A walk in the Lickey Hills

Firstly, an admission.  The photographs in this post are my husbands. No effort was made on my part.  This is not due not to laziness but to the fact that his photos are a million times better than anything I have ever taken! Slight exaggeration, perhaps.

Lickey Hill walk 1

Give or take a few million, the rock which forms Worcestershire’s Lickey Ridge is 580 million years old and there is evidence that settlers lived in the area during Neolithic times.  It is thought that the forest may have provided the inspiration for Tolkien’s mythical Shire (the home of the hobbits) in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for he lived, for some time, in nearby Rednal.

Lickey Hills 1

The Lickey Hills Park is situated about fifteen minutes drive from my home. Covering a 524 acre site, this is a place that I visited with my parents as a child. Later my own children were regularly taken there. The ancient woodland boast almost 400 species of flowering plants and 350 species of fungi too. The forest is mainly populated by spruce and pine trees.  The hills look especially lovely at this time of year.

Lickey Hills 2

Animal life also thrives with several  types of deer recorded, though I’ve never seen one here. More than 90 bird species have been recorded.

Lickey Hills 4

From Beacon Hill (on which stood one of the country’s beacons which were used to warn of invasion), it is possible to see landmarks in no less than thirteen counties, weather permitting of course. During WWII the army built a series of buildings on the hill which were used by the Royal Observer Corps aircraft spotters and air-raid wardens who watched for fires in the south Birmingham area.

This castellated structure is a recent addition, built in 1988 to replace the original which housed a toposcope which was gifted to the City of Birmingham in 1907 by the Cadbury family.

Lickeys - Fort

A toposcope is usually situated on hilltops or other high up geographical features and is used to indicate direction and the distance from the point to notable landmarks.

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An obelisk folly sits high on one of the hills and Was built to commemorate the 6th Earl of Plymouth, Other Archer, who owned much of the land hereabouts.

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And finally … The Spirit of the Woods , carved from a single trunk of sweet chestnut by sculptor Graham Jones, just one of a number of sculptures commissioned by Birmingham City Council.

Wood carving Lickey Hills

 

 

 

 

 

The soup maker

The flight home was delayed by half an hour. Not long but more time for me to feel nervous. Fortunately ‘Brian’ had died down (or blown away) so the expected turbulence didn’t materialise. Phew!  Husband was there at Birmingham Airport to pick me up. I miss Ireland whenever I leave and always wish I could stay a little longer, but it’s always good to get home too.

My soup maker had arrived so, of course, I had to try it out.

imageI chopped a few potatoes, added leeks from the garden,  a vegetable stock cube, water and seasoning.

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There are settings for smooth or chunky soups. If, when the soups is cooked, it’s a little too chunky, there is a ‘blend’ option which pulses if for just a moment. The soup maker can also be used as a juicer and to make smoothies.

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Can you believe it, I forgot to take a photo of the finished product! The soup was fine  though I would have preferred it a little thicker. I had added liquid up to the minimum quantity line. Lesson learned – I needed to use more potato. So, what’s the verdict.  The taste of the soup was just as good but is this a piece of kit worth having?  The jury’s out at the moment. I need to experiment more.

Storm Brian ~ wet and wild

Rain stops play as Storm Brian sweeps across Ireland. At least it’s stopped me enjoying the fresh sea air to the degree that I may otherwise have done. To be fair, Dun Laoghaire isn’t getting anything like the worst of it but it’s quite bad enough. An umbrella is useless in this wind so we’ve mostly stayed in today but we were picked up and taken out for lunch to Cinnamon, a lively bistro-style restaurant in nearby Monkstown.

 

I’m annoyed with myself for forgetting to photograph lunch – a truly delicious warm goats cheese, walnut and apple salad with sweet potato fries. It was sooooo good! Over the years I’ve been to a fair few eateries in this area but this is probably my favourite. My kind of place!

The weather is a good excuse to chill out in front of the TV in the afternoon – something  I never get to do on a Saturday afternoon. I’m not complaining,; it’s been a nice excuse to do nothing.  Food and property programmes are the main offering so, curled up on the sofas, we watched a few in between dozing off!

It can be very tiring doing not much at all. An early night beckons!

 

 

Ireland – My Emerald Heart

AAAAAAAAAA

Ireland – the most westerly point of Europe, the last, isolated island before the Atlantic Ocean. The Greeks and Romans called it Hibernia meaning ‘the land of winter’. Whilst there exists small communities where Irish is spoken, these are few and far between and it is a version of English which now dominates. Hiberno English has its own unique grammar, the origins of which are a combination of Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Medieval Old Irish and 17th Century English from Western England.

That such a small island could be responsible for producing so much literary excellence (think Yeats, Shaw, Joyce and Wilde, Sean O’Casey and Jonathan Swift to name but a few) seems hard to believe but it is perhaps testament to the love of the Irish for their country. For there is an innate pride in their country in those of Irish descent. Since Prehistory people have dwelt in Ireland and some of their beliefs, traditions and folklore still influence attitudes today.

The history of Ireland is turbulent and complex. Although never a part of the Roman Empire, evidence exists that several Roman trading posts were established on east coast. The country suffered invasion from the Vikings and the Normans but by the 17th century power lay in the hands of the ‘Ascendency’ which referred to the descendants of English colonists,  and it was governed by England. It wasn’t until 1922 that Southern Ireland gained its status as the Irish Free State.

It was during the Viking era, when their chosen point of entry to Ireland was the Liffey Eestuary, that Dublin became an important international trading centre on route to the Baltic, Scandinavia and the Middle East. During the 18th century it became a great Georgian city and many of the fine houses still exist. Unfortunately those around O’Connell Street became the slum tenements so often depicted in the plays of Sean O’Casey.

The Halfpenny Bridge, O’Connell Street, Dublin

Image result for pictures of dublin tripadvisor ha'penny bridge

The late 1990s and first decade of the Millennium saw a significant transformation of Dublin’s derelict quays and docklands and, in common with most other large towns and cities in Ireland, Dublin saw an unprecedented building boom which made it into the cosmopolitan, vibrant city that it is today.  During this time a cultural and economic explosion took place and the country became wealthy beyond expectation; the ‘Celtic Tiger’ was born. Despite a falter in 2003, in terms of financial stability a prosperous future looked assured but the country hadn’t anticipated the worldwide financial crash of 2008 and Ireland’s building industry collapsed leading several major banks into bankruptcy and leaving the Government with massive debts and economic problems which they are still trying to resolve – a new chapter in the ever-changing history of this small, naturally beautiful island. The Irish have a reputation for friendliness, for hospitality and generosity and from the times I’ve spent there, I know this to be true.

I said at the start that there is an innate pride in their country in of those of Irish descent. I’m one of them.

Lazy Sunday? Not quite

“A Sunday well spent brings a week of content”

Apart from the fact that they precede Mondays, and I have to go to work on Mondays,  I rather like Sundays. Sometimes they are filled with family things, sometimes they are chill-out days at home and now and then they are a day for meeting up with my friend for morning coffee. Rarely are they lazy days  – I always seem to have far to much that needs doing to have lazy days.  This particular Sunday began with me in some discomfort. About three weeks ago I had a cold. It didn’t last long and it wasn’t a particularly bad one but ever since I’ve been snuffly and a bit headachey during the night and on waking. It’s been getting worse so finally I Googled – the diagnosis is catarrh. I don’t recall ever having this before but right now, oh yes, I am suffering.

Our plan for this morning was to choose wallpaper for the bedroom. Since we were going out anyway, I decided to pay a visit to the chemist. I now have Sudafed tablets and am hoping they will do the job as I am due to go to Ireland later this week. Husband has already stripped the walls and has plans to complete the papering  whilst I am away.  I’m so glad that I hadn’t already bought the paper because I had in mind a coffee colour to contrast with the new bedding I’ve bought, but over the past few days, each time I’ve walked into the bedroom, I’ve been startled (not too strong a word) by how light and airy it looks now that the removal of the existing wallpaper has revealed white painted walls.  I’m not a fan of painted walls as I prefer some light texture but in terms of colour, my mind had changed. I chose a plain magnolia paper which has a slight bark effect. Husband tends to leave decor decisions to me.

Once home I had my breakfast. It was late – around 11 am but I hadn’t felt like it earlier. This morning it was porridge with raspberries. It was tempting to then sit back and read the Sunday papers but I had ironing to do – just a few items I want to take away with me.

Then my two sons arrived. Eldest has picked up the final bits and pieces from the old house. We have agreed to store some bunk beds until they are required for his small sons (both still in cots at present). Youngest son has a bigger vehicle than the rest of us so this was requisitioned to effect transfer of said beds. The ‘problem’ with a split level house is that it comes with a split level loft  i.e. two lofts. This is attractive to people – in particular, sons who require the storage of various items . We reminded eldest son that we still have stuff in there since his 2013 move, and the younger one that his wife’s wedding dress has languished there since the year before that!  It seems that the more we aim to relieve the lofts of their contents (a slow process with downsizing at some unspecified future date in mind) so other people fill them up!

I missed lunch having eaten breakfast so late and made some greetings cards instead. I noticed on Friday that the selection at the gym is running a bit low. To the end of 2016 I’d made about £650 through sales at the gym. This has been split equally between Cancer Research (the gym’s chosen charity) and the research fund of Crohns & Colitis UK (my choice). So far in 2017 it is about £170. Here’s a small sample of today’s effort.

Cards

I also made a start on  Christmas cards for my own use. Then I remembered that I had a little bit of sewing to do before the daylight fades. I don’t like to leave it until late as I find it more difficult to do by electric light. I shortened some leggings (I find that even some marketed as ‘petite’ are longer than I like) and repaired the hem on a dress.

It was late afternoon before I got a look at the newspaper. Then, in no time at all,  my thoughts turned to dinner. I don’t often cook a roast and wanted to try a vegetable roast with feta cheese (and very nice it was but I forgot to take a photograph). It wasn’t Husband’s kind of food so he had cheese & ham quiche. Soon I’ll get my bits and pieces ready for work tomorrow, have a bath and settle down to watch episode 3 of The Last Post.  So that was my day – not a lazy one but no great effort expended either. How was your Sunday?