Bowland by Day and Night

It's something of a tradition that when my birthday comes around a day out is called for, usually to a destination outside Lancashire. This year we decided to stay in Bowland. We got the electric bikes out and set out from Bleasdale taking Oakenclough Road and on over Harris End Fell. The morning was bright, the view out to the coast was clear and the heather on the fell was quite beautiful. At the cross roads we turned right  to take the Trough of Bowland Road, the hedgerows were laden with fruits, hips and berries. A bumper crop for man and beast.
It's quite sociable with so many "Hi there's " and "Good Mornings" from all the on coming cyclists and occasionally  from the ones overtaking (much younger, of course!). Most of the roads on this stretch were a steady uphill climb but when we reached the top I was glad we had chosen this way as the decent was so steep I would not have made it going the opposite way. Back to more gentle riding and on to Whitewell for an early lunch. The bike batteries were plugged in to charge under the table and we were refreshed with a cool shandy and refuelled with a ham salad and a roast beef dinner before setting out again for Chipping. This stretch of our ride was easier and much better with the recent road repairs. Arriving in Chipping (very busy) we made straight for The Flower and Produce Show in The Village Hall to see the display of gigantic vegetables and flowers of all sizes from the sweet little pom pom dahlias through to the great big mop head varieties. The standard of entries is so high, definitely worth a visit and the refreshments were just what we and cakes..
We did a quick double back to see the new exhibition at Brabbins Gallery then back up Garstang Road out of the village and the last hard pedal of the day. Easier going now on Fiddlers Lane and passing the gliders taking off and on towards Parlick with the para- gliders high above.
Riding back up our road, mid-afternoon, we felt it had been a day to remember. The weather was perfect and the views could not be bettered. Bowland at its Best.

An evening outing this weekend to make the most of the light nights..... Drove to Clitheroe through Chipping, Chaigley and Hodder Bridge, then on through Waddinton and over the fell to Newton. We stopped off at The Parkers Arms and enjoyed a very good meal. The reviews we had read lived up to expectation and so much local, seasonal local produce used.
Coming back out to the car it was a very dark sky with lots of stars. On the way home it was surprising how much wildlife we saw. On the downside there as a rat crossing the road but the upside was much better........ a hedgehog ( good to see a live one on the road), two tawny owls and a barn owl and last but not least, a very young deer that we passed very carefully after it was startled by the headlights.  

Good Summer

Our Forest of Bowland Holiday Cottages
A long overdue update; the swallows have had a wonderful Summer, I was called into Hare House last night to remove one that was flying high in the hallway.It didn'n take many minutes using a childs fishing net. We used the same method last week when we had a pipistrelle bat in our sitting room, I've still no idea how it came in!

Our Barn Owls have also had a good Spring and Summer down in the woodland and thanks to Mr Charles Cam I can share his wonderful pictures with you.

The Birds are busy.

Yesterday morning we got up to pandemonium in the garden, alarm calls and scufflings, I've never seen so many Blackbirds and their young together at one time. The problem was a stoat after the young black birds that seemed to draw every available bird in the vicinity to the defence, I was surprised at the bravery of the Dunnock. Failing to make a kill on the ground the stoat took to the beech hedge methodically going up and down checking every bit for nests, then through the rhubarb. At this point I thought that the young blackbirds in the nest in the ivy above the rhubarb stood very little chance but they survived for another day.
 We seem to have a few more swallows nesting this year and the weather is good for them.
Now that the Canada Geese have gone the Greylags are back on the lake with their young, the "goose wars" have been quite fierce, the Greylag have to settle for the ponds and scrapes while the Canadas are here.
It was such a lovely evening we went for a walk down the fields and through the woods, we saw the Barn Owl fly out of the box, a calm night for hunting.
This morning all is calm in the garden.                                    

Boxing Brown Hares.

Last weekend we had two wildlife photographers, David and Louise Gibbon, staying in Garden Cottage. Their aim was to photograph boxing hares, they set up their pop-up hide in a field down the road. We knew that they would have sightings of Brown Hare but thought that the chances of catching them boxing were quite slim. I should not have worried about it as they were successful.  

Lights, Camera, Action……

 As I sit at the computer by the window and looking out onto the garden feeling how good it is that the late afternoons are getting so much brighter and each time you go outside there are so many things on the move. The garden birds are busy and the Curlews are calling, there are increasing numbers of Lapwing coming and the Greylag geese are very noisy.

On a totally different subject it seems very peaceful here this week especially in our house, last week we had a group of students from Uclan here to "shoot" a film. I think they were taking advantage of it being half term as there were a number of younger actors involved each with a chaperone. On the first day as each fresh vehicle arrived with the actors they were directed to our Bowland Barn that is more usually the games and information room for cottage guests, it became "The Green Room", with the guest laundry room becoming "dressing room". Each day I checked which of our rooms and outdoor shots were needed so that we knew where we would be better working that day. We learned a lot about film making especially how time consuming it all is with everything needing to be just right for each take. The lack of traffic noise etc. was a plus point and only once did the noise of a passing aeroplane interrupt a scene. I must say they were a very dedicated group of young people working well as a team. It was all very interesting but we felt quite exhausted by the end of the week and it's much more peaceful this week.    

Belated, Happy New Year

A very belated Happy New Year from Bleasdale Cottages. I've been bogged down with paper work recently especially getting every thing off for the next stage of The Visit England Awards; now that's all done I'll have a catch up with what's going on out in the fresh air!
I am surprised we still have lots of berries on the holly at the bottom of the garden. The Mistle thrushes have been guarding them fiercely, they chase the Blackbirds off every day.
In the fields here we are seeing much bigger groups of Starlings than in recent years, the noise they make when feeding is very loud and then as they all take off together it sounds like an explosion. If you catch sight of them making their patterns in the sky... it's lovely to watch, but if you leave your washing out and they fly over... it's time to do it again!!
Just this morning we caught sight of a stoat in the garden but it wasn't wearing it's more usual coat; it was mostly white. I hope that doesn't mean we can expect lots of snow to come.

Ladybirds Ladybirds….

This Summer I was surprised that we did not see more ladybirds then in mid October as we cut and raked the wildflower strip we saw a few more. Over the last two weeks we have spent quite a lot of time working in the woodland taking out tree stakes and tubes where they are no longer needed. The good stakes can then be reused in the hedge laying. To our surprise there were clusters if ladybirds on nearly every tree we came to. There were hundreds of them some single ones tucked on the underside of branches but most of them were in tightly packed groups. Lots of them were down the tree tubes but some were quite high up out in the open on branches or huddled in lichen.

Owl Box – second time around

After a successful Summer for the Barn Owls and with the young having flown away to find their own territory it seemed like the best time to do repairs to the box.... So on Saturday morning we set out with tools, materials and ladders to get the job done. As we got everything in place , out flew the owl and as the ladder was put in place, out flew another.
Opening the hinged flap we found a deep pile of material and pellets so the first job was to clean it out. As soon as we got it cleaned out, the bottom fell out and then the whole thing collapsed!!!
We had to do something QUICKLY. " Scrap Heap Challenge"??
After searching through the buildings our best option was a redundant water tank with lid.
Robert cut a wooden perching shelf for the inside and a ledge for below the entrance and away we went to get it fixed back on the pole. It was quite a struggle getting it secured, we hope they approve of their new home.

Summer of Swallows

Last week the young swallows were getting together and having such fun in the sunshine they looked like the class of 2013 having their end of term parties before graduation. At breakfast time they get together on the electric wires, I counted seventy two one morning. I have the feeling that one morning soon all the twittering will have gone and they will begin their long haul flight to a winter in the sunshine.

Barn Owls

Cottage guests have been telling us of the Barn Owls they have been seeing on their evening walks down the road so this was our first attempt to get a picture. It was just on the edge of dark as we arrived and straight away there was movement on the owl box. We could not believe it, there was so much activity, owls bringing food and young flying. It was hard to keep up with exactly how many we were watching but there had to be at least four.

Woodpecker Feeding

Over the last few days we have been seeing a lot of a woodpecker family in the front garden. The parents regularly come to feed on the nut feeder in the eucalyptus tree but now they are bringing a youngster with them, it sits on a branch begging to be fed.
I often put scraps on the grass for the blackbirds and robins but I was surprised to see the woodpecker feeding its baby on mashed potato. Tonight the parent was hunting among the grass for grubs to feed the ever hungry youngster, after several feeds the youngster caught on and began  probing the ground with its beak.

Springtime Bike Ride.

Yesterday we set out on another ride on the new electric bikes. It's my sort of bike ride, just like  someone giving you that extra push up the hills and it's surprising how much more detail you see as you ride alongside the hedgerows. As we set out down our road to the left we saw the wheatears feeding, they will only be here for a short while before they move onto higher parts of Bowland to breed. Across the other side of the road was a group of about thirty whimbrel, they seem to be visiting daily probably some of the ones that roost at this time of year at Barnacre. Out onto the main road we took left and set out for Chipping passing near the foot of Parlick with the Para gliders soaring above us and the gliders launching from Cockhill. On down Fishhouse Lane, really needed the brakes down there as it's very steep, the bluebells are just beginning to show. In Chipping village we headed for the Tea Garden at Brabbins Shop where there is a charging point for the bikes and a good cup of coffee for me. After our refreshments we left Chipping by Garstang Road the Curlews calling above us and the hedges on either side such vibrant shades of green. On the way back up our road I caught site of the banking in the wood, yellow with primroses so we went back down later for a walk to have a better look through the wood. The primroses have really spread, I have never seen so many there before, there were violets and just the first few bluebells.
Glorious day today for the Bank Holiday and we heard our first cuckoo.       

Bleasdale Fells Restoration Project.

In glorious sunshine this weekend the helicopter has been busy carrying hundreds of bags of heather brash up onto the Bleasdale Fells. This is part of the work being carried out as part of the project to protect the peat moorland.
The successful early morning Spring Brown Hare Walk was almost finished when the helicopter began its second day of transporting the bags, rounding off the walk with quite a spectacular finale. 


Star Gazing and Bird Watching.

Last night we braved the cold and spent some time "Star Gazing". A friend brought his new smart telescope and set it up on the cottages car park.
We had some splendid viewings of Jupiter and its moons, Pleiades (The Seven Sisters) and The Constellation of Orion. We always knew that we were lucky to live in a "dark sky" area and it was a real treat to view them in more detail.
While we were doing this the recently arrived oyster catchers were very vocal.
Robert saw lots of snipe while out field working this morning.

Garden Visitors in Winter

As it's some while since I contributed to The Bowland Blog I should make a New Year effort and get back to it and note the winter visitors in the garden. The song thrushes are still making daily visits for the berries on the holly tree and lately have begun to come to the Cotoneaster by the house. The nut and seed feeders are busy with a variety of tits and the greedy woodpecker.The pheasants,blackbirds and robins are always grateful for the house food scraps but this morning they had competition from a stoat that came and decided to make off with a full piece of gingerbread It didn't stay to eat with them but it carried it away at great speed, it was sporting its white coat for the winter.The garden goes very quiet when the sparrow hawk visits.
Looking over the hedge and down the field I have been noticing more heron visiting the lake usually just one or two but while pegging washing out last week there were three. This caused a bit of a spat I was surprised to see them having a go at each other. As I am sitting at the computer my eye has been taken with a group of feeding birds and if I'm not mistaken I think we have visiting lapwing.....
Yes we have! I got the binoculars out just to make sure my eyes were not deceiving me.
We now have regular sightings of the barn owl hunting as we drive down the road, it makes a lovely site. The new woodland has become good habitat for it.