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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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Saturday 22 April 2017

Ducks and geese in the spring sun

A couple of weeks ago, we visited Washington Wetland Centre, just between Newcastle and Durham. We’ve been saying we’ll visit for years but, much like Beamish, we never quite got round to going – until that glorious spring Sunday. It was a glorious day, almost 20C, with nary a cloud to be seen. So we grabbed the essentials, including a snazzy sun hat for BabyVP and off we went. We drove down the A1 for a while, then came off at the right junction and continued driving for a while around dual carriageways that seem to link industrial estates. Despite occasionally seeing signs to the centre, it seemed so improbably placed. And it is: suddenly, in the middle of an industrial estate, you are directed down a tiny, bumpy track and then taa-daa, you’re in the middle of the wetland centre car park! It’s totally camouflaged, much like the wildlife it holds.

I’ll say now that it’s no Slimbridge (which is enormous large and modern) but what this lacks in size, it makes up for in sheer density of things to see. There are plenty of enclosures to view ducks and geese (and food to feed them is available) as well as lots of different settings for birds that need particular environments. It was lovely for Baby VP to see, as she loves ducks/wildfowl.  Our favourites were the trumpeter swans (the last picture), the mandarin ducks and the eider ducks. While they are our ‘native’ duck up in these parts (we see them very often at the beach), seeing them puff their chests out and make their Kenneth Williams mating call at such close quarters is magnificent.

There are regular feedings of otters and flamingos (when they’re not fenced off to keep them from the bird ‘flu) as well as tours/ demonstrations going on every hour. For older children there is a Lego bird hunt – and the Lego birds are actually quite impressive, especially the huge kingfisher. There’s also a small but nice play area on the far side. I think when Baby VP is a bit older, she’ll love it there.  It was certainly a nice way to spend a couple of hours and not as painful to reach as we had envisioned. Whilst not the cheapest place to visit, if it’s to become a regular thing then a membership would probably be the way to go. It’s definitely a place we’ll revisit – if for no other reason than to sip lattes while watching the cranes :)

Saturday 19 November 2016

Autumn, wearing her finest colours

I think you can tell from the photos above and below, we found autumn in all of her splendour.  Despite the temperature – 3ºC; it was Baltic as they say around these parts – we wrapped BabyVP (and ourselves) up well in many, many layers and ventured out for a walk. Most of the trees are bare, but not the beeches.

We walked and took photos here and there of leaves on the floor, chattering all the time to BabyVP about the birds flitting around us; from blackbirds and blue tits to the robins that suddenly appear in such large numbers around now. We came around a corner and were struck silent by this one, lone beech tree.

It was photographic perfection; all black-line branches and yellow-orange-brown leaves. So different to the pines, oaks, horse chestnuts and yews around it. Not that the oaks and chestnuts don’t have beautiful leaves – they do – but unlike all of the beech’s deciduous neighbours whose leaves were long gone, this tree was still clothed in the most wonderful golden coat.

I wonder what BabyVP made of all of this; she must have wondered what on earth her mother was getting so excited about.  I hope to pass this pure adoration of nature on to her; and I see it in the way she points out birds and trees.

I have had a reason to go out with camera in hand. This last week I have been taking part in an online photography course that was free. It’s only 4 weeks, only takes 3 hours a week of taking part in ‘webinars’. I have really enjoyed reconnecting with my camera and its myriad of functions.

We all had a good time, cold hands and rosy cheeks and all.

This week’s lesson was on aperture priority. This is all stuff I knew already but I am learning tips as we go, too. Aperture priority is what gives you amazing bokeh as well as certain lenses (usually the older analogue ones); it controls focus in the same way that scrunching your eyes up allows you to focus a bit better on certain things.

Photography courses aside, when the sun was shining and the birds were singing and BabyVP was cuddled up in her many layers, it really was the perfect day to be outside.  The sun, when it did shine, was almost warm enough to make you forget the icy chill. Almost.

Gosh we were glad to get back into the warmth of the cafe and have a bite to eat. Then home, with a very sleepy BabyVP in the back of the car, who nodded off to sleep shortly after we set off. Those colours though! Those colours…

Thursday 18 June 2015

Lilacs, Roses and Rhododendrons

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Woodland Wildlife

It was perhaps the mistral winds on Saturday that kept the crowds away, but when we arrived at one of our favourite woodlands, it was all but empty.  This made for a peaceful, if windy, walk and a nice chance to get out of the house for a decent amount of time.  Whilst I am struggling to get to grips with the notion that it is already a quarter of the way through June (I’m sure it was April last time I checked?!), the birds are deep into the swing of chick-rearing and feeding and it’s taking its toll on the parents, who are beginning to look a little weary and hen-pecked as they juggle moulting and rearing simultaneously.  Judging by how many fevered dashes backwards and forwards to the feeders were made in the time we were watching, there must be a good many plump chicks to feed.  Each bird approaches feeding their little ones differently; some favouring peanuts to sunflower seeds, others (the great tits) bullying their smaller cousins (coal tits) off the feeders; some are content with just plodding around (pheasants) where others skittishly analyse each feeder for its contents (jackdaws).  Did you know that jackdaws mate for life?  They’re rapidly becoming one of my favourite birds as I watch them each morning from our kitchen window and see them on the roofs of neighbouring houses.  Thankfully they don’t seem to like our chimney as much as they do some of the other houses, so our chimney sweep shouldn’t have too much of a job when he next comes to sweep ours!

As for the woodland itself, it seems only a month ago that it was thick with frost and ice, but no, it was 4 months ago, which goes to show that time stands still for no man (or woman!).  The vast, empty, leaft-littered spaces have been replaced by lush greenery, bracken, nettles, wild strawberries and grasses.  It really is the start of summer.

Saturday 6 June 2015

The Trials and Tribulations of Nest-Building

Each time we visit fulmar beach (as we’ve come to know it), it seems the fulmars have changed ledges and abandoned nests, only to occupy new positions.  Unfortunately, the fulmars who were moving their egg, had either dropped the egg (unlikely) or had it predated by a larger gull species (much more likely), as the broken egg shell lay on the shore beneath the nest.  It was pretty heartbreaking to see, but I suppose it is difficult to raise chicks in a cushy nest, let alone on a narrow, windy ledge facing the sea.  Such are the trials and tribulations of nest-building and chick-raising.  On the upside, there are still another few couples nesting, or attempting to, on that cliff.  Surely one will manage to make it through?!  I do hope so.  I love going to see how they’re doing and watching them swoop over my head as their partner comes back with a gullet-full of fish.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Sandwich Terns

Wheeling, diving, plunging and shaking – all on the wing.  It is so nice to hear their sharp little barking calls to each other.  I am always awed at how far these little birds travel each year from their wintering grounds in Africa, just to breed on our shores.

Monday 25 May 2015

Nesting








It never fails to amaze me how many birds it is possible to spot on a relatively short late-Spring walk along the beach. After a few seemingly difficult nesting starts where we’d see proper nests and then empty ones a week later, it seems that two pairs of fulmars have made their nests on this one little section of cliff. How do we know they’re serious? They had laid an egg (can you spot it?)! The fulmars did their egg-turning maneuouvre as we watched with baited breath, hoping that it wouldn’t fall out of the nest. The sand martins are back, too, and how glad we are that we have seen them! They are almost impossible to take photos of because they hurtle around, like all of their long-journeying, winged-insect-eating avian relatives, at break-neck speed.  But when they return to their nest, you can sometimes, if you have a sensitive picture-taking finger, catch them for their brief pause!  We also spotted a curlew on the wing and a cormorant too, as well as the requisite oyster catchers and pied wagtails.

When not enjoying the huge array of wildlife that just happen to wander or fly past at this time of year, I get a little too carried away in the beauty of the sea and its reflections.  This time of year is officially magical and pretty wonderful too.

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