Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Spring Yellow

It is back to winter today, but just a few days ago there was spring in the air at Skip.

 
I just love the yellow of the daffodils at this time of year.

 
Even the name brings a smile - 'Jetfire'!

 
More yellow. Forsythia is a favourite shrub.

 Aside from the daffodils, the little Chionodoxa is my favourite spring bulb.

On the road near Skip, these double daffodils are out, with the standing stone in the background.

Hopefully some real spring weather will be on the way soon!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Thursday, March 16, 2017

On the platform

Last Saturday I spent an enjoyable few hours at Carlisle, with the prospect of meeting up with a couple of steam locomotives. First to arrive was LMS Royal Scot Class 7P 4-6-0 no 46115 Scots Guardsman pulling the Railway Touring Company's 'The Midday Scot' from Manchester to Edinburgh.

 
The locomotive was uncoupled from the coaches and reversed into a siding to take on water from a tanker. Here it is being passed by a TransPennine Express EMU from Manchester.

 
Lots of interest as it runs up platform 1 to rejoin its rake of carriages.

Sing along with Wayne Fontana here.

Here we go, "Pamela, Pamela, remember the days ..."

Off we go! Note all the scaffolding in the background. Carlisle's Citadel Station is undergoing a huge refurbishment at the moment. Read about that and the history of the station here. By sometime next year, after a £14.7 million spend, the station will have a new roof and platform upgrades.

To see Scots Guardsman working up from Beattock, unassisted, check out this video. Wonderful!

Built in 2008, this class 66 diesel locomotive carries the name Stephenson Locomotive Society 1909-2009.

Some of the Cumbrian Coast passenger services are currently DRS loco hauled, or pushed, trains. It's like a heritage line! No 37409 Lord Hinton dates from 1965, and was once called Loch Awe.

There was time for a walk downtown, have some lunch and pick up some shopping, to get back to the station to see LMS Jubilee Class 6P 4-6-0 no 45690 Leander slide into the station with a West Coast Railways charter from Scarborough. Leander pulled the Preston-Carlisle leg.

This class 47/7 no 47746 was on the rear, and would haul the tour on its return. The locomotive dates from 1964 and was named Chris Fudge 29.7.70 - 22.6.10. Who was he? Story is here.

Back at the front end, I found myself in position to hear one side of the conversation between train crew and the signallers. Fascinating.

Now you see it, now you don't!

Leander and its support coach pulls away.

Backing back under the bridge and onto the middle road through the station.

Passing a southbound Pendolino standing at platform 4.
Pix © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The castle I see from the train

This is the River Clyde at Crawford. In the distance are some of the many turbines of the Clyde wind farm, and you can see a Virgin train running alongside the river on the West Coast Main Line. I use the line often, and, from the window, I've noticed some ruins as we pass Crawford. "One day I must investigate these further," I've said to myself on more than one occasion.

 
That 'one day' turned out to be last Sunday. I was driving back from Edinburgh in the afternoon, it wasn't raining, and I did have my camera with me. The ruins can be accessed from the little road that runs up to Camps Reservoir from Crawford.

There's not much left of Castle Crawford. You can read its history here and here. The castle ruins stand on a large artificial mound, probably the remains of a twelfth century motte. The visible ruins are of a structure built in the early 1600s, but abandoned at the end of the eighteenth century. Apparently much of the stone was used to build the nearby Crawford Castle farmhouse, which explains why so little remains.

This doorway suggests past grandeur.

Looking south, one can appreciate the importance of the site, defending the route north from England.

Ruins do hold a fascination! Not to be explored closely on a stormy day, I advise.

On walking up the road towards the castle I noticed this little gate. I could so easily have walked past, but something made me stop and look closer.

A fairy gate, complete with fairies. Made my day!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spring is coming!

Looking up Annandale, a patch of blue sky allows the sun through!

The gorse beginning to flower.

The moles have been busy!

The snowdrops have been great this year, but are already beginning to go over.

These have tucked themselves in under a wall.

Yellow crocus at Skip.

The first daffodil to flower at Skip! Spring is definitely on the way.

My white Pulmonaria always flowers early.

 
It was a surprise to see this one little flower on a Lithodora in a container.

And I expect I'll be seeing a lot more lambs over the next few weeks.

Pix © Skip Cottage

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Guppies and gonopodia

On Friday I found myself driving along Paisley Road, near Ibrox. In the early 1960s (!), this little shop played a big part in my growing up. I must have been thirteen years old when my parents allowed me to have a small tropical aquarium. That prompted regular visits to M&R (Dog Fish) where a very patient Mr Mellor taught me the basics of keeping a small community tank.

Bert Mellor, whose family had fled Germany in WW2, had established the shop in 1958. I just loved going there. In the basement of the shop were a variety of tanks, and I spent a lot of time just looking at what was on offer, and of course spending my pocket money. At home I farmed white worms in trays kept in the coal bunker (not allowed in the house) and when my red platys had fry, I grew microworms in jam jars with a layer of porridge in the bottoms.

Of course, as a thirteen year old, I was fascinated by the sexual activities of the livebearers, especially my guppies. And I learned, amongst other things, that a gonopodium is a modified anal fin!

It was a responsibility of course. Regular maintenance had to be done. I remember very clearly heading off to the cinema one Saturday afternoon (I even remember the film - North West Frontier, with Kenneth More) and returning home to discover that, having switched off the power supply when I was cleaning the tank, I had forgotten to turn the heating back on. I was lucky, everything survived, but only just. A lesson that a teenager never forgot.

I would have liked to have had a larger tank, and that urge was satisfied when, in my last years at senior school, I was a member of the aquarium society!

In my adult life, I returned to fish-keeping at various times. I had a tank when living at Meikle Burntshields. And for most of my years in Thailand I had a huge tank - no heating costs, and most freshwater tropicals were inexpensive. I've looked today to see if I have kept photos of either of these tanks, with no success. Unlike my gardens, which I did photograph regularly, I seem never to have taken any photos of my aquaria.

Which takes me to yesterday. I was pleased to discover that M&R is still in business. It was like falling back in time!

The shop is now owned by Jim Wilson, who I remember well as the young man who helped out in the shop when I was a regular customer in the late 1980s and early 1990s. What was lovely was that he remembered me too, and it was great to catch up.

Jim's son Jamie is also an enthusiast! And well done to Jim in keeping going his independent small business. Continued success to you!

Photographing fish is not easy, but I just had to try to capture these amazing guppies.

Would I keep fish again? If I won the lottery perhaps, but probably not at this stage of my life. But there is nothing like a wee swim in nostalgia!

Pics © Skip Cottage

Friday, February 10, 2017

Signs of spring

As February 2017 marches on, I'm hoping I don't have many more mornings like this to wake up to!

It is encouraging to see the snowdrops appear, no matter how cold it is.

The occasional day has been quite spectacular. Here - as most followers of the blog will know - is my favourite tree on the back road near Saughtrees!

The bird feeders are busy, whatever the weather. A challenge is always to get a picture of my great spotted woodpeckers. That's the male on the peanut feeder.

If I have a favourite it is the blue tit. Lots of them frequent Skip, and nest in the garden.

This great tit is trying to tell me something! I've got some unusual visitors.

A group of long-tailed tits made a visit one day, attacted only to the suet balls.

I've not noticed long-tailed tits in the garden before, although they are apparently not uncommon hereabouts. Smashing little birds! I hope they will now be regular visitors to add to my own 'Birdwatch' list of Skip visitors at various times of the year: blue tit, great tit, coal tit, robin, chaffinch, wren, sparrow, brambling, dunnock, backbird, nuthatch, greenfinch, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, siskin, crow, rook, sparrowhawk, pidgeon, and even the occasional pheasant!
 
Pix © Skip Cottage