Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Unflushables

We've done a beach clean once before in New England Bay, but this time we were helping Cumbria Wildlife Trust in a 2 pronged mission to clear the beach at Walney Island and conduct a marine survey at the same time.

On arrival we were allocated bags, teams, clipboards and pickeruperers (I think that's the scientific name...) and dispatched to a 100m stretch of coastline on the far side of the island.  If you're familiar with the reserve you'll know it as the section you don't often have access to due to nesting birds.

Was great to see a good turn out and even better that the forecast of rain held off all afternoon.  As we waded through the rubbish and began logging it a pattern began to emerge with plastic bottle tops, cotton buds and assorted bits of plastic quickly filling the bags.  I know from our previous litter pick that cotton buds get there because so many folks flush them down the loo - and that's something we can all stop, especially as sea birds have a habit of trying to feed them to their young.  There were also a large number of, ahem, lady product plastic applicators so stop flushing those too!

The record of the stuff we found.
Of course some of the items that turned up really had you wondering how they got there - especially the set of ladders...

After 2 hours between us we'd collected an admiral pile of rubbish, almost beyond belief that all of it only came from a fairly narrow 100m stretch of beach.

So much junk from so little beach.

All done we headed back for a well earned cuppa and a biscuit.  For full details on what was collected keep your eyes on the Cumbria Wildlife Trust pages.  It was a very well worthwhile activity, Cumbria has given us such a lot that it's nice to give even a tiny bit back.

To round off the day, as we made our way back towards Barrow, we were treated to a gorgeous sunset and rainbow combo.  Perfect.

One end of the rainbow ends on Piel Island...

...the other ends in Barrow

Beautiful sunset.

OK, I was getting a bit arty here...

Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Self Sufficiency Gym

Happy New Year!  Hopefully I'm not too late for that - amazing how time flies but I've been bogged down with work and recovering from the festive period.  Our first full chrissy and new year up here and we weren't disappointed - although we had storms bad enough to ground the in-laws for an additional day on the whole the weather was great and Christmas Day couldn't be faulted, allowing us a few walks along the prom while the turkey cooked.

Christmas Day sunrise from Grange prom.
So where does the new year find us?  Well we're having to beat work off with a stick, which is nice, but whereas Tom & Barbara Good in The Good Life were able to dedicate their whole lives to self sufficiency, we need to squeeze it in around the stuff that pays the bills.  We have a system though - the stuff that requires us to be outdoors takes precedence whenever the weather is dry and all the other stuff (writing, accounts etc) get slotted in on rainy days and evenings.  It makes for some long days sometimes but generally works pretty well.

Moon & Lune - making the most of a nice day

That said though we have a busy period of self sufficiency looming.  We acquired a lot of wood when we had some trees lopped last year and we've been storing it in the garden, BUT we couldn't create our proper log stores until the double glazing folks finally finished the windows downstairs.  Now that's all done our game of strategic logpile chess can begin in earnest.  As we chop and shift one pile, sort through another and set aside the ones that need storing and the ones that are ready for the fire, the numbers of blue tarpaulins on the garden is thankfully beginning to diminish.

The thing is, once you have a log burner, if you plan on using your own wood, you have to plan ahead as wood needs 12 - 18 months to dry, or "season", so although we're well into sorting the wood for this year, we also need to have an eye on next year.  Luckily we have discovered a good stash of drift wood (the location of which is a closely guarded secret) which has grown significantly since the storms and extra high tides.   Our mission is to gather what we can and get it sorted, sawn/ chopped and drying ready for next winter.

Such hard work - seems a shame to burn it...

On top of all the sawing and chopping the garden renovation will kick off again this weekend.  As you'll remember we kicked off last year working with Abi & Tom from Halecat on a quest to breathe life back into a garden that had been ticking over for about 20 odd years (you can read all about it here), the thing is Tom is coming back to visit next week and there is a serious amount of dead stuff that needs chopping and removing before he arrives.

Where phase one involved clearing stuff out, phase two will be planning and planting.  We also need to extend our vegetable patch and dig out some very stubborn roots from bushes that really don't want to leave.  The last time we tackled something like that a friend solved the problem with a transit van, a rope and a heavy right foot.  It wasn't pretty but it worked.

Garden last summer. Very green. Aim to add more colour & more veg

So there we are, bang up to date.  And while gyms all over the country are bursting at the seams with new years resolutioners determined that this year will be different, I'm strongly considering developing the self sufficiency health plan.  All the manual labour required to sort the wood and get the garden in order has melted the excess Christmas pounds without costing me a penny.  Plus, by growing and eating our own fruit and veg, we'll have a very healthy diet (if you overlook the 2 litres each of bramble gin, vodka and whisky - though to be fair they are mainly used for medicinal purposes to ease my very sore post log chopping back.)

So, as we launch into our 4th year (4th? Seriously? Scary how the time flies!) of our new life I am happy to report that while it's still incredibly hard work, we learn new things every single day and I wouldn't trade any of my aching muscles for an easy day in the office.  I sincerely hope 2014 brings you everything you hope for and, if you're ever visiting the Lake District, give me a shout - I'm always happy to trade insider information on the best places to visit for a coffee and a natter.