I walked round Ifield Millpond yesterday. It was a beautiful, cold, crisp, winter morning. The sky was clear and blue, and the sun hung low, so that blinding sunlight bounced off the frozen surface of the millpond, making photography difficult. The grass and undergrowth were rimed with frost, and ice scrunched underfoot. A heron who habitually sits at the waters’ edge, was perched on the branch of a tree. The water birds, usually seen swimming happily, were today skidding and skating precariously on the ice. Three Canada geese one behind the other slowly and carefully plodded towards a patch of open water near the bridge. The first two held their footing reasonable well, but the last one slipped drunkenly on every step – two steps forward and one slip-step backwards. Seagulls coming to land, ran a few slippery steps, wings flapping wildly to keep their balance before coming to a standstill. A solitary duck padded across the ice, webbed feet flapping, but the rest of the ducks seemed to be crowded into a narrow stretch of water between the bank and the boardwalk.
The funniest of all had to be the coots. They looked rather like misshapen, feathered rugby-balls, with ungainly legs and long flat toes that are usually hidden under the water. No doubt the toes with flabby flaps of skin that act rather like webbed feet are ideal for paddling through water, but they are not really designed for walking on ice! The faster the coots tried to go, the more they slipped and slithered. But however much difficulty the birds had staying upright on the ice, I didn’t see any actually fall over; and thankfully neither did I!
After seeing the Green woodpeckers a few days ago, my sister and I were treated to a fleeting glimpse of two Little owls. We were driving down a country lane near Bicker, Lincolnshire, on our way back home, when first one, then another swooped silently overhead, and off over the fields. They are just like other owls, but in miniature; typically about 22cm tall, with a wingspan of 56cm and weighing in at 180 grams. They are territorial, and usually nest in natural hollows in trees. Unlike most other owls, they can be seen during the day, and although we saw them in flight, you can sometimes spot them perched high up on posts and fences, ready to swoop down on any unsuspecting small creature or bug.
It all happened too fast to attempt a photo, but they looked something like this:
A family of Green Woodpeckers frequent my sister’s garden in Bicker Gauntlet near Boston in Lincolnshire. They are often seen feeding on the ground, digging their long beaks into ant-runs – ants of course being their favourite food. Like the other British woodpeckers, of which they are the largest, they are striking birds, with green plumage above, light green below, and yellow on the base of a stumpy tail. They have a bright red cap, and black slash across their eyes.
I’m staying with my sister in Lincolnshire again, and as we had a free morning we decided to visit Moulton Windmill, somewhere I had not been before. We started off with a very nice coffee and walnut cake in the cafe, and then had a very interesting guided tour of the mill. Tony took us through the mill, clearly explaining the history of the mill, and the stages of its restoration. The tour took about an hour, and was fascinating, and most enjoyable.
Moulton Windmill is a brick-built tower mill, and at 100ft high is considered to be the tallest windmill in the United Kingdom, and one of the tallest in the world. It was built in 1822 by Robert King, and like many Lincolnshire windmills it has white-painted ogee cap – shaped like two shallow ‘s’ curves rather like an onion, and topped with a tall pointed finial. After being damaged by a severe gale in December 1894, the sails were removed and a steam engine was installed in the adjoining granary to power the mill, with a roller milling plant for processing animal feed. There are nine storeys, and on the elevated ground floor there is a separate miller’s office. The tower at the base is 28ft 9in, which narrows to 12ft at the curb, where the cap sits on a hexagonal wooden frame built into the brickwork, with an iron track to enable the cap and sails to turn into the wind.
A local restoration campaign was begun in about 1997, and in 2003 the mill was featured on BBC’s first series of ‘Restoration’. There were many fund-raising events, and a large Heritage Lottery Fund grant was won, so there was enough money to restore and refurbish the mill’s structure, build a shop and cafe, and fit a new ogee cap. The external reefing gallery 40ft above the ground was restored, and in November 2011 four new sails were finally added. In full working order again, in April 2013 the first bag of flour for more than 100 years was produced using the power of the wind.
Moulton Windmill, is situated between Spalding and Holbeach, about 4 miles from Springfield Shopping Outlet Centre, just off A151. It is open most days from 10am to 4pm, and some days there are grinding demonstrations – do check their website for details: www.moultonwindmill.co.uk
Today has been quite grey and sombre, and I feel as though I have achieved very little. On occasions I think I just need something colourful to boost my spirits, and today is one of those days. So here are some rhododendron and azalea pictures taken at Wakehurst Gardens last year, to brighten the day. It reminds me that it won’t be long before this years rhododendron and azaleas will be ready to be photographed!
We usually see the world from our own eye level. Children see a swathe of knees and trousers – a limited view, their eye-line often blocked. As an adult I see from a slightly more elevated level, and see faces and expressions. Go higher and our view extends even further, but the higher we get the more we tend to look down. I remember a couple of years ago looking down from the top of Old Dungeness Lighthouse in Kent, and last summer staring out across the Lincolnshire countryside from Sibsey Trader Windmill. Even with our feet firmly on the ground, we are always looking down – avoiding muddy puddles, wary of the broken paving stone that might trip us up. Consequently, unless we’re star-gazing, we rarely notice what is actually straight above us. When we do look up, what a different world we then can see; from clouds to skyscrapers, from the natural to the constructed. New perspectives, fresh patterns, surprising shapes and shadows. A new view of the familiar, and an unexpected view of the ordinary that makes it extraordinary. So take a moment to look up, and be surprised!
Popped down to Littlehampton yesterday for their Traditional Bonfire Night. Had a great time. The torchlight procession had marching bands, brightly lit floats, steam engines, fire engines and much much more.
Then the huge bonfire was lit – the biggest I’ve ever seen, (which was so big it’s probably still burning now!), finishing up with a firework extravaganza on the beach.