Saturday, 14 July 2018

Carsington Water - almost seaside

I live just about as far away from the sea as you can get, so, although it's just about feasible, a day trip involves an early morning and long car journey. So during hot weather I make do with Carsington Reservoir.

At the moment with water levels low, it looks quite like sea lazily lapping a stony beach. There's no paddling allowed, but there are yachts and canoes so it's possible to pretend you're near a marina or harbour.

I've never walked the whole way round - it's about 8 miles so doable perhaps even for me - and this day we just walked out to Stones Island (not an island but it does have modern 'standing stones' erected at the time the reservoir was built), and then, after lunch, along the top of the dam.

It's usually cold and blustery along the dam, but not this time - just a little breeze at least to take away some of the heat.

Along our way, we came across these carvings - a wizard, dragon, elf and tiny fairy houses. Perhaps they were all part of Hob's trail, but we never anything to tell us.

A good sort of day though, and almost like being by the sea :)

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Timber Festival 2018

This weekend saw the launch of a new festival, Timber; a joint project between the National Forest Company and Wild Rumpus, with, at its core, the celebration of everything 'woody', through art, music, activities and discussions. 

The festival site, just outside Moira, on the border of Derbyshire and Leicestershire, was an area of fairly new woodland sloping quite steeply down from the car park and camping area, forming a natural amphitheatre for the main Nightingale stage, and with grassy avenues leading to other open grassy spaces, much like a series of linked rooms, with new 'finds' in each.

If you're a regular reader of the blog, you may remember how thrilled I was to be asked along, as a 'Timber Pioneer', and I'd been laying my plans of what to do and see, so, did it live up to my expectations? Absolutely! Did I follow my clever plan? Not entirely.

murmuration by day
We'd never intended camping for the weekend, as we wouldn't have been able to take our dog along, but going along for large parts of each day, while he guarded the house. As it turned out, family problems, plus the worry of leaving Dylan the dog for too long because of the heat, made it impossible to go for the length of time we'd planned. Plus, on Friday, I left my programme at home, so that part of my careful planning went to waste. We did, though, have an amazing time over the weekend.

Adam Weymouth

The festival was billed as 'family friendly' but it wasn't just a festival for children.

There were serious discussions on environmental issues taking place in the Field Notes tent. We sat in on one about food, how it finds its way From Field to Fork, and what some producers are doing to break the supermarket's grip, and keep production local and small scale. Listened to Adam Weymouth's talk about his journey down the Yukon river, and the challenges faced by the communities along its banks, as the salmon they once relied on are being severely depleted. Chatted to the Greenpeace rep about the wonderful response to The Blue Planet programme about plastic in the oceans, but the great challenges still facing us and the natural world.

Lots of the events and activities though were suitable for all ages.

High on my list of plans had been to catch Seek, Find, Speak, an outdoor theatrical companion to Robert McFarlane and Jackie Morris's book The Lost Words. These lost words are ones relating to the natural world - such as lark, bramble, and otter - which are disappearing from children's speech and writing. Dressed as a charm of goldfinches, the actors led us on a search for those words hidden around the festival site, bringing them to life through poems and dance. It mesmerised both children and adults (and given more time, I'd have watched again and again)

Another 'must see' was Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon, a touring piece of art hidden for the weekend among the trees. By daylight, it seemed more scientific and technical; at night, ghostly and unreal.

 I found my way through a maze woven through saplings, and a labyrinth made of straw. Watched story-tellers and acrobats. Encountered a Carnival of Animals, discovered Forest Monsters, and rather wished I'd been small enough to go on the Bewonderment Machine, a pedal-powered carousel.

murmuration by night
The whole site was transformed by night - strings of lights led the way from the murmuration, to the Eerie stage, and another art installation, the Fire Garden

The Eerie Stage

The Fire Garden

Is it really safe?

Part of my plans for this year include trying 60 New Things. I settled for the struggle of trying to relax in a hammock, while my husband was delighted to be able to try 'long-reining' at the horse-logging demonstration. I'm not a fan of horses (they tend to bite me!) but I was interested to hear of the environmental benefits of using them for forestry work, instead of tractors.

Time was against us though and we didn't have chance to really check out all the activities on offer, from willow weaving to turning walking sticks on a pole-lathe.

Over the three days, we listened to a wide variety of music - Westerman, Jane Weaver, Ewan McLennan and Perhaps Contraption (a brass band like none you've seen) on the larger Nightingale stage; Sivu and Disco Lypso on the woodland Eerie stage. Plus of course, at a festival, it's always there in the background, even if you're doing something else.

One of the things being explored in various ways at Timber was the regenerative power of woodland - both physically, as it has in the Feanedock area transforming former open-cast mine workings into green hillsides, or emotionally and spiritually. Last week wasn't a good week at a personal level, but Sunday afternoon found me sitting on a hillside in the shade, listening to music, feeling relaxed and refreshed. What could be better? 

 All in all it was a fabulous experience - amusing, enlightening, entertaining in equal measure. Next year, I hope, will be equally wonderful, and to find out about next year's dates and early bird tickets, you can sign up for
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Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Why I won't be leaving Twitter

Twitter is awash, once again, with folk saying how bad social media, particularly Twitter itself, is for you. Scroll through your feed for a while and you'll soon find stuff to make you angry and/or sad. To live a happy life, delete the app, ditch the phone. Or so they say.
Well, ever the argumentative type, I disagree.

For me, Twitter has become a replacement for the gossip at the school gate. I post about the sort of things I'd discuss casually with friends - where I went at weekend (some stately home or out for a gig) what I'm having for dinner (whether it's made with allotment veg, or something from a tin made to look fancy), how the garden's doing, a good book I've read, tv programmes I've watched - and look forward to similar posts from the people I follow. It's the same casual chat you could have anywhere. But it reflects real life, which isn't happy and sunny all the time, so it's also a place I go when I need cheering up, and a 'you ok, hun? Take care' lightens my day, and I hope that if they need it, I offer that same support to others.

What about real friends, though? Aren't they so much more important? Well, no doubt they are, but take for example my current situation. I'm rushing round from hospital to care home coping with my ill parents. I don't have time to go visit friends for coffee and support. Twitter is there at the press of a button. Equally, in the time-consuming but mind-numbing state I'm in right now, to be able either first thing or at the end of the day, or even if the person you're visiting has fallen asleep, to be able to pop onto social media, to share a little in other people's lives, to check that somewhere life is going on as normal, helps tremendously.

I'm sure there are bad aspects - body-shaming, bullying, envy, political arguments that rapidly drop to name-calling level - but I've hardly ever encountered them.  If you happen to be a well known public figure things are undoubtedly different (some people seem to enjoy nothing more than hurling insults at anyone marginally famous), but the majority of us are normal, obscure people who won't attract such abuse, and I don't like to think of newbies being put off Twitter by thinking it's all about trolls and angry rants. Just as in that group of mums waiting at the school gate, there'll be ones who want to be the centre of attention, some who always seem to be up in arms about something (trivial or serious), others who seem to get most pleasure from bitching about people. At least on Twitter, I can block the annoying ones. I rarely involve myself in politics or social issues beyond the odd comment here and there. I don't mind if my 'friends' hold differing opinions to mine, unless they try to ram them down my throat (if they do, they'll quickly end up blocked ).
On the whole, I've found chatting on Twitter to be a positive thing. As a book blogger, I've got in touch with authors, publicists and publishers, and got the low down on upcoming releases. As a 'private' person, I've discovered new bands, new places to visit, swapped recipes, held a virtual hand when someone needed it. It's like being back in the playground - be careful who you hang out with!

Friday, 29 June 2018

Planning for Timber Festival

There's only a week to go till Timber Festival, so I was very excited to receive my programme through the post this week.

Admittedly it's possible to go along to a festival without any planning, just heading for whatever catches your attention on the day, but, particularly this time as I won't be going along for all three days, I like to know what's on. and when, so I can organise my time a little, and not miss something or someone that I really wanted to see. So, it's time for the highlighter pen ...

I've posted a general sort of round up for the festival before, but now it's time for the nitty gritty  - checking which things clash, which things are repeated over the weekend - and I'm finding my emphasis has changed a little.

Top of my list is Seek, Find, Speak; a conjuring told in gold a spoken word adaptation of  the Robert Macfarlane/Jackie Morris book, The Lost Words. The sound trail will be open each day with several theatrical performances taking place over the weekend.

Another all-weekend installation I really want to see is the Museum of the Moon. I was out in the garden last night trying to see the Moon through binoculars, but this will no doubt be an easier way to see its details - and I'll be able to see the 'dark side'.

Working my way through the musical line up, there are a lot of new-to-me artists so I've spent time on Youtube listening to snippets of their music trying to get a feel for who I most want to watch (see, I really DO plan ahead). So far my list includes (in no particular order), Ewan McLennan, You Are Wolf, Emma Gatrill, Alice Jemima, Siv Jakobsen, Hope and Social, Westerman, and Jane Weaver. I'd almost be tempted to just find a good spot by the stage and stay there for the whole festival but I think that would be missing out on such a lot of other things.

I want to watch aerial acrobatics, and horses pulling logs, have a go at stone-balancing, or whittling wood, help create a maze and join in a foraging walk; maybe learn to Think like a Tree, (though I'll skip the tree climbing) or brush up on outdoor survival skills. I'm tempted by a Bollywood dance workshop or a Laughing Yoga session (there are other more 'normal yoga activities, but I don't think I'm bendy enough for those)

This festival isn't just about being entertained though. I want to come away feeling I've been informed, learned something about forest life, or the possible future for woods and forests in a world where every square foot of ground has to 'pay' for its keep, so there are various talks and discussions I'd like to catch - From Field to Fork (about the journey our food makes to the table), Adam Weymouth talking about his four month journey down the Yukon River, John Everitt of the National Forest Company discussing the ongoing regeneration and transformation from post-industrial landscape to forest in Trees Transform, Lizzie Daly on the importance of maintaining natural spaces for wildlife, Living with Trees, Creative Solutions for a Greener Future, and more - the choice of green, tree-themed topics seems endless and all fascinating.

Fortunately, the programme, besides the details of all events, contains a handy day by day planner of what's on when, so I can get to work with my highlighter, plan each day meticulously - and then probably get sidetracked by the first thing I see through the entry gate.

See how it went here

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Haddon Hall - film set and rose gardens

 You've probably seen Haddon Hall on film or TV in Jane Eyre or The Princess Bride, and either side of last weekend filming was taking place there again, with some of the props and sets being left in place when the hall was open to the public, so I wanted to see what could be seen.

Well, firstly the car park was full of pantechnicons, trailers, caravans, on-location catering ... this was obviously a much bigger project than I'd imagined. At the hall itself, the changes were more subtle - hiding modern fittings and making sure no damage came to original stone and woodwork - except in one room which had had its furniture changed, giving it a totally different feel. (No photography allowed in that room, so you'll have to wait to see it on screen)

We timed our visit to clash with an England football match, so there were less visitors than I'd expect on a glorious summer's day, and it's easier to imagine Tudor lords and ladies in residence. A harpist, playing in the Long Gallery, helped add to the ambiance, but the sunshine soon drew us outside to the terraced gardens.      


They weren't the only flowers in the gardens, but roses seemed to be climbing up every wall, and at the peak of their flowering.

With a slight breeze coming from the river below, it's a wonderful spot to spend a sunny afternoon.