Sunday, 29 April 2018

And Dylan the dog came too ...

We've been out and about a lot recently, but our poor dog, Dylan, has had to stay home, so, heading out to Derbyshire earlier this week, we were determined to find somewhere he could come too. After all, he's part of the family, and likes a day out exploring as much as we humans.

First we went to Lea Gardens - we knew they admitted dogs but we've not tried taking Dylan before. He seemed rather excited, hurrying along the paths that wind between the rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias - perhaps a little too quickly on some of the downward sections! But over all he behaved well, stayed on the paths (it's no fun having a dog decide to explore under bushes when you're holding the other end of the lead), and even agreed to take a short rest while I took photos.

Then we headed to a place he's visited before - Cromford and the canal-side walk from High Peak Junction workshops to the wharf by Arkwright's mill.

High Peak Junction workshops

I'm not sure how interested he is in industrial heritage, but he enjoyed the walk!

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Timber Festival - preview

A short while ago, I wrote about festivals taking place this summer within easy reach of my home in Derby, and you may remember the one that really fired my enthusiasm was Timber, the International Forest Festival, which celebrates everything 'woodland' through art, music, discussions, and activities. I'm very much a 'tree-hugger'. I grew up climbing them, building dens under them from fallen branches, and still love to walk through bluebell woods and dark pine forests, or sit in the dappled shade of my garden trees. This festival appeals to me in so many ways, so I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to go along and see for myself what it is all about.
Where to start? As I've explored the Timber website more, I've discovered a wide variety of activities, entertainment and presentations so it's possible to only scratch the surface here.

The keynote speech comes from Stuart Maconie, radio presenter, author, and chairman of the Ramblers, on the changing landscape of post-industrial Britain - a relevant topic for this location as much of the National Forest grows on reclaimed mining landscapes, transforming the land from black to green.
 Fiona Stafford will be reading from her Radio3 series of essays about trees, and Lindsey Chapman, from BBC2's Springwatch Unsprung, will chair a discussion on the role of woods as setting and influence on art, film and literature, while another debate will focus on current environmental issues, and, if you've a woodland-related social enterprise project in need of funding, there's opportunity to pitch for it.

Museum of the Moon

It isn't all serious stuff though. You can get up early for a jog through the forest at dawn, or stay up late to join in a torchlit procession, or see the Moon up close in Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon.

In between you could go on a foraging walk, help build a maze, climb a tree, test your balance on slack-lines strung from tree to tree, watch experts share their love of creating things from wood - carving, willow weaving, timber construction - and learn about the route your food takes from Field to Fork.
If this is all too energetic for you then try something more relaxing - yoga, tai chi, forest bathing, Indian head massage -  just sit and listen to campfire stories, or catch some 'Comedy in the Dark' from Mark Dolan and Joey Page.

It wouldn't be a festival of course without music, and again there's something for everyone, from the quieter folk songs of Ewan McLennan, through Perhaps Contraption described as a progressive brass band, to Discolypso, mixing Caribbean, African and Latin rhythms.

Throughout the weekend there are specific activities and interactive theatrical productions for children - they can find out what it's like to be a woodland animal, join a mask-making workshop, discover the Bewonderment machine ( a cycle-powered carousel) and there's even a special board games tent.

A joint effort between the National Forest Company and Wild Rumpus, Timber takes place over the weekend of 6/7/8 July at Fearnedock. a seventy acre woodland site on the Derbyshire/Leicestershire border, in the heart of the National Forest. You can visit for a day, or stay the whole weekend, bring your own tent or choose from a variety of glamping options of tents, pods, tipis and domes. For details of ticket prices and further programme, location, accessibility information check out the Timber website here

See how it went here - timber-festival-2018

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Going home - Brinsley Headstocks Country Park

Driving home after visiting my parents this weekend, we stopped off at a small country park where the village pit once stood.

 The pit itself closed long ago - in the 1930s - but when I was a child the headstocks still stood alongside a seemingly enormous 'slag heap' overgrown by weeds and saplings, and, despite warnings about uncapped mine shafts, I remember being taken there on walks with my mother, and playing among the ruins. In my memory, it's a wild, untamed place, with narrow tracks twisting through brambles, and leading who-knew-where. 

Now, it's been 'tamed'. The headstocks were taken away for several years, the site cleared, the shafts filled. Then the headstocks were brought back and a country park created around them, with proper paths and information boards.

For many the place's importance comes from the association with local author DH Lawrence - his father was born in a nearby cottage, his aunt and uncle lived in another (which he used as the setting for a short story,"Odour of Chrysanthemums") - but for me it's just a bit of disappeared childhood. It's tidier and safer now, no doubt, but nothing like as exciting!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Making the most of the sun - Belton House

The sunshine lured us out again on Friday - this time a little further afield to Belton Hall just outside Grantham.

It was too nice to waste time indoors, plus we had our grandson along in his buggy, so we didn't go in the House itself but wandered round the formal gardens, had a play in the maze, saw the moondial and checked out the adventure playground for future reference (also it was cooler under the trees there)

And, of course, we found time for lunch and cake.

I've become a rather lazy, ambling outdoors person recently but, although "just a short stroll' is what I tend to think when visiting gardens,  I'd soon clocked up enough steps to make my Fitbit happy (in fact by the end of the day, I'd done more than double my target!)

With a buggy to push you notice different things - gravel is very noisy, grassed areas that look flat actually have hidden humps and hollows, certain areas of the garden were out of reach because of steps, and our daughter felt the baby changing area she used was functional but could have been improved. All things you stop noticing as your children grow, but now as a granny I need to consider them again.

We used to stop at Belton frequently on our way to and from Norfolk, but it's a while since we've visited and even longer since we've been in the play area. It's now bigger and although some old favourites have gone, there's lots of fab things to explore when Grandson is older. Meanwhile I couldn't resist 'testing' some of the new things - a hand pump which delivered water into wooden troughs and turned metal cups, a hanging xylophone and some musical stepping-stones. I just wish I were still small enough to explore this 'castle' :)

Friday, 20 April 2018

Evening walk at Locko Park

It seems like only a week or so ago that we had snow, but in the last couple of days summer seems to have suddenly arrived here. It's proved a bit of a shocking change, and, although I wanted to get out and enjoy the sunshine (because, face it, who knows how long it will last?) it's seemed too hot to do much during the day - so an evening stroll seemed a better option.

I was looking for somewhere quiet, preferably with water, and without hills (!) and I'd been thinking of going to one of our regular 'on the doorstep' walks when I remembered an even closer spot that fitted the bill exactly. Locko Park is just on the edge of Derby, and if I were feeling energetic I could walk there, but I wasn't, and it was still hot, so we took the car and parked at the entrance.

Locko Hall glimpsed across the lake

It isn't really a place that's open to the public, but there's a right of way which follows the main drive, skirting a lake with distant views of the hall.

We then followed a footpath up to a small wood with bluebells, where we caught the sun setting like a ball of flame before retracing our steps to the car.

  It's a lovely peaceful spot, surrounded by low hills that somehow cut off the outside world, and I don't know how we dropped out of the habit of walking there. What brought it to mind today was an upcoming food and music festival, BlokOut, which I mentioned recently. The place won't be as quiet that weekend, but it's a wonderful location for such an event.

Friday, 13 April 2018

Going it alone - Ben Marwood (and more) at JT Soar

JT Soar is a strange, secretive venue. Once a wholesale greengrocers, it still keeps its old frontage but, a bit like a speakeasy dive from America's prohibition years, hides something very different behind that exterior. There's no hard liquor on sale, though; it's strictly bring-your-own. The space is bare, there are few chairs but after all you've come to listen to musicians so does that matter? Not really, or at least not till I get cramp in the middle of the night!

Ben Marwood
I've been there quite a lot in this last year - to see Sean McGowan just before he got signed to a recording label, for my daughter's EP launch, and numerous other occasions  - so when I found out George Gadd (yep, seen him there too) was promoting a gig with three singer/songwriters, ALL of whom I wanted to see live, I got OH to give up his running and go out on a Friday night instead. 

She Makes War

The music aspect of the evening was great - George himself first to warm up the crowd, followed by Helen Chambers, She Makes War, and Ben Marwood. I loved all of them, and would go see any of them again but, sorry Ben and Helen, She Makes War (aka Laura Kidd) was the 'find' of the night. I've been following her on social media for a while, hearing new songs via her newsletter, but it was somehow only live that I thought I MUST hear more of her, so I bought a CD. 
Disarm - She Makes War

George Gadd immortalised on stickers

Something I hadn't expected from the evening, though, was to be taken aback by my daughter's absence. We've been to to gigs without her before, when she was away at uni, busy with something else, or on holiday. Lots in little pub venues, As December Falls at Rescue Rooms, Frank Turner at Rock City ... but I only realised on the night that every time I'd been to JT Soar my daughter had been performing there, and frequently promoting the event (meaning I'd spend part of my time taking money on the door!). Now of course she's off living her own life and us old parents have either got to stay home or  pretend we're really hip and know all about the contemporary folk scene, and bluff it out. Well, I'm not staying home!
 It definitely made things a little sad and weird to be there without her, and it really felt like I was stepping outside my comfort zone. It wasn't something I intended adding to my #60NewThings list, but turns out it is - going it alone with no daughter-shaped safety net. Thank you, George, for not thinking we'd strayed into the wrong place, and were really looking for some cheap fruit and veg :)

Monday, 9 April 2018

Birthday week

We all like birthdays, don't we? Cake and presents, and cake, and possibly more cake. But I never quite think a single day of celebration is enough, especially when it's a huge round-number birthday as mine is this year. So I've managed (yet again) again to drag things out over a week or so.

To start, we packed the car with adults and baby grandson, and headed north to youngest daughter's flat for the first of my birthday lunches.  There's an odd mix of beverages on offer when everyone's gathered together but the cake looked more traditional - and tasted delicious.
On my actual birthday the rain came down, so elder daughter came round (with baby) and prepared 'high tea' for lunch - three sorts of delicate, crust-free finger sandwiches (including smoked salmon), with scones and cake to follow.  The only thing we lacked was a fancy cake stand to serve things on, and maybe some pretty china tea-cups would have looked better than mugs, but neither would have improved the taste :0

Next day, to prove its total disregard for the calendar, the sun came out. Although we had 'chores' to do, I managed to sneak a few hours outside at Allestree park on the edge of Derby. It's mainly laid to golf course but the walk around the lake is attractive, especially with blue sky reflecting in the water.

Still not finished with this birthday ... Friday evening saw us at Nottingham's JT Soar listening to George Gadd, Helen Chamber, She Makes War, and Ben Marwood.

Then at the weekend, my youngest daughter came home, and we had another day out - this time to Chatsworth.

It's been a lovely week, and I think I've done quite well with my celebrating, but maybe now it's time to get back to normal ...