About

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 11 March 2017

Amongst the trees and the birds in winter

Weekends are so short these days. They fly by in the blink of an eye, so, so quickly. What’s different? We’re busy with little Baby VP who is definitely not a baby any more! But weekends… they disappear. So we try to make sure that we go out and do Interesting Things together as a family.

So a couple of weekends ago we donned warm coats, Baby VP wore her thick all-in-one bunny coat, and we headed out for a decent countryside walk. I must admit that since having a baby, our walks are not as long as they used to be, and certainly shorter now that we don’t use a pram any more. But we make sure that we stop to enjoy all that nature has to offer and now that spring is so tantalisingly close.

We find that getting out early is best as we not only avoid the crowds but we make the most of the pre-nap energy. I also think that getting out and about early is best to see wildlife and we were lucky, seeing a treecreeper, lots of blue tits, coal tits, great tits and chaffinches as well as a pheasant, robin and moorhen. It was the first time that Baby VP had been into a bird hide for quite a while, and this time it was magical because she was so open to seeing the birds. We made sure we pointed each one out.  We’re not ‘twitchers’ by any means, but there is a lot I appreciate about seeing birds come and go and spotting new ones I haven’t seen before. They really are beautiful things, birds.

I think about the things I want to pass on to Baby VP, the things she’ll remember forever, and one of the greatest things I can think of is a love of the outdoors. An abiding love and deep appreciation for the wonder and beauty of nature; the awe-inspiring brilliance of the world’s living body. I think of how much information there is to teach; how much I am learning alongside her and I feel so humbled by it all. The weight of this duty is immense. What a wonderful job to have.

By the time we were finished walking and bird-watching we were ready for a sit down and a coffee, complete with a toasted teacake shared between us three.

Sunday 5 March 2017

A Sunday morning walk along the beach

Have you noticed that we’re now exiting the deepest, darkest bits of winter? Like a plant deprived of the sun, I am desperately craning myself to find some its rays again. So when the weather gets above 10C and the wind is not blowing a gale and the sun is shining? I make like a cat and luxuriate, nay revel, in its appearance. Hoo-boy, Sun, you have been away far too long!

All of the above necessary conditions were met the other day and so I set off with Mr VP and Baby VP, the Archers omnibus on in the car (to my absolute flummoxing, I’ve discovered that Mr VP is not only a closet fan of the Archers but if I miss an episode it turns out I can rely on his almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the goings on in Ambridge to set me straight! *insert wide-eyed surprise-face here*).

And so we walked. Away from others, though as it was pretty early (for a Sunday), there weren’t many takers for a brisk walk. Just myself, my girl and Mr VP. Blue skies, white clouds, oystercatchers, a huge stretch of golden sand to explore and beachcomb on and the deep blue North Sea.

On the way back we saw a couple of unfamiliar birds flitting back and forth in the hedgerow. It turns out that they were stonechats. A new one on us!

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Good Things

I wrote a blog post a couple of weeks ago and somehow never pushed the ‘publish’ button; such is life these days. I don’t have much time to blog and when I do I find myself flip-flopping around about what I should say, so it ends up sitting there until I write a blog post later that I do find acceptable. Oh but there have been so many good things recently that I have been meaning to tell you about: like Baby VP’s sudden ability to sit up unaided, or the baby-led-weaning thing that is just so much fun (and also SO messy!).

So as I can’t sit down to write long-form, I’ll use bullet-points to illustrate the Good Things going on right now:

  • The days getting longer again. I am extremely glad to see the back end of winter, let me tell you. Even if they do keep mentioning the s-word and ‘Arctic winds’ on the news.
  • Plum blossom on the trees in town… even if it has been there since January (crazy).
  • Hawthorn leaves out at the beginning of February… even crazier.
  • This song, after not hearing it for ages.
  • Oh and this one tooMad Rush – I didn’t know the meaning of the concept until recently.
  • And for you Iceland-lovers, the official release of this song that I mentioned ages ago.
  • The bed-time routine: a golden hour of giggles and books and baths.
  • Our newest gadget: a Canon Selphy CP910 printer so I can finally get going with the ProjectLife set that Mr VP got me for my birthday last year.
  • Daffodils and Welsh cakes; it is St David’s Day after all.
  • Watching our neighbour’s bird boxes come to life again with regular sprucing-up visits from prospective great tits.
  • Seeing a cormorant in the middle of town and a whole v-shaped flying formation of curlews along the coast.
  • … not to mention a robin and a heron…
  • Baby VP’s first proper beachy walks. The best days ever.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Buttercups, Blooms and Blossoms













(Almost) all of the blossoms-proper have now disappeared and have been replaced by the blooms of early summer.  The hedgerows are full of Queen Anne’s lace, the beginnings of hogweed, buttercups, stitchwort, elderflower and the very, very last of the May blossom.  Roses, like the pink rugosa and the white rose (Rosa corymbifera?) are just coming into bloom and are flooding the hedgerows with the most wonderful scents.  Ferns and bracken are unfurling themselves while bees dance from flower to flower – what a selection they have!  The air is just alive with… well, life.  I do love June very, very much indeed.

Sunday 14 June 2015

Mottled Umber

Whilst going around the garden and doing a little inspection, which is the height of my gardening abilities these days, I came across this little fella on our Prunus incisa ‘Kojo No-Mai’ tree.  After much time spent searching for him online, it turns out that he is a mottled umber moth caterpillar (Erannis defoliaria – the ‘defoliaria’ is a wee bit alarming!) and is, like quite a few moth caterpillars, much brighter and more splendid than the moth he’ll become!  I think he really suits the tree he’s sitting on, though, as he matches colours perfectly with it.  One interesting fact about this moth is that whilst the males have wings, the females don’t!  I had no idea that wingless moths even existed, but apparently they do.  I’m sure there’s a gender-biased evolutionary thing going on there (hmm…!).  It really is true that you learn something every day!

Thursday 11 June 2015

Meadows in June

Is there a more beautiful sight to behold than this?  I mean, it’s not grand or austentatious; it doesn’t inspire awe to most as, say, a vast snow-tipped mountain range might.  But to me, this little world that barely breaches ankle-height is no less awe-inspiring.  It is the sight of June, these lush meadows full of green and growth and I realised it had been far too long since I last saw meadows like these.

This is the best bit of summer; before everything is crispy and brown, when everything is still gloriously green.

I still can’t get over a good larch, all pale green and softly-needled.

This beauty is a pyramidal orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis) and was the reason for our evening walk.  I love our wild orchids and try to make it out to see them whenever they’re in season.  Having seen a few on the roadside verges as I whizzed past in the car, I knew it was the right time to seek them out.  Upon first scanning the meadow, I couldn’t see them, until I trained my eyes towards the deep pink-purple splodges of colour that could be nothing else.  After seeing one, I saw a whole meadow full.

I mean, it’s quite something, isn’t it?

When I say that this meadow was alive, I don’t just mean the flowers.  Bees, beetles (can you see the cardinal beetle on the clover?), spiders and all sorts of winged insects were busily going from a to b as we watched.

It’s also really nice to see that after May’s chill winds, we have gained a bit of warmth back, with evenings staying mild well into the night and days often too warm to stay any length of time in.

Clover love.  Our former neighbours used to cast aspersions at our lawn for having clover in it.  There would be the odd pointed comment about how nice lawns looked if they have only grass in them…  At which point I’d say how terribly fond I was of the pink and white clover that not only fed the lawn but helped to feed the bees that would hum busily around them.

This is a grass spider whose latin name, Tibellus oblongus, speaks of its long, oblong-shaped body.  At first, I thought it was a grasshopper moving through the grass, as it was so big (large house spider sized), but lo and behold, once we got up close to it, we realised that it was a spider and that she was carrying a huge ball of her eggs around with her.  Whilst I’m not a fan of spiders in the house (money spiders and zebra spiders excepted), I am quite happy to see them in their natural habitat.

Most of the May is finally over, but in shadier, cooler spots, there is still some to be found.  This  pink May is such a picture of beauty.

As we headed back to the car, I came across these pine trees and their showy pollen heads that will eventually become cones.  Don’t they look exotic?

Who says that pine trees are just green and brown?!  I think I can deal with all of the pollen dust on the car for a few weeks of tropical-coloured pine trees.

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