Friday, 31 August 2012

Estuary Walk

Every week we walk down the estuary from Freshwater Causeway to Yarmouth. Sometimes we do it twice a week. The scenery could not be more varied, from waterside to woods and fields and back to water again. One of the best things about doing a regular walk is looking out for familiar sights.

Like all estuaries, the bird life here is about to rise dramatically leading up to the colder weather, but for now it's just the regulars who have been with us throughout the year.
The five ducks at the bridge have been there for a couple of years now, racing out of the reeds in an orderly line the minute a bread bag rustles.
 Last week we saw changes.
The pair of swans with their two babies had gone. We assumed they were up one of the cuttings in the thick reed beds, but as we looked for them no fewer than seven swans flew up the estuary and landed by the side of the bridge.
We expected the regular pair to show, as they are very territorial, but no sign. We have not seen so many swans there, all look like adults. We left, puzzled.

We returned today,but now there are nine swans. Have the missing pair joined them? Are the babies there as well, with grey feathers replaced by white?

We parked the car on the bridge and ate chips. There was no sign of the Famous Five. We hoped they had not been chased away by the swans, but as we watched people coming and going, it seemed like they had gone for good.
Then someone started feeding the swans, and they drifted to the far side of the bridge. Suddenly we could hear manic quackings from the reed bed, and out they appeared right next to us, following the leader as always!

They had to paddle really hard to reach the other side of the bridge before the bread ran out, but luckily the kind man saw them coming and made sure they got their share, even if it meant some very long throws over the heads of the swans!

The seagulls didn't even bother to compete.

This place is popular with walkers, cyclists and locals just coming to feed the birds. The other side of the bridge has far more reeds and lots of mallards. People stop on the bridge in their cars and just enjoy the view down the wide estuary and the bird activity.
Unfortunately this tranquil scene is frequently spoilt by people sailing small boats or paddling canoes up the estuary from Yarmouth, ignorantly pushing right through the birds, even in the winter when there are huge flocks of wading migrants. They have no regard for either the birds that they disturb, or the birdwatchers and people feeding them on the bridge. They usually tie their boats up to the bridge, completely unaware of their actions, and mostly looking smug as if they are showing off.

As we were watching today we saw what must be the most ridiculous form of entertainment I have ever seen!. A man slowly paddled towards us, standing up on what looked like a surfboard. What fun (not!) He wouldn't even be able to lift a leg without tipping over!

As he came close, the people on the bridge stared at him. I think his intention was to come ashore at the bridge, but the closer he got, the noisier the swans became, and finally he decided to turn round and head back again.
If that's one good thing about the swans, I hope they stay!

What a lovely, sunny day off I've had. Still trying to cling on to my relaxed, holiday mood after my leave, three days back at work not too bad. There's nothing like an early morning cup of tea in the sun with the cats. Well, two of them! Whiskers has to sleep off his night-time activities.
Rolly loves the sun! He's the first one out.

Half an hour later Kitty appeared, and distracted Rolly by looking at a small, crawly thing with far too much interest.

I did try to take a nice photo of Kitty, but she's such an affectionate little cat, she doesn't let me get close to her without getting up to greet me with a rub, so this is the usual picture of her......

Much easier to take a photo of a bug than Kitty!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Deserted Beach

The Isle of Wight is a small island, packed at this time of year with holiday makers, but it's still easy to find an isolated beach. The reason is, most visitors gather at the popular, sandy beaches with convenient car parking and other facilities, and even then they don't stray too far along the coast for fear of getting cut off.
We ventured to the North Western edge yesterday, and had lunch at a popular beach-side park, but just five minutes walk along the coast and we had left everyone else behind with their BBQ's and ball games.

The cliff at this section of the beach has been falling into the sea, creating strange tree skeletons. It also means access has been lost, and you have to know the tides to safely walk any distance.

To further complicate things, the North side of the IOW, ie, the Solent side has not one high tide but two each day. (Excellent for shipping into & out of Southampton and Portsmouth).

We walked along it as the tide was going out, but I still had to wade through water to get round one dead tree. On the way back it was possible to stay dry footed.

There were quite a lot of shells. I always try NOT to collect shells, I mean....what do you do with them apart from clog up some windowsill reserved for this?

These somehow found their way into my pocket.....

As I type this I look out the window at Whiskers. My wild boy is patiently waiting for the light to fade. He will stay in all night in the winter, or when it's raining, but on these warm evenings he will disappear at about 10pm, and return home just before dawn.

I would love to know where he goes all night. I think it may be the stable yard across the field, in search of mice. He never brings anything home to show for his endeavours, thankfully!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Stay In And Read!

What to do on the second day of your two weeks off work, and outside it's as dark as mid-winter and pouring with rain?

Stay in bed and read!

I love the Narrow Dog books, about a retired couple's life on a canal boat with a whippet (Narrow Dog!) called Jim. This is the third one, and it could well be the last, as in places it gets quite melancholy. Terry Darlington is in his seventies and in this trip round northern Britain he is suffering from shingles. The round trip finishes up in the marina where they started their first ever journey. It still has it's hilarious bits, though!

I've wanted to read A Street Cat Named Bob since I read about it in the papers months ago, and working in a library you would think that wouldn't be a problem. For me it is! I see literally dozens of books that I want to read, and usually they are in my hands for seconds on route to another library where someone has reserved them, and I forget the titles.
This copy fell into my hands by luck just last week, when it was returned to our branch from someone using the Housebound Library. (We don't often get to see their books!) As usual I had forgotten all about it, and was really pleased that it came my way just before my break! I read it in two days! What an amazing cat Bob is, and although James Bowen was living hand-to-mouth he never hesitated in giving this cat, who he half expected to wander off again, full veterinary attention to get him back to health. Incredibly, James wasn't even aware that Bob was getting famous on the internet, as he couldn't afford a computer! He had to go to his local library to see himself and Bob on Youtube!

Back to the weather, and what a contrast with yesterday, when we drove over to the other, more touristy side of the IOW, and went a walk along the beach that was packed with sunbathers, kite-flyers, paddlers, wind-surfers and sand castle-makers!
Nice for a break, but glad to drive back to our, more remote side of the island.

Sunday, 12 August 2012


Some time ago I did three blog entries all about how each one of my cats turned up at my door .
Before Whiskers and Kitty arrived, but after Rolly, a large, ginger and white boy turned up a few days before Christmas. He stalked his way through the undergrowth of the old orchard, and crept across the lawn towards my cat flap. Once inside, he checked out the competition. There was Rolly, a young, male stray who had settled in well, and my two original cats, Candy and Biscuit, both of whom I had as kittens.
The ginger and white one looked at the sleeping arrangements and decided to claim the kitchen bench. He looked old, bony and slightly dirty, but I found out he actually belonged to a lady I knew who lived a few miles along the coast road in the old coastguard houses.
Sally had nine other cats, but she had plenty of room for them in her large house surrounded by fields. It was a neighbour of Sally's who knew the cat I was talking about when I made enquiries. She told me he had been working his way along the row of houses, trying to find alternative accomodation. There are six houses in the row, and Sally lives at one end, in the largest house.
The neighbour told me the cat was called Max, and another neighbour had adopted him but turfed him out when he went abroad for the winter. He had been sleeping on a dustbin lid since then.

To get to my house, Max would have walked about five miles. The coast road is busy with fast moving cars, and he would have had to go over the bridge that crosses the small river that cuts down to the sea. Sally loves her cats, so I bundled him up in the car and took him home.

I met Sally feeding her chickens. She told me Max was having some problems with her younger cats, and it was getting difficult to encourage him indoors. We said our goodbyes, and I drove home.

When I woke up the next day, there was Max, back on the kitchen bench. He gave me a look, as if to say "This is my place and I have been here all night, thankyou. Can I have my breakfast now?"
He had done the walk again, along the road in the blackness of a country night, in mid-winter. Back he went in the car.
"You could try keeping your door shut" said Sally.
"I've got a cat flap" I replied.
"Well, I'm sorry if he's eating your cats' food."
"I'm not really bothered," I said. "It's just a worry that he's going along the road, at his age. How old is he?"

Sally told me Max was at least 16 years old, but my cat Biscuit was that age and he looked much younger. Max had a touch of arthritis and a fang tooth missing. His coat was dull and his eyes were weepy.

The next morning he was back, on the kitchen bench. It was Christmas Eve. I was working, so I gave him a day to go home himself. Needless to say, he was still asleep in the kitchen when I got home from work. Off we went down the road again. In the dusk of the evening I could see Sally putting the chickens to bed, surrounded by a gang of young cats. Max reluctantly got out of the car.

"If he's back tomorrow, shall I return him?" I asked. It was Christmas day after all.
"I think he wants to live with you," replied Sally. "I don't know what to suggest. You don't want him, do you?"
"I really don't mind," I replied. "He seems quiet enough, but he's your cat"  Sally just wanted him to be happy, in a safe home. She was more concerned about what I thought.

Christmas Day and there was Max, greeting me with a grin from his place on the kitchen bench. That day he feasted with the others on roast turkey. He lived with me for the next six years, never straying further than the other end of the orchard. Sally visited him and he greeted her with one of his long-drawn out yowls.
He slept in a multitude of places, for a lot of the time.

In his last year he went completely deaf, and we had to escort him outside in case he got himself into difficulty. Sometimes he would forget where he was.

He loved attention, which was probably one reason why he left a home with many other cats and people living there. He loved to be carried round on our shoulders, dribbling a stream of sticky saliva down our backs.
In his final months he had problems finding a comfortable bed, so I picked one up from a local petrol station. It was doughnut-shaped and perfect for him to get in and out of, and cushion his head.

He was a stubborn old thing, but we still miss him, and always will.

"daft old bugger"

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Oddments in the garden!

Well, we've had a lovely, sunny day here on the Isle of Wight, and news of torrential downpours and flash floods in other parts of the country came as quite a shock on the news tonight!
A day for pottering about. I took more photos of the garden, this time including some of the ornaments that I have no room for indoors, so find their way out amongst the foliage!

Kitty watched me taking the photos, while the two boys were sleeping indoors. She has trouble cleaning her nether regions sometimes, due, I think, to a short leg / large tummy ratio!

Much as I love my garden, I am absolutely rubbish at naming flowers! So here are some pink daisy things, some big, white daisies and a blue flower with a bee!

One of the plants I do know the name of is my clematis, Bill McKenzie. I saw it on a gardening programme years ago, and the next day saw one in a garden centre. It has yellow, bell-like flowers, and seems to be in flower for weeks and weeks. When the petals fall off, they are replaced by attractive, fluffy seeds. Here it is climbing the trellis, mixed with honeysuckle.

The tide was in when we walked down the estuary. We sat on the bench and watched silvery fish breaking through the surface of the still waters.

I just love sunlight through leaves!

A quick visit to the dump on the way home, just in time to spot this old and slightly bent plant holder being pulled out of the wrong skip by the man who works at the dump. He looked just a bit bemused when I asked for it, and now it holds a jasmine in a blue pot near my shed.

I added the little cat, it was a broken bird feeder. Two weeks holiday coming up after next week!