, calabrese broccoli, cherry tomatoes, cordon tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, onions, Brussels sprouts and marigolds. The marigolds are companion planting for the cherry tomatoes, which will be going into tubs and baskets.
Yesterday, 5 of the marigolds sprouted, and today there are 5 more. The poet isn’t a gardener either (“I hate gardening”), yet he’s so proud of these tiny little things – again, it’s the creating something from nothing part.
We have 20 strawberry plants coming, 10 each of 2 varieties. Those will be going into hanging baskets when they arrive.
We have a tractor that the poet used to cut the grass with at the last house, but we don’t have that big a lawn here. The old electric mower he used to own conked out at the end of last year, and last week we had to go and buy a new lawn mower so he could give the grass its first cut.
The chickens are doing well. They’ve been with us for 4 months now, and we still have the half-a-dozen we started with. They’re laying 4 – 5 eggs per day between them, and we’re giving dozens away.
I was well-chuffed when we had 6 eggs one day last week, but when we had 7 … (SEVEN!) I was a tad surprised, as we still only have 6 chickens.
We’re trying to get creative with recipes that include eggs. If work settles down, I’ll have time to do some baking. I want to get some big jars so I can pickle some, and we’re each having a hard-boiled egg every weekday with our lunch, I’m having it in a salad while the poet is eating it like an apple.
With the warmer weather and the longer days, the poet hopes to do more fishing soon, starting this afternoon when he gets home from work if the weather is nice enough.
Hopefully, me and the dog will have chance to get out and about and share more news and pictures over the coming weeks. I’ll be swapping the mobile phone for my camera.
It’s been a while, but I have still been watching my weight and, to be honest, it’s been very up and down.
I can’t believe that you can put 3lb on one day and then lose two of them the next. This past week alone I did exactly this.
Yes, yes I know we’re not supposed to weigh ourselves every day and, because of the fluctuations last week, I did stop bothering. But Monday is weigh-day and I had to do it this morning.
Fortunately, I do have a weight-loss of 2lb from last week. Unfortunately, I’m still 1¼lb heavier than I have been at my lightest on this current diet.
At the weekend, even the poet reported a few pounds weight-gain, so he’s cutting down again now. It’s funny how complacency can set in so easily.
We’ve not been walking for a long time and I think that’s having a lot to do with it – for both of us. As well as the extra food we’re clearly eating at the moment, of course. Instead, either the weather has kept us indoors or, as soon as the weather has improved, we’ve been working in the garden.
At the weekend we had to buy a new lawn-mower and the poet did the first cut yesterday. It was hard work, but not as hard as it was with the old push-along lawn-mower. (He can’t use the tractor here, but he’s keeping hold of that for when it comes in handy again …)
Two weeks ago, in gale-force winds, he built a new greenhouse. Last weekend, he built wooden staging. And during the week, after work, he painted the staging with wood-preservative. Yesterday, we were finally able to spend a relaxing couple of hours sowing seeds.
His band doesn’t have as many gigs this year as of late. He wanted to cut back and so they’re only doing one gig a month (two a month when one is a charity gig and one is a paid gig). We hoped this would free us up to do more things but, as ever, it’s been very, very busy and we’ve been visiting or entertaining over our birthday season, in the midst of which comes Mother’s Day too.
This coming weekend we have the usual Birmingham/Doncaster visits, but perhaps we can squeeze in a walk on our way from Brum to Donny.
Saying that, I did achieve my Slimming World silver activity award on 23 March, and I’ve started my gold award today. The chickens, the little bit of gardening I have managed, and just shopping all contribute to this challenge. The gold award lasts for eight weeks, though, while the bronze and silver were both for four weeks each.
The warmer days make eating salads much easier, so hopefully there will be something more positive to report soon.