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Storm Arwen’s Aftermath

It began with Arwen…..then Barra, Corrie, Dudley, Eunice and Franklin. This winter the UK has suffered some horrendous storms. Here in Northumberland the first was the worst.

Arwen struck northeast England at the end of November and the highest winds were recorded near hear at Brizlee, registering 93mph. Our roof was undamaged but we had a couple of trees down and they brought fences with them. A length of drainpipe turned up in a neighbour’s garden and our shed needed repairs.

Our village got off lightly as far as power outages went, but others nearby had no electricity for 5 days – some areas were affected for a week or more, with power lines down and trees blocking the way for engineers trying to restore power. Access to some villages was cut off for some time until trees were moved.

Driving around in the days that followed, the scale of the damage wreaked by Arwen became startlingly clear. Many buildings had sustained roof damage. Almost every house along the sea front in Seahouses and Beadnell had slates blown off or holes in the roof. Some had entire sections ripped away.

Great gaps had appeared in hedgerows where trees had come down damaging the surrounding hedges. Huge boughs had been ripped off some of the trees.

Enormous areas of woodland have been devastated, with trees uprooted, exposing massive root plates.

Others had simply been snapped off, a stark reminder of the sheer power of the storm.

It’s not just commercial forestry that has been lost, though the shallower root systems must make conifers more vulnerable.

Many beautiful native broad-leafed trees have fallen victim of the storms too, including ash, beech, sycamore and oak.

Ornamental trees have been lost too. The arboretum at Howick Hall has suffered severe damage. Ornamental trees in the grounds of Newcastle Civic Centre also fell and there was an appeal for furniture makers to take the timber, which included an unusual walnut tree. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people say they have a lifetime’s supply of firewood!.

Some three months (and several more storms) later, much of the windblown woodland remains uncleared. Some of the commercial forestry has been clear felled and paths and trails through amenity woodland have been cleared to provide safe access. Much will be left to lie where it fell. It will provide cover for wildlife and become colonised by fungi and wood boring insects.

Repairs continue. I know of at least two families who have had to move out of their homes so that extensive roof repairs can be carried out. Scaffolding surrounds many buildings as the work goes on, though subsequent storms have caused delays.

Before long the damaged properties will be prepared, but the scars left on the landscape will be there for generations.

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Snow on the Cheviots

The weather cleared up this morning to give another sunny if blustery day. Driving over the hill between Belford and Chatton there was this stunning view towards the Cheviot Hills, the summits dusted with snow. It’s sights like this that make me feel so thankful to be living insect a beautiful part of the world.

Later on the wind rose again (as Storm Franklin comes this way) and the rain began, but it was still beautiful….and we got rainbows too!

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Lull Before the Storm

Yesterday we headed up the coast to Newton by the Sea. It was a glorious, if blustery day. K and Buddy set off for a walk along the beach while I stayed in the car with my knitting.

The sunshine had brought people out and the beach was quite busy.

On quieter winter days the shoreline is peppered with wading birds, but not today. There were too many walkers and dogs for that. Several oystercatchers and redshanks had gathered on some rocks just offshore, an altogether safer place.

I also saw a whinchat on the marram grass at the top of the beach. They are quite common on the dunes here and I always love to see them.

When K returned he reported a large raft of ducks, mainly widgeon, at the southern end of the bay. It seems that overwintering wildfowl are beginning to gather prior to the spring migration

Of course I love to knit with a sea view. Today’s knitting on the dashboard is the second of a pair of toe-up socks in my handspun alpaca and wool.

It felt good to be out on such a beautiful day, in between this week’s storms.

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A Valentine’s Treat

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day and that love was in the air. I was racking my brains for something different to do this year. It is lovely to give and receive flowers, chocolates etc but it is nice to ring the changes now and again.

This year I bought some goodies and packed up a gourmet picnic. It included smoked salmon parcels, olives, Scotch eggs, posh sausage rolls, some French cheeses, strawberries , chocolate truffles and Prosecco.

We headed for the beach and parked overlooking Coquet Island. We left Buddy the Labrador at home – true to his breed, he is a greedy dog and the food was frankly too good to share! We unpacked the picnic and poured a small glass of fizz, then tucked in. Food with a view. Perfect!

Drink responsibly!

How did you celebrate St Valentine’s Day?

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Past Post Reboot: Wildflower of the Week: Snowdrop

I’ve seen lots of snowdrops when I’ve been out and about this week. To celebrate this sign that Winter is almost over, here’s a reboot of a post that originally appeared last year.

Here in Northumberland the snowdrops are in full bloom. They are a common wildflower here in the woods and verges, though not a native of Britain. Previously believed to have been brought here by the Romans, it is now thought that they were introduced here in the 16th Century, The Common Snowdrop (Galantthus nivalis) is indigenous across Southern and Eastern Europe to the Middle East.

The plants grow from bulbs, which soon multiply to form large clumps, making them a popular plant for gardens or to be naturalised in parkland. They are one of the first flowers of the year to appear, flowering mostly from January to April, though occasionally as early as November.

The flowers are preceded by strap-like leaves and the flowers hang bell-like, singly or in pairs at the ends of the stalk – the plant grows 7-15 cm high.

The flowers have six white petal-like structures known as tepals. The three inner ones are notched and marked with green, surrounding yellow stamens. The three pure white outer tepals are longer.

The plant is not edible – the bulb is toxic. Extracts of the plant have been used in medicine and one chemical component, galanthamine is being used to help in the treatment of Alzheimers Disease.

The plant symbolises hope (for milder weather to come) and purity and is associated with Candlemas, the religious feast of the Purification of the Virgin. Wildflower of the weekThis gives rise to the alternative name, Candlemas Bells. In Victorian times a superstition grew up that it was unlucky to bring snowdrops into the house – earlier accounts said this would cause milk to sour and eggs to turn bad, or even cause death – such unpleasant connotations for such a pretty flower!

It’s always reassuring to see the drifts of nodding white bells at this time of year, both in our garden and growing wild. Spring is on its way.

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Back to Blogging: Knit and Natter Round Up and a Milestone

I have been on a break from the blog . My last post was on 1st November and for a while I seemed to have nothing much to write about, then it was Christmas and as time went on it simply got harder to return to it. Today I got a notification to say that my blog has had 10,000 views. That seems to be quite a milestone and was just the push I needed, so here comes my first blog post of 2022 – thanks to everyone who’s read my blog, especially those who like, follow and comment – I always love to hear what you have to say.

The online Knit and Natter Group continues to meet every Friday on Zoom. This grew out of a group that used to meet in our local doctors surgery, which began to meet on Zoom during the COVID Pandemic. The organisers have now found a venue for in-person meetings to resume. Fortunately it is on a different day so both groups can continue with the choice to attend either or both.

Our Zoomers have continued to knit and crochet a load of fabulous items. Here are just a few they’ve been working on since the start of 2022.

Even though R has moved to the other end of the country, she is still part of the group: that’s the beauty of meeting online. She recently completed a cosy Christmas blanket made-up of knitted squares in different patterns, using a red/white/green/gold palette.

R’s first new project of 2022 was this purple scarf. One end is sewn down to form a loop – to wear it you simply pass the other end through the loop and adjust the fit. R had trimmed the scarf with some striking square buttons

R is now working on a cardigan for herself using a self-patterning yarn in shades of grey and pale blue.

A has been busy with baby blankets.

She stockpiles these as new baby gifts and recently raided her blanket stash for a mutual friend’s baby girl. A’s latest blanket is a big white one, crocheted in a shell design. I wonder which lucky baby will end us with this one!

L received a blanket kit as a Christmas gift from her daughter in the most beautiful sweet pea colours.

She is about to crochet the edges to complete her “sweet pea” blanket.

Y has been knitting socks!

She made a pair for a work colleague, who kindly modelled them for this screenshot!

Her current project is a pair of gorgeous cabled stockings.

Y’s husband is a proud Scot who wears a kilt on every special occasion. At dinner during a holiday, a fellow guest admired his stockings and Y agreed to knit him a pair. They include a rather challenging purl twisted cable – we put our heads together on that one – I love that we pool our knitting/crochet knowledge to help each other out with our projects.

We also have a new member. C likes knitting socks too.

She’s also been making baby hats for newborns.

I’ve been sock knitting too – just finished the first of a pair made with my handspun yarn , pictured at the top of this post.

It’s good to be writing again and describing our work. There’ll be another knit and natter roundup soon….. and other blogposts too.