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Name:VintagePretty
Location:United Kingdom

An avid tea-drinker who likes nutmeg in her coffee and warm lavender-scented quilts. She knits, crochets and partakes in random acts of craftiness (and kindness). She likes obscure works of literature, philosophy and the idea that her mind exists separately from her body. She enjoys moving furniture around, literary criticism and baking bread. She writes haiku about nettles, would like to swim with seals and become completely self-sufficient. She writes as if her life depends on it, listens to beautiful music, and loves her darling husband Mr. VP.

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Tuesday 16 December 2014

Frosty Winter Walk

Saturday morning loomed bright and glorious and I knew that I had to make the most of every moment of sun we get at this time of year.  Mr VP was feeling the after-effects of his night of raucus festive celebrations with his company, so I jumped in the car with my Wellibobs, camera and warmest coat, collected Mum and her dog and headed off into the countryside.

The drive was a little ropey at times, as this far out in the ‘sticks’ they don’t always grit the roads, and being more northerly, they’d got the worst of the snow we’d had the other day.  The roads were cold and snow lined the verges and covered the hills in the distance.

By the time we got into the woods, the temperature had ‘risen’ to 0ºC and the whole place had been transformed into an icy wonderland reminiscent of Narnia.  Ponds were frozen over, the snow had refrozen into thick sheets of glassy-clear ice.  Everything was eerily quiet as the low winter sun glinted through the trees.

Not a single thing had escaped the icy fingers of Jack Frost.

Look at that low sun glinting through the trees. The rich red colour of the forest floor and the deep Christmas green of the evergreen needles.  This woodland is mostly pine and spruce with the odd hardwood and yew thrown in.

The paths were not always easy to traverse, but the trees had kept a lot of the paths clear for us.

At every turn, I imagined Mr Tumnus to jump out and say hello.  There’s something about snow that turns everything into a magical world of fantasy.

We headed off to a wildlife hide, partly to get out of the cold and partly to see what wildlife was taking refuge on the feeders.  We weren’t short of birds to watch.  Chaffinches, blue tits, robins, nuthatches, blackbirds, coots, moorhens, woodpeckers, coal tits and all manner of birds were flying around the feeders, desperately trying to fill themselves up to keep warm.

It was a veritable Piccadilly Circus of birdlife.  In amongst the hustle and bustle of the smaller, more plentiful birds, I noticed this woodpecker.

The nuthactch wasn’t a persistent feeder; she kept taking small morsels of food and then flying off.  Soon after, you could hear the tap, tap, tap of her pushing the sunflower seeds into crevices in the bark of nearby trees.  What an amazing little bird!

One of my favourite oaks.  It has the most perfect oak-shape, don’t you think?  By this time, my feet were achingly cold and I’d lost sensation in the tips of my toes.  The dog had begun to shiver, too, so we decided to head back.

Just before we got back to the car, we noticed that we were being followed by this little fellow.

Friday 14 November 2014

NaBloPoMo 2014: Day 14. Spiral Staircases.


Going through photos on Mr VP’s camera, I noticed he’d taken two lovely photos of the grand old staircase at Seaton Delaval Hall and knew I had to share.  They knew how to make an impact in the eighteenth-century, didn’t they?

Monday 28 July 2014

The life in the wilds









Oh what a lovely day we had yesterday!  It was obviously the perfect kind of day to find onesself sat in a hide in the middle of Northumberland with a long lens!  Within the space of half an hour, and despite some rather noisy people coming and going, we managed to capture red squirrels, woodpeckers, bank voles (I finally got one on camera, though it’s blurry), chaffinches and baby robins amongst others.  This little squirrel is my first red that I have seen since we left Northumberland and I have missed seeing them terribly.  I can’t wait to get back into our house and (hopefully) be able to see them in the garden again – we both hope that they’re still there.  It was a really lovely sunny (and quite warm) Sunday and spending a little bit of it watching some of our favourite wildlife was really magical.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Pheasants and Jackdaws, The Birds of Seaton Delaval Hall

One thing that we both really enjoyed about our visit to Seaton Delaval Hall were the birds.  The NT are pretty good at adding feeders and hides to their houses, so that both the wildlife and the public benefit.  It is ironic, I think, that the birds (jackdaws, or rather the descendents of the original birds) that caused the original fire in the house in 1822, are still around today (and are still causing hijinks!). The jackdaw here had a bad wing, which didn’t stop it flying, but it did make it drag along a bit to one side.  Their intelligent, ice-blue eyes and knowing look speaks of their highly-intelligent Corvid mind (there’s a really interesting article here about human and Corvid brains) and both Mr VP and I love seeing them around again (they weren’t at all common in Cambridgeshire).  Knowing that the feeders were made so that larger birds (and squirrels) couldn’t get in, the jackdaw waited for some of the coal tits and house sparrows to throw food out and onto the floor.  This male pheasant also had the same idea as the jackdaw but instead of anticipatin g where the food would fall, he just ambled around until some fell from the sky.  Getting up-close and personal with pheasants makes you really appreciate how incredibly exotic they look.  I know that they’re an introduced species, but now that they have become naturalised, we seem to take them for granted a bit.  But looking at them, their colours are so vibrant, their gate kind of exotic and their shape is definitely unique.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Seaton Delaval Hall

Since moving back to Northumberland, Mr VP and I have been adamantly visiting one new place per week, trying to find new and exciting places as well as visiting those that we know and love.  And so last weekend, we thought we’d make the most of a bit of sun we had and headed off to Seaton Delaval Hall. We were really lucky with the weather, as we managed to miss the storms that would later show up. Whilst the hall doesn’t have much accessible land per se (compared to many other NT properties), its views are of unobstructed countryside and even the sea! 

Where should I start with it?  When we lived up here before, there was a big campaign to rescue the Hall that had been left derelict since a fire in 1822.  Various heirs had lived in the surviving West wing of the hall, but none had made it their permanent home except for the 22nd Baron Hastings and his wife.  Baron Hastings died in 2007 and left his son with a hefty inheritance tax bill that couldn’t be paid, which is where the National Trust came in.  The NT bought it in 2008 and have since re-roofed the hall and made it safe for visitors to enter, but will do no more other than essential maintenance and conservation work.

Inside the main hall itself, it is as you would imagine a fire-damaged place to be: cold, stark and unloved.  We were shown around by a really lovely guide who was obviously very knowledgeable about the history of the Hall.  He pointed out the various brick and stone courses and noted their respective ages, whilst also pointing out the odd bits of plaster and floor joist holes, which are now the only reminders of what a grand old place this would have been in its heyday.  The place does have a rather odd feeling about it and even with a guide it is hard to envisage the grand rooms and spaces that would once have existed.  It seems a sort of unlucky place, too, in that many of the inhabitants of the hall have met with untimely ends, such as the original Admiral Delaval dying on his horse before the hall was finished and another Delaval heir being killed by a servant.  The West wing, which is where Baron Hastings lived, is kept as a kind of odd and vaguely unnerving museum to his life at Seaton Delaval Hall; his desk has been left, as per his wishes, exactly as it was on the day he died, with papers in piles and books on shelves, the enormous estate kitchen full of a hotch-potch of sitting room furniture whilst corridors and servants’ stairs are dark and damp.

The gardens are undoubtedly the best part of the visit, and though we were late for the best of the rhododendrons, we found the garden to be blooming merrily on a fine June afternoon.  We wandered around the box hedges, looking at the roses and admiring the peonies; we ate ice cream at the little summerhouse by the pond and made our way to the greenhouse, which is where you can buy some of the plants raised by the Hall’s nursery staff.  I came away with a very beautiful Tradescantia pallida ‘Purpurea’ for the princely sum of £3, though I also had my eye on a selection of lemon-scented geraniums too.  Do have a chat with the garden staff – they are very knowledgeable and can give advice on a huge range of plants.  The laburnum and allium arch was in full bloom and it was just a riot of colour.  Borders and beds were full of herbaceous perennial favourites from cornflowers (Centaurea) to Cerynths and all in-between.  It made for a really nice arm-in-arm walk around  We ended our trip with a coffee and a slice of cake, before eyeing the clouds and deciding that we’d best be on our way – just in time, as a storm rolled through only an hour or so later.

Friday 31 May 2013

Birdspotting

Please feel free to join me in my little corner of the brunnera-covered woods.  The woodland where Mr VP and I saw a stoat in its white winter coat; the woodland where we held hands and walked in times past; the woodland that we have spent so many hours in and around, savouring the woodpeckers and the sound of the leaves rustling.  A woodland in the very heart of Northumberland with the smell of woodsmoke and the sound of a lilting Northumbrian accent comes in waves on the wind.

Meet me under the pine and the ash and I will take you to a hide.  Don’t go on a weekend; a weekday is best.  A weekday in winter even better.  Though a weekday in May is also nice.

In the hide, once the silence has settled back into place, all around you will be encapsulated by wood; hidden.  You will hear the cacophony of birdsong.  On any given day you will see anything from a magpie to a great spotted woodpecker.  Some birds will come willingly to the feeders, whilst others will forever remain fuzzy and out-of-focus to even the most adept photographer.

On a good day, as it was when I went, you will see chaffinches, green finches, crows, lesser redpolls (very rare), coal tits, willow tits, great spotted woodpeckers, great tits, blue tits, nuthatches (top) and so many more birds.  I am unbelievably relieved that I opted to take my Tamron 70-300mm lens with me.  I recommend that you find a long lens, too.  This is paparazzi of the very best sort.

If you come with me into the hide, you’ll realise how peaceful a place it is.  If you go at the right time – a weekday in winter – you will find peace and solitude and the opportunity to take photographs of some of your nature-idols.  You will be glad that the air is clean and you will breathe it in, inhaling the purity and will exhale all of the negativity that you carry around with you in your day-to-day life.  And I can guarantee that there is nothing better, apart from maybe a 4am North Sea sunrise, for mind, heart and soul.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

In the wilds and the not-so-wilds

Never has there been a nicer day off.  Not only did I get to enjoy a lie-in (until 7.45am!) but we went to one of my favourite places.  Less wild than certain other places we’ve experienced this year, but compared to our relatively urban life, it is certainly a delicate wilderness.  Shortly after breakfast we got straight into the car and went to one of our favourite National Trust properties.  For a good hour and a bit we were the only souls there, save for the gardeners and the Lady of the house who was touring the grounds.

Being the only people in a verdant forest, with beech, oak and yew trees everywhere is a humbling feeling.  These huge, ancient trees nestled next to newer friends, acers and young yews.  The light had a dreamlike quality about it – shards of light spilled from behind wide trunks, split and shattered by fine and spindly branches, dissected between leaves.  It fell in wide swathes on the floor and illuminated spider’s webs and made everything glow with liquid gold.  If I were to imagine heaven it would be a world filled with scenes like this.

We saw red squirrels burying (or finding) nuts in the fallen beech leaves, moorhens on the lake and a plethora of summer blooms in the old Victorian glasshouse.  In certain places you could forget the fact that it wasn’t summer (as long as I ignored my very cold feet!).  As we crossed the threshold from icy-cold to warmth and humidity, our lenses fogged and we were met with a wall of heliotrope scent (sweet and vanillary), the room filled with hibiscus, geraniums and begonias.

The whole time we were there the sun shone and lit a cacophony of colours in every direction.  It was quiet, peaceful and stunning.  It was a wonderful experience, and one that Mr. VP and I don’t get to do enough of.  In the coming months, we hope this will change*.

We walked for what seemed like an age.  We found “our tree” and said hello.  I sniffed the last of this year’s roses, simultaneously receiving a breath of heady scent and a nose-full of raindrops.

Then we left as quietly as we’d come, by now it was getting busy and we were glad we were leaving.  Mr. VP and I had booked a table at a lovely restaurant for lunch and we were spoiled rotten by the delicious food and relaxing atmosphere.

With full tummies we returned home and now I have tasks like ironing to attend to, but after today’s perfection even the ironing won’t seem as much of a chore.  This is the first time in a long time that I’ve felt truly pure and unadulterated happiness.  Red letter day, methinks.

* From now on, I think you’ll have to take the asterisk to mean I’ll tell you about the thing I can’t tell you about – later.

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