Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Millennium Meadow, Duffield

Cowslips in the wildflower meadow

Having been cooped up all week with a bad cold, then Saturday being wet and windy, I was determined to get outside on Sunday, if only for a short while. We headed to somewhere local and new-to-us - Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's Millennium Meadow just outside Duffield.

dandelions and

We parked by the village church, and walked up a lane alongside the mainline railway towards the reserve and Eyes Meadow sports-field. It doesn't sound like a pretty approach but wildflowers were growing in the hedge bottom, and there were views across the meadows towards the Derwent. It was definitely noisy though when trains came past! It turns out we could have parked by the entrance to Millennium Meadow, but the reserve isn't huge, and walking that extra bit added more step to my Fitbit count.

Looking back to the Derwent


Looking over Eyes Meadow sports fields

 Millennium Meadow itself is an area lying between the Derwent and Ecclesbourne rivers, with young trees, wildflowers meadow and ponds.

wild garlic

Being a nature reserve, it's necessary to stick to paths, and dogs must be kept under control, but it was a lovely quiet, peaceful place, especially walking along the banks of the Derwent.
River Ecclesbourne flowing in from the right
to join the Derwent

 In drier weather I might have tried scrambling down to the fishing spots at river level, but the previous day's rain had left the steps looking too muddy and slippery. Another time maybe.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Looking forward to summer - local festivals

The recent good weather has me looking ahead to summer; hopefully to a few days by the sea, but also to the round of festivals. Now, once you start to look around, there are more festivals than it's possible to attend, so my emphasis is on the quirky and slightly off-beat. The huge local festivals like Y Not and Download don't feature here - for one thing, you've probably already heard of them, and also so I'm looking for 'family-friendly', because that generally means suitable for less-energetic older folks like myself.

First up are two I went along to last year; Timber, and Woodside

Timber, winner of Best New Festival at the UK Festival Awards, takes place 5/6/7th July at Feanedock in the National Forest. It's a mixture of informative debates, art, music and fun.

Stuart Maconie

You can listen to familiar names such as Stuart Maconie, Phil Jupitus, and Peter Owen-Jones, or discover new speakers talking about environmental, green issues, and the benefits of nature to our wellbeing.

You can take part in wellness workshops ranging from yoga  to forest meditation, try your hand at woodcraft, find out how to live 'slowly', or join in a dance class.

The Eyrie Stage

Of course, being a festival there has to be music! From colliery band to rock, folk to disco, there has to be something for everyone.  It's definitely family friendly with lots of activities aimed at children, but equally there's a vast amount to appeal to oldies like myself. Last year I couldn't attend for the whole weekend and therefore missed out on a lot of the hands-on activities - there are so many to chose from, though, that maybe three days isn't long enough!

Run by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust (with profits going to them), Woodside was a similar 'green' festival.

Held this year on June 15th, Woodside has been renamed Wildside, but is at the same place - Woodside Farm, Shipley, Ilkeston.  This is only a day-long festival but there's a mix of live music from folk to rock, theatre and story-telling, plenty of 'wild' activities to take part in - pond-dipping, willow-weaving, bug-hunting, or wild yoga and outdoor gym, if they're more your style.

Last year's event was really fun, and it was lovely to be able to take Dylan the dog along, proving that dogs and festivals can mix!

EDIT - Wildside had to be cancelled due to a dreadful week of rain so will be re-scheduled for another date

In a similar vein are two festivals being held at Whistlewood Common, a community-owned 10 acre site just outside Melbourne. Events and courses, mainly based around their beliefs of living sustainably, are held throughout the year, but on 22nd June and 20th July they'll be holding two festivals - the first a Midsummerish Music Festival, the second BemTeVi, a celebration of Brazilian culture.

The Midsummerish Festival is now in its sixth year, and growing in popularity.
There's lots of entertainment and activities for children (and their adults) - last year had wheelbarrow racing, and hobby horses - live music from local performers (last year saw a range from Roots Choir to indie group Boats on the Ocean), and food from local suppliers.

At BemTeVi, there will be workshops in drumming and capoeira (a Brazilian martial art), crafts and activities for families, and the day will end with dancing, music, and Brazil's national cocktail, caipirinhas.

Although both are one day festivals it's possible to camp overnight (perhaps best after sampling caipirinhas!)

Now, remember I said I was looking for quirky? Well, how about this? Indietracks, a pop festival held on a steam railway! Over the weekend 26th - 28th July, this pop-up festival takes over the Midland Railway Centre near Ripley in Derbyshire. You park your car, and take the train to the festival site

There are four stages and around 50 new and established acts, mainly from the indie/DIY sector; you can check out a compilation of the appearing artists in advance. If you get bored with the music, you can ride on the trains, visit the museum, and make friends with owls and parrots from the Woodie's Wings charity.

There are two areas specially aimed at children - a messy, crafty one, and a quiet downtime space for the under 5s. While for adults there are workshops on a wide-ranging topics - they've previously subjects as diverse as ukulele-playing and cup cake decorating. Although a full weekend festival, you can't stay on site, though there is a campsite within a 10-15 minute walk.

Have I saved the biggest till last? Probably. It's certainly the one nearest to a mainstream rock festival, and with the biggest, best-known headliners. You might recognise Wollaton Hall as Wayne Manor in The Dark Knight Rises, but I don't think Batman's going to be around on 20th July when Splendour Festival takes over his garden.

This year the event is headlined by Manic Street Preachers and The Specials. Joining them on the Main Stage are Rag'N'Bone Man, X Factor winner Louisa, Slow Readers Club and more, while the Confetti Stage with be headlined by All Saints.

Manic Street Preachers
photo credit; Alex Lake

The Specials

The smaller Courtyard stage is packed with acts that you may not have heard of yet, but are ones to watch out for, and if you fancy something different, there's a stage of comedy talent.

photo credit Ami Ford

Elsewhere there's a silent disco, a funfair, and special kids' area - so, something to entertain all the family.

The only difficulty is, which of these festivals to go along to ...

To find out more about any of these festivals, click on the appropriate link
Wildside Festival
Whistlewood Common 
Splendour Festival

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Second half of the bluebell walk - Cromford Canal, Lea Bridge spur

 We finished our walk among the Bow Wood bluebells at Smedley's mill in Lea Bridge, and as it had turned out to be shorter than expected, plus Dylan the dog still looked fairly enthusiastic, we decided to add on a mile or so by walking along the Lea Bridge spur of Cromford Canal rather than heading directly back to the car.

The path's a little difficult to find from this direction, as it squeezes between houses than appears to continue through another's garden. This last section was once the old wharf for loading and unloading, and the slabs making the canal bank are still there.
As you continue the old canal becomes less obvious for a while - it's the dried-up ditch shown here.

More bluebells, but on the far side of the canal so had to be admired from a distance.

As the old towpath crosses the railway (which is crossing the Derwent before heading into Leawood tunnel), the canal becomes clear.

Then at Aqueduct Cottage, the spur joins the main Cromford canal, before crossing the Derwent. All these canals were part of the transport structure to enable local mills to send their goods out into the world. The most famous is probably Arkwright's pioneering mill at Cromford, but many others were soon built along the Derwent Valley.

The great thing about walking alongside canals is that the path is guaranteed to be flat, but by this time Dylan was getting tired and so we ambled very slowly back to High Peak Junction, and were just back at the car to see the sun set.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Bow Wood Bluebells

 Bluebells are in flower again so it's time to head out to Bow Wood near Cromford.

We chose a slightly different walk this time - shorter and not so steep, zigzagging back and forth on the side of the hill rather than up and over which we thought would be too strenuous for Dylan the dog.

Sunshine through birch trees

I'd hoped the path would bring us out higher, to see the open field of flowers at the top of Bow Wood, (see the longer walk here) but, after initially rising, it curved gently downhill to the back of the John Smedley factory.

It was only a mile or so in length but even so we saw an incredible amount of bluebells, and this will definitely be an easier path to follow with my grandson in a year or two.

As if the bluebells weren't exciting enough in themselves, we also spotted a heron in flight, and a fox slinking his/her way across a nearby field.

a well-earned rest

As the walk had turned out shorted than expected, and Dylan was still fairly energetic, we added on a short detour along Lea Bridge spur of Cromford canal, before returning to the car near High Peak Junction.

Top of Carsington Water

We visit Carsington Water quite frequently but tend to either park near the visitor centre, or walk from the other car parks to it. This time, for a change, I thought we'd park at Sheepwash car park and walk away from the visitor centre, towards the northern end of the reservoir; the top, if that's the correct word.

The path here runs along a narrow strip of land squeezed between reservoir and 'B' road, and, as the road seemed quite busy, I don't think it's as nice as other sections.

I'd expected that there'd be a view over the water - but oddly there are newish trees planted between path and reservoir. To me it seemed more sensible to have planted them between road and path, but I assume there was some reason for planting where they are.

After a while the view did open up. We'd gone out in the early evening, as the day cooled down, and looking down the reservoir it seemed quite misty.

There's a handy seat, placed in memory of a man and his dog who loved to walk here, by the reed beds at the top of the lake, and we sat a while, and let Dylan have a rest. The islands are home to a lot of noisy ducks and geese, and a silent, statue-like heron. I also spotted a reed bunting, and something large and black, either cormorant or shag, flew over as we walked back.

We didn't walk far. It's roughly a mile or so from car park to the reed beds, but that was enough to leave Dylan feeling tired, and having sat for a while it seemed like a logical place to turn round and head back towards a rather misty sunset.