Very wet, Easter

Last year, my son Tom and Team London came to Yorkshire to enjoy Easter In The Country.  They saw lambs and ducklings and chickens and rabbits – all the kinds of creatures that the average London park is a little short of.

This year, they asked for more of the same.  Easter was early, so we knew that the ducklings probably wouldn’t appear.  We weren’t to know though that this year Easter would be very cold and extremely wet with hail slashing our cheeks, then sleet.

Tom and I did manage a walk up the lane to let William see the lambs.  That was when we got caught in a vicious hail storm.

Lambing time at Sleningford Hall.

As last year though, it was our friends Gill and Dave and their family who saved the season.  William stroked their dogs and cuddled their cat Marmite (who used to be ours, before we went to France).  Grandson Jack came round, and the two little boys bonded immediately, hunting for the eggs and chocolate treats the Easter Bunny had left (inside: no self-respecting Easter Bunny wants to get chilled to the bone hiding eggs in the garden).

Hunting for a final few eggs.

Then it was time to visit Reggie the Shetland pony and his new friend Maple.  They were saddled up, the boys were equipped with riding helmets, and off they went for a ride.  Well, Jack did.  He had first mounted a horse when he was six weeks old so now he’s a pro, trotting and everything.  William lasted about two minutes.  Sitting on Maple’s back was one thing: wobbling about when she moved off quite another.  William preferred walking alongside.

Then it was pay-back time.  William was put to work barrowing horse manure from stable to manure heap.  There were eggs to be collected – he only smashed one.  Finally, he had to feed the hens.  And he got to keep the eggs he’d found – scrambled eggs for tea!

Memorable moments for a city child.  Thank you Gill, Dave, Becky, Andrew and Carly … and of course Jack … for a very special morning.

Click on any image to see full size.

 

Snapshot Saturday: The timeless drama of a sunset

I’ve shown these photos before.  I’ve even shown them in a previous WordPress Photo Challenge.  But I’ll never forget this February sunset from a few years ago in Laroque d’Olmes.  ‘Dramatic’ doesn’t seem an overstatement here.

 

 

This is my contribution to this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge inviting shots of a sunrise or sunset. Click on any image to view full size.

Landfill – zero

A day trip to Leeds might involve mooching round the ornate Victorian shopping arcades, a visit to Leeds City Art Gallery, or to one of the theatres. It might involve some serious retail therapy.

What it wouldn’t normally involve is Cross Green, an unlovely sprawling industrial estate to the south east of the city centre.  Acres of modern rectangular industrial buildings surround large wholesale markets, and any housing squeezes up into the north of the patch.

But Cross Green is home to one of Leeds’ most exciting new buildings.  Here, on its southern face is a striking living wall, one of the largest in Europe, providing biodiversity in an otherwise wholly man-made environment.

Leeds RERF’s Living Wall.

The building itself relies heavily on glass and elegant timber framing.  It’s something of an anachronism in a zone of modern concrete boxes.

This is Leeds Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility.  

A scale model of Leeds RERF.

These days we’re all encouraged to recycle – glass, paper, tins, plastic, garden waste  – even, in some local authorities, food waste.  By rights, little should need to find its way into those black bags steadily filling every landfill site in the country.  But it does.

The advanced technology in this building aims to prevent that: and thanks to our friends Graham and Trish, we spent an afternoon finding out how.

We started out in one of the meeting rooms, looking through glass to watch a monstrous grab working with up to 6 tonnes per grab of shredded miscellaneous waste.  This was waste at the end of its journey, but still useful.

 

Come with us.  Put on the work boots they give you, the hi-viz jacket, the safety helmet and the goggles.  Come with us and we walk from point to point in this immense building.

Malcolm’s all togged up for the visit.

Here are the monitors which – er- monitor every part of the plant.  Look carefully and you’ll see flames on one of the screens.

Monitors at work.

This is an incinerator which burns the unrecoverable waste we had been looking at earlier, to produce heat.  The heat turns water into steam.  The steam powers a turbine.  The turbine generates about  13 MW of electricity – enough to supply the needs of 22,000 homes.  Emissions are carefully controlled, cleaned and captured, and the ash generated by this unimaginably hot bonfire is used as aggregate in road building.

Before that though, materials which could have been recycled earlier are extracted.  Paper and card are blown from the refuse.  Metals are fished out by magnets.  We couldn’t take pictures as we walked round the plant, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

There’s not really a market for the degraded paper which finds its way here.  But next time you take an egg from an egg box, or find yourself staring at a sick-bowl in hospital, or need to buy some paper-based animal bedding, you might be using something that started out in the RERF in Leeds.

I could blind you with facts and figures, but I think it’s enough to know that Leeds is helping to meet its ambitious zero-waste plans with projects such as this.  We, wherever we live, have an obligation to develop our own personal zero-waste strategies. Maybe you have a group you could join, like our own Plastic Free Ripon?  More of that in another post.

The entrance to Leeds RERF.

Click on any image to see it full size.

Leeds marches for Europe

We don’t do protest marches much.  Well, we did when we lived in France, obviously, because protesting is a way of life there.  Here?  Not so much.

But with Brexit only a year away, and with the intolerable consequences to our economy, our services, our multi-cultural and inclusive way of life becoming daily more apparent, we wanted to join the Leeds March for Europe, arranged in solidarity with events being held in Edinburgh, in Ipswich, in Exeter, in Pontypridd, in Maidenhead, in Ipswich and on the Isle of Wight.

Teresa May, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage lead the way.

We arrived.  We were initially disappointed.  There was a van, topped off with May, Johnson, Gove and Farage and a netball pitch sized banner waiting to lead things off, but were there really only enough people present to fill the Headrow in front of the Town Hall?

Setting off from Leeds Town Hall

Well, no as it turned out.  We set off with new-found friends from York, but soon dropped back to see the real size of the procession.  It went on …. and on.  We met people from every political party and none.  We met OAPs against Brexit.  We met Grannies against Brexit.  We met teenagers against Brexit. We joined in chants orchestrated from different parts of the route.  We met anti-Brexit groups from Hull, from Kent, from Sheffield, from….all over the place.  We were peaceful and good humoured and met surprisingly little heckling.

Back outside the town Hall, it was time for speeches.  We heard from politicians from every main party (well, not UKIP….) and cheered them all.  We heard from the impassioned and articulate young founders of OFOC!      (Our Future, Our Choice) some of whom hadn’t been able to vote in the  referendum, but will have to live with its consequences.  We heard from Joan Pons Laplana, a Spanish nurse who has worked in Britain for 17 years, who has a family here, and who no longer feels welcome. We heard from Elena Remigi, founder of Our Brexit Testimonies, from a young British research scientist who also feels her future threatened, and from Sue Wilson, leader of Bremain in Spain.  And we heard from The Big Names.  Prof. AC Grayling courteously and respectfully demolished the arguments on the placard held aloft by the sole courageous Brexiteer who had joined the rally.  Our own MEP Richard Corbett was as incisive and to the point as ever.  And Lord Adonis brought the whole affair to an energising  conclusion, working the crowd so that we all agreed, as we began to make our way home, that we each have a responsibility to work towards making sure that the disaster which is Brexit never actually takes place.

 

Click on any image to see it full size.

Snapshot Saturday: a murmuration of starlings

Last Monday, towards evening, the place to be was our home. We dashed from window to window, watching as dozens, then hundreds, then thousands of starlings descended on the trees round our house. They weighed down the branches, then in coordinated waves – responding to some urge we could not understand – they swept skywards, tearing across the garden, swooping, diving, before briefly settling again to repeat the performance again and again for a whole three-quarters of an hour, before finally disappearing to settle near the river for the night.

So near to our house, those mesmerising formations of groups of birds twisting and turning in harmony, as if in some graceful aerial dance weren’t so apparent as they are at a distance.  We were rewarded instead by seeing them at close quarters, rising, landing and  rising again from the trees near our house.

  A murmuration of starlings, especially for us.

 

Our car didn’t enjoy the display quite so much.

These photos are for this week’s WordPress photo challenge, Favourite Place. Click on any image to view full size

How not to run a half marathon

Daughter Ellie’s London Marathon training is on target: just as well, because the race is now only just over a month away.

She thought a useful test would be to run the Wilmslow Half Marathon along in the next county.  Malcolm and I were pressed into service as childminders (for ‘childminders’, read ‘providers of lifts’) and dog walkers.

The Pennines near Skipton.

As we drove over the Pennines to Bolton, the temperature dropped to -2.5 degrees, the windchill factor took it well below that, and the wind swirled something of a blizzard round the car.

A drive in the snow.

The race was still on though.  Once we’d arrived in Bolton, we sat around the kitchen table carb-loading (otherwise known as eating cake) and planning strategy. We had a quiet evening, packing Ellie off to bed at 9 o’clock for her before-6.00 a.m.-start.

But in the middle of the night, when Ellie checked on-line, the inevitable had happened.  For safety reasons, the run had been cancelled.

Brian takes Ellie for a walk.

So no race, no excitement, no challenge.  Ellie and I took Brian-the-dalmation for a long walk in the snow.  And that, dear reader, was that.

More Pennines near Skipton.

Very special and heartfelt thanks to those of you who have sponsored Ellie for running the London Marathon.  Because of people like you, she has raised nearly 150% of her target.  All the money raised will go towards research into osophageal cancer, a disease that is still little understood compared with better-resourced breast cancer. Thank you.  Thank you.

Even more Pennines near Skipton.

Snapshot Saturday: I’d rather not be in a mudslick

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge invites us to show images of where we’d rather be at the moment.  Well, I’ll tell you where I’d rather not be, and that’s here, in North Yorkshire.

I love Yorkshire, and I’m happy to agree that it’s ‘God’s own country’.  But frankly, life here is a little trying just now.  Like most of England, we had The Beast from the East a couple of weeks ago bearing snow, blizzard and fierce wind.  And much of the rest of the time it’s been raining.  This photo was taken a couple of months ago: since then, things have only got worse.

This is what our country walks have become: Nutwith Common in January

So how about a little trip back to the Ariège, where we lived from 2007 to 2014?  Here’s a selection of photos, all taken there in March or very early April.  Down in the foothills of the Pyrenees where we lived, blossoms were out, and wild daffodils carpeted the more out-of-the-way hills.  At the weekend we would head off for Montségur and higher land to enjoy the snow that was still thick there.  We were never fans of snow-shoeing, but now I’d be more than happy to exchange their crisp deep snow for our thick deep mud.

 

Click on any photo to see it full size.