Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Never say never . . .

I have been bloging at Bag End since March 2008 and a lot has happened in that time.

We've had the worst of sadness:

Despite saying I would never risk opening my heart to another dog, clearly I did:


and much in between:

But the constant has been charting our ups and downs as we rennovate the house and create a garden and for the most part maintaining the blog has been a positive addition to the mix.  But right now I have had enough; writing blog posts, processing photographs, considering what to share and what to keep private, and all the other maintenance which goes on is no longer an enjoyable activity but a chore.  Management is very fond of saying "if something's stopped being fun, stop doing it" so that is what I have decided to do.

I am bored with what I am writing, I have begun to resent the time it takes, and I need a break.

There is no way of telling when/if I will be back, but The View From will remain online for the time being.  Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed, commented, and been in some way part of our Cumbrian journey.  Having you all along for the ride has enriched the experience and to those of you who've become "real" friends along the way, you know how much you mean to me 😊

huggles for now, Jayne, xx

Monday, 3 April 2017

Concentrating on the Coppice

After the rain and general driech which descended upon us virtually as soon as we had finished cleaning up the caravan equipment I really did not think I would get into the garden this week.  How wrong can you be ...

On Friday our tree surgeon was working nearby and I was the lucky recipient of two trailer loads of his 'rubbish'.   Simon was cutting down a leylandii hedge so this is not pure bark chip but that doesn't matter - it will be a brilliant mulch around the garden, keep weeds down, and eventually rot away.

Thankfully Saturday (and Sunday) were bright and clear.  All those chippings aren't going to move themselves.

I concentrated on the Coppice, fortunately when I started I did not realise it was going to take two full days, but as Management constantly reminds me:  "this is a very big garden".  When I started most of the ground looked a bit like this - leaves everywhere, plants needing to be tidied up:

And countless hours later, it's all much tidier:


Whilst getting up close and personal to all the plants as I weeded, I was treated to a birds eye view of some early season lovelies such as violets and pulmonaria:

A job long-planned was to make a drainage channel.  When we get "gulley-washer" storms water pours through the neighbouring garden uphill from us, across a footpath where the drain cannot cope, and rushes through the Coppice.  I don't want paths and plants washed away again, so hopefully this will channel any excess into a conveniently placed manhole.  Still got to tidy up the edges and position lots of stones but it's a start.

Although the hellebores are past their best they are still quite beautiful.

And underneath this one, BOLDCAPSSHOUTING!    Babies!!!  (now securely protected with a barrier to stop any accidental trampling)

With a macro lens on the camera, Daisy came in for some attention too:

I don't know what she's yawning about, I'm the one who did all the work!

And all the time I was pulling weeds, shifting logs or moving bark chip Management was in the vegetable patch, quietly beavering away with a paintbrush ... for hours!  Bless his little heart, he has finished painting the net cage frame and now I can order the cover for it 😊

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Kielder Starcamp - the movie

If you click this link to Vimeo, one of the "regulars" at Kielder, James Mackay, has shared a brilliant timelapse movie featuring shots from the starcamps last autumn and last week.  Do click on the 'read more' to see all of James' explanation for the short film.

I cannot do a direct embed thingy (Vimeo won't allow it) but it is definitely worth going to the site to see for yourself just how magical the skies are.  As I know exactly where to look, I can even find our caravan with the 'scope outside, and it is a stern "Reminder to Self" that if we go again I really must get my camera out once it is dark.

(this is a screenshot from Vimeo)

Friday, 31 March 2017

Post-Kielder clean up

How can two people and one dog make so much MESS in six days?  The probable answer is spend that time in Northumberland's version of Glastonbury.  It is now Friday morning and I have only just got the house straight.  We spent all day Monday washing mud off two awnings, awning floor tiles, water containers, tent pegs and anything else we'd used;  thank goodness the weather was outstanding and we had a sunny and dry day to do the work in the garden.  In truth, it wasn't all hard work - we set up the solar telescope again and I probably wasted two or three hours gazing at massive prominences and a couple of big sunspots, and we invited a couple of neighbours over for their first ever solar viewing experience which everyone enjoyed.

M. had the excellent idea of putting up the 'difficult' awning to see if he could work out what went wrong for me.  We've concluded that a couple of extra webbing straps in certain places would have alleviated most of my problems, so they're on my 'to buy' list.

The rest of the week seems to have been spent on an endless cycle of laundry and putting things away.  Of course, there has also been the daily minutiae of shopping, cooking, walking Daisy and a couple of appointments but I still wonder where time goes?  These days it does not even have the decency to make a gentle whooshing sound as it disappears at speed . . . 

Thursday, 30 March 2017


There have been no updates from Bag End for a few days because there's been a little holiday and although I have been back since Sunday night it has taken me until today (Thursday) to get my act together sufficiently to face the keyboard and photos!

We have had a trip to the frozen north which combined stargazing in sub-zero temperatures and sun-bathing with a serious risk of getting burnt, all in the same day.

I went off early last Tuesday to Kielder Forest intending to have a quiet couple of days before the majority of astronomers arrived but it didn’t quite work out like that.  As is to be expected at the most remote village in England with no mobile signal, virtually no internet, set in the middle of a massive forest which supplies 25% of the country’s timber one has to contend with Weather Gods. Despite much work over the closed period to improve drainage and hardstandings the ground was completely saturated and a lot of care was needed to ensure no car or caravan wheels inadvertently went onto the grass.  There is good potential to get stuck if you don't pay attention:

But I got set up on a pitch and after walking Daisy, a drink and a bite to eat decided to put the awning up. Least said about that the better. Our new awning absolutely refused to co-operate with the caravan despite much help from a friend who was pitched nearby; every time I thought we had it pegged out a gust of wind flattened the dratted thing.  After two miserable hours I called a halt - amazing how quickly you can get an awning down . . . Not only had this pushed my stress level way beyond where it should be on a caravan trip but highlighted how narrow the hardstanding was and that the surrounding grass area had been shipped in from Glastonbury.

So I moved the caravan to a different pitch, and the Amazing Knight in Shining Subaru (known as Management) drove over after work that night to bring me the regular awning which I knew I could pitch. It still took until late Wednesday afternoon to finish setting up thanks to monsoon-like precipitation. At that point I was grimly muttering about wooden boats and animals in pairs . . .  Around this time I planned to move my car away from the pitch so that it wasn’t in the way of people arriving later in the week. That was when we found the battery was totally flat, the engine wouldn’t even turn over. More stress but our friends helped out again; 12 hours with a proper battery conditioning charger sorted my car and eventually I could relax.

The Weather Gods really were “having a laugh” with us - wind and rain all day on Tuesday but at 8.00pm the skies cleared and there were so many stars visible it was almost impossible to make out familiar constellations.  By Thursday the rain had gone but left much muck underfoot which Daisy did not approve of when we went for a walk in the forest.  She approved even less when I used a nearby hose to GENTLY rinse off her legs before we got back to the caravan.

Management came over on Friday by which time the sun had come out and it almost felt as if I had made up stories about the appalling conditions of a couple of days earlier. We had some brilliant observing both by day and night, much wandering around chatting to friends, and on Saturday spent nearly all day outside the van sharing views of the sun with others.  I had intended on going to a couple of the talks that afternoon but Daisy was ‘not quite right’ and we decided it would have added to whatever was stressing her if I’d buggered off for a few hours.  So instead we hung around, and chatted to folk, watched a massive prominence on the edge of the sun and had endless mugs of tea.  It was very, very relaxing and thoroughly lovely.

The big problem with an intense astronomy weekend is the hours - we managed to keep going until a bit after midnight each night but more dedicated folk were still out and about at 3.00 or 4.00am, and on Saturday night a couple of them lasted until 5.00am! That is serious dedication, especially when you factor in temps of at least minus 3 every night, possibly even colder. Once you’ve done that a couple of times something akin to jetlag sets in, it’s really not very pleasant. So we decided to quit whilst we were ahead, so to speak, and at the end of a lazy Sunday with more solar observing, packed up and were home by 8.00pm.   A fabulous trip, the best Starcamp yet.

Once we had overcome the awning issues I was so relaxed that I took very few photos and certainly didn't bother with astrophotography this time. **  There are, however, a great number of pictures of Daisy!

Oh, I forgot to tell Management - one day when I took Daisy out I was extremely brave and I made myself go through part of the Minotaur Maze.  Which might not sound like much to normal people but my claustrophobia extends to structures like this where I cannot see how to get out.  Did it, pleased with myself, won't do it again . . .

**  If you want to see "real" Starcamp photos, look up Stuart Atkinson on Facebook.