After half term

This year’s October half term school holiday seems to have passed us by in a flash!  It’s Monday again and small daughter is back at school (much to her disgust).  We’ve gone past the age now where she wants to go for days out over the school holidays, preferring instead to have long lie ins, chat to her friends in endless video calls and then chat some more on sleepover nights (ha!  Why are they called “sleepovers”?  There’s never any sleeping going on in our house!).  

I did manage to get her out and about a bit, though.  We went for a couple of walks with the dog which always followed the same pattern: grumbling about having to go out, grumbling on the way to wherever we were going, dragging her feet for the first ten minutes, and finally having a good time being outside.  Luckily, I’ve been here before and I know that (hopefully) it’s just a phase!

We’ve seen plenty of conkers this year, but I’ve also seen plenty of squirrels hoarding them too, so I’ve persuaded small daughter that we should leave them for the squirrels and not bring them home as a spider deterrent.  We have loads of spiders in our house – the downside of living near the fields, I suppose – and they don’t seem to be deterred in the least by the bucketloads of conkers we’ve had decorating the windowsills for what feels like forever, so it’s better that they are a food supply.  I do love conkers, though; those shiny brown nuts that fit so perfectly inside their spiky casings.  There’s something very tactile about them, isn’t there (the conkers, that is, not the cases!), and I may have had just one in my pocket for the last couple of weeks.

We’ve been watching the leaves changing colours – they seem to have turned more shades of red and yellow this week as we’ve been out and about, or perhaps we’ve had more time to notice them.

And so many berries!  My camera couldn’t decide which of these rose hips to focus on, but I still wanted to show you the picture as this was just one of several bushes that we passed, all laden with hips.  I don’t know if it’s true that lots of berries on trees means a hard winter, but if it is, then I think we’re in for one!

I’m definitely a Winter baby, but I do like Autumn very much.

I’ve been treasure hunting in the garden, too.  I swapped the fading geraniums in these pots for cyclamen which will hopefully flower through the winter once the leaves have gone from the climber.  The pots came from IKEA a long time ago – they were part of their kitchen storage range – but they make great plant pots! 😀

The climbing roses are still flowering …

and so is the catmint …

and the everlasting wallflower (Erysimum) …

More berries, on the Cotoneaster this time …

The last fading flower on the Buddleja …

And the new winter flowers on the Witchhazel (Hamamelis intermedia “Arnold Promise”). 

I spotted these too – we’ve had a lot of mushrooms (or more likely, toadstools) in the garden this year and although some of them have looked very much like the ones that are in the fridge that I buy from the farm shop (albeit on steroids – they’re huge!), I’ve watched far too many episodes of Midsomer Murders to want to try to eat any of them.  Fungi foraging is not for me!

Big daughter, home from uni for part of the week, finally managed to finish her first ever sock – hooray!  She’s been waiting for me to show her how to do the Kitchener stitch and we sat and did it together with a sock that I was finishing off, but to be honest, she’d picked it up within a minute or two and didn’t really need my help at all.  Her second sock is coming along nicely – she’s up to the heel flap now – so with any luck she’ll have her own pair to wear before the weather starts to get really cold.  The yarn is Sirdar Heart & Sole in shade 160 Dancing Shoes – I think it may have been discontinued (this was from my stash) but you may still find a ball somewhere if you’re lucky.

We’ve had some beautiful sunsets (when it’s stopped raining).  The colours have just been stunning, and it’s been a relief to see some sunshine, even if it has only been for a few minutes at the end of the day.

There was pumpkin carving in preparation for Hallowe’en last Thursday.  Big daughter didn’t want to be left out so this motley pair sat at the end of our drive in the darkness and swapped deadly tales whilst small daughter hosted a sleepover for a couple of friends.  I had warned them that they would be bobbing for apples but I don’t think they believed me until I made them do it! 😀

We went to Ribchester on Wednesday, small daughter and I.  I’ve wanted to go to the Roman museum there for quite some time and nobody else was going to suggest it, so I announced that I would be going on Wednesday … and she wanted to come with me.  Without grumbling, or coercion or any form of bribery.  Hooray!  

Ribchester isn’t too far from Preston; it’s about 45 minutes from our house but the M6 was quiet and the rain stopped as we got there.  The museum itself is quite small but has a good range of finds, and some that are quite awe-inspiring too – it fascinates me that things made such a long time ago can still be in good enough condition to display, including a copy of the beautifully decorated Ribchester helmet (the original is now in the British Museum).  

I also thought it was a funny coincidence that the lady who started the museum, Margaret Greenall, came from the Greenalls brewing family in Warrington, based in Wilderspool where the Roman settlement in Warrington was found, and that the archaeologist who worked at Ribchester was Thomas May, who also worked at Wilderspool.  My Open University Masters degree dissertation was on the Romans in Warrington and it’s believed that soldiers travelled through Wilderspool north up to Hadrian’s Wall – how funny if small daughter and I had retraced their steps, although we’d have got there a lot faster than the legionaries in our car!

We left the museum and walked through the village, through the streets of densely packed terraced houses and down a tiny lane to find the remains of the Roman bath house.  We spent quite some time looking at the remains and deciding which rooms were which according to the plan, and what it would have looked like.  Afterwards, as we walked back towards the museum and our car, a fish finger sandwich in front of an open fire beckoned at the White Bull pub; a pretty ancient building itself with original Roman pillars holding up the portico and unusual white bull statue.  I loved both of my girls being babies and toddlers, but I love this age too, when (prised away from the phone and not grumbling), small daughter is quick with a joke and interesting to talk to.  This girl – both my girls – part of me and still entirely their own people.  It’s a privilege to watch them grow up.

I had both of them with me yesterday when, for our final holiday day, we decided to go to the National Trust beach at Formby, near Southport, with the dog.  My husband had already made other plans which didn’t include a morning on the beach, but we can take him another day.

It was another 45 minute drive but worth it.  The dog sings a “going on a walk” song in the car which, to you and me, involves a lot of whining and over-excited barking and we always try to discourage him from starting too early!  

The beach is huge, stretching for miles, and is a great place for the dog to run.  He absolutely loves the sea, leaping the waves, snorkelling in the water and looking for all the world as if he’s sifting for plankton like some unusual four-legged whale.  This never ends well, and we have to keep walking him until the sea water comes back out again – urgh! 

For us, there was welly-paddling, a nostalgic reminder of childhood holidays for me, but there was no way we were taking our wellies off!   

It wasn’t particularly cold or windy which always makes for a much more pleasant walk, but we weren’t tempted, as some people were, to walk barefoot or put our feet in the water.  Those waves didn’t look quite as inviting as they might have done in the height of summer!

And then the sun came out and turned the water to silver, and everywhere looked quite different.

I still didn’t want to take my wellies off, though!

We walked back to the car (it’s surprising how tiring it can be walk in sand in your wellies, we were all puffed out!), deciding that perhaps we did still have enough puff left to do the shortest of the squirrel walks before we left.

Formby is one of the few places where there is red squirrel habitat that protects the squirrels and gives them a safe place to live.  There aren’t too many of our native red squirrels left, as they come off worst against the grey squirrels which were introduced by the Victorians as an ornamental species from North America in the 1870s.  The grey squirrels are more successful at competing for food and habitat, and also transmit a squirrel pox virus which kills the red squirrels.  However, there are pockets of the country where the red squirrels are safe as the red squirrels live in pine trees, which discourages the grey squirrels as they prefer broad-leaved deciduous trees – the sort that we often have in our gardens, in fact!  The National Trust looks after quite a few reserves in England and Wales, and red squirrels numbers are on the rise in Scotland too.

 I definitely have a soft spot for red squirrels, and not least because I was a member of the Tufty Club when I was very small 😀.  Those ears!  

Source: Mike Hetherington/

I do like watching the grey squirrels that live around our garden too – I never like to think of them as “rats with tails” – but a red squirrel is a bit special, I think.  They obviously thought that too on Sunday – too special for us to catch sight of them, anyway!  We debated whether they would just be sitting with their feet up watching Netflix.  “Oh good idea,” said small daughter.  “Shall we go home now?”

And with that, our holiday was just about over 😀.

Before I go, I must tell you some exciting news – I’ve been nominated for a LoveCrafts Craftie Noteworthy Knitting Blog Award!  (I’ll be getting above myself with these awards, if I’m not careful 😀).  The awards are for bloggers in the categories Noteworthy Knitting, Creative Crochet, Motivated Multicraft, Stylish Stitching and Dedicated Indie Designer.  Some of the names of the other people and their blogs I recognise, but there are plenty that I don’t and I’ve spent an enjoyable time having a look around their blogs to see what they’re about – you might like to do the same thing!   

The voting is open now until 18 November 2019, and from the votes a shortlist will be drawn up and the winner will be chosen from those by the judging panel, with the winners announced on 2 December 2019.  You can find out more about the process and the judging panel here.

Thank you very much if you decide you’d like to vote! xx

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11 Responses

  1. happy hooker says:

    Well done on the nomination. It's nice when you suddenly realise that your "babies" are now grown up and you can give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done! I live about 7 miles from Formby, if I'd known you were in the area, I'd have invited you in for a cuppa! We used to feed the red squirrels with monkey nuts at Formby pine woods. I seem to think it's discouraged now. They would come right up and take the nuts from your hand. Wonderful! xx

  2. happy hooker says:

    Forgot to say, well done to your big daughter on her first pair of socks. The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree! xx

  3. J Lucy says:

    I love your blog! The only problem is, I'm starting to think I will need to move to the UK for at least a year (I live in Oklahoma USA) just to go everywhere (outdoors as well as yarn shops!) you talk about and see it all in person!! Hmmmm; must figure out where to get the money for that . . . . =)

  4. Helen says:

    Wonderful post. I love the feel of chestnuts also. I might even have a few hiding away from walks in various places (Italy and Germany mostly I think) Something so soothing about rubbing them, like a natural 'worry stone'.

  5. Onceuponathimble says:

    Really enjoyed this blog even though I dislike this part of the year!! I adore red squirrels and the place I saw them was at Cragside, in Northumberland at the bird hide.

  6. sustainablemum says:

    I love anything that flowers in the cooler months it never ceases to amaze me how they cope with the cold and sometimes frost.

    It is a privilege to watch our children grow up, to watch the slow change into adults and the person they will be for the rest of their lives. Amazing.

    You have visited a couple of place I would love to go to, Ribchester and Formby beach, they are just a little too far for us for the day. But we do have lots of Red Squirrels where I live, you see them regularly round here and yes those ears are amazing. Although I have seen them a lot I still love to spot them scampering up a tree. I don't know if you have come across it, but there has been reports that Pine Martens released in Wales are predating Grey Squirrels so maybe there is hope for the Reds after all.

  7. Jan Maier says:

    I first learned that there was such a thing as red squirrels when I read Beatrix Potter's Squirrel Nutkin. She remains my favorite children's author and I loved to explain her gentle, beautiful way with words to my young primary students and my own grandchildren. Thanks for a lovely memory of that naughty little squirrel!

  8. Susan Rayner says:

    I love reading that you are a winter person too – not many of us around with all the sunseekers! We did that walk on Formby beach when we were up there two years ago and loved it – best cake ever from the little tea shack not far from the car park! Your photos are gorgeous – I am hoping for a cold winter to wear all my socks and jumpers – no point knitting them otherwise – the berries here have been amazing too!

  9. Sarita says:

    Put used tea bags in the corner of your windowsills, one for each window should do it. Haven't had a spider in the house for 3 years, when I started this!
    Love your blog. Thank you for putting in the effort for our enjoyment. Hmm, somehow that sounds funny but hopefully you know what I mean.

    Ps…for best results, I only use Yorkshire Tea…😘

  10. Unknown says:

    A bit off topic, but, did you ever post a tutorial for reinforced toes and heels on socks for hiking boots? My family is sorely in need of sock reinforcement in those areas. I'm doing your colorwork socks now and would love to incorporate reinforced knitting in those areas

    • Winwick Mum says:

      Yes! If you have a look on the Patterns and Printables page you'll see the tutorial for extending the heel stitch along the sole to the toes 🙂 xx

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