Wednesday, 27 August 2014

In The News

I very much dislike our wasps here in the UK. For those not sure which wasps I mean, it’s the yellow and black social wasps, which can sting and that go around killing nice bees and things, which I don’t like.

I have read about wasps to try and educate myself more about where they fit into ecosystems etc, as I am very much a fan of nature in general, and I rarely hate an entire animal species. I have not so far found anything to change my mind though...

For those people who say that wasps don’t sting much, or that the stings aren’t too bad, I still have a scar on my hand from a wasp sting that I got when I was about 12 years old. My whole hand swelled up and painful for a good week, and the scar remains. The wasp was on some litter that I picked up as I was part of a clean-up party after our local carnival, so you may well point out that it wouldn’t have stung me if it hadn’t felt threatened… But! The second time I got stung I was simply out running, and a wasp stung me on the back of my leg. In this case my entire leg swelled up, so much so that my skin blistered with the excess fluid, and I ended up getting cellulitis from it too. So, I do hate wasps, and I am scared of them. Yukky Yukky Yuk.

So it was with horrified fascination that I clicked on this BBC News story to see what had happened.

Here is the story that greeted me once I had clicked:

And despite my horror at the size of that nest, and the thought of all those wasps being in someone’s actual home, I couldn’t help noticing that poor crochet blanket that had been unashamedly claimed by those horrible insects!

Imagine my relief when I read further down that the wonderful pest control man had saved the blanket :)   And what a lovely journalist to realise that such a detail was indeed newsworthy!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

They Call it Mellow Yellow

How was your bank holiday weekend?

Ours wasn’t fun as such, but it was very productive! We did much of our enormous quantities of paperwork for our emigration insurance – trying to work out the cost of replacing all of your stuff, room by room, in British Sterling currency but at buying-new-in-Australia prices, not an easy task!!!!

We also did a car boot sale. It’s the first time in ages that I had done one, and we weren’t sure about how to price things at all – we just had to completely make it up as we went along, and hope we didn't ask too little and miss out, or too much and put people off. In the end though, we sold large pictures, bits of small furniture, lots of clothes, and plenty of random bits and pieces (I never expected people to actually buy second-hand hand cream or deodorant spray!) We still had lots left when we were done, so we took the leftovers in to town, and distributed most of what was left between the various charity shops that were open – Mind, Age UK, and the British Heart Foundation. After buying ourselves a couple of coffees while were out, and paying our pitch fee, we came away with £131.30. My share will be enough to at least MOT my car ready to sell to my aunt, so it’s good to see the benefit of a day’s work :)

While at the car boot sale, I did a bit of multi-tasking: I took with me my yellow yarn and my latest charity blanket project, and with the yarn in a carrier bag to keep it clean and the blanket-so-far tucked under my arm, I managed to hook away for several hours! I got the blanket to the desired square shape, and very pleased with it I was too!

Last night, I decided to have a play around edging it. The design means you end up with 3-chains all around the outside, so very easy to plan an edging design to use. I decided to keep it simple, and after a bit of experimentation I found that simply doing 5 UK Treble stiches into each 3-chain that was next to a treble cluster, then doing one UK Double into the alternate chains (those not next to a cluster) gave a very simple but effective border. Thanks to the blanket pattern you don’t need to calculate anything in order to achieve this – the pattern means that in doing this, you will automatically end up doing your 5 Trebles at the corners. Easy-peasy! To go around the corner therefore, I simply did 5 Trebles into the chain before the corner, a 2-chain picot, then 5 Trebles into the chain around the corner. Perfect!

Now then, I totally appreciate that this is a rubbish explanation of how to do this, so I am hoping that I will be able to perhaps make a bit of a pattern/tutorial of this blanket at some point. I can’t make any promises on timing though, as things right now are simply so busy!

Speaking of being too busy, I also don’t have time at the moment to take any decent photos of the finished blanket – a combination of not having time, not having decent light or space indoors, having bad weather outdoors, and I’m afraid the photos are a bit rubbish. Maybe later, once things have settled down, I can do a bit of a photoshoot of all the charity blankets I manage to make? Plus I still need to photograph the Walled Garden Blanket – lots to do!

For now though, here are the inferior photos of the Mellow Yellow Baby Shawl :)

I love this pattern and can't wait to photograph it properly - and I'd love to make a full-size blanket in this pattern too!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Coast Path Walking

Caution - this is a bit of a long one! You may want to get a cuppa before starting ;)

One of my ‘must do’ things while I was last in Pembrokeshire was to do some proper coast path walking. I have frequently gone out for a walk along the coast path and back, both in the area around St Davids to the north and in various parts of the southern limestone cliff tops. What I had never done, however, was a ‘proper’ walk: leave in the morning, walk all day, stay overnight, and carry on the next day.

My ideal walk would have lasted no less than 3 days – this way you get at least one day where you wake up on the trail in the morning, and go to bed there again that night. My cycle trip last year on another of our National Trails, the South Downs Way, was 3 days long, and it does make a difference to know that you will have that full day, waking to sleeping, out on your mini adventure!

On this occasion though, time was eaten away from us at both ends, and our whole trip to Pembrokeshire was rendered short enough that 3 days simply wasn’t an option, so we had to settle for 2 days. It didn’t feel quite the same to leave, knowing that we would be back ‘tomorrow’, not quite such a feeling of adventure, but a good trip none the less.

I already owned this book, the official National Trail Guide to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, and I used this to choose a section of coast path for our walk. I opted for the northern coast, as I love the ruggedness up there. Something about the scenery really speaks to me of ancient settlements, stormy seas, and rugged nature. The south is also amazing, but I could only choose one part, and the north won for me on this occasion…

Using the guide to help plan, I decided to start with ‘day 3’, beginning near Fishguard, stopping overnight at the recommended point of Trefin, and then walking ‘day 4’ to Whitesands, at St Davids. My mum dropped us off near our chosen start point, and we set off. We were running late as my poor mum had faffed a bit about getting going – I think she was worried about us, and this manifested in us starting about an hour later than we had planned.

We walk as quickly as possible through the little bit of town that we had to pass through to meet the coast path; welcomed to the path by ponies, we feel relief to be there at last. We have a very long walk ahead of us – over 17 miles (27km) of narrow paths, including 2,854 feet (870m) of ascent, so we begin at bit of a quick pace. 

As we move away from the urban area of Goodwick and the casual dog walkers, we gradually reach sections of path with no easy access from roads, where the people we pass are other walkers out for the whole day at least. Most are friendly and we exchange ‘hellos’ as we pass, but occasionally we come across someone looking very serious, with their head down and a look of grim determination of their face – not breaking their stride for any niceties! 

Fishguard Harbour

The scenery is incredibly diverse even in a very small area as we walk. To begin with it is fairly typical for the area, with lots of bracken and low cropped gorse blanketing the rolling cliff tops. 

Then all of a sudden you look up – you have to keep eyes down a lot to watch your footing! – and you are greeted by a heathland, low growing heather with outcrops of bare rock, and ancient eroded volcanic rock formations protruding into the sky.

Then, most surprisingly, we drop down a steep descent into lush woodland, right next to the cliffs! A stream winds its way down to the sea between the trees, while moss and ferns grow in abundance in the dappled light. 

Someone had even been busy building swings on the trees, and the more immature amongst us may have felt compelled to have a bit of a swing…

Back up the steep ascent on the other side of this coastal valley, and the variety is clear to see: look back, and you see the tops of the trees we had just come from.

Look ahead, and you’re in heather and gorse once again. Amazing :)

Continuing along a little further, and we begin to keep an eye out for Carreg Wastad and its memorial stone, commemorating the site of the last invasion of mainland Britain. The stone is easily found, and it is interesting to see from the inscription that it had been erected on the 100th anniversary of the landings, over 100 years ago now!

Yet further along, still heading west, we come upon the Strumble Head Lighthouse. From here on we will start to head more southerly, but not before stopping to eat our packed lunch! 

The day had begun hot, but as we sit with our picnic the wind picks up, clouds roll in and rain begins behind us. We watch anxiously as the rain comes nearer, not relishing the thought of hours of walking through bad weather. Oddly however, as we start on our way again the weather turns back to hot sunshine and clear skies. A lucky escape!

Feeling slower after lunch, we are able to take more time to enjoy the wildlife we pass. I point out the funnel web spiders to Adam, the gorse in many places is absolutely covered in these intricate gossamer traps.

We frequently spot seals bathing off the coast. They are such inquisitive animals, and seem to enjoy watching us as much as we do them! 

Not a great photo, but it does contain 5 seals!

We also spot many choughs. These birds, related to crows, are quite rare, but they seem to be doing well in this area as we see plenty of them! They can be distinguished from crows by their curved bright red/orange beaks, which don’t show in the photos unfortunately.

As we head further along this stretch of coast, we start to pass more beaches, more of which are accessible from the land. 


Some of the beaches are quite popular – although many look different to normal after the storms earlier in the year. I love this little fort that has been built on Aber Mawr!

There are some fantastic cliff formations along this stretch and I take many photos:

By now the sun is getting lower and we are pretty weary. It was a long day and we had tried to do it at a much faster pace than would have been ideal. The heat has taken its toll too, and my feet are aching badly. It is welcome news then when we check the map to discover that we are not far now from our day’s goal. We have pre-booked accommodation at the Old School Hostel in Trefin, and when we finally arrive after a good 10 hours on the trail the lovely hostel is a very welcome sight! (I reviewed the hostel here)

Outside the front of the hostel

We go through the welcome and check in procedures at the hostel, which is so friendly and lovely, and then head to the village pub for some well-earned pub grub and maybe some Welsh beverages too ;)

Day 2

After a well-deserved sleep, we wake up in the morning and collect our packed lunch and our breakfast items from the hostel. We have ordered the hostel’s famous organic porridge for breakfast, and it is delicious! The oats are soaked overnight, and the porridge is mixed up with dried fruit and nuts, and mashed banana. All we have to do is add some milk and heat it on the stove. Mmm mmm mmm!

It is another glorious day outside, and we head from the village towards the coast path again, via these amazing standing stones. There are lots of this type of thing in Pembrokeshire, and it is one the features of northern Pembrokeshire that I find so appealing.

Heading along the coast path again, this time we cover ground that is more familiar to me – although I haven’t walked the path here before, I have visited the coast at places such as Porthgain on many occasions, and it’s really interesting to arrive at such places again but from the trail rather than the road. We pause briefly at Porthgain – I manage to twist an ankle on the path down towards the little harbour, so I want a chance to stop and check how bad it is. I have injured my ankles many times, and they are prone to twisting again as the ligaments are badly damaged. While this is bad, it does have the upside that twisting my ankle, while still painful, isn’t always too damaging as the ligaments are already beyond repair, and I can often sort of ‘walk it off’.

Porthgain is tiny, but is a pretty cute place, and attracts lots of visitors. We admire a camper van and the harbour, before setting off once again up the other side. 

Just along the coast from Porthgain is a site where they used to quarry low grade slate, and the broken-down buildings from these old works dot the cliff tops.

This area seems to be alive with Common Blue Butterflies, and I watch so many fly around us before I am able to get close enough to one that is landed so I can get a photo.

The coast is beautiful again, and I enjoy taking in the formations of the cliffs.

This second day’s walk is shorter than the previous day though, and with aching muscles and my twisted ankle we decide to make it shorter still. Arriving at the cliffs above the Blue Lagoon at Abereiddy, we stop to eat our picnic lunch, provided by the hostel.

Yummy Brie and Sundried Tomato Sandwiches on Homemade Organic Wholemeal Bread. Not your average hostel food! :)

Then we watch the antics at the blue lagoon a little while – lots of cliff jumping, swimming, paddling and so on. This place is so renowned for cliff jumping that it was even used in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series!

We choose to end our coast path walk at Abereiddy, and we see a cute little lizard to wish us farewell at the end of our walk.

I am so pleased to have created more happy memories of home to take with us when we leave for Australia :)