Sunday, 24 September 2017

Warming to Autumn

Such a beautiful day today.

It started off with a red sky and you know how the saying goes, “Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.” Or if you prefer, “Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning.” The message is the same.

7 am

I decided to take it as a good omen and not a bad one. It just didn’t have the feel of a day with bad weather coming.

The day turned a little hazy, then the sun came out and this afternoon I decided to take a break from the writing and make the most of the good weather.

I walked to the edge of Little Oakley, then cut across to Ramsey and I stood for a few moments on the hill enjoying the view. Then I went to see the horses on the hill, before turning back for home.

The photos don’t do justice to the view from the hill. I should have taken them higher up than I did.  You can just about see the Ramsey windmill if you look hard enough (you might have to click on the picture to make it bigger).


The windmill was built sometime before 1819 in Woodbridge, Suffolk and was one of the four mills on the Mill Hills. It was moved to Ramsey in 1842.  In 1841, one of my several times great grandfathers lived on Mill Hill in Woodbridge and his occupation was miller. In the next census he was a jobbing labourer. I often look at that windmill and wonder…

There were some lovely autumn smells. Someone somewhere had a bonfire. There was the musky smell of ripe blackberries and the waft of horse manure. Moving on…

I paused in the shade of some horse chestnut trees and filled my pockets with… horse chestnuts. It was as I waddled down the road with my bulging pockets that I decided to call for a lift.

Now to find somewhere to put them where Dusty can’t get them and where the cats can’t knock them down to him, but where spiders will see them and scuttle off to live somewhere else (I live in hope and it has seemed to work in past years).

The oak tree has produced a bumper crop of acorns this year and Dusty thinks all his Christmases have come at once. He no longer has to dig around looking for stones to bring in to exchange for treats. We couldn’t understand how he kept appearing with acorns and oak apples when the back door was shut – then we found his secret stash hidden behind the chair! And they say springer spaniels are stupid.

The warmth of the sun, the slightly hazy feel to the day and the lightest of cool breezes made it feel like a spring day, but of course it wasn’t. It was an autumn day and I liked it.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Quiet September Days

Seems to be September is often a quiet, mellow sort of month. Mind you it wasn’t quiet the other night when it sounded like the wind was trying its best to blow the roof off.

The children are all settled back at school and – mostly – enjoying it. They’re all excited about their topics for this term. Vikings, The War of the Roses and other such delights. I couldn’t believe it when three of them started on their homework the minute they got home from school – willingly and without anyone telling them to – while the fourth moaned because she hadn’t been given any yet.

Yes, I think they were ready to go back. 

Christmas has arrived in the shops and I bought a large red cake tin for £2.49 from Home Bargains – I do love a bargain. I am tempted to get more for storing all the Christmas cakes I make. 

I don't buy cake boards any more. The first thing we used to do on cutting the cake was to take it off the board and put it in a tin so now I put the cake on the upturned lid, decorate it, then use the bottom of the tin as a lid. Makes it easy to cut too. Just realised when I do that, the pattern will be upside down... oops.

I have to admit the sight of all the decorations and fripperies appearing in the shops has rather lifted my spirits. Christmas lights will brighten the darkest time of the year and that’s always good to look forward to.

What a lovely summer we had though even though the best of the weather seemed to be before the children broke up from school.

Before term ended, we went out for ice creams after school on a hot, sunny day.

Then at the start of the holiday, my two lovely granddaughters-from-away came to stay and oh boy did Dusty love that!

Dusty and Tinks have been getting closer. Not quite cuddling up yet…

Harley mostly spent the summer rolling about on the grass in the sun (or running round in the rain!).

And Harley comforted my eldest granddaughter after yet another mishap. Harley doesn’t “do” laps very often, but she seems to know when a cuddle is required.

We had a lot of fun, but we had some peaceful moments too.

It’s no secret I don’t look forward to autumn and winter, but I’m trying to look at the positives, the first one being roast dinners!

Is there anything you look forward to at this time of year?

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Suffolk Punch Trust - Last Days of Summer

It was the last full week off for the kidlets last week and we tried to wind it down a bit ready for getting back into the school routine.

Our last trip of the summer was to the Suffolk Punch Trust in Hollesley. It’s a wonderful place to visit for a peaceful day out and I highly recommend it.

To get there, you by-pass Woodbridge, one of my favourite places and drive past Sutton Hoo (kidlets declared they’d been there enough times thank you!) and Rendlesham Forest (famous for its aliens!). And onwards towards Hollesley following the signs to HM Hollesley Bay Colony otherwise known as Hollesley Bay Prison (where Jeffrey Archer lived for a while).

It was a beautiful day, warm and bright and the Suffolk countryside looked its best as we arrived at the Suffolk Punch Trust. If we’d carried on past the Suffolk Punch Trust, we would have ended up in Shingle Street, but decided to leave visiting there for another day as we spent the whole day at the Trust.

It takes an hour to drive there from here, but as the crow flies we’re only about 10 miles away. Some of my ancestors came from that area of Suffolk and I imagine they used boats to come down the coast and would probably laugh at the convoluted route we take today.

So, we petted horses and this one in particular seemed eager for attention. But they are all friendly and gentle.

So friendly, so gentle

There were also some ex-racehorses there as part of ROR (Retraining of Racehorses). As soon as they saw us, they rushed across the field to say hello. Once their rehabilitation is complete, they will go on to new homes.

Retraining of Racehorses

The youngest foal, Colony Dorothy, was born in April and they lost her mother, Colony Olive to a terrible colic in August. Dotty is now spending time with last year’s foal, Colony Calypso. So very sad.  You can see a picture of Dorothy and Olive in happier times here.

Dorothy and Calypso

This chap is the father of many and the resident stallion, Besthorpe Achilles. Magnificent isn’t he.

Besthorpe Achilles

We went on a tractor ride which was bumpy – but fun – and we learned a lot about the Trust and the horses thanks to our very informative guide. The kids were given worksheets when we went in. They look for different coloured flights (the ribbons used to decorate the manes) hidden in boxes around the stud and answer questions. When complete they choose a prize – a pencil or a badge. Not compulsory, but they enjoyed doing it and collecting their prizes as we left.

Tractor Ride

We sat on the grass to have a picnic, then the smaller kids played on the play equipment while I went back with my eldest grandson to revisit the horses in the stables. He was particularly taken with Colony Iris, aged 21, the oldest horse there. He also liked Colony Xing, the tallest (and still growing) horse. When we had our tractor tour we were told he will be bigger than Besthorpe Achilles (one and a half tons) and may reach a ton and three-quarters. That’s a lot of horse!

There are two sweet Shetland ponies, several Suffolk sheep (the oldest registered flock in the world), rabbits, guinea pigs, goats, Ixworth chickens (which almost died out and are still very rare today).

And pigs. New Zealand pigs.

New Zealand Pig

And rare Large Black Pigs – and some very young piglets! Another breed which was almost extinct not long ago.

Large Black Piglets

I wish I’d taken a photo of the Gypsy Cob. He was dumped needing emergency vet treatment as a foal, but my goodness you should see him now. There is a picture of him here – at the bottom of the page which also has information about the other horses.

My eldest granddaughter had a horrible fall at the swimming pool last week. She wasn’t running or messing about, just walking back to the changing rooms when she slipped at the edge of the pool and crashed down hurting her leg and elbow and falling back into the pool. She was very shaken up with a nasty bruise on her elbow. Poor little thing – I thought she’d had her share of accidents after gashing her leg at the beach.

There is definitely an autumnal feel to the air and the early morning shadows are growing longer. (Sorry about the poo bin in this one!) This small tree cast a long shadow across the playing fields and the pointy shadows are made by the beach huts.

7 o'clock September morning

Dusty’s been enjoying the occasional swim. He seems to have even more energy now the weather is getting cooler. Sadly the same can’t be said for me.

Dusty swimming

I’m sad the holidays are over. I hated school myself and I’ll miss the children being around, although I'll still see them every day. I can never understand people who complain about the holidays and can’t wait for them to go back. Childhood rushes past in the blink of an eye – we should make the most of every second.

I will certainly miss being accompanied by mini-Batman on my walks!


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Jimmy's Farm - The Return

Earlier in the holiday I took my two grandchildren-from-away to Jimmy’s Farm and I wanted to go back with the other four.

So last week I packed a picnic and off we went.

As soon as we entered the farm park, we were greeted by a young woman holding two ferrets. One she said might nibble fingers, the other would only lick. Needless to say they had a huge fuss made of them. Gorgeous little things.

My eldest grandson somehow got into conversation with her about being a vegetarian (possibly because of his badge saying, “Don’t panic and be a vegetarian”). She said, “I am too. And I work on a farm!” And she looked a little rueful.

Friendly little pony

Some of the animals there have been rescued. The female ring tailed coati was kept as a "pet" for two years in a bird cage and had pulled out most of her fur and engaged in classic pacing behaviour. She is learning how to be a coati with the help of her family and rarely paces now. We learned a lot from the keeper and he told us about how one of the meerkats was a former "pet" and had been rescued too from a very unhappy existence.

A better life

The kids did the den-building and bouncy pillow bouncing and we went into the butterfly house which was amazing and very hot and humid. It felt chilly when we stepped back outside into the sunshine.

This time we saw a sow with her piglets. My eldest granddaughter begged and pleaded with me to let her take one home. She was sure if she jumped over the electric fence and grabbed one no one would notice. I thought she was joking, then she got quite upset. “I just want to save one from being eaten,” she said. But the pigs were within the zoo side of the farm park, so I crossed my fingers and said they weren't being raised for meat.

But even if they are, I'm sure they have a better life than most pigs and at least get to live outdoors with freedom to move around. I have always loved pigs and I just don't like to think of eating them, but realistically I know it happens and if it has to, then I would wish the best life possible for them - if that makes sense.

Then the two girls declared that they would become vegetarians. Tomorrow. Which by the next day had become next week, but by the following day my little would-be piglet kidnapper had stopped eating meat. So there are three of us now and our family is very supportive and have vegetarian days too.

On Friday night they stayed for a sleepover. Not much sleep was had. They all like to be in the same room – with me – and there is chatting and whispering and giggling into the early hours. 

I was going to take a photo of the aftermath – the piles of pillows, airbed, fold out bed, sleeping bags, duvets and essential soft toys, but I was busy making pancakes for breakfast while that was all cleared away. It would have been a bit of a horror picture anyway!

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Harwich Rocks!

I belong to a Facebook group called Harwich Rocks. The idea is that you find rocks and stones, paint them (or use nail varnish or pens) with patterns, words, characters etc. then you hide them around town, by the beaches or in the woods. Anywhere you like really.

So many age groups are taking part from tiny children to proper oldies like me! We gathered up a bucket of stones in all shapes, sizes and colours and the kids spent ages drawing pictures and patterns and writing captions on them ready to hide next week.

Next week we’ll go on a rock hunt and hide ours. It’s such a fun thing to get involved in and we have about 20 or 30 ready to hide. I will try to remember to take some photos of our hiding places and any we find. The kids really enjoyed doing it and we will gather more rocks ready to do the same again in the half term holiday. When the stones are found, they are often hidden elsewhere for someone else to find. It's really caught on locally - isn't it a great idea?

I decided not to bother with the Blue Flag beach last week and we went down to Harwich beach instead. This is the beach where I went as a child and where I learned to swim. And it is where we used to take the grandchildren when they were smaller. We stopped going once they started showing too much interest in the water before they could swim.

It’s not designated a bathing beach (tell that to the locals who like to swim there!), but look at that sand. Much kinder on the feet. St Nicholas church in the background is where I got married many years ago.

Harwich Beach

Apparently it is a rare example of an emerging dune system in a coastline which is predominantly saltmarsh. I read that on the local council’s website.

And my little fishies loved the deeper water with no rock hazards lurking beneath. The girls were in the sea almost constantly until the tide started going out. The boys were in and out of the water, but it was very cold. I had my swimming costume on, but I wasn’t tempted to join them.

They went out of their depth and I kept a close eye on them just in case, but they were sensible and didn't go out further than was safe. I always enjoyed swimming out of my depth too when I was their age.


Someone fed the gulls while we were there and they gathered round a little boat hoping for more. The pier in the background is where the Pilots leave from to guide ships into the harbour. Beyond that with the newly repaired building is Harwich Dock (not to be confused with Harwich International Port) and the cranes beyond that are at Felixstowe.


And we watched these two dinghies leaving and coming back. A friend who knows much more about these things than me tells me that they are Finn dinghies, the type in which Ben Ainslie won gold in the Olympics.


 We’ve also been clearing out the garage and found loads of old photos including one of one of the Dovercourt lighthouses taken between 1901 and 1910. There was a lot more sand there back then, but look how busy it was!

Dovercourt Lighthouse

Number Three granddaughter got some new pyjamas this week. She loves them! We teased that the caption ("I had fun once. It was terrible") suits her so well as she can take life very seriously at times, but she is always telling jokes. They all have Youtube channels – she asked if I’d post a link to hers so here it is. Izzy Enderman. At the age of eight, she wants to be many things and one of them is a famous Youtuber! I see Dusty has managed to get his tail in the photo.

Izzy Enderman

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Perfect Weather?

It was so very hot and sunny earlier in the year I bought tons of sun cream, yet as soon as the school holidays started, away went the sun.

For me, this has been perfect holiday weather. Being cloudy has meant I haven’t had to keep applying sun cream to young skin and worrying in case I missed a bit.

None of the kids want to play on the beach any more – they just want to swim in the sea, so in future I’m only going down there when the tide is in. Last week my eldest granddaughter gashed her leg on a rock just under the water. If we’d been down there at high tide, it wouldn’t have happened.

Not deep enough for swimming

Poor little girl came away from the beach with blood pouring down her leg (looking worse because she was wet) and I thought we’d end up at minor injuries, but once she was in the bath, the bleeding stopped and we went back to the beach to rejoin the others. I think she’ll have a scar on her leg though as the cut was quite deep.

We went to good old Clacton Pier this week. My smallest little person was at last tall enough by a whole centimetre to go on the Aqua Blast Lagoon in a boat of his own – and they all had a blast (see what I did there). Only seven boats were operating and my crew took up four of them. Ours were the red/blue, green/blue, blue/yellow and blue/white.

Aqua Blast Lagoon

We spent nearly seven hours there. When we arrived it was raining and chilly, but within an hour the sun had come out, the jackets were stowed in my backpack and of course I didn’t have any sun cream so we all came home with sun-kissed faces – but no burn.

The 146 year old pier is undergoing refurbishment and I could already see a great improvement. I hope the refurbishment includes updating the loos – they still have the old high pull-the-chain kind of cisterns.

Dusty enjoyed his walk after heavy rain left a small lake on the field. The gulls love it when the field floods – they don’t love it when a water-happy dog splashes through it. By the next day the wind had dried the lake up.

Dusty making a splash!

I may have mentioned that I love gulls. When I was a child and my mum was in convalescence after a major operation, she said that what she missed most (after the family) were the gulls.

I took this photo of the lighthouse because there was a gull on top making that lovely racket that gulls make. When I was a child and even when my own kids were small, that beach was sandy. I don’t know where all the shingle has come from.

Can you see him?

And I took this one of the sky because… well you can see why.

Gorgeous Gulls

One day the boys and I had a walk round the woods while the girls went to the park which was lovely and relaxing.

Woodland Adventures

Only two and a half weeks of summer holiday left. Where has the time gone? It goes much too fast.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

A Busy Week

We took my two granddaughters-from-away home yesterday and as always I felt sad to drop them off. The week passed so quickly.

At 7 and 9, they’re a bit past buckets and spades and just wanted to play in the sea. As with the week before, the water was rough and I was worried, but they enjoyed it. Swimming in the pool was much less nerve racking and they had a lot of fun in there.

I took them to Jimmy’s Farm (somewhere I’ve been reluctant to visit as it’s a working farm and farms make me sad for obvious reasons). My other grandchildren have told me it’s good and they were right. The girls had a great time. There was plenty to do as well as being able to feed some of the animals.

Bouncy Pillow

Den Building

We decided to try Walton Pier for a change from Clacton Pier. It’s more geared to younger children, but they had fun on several rides (as did I), had a walk along the pier and played in the arcade.

They spent Friday evening at my daughter’s house with all their cousins while I went to see one of my daughters in law playing Queenie in Blackadder. The drama group did three episodes of Blackadder II and it was brilliant.

The house feels very quiet today with just one granddaughter and one sleepy dog.