Easter in North Wales – Day 4
My plans for the penultimate day of my break depended on sunshine and blue sky, neither of which were evident that morning. It looked okay over towards the coast but my intended destination was several miles inland and white sky with grey cloud wouldn’t be a good look on my photos. There was no real improvement by lunch time so after a trip to Asda to get some supplies I took myself off to the Welsh Mountain Zoo in the hills above Colwyn Bay; if I was photographing animals it didn’t really matter what the sky looked like.
In 1897 a Manchester surgeon, Dr. Walter Whitehead, purchased 37 acres of woodland above the new and expanding resort of Colwyn Bay with the intention of retiring there. The layout of the new estate was designed by Thomas Mawson, the renowned Victorian landscape architect, who based the project on idyllic woodland walks, herbaceous borders and formal rose gardens as well as homes for staff. After Dr. Whitehead’s death in 1913, the estate changed hands several times until the site was taken over by the Jackson family in 1962 and formally opened as a zoo the following year.
A short walk from the zoo car park a large grassed area had been roped off to form an arena and I was just in time to catch the last few minutes of the birds of prey flying display. The barn owl was lovely but the turkey buzzard was one of the ugliest creatures I’ve ever seen though I suppose someone must love it. Next came the penguin parade with the keeper walking round with a bucket of small fish which he continually threw to the Humboldt penguins following him, though the odd one or two wandered off to say hello to various visitors and a couple of them came close to me. A circuit of the arena and they went back into their enclosure then it was time for the sea lion display in the pool a few yards away.
After seeing the sea lions I wandered up, down and along various paths and steps from one exhibit to the next although not in any particular order. Unfortunately I missed quite a few things, including the snow leopard, brown bear and tigers; the zoo covers quite a large area and as I popped back to the van every so often to check that Snowy and Poppie were okay I completely forgot which sections I’d been to and which I hadn’t, also some of the animals themselves seemed to be hiding from view.
Just three days after my zoo visit there was a new arrival on April 21st, a foal called Khan, the first Przewalski’s Wild Horse to be born at the Welsh Mountain Zoo since 1995, and looking at my photo I rather think that could be his mother, Wendy. The Przewalski’s Wild Horse was completely extinct in the wild by 1966 but following a successful captive breeding programme they have since been reintroduced into their natural habitats among the reserves and national parks of Mongolia, meaning their conservation status has been reclassified from “extinct in the wild” to “endangered”.
The zoo isn’t just about animals though. The garden areas are made up of an ever-expanding collection of plants and seeds from around the world, some of which are considered rare and endangered and all of which grow well on the hillside site, with a host of other unusual tropical plants growing in the reptile and alligator houses.
With the blue sky and sunshine having gradually increased while I was in the zoo and the dogs deserving a decent walk I decided to go down to Colwyn Bay’s seafront and walk along the promenade for a while. Being later in the afternoon there weren’t too many people around so it was a very pleasant walk which just rounded off the day nicely.
If I have one criticism about the zoo it’s the signs pointing to the different exhibits. Presumably in an effort to make it more interesting for children they are made up of small colourful pictures (not photos) of the animals in any particular area but I found some of them hard to distinguish, which is probably another reason why I missed several exhibits. Other than that it’s a very nice place and I may very well go back sometime in the future to try and find the things I missed this time.
Animal sanctuary Spring Open Day
Last Sunday was Bleakholt sanctuary’s first proper open day since the place had to close to visitors at the start of the pandemic two years ago. Fortunately the weather gods produced a glorious day and even though I got there not long after the mid day opening the car park and the lane were already full of vehicles, with a steady stream of visitors paying their £2 entry fee at the gate.
My first port of call was the big barn with all its stalls set out round the sides and in the centre and though I didn’t buy anything for myself I did get a new and very pretty tea light holder which I thought Michael might like to give to his girlfriend. Tea lights and candles aren’t really my thing but Laura loves them so I’m sure she will like the one I got.
Wandering round outside I was disappointed to see that some areas were out of bounds and a lot of the kennels had no residents but it was obvious that quite a bit of work was taking place, with one row of cat pens already having been updated. It was nice to see a few different stalls and attractions though and the cafe and hot dog stall were both doing a good trade.
An update on the sanctuary’s website says they took an amazing £5,448 on the day – that’s the amount they will be trying to beat on the next open day in July, so fingers crossed the weather will behave, there will be even more visitors and it will be another really good day.
**This post has been pre-written and scheduled as I’m currently away with no internet access so I’ll reply to any comments when I get back. Have a good Easter everyone!
February mini break – day 3
After two really lovely days the weather decided to let me down on the last morning. Grey sky and fine drizzly rain which showed no sign of clearing up meant that the dog walk down by the beach was kept fairly short and my plans to explore somewhere new on the way home were completely screwed up; it did mean, however, that I was able to spend a bit longer with Eileen and her hubby on my second visit.
I’d previously mentioned that I would like to see Jasmine, the horse which lives in a local field and which Eileen regularly visits while walking Tilly, so armed with a couple of carrots we set out on the short walk with Snowy and Poppie, though Tilly wasn’t happy at being left behind. At the far side of one small field a couple of Jacob sheep were taking it easy while in the field across the lane were a couple of ponies and a black and white cow just beyond the wire fence.
Jasmine was on her own at the far side of another small field but she came over when Eileen called; she looked a bit scruffy but at least she was well rugged up against the winter weather. We gave her the carrots, though Snowy wasn’t impressed as she thought she was missing out on something, then we meandered back to Eileen’s by a slightly different route.
It was still raining when I left Eileen’s later on so as there was no point driving along the coast road I headed straight for the A55 which was the quickest way home, and the further north I got the more it was raining. It was a shame the weather had let me down on the third day but I couldn’t really complain – I’d had two really lovely days, discovered some new places, revisited others, visited some lovely friends and got some good photos, so in the words of the Meatloaf song ‘two out of three ain’t bad’.
Creatures of the camp site
For my final holiday post I thought I would include some of the many creatures which call the camp site and farm their home. When I stayed there two years ago, aside from a large flock of sheep, 24,000 chickens and two dogs, the farm’s animal collection consisted of four pygmy goats, a small collection of hand reared/captive-bred birds in large aviaries and a few ponies which I never saw, however several changes since then have seen the addition of more birds, a couple of rheas, some alpacas and several rabbits.
The aviaries were set back in a pleasant area behind the facilities block, some of them having information plaques attached, while the ponies were in the field in front of my tent and the alpacas and rheas in paddocks to the side. A wide gravel track ran between the paddocks and down at the bottom were the goats, while the rabbits were in an enclosure at the corner of the farm track. It was all a very well thought out set up and reminded me a bit of a small-scale version of a wildlife park.
Of course I couldn’t forget my own two camp site creatures, Snowy and Poppie. It was Snowy’s first holiday and while Poppie preferred to lie in the shade under the table Snowy liked to stand on the table so she could see what was going on around us, though she wasn’t happy about having to stay in her travel crate while I took the tent down on going home day.
After having lovely sunny weather for most of the holiday going home day was cloudy and grey. The rain arrived just after I left the site and it lasted until I was halfway home then the clouds cleared and the sunshine and blue sky returned, staying with me for the rest of the day – it was a perfect end to a lovely holiday.
A walk on the wild side
Situated in the extensive acreage owned by the Armathwaite Hall Hotel close to the northern end of Bassenthwaite Lake the Lake District Wildlife Park is only a relatively short drive along the country lanes from the camp site so on Day 5 of my holiday I decided to go along and take a look. As wildlife parks go it’s not a big place compared to many – about 24 acres in total – but most of the enclosures and paddocks were large with wide and well laid out paths making it easy to walk round and see everything.
The meerkats were closest to the entrance so I started with those, gave the next door reptile house a miss, then wandered along various paths round the enclosures. Some of the animals weren’t easy to see or photograph as they were hiding among the various trees and vegetation in their enclosures, and try as I might I just couldn’t see the red panda which was supposedly curled up asleep on a branch. I got shots of most of the ones which interested me and which stayed still long enough, and seeing the zebras reminded me of holidays spent in South Africa – the people I stayed with referred to them as donkeys in pyjamas, something which always makes me smile.
Walking towards the birds of prey aviaries my attention was caught by a loud screeching noise and I went round the corner to find two of the ugliest chicks I’ve ever seen – they had faces that only a mother could love, though they were cute in their own way and would probably grow into quite nice birds. It was the smaller of the two which was making all the noise, it was ear splitting and constant, but eventually mum appeared from somewhere with some food for them both and the screeching finally stopped.
The final shot was actually taken from somewhere in the middle of the park as I was walking round but I’ve saved it until last as I think it’s a really nice view. The park has birds of prey flying displays, various animal talks, picnic areas, indoor and outdoor play areas, a cafe and a gift shop, none of which I bothered with; I was a bit disappointed that some of the animals were hiding so I didn’t get to see them but I liked what I did see. For a small-ish park it was very nice so I may very well make a return visit another time.
The Castlefield goslings
When I wrote in my third Manchester Flower Show post that I’d been very disappointed with the ‘towers of flowers’ installation on Deansgate Square I didn’t say that was the second time I’d been to look for it. The flower show website had given its location as Deansgate Square, Owen Street and a look on Google maps showed me where Owen Street was. With the photo I wanted to recreate firmly in my mind I went there on my first visit to the show but looking for the floral installation was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Finding Owen Street was no problem, what was a problem was finding what I was actually looking for. The three high rise towers in the internet photo were over on the left but the whole street for quite a distance along was just one massive great sectioned off building site surrounded by huge hoardings advertising ‘Deansgate Square Phase 1’ or 2 or 3 etc. I even asked a couple of builders where this flower thing was but they hadn’t a clue so after wandering further along the street and still not finding it I gave up and headed back towards the city centre – and that’s when I had a lovely and very unexpected surprise.
The Castlefield goslings have been the subject of several Instagram posts and comments over the last few weeks. Along with a couple of adult geese they (presumably) live in and around the Castlefield Basin but for some unknown reason like to commute to the streets at the other side of Deansgate, taking their lives in their webbed feet by crossing the extremely busy main road. It beats me how they haven’t been squashed by now but traffic does seem to stop for them.
As I crossed the end of a side street behind Deansgate I looked to my right and walking down the middle of the street were several fluffy yellow goslings, two older ones and a couple of adult geese. The little ones ran onto a patch of spare land and spent a good five minutes pecking at the weeds growing round the edge, watched over by one of the adults before they all set off in a line down the street towards Deansgate.
With hindsight I should really have gone to the main road to get a shot of them crossing it but some street art caught my attention and by the time I did get round to Deansgate they had disappeared. I finally found the flower installation a few days later after asking someone who posted a photo on Instagram – the flower show organisers really should have put proper details of its location on their website as it was in such an obscure place. It was while I was in that area for the second time that I went to explore the Castlefield Basin and saw the goose family in the Bridgewater Canal.
Mentally counting the goslings I found the same number as I’d seen a few days previously so at least none of them had become victims of the Deansgate traffic. No doubt by the time I make another visit to Castlefield the goslings will be all grown up so seeing them walking down the street a few days previously had been a lovely surprise which I’ll remember for quite some time.
It was eleven years ago today that Sophie came into my life. I’d found her from a classified ad on the internet while searching for a companion for my other little dog Sugar and of all the Jack Russells advertised something kept drawing me back to her picture. It seemed I was the first person to ring and enquire about her; she lived in south Derbyshire and as I couldn’t drive at the time a good friend offered to take me down there to see her the following day.
When we pulled up outside the house Sophie was in the garden with Christina, her owner, and the minute I saw that little dog something grabbed me and I just knew I was bringing her home. The following day was Sophie’s birthday, she would be two years old, so it seemed that not only was I getting a new little friend and Sugar was getting a new companion but Sophie was also getting a new home for her birthday.
She curled up on the back seat of my friend’s car and slept all the way back, and from the minute we arrived home it was as if she had always been there. She settled in with Sugar straight away, often sharing the same bed, she liked running about and exploring while on our long walks and quickly grew to love our many camping adventures. She only ever barked briefly if someone came to the door, other than that she was very quiet, and she was the happiest, sweetest, gentlest, most good natured little dog I’ve ever known.
Photos above : Top – Sophie’s 2nd birthday, 23-09-2009 Centre – Fleetwood beach, 04-10-2009 Bottom – Christmas Day 2009
Photos above : Top – Swamped by a wave on a Norfolk beach, 03-06-2010 Centre – With the rosettes she won at a fun dog show, Oswestry 20-06-2010 Bottom – On Cemaes beach, Anglesey, 28-06-2010
Photos above : Camping at an East Yorkshire site, May 2011 Centre – Paddling in the River Calder, June 2011 Bottom – Camping at Elvaston Steam Rally, July 2011
Photos above : Top & centre – Looking abandoned outside a cafe near Abergele, North Wales, Easter 2012 Bottom – With Sugar on the Anglesey camp site, June 2012
Photos above : Top – Looking very silly in a hoodie far too big for her, Willow Lakes camp site February 2013 Centre – With Sugar on the same site Bottom – In the van and not happy to be going home, Anglesey June 2013
Photos above : Top – The end of another holiday, Anglesey May 2014 Bottom – At Elvaston Steam Rally July 2014
Sophie had been with me for over five years when just before Christmas 2014 I sadly lost Sugar to kidney failure at the age of sixteen-and-a-half. I’d been aware of the outcome when she first became ill so not wanting Sophie to be on her own I searched the internet again and found Poppie – she lived in Grimsby and I collected her on the last day of October that year. Initially on the timid side she became a good friend to Sophie once Sugar was no longer with us and the two of them were often found sharing the same bed.
Photos above : Top – With Poppie in the tent, Anglesey June 2015 Centre – At Elvaston Steam Rally July 2015 Bottom – On the camp site at California, Norfolk, September 2015
Photos above : Top – Curled up with Poppie, Anglesey May 2016 Centre – In the tent, Anglesey June 2016 Bottom two – Santa’s little elves, December 2016
Photos above : Top – The deepest she ever went in water, at a local reservoir May 2017 Bottom – After a minor operation on a front leg, June 2017
Photos above : Top – The end of an Anglesey camping trip, June 2018 Bottom – After a long local walk, July 2018
Photos above : Top & centre – A walk in a local park, March 2019 Bottom – With Poppie on holiday in Cumbria, June 2019
I didn’t know it at the time but our Cumbrian holiday in June 2019 would be the last proper holiday Sophie would have. As many of you will remember from previous posts she suffered a stroke in early January this year; with medication and 24/7 care from me she improved slowly and I was hopeful that she would eventually recover but sadly it wasn’t to be and she drifted peacefully away after almost five weeks.
Photos above : Top – Wrapped in a pilchard-stained towel after just being fed 2 – A silly way of sleeping 3 – The best way to keep her safe while I was out of the room 4 – In her bed at the side of mine Bottom – In the back garden after a walk
Sophie’s passing left a huge hole in my heart, a hole which even now still hasn’t completely healed, and I still have unexpected moments of sadness when something triggers a particular memory of her. Tomorrow would have been her 13th birthday and though she is no longer here Poppie and I will cuddle up, remember the good times, and share a bit of cake in her memory.
Queen’s Park squirrels
Walking through Queen’s Park the other day I took several photos of the squirrel I saw, a couple of which I included in my previous post, but as he looked so cute I thought he deserved a post of his own. I actually took a photo of another squirrel when I was in the same park last year so I’ve included him too.
Although the squirrel I saw last year very quickly scampered up the tree the second one wasn’t in too much of a hurry so I was able to watch him from a respectable distance for several minutes. I know grey squirrels are classed as vermin but to me it doesn’t matter what colour they are, they are all cute and this one certainly was.
Lost and found
Several days ago I was just setting out to take Poppie for a quick walk when a little dog ran past my front gate. I’m very familiar with all the dogs living in my area and this wasn’t one of them, so unless someone new had recently moved into somewhere close by then I assumed this little one must be lost. Putting Poppie back indoors I went out and called the dog but it ran off back the way it had come. Next thing there was a squeal of brakes from along the street and a car stopped in the middle of the road – the little dog had just missed being hit by it.
The young woman driver shouted me to ask if it was mine and when I said no but I was trying to catch it she said she would help. The dog ran round the corner and down the next street so while I walked down she went down in her car; the dog still wouldn’t come to us but it doubled back up the lane behind the houses which, luckily for us, is a dead end, and we finally caught up with it in the corner of a nearby garden. It was obviously very frightened as when I put my hand out it cowered away growling; neither of us wanted to risk being bitten so I took my jacket off and threw it over the dog so I could pick it up safely. Being wrapped in the jacket seemed to calm it down and it snuggled in quite happily though it was wet through and shivering with cold.
The young woman said she had to get to work – judging by her uniform she was a nurse – so I thanked her for her help and said I would take care of the dog and try to find its owner. By this time I was absolutely soaked through as the fine drizzle of earlier had turned into quite a downpour but at least I was only round the corner from home so could soon get dry. After towelling the little dog down, and discovering that it was a little girl, I wrapped her in a fleece blanket while I got changed and made a brew. She was a sweet little thing and once she was almost dry I gave her a bit of food then she sat quietly at my feet while I drank my coffee.
Next was to try to reunite her with her owner; she had a collar on but no ID disc so I took her down to the nearest vets to get her scanned for a microchip. For some reason they couldn’t get a reading but they said if I left her with them they would contact the local dog warden; I felt a bit sad to give her up as she was so adorable and such a little sweetie but I knew someone somewhere would probably be missing her. I left my contact details with the vet’s receptionist and I’d only been back home about half an hour when she rang me to say they’d managed to trace the owner. I did ask where the little dog had come from but because of data protection she wouldn’t tell me; I’d only asked so if I ever see it running loose again I would know where it belonged.
To be honest I think it would have been nice to have got a phone call from the little dog’s owners to say ‘Thank you for finding our dog’ but if the vets wouldn’t give me any details of the owners then maybe they wouldn’t give my details to them. I don’t know how long she had been running loose when I found her but I’m glad to know that she would have been reunited with her family – and if she hadn’t been reunited then I’m sure I could have found room in my heart and my home for another little four-paws.