Monthly Archives: February 2015

Old railway truck - flanged wheels

Wheels for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge

When I saw this week’s theme of ‘Wheels’ for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge, I remembered the fascinating wheels on the old railway trucks in our woods. I’ve posted about the wheels on the old coal trucks before, but for the challenge I decided to re-imagine these iron flanged wheels in black and white.

Railway truck wheels in black and white
The railway truck’s flanged wheels rode cleverly on the rail. You can also see some of the braking mechanism between the wheels.
Flanged wheels in black and white
In this close-up shot of the flanged wheel you can see some of the elaborate engineering involved on the coal truck wheels

I think black and white captures the aged engineering of these old work horses quite well.

You can find more interpretations of wheels in black and white in Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

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North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Save our UK National Parks!

First they tried to sell off our public forests, now the UK government are after encouraging the privatisation of our UK National Parks! Have you heard about this?

I don’t often post about my campaigning activities, but this one seemed too important to not share with you. Please help to save our UK National Parks! (I am actually so shocked, I can hardly believe I am writing that!)

The UK’s National Parks are renowned for their beautiful landscapes. The parks contain a lot of the very best scenery you can find in the UK. They are havens for some of our iconic wildlife and provide important habitat for many species.

Today, one of my regular campaigning groups, 38Degrees, have written to me to say:

“Our beautiful countryside is under threat. Government cuts are forcing huge land sell-offs in the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.”

“National parks are looked after by National Park Authorities (NPAs) who are funded by central government. They’re supposed to act as custodians of these precious places – for people, wildlife and future generations. But after rounds of cuts NPAs are slashing jobs, and looking for other ways to balance the books.”

“In the Lake District seven iconic beauty spots are already up for sale. Stickle Tarn, described as “iconic, simply majestic” – £20,000. Baneriggs Wood, an “exceptional mature deciduous woodland” complete with red squirrels and rare birds – £110,000. In the Yorkshire Dales eight properties are now earmarked for “disposal”.”

“A huge public backlash could stop further cuts and force the government to protect our national parks. Can you sign the petition calling on David Cameron to save our national parks?”

I am appalled that the UK Government are now forcing the sale of some of our National Park land. The National Parks Authorities need to be properly funded to protect our National Parks both for us and the wildlife that is dependent on them, now and in the future. Our natural national treasures should not be put up for sale!

If you too feel as strongly as I do about the selling off of some of our natural national treasures, please support the 38Degrees petition.

Hadrian's Wall country, Northumberland National Park
The beautiful North Tyne in Hadrian’s Wall country, part of Northumberland National Park

In 2012, hundreds of thousands of us campaigned together to save the UK’s public forests and won. Now we need the same level of support to protect our National Parks for future generations.

Many thanks for your support.

J Peggy Taylor

Autumn in the woods

Vote for your European Tree of the Year!

Do you remember back in October I was asking you to vote for England’s Tree of the Year? When all the votes were counted, in December the Major Oak in Nottingham’s Sherwood Forest was crowned as England’s favourite tree.

The Major Oak is now representing England in the 2015 European Tree of the Year contest. Why for England only and not the UK? Don’t worry, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are not missing out here, as each country has chosen its own tree.

Oak trees are my favourite tree, so I am extra pleased it was an oak tree that was chosen to be our Tree of the Year 🙂

The many colours of Oak bark
So many hues, from greens to purples, in this wonderfully textured Oak tree bark

What is the European Tree of the Year contest all about?

“We are not searching for the oldest, the tallest, the biggest, the most beautiful or the rarest of trees. We are searching for the most lovable tree, a tree with a story that can bring the community together.”

Now it is time to vote for our European Tree of the Year, from all of the nominated trees. As well as England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, trees from many countries across Europe are all competing for the European Tree of the Year title.

To see all of the nominated trees and cast your vote, please visit the European Tree of the Year website.

Voting closes on 28th February so please vote this week for your European Tree of the Year.

J Peggy Taylor

Bluebells in woodland

My Favourite Things for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.”

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week Cee has chosen the chorus of “My Favourite Things” as the theme. I’ve decided to share some of my favourite things that I have posted here on my blog during my first year-and-a-bit of blogging.

My regular blog visitors may have spotted my new blog header – beechwoods in Springtime are a great favourite of mine and we love to walk in the woods and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Spring. For my post header image I have chosen one of my very favourite Spring flowers, bluebells. I posted about the “Beautiful Bluebells!” in our woods last Spring.

Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed
Bee-on-a-flower – a Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed

I’m glad to say we’ve never experienced bee stings while spending happy warm Summer hours watching and photographing bees on flowers.

Comma butterfly on thistles
Comma butterfly on thistles

Butterflies are another Summertime favourite of mine. I love the orange of the Comma butterfly against the purple of their favourite food, the thistle flowers.

The cool green tranquility of the river
The cool green tranquility of the river

Here in Northern England we experience all kinds of weather conditions and we have learned to enjoy them all. A rainy day at the river in Spring is always an uplifting experience – you can read my post about this wet woodland walk here.

The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. This railway was a mineral line carrying coal from local mines. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!

The old railway path through the woods is a path we have seen in all weathers, from sunny days to Winter snow. The Victorian railway bridge has featured several times on my blog especially as part of my great interest in history in the landscape. The image above is the bridge in colour from my post, “Old rail trails and a bear hunt”, and below it is in black and white for “Victorian railway bridges in black and white”.

Both of these posts were for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which has been my favourite weekly photo challenge here on WordPress. It was from creating the black and white images for the Victorian bridges post that kindled in me an ambition to try my hand at creating more black and white images and taking part in Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge. I do enjoy taking part in the photo challenges and learning from others.

Victorian rural railway bridge in snow monochrome
Victorian rural railway bridge in our local woods
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge

Wild roses are another of my very favourite flowers. I think I’ve probably said before, I have different favourite flowers depending on the season – there’s always something to look forward too … or in this case, look back at, after the Summer was done and the cooler days of Autumn were with us. I love my son’s photo of the wild Dog Roses. The roses appeared in my “Pastel pink wild roses” post last October.

Blooming Purple Crocuses
Blooming Purple Crocuses

Purple crocuses with their bright orange stamens are one of my favourite early Spring flowers. These one are in one of my back yard pots along with daffodils and some seedlings of one of our ‘wild’ edible leaves, Garlic Mustard. You can see more about my back yard gardening in “My Blooming Back Yard”.

First salad seedlings 2014
First salad seedlings of 2014 on my window ledge

As well as gardening outside in my yard, I also love indoor gardening too and I grow salad leaves and herbs on my window ledges. In the above photo are my first seedlings of last year – a favourite moment in my gardening year. Just today I was photographing my first salad leaf seedlings of 2015.

Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert
Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert

A Summer delight for me is picking wild fruit. These delicious raspberries grow in a small patch of woodland not far from our house.

Pink Sweet Peas on willow garden screen

Last Summer I had fun with an interesting vertical gardening experiment in my back yard. I made a jute and willow garden screen and then grew Sweet Peas in air-pruning plant pots to grow on the screen. I shared a number of posts about this project on the willow screen, the air-pruning pots and the Sweet Pea flowers. I was so pleased when my Sweet Peas finally flowered!

Crochet patch and new crochet edging on my jumper
The new crochet border in spike stitch

I couldn’t post about my favourite things without including a crochet project or two. The jute and willow garden screen was crocheted and my recent “Mending a Woolly Jumper Craft Project” involved several types of crochet too.

Turning a shirt collar - before and after
Turning a shirt collar – before and after

Turning a shirt collar is one of those old-fashioned mending tasks that I have always done to extend the life of favourite shirts. The shirt that features in my “Turn a shirt collar” tutorial belongs to my son. He is very fond of this shirt so when the collar began to wear, there was only one thing for me to do …

I decided to post a tutorial on the collar turning process and it has certainly been a favourite among my blog visitors – it is one of the most visited pages on my blog.

A colourful October dawn

To complete my collection of favourites, I want to close with one of my very favourite things, a beautiful sunrise. I am lucky to see a lot of beautiful sunrises and I often share them in my Wordless Wednesday posts. You can see more of my sunrises if you click on the Wordless Wednesday tag on my tag cloud in the sidebar … a beautiful sunrise doesn’t really need many words does it?

I’ve had a lot of fun strolling through my blog photos choosing my favourite things – and I must say I have had to leave out a few too or this post would have gone on forever! Do take a look at what others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week for the chorus of “My Favourite Things”.

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J Peggy Taylor

Seed sowing and Snowdrops

First seed sowing of 2015
My first seed sowing of 2015

February’s morning sunshine with a hint of warmth in it has had me itching to start this year’s gardening season. After my weekend task of tidying up and repotting cabbages in the back yard, today I succumbed to my first batch of seed sowing and I started off a box of salad leaves and rocket. I sowed some remaining dwarf dahlia seeds that I came across in my seedbox too, rather hopefully, as I’m not sure if they’ll germinate because the seed is a bit old. But I love dahlias, so it was worth a try.

I also sowed some sweet peas but I’m trying a different approach to last year. Last year’s gardening experiment for me was trying out air pruning plant pots for the first time. Some readers may remember I blogged about my sweet pea experiment. I will be using air pruning pots again this year, but not for the sweet peas.

Today I decided to return to another method I have used before for sowing sweet peas – I planted the seeds in some recycled cardboard tubes filled with compost. When they grow, the sweet peas will be transplanted out into a larger pot this year, complete with their recycled tubes. I might crochet a jute ‘trellis’ to fasten to the fence for the plants to climb on but I just need to ponder on that a little more.

Snowdrops in bud
Snowdrops in bud

When I went outside to hang out my washing today, I noticed I wasn’t the only one to be enjoying the warm February day. The snowdrops, that only last week were barely poking their green points though the brown blanket of last year’s dying grasses, were now proudly nodding their full white buds in the gentle westerly breeze. Ah yes! Now that is a real promise that Spring is not far off!

J Peggy Taylor

kite surfing at South Shields

Kite flying for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Lets Go Fly A Kite is our theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week. We have had lots of family fun with kite flying over the years. I remember when our younger children were still quite small, we made a homemade kite from upcycled plastic sheeting – it was almost as big as the youngest child. This kite lasted several years but then our youngest decided he wanted to make the really old fashioned kind of kite – from broadsheet newspapers, sticky tape, garden canes and string. When it was completed, this one flew well and provided hours of fun on windy days.

kite surfer at South Shields

We generally go kite flying in our local park, close by to where we live, but on our Summer visits to the seaside at South Shields, we often see a different type of kite flying – kite surfers enjoying their energetic sport. Our seaside sport tends to be a little less exerting as we stroll off along the cliff-top path, enjoying the views of the rocky coastline and nature-watching as we go.

seagull flying over the sea

One of the pleasures of the coastal path walk is watching the sea birds as they ride high on the air currents or swoop low over the sea to seek out a tasty snack.

Marsden Rock, South Shields

As we walk a little further along the path above Marsden Bay, we can see Marsden Rock. The remaining piece of this Magnesian Limestone sea stack stands 50 metres high and is alive with seabirds. Kittiwakes, Herring Gulls and Cormorants tend to be the most numerous when we have visited. Many of these birds nest on the cliff edges of the stack. My photo was taken in late July so the youngsters would all have fledged by now. You can just make out the white dots of the birds flying around above the rock.

kite flying in the park

Here we are kite flying in our local park, our nearby kite flying area that I mentioned earlier. Our eldest son had found some Star Wars themed kites whilst away on his Summer travels and this windy day provided the ideal opportunity to try them out.

kite flying in the park

Sometimes big brothers are handy when you are having a spot of kite trouble. But a little readjusting of the string and up we go … just mind the trees and the electricity wires over there!

We do have one particularly well-remembered family kite incident – not on this visit but another time – when our youngest’s kite became stuck in a small tree. He was determined to retrieve it and so set off to climb the tree. This was not as easy as he’d anticipated, but he persevered. Just as he finally swung himself up into the branches, the wind blew the kite free from the tree! Oh the joys of kite flying 😀

Do take a look at what others have found for ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’ in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Hooky mat chair seat cover - craft project header

Chair cover craft project: Update 1

My hooky mat chair cover project has made some progress over the past two weeks, though not quite as much as I’d hoped. I found there were some aspects of the project that needed a bit more pondering to determine the best approach and I decided to make a temporary crochet chair cover to disguise our raggy old chair until I complete the new hooky mat chair cover. We have also enjoyed some sunny days just lately which tempted me to get on with a gardening project outdoors, so that was another diversion. But let me tell you about the progress have I made with my chair cover project.

I introduced you to my new craft project in my earlier post and you may recall I had decided that the chair cover would have a Rennie Mackintosh/early 20th century theme but I was still working on the design. I continued making a number of sketches until I was happy with my sketch version of the design. Next, I squared up some recycled brown wrapping paper and drew up a full size version.

At this point I began to consider how best to transfer the design to my stretched linen. I had spent some time tinkering with the balance of the design so, to make sure I retained the placing of the flower elements, I decided to make a charcoal transfer rather than draw it freehand.

To use the hooky mat technique to create the design on the linen, I wanted to keep the design fairly simple as this is my first hooky mat project. I have seen some marvelous examples of rugs and soft furnishings made using the hooky mat technique on Pinterest, but I didn’t want to be too ambitious just yet.

Transfering design to linen
Transfering the design to the linen using charcoal transfer

Using a soft 4B pencil I made sure my design was clearly defined on the ‘shiny’ side of the brown wrapping paper. I used a dark charcoal pencil to trace over the lines on the reverse of the wrapping paper. When I was happy that I’d put enough charcoal on the back of the design to make the transfer work effectively, I carefully pinned the design – right side up – onto the stretched linen. Then using the 4B pencil again, I re-drew over the design. I put a block of wood underneath the linen to make this part of the transfer process easier.

The transfer worked very well – all of the design could be clearly seen on the linen. My next step was to draw up the outer shape of the chair seat and to check there was enough material left to tack the chair cover to the seat base. Although I had measured the linen piece beforehand, at this stage I felt it would be better with another inch of tacking space on two of the sides. I decided to tack another slightly larger piece of linen onto the stretcher frame and re-do the design transfer process. This time I was happy with the design on the linen and with the spacing for fixing the new cover to the seat base.

Charcoal outline of design on linen
Redefining the design in charcoal on the linen with the edge of the chair cover now marked

Now that I had the design on my base material it was time to think about the process of hooking the upcycled textile strips into it. I felt I needed to try out the hooking technique and my handmade hook tool itself. A test square seemed a good plan.

Using the charcoal transfer process again, I drew out a flower from my design onto a linen scrap. Then, taking my wooden hook tool, I began hooking in a textile strip. As I had anticipated, this was more difficult in the more closely woven linen than it would be in the open weave of jute hessian that is more frequently used as a base material for hooky and proggy mats. However, the hook tool proved robust enough for the task, though I did file the hook just a little extra to make it more effective.

Practising my hooky mat design
Practising the hooky mat technique for my design

As I hooked the first textile strip into the flower shape, I realised that this 1.5 cm wide textile strip was going to be too wide to describe the smaller detail in the centre of my flower design as well as being difficult to work into the closely woven linen. I also noted that organising the hooked loops on the right side of the workpiece so that they lie in a given direction was an important skill I must acquire if the design was to look good when it was completed. A little more practice was definitely in order.

Temporary cover crocheted in carrier bags
Temporary cover crocheted in carrier bags

It will take me a little while to become a natural with the hooky mat tool, so I decided in the short term our raggy old chair cover needed a rather more instant makeover. When I need to make something quickly I generally turn to my favourite hook tool, my crochet hooks. Some of my readers may remember last Spring that I made a crochet rug from supermarket carrier bags – I wrote about it here. I have used a similar process, upcycling some carrier bags to make the crochet chair cover. It is basically a crochet circle that I finished it off with some simple crochet chain ties to hold it in place. I think it certainly tidies up the chair while it is waiting for its new hooky mat chair seat cover.

As well as continuing my hooky mat practice, I am now also making a simple trestle from hazel rods to act as a support for my mat frame when I begin working on my chair cover properly. I’ll post again on my hooky mat chair cover craft project when I make some more progress.

J Peggy Taylor