Weekly Photo Challenge : Winter

I have missed out on the last couple of Weekly Photo Challenges, now it’s time to get back into the swing.   There are a lot of fabulous entries this week, with photos of snow and ice.  Here in the South of England all we have at the moment is rain.   This is fortunate  because when it does snow, we come to a grinding halt, daft really because we usually only get a couple of inches that are usually gone within a few days.

In the middle of December we had very heavy winds and high seas, an incredible winter storm.  This is always great for photographs, so one lunchtime I took my camera down to the sea front and found a fairly wind protected spot and tried my newly learned skills at capturing the rough sea.   The seagulls were having a marvellous time, souring above the waves on the thermals and were fascinating to watch.

These photographs are not brilliant, I didn’t get the lighting quite right and the camera speed was out so the seagulls are not very sharp.  I need to experiment further and there is a lot more to learn.  However, these shots of the sea in Winter are my contribution this weeks photo challenge.

Pop your coat on, turn your heating up and check out some of the really chilly winter photos on other blogs.

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    A reminder of blooms in 2011

    There is little colour in the garden at this time of the year.   It is full of berries of one kind or another, despite the fact there are none on the holly but I miss the flowers.  By way of a reminder of the blooms in the past year, I thought I would dig out my favourite photos of the year.   The ones below are March to August, I hope you enjoy the memories.




    Tulips in April


    Peonies in May


    Raindrops on roses




    Cupani Sweet Pea

    The Flowers
    by Robert Louis Stevenson

    All the names I know from nurse:
    Gardener’s garters, Shepherd’s purse,
    Bachelor’s buttons, Lady’s smock,
    And the Lady Hollyhock.

    Fairy places, fairy things,
    Fairy woods where the wild bee wings,
    Tiny trees for tiny dames –
    These must all be fairy names!

    Tiny woods below whose boughs
    Shady fairies weave a house;
    Tiny treetops, rose or thyme,
    Where the braver fairies climb!

    Fair are grownup people’s trees,
    But the fairest woods are these;
    Where, if I were not so tall,
    I should live for good and all.


    I Am Part of the Big Wildlife Garden

    I have a radio in my bathroom which is tuned into BBC Sussex, all the other radios in my home are tuned to Radio 4.  I often wonder why I do this because BBC Sussex, being the local radio station, is always full of interesting interviews and comments.   I only get to listen to them in the morning when I am having a shower or bath so I am aware I miss lots of useful information.

    Yesterday morning Wednesday 28 December,  Neil Fletcher from the Sussex Wildlife Trust came on to talk about Wildlife Gardens and it caught my attention.   This was something I thought I could do in my garden for 2012, it has ivy to feed the birds and insects and stone walls to give them a home.

    Easy to turn into a Wildlife Garden

    Apparently there are approximately 15 million gardens in the UK, which in total is a bigger area than all our nature reserves put together.   Our gardens could make one giant nature reserve if we were to have a slight shift in the way we garden.   The interviewer asked Neil what we could do as gardeners to make our gardens more attractive to wildlife and the reply was “Almost nothing”.    He talked about The Big Wildlife Garden Competition which is being run jointly between the RHS and The Wildlife Trust.

    The following easy suggestions were given, the majority of us do most of these anyway:

    • Don’t tidy the garden at the beginning of Winter.  Leave the perennials to die down naturally, they make great homes to insects which feed the birds.
    • Leave a patch of lawn to grow, even if it is only a small area, to allow wildflowers to grow.  This will encourage insects and butterflies.
    • No garden?  Patio pots and window boxes can provide food for insects.  Plant herbs, such as lavender, which will be nectar to bees.
    • Have a pile of rocks or wood to give home to insects.  This can even be done if you only have a patio or balcony.
    Pile of wood at the bottom of my garden
    • Remove the fish from your pond.  You will have clearer water and have no need for a filter unit.  Also the fish eat insects that are living in the plants.

    After the programme I hopped along to the  The Big Wildlife Garden website to take a look at what it was all about.    I  clicked on the My Garden tab and filled in information about my garden, posted a photo and completed the Wildlife Wonders section in which you earn points according to what you already have in your garden.

    There are four main areas of things that can be done to make your garden more wildlife friendly:

    • Water and food
    • Plants and planting
    • Habit and shelter
    • Sustain and enjoy

    It’s always fun to gain awards, the aim is to achieve the Green Award and I have  earned a Silver Certificate with what I have in the garden already.   The next step is to add further “wildlife wonders” and the website is packed full of information and ideas.    I was delighted to find out –

    1. the moss in my lawn is a good habitat along with the clover – phew!
    2. My cursed ivy is a big bonus the dense is home for insects and birds and the nectar and berries is a valuable food source.
    3. The holly, elderflower and rose hips left on my climbing rose earned me 4 points.
    Rose Hips on the Golden Showers Rose

    There is also a diary to help you log any achievements and ideas and a map showing other participants with the ability to contact them and share ideas, if you felt you wanted to  be that involved.

    It’s a different type of gardening that will just take a little shift at the way we garden.   It shouldn’t be too difficult for most of us,  I don’t think many have ‘manicured’ lawns and perfect flowerbeds, do we?    Perhaps, as garden bloggers, can all join up and once a month post an update as to our progress.   Visit the website, it’s fun to look at if nothing else, and if you feel so inclined you can also enter your garden into the Big Wildlife Garden competition.

    7 Random things about me – My Versatile Blogger Award

    I start this post with a great big apology to My Fair Lady who was kind enough to nominate me for The Versatile Bloggers Award.     It was awarded to me in the first week of November and although I adhered to rule #1 I have failed miserably when it came to the other rules and this has been on my conscience ever since.    Now, before the year is out, I have got around to doing something about it.

    Each chosen blog is given reason for the nomination and this was My Fair Lady’s reason:-

    “I love to find non-traditional bloggers, can ya tell? I picture my mother (only a few years younger than this blogger) sitting in front of her computer for HOURS trying to figure out how to start a blog, and it astounds me to no end that someone from my mom’s generation not only knows how to blog, but ENJOYS doing it!”

    In the last year of blogging I have come across others of a similar age to me, so I know that I am not really unusual.  There are friends of mine who still struggle to switch on a computer so maybe I and fellow bloggers of the same generation are in the minority – I do hope not.    She is quite right, though, I do ENJOY doing it.

    What exactly is the meaning of versatile?

    It is embracing a variety of subjects; turning from one thing to another and changing.

    Although I started off just writing about my garden I have branched out into other things, which I suppose does make my blog versatile.

    The Rules of the Versatile Blogger Award

      • Thank the award-giver who nominated you and link back to them in your post.
      • Share 7 random things about yourself.
      • Nominate 15  blogs you enjoy reading  (don’t let that put you off, I have nominated just 5)
      • Inform the bloggers of their nomination.
      • Add the Versatile Blog Award picture on your blog post.

      With rule #1 out of the way, here is rule #2:

      7 Random things about me

        • I played Miss Prism in our school rendition of The Importance of Being Earnest.
        • I went to the record launch party of Sugar Sugar by The Archies in 1969.  We drank whisky out of teacups and I don’t remember how I got home from London to Kent, where I lived at the time.
        • When I was 8 months pregnant, I passed my driving test first time.   Goodness knows how I got between the seat and the steering wheel.  It was only when I knew I was pregnant that I decided that I should learn to drive and I was taught by a London Fire Brigade Officer on his days off.
        • I did a charity abseil down the front of the Evening Post building in Bristol in 2002.  My legs went to jelly once I went over the side and it’s something I have vowed never to do again.  I raised almost £300,  although probably because no one could quite believe that I would actually go through with it.
        • Along with #4 above, there are two other things I have only done once – ride pillion on a motor bike and ride a quad bike.
        • I don’t like: (i) beetroot  because we were made to eat it at primary school and it turns everything pink;  (ii) broad beans  because my mum always served them up hard and I remember them having a horrid stale taste;  or (iii)  bananas, because they smell horrid and stick in my throat when I try to swallow them.
        • I wish I could play the piano.


        5 nominations of newly found blogs

        This is the tough one and the main reason I put off responding to the nomination for so long.   I follow and enjoy a great many blogs, the majority of which are garden based and whilst great blogs they do not fall into the category of versatile.   Also, for fear of missing someone out, I am loath to make a selection of just a few.   For that reason, I put off responding to this award but I am going to bite the bullet and list just 5 of the most recent blogs I have started to read and would like to recommend.

          • Inspired Vision

            –  I first came across Cecelia Futch’s blog when I started to enter into the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.    She always manages to write something different and always of interest.  Whilst I am very remiss at leaving comments, I am a regular reader and one of my New Year resolutions is that I will make sure that she knows I have read her posts.

          • Piglet in Portugal

            –  There is always something to laugh about on this blog,  it is written with great humour, even when disaster strikes!   It also has a delicious Portuguese Recipe section and is well worth a regular visit.   This is blogger who follows my blog and always manages to leave lovely comments, and deserves more acknowledgement from me when I read her posts.   Piglet already has a Versatile Award but I make no apology for giving it to her again.

          • Mirth and Motivation

            –  Almost every day Eliz Obhi-Frank writes something to make you think.   Her front page says that it is a motivational and positive Kismet blog,  and it is exactly what it says it is on the tin.   The more  I read the more inspired I feel to write and also look at my own life – it’s a great blog.

          • Chittle Chattle

            –   There is always a variety on artist Myfanwy Hart’s blog, from craft tutorials to recipes.   She writes so well, and when reading her posts, it is a though she is talking directly to the reader which, in my opinion, is one of the main points to bear in mind when writing a blog.

          • Third Hand Art’s Weblog

            – This is a photographic blog and another one I found through joining in the WordPress Weekly Photo challenge.   The variety of photos are just awesome and this blog is well wortha regular visit.

          There are other blogs such as Julia’s Place  without whom I would not have revisited my love of creative writing.  However, she has only just been awarded the Versatile Bloggers Award so I have been beaten to it.

          Chosing 15 was impossible, there are so many other’s I would like to recommend but I hope you enjoy my choice of blogs and pay them a visit.

          The Strongest Supporters are on the Sidelines

          This last week preparations for Christmas went on hold and now there are only two days left to get my act into gear.  There are a lot of Christmas cards that remain to be written and I have left all the presents to be wrapped to the last minute, so I don’t forget what I have bought.   My head has been elsewhere and my memory took a sabbatical.  If you follow my blog you will have read  “Standing on the Sidelines” and know why it has been a tough time lately.

          The funeral was yesterday, Wednesday 21 December which was also the Winter Solstice.    Every post on Facebook and blogs I looked at appeared to be full of it being a time to celebrate the joy of light.    Although, it probably wasn’t like that at all, but it’s a bit like when you buy a new car, you suddenly see many new cars exactly the same as yours.   It didn’t feel like a day to rejoice; for me it was one of the saddest days I have experienced.   No one looks forward to a funeral but I can fully understand why they are so necessary –  it is a final goodbye and closure, gone but never to be forgotten.

          The crematorium was packed with family, friends, work colleagues and even nurses from the hospital.  That was the measure of the great fondness people had for Martin.   The eulogy was about the gentle and good man I knew and then, much to my surprise, went on to say he was a romantic too.   It is clear that some people bring out character traits in a person that others fail to do. I was full of admiration, mixed with a tinge of envy if I am truly honest.   I married the boy and in his second marriage he had become the man.

          When daughter #1 stood up to read a poem she apologised for forgetting the Orders of Service, saying that her Dad would have been annoyed with her.   Far from it, he would have been proud and impressed that she had the wherewithal to find the email she had sent the printers and read the poem from her iPod, with her voice only really breaking on the last few lines.   Thank goodness for modern technology.

          All of the family took me into their fold and we shared our grief together. I thank them for that, more than they will know.   I was made to feel an enormous sense of empathy and love as we hugged, cried and held hands.   His wife and I hugged and cried too and we agreed that we both had been married to a good man.

          The Just Giving memorial page  is full of words of kindness and the number of times “gentle man” and “mentor” are used is heartwarming and wonderful for my daughters to read.   I hope that the money donated to the Encephalitis Society will help support further research into this dreadful disease, increase awareness and support other families and patients.

          I arrived home, after a long journey consisting of  a taxi, four trains and a tube,taking a total 6 1/2 hours.   I was exhausted both emotionally and physically and fell into bed too tired to eat.   Then, both daughters sent me texts to say how good it was to have me there and how much they loved me.

          Clearly I did have a place of importance yesterday and as someone wisely said to me the strongest support comes from those standing on the sideline.

          Now I need to get on with wrapping presents, writing those cards that I can deliver by hand and I wish you all a very happy Christmas.

          Going on a Berry Hunt

          The phone rang this mid-morning and my friend’s voice said “We are going to Clapham Woods for a walk would you like to come”, I jumped at the opportunity for a crisp walk on a cold, sunny, Sunday morning.  I threw on my boots, grabbed my camera and joined the others to head off to Clapham Woods.

          If you were to Google Clapham Woods, you would find a plethora of websites about the Woods in connection with the Occult, from Druids and Pagan rituals through to sighted UFOs.   It is nevertheless a pleasant countryside walk through the South Downs in West Sussex, consisting of woodland, heathland and views, marred only by the traffic noise in the background rising from the A27.

          Having debated whether collecting holly was illegal, and deciding that it wasn’t, my friends set off to look for holly with berries.  By way of interest I have since checked and there are no conservation issues on collecting holly and ivy, in moderation, as long as it is not on private land.  This is also true of picking berries, for personal use, on rights of way and footpaths.  Of course, those foragers among you will know that already.

          While the others trooped off to find their berry laden holly, I stopped to take some photos of the frost covered leaves on woodland floor.

          The thistles looked like Christmas stars sprinkled over the ground.

          I loved the sweep of the furrows on this tree trunk that was lying on the ground.

          Fortunately one of our party had a red scarf on so I was very quickly able to catch up with them.

          On the edge of the wood there is this lovely solid wood bench, securely fixed to the ground with a heavy duty chain and padlock.   It’s difficult to imagine that someone would carry this through the wood as a ‘take-away’, but clearly it was thought it might happen.

          As we continued our search for holly with berries, I was beginning to feel less deprived due to the lack of berries on my holly at home.  Although there was an abundance of holly, there was not a berry to be seen, so we decided to head off home.

          Then the cry rose into the air:  “Berries!!”

          Two trees, just as we were leaving the Wood,  had berries on them.    A successful walk, which cleared the head and my friends have red and green foliage to decorate their homes this Christmas.

          There was not a druid, witch, signs of a satanic cult or UFO in sight either.